2 ways to sew the beautiful {shell edge stitch} – by hand and by machine

Shell edge stitch is simply beautiful. The scalloped edge which results from sewing this stitch on a shell edge stitchhem is so so good looking and luxurious. I just love sewing this stitch on the edges of the bibs in kids dresses. They also look great on the necklines of satin and silk nightgowns.

Hand sewn shell edge stitch is most suitable for those dainty baby frocks sewn in light weight cotton.

Checkout 20 ways to stitch the hem by your machine and 16 ways to stitch a hem by hand.

How to make a shell edge hem by hand?

You need to know some basic hand stitches to make this edge finish. Overcast stitch and slip stitch and running stitch. Let me tell you one thing, you will get the best looks if you use it on natural fabrics cotton, linen and silk , the lightweight the better. But you may try this on any fabric, just do not expect the finish you get from these light woven fabrics.

Use a matching colour for the thread (Unless you want a contrasting look, which is also cool) For the thread I would use the sewing machine thread only. Better stay away from embroidery thread as it is too thick for this stitch. ( I have used red embroidery thread in the example given below, and it looks very conspicuous)

You can now mark the scallops before starting the stitch, with a scale ( every 1/4″ or so), spacing each one evenly. Or wing it as I do ( you can go very wrong, let me warn you). It is better to mark.

Roll the edge into small folds twice. What I mean is, first make a narrow fold. 1/8 inch maybe. If you want a deep scallop you can even go up to 1/4 inch. Fold once more the same width. Now all the raw edges are inside. Fine.

how to stitch a shell stitch

Insert the needle through the fold. The knot will be hidden under the fold now .

shell edge

Make a straight overcast stitch : Go over the edge enclosing the edge with the thread.  Then bring the needle to the fold of the fabric and do a slip stitch (till the mark you have made, if have made them).

shell edge

Make an over cast stitch again and repeat the above steps. 

shell edge for shawls

Remember to pull the threads tight after every overcast stitch, the tightening thread will automatically form the scallops. 

Alternate way of making this stitch by hand – Another way to make this stitch is by doing three even running stitches in between the overcast stitches instead of the slip stitch. This is used if you want a lengthier scallop. Ensure that the running stitches are all of the same size and spaced evenly so that all the scallops turn out to be of the same size.

how to sew a shell edge

How to sew a shell edge stitch with a sewing machine ?

You can get the effect of a handmade shell stitch by using the blind stitch of your sewing machine. Isn’t it convenient? It is not as perfect as when done painstakingly by hand but when time is not on your side and you want those beautiful scalloped edges this is your best bet.

For this stitch to work you need blind hem stitch and a rolled hemmer foot.

For cute and small scallops, adjust the stitch length to as low as 1. Make sure you have a zig zag needle plate on the sewing machine. Adjust the stitch width to 5.

Fold the edge twice with 1/8 to 1/4 inch allowance.

Start sewing a straight stitch first. Do three or four stitches. Take the cloth from the needle leaving a long thread behind. Cut it out. You want a long tail left on the garment.

Change the stitch type to blind stitch. Now start stitching the thread first, then lead the fabric edge into the rolled hemmed foot. ( We do this, so that there is no missed fabric in the first stitches) 

Stitch along the edge, leading the fabric into the rolled hemming foot , stitching the blind hem stitch as in the diagram below.

how to make a shell edge stitch by machine

The fabric will be automatically pinched at regular intervals making little scallops along the edge. Press the stitches to maintain the shape. 

Read more sewing tutorials 

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