Knowing how to sew and use basic hand sewing stitches is an essential part of your sewing journey. Whatever project you are working on, you’ll find you’ll need to grab a needle and thread at some point.
From sewing on a button to closing a seam, stitching by hand is a necessary skill. Hand sewing covers a range of activities from embroidery through to darning. Some stitches are decorative and some are functional. This article will look at ten of the most popular basic, hand sewing stitches for beginners.
The first two on the list are by far the most popular hand stitches, that is the running Stitch and the Backstitch, and are the first ones you should learn when starting hand sewing. They’re also the ones you’re likely to use most extensively. We’ve already covered them in detail, and how to sew them, in this article on Hand Sewing Basics for Beginners, and you can click there to learn about them in detail. But for the benefit of those who already know about them and are just skimming through, here’s a quick recap of them below.
Running stitch is a straight line of dashed stitches and is the backbone of hand sewing. It can be used to temporarily baste two pieces of fabric together, create gathers, and as decoration in embroidery projects.
The backstitch is similar to the running stitch but forms a stronger line. Used in areas that need more strength such as hand sewn side seams, the backstitch can also be used to outline embroidery designs.
Once again, to learn more about those 2 stitches, and how to sew them in detail, see our article on Hand Sewing Basics for Beginners.
Now let’s take a look at some more basic hand sewing stitches every sewist needs to know.
When it comes to hand sewing hems, this stitch creates a near invisible, neat edge to your garments.
Worked on the wrong side of the clothing, the slip stitch catches the slightest amount of fabric so it hardly shows on the right side. With most of the stitch worked into the fold of the hem, this stitch creates a blind hem. Other names for this stitch include the Blind Hem Stitch and the Catch Stitch.
Anchor your thread to the fabric. Push your needle through the slightest amount of fabric on the top folded edge of the hem. Pull the thread through until there is a small tail left. Take the needle back through the fabric as close to your start point as possible. Form a loop. Slip your needle through the loop and pull the thread through. This will make a knot and attach your thread to the fabric.
With the hem flat against the garment and your anchor stitch hidden between the hem’s fold and outer fabric, catch the tiniest thread from the garment. Push your needle into the fold and allow it to follow the hemline for about ¼ inch. Bring the needle out of the fold.
Repeat step 2 until your hem is complete. Cast off by catching the smallest amount of thread on the hemline and push the needle through until you get a loop. Thread your needle through the loop and pull. This will create a knot. Do that twice and snip your thread off close to the knot.
Also known as a flat fell stitch, this one is used to secure linings to bodices or jackets. It can also be used to finish seams and attach bias bindings to neck edges and armholes. Since it’s often used for applique, it’s also known as the applique stitch.
Anchor your thread to the fabric. Using only the slightest thread from the fabric, push your needle through until only a small tail is left. Put the needle back through the fabric as close to your starting point as possible and pull through to form a loop. Thread your needle through the loop. Continue pulling the thread until it stops.
Pick up the slightest thread of the fabric on the garment. At an angle, push the needle through into the fold of the hem. Pull until the thread stops. This will form a straight stitch going vertically from garment to hem.
Repeat step 2 until your stitch line is complete. Cast off by forming a loop of thread and pushing your needle through to form a knot. Do this twice for a secure finish.
This stitch is also known as the invisible stitch. Confusingly, it is also known as a slip stitch. There is a big difference between ladder stitch and slip stitch. Whereas slip stitch sews one folded edge to a flat piece of fabric, ladder stitch needs two folded edges.
It’s used for sewing up openings in seams in projects that have been stuffed. Pillows or plush toys are good examples. The stitch seals the necessary gap invisibly. Making it impossible to know where an item was stuffed.
As it’s stitched, it forms a ladder like shape that can be pulled tight, closing the gap.
Attach your thread to the fabric. With your two folded edges together, push your needle through the slightest thread on one of the fold flaps. Let’s call this fold one. Leave a small tail. Put your needle back in to the flap as close as you can to the starting point and pull the thread until you form a loop. Push the needle through the loop and pull.
Once anchored, place your two folded edges together. On the opposite side, we’ll call this fold two, push your needle inside the folded edge of the seam. Come up out of fold two about 1/8 inch further along. Take your needle back over to fold one. Level with your needle-out point on fold two, go into the fold line on fold one. Travel along for about 1/8 inch and bring your needle back out.
Continue to alternate between fold one and two. As you stitch, you’ll see a row of vertical stitches appear in a ladder-like format.
Every couple of inches, stop sewing and pull the thread tight. Watch the magic as the stitches disappear into the seam. Cast off by forming a loop of thread to push your needle through. Make sure the knot is hidden in the seamline.
Whip stitch is useful in both sewing and yarn crafts like knitting and crochet. It’s the stitch that joins two knitted pieces together to create an invisible seam. Performing the same role in sewing, the whip stitch joins two fabric edges to make a seam. Also known as an overcast stitch, the stitching will be visible.
This visibility makes an ideal edging stitch for applique.
Place your applique item or seam so it is flat or flush with the fabric you are stitching it to. Push your needle through from the back until you have a tail of thread left. Go over the top of the fabric from the front. Bring your needle from the back through the same hole. Pull your thread through to the front and repeat one more time. This will secure your thread.
Your needle should be at the front of your fabric. Take it over the top edge to the back. Move a small way down the seam line and push the needle from the back to the front.
Keep repeating step 2 until you finish your seam. Cast off by doing two more stitches over the top of your last stitch.
Both functional and decorative, the blanket stitch has been used for generations to neaten the edges of blankets and other utility items. It’s a hardwearing and durable stitch that prevents fabric edges from fraying.
Similar to buttonhole stitch, blanket stitch is popular in applique and general embroidery as a decorative edging stitch. It’s particularly effective as an edging for felt decorations.
Attach your thread to the fabric. Take the needle through the smallest amount of fabric and pull the thread through until a tiny tail remains. Go back into the fabric by the tail to form a loop. Push the needle through the loop and pull until it stops.
Blanket stitch is formed in the same way as whip stitch. Bring your needle to the front of the fabric and pull the thread through. Take it over the top edge of the fabric to the back. Move a small way along your seam and push the needle back through to the front. Before pulling the thread completely through, you’ll see a little loop. Put your needle through the loop and pull the rest of the way.
This will give you a line of thread across the fabric edge.
Repeat step 2 until you reach the end of your stitching. To cast off, over stitch your last stitch twice to secure your stitches.
Once a staple decorative stitch in embroidery, the cross stitch has become a popular craft in its own right. For a simple stitch, it can be used to create amazing designs through a process called counted cross stitch. The stitch is a simple cross on an even weave fabric like linen or aida.
Cross stitch designs can be sold in kit form with all the materials and instructions needed to complete the project. By following a chart, where one square represents one stitch, the design can be transferred to fabric easily. You can also make your own using supplies from fabric and craft stores.
Attach your thread to the back of your aida or linen. Don’t tie a knot as this will create a bump. Simply weave the thread into the back of your stitches as you work.
Find your starting point according to the chart you are working from. Normally, this will be the center of the design. Even weave fabric is made up of holes. You’ll see a small set of four holes in a square shape. Bring your needle up through the bottom right hole. Go back down through the top left hole. Return to the front by the top right hole, then back down through the bottom left. That’s your first cross stitch.
You can continue working each square individually. Or, you can do a line of crosses. Bring your needle up through the bottom right hole and down through the top left. Instead of returning through the top right, move to the next group of four holes. Come up through the bottom right and down through the top left until your row is complete. Then, return through the bottom left and back up through the top right, working back the way you came.
It doesn’t matter which way you form your crosses. The only thing you need to do is make sure your top diagonal lies in the same direction for each stitch. Cast off by weaving the thread through the back of your stitches.
This embroidery stitch is used for filling in shapes. Usually outlined with backstitch, the satin stitch gives a 3-D effect to your needlework projects. This stitch also works well for repairs and darning.
A row of stitches are formed next to each other. They are compact and give a satin-like effect to your projects, and ideal for the center of flowers.
Attach your thread by weaving it through the back of your stitches. Come up from the back of your project to the front. Satin stitch is worked in straight lines, so go back down through the fabric directly opposite your first stitch.
With your thread at the back of your fabric, come back to the front as close to your first stitch as possible.Take the thread to the opposite side and keeping close to the first downward stroke, go back down to the reverse of the fabric.
Keep going up and down in the same way until your shape is filled. To cast off, weave your thread through the back of your stitches.
The Herringbone stitch makes a secure yet moveable hemline. It’s a zigzag stitch and works well in areas that need to be flexible. Think interlinings or hems for knit fabrics.
Worked in the same way as a slip stitch, it picks up the tiniest thread of fabric from the right side of the material. The majority of the stitch is worked on the folded part of the hem. While slip stitch is invisible, Herringbone stitch is worked on the outside of the hem fold.
Like many of the stitches on this list, this one is used a lot in embroidery as it creates a very decorative finish.
Anchor your thread by knotting it at the back. Pick up the slightest thread of fabric from the garment, level with the top of the folded hemline. Move diagonally into the fold of the hem. Using another diagonal stitch, go back to the fabric of the garment and pick up another small amount from the fabric.
Keep moving along the seam in diagonals from hem fold line to garment fabric. You’ll see a cross stitch forming with a squished end. A bit like the wishbone from a chicken, or a herringbone.
Cast off by going back over your last stitch and weave the thread through the top of the hem fold.
Hand sewing can add stability and decoration to your sewing projects. The stitches in this list can help lift your sewing skills to the next level and help you create individual and stylish projects.
These stitches are simple and fun to sew. With a little practice, you’ll be hand sewing decorative delights in no time.