How to Do an Invisible Stitch (aka the Ladder Stitch)

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Are you sewing a pillow, scrunchie, or another project that needs to be turned right side out?

You’re almost done with your project and want to close the opening with a stitch that can’t be seen.

Close an opening with the ladder stitch

This is the perfect time to use the ladder stitch. The ladder stitch is an invisible hand stitch that can be used to close an opening in a seam.

Just So You Know: I’m right-handed and don’t know if my tutorials will work for those of you who are left-handed. Still, I encourage you to take a look at the videos and photos. Hopefully, the technique will be something you can use.

Sanity Saver: When you’re hand sewing, it’s common for the thread to get twisted. If this happens to you, hold up the project and let the needle and thread dangle. The thread will unwind but the needle may fall off the thread so keep an eye on it.

Needles and Thread

To keep this post focused on helping you learn how to do the ladder stitch, I don’t talk in-depth about selecting needles and thread for your project.

However, these are two important factors in hand sewing.

Needles

If you’re not sure what needle to use for your project, check out the Hand Needle Guide from Joann.com.

It features photos and descriptions of 14 different hand sewing needles, as well as needle threaders, thimbles and a couple of other hand sewing tools.

Thread

Does thread have you confused?

According to this sewingpartsonline.com article Thread Mastery: A Guide to Understanding Thread, an all-purpose thread is what you’ll use 95% of the time. It is good for all weights of fabric and is usually made from polyester or cotton.

The Thread Mastery Guide is very in-depth and provides A LOT of information. If you want to learn more about thread, it’s a great resource to read and bookmark for future reference.

Books for Your Library

The above-linked resources on needles and thread are free, but if you are looking for some excellent books to add to your sewing library, I recommend the following two books.

The book Know Your Needles by Liz Kettle

Know Your Needles by Liz Kettle is a pocket-sized resource that provides easy-to-consume information about both machine and hand sewing needles.

For each needle, photos are included along with details such as fabrics, threads, sizes, and tasks that are appropriate for the needle.

There are 13 sewing machine needles and 17 hand sewing needles featured in this book.

Book - The Ultimate Thread Guide by Becky Goldsmith

The Ultimate Thread Guide by Becky Goldsmith lives up to its subtitle Everything You Need to Know to Choose the Perfect Thread for Every Project.

My favorite part of this book is the section on thread manufacturers. There are 14 manufacturers presented in the book and each has a 2-page spread giving a snapshot of their threads at the time of the book’s printing (2019).

Part of the snapshot is a quick reference chart of different threads and includes the thread name, fiber, weight/ply, use, and needle size.

In addition, there are several chapters to help you build foundational knowledge about threads.

Video – How to Close Openings with the Ladder Stitch

How to Close Openings with the Ladder Stitch

The ladder stitch is an invisible stitch used to close an opening in a seam that was created by turning and/or stuffing (like a pillow or stuffed animal).

Tips for a Successful Ladder Stitch

  • Make sure the project is right side out.
  • Use a thread color that coordinates with the fabric.
  • Hold the opening closed while you work.
  • Clips or pins are an option to help hold larger openings closed.
  • Smaller stitches are better than larger stitches.

Steps for the Ladder Stitch

  1. Make a knot in the thread. Insert the needle between the fabric layers into the fold close to the finished seam. Pull the needle until the knot is hidden in the fold.
Insert the needle under the fold

2. See the thread coming out of the back fold? (A) Go across the opening to the front fold. Directly across from (A), insert the needle into the top of the front fold. (B) Push it under the fold a 1/8″ – 1/4″ and bring it back up through the top of the fold (C). Pull the needle and thread through.

Push the needle through the opposite fold.

3. Go across the opening to the back fold. Directly across from (C), insert the needle into the top of the fold (D) and take another stitch (E) as described in step 2.

Take another stitch

The stitches you’ve taken should be visible and look like the rungs of a ladder.

Stitches look like rungs of a ladder

4. After taking a few stitches, pull on the thread. The “rungs” should disappear into the seam.

Pull the thread so the stitches disappear.

5. Keep going back and forth from one fold to the other, pulling the thread every few stitches, until you get to the end of the opening.

The ladder stitch closes openings in seams.
Note: In the tutorial, I closed the opening moving from the right to the left. In the photo above the last stitch (and thread) are on the right-hand side because I inadvertently flipped the pillow when taking pictures.

Finding and Removing the Ladder Stitch

Because it is invisible, it can be difficult to find where the ladder stitch was executed.

Depending on the project, this could be a good thing. However, if you used the ladder stitch to close an opening in a pillow cover and now want to change your decor, you need to find that invisible stitch.

With careful scrutiny, the invisible ladder stitch can be found you just need to know what to look for.

Related post: Did you know there is more than one way to use a seam ripper? Check out my seam ripping post.

Hand Sewing for Beginners

There are several basic hand stitches you need to know. Sometimes hand stitching does the job better than your sewing machine or it allows you to do something your sewing machine can’t.

The type of stitch really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

I created a series of picture and video tutorials to demonstrate hand sewing techniques you should know:

You can see all the above lessons in one place at Types of Hand Stitches: a Guide for Beginners.

Projects With Hand Sewing

Most of the sewing projects featured on The Ruffled Purse require the use of a sewing machine.

The projects below need a little hand sewing, too.

Looking for some projects that require only hand sewing? Check out the following posts:

Embroidery Books

The ability to hand sew can be used with a variety of sewing interests such as mending, quilting, clothing, and embroidery.

If you’re interested in embroidery, there are a couple of books you need to check out. Both are part of my own personal sewing library.

Two books with embroidery projects

Doodle-Stitching by Aimee Ray starts off with more than 20 pages of information to get you started with embroidery including a stitch library, materials and tools, and sewing essentials.

Then there are almost 30 fun projects with detailed directions to get you started on incorporating embroidery into all kinds of sewing and quilting projects.

Patchwork Loves Embroidery by Gail Pan has a few pages of general instructions and visuals of how to do basic embroidery stitches.

The best part of Patchwork Loves Embroidery is how most of the projects combine hand stitching with quilting.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

Make sure you sign up for Snappy Scissors (my FREE newsletter sent directly to your inbox) for ongoing sewing inspiration and education. You can find the sign-up box at the bottom of the post.

Also, like or follow The Ruffled Purse® on Facebook. This is another way to stay up-to-date on the fun things going on at The Ruffled Purse.

You can even follow me on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube! 😊

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More Sewing Education

Looking for more sewing education? Here are a few other posts you may like:

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8 Comments

    1. Thanks, Andrea! The ladder stitch is fun to do and very satisfying when you see the stitches “disappear”.

  1. I have to take out a ladder stitch and I’m wondering how do you do that with a seam ripper? I can’t seem to find the stitch. Thank you

    1. What a great question, Lila. I made a video on how to find and remove the ladder stitch and added it to the post. You can locate it quickly by using the table of contents at the top of the article.

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