Hand stitching is an essential sewing skill every sewer must possess and master. With machine stitching, you might think hand stitching is a thing of the past, but it’s not really. As you progress to more complicated sewing projects, you’ll find your sewing machine skills can only do so much and a lot of the finer details are still done by hand. Learn the basics and the essential hand stitches here!
Essential Hand Stitching Patterns Useful to Every Sewer
1. Whip Stitch
The whip stitch is one of the easiest hand stitching techniques you can learn. This hand stitch consists of short diagonal stitches often used in hemming. To create this stitch, follow these step-by-step instructions:
- Pull the thread or your threaded needle through your top fabric, making sure the knot stays in between the two fabrics.
- Pierce through your bottom fabric and exit at the same place you started with on the top fabric. This will lock in your starting stitches in place.
- Push the needle through the bottom fabric, creating a diagonal stitch on the edges of your fabric. Your needle and thread must exit the top fabric to secure the fabrics together.
- Repeat the process until you’ve reached the ends of your fabrics. Don’t forget to lock in your stitches.
2. Catch Stitch
The catch stitch is identified by the crisscross stitches, great for front-facing fabrics and hemming-lined garments. This hand stitching technique allows for a bit of a give and is also a great stitch to work on circular garments like tablecloths. Unlike most hand-sewn stitches, this technique starts from the left. To learn more about this stitch, refer to the following steps:
- Starting at the opposite end of where you usually start, pull the thread or your threaded needle.
- Make a diagonal stitch from where you popped your threaded needle to the other fabric.
- Pull your threaded needle a small length away and make a diagonal stitch back to your starting fabric.
- Get a bit of your fabric and continue making diagonal stitches until you’ve attached the two fabrics.
3. Basting Stitch
The basting stitch is great for temporarily holding pieces of fabric together. It is made with a quick and large straight stitch. Usually, it is sewn using a thread of a different color from the fabric to make it easier to spot which stitches are just placeholders and for easier removal. Follow these easy steps to create this stitch:
- Take the needle in and out of the fabric of up to ¼ to ½ inch long.
- You can make several stitches by popping the needle in and out of the fabric before pulling through.
- Do not lock the stitch from both ends.
4. Running Stitch
The running stitch is one of the most common and basic stitches you can do, both by hand and by machine. Sewing by machine assures precision and firmness. But, sewing by hand is great for a speedy stitcher and quick stitches and for stitching together narrow spaces that cannot be reached by machine. See the following steps to make this stitch:
- Take the needle in and out of the fabric up to your desired stitch length.
- You may also make several stitches by popping your needle in and out the fabric at equidistant lengths before pulling your needle through the fabric.
- Lock your stitches once you’re done.
5. Back Stitch
The back stitch features small stitches that can hold a great amount of strength. This hand stitching technique is often used in mending seams or in a seam that will resist a lot of strains and pulls. Learn how to make this stitch by going through these steps:
- Pull your threaded needle from the underside of your fabric.
- Make a single running stitch.
- From the underside of your fabric, pull the thread to keep the stitch taut.
- Bring your needle up again, piercing through the fabric at a distance equivalent to the length of your single running stitch. Use the photo above for reference.
- Repeat the process until you finish your stitches.
6. Overcast Stitch
The overcast stitch is used to secure the edges of the fabric from unraveling. Also called whip stitch, an overcast stitch can also be used to mend a tear. Follow these easy steps to make this stitch:
- Start on the other side of the raw edge of the fabric.
- Make a series of slanted stitches equally spaced and make sure they are looped around the two fabrics’ edges.
- Close your stitches.
7. Slip Stitch or Ladder Stitch
The slip stitch is commonly used to make hidden seams in between two fold edges of a flat edge. It is also called a ladder stitch because, in the process of doing this stitch, you are creating ladders with your threads. This stitch is used for bindings, closing a lining, applying an applique invisibly, or closing stuffed sewing projects. Here’s how you can do it:
- Iron the folds of the fabric.
- Take the threaded needle underneath the fold to hide the knot.
- Pull the needle and thread out from the folded edge.
- Grab a little bit of fabric underneath from the opposite side of the folded fabric.
- Pull the needle out.
- Insert the needle again to the opposite side.
- Repeat the same pattern until you close the opening.
8. Blind Hem Stitch
The blind hem stitch is called as such because you are essentially creating invisible hems with this stitch. Just like the ladder stitch, you grab a little bit of the fabric and produce an almost flawless hem. This hand stitching technique is usually used on lighter and silkier fabrics. Learn how to make the blind hem stitch by following these steps:
- Slip the threaded needle underneath the folded side of the fabric to hide the knot.
- From underneath, pull your needle out and through.
- Grab a bit of the fabric underneath where the hem is sitting.
- Then, grab the folded part of the fabric again from the side where you started.
- Repeat the same pattern until you finish the opening.
9. Securing Stitch
Every sewing project ends somewhere. With a securing stitch, you prevent your stitches from unnecessary loosening. Here’s how you can do it:
- Make a small back stitch and create a loop thread.
- Point the needles inside the loop and pull through.
- Repeat the process twice to make a small knot and to make a stronger lock.
Press play this video from Mary Corbet on how to do a back stitch in two ways:
Learning these essential hand stitching techniques is quick and easy! And even better, this knowledge will definitely stay with you forever, as you will surely be using them in your various sewing projects. Keep on practicing them for more embroidery stitches. Soon, you’ll surely master these essential stitching techniques.
Do you know of other essential hand stitching techniques? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 24, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.