Stitchers are fortunate people. For all sorts of reasons, but the one I’m thinking of at the moment is that they always have the means to make a very personal gift for people who are getting married, celebrating a birthday or having children, for people who have done something that needs a Thank You, or for people who are going through a difficult time.

And they needn’t be big projects either. Of course it is possible to stitch an alphabet afghan for the baby or a poster-sized sampler for the bride & groom, but often a card or small gift is equally appreciated. Cards with the birthday boy’s or girl’s age (be tactful here!), the anniversary celebrated, or the baby’s initial are quick yet personal and can be framed by the recipient if they would like to display it more permanently.

Age Initial
from "1-2-3" from "A-B-C"

If you prefer to give something that can be used, there is once again a whole range of possibilities, from large projects like bedspreads or table linen to smaller items such coasters, cotton shopping bags or bookends, or (my subject of today) bookmarks.

I love bookmarks myself – I’m generally reading about three books at any given time, so they come in very handy. But they also make great gifts. They are easy to personalise; they are usually relatively quick to stitch; and there are at least five different methods of finishing them. Don’t believe me? Here they are!

I’ll just mention the first two briefly, because they are fairly self-explanatory. One is to use ready-finished bookmarks to stitch on. I haven’t actually done that yet, but I do have one in my stash for a future occasion. The second is to use a double fold aperture bookmark, in which you mount your stitching in much the same way as you would in an aperture card.

Pre-finished bookmark Double fold aperture bookmark

Then there is the option of stitching on a material that can be cut and doesn’t fray, like vinylweave or perforated paper. Once it has been cut into shape it can be backed with adhesive felt, or for a slightly neater finish (which is unfortunately also more labour-intensive) you can cut some felt to the size of the bookmark and attach it with blanket stitch. Below is the back of the Assisi bookmark you can see in the Gallery.

Bookmark finished with blanket stitch

A very decorative way of finishing a bookmark is with four-sided edging. This is a very neat and quite sturdy finish, and if the back of your stitching will stand inspection you could leave it at that. If you are afraid stitches might catch or come undone, or if the bookmark uses cutwork, it is a good idea to back it with felt cut slightly smaller than the bookmark. If you attach the felt with matching thread by catching the upright threads of the four-sided edging it will be almost invisible. Below is the back of the complimentary Matchbook bookmark you can see in the Gallery

Felt-backed bookmark Felt-backed bookmark, close-up

Finally there is the whipstitch finish, which comes in two variations. For a whipstitch finish you first backstitch a bookmark-shaped outline around your stitching. You then stitch an identical outline on a second piece of fabric which will form the back. Cut about 5 threads away from the outline, fold the hems in, and then whipstich the two pieces of fabric together (I’ll show this in more detail a bit later). You can choose to backstitch and whipstitch only the long sides of the bookmark (placing some thin wadding between the two layers if desired), then stitch a line of double running stitch across the short sides and fray the fabric up to that line.

Whipstitched & frayed bookmark, close-up Whipstitched & frayed bookmark

The other variation uses backstitch all round the bookmark, and can be rectangular or have a point at the bottom. This is what I used the other day to finish two bookmarks for friends of ours who are going to be baptised this Sunday. What do you need? First a stitched bookmark with a backstitch outline. If you use a whipstitch finish for something that will be stuffed (like a pincushion) keep the backstitches small, as this will make the seam stronger. For a bookmark I use backstitch over 4 threads for the straight lines, and over 2 for the diagonal lines. Next you’ll need an outlined back as well, and if your bookmark uses cutwork, some felt to go between the two layers and show through the cut areas. Cut the felt so that it is about 5mm smaller all round than the outline.

A stitched piece with a bookmark-shaped outline An outlined back, felt, and perle cotton

Fold the hems in and press them with your fingers. Make sure your hands are clean – you’ll be fingering the edges of your bookmark a lot! Now decide whether you want the whipstitching to stand out or blend in. For an invisible finish, use a colour matching your fabric both for the backstitch and the whipping. For a decorative, cord-like edge use a contrasting colour for the whipping; here, I matched the whipping to the felt. Now tie a knot in the end of your thread and take a few small stitches along the top of the felt; fit the felt inside the folded edges of the front of your bookmark, and bring the needle up between two backstitches a little away from the top right-hand corner. Place the back fabric against the front, and whipstitch all around the bookmark by taking the needle underneath facing pairs of backstitches.

Whipstitching Whipstitching, close-up

Finish off with a knot around the first whipstitch, then take the needle down between the two layers and bring it up a few centimeters further; pull firmly so that the little knot disappears into the fabric, and cut the thread. And that’s all!

Whipstitched bookmarks, side view Whipstitched bookmarks

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