Sewing embellishments is a necessary part of adding things to your knits. I like to keep it simple, and it really helps to have a few stitches that work in multiple applications, and work particularly well on knits.
Sewing embellishments is going to put visible stitches on the inside of your piece, so it makes sense to make them uniform and tidy and to hide what you can.
Sewing Embellishments: Basting
If you need to have your appliqués or embellishments in a particular location, it makes sense to pin or baste them into position. Basting is just a running stitch which will be removed after the holding stitches are in place. Basting is great because it doesn’t move, or poke you while you are working. It is a little less forgiving than pinning because to adjust placement the basting needs to be removed and redone. Basting is great for holding petals or other shapes in place.
For attaching i-cord I would use diagonal basting, going over the i-cord, not into it to give me a bit more flexibility for making on-the-fly adjustments.
Felling is my favorite for attaching things. Most embellishments can be invisibly attached using a felling stitch, and it is a fairly strong method of attaching. It anchors in place, but doesn’t feel bulky or tight. I think executing the felling stitch is much like mattress stitch.
Catch stitch is a variation, but instead of working forward, you are working backwards. It will be more secure than the felling stitch, but more difficult to work and also more difficult to remove if necessary. Catch stitch can be done invisibly or visibly.
Sewing Embellishments Decoratively
I will admit right off the bat that I am not a great hand sewer. If you are using contrasting yarn to attaching decoratively, be sure to practice. In my case, I would add the decorative stitches after actually attaching because I’m not adept enough to do both effectively at one time. However, stitches provide nice spacing guides!
Tool. Make yourself a tool if you want really easy spacing: Take a piece of cardboard and cut a notch into it the depth you want your stitch to be from the edge. The straight edge of the notch should be the distance from the edge that you want each stitch spaced from the other. The cut and spacing varies for the stitch to be worked.
- Whipstitch / Diagonal Basting. Used to go over the edge. Hold the needle at angle as it goes from one fabric to the other (behind) to change the look of the stitches on the surface.
- Buttonhole or Blanket Stitch. This is great for adding heft and stability to buttonholes, but is is quite effective when used for edges. For edging (where it is the blanket stitch) a deeper stitch is taken.
- Pick Stitch. Add to define an edge, or use to create a line. You can use the same notch tool to make your stitches evenly spaced. It is a backstitch, done decoratively.
- Cross Stitch. Use this to make a decorative border. That notch tool can work here too! It is a variation of diagonal basting, which is worked first in one direction and then the other.
- Embroidery and other threaded needle decorative stitches. Consult reference materials to find other stitches you want to use. I love bullion and french knots to add texture.
When sewing on knits you cannot always use the same in-out in one movement that is done in hand sewing. If needed, go in, then in a separate movement, come out (or whatever)! Here are a couple of sewing resources I referenced to make sure I had correct names.