Meet Frankenseam (AKA The Whip Stitch)

retrochick.JPGMichele says:

How have you been liking Home Ec 101’s recent sewing posts?  Have they inspired you to finally tackle that mending pile?  Are you rocking oh-so stylishly patched jeans?  Or are you the smart kid in class, bored and wondering when we’ll do a project that doesn’t rely on the plain old straight stitch?  If you’re one of our many resident smarties, be prepared to be excited!  Well, as excited as you can be about sewing, which in my case is really excited!  But before we get started on our new project, I’m going to teach you a very handy, super easy stitch.  It’s so easy, in fact, that you probably already know it!  It’s wonderful for making strong, albeit slightly unsightly, seams and—bonus!!—its name always gets me singing: whip stitch.  (Whip stitch good.)

The Whip Stitch:

Step 1: Thread your needle and knot your thread as you learned in steps 4, 5, and 6 the first sewing post, How to Repair an Unraveled Seam.  My pictures show contrasting doubled thread (four strands instead of two), but it’s only to make the stitches easier for you to see.

Step 2: Line up the edges of your two pieces of fabric.  Insert the needle through both layers of fabric from bottom to top.  Bring the thread around the edges of the fabric to help prevent future fraying.


Step 3: Insert the needle into the bottom of the fabric about 1/8” from your last stitch.  Again, stitch from bottom to top, making sure the thread “whips” around the fabric’s edge.  Repeat until you get to the end of your fabric.


Step 4: Turn your work so that the bottom layer is now the top layer.  Reinforce your stitching by repeating step 3, except in the opposite direction.  These new stitches shouldn’t cover the ones made in step 3, and your reinforced stitches should look a bit like X’s/crosses.  Don’t worry if your fabric’s edges start to roll, as it helps keep the seam strong.


Feel free to practice until you’re comfortable with the whip stitch.  Once you’ve got it down, you’re ready to tackle our next repair: the frankenseam.  Have you ever, say, caught the pocket of pajamas on a chair or snagged a shirt on a loose nail?  If so, you know the seemingly irreparable tears that result.  Now that you know the whip stitch, however, those snags and rips are a thing of the past.  Sure, you’re going to have some pretty wonky looking repair jobs, but if enough of us mend our clothes instead of tossing them, maybe we’ll end up making sustainablility the new black!

What You’ll Need:
  • Clothes with a tear not on the seam
  • Matching thread
  • Pinking shears
  • Sharp sewing scissors
  • Fine tipped all purpose needle

Step One:  Turn your torn article of clothing inside out.  Use your pinking shears to carefully trim around the tear in order to prevent future fraying.


Step Two: Thread your needle and knot the thread just like you did before.

Step Three: Working on the wrong side of the fabric, pinch the opposite sides of the tear together so that you have two layers of fabric.  Start sewing by inserting the needle from bottom to top through both layers of fabric.  To continue, whip stitch down the length of the tear.


Step Four:  Reinforce your stitching as you did in step four of the whip stitch lesson (above).  Remember that it doesn’t have to be pretty!


Step Five: Tie off your thread, turn your project right side out, and admire your work!


Michele Newell is a housewife turned blogger turned Home Ec 101 contributor.  You can read her near daily ramblings at Dreams Unreal.


  1. Teresa on April 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Just wanted to comment on “licking” the thread when you thread your needle. If you are still having difficulty getting the thread through the eye of the needle you might want to try cutting the end of the thread at an angle and threading it dry. Moisture can make thread swell and actually make it harder to thread the needle. Cutting at a 45 degree angle allows the thread to enter the eye more easily. I used to moisten my thread because that’s what I saw my mother and grandmother do, but now I always snip the end of the thread at an angle and it works like a charm.

    Thanks for the sewing-related posts!

    • Michele Newell on May 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Great tip, especially when working with cotton/natural fiber threads. I do that when threading yarn onto those big plastic needles you use to sew together granny squares and the like. 🙂

  2. Jessica on April 26, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Thanks for this post! Could we darn some socks sometime soon??

    • Michele Newell on April 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      I have never darned a sock in my life! I figured darning went the way of the printing press once socks went from hand knitted to mass produced. 😉 I’ve darned pointe shoes, though! I promise to give the socks a shot (and share the results if it turns out well).

  3. Marianne on April 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I’m really enjoying the sewing posts. Thank you. Question: why should we use pinking shears? What would happen if we used regular (fabric) scissors?

    • Michele Newell on April 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      For an example of what straight scissors do to fabric in the long term, think about a tear in the knee of a pair of jeans. As the hole frays and gets bigger, you get lots of strings that run across the width of the hole. The pinking shears prevent those little strings by creating tension- and fray-reducing zig zags in the fabric.

      If you need a quick short term fix sewing scissors work just fine, but pinking shears are a smart investment if you intend to machine wash and dry your projects.

      PS I got mine nearly ten years ago at a national craft store using one of the weekly “40% off any single item” coupons and they’re still going strong! 😉

      • Marianne on April 25, 2013 at 12:11 am

        Thanks! That makes a lot of sense.

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