A blanket stitch is a decorative stitch that is used in a variety of ways, but most notably to sew the edges of blankets. It is usually sewn with contrasting thread, as it is made to be seen, rather than blending in with the fabric. For the same reason, embroidery floss or another kind of thick thread is generally used for this stitch.
A blanket stitch is used as a decorative edging on a variety of different items, usually blankets, washcloths, towels, baby items, tea towels, and other linens. The stitch also provides a convenient and decorative way to attach a fabric shape, known as an appliqué, to a background such as a quilt. This stitch can also be used to decorate the edge of a crocheted item.
The standard blanket stitch is created by pushing the needle through the fabric from the front, about a quarter of an inch or five millimeters from the edge of the fabric. The needle is then brought around the edge of the fabric and up through the loop of thread before the stitch is pulled tight. The stitch is then repeated by again pushing the needle through the fabric from the front side.
This stitch can either be very simple, as described above, or more intricate for a very decorative look. For instance, several rows of blanket stitch can create a pretty honeycomb-like design at the hem. Varying the length of the distance from the stitch to the edge of the fabric, especially in a predictable pattern, can also create an interesting effect.
To decorate the edge of a crocheted item, a needle with a large eye is threaded with yarn instead of embroidery thread. The yarn is then used to make the blanket stitch just as described above.
The blanket stitch is a very old stitch, one of several that have been used for a thousand years or more. During the Dark Ages, the Vikings and Saxons used four basic types of stitches: the running stitch, oversewing, the herringbone stitch, and the blanket stitch. A running stitch is a basic hand-sewn stitch, which looks like a series of dashes, or like the dotted stripe that is painted down the road to direct traffic. Oversewing is a series of diagonal stitches, which look like a series of forward slashes typed in a row. The herringbone stitch is more decorative, formed of alternating diagonal stitches that cross when they meet. The result looks like a row of teepees with their bases overlapping.
Both practical and a simple decoration, the blanket stitch has a wide variety of uses. By catching the folded edge as the needle is pushed through the fabric, the stitch can even be used to secure a hem at the same time as it provides ornamentation to an otherwise plain edging. Two pieces of fabric, such as the front and back pieces to a quilt, can also be sewn together using this versatile stitch.