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Ladder hem stitch icon
Ladder hem stitch

  • Ladder stitch
Ladder hem stitch main image

Ladder hem stitch is a variation of hem stitch. It produces a wider border than ordinary hem stitch, and it is worked on both upper and lower ends of the vertical threads. 

Ladder hem stitch is generously sponsored by Prof Norma Dawson and Cynthia Batten in memory of Nan Andrew (1926–2020)


If you are working on the edge of the fabric, turn the hem in just up to the edge of the drawn threads, and tack the hem in position. In the example below, a drawn thread band is worked on the ground fabric, which is taut in an embroidery frame. It shows that the starting point is two fabric threads down from the edge and that three vertical fabric threads are gathered. However, you could change the number of threads depending on the effect you require.
Decide how many fabric threads you want to gather and make sure you withdraw a multiple of that number (e.g. if you are gathering groups of three, and want 9 groups, withdraw an area which spans 27 threads).


Prior to starting hem stitch, follow one of the drawn thread removal techniques, and then, starting with a waste knot, work two tiny running stitches. Bring your needle up at the bottom left corner two threads below the withdrawn area and then insert it in the withdrawn area, three threads to the right.


Pass the working thread behind the cluster of three fabric threads and back in where it was previously inserted, to wrap the cluster. Pull the wrapping tight and then come up two threads below.


Insert the needle to the right of the next three fabric threads, ready to work the next hem stitch.


Wrap around the cluster of fabric threads, as before.


Come up two threads down from the edge.


Continue until the end of the drawn thread band. For the ‘ladder’ effect, repeat the hem stitch on the other edge of the withdrawn area.


Group the same cluster of threads as those in the lower row.


Continue until the end of the band. To finish, you can secure the working thread inside the edge of the drawn thread band or inside the turned up hem.

Ladder hem stitch

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques


  • Jenny Adin-Christie, Fine whitework (2023) , p.83
  • Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.114
  • Jennifer Campbell, Ann-Marie Bakewell, Guide to Embroidery Stitches (2004) , p.145