Although overlockers leave the insides of your garments looking neat and tidy and professionally finished, sometimes I feel it takes something away from the ‘feel’ of a handmade garment, especially one made from a vintage pattern or vintage fabric. I love looking at the insides of old garments and finding where the maker has left their personal touches – stitches to alter size, mend holes, or finish raw edges. Once upon a time someone took the time to sit down and finish all the unseen parts of their creation, little guessing that it would survive many decades for another seamstress to marvel at.
Herringbone stitches are particularly lovely. Originally a decorative stitch often used in embroidery, you can use it to finish a raw edge to stop it ravelling, or to hold up a hem securely. It works really well on loosely woven fabrics as well as it makes kind of a ‘net’ to hold the threads down.
In the first picture I have used it to finish a strip of bias tape to the back of a neckline. Folding the tape under and slipstitching it proved to be too bulky and not pliable enough to curve around the sweetheart neckline, so I experimented with the herringbone stitch. I think it looks rather pretty! This dress, made from a 1940’s evening dress pattern (but in a much more daytime gingham), felt suited to a more handmade finish rather than having the insides overlocked. I think I might even pull out the pinking shears!
Fun fact: the German word for herringbone stitch is ‘hexenstich’ – literally, ‘witches stitch’. It does look a bit like old runes or pagan symbols, I think!