Learn How To Sew Festoon Stitch for Decorative Edgings and Borders

Learn How To Sew Festoon Stitch for Decorative Edgings and Borders
Table Of Content

What is Festoon Stitch?

Festoon stitch is a type of decorative stitch used in embroidery, sewing, and needlework projects. It's characterized by its scalloped appearance that resembles a garland swag. The scallops are formed by successive arcs of thread that loop over the fabric at regular intervals.

This ornamental stitch is often used to decorate the edges of household items like tablecloths, napkins, pillowcases, and more. It adds a pretty, lacy touch when used as a border or edging. Festoon stitch is also sometimes called catstitch due to its looping, chain-like structure.

History of Festoon Stitch

The origins of festoon stitch are uncertain, but it appears to date back centuries. Some sources suggest it may have first emerged in ancient Persia, China, or India as a decorative embroidery technique. Others link it to traditional Italian lacework or English needle lace from the 16th-18th centuries.

In early American needlework, festoon stitch was often used to embellish bed hangings, blankets, coverlets, and linen towels. The colonial revival of the early 20th century led to a renewed interest in festoon stitch for embellishing vintage-inspired designs.

Today, festoon stitch remains a mainstay technique for hand embroidery, cross stitch, crochet edging, sewing crafts, and other needle arts. It offers an easy way to add ornate detailing to projects.

How to Do Festoon Stitch

Festoon stitch is worked by making a series of loops along the fabric edge. Here are the steps:

  1. Begin by bringing the threaded needle out from the back of the fabric to the front, about 1⁄4 inch in from the edge.
  2. Insert the needle back into the fabric about 1⁄4 inch down from the starting point, keeping the tip of the needle facing upwards.
  3. Bring the needle back out to the front a short distance away to form the first loop.
  4. Continue making evenly spaced loops by reinserting the needle slightly farther down and bringing it back up. The loops should just overlap each other.
  5. Work in the same direction all the way across the edge to create the scallops.
  6. When you reach the end, make several small securing stitches on the backside.

The key is keeping the loops uniform in size to maintain the rhythm of the stitching. Take care not to pull too tight or the fabric may pucker.

Tips for Sewing Festoon Stitch

Here are some helpful tips for achieving smooth, even festoon stitching in your sewing projects:

  • Use an embroidery needle or sharp sewing needle like a crewe or milliners needle.
  • Opt for a threaded that has some sheen, like pearl cotton or embroidery floss. The luster helps the stitching stand out.
  • Mark dots along the edge to use as a guide for spacing the loops evenly.
  • Start with a longer stitch length until you get comfortable with the looping motion.
  • Gently tug the thread taut when moving from loop to loop to keep them uniform.
  • Use an embroidery hoop or stabilizer on lightweight fabrics to prevent puckering.

Festoon Stitch Variations

There are many creative ways to modify the look of festoon stitch:

  • Bullion festoon stitch - Wraps the thread several times around the needle for an elaborate knotted effect.
  • Blanket festoon stitch - Alternates tall and short loops for a geometric look.
  • Crossed festoon stitch - Threads over previously completed loops to make an “x.”
  • Chevron festoon stitch - Stitches back and forth for a zigzag design.
  • Leafy festoon stitch - Loops are angled in different directions like foliage.
  • Corded festoon stitch - A heavy twisted thread or narrow cording is looped through.

Experiment with using different colors, heavier threads, ribbons, beads, and other embellishments. Layering multiple rows of festoon stitch in complimentary hues can create really stunning effects.

Festoon Stitch Uses

Here are some ideas for creative ways to incorporate festoon stitch into your sewing and embroidery projects:

Borders and Edgings

Festoon stitch makes for beautiful decorative borders along table linens, clothing hems, handkerchiefs, decorative towels, and pillowcases. Try using it to embellish napkins, a dresser scarf, or the edges of a quilt.

Home Decor Accents

Add brightness to lampshades, curtains, chair cushions, or throw pillows by outlining them with festoon stitching. Use it to trim doilies, table runners, and blanket edges too.

Bridal Designs

Festoon stitch can embellish bridal wear like wedding dresses, veils, ring pillows, garter belts, and flower girl baskets. It's an elegant touch for the big day.

Flowers and Greenery

Mimic the look of花 garlands by using festoon stitch on floral wreaths, flower crowns, bouquet wraps, corsages, and centerpieces. Trycombining it with fabric leaves and blossoms.

Clothing Embellishment

Add interest to clothing by using festoon stitch to decorate jacket cuffs and collars, shirt plackets, skirt hems, pockets, and necklines. It can replace regular topstitching for visual appeal.

Monograms and Names

Festoon scallops make sweet monogram accents on clothing, towels, bags, and other personalized projects. You can stitch freehand or use templates.


Festoon stitch can ornament just about anything you can dream up. Get creative embellishing shoes, hair accessories, tote bags, pet collars, luggage tags, and more!

Festoon Stitch Patterns

Ready to try festoon stitch? Here are some free patterns and tutorials to explore:

Festoon Stitch Napkins

Jazz up plain napkins by edging them with a row of festoon stitch in a contrasting thread color. This easy DIY tutorial walks you through the technique.

Festooned Handkerchief

Handkerchiefs make wonderful canvases for festoon stitch. Follow this pattern to encircle yours with floral motifs connected by festooning.

Monogrammed Bath Towels

Personalize bath towels for yourself or as gifts by adding a set of initials with blanket stitch. Festoon scallops frame the letters.

Table Runner

Liven up a table runner by stitching stripes of classic straight festoon stitch from end to end. Coordinate it with napkins edged the same way.

Collared Sweatshirt

Elevate a basic sweatshirt with a hand-embroidered collar made using corded festoon stitch and chain stitching. Check out the video tutorial.

Festooned Circle Skirt

Cut loose with this whimsical circle skirt featuring a triple row of chevron festoon stitch along the hem. Instructions included.

Where to Buy Supplies for Festoon Stitch

To start festoon stitching, you'll need just a few supplies:

  • Embroidery needle or sewing needle (size 5-10)
  • Embroidery floss or pearl cotton thread
  • Fabric for base project
  • Embroidery hoop or stabilizer (optional)

You can pick up festoon stitch supplies at your local craft store, fabric shop, or online retailers like:

  • Joann Fabric and Craft Stores
  • Michael's Craft Stores
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Walmart
  • Etsy - For unique hand-dyed and vintage threads
  • Dharma Trading Co. - High-quality dyes and fabrics
  • Herrschners - Specialty embroidery supplies
  • Amazon - Wide range of needles, hoops, stabilizers

Many festoon stitch patterns also include templates you can trace onto your fabric. Or make your own stencils using graph paper.

Final Thoughts

With its delicate scalloped look, festoon stitch can transform ordinary items into works of textile art. Learning this ornamental technique opens up amazing creative possibilities for embellishing your sewing and embroidery projects. Start stitching and see what beautiful designs you can dream up!


What type of thread should I use for festoon stitch?

Embroidery floss and pearl cotton are best for festoon stitch. They have sheen and luster that makes the stitches stand out. Avoid lightweight thread that could get lost against the fabric.

How do I keep my festoon stitches even?

Mark evenly spaced dots along the fabric edge as a guide. Use an embroidery hoop for stability. Be sure to gently tug the thread taut when moving between stitches.

Can I use a sewing machine for festoon stitch?

Some computerized sewing machines have a festoon stitch setting. But traditionally it is always stitched by hand for an artisanal look.

What fabrics work well with festoon stitch?

Linens, cottons, voiles, and other medium-weight tightly woven fabrics showcase festoon stitch best. Avoid stretchy or loosely woven fabrics that could distort the stitching.

How do I finish off my festoon stitching?

Knot the thread on the backside and weave the tail through previous stitches to secure. Or make several small hidden stitches perpendicular to the edging.

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