Slip Stitching (Or Ladder Stitch)

February 12, 2020

There are many occasions when it is necessary to stitch an invisible seam on the outside of your upholstered work.

Some resort to gimp pins or staples, others to fancy nails to cover the seam. However, it is surprisingly easy and quick to simply “slip stitch” (sometimes called ladder stitch) the seam together, achieving an almost invisible join.


The Needle – Use a semi circular needle with a very sharp point – I prefer a 3 by 19 gauge as it is a better size to hold, with a reasonable size eye and a fine sharp point. Click here to get your needle now! (6th item down in list) Needles

The Thread – This has to be of a very high breaking strain but not too thick. Ordinary sewing thread is not suitable. Barbours linen slipping thread is the best. It is not essential to match the colour perfectly with your fabric. In fact you should be able to sew black fabric with white thread and it should still be invisible . Click here for the slipping thread (5th item in the list) Thread


First – pin your work together. This should be done with the overlapping edge facing away from the front of your work wherever possible, so that you are not looking into a seam. For instance if you are sewing on a side panel on a rounded chair overlap the side panels over the back panel.

Although it is better to pull the fabric taught, don’t worry if it is not at its tightest as more tension can be achieved as you sew.

Secure your thread to a tack or gimp pin.

Make a second stitch, at the edge overlay fabric. The stitch should start slightly behind the finishing point of the last stitch – be sure to pick up only the top layer of fabric, do not put your needle through both layers of the folded overlap fabric.

When you pull the thread tight the top fabric should roll over slightly concealing your thread.
NB It will not do this if you have sewn through both layers of the overlap fabric.

Finally when you pull the thread tight the stitch should be completely invisible.


  • Never put your needle into two layers of fabric, single layers only.
  • Always jump from side to side, never try to pick up both sides of the fabric at the same time.
  • Always drop slightly behind the last stitch when placing the next one.
  • Pull the thread very tight but don’t pull it with the needle or the thread will eventually break at the point of the eye.
  • Immediately undo any stitches that do not look right and re-insert them, you will appreciate the final result.
  • If possible, secure your thread on a gimp pin at the beginning or tack, to allow the thread to be pulled tightly.
  • Length of stitch – this should be about 5 to 8mm. It should be shorter on curves and a fraction longer on straight runs.
  • The idea of this stitch is that when the thread is pulled very tight it no longer curves and twists, but forms a straight line inside the fabric on both sides pulling it together. When the top fabric rolls over with the thread it will increase the tension on your fabric