This is the third post in my series about EPP. This is looking at the type of stitch you might want to use to join your pieces.
Traditionally EPP uses a whip stitch, but there are now many alternatives and it’s really about personal choice and what works best for you.
What you want is a stitch that creates a firm seam and is invisible, so what are the best ways of achieving these aims?
Firstly consider your tools: If your needle is like a crowbar and your thread could double as dental floss then that is probably not a good combination. I like a fine applique needle with a fine 60 weight thread. I then use white, beige or dark thread and that seems to blend in to most fabrics.
Secondly consider where you are placing your stitches: If you are passing your thread through the fabric on the front of the template, it will show. If you are keeping your thread so it just passes through the fold of the fabric, it is less likely to show. So, one of the objections to whip stitch is that it will show on the right side. I think this depends a lot on how you do the stitch. If you take up too many threads, yes it will. If you only take up threads right on the fold, I find it invisible.
Thirdly, how are your eyes? Mine are really not what they were, so I have glasses for close work, or I use a magnifier with a light. This really helps me place the stitches and improves the look of the finished work.
Now, to consider the strength of the seam. Generally it is the corners that are the weakest and most likely to pull away with pressure. This is particularly because we often start our threads at the corners. I prefer to start a few millimetres from the right hand corner, I work to the right hand corner, then I work back along to the left. (I’m right handed so this is easiest for me). This means my knot is buried about 3 mm from the corner and the corner has been double sewn.
When I get to the next corner I take two knotted whip stitches by threading the needle through the loop of thread before pulling it tight, and I start the next seam the same way. I think this gives me extra strength at all corners.
To finish off, I take two more knotted whip stitches and then pass the thread down the seam allowance and take a couple of stitches in the seam allowance before trimming the thread.
Now, the vexed question of what stitch to use: Whip stitch is traditionally done with the pieces held right side together. To avoid the problem of picking up too much fabric, some quilters are now butting up the folded edges and keeping the pieces in place by putting a piece of tape on the right side of the work. The pieces can now be stitched as they are going to lie. A number of stitches lend themselves to this approach: feather stitch, ladder stitch and flat back stitch. Other quilters prefer to keep the right sides pinched together as is done with whip stitch, but take care to slide the needle through the fold of the fabric.
Whichever stitch you prefer, test its strength when under pressure. Now I know close quilting reduces pressure on the seams, but still, I want a stitch that keeps those fabrics together.
I’ve made a video showing how to do whip stitch, ladder stitch, and a variation on ladder stitch that is stronger and quicker. I hope you enjoy it.
The pattern I’m using is available at
It’s from the King George quilt in the V&A (as explained in previous blogs).