customizing with oliver + s: use a running stitch

What’s one of the simplest and easiest ways to customize a pattern to make the finished garment your own? Add a running stitch.

Your don’t need to alter a pattern radically to make the final product unique. Sometimes all you need to do is “shrub it up” a bit. (My sister is a landscape architect, and I learned that phrase from her. We use it all the time around here now. It means, basically,…. Well, you can figure out what it means.)

A running stitch is a simple embellishment detail. It’s easy and quick to do. Use embroidery floss to do it. The number of strands you use will determine how heavy the stitch looks. Your stitches can be either long or short, depending on the look you want to achieve. (You’ll want to use a smaller, short stitch for more a delicate look.) Experiment until you find the look you’re going for.

Running stitches are  great for a hem, the top edge of a pocket, around a collar, at a yoke seam or neckline. Anywhere you add stitching will add a little emphasis in the final piece. It’s generally easiest to add a running stitch as early in the process as you can. For example, on the Ice Cream Dress you could stitch the pockets after assembling them and before attaching them to the dress.


Ice Cream Dress with running stitch


If you’re not sure whether you want stitching or where you want it, you can also usually wait and add stitching as a last step, too, as I suspect the creator of this cute skirt did.


Skirt with running stitch


Where have you used a running stitch to highlight a style detail or customize a pattern? Or if you haven’t yet, has this given you any ideas where you might give it a try?




  1. mjb

    Do you mean the number of strands you use or the number or skeins?

  2. I plan on using a running stitch as a detail on my current wip – a bay window bench seat cover Sorry my photo is not as cute as your little dress and those adorable little feet in your 2nd photo! 🙂

  3. MJB, thanks for catching that! I meant number of strands and have corrected it in the post. Thanks!

  4. I added black stitches to a pinafore for my daughter ( It was cute and fun to do.

    I’ve discovered, however, when I tried to do the same embellishment on a hotpad, that it looks crooked on the back. I don’t know WHY because I thought I was doing straight, even stitches. ,. . I reverted to the rocking stitch of handquilting and it was all good (but hard to stitch through the layers of a hotpad!).

  5. thanks so much for showing off my skirt! i can’t wait to try this again, still waiting for the right project to come along…

  6. darci

    I just used a running stitch this morning to highlight my quilt label with a perle cotton

  7. I used running stitch to embelish the flap of a bag I made. I did the stitching before I cut it all out. You can see my bag here:

  8. Chlobell

    Can you do this with your sewing machine or does it have to be hand-stiched?

    1. A running stitch can really only be done by hand, simply because sewing machines aren’t able to carry a single thread over and under the fabric the way a running stitch does. If you stitch with a sewing machine it will be a topstitch or edgestitch, which is ok, too, but has a different look.

Post a comment