Although a lot of sewing takes place on a machine, it’s important to have an arsenal of stitches that you can do by hand. Sometimes a stitch is too small for the machine to reach, and other times you need an invisible stitch that a machine couldn’t create. Here’s a list of common stitches and how to complete them.
The basting stitch is used to hold pieces of fabric together that may shift as you use your sewing machine. It’s best to use a contrasting thread to make sure you remove the basting stitches.
- Weave the needle in and out of the fabric creating the look of a dashed line
- Use about ¼” – ½” stitches with equal length spaces between
- Do not lock the stitch at the beginning or the end
The running stitch is similar to basting stitch, but with smaller stitches, roughly 1/8”, and a locking stitch at the end. This is great for quickly mending a seam that’s come apart, or for small spaces that are hard to reach with a sewing machine.
The back stitch is a very strong seam. It is typically used for heavy or dense fabric, or even to repair a seam. Start from right to left.
- Bring your needle up through the fabric at 1
- Insert your needle and go down through the fabric at 2
- Bring the needle up through the fabric at 3
- Insert your needle and go down through the fabric at 4
- Repeat until you reach the end of your opening
Partial Back Stitch
The partial back stitch is a back stitch, but it is smaller on the right side of the fabric. This causes it to resemble a running stitch but has the strength of a back stitch. It’s mostly used for aesthetic purposes, when you need strength but like the look of the running stitch.
The slip stitch, also called a ladder stitch, creates an invisible seam between two folded edges. This is often used for bindings, to close a lining, final stitches on a pillow, or applying appliques invisibly.
- Iron the folds flat
- Slip your threaded needle inside the fold to hide its knot
- Bring the needle out through the folded edge
- Push the needle into the opposite fold directly across from the fold where it came out
- Slide along this opposite fold about 1/8” – ¼”, then push the needle out
- Bring the needle straight up from where it came out and insert into the opposite fold
- Continue this back-and-forth-and slide pattern until you reach the end of your opening
A fell stitch, also called an applique stitch, is used to applique one layer of fabric, generally the folded or selvage edge, to another. It’s an efficient stitch, as it is quick, strong, and flexible. The fell stitch creates a hinge, so that the piece that’s been sewn on can move. This makes it great for installing linings, but it’s also used to sew lace as appliques or applique seams.
- Lay the folded edge of the top fabric onto the seam allowance of the fabric to be joined
- Baste or pin in place
- Working from right to left, secure thread in place at beginning of work and rake a small stitch directly across into adjoining fabric and take needle diagonally under the work and bring out again on the opposite side
- Repeat and make another tiny stitch and again take the needle under diagonally
Advanced Hand Stitches
A whip stitch, also called the overcast stitch, is used to finish cut edges on fabrics that tend to ravel, like linens or gabardines. It can also be used to close a tear when mending.
- Start on one side of the edge you want to finish
- Make a series of equally-spaced, diagonal stitches that loop around the edge of the fabric
- How close together you keep the stitches depends on your task; mending stitches should be almost one on top of the other
Blind Hem Stitch
A blind hem stitch is meant to stitch two pieces of fabric together invisibly. It’s important pick up a small amount of the fabric with each stitch, which will minimize the visible part of the stitch.
- Slip your threaded needle inside the fold to hide its knot
- Bring the needle out through the folded edge of the hem
- Using the point of your needle, pick up just a few threads from the flat fabric against which the hem is sitting (this is the tiny stitch that will be seen on the right side of your project)
- Push the needle back into the folded edge of the hem
- Repeat for the length of the hem
The catch stitch is a hem stitch that’s great for heavy or thick fabric, such as heavy wools, as the stitches help flatten the heaviness of the fibers. It also causes the threads to go over the hem on the front of the hem fold as opposed to just hidden on the inside of the fold, which makes it a stronger stitch for thicker fabrics.
- Working from left to right, insert the needle into the fold of the hem
- Pull the thread out of the hole so the knot is firmly placed on the inside of the hem and the thread is pulled taut
- Insert the needle just above the fold of the hem to the right of the thread on the hem, moving from right to left; only catch little bit of the fabric so a very tiny dot of thread is left on the right side of the garment
- Pull the needle through so the threads are going from the hem to the fabric at an angle to the right
- Reinsert the needle into the hem, parallel to the first stitch on the hem, catching only the hem and not going through the garment fabric
- Pull the needle and thread through the stitch from step 5 and pull firm; this is the first stich as you can see the x shape just above the fold of the hem
- Repeat by inserting the needle and thread to the right of the last stitch, on the garment fabric, forming a very small dot from right to left
- Return to the right of the stitch and finish the stitch on the fold of the hem; repeat this until you have gone all the way around the hem
The blanket stitch is meant to edge fabrics and create pretty patterns on sewing projects. It is ideal for finishing off a blanket or minimizing wearing and fraying along edges.
- Bring the thread up just below the edge of the fabric and take a diagonal stitch to the right, about 3mm in from the fabric edge
- Bring the needle out directly below again, just below the edge of the fabric; loop the thread around the needle where it emerges and pull the thread taut
- Re-insert the needle to make a diagonal stitch to the right, about 3mm in from the edge; again, loop the thread round the needle; repeat to form a line of stitching; keep the stitches nice and even and work with an even tension
The satin stitch is for filling in shapes and patterns, typically for embroidery purposes but it also works for edging fabric.
- Bring our needle up from behind your fabric, along the pattern line; it’s easiest to start in the middle of the shape and work outward toward each end
- Re-insert your needle directly across from your last exit point; you’ll be making stitches that span all the way across the shape
- Pull the floss all the way through, and there you have your first stitch in the process
- Start your next stitch across from, but not next to, the end of your last stitch; you’ll do this every time; don’t try to make your next stitch come up right beside the end of the last one -there won’t be enough fabric in between, and you’ll have a little gap of fabric peeking through each stitch. when we want them as close to side-by-side as possible
Would you include any other stitches? Let me know in the comments!