How to do a Weird Running Whip Stitch Thingy.

So, with my 'innards' post from yesterday, a commenter named Natalie (P.S. Natalie, I'm from the 'ville!), asked me to better explain the funky stitch that B did on the back pieces of my gown.

Of course, I'm more than happy to oblige.

First, let's do a quick run down of lining in 18th century gowns. Normally, you cut the lining and the outer fabric from the same shape, fold in 1/8-1/2 inch seam allowance, baste, and then slip stitch the lining to the outer fabric, thus making the lining and outer fabric one piece. Ok? Clear? Clear. Fabulous.

The purpose of this "Weird Running Whip Stitch Thingy" stitch is to skip that basting and slip stitching and just do everything in one stitch, thus making the process, over all, much quicker. (Baste x 4) + ( Slip stitching x 2) + Connecting stitch = 7 different stitches to complete (?...I date an engineer...he does my math usually, so if this is wrong, please correct me). When, with this slip stitch, if you're good...or lazy (depending on how you view your lack of basting, I'm more lazy) you only have to do one stitch.

B & I found this stitch on 3 (or more?) gowns in the Liverpool costume collection in the UK. All were quarter back gowns, and all had this funky stitch. Like B said, you run the risk of losing the entire seam if it breaks, but, at the same time, these 3 gowns have lasted quite nicely with this funky stitch. So, when constructing my gown, she opted to give it a try. It works a treat. Ok, here we go with the photos:

Step one: cut out the 2 pieces to be stitched together and the lining. Fold in 1/4 -1/2 inch (do 1/2 if you are going to add spiral boning). Place the folded lining ontop of the outer.
The light green is the outer fabric and the muslin is the lining
Seam allowance

The two pieces facing each other edge to edge
 Step 2: Pin outside to outside, so that when laying the pieces on top of eachother, all you see is the lining.
Pinned together
Step 3: After getting the end started (however you like to do that) you should bring the needle out through the lining of one side.

You can already see some of my stitches I'd done
Step 4: With barely any travel, stick the needle through the 2 outer layers and through the lining (just the top, don't make it deep) on the opposite side of where you started.

See how it is NOT going through the lining?

Now you can see it!

But it did go through the lining on the other side.

See what the stitch looks like? ...kinda?

Step 5: Repeat x however long it takes you to finish the seam.


Step 6: Once finished, as always iron the silly thing and move on to the next seam. The other beauty of this weird seam/stitch is that there is barely and ridge in the seam, it lays quite flat and when ironed it's almost impossible to see the stitches, unless you use bright thread like I did to provide better visuals for ya'll.

The finished seam
From the outside, no stitches visible!

Stitches shot
There! That's it! I hope that helped clear up any confusion there might have been with the oddly described stitch. It worked a treat when I was sewing up this example for you all, and I'm really impressed by how strong the stitch seams (Note: when I wrote this, I meant to write seems...ha) to be...even with my less than par sewing.

<3 <3


  1. Dear Abby,

    First, you're from Louisville? Excellent! My husband and I escape there for amazing food and b and b's. A super town.

    Second, thank you for the fine tutorial. What an ingenious stitch. It's so cool looking, and so straightforward! No wonder you loved it.
    Thank you so much again,


  2. You're welcome Natalie! I hope this was helpful for you and that if you want to use it one day it will work out well for you! :)

  3. Oh, I think I saw this described with line drawings somewhere and I just couldn't grasp it. This is clear as crystal and faboo!

  4. Is it weird that I want to try this as soon as I get home? Yeah...

    PS--read your About Me section and have to squee a little--I'm an IUB alum, too :) History and French major (eighteenth century self-imposed concentration :) ) I still live in Btown until my husband finishes here. And...I took Prof. Pace's Paris and Berlin class--loved it!!

  5. MBerg: What did they call this stitch, do you remember?

    Rowenna: I don't think it's weird at all :)

    ...I AM SO JEALOUS YOU ARE STILL LIVING IN BTOWN. I die. I miss it, desperately. Best city in Indiana by far! Paris and Berlin was great, I was taking art history classes at the same time that completely correlated with the P&B class, which made the whole semester awesome. He was supposed to do a study abroad trip to Paris where you would take time to walk around places listening to the music, etc to help take you back to the period and gain better insight. I never knew if he actually did it or not, but it sounded...awesome. What's your husband study?

  6. Thank you SO much for posting this! I've also read about this a bit, but it was kind of puzzling. This is really helpful! I'll use it in my next pair of stays.

  7. Abigael: You're welcome! However, I don't think I would recommend this stitch for stays, you would want to do a standard whip stitch, maybe with double thread. It needs to be a really strong stitch and I don't think this one would hold up well from the stress of stays. Now, if you're making a quarter back gown.... :)

  8. OMG Abby, that would have been an amazing study abroad! I haven't heard anything about it, though...hopefully he got it off the ground! I still remember the "Nothing" song that he played as an illustration of My husband is working on his PhD in Astronomy...which I know nothing about :)

  9. Rowenna: Me too! I was super jealous when he told me about it, because it was supposed to happen after I graduated in 08. It was because of him I love Rosseau (the artist not the philosopher) and discovered Satie. The readings in that class were *stellar*.

  10. How interesting! This actually looks similar to a stitch recommended for long construction seams of stays in the c1838 publication "The Workwoman's Guide." I finally parsed out what the instructions in the book (no illustration!) were saying by way of experimentation combined with extensive staring at seams like this:

    (That's from Katherine Caron-Grieg's site, Koshka-the-Cat, and it's an interior detail shot of her extant c1820-40 set of stays.)

    I saw this type of seam on most of the early 19th century (up to c1840) stays in the collection at Old Sturbridge Village, but we couldn't figure out what was going on. It was just this omnipresent wiggly seam that looked completely normal on the outside.

    I still need to do another mock-up fitting with my 1830s stays before I'll be getting into the final, hand-stitched stays, where I'll actually use this seam, but my experimental swatch of it, using layers of plain cotton utility muslin, was astonishing strong and stable. The basic gist of it is that you have the two outer layers and the two lining layers stacked, as for the seam demonstrated here, and then you do a whipstitch from one lining layer and through the two outer layers, coming up between the layers and skipping the other lining layer. Then you wrap around that (opposite) lining layer and start the process again in reverse, going through the lining layer and the two outer layers. With a waxed or otherwise sturdy thread, it has impressive results. Even for stays!

    Does anything like that show up in 18th century clothing?

  11. Thanks so much for the excellent tutorial! I've run accross "le point a rabattre sous la main" stitching in my research several times lately and could not for the life of me visualize how to do it. I'm all fired up to try it on my next project now!

  12. Dear Abby,

    today I've had the pleasure to finally give this "weird-running-whip-stitch" a try! What should I say: it was as if there's a magic spell on my needle for I couldn't stop sewing - it works wonderfully!
    Thank you so much for sharing the tutorial!

  13. I know this is a bit errrmmm 'late' for me to respond to my now "defunct" blog, but I just wanted to point out that this stitch is *not* "point à rabattre sous la main" it is something completely different. "Point à rabattre sous la main" is a hemming top stitch most often used in the tailoring trade. A more in depth explanation can be found at "The Margaret Hunter Shop: Milliners and Mantuamakers" facebook page.

    Thanks so much!

    <3 <3

  14. This stitch is actually used for the side seams in a pair of corded regency stays in a Swedish collection, and I've used it with good result for that. But otherwise it's mostly used in 18th century jackets and dresses here in Sweden. I love that stitch; fun to do, pretty result :)

  15. Dear Abbey - You're wonderful - at last I've found a demo to explain what I see in my antique regency and 1780s garments! Thankyou - you can see pictures of my seams at
    Cheers, Aylwen

  16. OMG, you RULE! I'm new to this historical sewing thing, and have been scrambling to find detailed explanations/diagrams/photos of some of these period stitch techniques! So glad I found this; thank you!!

    -Tracy G.


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