Overcast edging uses simple parallel stitches to bind a cut edge; it gives a robust finish suitable for securing most types of fabric. The example shows a square with four sides cut away, but overcast edging can be used for any shape . The method is very similar to that used for working a large eyelet.
Overcast edging has been used to edge fabric for centuries: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a Peruvian woven panel dating from 500-700 AD which features an overcast edge. More recently, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London has pieces from the 15th century which feature it: a linen shirt with blackwork-embellished cuffs and an Egyptian carpet. They also have a 16th century whitework baby’s coif with a very delicate overcast edges.
Starting with a waste knot, bring up the needle on the design line and work a running stitch around the shape. There is no need to do a starting stitch as the overcasting will hold your running stitches in place.
Insert the tip of some scissors in the centre of the shape and cut into the points/corners of the shape. Make sure your cut extends up to the stitching, but take care you don’t accidentally cut it.
Fold the flaps underneath, and finger press the fold along the running stitch.
To overcast the edges, bring the needle up through the fabric just outside of the running stitch and then drop it into the hole. Your stitches should be at right angles to the edge of the fabric, and close enough to totally cover it. Repeat this around the shape.
When you have finished, turn the fabric over and finish the thread by catching into the back of the work. Cut away the excess of the starting waste knot thread.
Cut the flaps away.
A square with overcast edging
Structure of stitch
Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.118
'Peruvian tapestry', Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Available at: https://collections.mfa.org/objects/127860/panel?ctx=f9495bca-7d91-4452-8bd9-b319c895473b&idx=0 (Accessed: 18 October 2022)
'15th century linen shirt', Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115767/shirt-unknown/ (Accessed: 18 October 2022)
'Mounsey carpet', Victoria and Albert Museum. Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O100822/the-mounsey-carpet-carpet-unknown/ (Accessed: 18 October 2022)
'16th century baby’s coif', Victoria and Albert Museum. Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O90001/babys-coif-unknown/ (Accessed: 18 October 2022)