Overcasting and whipstitch/ overhanding use a similar motion, but they’re different size stitches used for different purposes.

See post on starting and finishing hand stitching

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(image source)

Often sewn over 1 layer of edge.

Used to be used for finishing seam allowance edges before the serger/ overlocker was available,
Still used in couture clothes on the few fabric edges that aren’t covered by lining.

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Whipstitch/ Overhanding

Sewn narrower than overcasting.


Take small stitches, as the result is flattened out after sewing, and the smaller the stitches the smaller the ridge left.

Best to baste the 2 edges together before stitching, as it’s only possible to sew small stitches if the 2 edges are closely aligned.

Main uses :

1. Sewing two folded edges together

Used to be used for rough tough seams when clothes were made by hand.
Still very useful for closing gaps in seams that take a lot of strain.
And much used for sewing two patches together in the hand-sewn English Paper Piecing (EPP) method of making patchwork.

With neat stitching this can also be sewn from the right side, as a decorative effect.

2. Adding trim to an edge – Two methods :

The simplest method is ;
– finish the edge by sewing a narrow hem along it.
– place trim and fabric right sides together and align edges to be joined.
– overhand the trim along the edge.
– flatten out and press.

The second method is more difficult to understand, but leaves no separate stitching showing for the hem :


First hem fold : Fold the fabric edge to the right side, less than 1/8″ wide.
Second fold : Fold to the front again to make a narrow double fold hem.
Third fold : Think of the first fold as marking a line along the body of the fabric. Fold all to the back along that line, so the 1st and 3rd folded edges are aligned.
french hem
Baste to hold all the folds in place.
Overhand the trim to the 2 aligned folded edges.

This method does work around a not-too-sharp curve without distorting the fabric.
But it’s not good with thick fabric.

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Most of the images come from old sewing instruction books, but the links no longer work and I had not kept a record of which books they came from.

First written March 2014

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