The Best Stitches for Sewing Puppets

by Puppet Nerd

There are many different hand stitches that can be used in making puppets. Here are two of the best stitches to use for sewing any puppet. In this post we are going to cover the Whipstitch and the Ladder stitch.

Some people in puppetry use the slang term the “Henson Stitch” to refer to these stitches. Note, there is no REAL “Henson Stitch”. What is known as the Henson stitch is actually more of a philosophy of sewing than a literal stitch. It is the process of using precise sewing exaction along with fabrics that have a pile, and grooming techniques to make the seams vanish!

Why would you want to use two stitches?

With the whip stitch, the thread is coiled around the seam and makes contact in a lot of places on the fabric, it allows for the fabric to stretch and is very hard to break.

With the ladder stitch, it is one piece of thread going straight across; there’s no coil to it. This means that the seam is only as strong as the thread. There’s not a lot of stretch and the seam can be broken. It shouldn’t be used for anything structural for the puppet; only to close up the tiny seam in the back.

There are a lot of other stitches that can be used as well. Use whatever works best for you.

The Whipstitch

Step 1

Taking two pieces of fabric, place them right side down.

Figure 1: Placing the fabric right side down

Step 2

Take the needle and enter from the back of the fabric. Pull all the way through until the knot stops in the fabric.

Figure 2: Needle entering the back

Step 3

Enter the other fabric piece from the front keeping close to the edge. Then, go through the back of the first piece again.

Figure 3: Going through the front of the other piece of fabric

Step 4

Repeat as often as necessary until finished.

Figure 4: What the whipstitch looks like after a couple of stitches are complete

This demonstration used a much wider stitch than what would be used on a puppet. Below, see some comparisons of what it usually looks like on a couple of fabrics.

Diagram of Whipstitch sewing pattern
Figure 6: The stitch on back of Antron fleece

From the front the stitch is practically invisible!

Figure 7: The stitch on Antron fleece (front view)
Figure 5: On the left, what is typically used when working on a puppet. On the right, the demonstration version

The Ladder Stitch

Step 1

Start underneath the fabric by pulling the thread all the way through so the needle is on top.

Figure 8: A sketch of the stitch. Red indicates places where the needle enters the fabric and the stitch may not be seen.

Step 2

From the front side of the fabric, pass the needle in and then up through the fabric. The needle should be parallel to the edge of the fabric.

Figure 9: The needle in and then up through the fabric.

Step 3

Then, go straight across to the other piece of fabric and repeat.

Figure 10: The thread goes straight across and the needle is passed through the fabric just like in Figure 9.

It should start to look like a ladder in between the pieces.

Figure 11: The ladder stitch so far.

Step 4

Pull the thread tightly to bring the two pieces of fabric together. Then you can go over the seam with a needle to pick the fibers and hide it.

Figure 12: The thread pulled tight to hide the stitches

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