8 Basic Sewing Stitches to Know by Hand

It may sound miraculous, but learning different stitching can impact your ability to confidently repair and prevent future wear and tear on your project. You can even sew a project from scratch! -Learning a few of these stitches can make a big difference.

In this Tutorial you will need:

A needle: Size of hole doesn’t matter, but a smaller eye of a needle creates less difficulty in pulling the thread through the fabric.

Thread: If sewing is brand new to you, try practicing with a color that will be easy to see against an opposite color (black thread on white cotton, or red on black). It can be a matching color later when you feel more confident.

Fabric: If you are just practicing, I recommend a piece of cotton too small for a project. You can also use the fabric you intend to create something with, but it may be less stressful to get some practice on a scrap first. Cotton for me has been the beginner fabric. It has a neat, clear grain, and is easy to iron folds in place when needed.

Optional

Beeswax: When rubbing some beeswax on the edge of the thread, it will make it easier to thread through your needle if you aren’t using a needle threader. There are circular beeswax tools for this very job. I just use a spent beeswax candle and I run the edge of the thread on the wax.

Needle threader: This tool looks like a coin with a diamond wire on the end of it. It helps pull thread through an eye of a needle without using beeswax. This tool is great for those who struggle with shaky hands, but its only useful for big eye needles.

Iron: Some might say it is essential to use a iron when stitching, but that can only go so far with certain simple projects like these. Right now, we are focusing on sewing that doesn’t require an iron, but it would be nice to have in the future or to finish your stitch work at the end.

For more information about Sewing Tools, feel free to browse the Sewing Tools Article.

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Before we start: I wanted to point out a few reasons why I made my tutorials the way I did.

Firstly: I color coded each type of stitch (Rolled hem and whip-stitch are taught in the same project.) so as to separate each lesson and reduce confusion. The color is also designed to pop out and show where the punctures are.

Secondly: The thread I am using is embroidery thread and I am using 3 strands at a time to make the tutorial easy to see. These projects I suggest to be the same color thread as the fabric (for finished projects), but you can use whatever color you desire. One strand is enough with a loose tail, but I like to double strand my thread to have two strands to ensure a bit more strength in my sewing, and to make sure my thread doesn’t separate from my needle.

Make sure you have plenty of thread to work with, but not too much to get easily tangled. It’s ok to tie off a line if the thread isn’t long enough for the whole project. Working in sections is the best way to learn!

If you aren’t sure how to thread a needle and prepare it for sewing, feel free to look at this tutorial.

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Running Stitch: The most basic stitch out there, is known as the run-on stitch or running stitch. This can sew two pieces of fabric together with minimal sewing skills. Most projects can be made with this stitch, though it isn’t the most durable type of sewing. The thinner the fabric you use, the smaller your stitches need to be.

Note: I choose which side is the back (wrong side) by which side has the end tail knot. The front (right side) does not have any end knot.

Thread your needle as you like, make a double knot at the end of your strand.
Start your stitch, Poke the needle facing left in and out in one step. You may poke in and pull; poke out and pull as you like. (left handed crafters: face needle left to right.)
Make your stitch again. Be sure to pull slowly and carefully so you don’t make an unintentional knot as you pull. Check the backside for any mistake knots.
One stitch at a time is best for uniform spacing.
You may gather multiple stitches at a time if you feel like you are improving your technique.
Get ready to make a knot.
Loop needle and slowly pull but don’t close the knot.
The needle should be threaded through the open knot to anchor and ensure your knot is tight.
Pull the strand and tighten your knot. Pull out the needle back the way it came.
Clip your strand. Stitches facing from back.
Stitches facing from the front.

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Back Stitch: This one is for tight sewing work, and if the fabric frays in a spot, it won’t unravel the rest of the project. It will isolate a frayed area of the fabric and won’t undo the rest. -Known as the best “heavy duty” stitch for hand sewing.

Draw a line to show where you want to sew your line. Make a double knot at the end of your thread.
Poke your needle from the backside, and pull through.
Poke towards the back a full stitch space to your Right.
View from backside.
Poke needle out from backside one space out to the left. (Left handed crafters: To the Right.)
Poke needle towards the right to close your stitch towards your first stitch.
Finished 2nd stitch.
Repeat.
Add stitches to your liking. Check for unwanted knots on the back.
View from backside. Get ready to make a knot.
Loop needle.
Put needle in the middle of the loop to help tie a tight knot.
Pull the thread and tighten.
Pull needle through the knot.
Clip end. View of Stitches from Backside.
View from front.

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Rolled Hem Stitch and Whip-stitch: Useful for a myriad of edge projects. Everything from tea towels to skirts, its flawless when finished.

Make a fold on a long edge of a fabric. Poke through from side facing you: In and out. Below the edge of the folded fabric Two punctures will result as shown on one layer of fabric. Leave the end of your needle without a knot. Pull the thread and leave a few inches behind, making sure your thread doesn’t slip out of your stitches.
Poke through from side facing you: In and out. Two punctures will result as shown puncturing both layers of fabric.
Poke again through the top area of the fold in a smaller manner than before.
Repeat until you reach the corner of your fabric. Careful not to pull your thread from the first stitch, make your two punctures down on your fold, Pull through gently but leave the stitches as a zig-zag.
Stitches revisited as shown.
Once you reach the corner, leave an inch of fabric alone.
Pull the thread gently until it folds completely down the edge.
Note: The tail is still loose with no knots for easy adjustment of tension of the stitches.
Pulled thread shows a rolled hem. The thread is still not pulled through. Make a knot on the first thread end where the first stitches were made.
View from the front.
Pull the corner in to turn and fold the next edge.
Turn the corner to your right. Now the the edge is folded, Poke needle in a and out in the top corner as shown.
Stitch again, but lower, starting your line on the new edge.
Continue the rolled hem stitching
Continue on to the next corner and/or make a knot at the end of your rolled hem edge. Pull the thread gently again, creating your second rolled hem. You can join your work with your first rolled hem all the way around a square fabric or even a circle if you wish.
Detailed Sewing for corners: Make new thread and poke through as shown.
Double knot your end before you pull through.
Whip-stitch your edge by poking your needle one direction near the edge. Pull the thread around the edge of the fabric.
Slow and gentle pulling prevent unwanted knots.
Be sure to include the tail under your whip-stitches to hide gradually as you work your way down.
Whip-stitch until you reach the end.
Pull needle under and through all the stitches you made.
Make a double knot.
Your result should look like this.
Clip both tails. Repeat on all corners.
View from back.
View from front.

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Ladder Stitch (Invisible Stitch): This is the stitch that blew my mind as a kid (-as I learned how to sew pillows closed from my grandma). This stitch allows you to close a gap from the outside without any trace. When done with some patience, the finished work looks fantastic!

This tutorial is for closing a gap in either a object like a pillow or stuffed animal, or for clothing. Two sides and a gap are implied to be there to sew shut.

Thread your needle, and make a double knot at the end (or anchor it from an existing seam inside your project). Poke the needle through the inside of the bottom portion of your fabric.
Pull the knot right up against the fabric. Now poke your needle in and out of the top portion of the fabric (On the crease) with a bit of space in between the first and second puncture, as shown. Right handed: (right to left) Left handed (left to right)
Pull the thread gently but still leave some space to see your work. Repeat last step except on the back portion of the fabric.
Be careful to puncture right up against the top crease of the fabric.
Repeat. Check for unwanted knots.
Once you reach the end of the gap, slowly pull your thread to close your gap.
View of closed gap.
Arrows show where the gap starts and ends on any project.
Make a knot super close to the edge of your closed gap. Poke needle inside the project and out further down. (It doesn’t matter where.)
Pull the thread forward and push the fabric back. Snip the thread. Once you smooth the fabric out, the tail will pull back inside the project and be hidden. Your previous knot will prevent your work from running loose.

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Blanket Stitch: Great for edges of thicker fabric, and most commonly used for blankets. I also use this stitch for muslin I cut and sew for straining cloths in cooking projects. This stitch requires the fabric to be folded upon itself to sew the two layers together into a pretty edge. This stitch is useful on both one layer or two layers of fabric.

Thread needle, knot or anchor end. Poke through from the back of work.
Pull through, and poke through from the same spot. This is also known as a whip stitch, because the thread goes around the fabric, instead of through.
Scoot needle underneath first whip stitch.
Poke your needle from front to back, but be sure to keep your thread behind the needle as shown.
Pull gently closed.
View of first blanket stitch.
Repeat, Be sure your thread is behind the needle in every stitch.
Practice placement of the needle and the spacing you sew. It takes time but it will look professional if done with care.
Coming along nicely! When you reached the end of your line, or joined around the blanket edge, be ready to make a knot to finish your work.
Pull back your 2nd layer if you have one and poke your needle in between the layers. If you don’t have two layers, skip this step.
Loop a knot from a previous stitch underneath as close to your work as possible.
Pull tight and double knot for extra security. Clip tail.
View is same from front to back. Try to have your knots on the same side if you can.

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Herringbone Stitch: This stitch is known from embroidery work, but it is also great for hemming heavy fabric. This can include Tapestry fabric (like curtains), wool and other items that are considered heavy and need a more forgiving stitch to keep it all in place.

Thread needle, knot or anchor end, Poke through from the backside. Poke again from left to right underneath the first stitch.
Pull thread through gently. Poke again facing the same direction above, with similar spacing as shown. Right handed: (left to right) Left handed: (right to left). Pull your thread through for each step.
Repeat at the same level of the first stitch.
Pull through.
Repeat, careful to point your needle the same direction.
Repeat same two stitches until finished.
Check for unwanted knots.
Spacing is important for formal stitching. When finished, Knot in the backside and clip tail.
View from Back.

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Button Hole Stitch: This may be the most complicated of the eight, but with some practice, you will feel like a million bucks. This stitch style is for the hole you push the button through with dressing your garment or item with a button or tie. The stitch allows the hole to not fray with friction of use. It will make the hole strong and ready for dressing.

Measure the button you wish to make a hole for, and draw the line where you want the hole. Thread your needle.
Use seam ripper to poke through your fabric and cut your line for the button hole. Make sure your line matches the grain of your fabric.
View of hole before stitching. Pass Button through hole, should be a little loose going through.
Make a knot or anchor your thread. Pull through from the front. This starting point is technically the backside of your button hole.
Whip-stitch from the starting point evenly, allowing for two more stitch spaces in between each stitch. This will be helpful because we will need to make 2-3 layers of stitching.
Continue poking from front to back, careful not to unravel the inner frayed area of the button hole. Make sure the thread is behind the needle each time your pull through, creating a similar “blanket” stitch.
The blanket stitch will make a nice lock on the inner area of the button hole. This makes the hole stronger.
Repeat.
Check for entanglements behind the project and keep uniform stitching. Don’t let the frays get you tangled in! If they do, you can use the seam ripper on any loose frays to cut loose from your stitching, without harming your thread.
Curve around the end, creating a fan effect. Some people prefer a keyhole effect, which is a square shape at each end.
Reaching the end of the first layer, check the other side to make sure your button hole looks nice.
Also check to make sure the button fits a little snug, passing through the hole.
Second pass in stitching. be sure to cover what open space there is and secure the tail from the first stitch as you go.
Things will get snug, so take your time and don’t pull too hard.
Notice the blanket stitch lock I metioned before. It is getting stronger.
One side of second pass finished.
View from front of button hole. Second pass is done, on to the third.
Finish the third pass if you can (recommended for thin thread, even when the thread is doubled).
Scoot the thread underneath the stitching from both ends, around the button hole and pull through. Clip your tail as close as possible.
Finished button hole!

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Here we have all our projects side by side!

Thank you for following through my tutorial! If you would like to see more, feel free to hit the Subscription Button on the top right corner to update you on any new articles or content.

Most stitches are known already by me and are not referenced. All tutorial photos belong to Sonya C. “The Bone Generation”.

Header Image is free from pixabay.com.

Work Cited:

Bender Alexa. “Period Sewing Techniques”. 

www.marquise.de/en/themes/howto/technik.shtml , copyright (c) 1997-2019, Date Accessed: 05/03/20.

Bender Alexa. ” La Couturière Parisienne Costume History”. “www.marquise.de/en/index.html copyright (c) 1997-2019, Date Accessed: 05/03/20″.

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