A Curved Needle and a Ladder Stitch

by Ramona on January 31, 2014

I asked folks on our American Sewing Guild Facebook page this week, what their favorite hand stitch is and which hand needle they like to use. I wrote that I would share mine in this blog.

post ASG Facebook page


Years ago a very dear lady, Pat Carless, taught me how to make teddy bears. We’d go to bear shows together. She made the most beautiful mohair bears and sold them.

S2110002 Mohair bears made by Pat Carless


She taught her home-schooled son, Matt, to make them too, and he became ever so accomplished. He was a tall young man with hands made for playing basketball. Instead of playing ball, he’d make the tiniest, tiniest little thread-jointed bears that he sold. This duo gave me my love of making teddy bears.

Now you may be asking what this has to do with my favorite hand stitch and needle? Well, after stuffing bears the seams need to be closed. Every seam must pass a collector’s inspection when these bears sell for hundreds of dollars.

This past weekend I worked on a Raggedy Ann doll using Simplicity pattern 9447.

raggedty Simplicity 9447


I was sewing on the hair and hand sewing the arm and leg seams closed and it made me think of Pat and her son, and prompted the question on Facebook and this blog.

My favorite needle: A “curved” needle. My favorite stitch: The “ladder” stitch.

Sometimes when trying to do a ladder stitch with a straight needle, it just doesn’t give the small bite needed in the fabric. Sometimes it catches fibers it shouldn’t. A lot of times this is because we are trying to use a straight needle when working on a curved surface or with a curved seam.



This is where a curved needle comes in so handy. Folks who do upholstery work know how wonderful they are; we home sewers sometimes overlook them when in actuality they can make our hand sewing so much easier especially when closing seams on dolls, stuffed animals, and even pillows.

CB60207_Household_Repair_Kit   JJ_curved_quilt    JJ_household_repair curved needle

ASG MEMBERS: Use your discount in the “Special Offers” section of the http://asg.org/members/specials.php/ website. (Not a member? Join ASG and you can get all kinds of discounts, too!)

A curved needle works just like a regular needle, but it does take just a little bit of time to become skilled at using. They do come in various sizes and types just like other hand sewing needles. Place the tip into the fabric and bring the tip up through the fabric and up out of the fabric with the thread following. Advance the needle to the next stitch placement and continue on. If you have never used a curved needle it will feel quite awkward at first. After just a few stitches you’ll soon see its ease of use in closing up seams–especially curved ones.



Thread, too, is important in teddy bear making and Pat and her son would use a sturdy waxed nylon thread. I do the same thing in my teddy bear making and often in my stuffed animal and doll creations. I have tried waxing cotton thread, hand quilting thread, four strands of regular sewing thread….lots of different combinations. I tend to go back to the waxed nylon each time. It is strong and can be pulled firmly without breaking.


Some may not agree with me because after all, it is nylon, and many of us have been taught that such a strong thread will weaken the fibers of the seam in a natural fiber. For Raggedy Ann, I want her hair to stay on when the little one it will be given to drags Raggedy around by her hair. For collector-bears, no one plays with them; the limbs usually get stuffed very, very firmly and a strong thread is needed to be able to stuff and stitch those last parts of the seams. The fiber and thread will probably last way beyond our lifetimes. Like most, I’ve never made anything that would be in a Sotheby’s auction, so I don’t worry about it. I worry about the here and now, how the item will be used and needs to be cared for, and if a toy I want it to stay together for the enjoyment of the child.

The ladder stitch is such a wonderful stitch and is my all-time favorite! Take a bite into the fabric and draw up the needle in the fold of the lower seam. Directly across from where the needle comes up in the lower seam, slide the needle tip into the fold of the upper seam and take a bite of fabric. Directly across from where the needle comes up in the upper seam, slide the tip of the needle into the lower seam and take a bite in the fold of the fabric at the seamline. Continue repeating this process.

S2070004    S2070002

11c It is easier to show a ladder stitch using a straight needle. After these photos, I switched to the curved needle.


Take a few stitches, pull up the thread, and the seam closes with the raw edges of the seam line automatically curling in and being encased.

S2070006   11d


If you’ve never used a curved needle give it a try. If you’ve never tried the ladder stitch, see if it is a stitch you might use in future work.

Sew ’til next time…..enjoy your journey of sewing!




{ 1 comment }

Sandi Dickenson February 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Makes me want to find a project thar uses curved needles- wonderful information.

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