Fell stitch, sometimes called appliqué stitch, is a very useful hand stitch used for joining one piece of fabric to another. It is not really decorative, but a neat and tidy way of attaching decorative fabrics, braids and ribbons. The stitch is visible from both sides of the fabric and therefore is also commonly used as a lining attachment stitch useful for jackets.
Here are some points to note about fell stitch.
- It is a strong stitch and very useful for attaching linings.
- It is a flexible stitch and moves like a hinge against the body of the lining.
- It is quick and easy to do.
- It can be used in embroidery and appliqué to attach decorative ribbons or pieces of lace and fabric in a design.
- It shows on both sides of the work done and this has to be taken into account for the overall effect of the stitch.
- It is a neat stitch for sewing on fancy ribbons and lace. The stitch itself is not very decorative, but it is strong and does show off beautiful trims very well.
How to Do Fell Stitch
Step One - Preparation
Choose thread and hand sewing needle size to suit the article to be stitched. Thicker threads will be stronger but thinner threads will be less visible. The needle can be single or double threaded. Secure your thread with a knot. For best results, use a matching thread color. I have used the contrasting red just so you can see my stitching.
Prepare the fabric or press and be ready to sew the ribbon or lining with the fell stitch. When using fell stitch for applique, press over the raw edges with a narrow seam allowance of ⅛ to ¼ inch (3-6mm).
Basting will help keep difficult trims in place.
Step Two - Stitch
Begin working from right to left using the fold of the applique fabric.
Bring the needle out from underneath just to the left of the fold of the applique fabric. The greater the distance from the fold edge, the more of the stitch that will show in the final product.
Insert the needle into the main fabric horizontally. Guide the needle, in a slanted direction, through the fabric and out under the fold just above the first stitch. This forms the fell stitch.
Repeat and make the next and following tiny straight stitches.
You will make a row of small straight stitches on the surface of the work facing you and diagonal stitches on the other side of the work. The smaller the stitches the more invisible your applique will be.
Alternatives to Fell Stitch
Fell stitch is often used for applique which means there are several easy alternatives you can use to create different effects.
- Blanket stitch gives a more noticable edge for applique and looks great in contrasting thread colors.
- Backstitch is a strong continuous looking straight stitch that can be used to stitch applique in place.
- Running stitch is the easiest and quickest hand stitch and can be used along the edge of applique, ribbon and braids.
- Whip stitch has small diagonal stitches and can be used in a similar fashion to fell stitch.
Fell Stitch - In Conclusion
The fell stitch is a winner for attaching linings because of its flexibility and strength. Milliners use a fell stitch as a good stitch for attaching ribbon to a hat on the brim and as a finish on the inside of the band. Using a fell stitch makes the project neat and strong. Fell stitch is one of those underestimated ‘workhorse’ kind of stitches. A good one to know for stitching trims and bands.