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sewing stitches

The Beginner’s Guide to Basic Sewing Stitches [Infographic]

sewing stitches

Before you can sew your own clothes, create crafts, and take on sewing projects, you have to learn the basic sewing stitches. From hand-sewing stitches to seam finishes, sewing instructor Cathy G. is here to help you master the basics… 

Modern sewing machines have all but eliminated the need for hand sewing. Gone are the days of constructing a garment by hand with a needle and thread. That being said, there are still many places where hand-sewing stitches are necessary for a high-quality finish. Moreover, there is something satisfying about adding the smooth finish of a hand-stitched hem or crocheted button loop, for instance. The joy of constructing something with your hands never gets old.

Personally, I use my sewing machine to build and construct garments, but I still hem and mend by hand. When it comes to hand-sewing stitches, we seamstresses need to consistently hone these skills if we wish to improve. I’m going to cover some basic hand-sewing and machine stitches in this article, starting with basic sewing tools, and then going into the different types of stitches.

Tools of the Trade

In order to do any hand stitching, you’re going to need sewing tools like need high-quality needles, thread, and scissors. I cannot emphasize this enough. In addition, you may want to invest in a small ruler, tailor’s chalk or marking pencil, and straight pins. And depending on the types of finishing, you will also need both narrow and wide bias tape (I sometimes make my own to match or contrast with the garment or project), hem tape, narrow stretch lace, and pinking shears.

Also, make sure you’re familiar with these basic sewing terms and vocabulary


Hand Sewing Stitches

 

sewing stitches

Running Stitch

The running stitch is the most basic of the hand sewing stitches, and has many variations. It’s used for gathering, mending, and tucking. Depending on its use, you an either knot your thread or take a couple of back stitches to lock it into place. In its longer form, it becomes a basting stitch.

Bring your needle through the fabric from the back (wrong side). Once the knot hits the fabric, make a stitch to the left or right. Bring the thread back up and repeat.

Basting Stitch

Use the same technique as the running stitch, but make longer stitches (between 1/4 inch and a 1/2 inch).

Today, we tend to pin baste more than hand baste our garments and projects, but hand basting can still be useful, especially with both lightweight (silk and chiffon) and heavyweight (leather and Melton) wools.

Backstitch

Before sewing machines, all clothes were built by layer upon layer of backstitches.

Working from left to right, take a small stitch, then insert the needle at the end of the previous stitch, bringing it out beyond the point where the thread emerges. Continue, always inserting the needle in the end of the previous stitch.

Catch stitch (Cross-Stitch)

You can use this stitch to to finish hems with fabric that doesn’t fray, and to tack facing invisibly.

Working from left to right, take tiny stitches on the hem, and then on the garment. Keep the stitches loose and even. They will appear as crosses on the wrong side and small stitches on the right.

Slip Stitch

This is my go-to stitch when it comes to hems and other finishes. It’s tidy and almost invisible, when it’s done right, and with care on both sides.

Bring the needle through the fold of the hem and pick up a thread of fabric at the same point. Make the stitches about a 1/2 inch apart and fairly loose.

Blanket Stitch (Buttonhole Stitch)

If you want to sew eyelets or buttonholes by hand, learn the buttonhole stitch.

Secure the thread on the wrong side of the fabric, then with the right side facing upward, insert the needle from back to front through the fabric 1/8 inch from the edge. Wrap the working head around behind the eye end of the needle, then behind the point. Pull the needle through, bringing the knot to the fabric edge. Continue, making closely spaced stitches and knot.

The eyelet version is worked in a circle, with the wrapped edge to the inside; the blanket stitch variation has at least a 1/4 inch spacing between stitches.


Sewing Machine Stitches

sewing stitches

Standard Forward / Backward Stitching

Begin straight stitching 1/8-3/8 inch from the fabric edge. Backstitch the forward stitch over the pinned or basted seam. Repeat the reverse stitch to finish.

You can use the straight stitch for seams, under stitching, stay stitching, and simple top stitching.

ZigZag Stitch

The zigzag stitch provides a clean finish to raw edges, and you can use it as a finish technique in combination with a stay stitching line. You can adjust both the width and length of this stitch.

Buttonholes

The good news is that most sewing machines can make buttonholes, either with a fully-automatic buttonhole foot attachment, or in the case of some mechanical and most computerized machines, a pre-programmed buttonhole.

Check your machine’s manual for these details.

Blind Hem Stitch

This sewing machine stitch consists of two or three straight stitches, and then one wide zigzag / catch stitch. Just as in the hand-stitched version of the blind hem, the fabric is folded under and away with the hem edge just projecting. The stitches show as a small dot on the right side.

There is a special machine foot that keeps the fabric folded away. This technique requires a lot of practice, and I recommend learning on lots of scrap fabric.

Once mastered, the blind hem stitch makes quick work of hemming pants and skirts.


Seam Finishes

sewing stitches

Related: Learn how to hem jeans by hand or machine

Zigzag

You can use a zigzag finish on most types of fabric. Once the seam is sewn and pressed open, zig stitch the raw edge and and trim away the excess. The width and length of this can vary depending on the fabric weight. There is a variation where the seam-edges are trimmed to half their depth, zigzagged together, and pressed to one side.

Turn and Stitch

This is mainly used on crisp cottons. Fold and press the seam, allowing a 1/4 inch, and machine stitch along the folded edge to finish. The seams are then pressed open, or to one side, depending on the pattern’s directions.

This creates a tidy finish and wears quite well.

Bias Tape

This is mostly used on unlined jackets and skirts.

Using purchased 5/8 inch bias tape, enclose the raw edge with the tape and stitch through all layers. Commercial bias tape
is slightly wider on one side; that side should be on the underneath the fabric.

You can also make your own bias tape in contrasting or matching fabric.

Pinked Seams

Pinked seams are the simplest of seam finishes. Using pinking shears, trim away as little of the seam allowance as possible. This version is best used on wools and polyester fleece and is not very hard wearing.

A better version of this finish is to machine stitch 1/4 inch from the seam, then trim the edges with pinking shears.

Hand Overcast

The hand overcast seam finish is used as an alternative to the zigzag stitch in small areas or on very thick
fabrics.

Taking very loose stitches, overcast the raw seam edges by hand.

Top Stitch

The top stitch creates a hard hem line, and can be used to strengthen a seam or as a decorative finish.

Press the seams opens and then stitch in place from the wrong side. The seam are often pinked beforehand, sometimes with a contrasting bobbin thread.


sewing stitchces

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This just the beginning, as you become more proficient with sewing stitches, you will discover even more techniques for you to master. A good general sewing book is an invaluable resource. Find something that suits your learning style.

Personally, I find photographs confusing and like to use line drawings instead. I also encourage you to try a new technique with every new project, this way, you’re continually expanding your repertoire and improving your skills. The more choices you have when you sew, the better your project will turn out.

While books and online resources are very helpful for beginners, the best way to learn sewing basics is through one-on-one lessons with a private sewing instructor. Search here for sewing teachers near you.

Do you have questions or feedback? Let us know in the comments below. Good luck and sew on!

Cathy GPost Author: Cathy G.
Cathy teaches sewing, and designs clothing and knitwear in Astoria, NY. An all-around crafty gal, she can drape and draft patterns, hand spin and weave, embroider, make lace, and style wigs. Cathy graduated with a degree in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College.  Learn more about Cathy here!

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sewing blogs

The Best Sewing Blogs and Online Resources

sewing blogs

Blogs and online resources can be a huge help when you’re taking sewing lessons, but which blogs are the best? Here, Glendale, CA sewing teacher Marie B. shares her picks for the best sewing blogs and online resources…

In the ocean of information that is the Internet, it can be daunting to find the right information when you need it. One can easily get lost in the myriad of blogs and websites. I have put together a list of some of the best sites for sewing tips, sewing tutorials, sewing patterns, and general information.

Sewing blogs can provide great resources and inspiration, and they can also help you discover new independent pattern companies, learn new techniques, and even teach you to be adventurous and try something new.

In this list of sewing blogs, you will find a mix of blogs for beginners, aspiring fashionistas, and the creative, crafty crowd. Explore these sites and bookmark your favorites; have fun!

Sewing Blogs for Beginners

 

Tilly and The Buttons

best sewing blogs

The beginner seamstress will find a lot of valuable information on Tilly and The Buttons. This elegant site focuses on dressmaking, but also offers helpful tutorials on sewing essentials.

The simple dress designs aren’t intimidating for blooming sewists, and you can also purchase the printed patterns on the site.

Tilly Walnes, founder and author of the best-selling book “Love at First Stitch,” lives in the U.K.., but you can save on shipping and get started right away by downloading the patterns directly from the website.

How to Sew

best sewing blogs

For the crafters, How To Sew has an extensive selection of tutorials for beautiful projects.

The tutorials are easy to follow, and they include helpful pictures and clear, step-by-step instructions for cutting and construction.

ALLFREESEWING

sewing blogs

This website is a great online sewing resource for beginners and seasoned seamstresses alike. You can access free sewing patterns, projects, videos, and eBooks.

AllFreeSewing also has a great blog for sewists called SeamsandScissors.


Fashion Sewing Blogs

 

Colette Blog

sewing blogs

If you’re taking sewing lessons to unleash your inner fashionista, then these two fashion sewing blogs are for you!

The Colette Blog is packed with creative inspiration, tutorials, and sewing tips. Plus, you can check out the sister site, Colette Patterns, where you can buy fabulous sewing materials and patterns.

The blog is easy to navigate and divided into sections such as tutorials, inspiration, and the wardrobe architect, where you can learn about the basics of fashion design, from shape to silhouette. This site will help you build a better, more personal wardrobe that reflects who you are.

“We make sewing patterns that teach,” says founder and creative director Sarai Mitnick. “Our small team is dedicated to reviving the art of sewing through everything we do.”

Fashion Sewing With Angela Wolf

sewing blogs

Angela Wolf is a designer, author, and TV personality. She is the couture sewing expert on It’s Sew Easy TV, and an online instructor on Craftsy and Pattern Review.

If you’re interested in fashion sewing, you should definitely check out her website.  The site includes video tutorials and sewing tips, and there is a blog with lots of articles on all things sewing.

“I started sewing when I was six years old, taught from my mother,” Wolf says. “I continued to sew all through college and started a custom apparel / alterations business that I ran for over 20 years.  Now, I simply want to share what I have learned and hopefully inspire others to sew, especially garments. A few years ago I started Angela Wolf Pattern Collection to provide sewing patterns based on my designs with a fit similar to ready-to-wear sizing. My blog quickly followed in order to provide sewing, fitting, and embellishing tutorials, tips, and solutions. Best known for teaching how to sew designer jeans, I try to make it SEW EASY for any level sewer.”


Craft Sewing Blogs

Sew Mama Sew

sewing blogs

Whether it’s home décor, accessories like hairbands and bags, aprons, or special handmade gifts, Sew Mama Sew has something for everyone.

Founded by Kristin Link, Sew Mama Sew offers sewing tutorials, sew-along patterns, and sewing techniques for both beginner and intermediate sewists.

The Sewing Directory

sewing blogs

This website is a great for beginners, but with so many free projects, The Sewing Directory is also an excellent resource for crafters.

“The Sewing Directory is the number one UK sewing website, and the first stop to find local and online sewing shops, sewing classes, and sewing groups,” says Fiona Pullen, founder of The Sewing Directory.  “Plus you’ll also find free sewing projects, technique guides, sewing features, industry news, and giveaways.

Sewing is an addicting, fun hobby that you can come into with no previous knowledge.  There are so many different types of sewing: hand sewing, quilting, dressmaking, soft furnishing, repairs and alterations, bag making, etc., you are sure to find something that suits you. It only takes one class to get you going so why not try it today?”


Sewing Blogs for Kids

 

Crazy Little Projects

sewing blogs

Whether you’re a crafty mom or you have a young, budding seamstresses at home, Crazy little Projects is full of charming ideas for kids. Learn how to make hooded towels, school bags, stuffed dolls, and stuffed monsters. There are also project that kids can do.

The site has a 25 things to sew section, where you will find just that, 25 things to create in different categories such as 25 Things to Sew Under 30 Minutes and 25 Things to Sew for Baby.

“I love that when you sew, you can take a pile of fabric and create something great,” says Amber from Crazy Little Projects. “Just start where you are and keep practicing and improving over time. Little by little, you will find that you have learned a lot!”

 

Made by Rae

sewing blogs

 

Rae Hoekstra is a former physics teacher turned blogger and sewer, and her website is fun, easy to follow, and inspiring.

Whether you want to sew some new kids clothes or you’re looking for some kid-friendly projects to do at home, made by Rae is full of creative ideas, sewing projects, and tutorials.

 


Sewing Blogs Tutorials

 

Grainline Studio

sewing blogs

Jennifer Beeman, a Chicago-based designer and patternmaker, created the Grainline Studio website. Beeman publishes a line of patterns and posts sewing and pattern-making tutorials to create variations with existing patterns.

Although the tutorials focus mainly on her line of patterns, the techniques she demonstrates in her tutorials and sew-alongs can be applied to similar projects.

She also has a several free downloadable patterns and a series of fun-to-do projects for the home.

So Sew Easy

sewing blogs

 

Deby, So Sew Easy blogger and founder, discovered her passion for sewing while recovering from a brain injury in 2012. She created So Sew Easy to document her own sewing journey, and she provides sewing tutorials and videos to teach sewists new techniques.

“While you can’t beat that one-on-one approach to learning a new skill, if you can’t find the perfect sewing teacher close to where you live, then do consider all of the options for online learning,” Deby says. “You can also supplement your in-person lessons with some extra reading and research. There are so many bloggers that give great advice and tutorials, have free sewing patterns for you to use, and even show you how to use them with video tutorials, too. Once your sewing teacher gets you started, you’ll soon be hooked and ready to explore the vast world of sewing, including making your own clothes, bags, and accessories. Drop into the Free Sewing Patterns Page on So Sew Easy and pick out your next project.”

In addition to sewing tutorials, you can access free sewing patterns, see Deby’s latest projects, and network with other sewing enthusiasts.

Plus Size Sewing Blogs

 

Curvy Sewing Collective

sewing blogs

Americans’ waistlines have been expanding in the last 30 years; so let’s not forget about a group that’s often ignored in fashion circles. There are a few blogs worth mentioning, but one that seems to standout is Curvy Sewing Collective. Not just a sewing blog, it’s also a community of supportive, body positive sewing enthusiasts.

Curvy Sewing Collective is a great resource to find sewing patterns in your size, and how-to’s for making size adjustments. There’s lots of information on measurements and fabrics that work best for a curvy figure. The community members share pictures of their creations, and interact in the online forum.

With articles on healthy body image, discussions, pattern reviews, and tutorials, it’s a very informative site that not only offers help for curvy seamstresses, but also makes a difference in peoples’ lives.


Sewing Blogs for Sewing Tools

 

Sewing Insight

sewing blogs

Just as there is no shortage of sewing blogs, there are also several options when it comes to where you can purchase sewing supplies online. While your sewing teacher can help you decide which sewing tools you need as a beginner, Sewing Insight allows you to read equipment ratings and reviews on the most popular sewing machine brands and sewing-related products.

Sewing is a lifelong passion of mine,” says Sewing Insight founder Vernelle Nelson. “Being able to share that passion with others is a dream come true. When I started sewing, I never thought that my hobby would evolve into what it has become.”


There are thousands of fantastic sewing blogs on the web, and it’s impossible for one person to know them all. The sites listed here are some of the most popular, and some of my favorites.

I hope you find these resources useful. May these blogs keep you motivated and help you discover your love of sewing!

Do you have some favorite sewing blogs that aren’t on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

Marie BPost Author: Marie B.
Marie teaches sewing, fashion design, and animation in Glendale, CA. Marie studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). She has been sewing for over 30 years. Learn more about Nikki here!

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