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Pad Stitching

Pad stitching is awesome. It’s fantastic. It’s often replaced with fusible interfacings and spray-glue products, and that’s a darn shame. Because pad stitching is pretty nifty. It’s used to bond an infrastructure layer (traditionally hair canvas in tailoring) to the layer it’s stiffening (often the under-collar). And the great thing is, it provides MORE STRUCTURAL GLORY than the original infrastructure product can on its own. Beat that with a stick!

Here’s how ya do…

Beginning the pad stitching.
I am doing a knot less, no-tail start-off. (Sounds official, doesn’t it? I totally made this up, but I would be shocked out of my socks if It isn’t centuries old.) Start with a long stitch between your two layers….
The knotless knot
Pull your first stitch through just until the tail is lost between the layers. Now take a second stitch around a single thread. I usually take two or three of these single thread stitches to secure my starting.

In a perfect world, you manage to get that single thread stitch to come up through your first stitch, which will completely lock everything in place. I find that that is more of a happy miracle than a reliable plan. Who knows?  You might turn up to be one of so many gifted souls who are just plain better at this than I tend to be. If not, I feel your pain…. ;)

Incidentally, we are doing this to avoid the little lump a knot can leave. You’ll feel it in the finished work. And it will grate on your ever last nerve every time you notice it. And that is no good, because grating is for cheeses, not nerves. So we do this instead.

Once you can give your thread a bit of a tug and it no longer budges:

Completing the pad stitch.
Your first real pad stitch finishes like this – take a stitch, maybe a quarter inch long and an eighth inch wide, then bring the needle up parallel to the start of the stitch.
Stitch from face side of fabric.
From the outside of the garment, your stitch should look like this. (And you are seeing the needle in the stitch, not mere thread. With a good color match, the stitch should be nigh unto invisible.)
Bad pad stitch!
You should not nevah-evah see this much needle on the right side of the work. This much needle is bad. In Padstitchlandia, this much needle is punished by a month in stilettos. 6″. While waiting tables at some horrible place where kids eat free every night. I kid not….

Ok, but seriously, missa, if it’s that freaking persnickety, why tag it a beginner-level skill?!?

Two reasons:

1) This is a pretty fundamental stitch.  It is less complextical than a good pick stitch (which I don’t have a demo of, but it’s basically a backstitch with a limp… The stitch barely shows on the right side.)

2) You don’t need years of experience to see if you’re doing it right; just eyes. (I am told you really only need fingers. I have been doing this since 2007 – I still feel most comfortable flipping and checking at every stitch. I don’t do it often enough to be there yet. I feel no shame in that….)

Pad stitching progressing.
Many pad stitches in a row make a row of slashes….
Pad stitch from working angle
This is my working angle for pad stitching – it’s a very simple verticals stitch if you go at it this way.

A lot of students I  have seen seem to prefer the horizontal method from the former photos. Do what works for you.

Pad stitching a roll.
When you are putting in pad stitches somewhere where the garment is meant to curl (like this collar), keep the fabrics curled over your finger as you pad stitch. It will work. It is like unto magics…

Actually, I think it’s a tension thing. Whatever the reason, I know it works, and you can’t bet it for control of a curve. Fusibles will not do this for you, my friends.  You must pad stitch.

To change directions, take a 2-set thread stitch directly down/over from your work path. (Sorry; I was working on a shawl collar which proved rather assymetrical. I started and stopped a lot.)

Rows of pad stitching.
Alternating rows of pad stitching should make slightly messy Vs

You don’t want this to be perfect. Perfect patterns are discernible from the outside.  Yes, it kills me a little, too. But it’s ok. All of this will be inside, and the important part is making sure no one is aware of it. Because if they are not aware, they can’t judge. And we don’t much cotton to the judgings, do we? Ok, well, I sure don’t….. ;)

Different sizes of pad stitches
Crazy story – smaller pad stitches make a firmer finished garment. Larger ones go looser. It is not uncommon to see a combination of sizes controlling the fabric, as in this collar – smaller stitches in the collar stand guarantee it will stand firmly, while larger stitches around that allow the rest of the collar to curve gracefully.

So, while this is a fairly basic skill, it is one with many nuances. I like skills like that – they continue to be a challenge for years to come, and remind you that there is still more to learn about the absolute basics.

Collar - right pad stitched, left not.
Why do all this? See how the collar on the right hand side of the picture is perkier and more willing to stand than the other?,It has been pad stitched, so the hair canvas and wool crepe are now one. The other side has not. It has both the hair canvas and wool crepe, but they are not working together so it droops.

So. happy pad stitching!


  1. Marge
    Marge October 11, 2017

    Thank you SO much! This will be very useful!

    • missa
      missa October 20, 2017

      So glad to help!

  2. Mia
    Mia November 22, 2017

    Thank you. Just beginning to try this out now.

    • missa
      missa November 22, 2017

      Glad to help! I find pad stitching to be quite meditative. I hope your experience is similar.

  3. Maggie
    Maggie May 29, 2020

    Fab. What needle is used. Most companies sell combination. Not sure best one to buy.

    • missa
      missa May 30, 2020

      Hi, Maggie – I would guess that I was using a size 10 gold-eye sharp in the tutorial. That is almost certainly the wrong needle, mind you, but they’re my favs. (I’m having a terribly time finding them lately, which makes me wish I had been better about not losing them over the years!). You want the thinnest needle you are comfortable with that is sturdy enough for the job, generally. I tend to prefer thinner needles to longer ones.
      Hope that helps!

  4. Linda
    Linda June 8, 2021

    What’s the purpose of the twill tape? How is it positioned to accomplish that? Thank you.

    • missa
      missa June 8, 2021

      Hi Linda – The twill tape helps the edge of the finished garment stay beautiful and turn better after sewing. It adds a little body to the edge. It serves a very similar function to understitching, but it’s invisible from outside. It is positioned just a hair inside the seam allowance – you want it as close to the edge as possible, but you don’t want to accidentally see through it when you put in the seam.

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