How to Sew a Slip Stitch (Ladder Stitch)

A completed slip stitch

Stacy Fisher 

Overview
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The slip stitch, also called a ladder stitch or an invisible ladder stitch, is a useful hand-sewing stitch to close a seam. When done correctly, you shouldn't be able to see the stitch once it's finished. So you should use the slip stitch when you want a discreet stitch that can close an opening your sewing machine can't reach. You're most likely to use a slip stitch to close a lining, mend a seam, hem a garment, attach a binding, apply appliqué, and close a pillow cover, just to name a few. Once you understand the process, this stitch is fairly quick and easy for most sewers.

Scissors, needle, thread, and fabric on a table
Stacy Fisher

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sewing needle
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board

Materials

  • Fabric
  • Matching thread

Instructions

  1. Thread Your Needle

    Before you can slip stitch, you'll need to thread your needle. Double the thread, and tie a knot at the end. Snip the thread under the knot if needed, so you have about 1/4-inch thread tail.

    A threaded needle
    Stacy Fisher
  2. Prepare Your Closure

    Getting the closure ready is a step that some people skip, but it's the secret to getting an invisible slip stitch.

    Take your item to slip stitch, and fold the fabric inside the closure to match your seam. Press with an iron or finger press to make a nice even fold on both sides of the fabric. 

    A piece of fabric with folds on the inside
    Stacy Fisher
  3. Hide Your Knot

    To start the slip stitch, you're first going to hide your knot.

    Starting on one side of the closure, insert your needle inside one of the folds, being careful not to come through the outside of the fabric.

    Bring your needle back out through that fold toward the middle of the closure. Pull the thread through until the knot is hidden in between one of the folds. 

    Hiding a knot
    Stacy Fisher
  4. Start Your Slip Stitch on 1 Side

    Now that the knot is hidden, it's time to start stitching.  

    Bring the needle to the opposite fold of where your knot is, and insert it into the fold. Then, bring the needle out of the fold a 1/4 inch or less away from where you just inserted it. Be sure not to catch any of the outside fabric when you make your stitch.

    Pull the needle and thread through to complete your first stitch. 

    Starting a slip stitch
    Stacy Fisher
  5. Sew the Slip Stitch on the Opposite Side

     Repeat the slip stitch you just completed on the opposite fold. 

    Using a slip stitch
    Stacy Fisher
  6. Keep Making Slip Stitches

    Continue making slip stitches in the same manner, working back and forth between the two folds. Keep making slip stitches until you get close to the end of the other side of the closure.

    You'll notice the thread goes back and forth between the folds, looking like ladder rungs. This is why the slip stitch is also called the ladder stitch. 

    Showing a slip sttich
    Stacy Fisher
  7. Knot Your Thread

    Once you've reached the end of your closure, it's time to knot your thread and secure it.

    Grab a small amount of fabric inside the fold with your needle, and pull your thread through just a bit, not all the way. You'll now have a thread loop that you can use to make your knot.

    Insert the needle through the loop, and pull through to create a knot.

    Make one more knot in the same way to secure your stitching.

    A small knot to end the slip stitch
    Stacy Fisher
  8. Finish Your Slip Stitch

    Trim the thread close to the knot. If you peek inside the closure, you might be able to see your stitches. This is fine and why you should choose a matching thread (unlike this demonstration, which used contrasting thread to show the stitches). 

    Give the closure a final press. This will make it nice and crisp and hide any stitches that might be peeking through.

    Inside a slip stitch
    Stacy Fisher