The ladder stitch (also called slip stitch and invisible stitch) is an important technique to learn to create invisible closures for gaps in seams. It is used to sew toys, ripped seams and in clothing constructions to close gaps.
An invisible stitch is often called several different names including ladder stitch, slip stitch and even blind stitch. These all refer to the same thing which is a stitch which closes seams and is invisible or nearly invisible when finished.
What is an Invisible Stitch Used For? (Ladder stitch / Slip Stitch)
An invisible stitch is commonly used for stuffed toy sewing patterns. Even if you aren’t sewing a toy pattern from scratch you may have ended up here looking for a way to mend your child’s beloved teddy or bunny rabbit toy which has been loved to the point it is falling apart.
It is extremely useful for mending a ripped seam and closing gaps in clothing and hats before topstitching.
The ladder stitch is also a great invisible stitch to close a pillow.
How to Do Ladder Stitch (Invisible Stitch / Slip Stitch)
Now before you start, make sure you have great lighting and your best pair of reading glasses for a truly invisible stitch.
Start by threading the needle with either a single or double thread and knot the end.
I have used a contrast thread for this tutorial but you will want to use a matching one to create a truly invisible stitch.
Your thread should be fine but good quality as you will be doing some gentle pulling and you don’t want the thread to break halfway through your job.
Step 1: Starting Invisible Stitch
Insert the needle through the center opening on the far right, up through the fold to the top.
This will hide the knot inside your project.
You will notice the direction I am sewing is right to left. I’m right-handed so this will be the correct direction for most of you. If you are left-handed you may find it easier to reverse the direction of stitches.
Step 2: First Stitches
Now take a tiny stitch along the fold of the fabric on the opposite side.
This is from point 2 to point 3 in the diagram below. Notice how 2 is directly across from point 1.
The stitches in my tutorial are about 1/4 inch (6mm) in length so you could see how to do an invisible stitch. You will want to make yours at most 1/8 inch (3mm). The smaller your stitches the more it will blend into your seam with minimal gaps.
Pass the needle across to the original side and along the fold again from point 4 to point 5.
Step 3: Repeat and Pull
Continue in the same pattern from side to side.
This diagram will help you visualize the motion of stitching across. See how you are passing from one side to the next and hiding the stitches in the fold of the seam.
You can pull each stitch tight as you go or pull the stitches closed after you get to the end. I prefer to take a few stitches and then pull and then stitch again. Don’t leave it too long before you pull as the thread can sometimes get tangled.
If you are sewing a toy or cushion with stuffing inside, just make sure the stuffing fibers are not poking out the holes. You will need to keep pushing the stuffing back inside as you go.
You can see from the photo how it got its name ladder stitch (slip stitch) – the stitches going across look a little like ladder rungs.
Step 4: Knot Off and Finish
When you get to the end, knot the thread off as you would normally. If you are a beginner, this is done by leaving a loop in the last stitch and then putting the needle back through the loop and pulling tight.
Don’t cut the thread just yet as we want to hide the ends.
Pass the thread through the opening and into the item, coming up a short distance away. Cut off the thread.
If you pull a little before you cut, the thread will pull back inside when released hiding the evidence of the ends.
Here I have used a ladder stitch to close the legs on the Rachel Toy Pattern. See how it is almost invisible.
Invisible Stitch for Hems
If you are looking to sew an invisible stitch for the hems of dresses, skirts or trousers then most often a blind hem is used.
A blind hem can be sewn on your regular sewing machine and is nearly invisible on the right side when you use a matching thread color.
It can be sewn with a specialty blind hem foot that has an edge guide which helps you sew straight, or a regular foot if you have a good eye.
I have a full tutorial on how to sew a blind hem that will show you step by step how to create this invisible hem stitch.
Here you can see how to the back and front of the blind stitch hem looks.
Invisible Stitch Projects
If sewing a pillow and closing it with an invisible stitch sounded fun then here are a few of my free tutorials to keep you busy.