How to do an Insertion or Faggotting stitch

insertion stitch

For a long time, I’ve entertained the idea of doing a hand-sewn Elizabethan shirt.  I’ve done enough hand-sewing to know that I can just whip-stitch all the pieces together, but the Janet Arnold book “Patterns of Fashion 4” has all these lovely shirts that are sewn together with insertion stitches.  There’s not a lot of instruction though and I’ve had a hard time figuring out how they were done.

There is a diagram on page 6 that shows several insertion stitches, but not a step by step instruction which is the thing I was lacking. After combing through my embroidery books I finally found instructions for one stitch (the second one below) which is pretty easy to do.  There are some tutorials online that show an insertion stitch, but most of them call for pinning the pieces to be sewn together to cardboard or similar to maintain an even spacing between the pieces.  Because I wanted to do seams, I wanted something decorative but that could be easily done for long pieces, in hand, without a large gap. I’ll try figuring out some of the other insertion stitches in the future.

insertion stitch 9

I’m calling it a twisted zigzag insertion stitch.

First, finish the edges of the pieces you want to seam together.  For my shirt I turned the linen under twice and did a running stitch.

Place wrong sides of the pieces you are joining together.  Pin long seams if you need to.

insertion stitch 2

Use an embroidery thread or similar weight thread.  I’m using Soie Perlee which is a twisted silk thread. (Resist the temptation to cut your thread too long.)

Knot the end of the thread and bury the knot under the hem on the wrong side of the fabric.

insertion stich 1

Put your needle through the fabric going into the center (about an 1/8 of an inch from the edge), catching only the front side of the two pieces.  Pull the needle through, with the needle over the tail of the thread.

From the back, put your needle through the fabric going into the center (about an 1/8 of an inch from the edge), catching only the back piece of fabric.  Pull the needle through, with the needle over the tail of the thread.

insertion stitch 6

Keep going.  Try to be consistent with how far down you enter the fabric with the needle and how far apart you make the stitches.  (Don’t make yourself crazy though.  It’s hand-work and it’s not going to be machine perfect.)

When you get to the end of your thread, knot it, bury the knot in between the pieces.  I haven’t quite figured out an elegant way to start a new thread, though putting the needle through the fabric going into the center and looping through the last stitch and then continuing as before seems to work.

If you have questions, please let me know.   Happy Stitching!

(Sorry for some of the pictures.  I’ll have to figure out a better way than using my phone.)



Catching up on Projects

How do you get things done?  Most of us live pretty busy lives and the hobby stuff usually takes a back burner to everything else.  Sometimes you have to set aside a block of time to accomplish something, but it’s also possible to make progress with small bits of time like 15 or 30 minutes or even 5 minutes.  Over days and weeks that all can add up.

I started an embroidery project, collar and cuffs for a new Elizabethan shift ages ago, but the project kept getting set aside for other more urgent things.  I decided I really want to get it done and have been working on it for short bits of time over the last week.  The cuffs are done, and now the collar is almost done.

red shift embroidery 1

I’m also still working on an SCA award scroll, this one is a backlog court barony scroll.  While I would really like to block out some major time to work on it, I’m still making progress doing a little at a time.  I’m starting to lay down base colors.  There will be a lot of detail work coming later.

Cara scroll progress 6

On the big block of time end of things, a couple of weeks ago, friends had a sewing day and we spent most of the day sewing.  Sometimes, working with a group of people all doing similar things, keeps me going long past the time I would have stopped if I was working alone.  I got to work with an overlock sewing machine.  It’s a pretty cool thing if you want to finish the edges of fabric that frays like linen in a quick non-historical manner.  I made a couple of pairs of linen shorts to wear under costumes for those hot hot summer event days, inspired by this post from Whilja’s Corner:

How do you get things done?




Work continues on the sweetbag.  It’s slow going but bit by bit things are filling in.

One thing that I will remember next time:  It’s a lot easier to do the outlining in black thread if the design on the linen is in a different color.  So better to use a sepia colored pen or a grey pen or something.  Stitching black on a black line is just confusing.

I also put the first little bit of plaited braid on the sweetbag, and it might have been easier to do that before the outline.  The plaited braid was a little nerve wracking and following the curve is a little awkward.  Hopefully I’ll get better with more practice.

People sometimes ask me why I’m all over the map on the stitching.  The answer is, I get bored if I do all the outlining first and wait until the very end to do all the background stitching.  So, I tend to alternate between black, color threads and metal threads.  It might not be the best method, but it keeps me from getting bored.

Here’s the sweetbag to date and the first bit of plaited braid.


In modern life, there is only so much time for creative projects.  I probably ought to be working on a different embroidery project (which has a pending deadline) or on scroll projects (which also have deadlines), but I promised myself this embroidery project would be done this year. I’ve been working on it a little bit each day to further that goal.

So, Ta Da!  The sweetbag is now half-way stitched.


sweetbag half done

The photo doesn’t show how shiny the silver and gold are.  Trust me, the stuff just sparkles in the sun.

I figure I’m about a 1/3 of the way done with this.  I have to stitch the front side and then I’ll have to do the construction, including tassels, cords and pulls which mostly are done in techniques I have very little experience in.

I’m pretty happy with my progress thus far.