23 Common Hand Stitches and Their Uses

23 Common Hand Stitches and Their Uses

Why Use Hand Stitches?

Why Use Hand Stitches

Anyone that’s into sewing knows that clothing today is largely sewn via machines. In the olden days, seamstresses had to create clothes entirely by hand. This technique is, of course, perfectly OK, but it’s far too time-consuming for the modern, fast-paced world we now inhabit. However, despite how useful and widespread machine sewing is, people still use hand stitches.

The question from the heading arises, then —why? Well, we can tell you that there’s nothing more satisfying than finishing up a sewing project by hand. Mending, fastening or hemming by hand feels just as good. People can repair their clothes with more precision using a hand stitch. In addition, they can also add a touch of creativity which can only be done by hand.

The internet provides a lot of useful information on hand stitches, but each list that we came across only talked about five or six of them, at most. For that reason, we have compiled a list with a grand total of 23 different hand stitches. Reading through the list, our readers can find out what these stitches can be used for, what they look like and how they can perform them.

What Will I Need?

Depending on the type of work we plan to do, we will need different types of threads and needles. But they are essential to each of these steps. Naturally, it’s also good to have scissors handy, as well as thimbles. Better safe than sorry!

23 Stitches — the List

Lesson 5 How to Baste

1.The Backstitch

This particular stitch has several names — backstitch, back stitch, outline stitch, stem stitch, and split stitch. They are all more or less the same, and the name itself indicates what they do.

With backstitching, we first drive a needle and thread into the fabric from below. Next, we put the needle back in a certain distance BACK from the original spot. With the needle below again, we move it back up through the fabric, but not at the same spot we first stuck the needle in. What we do is go through the fabric at roughly the same distance as the length of thread visible on the top side of the fabric. The last step is to stick the needle back in through the first spot we stuck it in, the one from step 1.

Most people who sew call it a “two steps forward, one step back” stitch, and they sew or weave it from right to left. It’s a perfect stitch for decorations and seams.

2.The Backtack

The backtack, or back tack, is effectively a form of the backstitch. It’s done in the same way, front to back. However, the major difference is that the backtack isn’t used for permanent stitching. In fact, it’s largely used for basting or “tacking,” which is where it got its name. In other words, we will use the backtack for marking patterns on a fabric.

Sometimes, backtack stitches aren’t removed. One can usually find them on denim jeans, around the pockets.

3.The Running Stitch

In terms of hand stitches, the running stitch is one of the most basic ones. One look at it is enough to come to this conclusion.

When we want to make the running stitch, we bring the needle up from below the fabric, then stick it back down, then repeat the process until we either run out of thread or get bored. The important detail is leaving spaces between the strands of thread. These spaces ought to be just as long as the strands they separate, making a dotted line pattern of sorts.

4.The Basting Stitch (or the Tacking Stitch)

We like using pins, we really do. But there are times when we can’t or won’t, so a stitch that can replace pins is useful. The basting stitch is just such a stitch.

Also called the tacking stitch, it is essentially just a running stitch, but with longer spaces and longer strands of thread. Therefore, doing it should be easy, with just a slight change in thread and space length.
Aside from replacing pins, the basting stitch is also perfect for gathering fabric. All we have to do is pull the fabric back a bit once our stitch is done.

5.The Blanket Stitch

Overstitch Overcast

This stitch is a bit more complicated, but it looks awesome once we’re finished with it. As its name suggests, it’s perfect for blankets and other thicker pieces of fabric (plush toys, for example).

The first stitch here is important. We first bring the needle in between the two pieces of fabric, from the underside of one. Once we do, we do it again, but this time from the underside of the other piece of fabric. However, we don’t pull the thread all the way through. It’s highly important to leave a little loop, a small “ring” of the thread, to hang a bit loose. Lastly, we take the needle, pull it through that loop and tighten it.

Each subsequent stitch will start with the underside of both pieces of cloth. We should note that newcomers ought to try to keep the distance between stitches the same.

6.The Buttonhole Stitch

We’ll be honest – the buttonhole stitch is essentially the same as the blanket stitch, with some minor differences. For example, the length of the thread that will appear on the top or rather the “right” side is smaller than that of the blanket stitch, roughly around 3mm or so. Once we pull the thread from the underside, i.e. the “wrong” side of the cloth, we do basically the same thing we did with the blanket stitch – leave a little loop, put the needle through that loop and tighten it. Each subsequent stitch will overlap with the first one closely.

The buttonhole stitch is perfect for what its name suggests, i.e. .keeping the buttons in check. It’s also good for other small items that go on clothing, such as hooks-and-eyes and hooks-and-bars.

7.The Blind Stitch

Most people call this one the “invisible stitch,” because its purpose is not to be seen on the fabric. It works perfectly for pillowcases, which we will use as an example here.

Before stitching, we iron out the bits of fabric we want to sew together. After threading the needle and tying the knot, we bring it through one of the ironed edges. The knot will remain on the inside, out of sight. Each subsequent puncture of the needle should go through the opposite piece of fabric than the last one, making a sort-of “ladder” with the thread. After several stitchings, we pull the thread forward to bring the fabric pieces closer together. With the last stitch, we move the needle through a thread loop, then stick it in and out of the pillowcase, after which we snip the excess thread while the rest retreats inside the fabric.

8.The Chain Stitch

Out of the many basic stitches used for decoration, the chain stitch is among the most beautiful ones. We start this stitch from the wrong side of the fabric, like many others. Next, we do the complete reverse by putting the needle back through the same hole. The catch is to leave a little loop of thread hanging. Otherwise, we will just pull the thread out completely.

This loop will make up a “link” of our “chain.” Once we have the loop, we bring the needle back from the wrong side, but this time a stitch length away from the original spot. Naturally, the needle must go through the loop. Once it’s completely out, the chain link will keep it in place from untangling. Lather, rinse, repeat.

9. The Cross Stitch

The Cross Stitch

Probably one of the most common and most recognized stitches out there, the cross stitch has been around for centuries. The name comes from its distinctive “X” or cross-shaped pattern.

If we want to make a cross stitch, we first stick a needle from the wrong side of the fabric. Next, we imagine this spot to be a top corner of a square. With that in mind, we put the needle through the opposite, lower corner of this square. The same needle then goes back up from the corner of the square right next to the first one, on the same “line” as it to be precise. The final step is pulling the needle through the last corner, over the thread that’s already visible on the right side.

Once the cross is made, the needle goes back up, but this time the “first” step starts from the corner in the “third” step before it. That way the pattern remains consistent and in line.

There are several different cross stitch styles. Some of them include the long-armed cross-stitch, the double cross-stitch, the Italian cross-stitch, the herringbone stitch, etc.

10. The Catch Stitch

This particular stitch is perfect for hemming, especially for softer, lighter fabrics. Usually, we want to hold the edges of our fabric together, so we begin this stitch from the wrong side of the flap. This is so we can hide the knot under the cloth. Once that’s done, we grab just a millimeter or so of fabric diagonally from the original spot we stuck the needle through. The needle then goes diagonally down to catch the same small amount of flap fabric. We continue to do this until we’re done, thus getting a nice zigzag pattern.

The advantage of the catch stitch is that it stretches with the fabric. That way it won’t wrinkle anything, nor will it break upon walking or moving.

11. The Darning Stitch

Now, this stitch is all about repairing the old. It’s, in fact, a variation of the running stitch, but with a twist.

Essentially, we will be using the darning stitch for holes in the fabric. We find the spot where the tear or the hole is and thread the needle (via a running stitch) close to the hole, in a straight line. However, we will be doing so in very small stitches, almost weaving the thread into the original fabric. Leaving the end of the thread loose, we do the same thing in reverse, parallel to our original thread.

After a good, long weave of the thread, we turn the fabric ninety degrees and start the process again. We can now notice a pattern, like a weave or a sieve, appear on the fabric. In case we run out of thread, we just start over from where we left off with a new one.

The end result is a sturdy, woven bit of fabric that was once a gaping hole. This stitch is so effective that it’s no wonder our ancestors from across the globe used it centuries before us.

12. Embroidery Stitches

This isn’t really one specific stitch, per se. It’s actually the practice of using different stitches to make figures on fabric.

Embroidery has been a favorite pastime of mostly ladies since our earliest civilizations. There’s even a famous stereotype of a woman from the Middle Ages sitting on a stool weaving. Using basic stitches such as the running stitch, the cross stitch, the chain stitch, and others, anyone can make a flower or an animal or really anything. All it takes is a bit of imagination, patience and good will.

13. The Hemstitch

The Hemstitch

This particular type of hand stitch is used to embellish hems of household linens or clothing. When we want to do this stitch, we draw out one or several threads that are parallel and right next to the turned hem. We then grab a few threads and bind them in a bundle with the thread, forming a pattern of small bundles.

People all over the world use the hemstitch to decorate edges of doilies or handkerchiefs, as it is a very attractive stitch to do.

14. The Overcast Stitch

Another “classic,” the overcast stitch is used to prevent fabric from unraveling at the edges. It’s a very simple stitch to master, too. What we do is stick the needle from the wrong side up, but we do it less than a centimeter away from the edge. Next, we pull the thread diagonally over the edge. On the wrong side, we bring the needle back up. This has to be done at the spot which will mark the length of each stitch. After some repetition, the edge of our fabric will get a nice little pattern of diagonal lines. More importantly, it won’t be coming apart.

15. The Pad Stitch

The pad stitch actually works a lot like the running stitch, but with a few minor differences. What this stitch does is hold two bits of fabric together firmly.

First, we stick the needle in the wrong side of the fabric, catching a very small bit of it. Once we do this, we move lower onto the same side of the fabric and repeat the step. What we get are a series of diagonal lines. These will not only keep the fabric together but also provide more curvature to the layers.

16. The Pick Stitch

Most of the stitches listed above are very easy to do. The pick stitch, on the other hand, can really be a pain in the neck. This is why professionals use it for high-quality suits and dresses.

Normally, this stitch is used for the hem of the fabric. The trick is not to allow any of it to show on the right side, so what we do is catch a decent amount of fabric on the needle and pull it through. The next step is tricky. We have to insert the needle a very, very short distance away from the spot where it came out last. Once the needle is in, we repeat the first step.

If the thread is of a different color, only minimal spots will appear on the right side. The better solution would be to work with thread that’s the same color as the fabric. That way the pick stitch truly does become nigh-invisible.

17. Sailmaker’s Stitching

17. Sailmaker’s Stitching

As its name suggests, this type of stitching is used for ripped or damaged sails. However, there are actually three ways to stitch up a sail.

The first of those would be the darning stitch. We’ve already discussed it earlier in the text.

The other two methods are flat sewing and round sewing. Flat sewing is used to join two bits of canvas or sailcloth together. We do this by hooking the materials together first. Then the needle goes down through just one cloth that’s close to the selvage (the end of the fabric). When putting the needle back up, it goes through both of the bits of fabric.

Round sewing requires more strength, as we have to stitch four bits of fabric. What we do here is turn roughly an inch of the fabric at the hem on the inside. Then we hold the two bits of fabric together and sew through the folded bits. We’re effectively sticking the needle in four layers of canvas at this point. Once it’s done, it should reinforce the sail properly.

18. The Slip Stitch

The slip stitch is a different type of blind stitch. We use this one to close up linings or hems.

The first step is to get the needle from the underside of the edge through its fold. Next, we grab just a little fabric directly above the edge. The needle then goes back through the same spot where it originally entered, but it now “enters” the edge. What we do is bring it out of the fold a little further from its original spot. Once the thread is tightened, it almost disappears.

One major benefit of the slip stitch is that it works wonders with softer fabrics.

19. Stoating

People tend to call this stitch “stoting” or even “stotting.” When they do, they refer to a method of stitching two bits of fabric together in a way that nobody can see the stitches on the right side. When we stoat, we pass the needle just halfway through the material. The important thing to note is that the thread must be very fine, like silk for example. Each stitch goes from side to side and across the opening that we want to sew shut. It either looks zigzaggy or like a ladder when it’s done.

20. The Tent Stitch

The Tent Stitch

We are again back to basics. The tent stitch is possibly the most recognizable stitch out there, which everyone can easily learn and use.

We begin the tent stitch from the wrong side. The needle comes out and then goes back in, diagonally upward from the original position. After that, the needle comes back, but through the spot directly next to where it originally came out. And once again, it goes back in diagonally next to the spot from the second step.

Using the tent stitch, people can patch up tears quickly. True, it might not be as durable or attractive as other stitches, but it gets the job done at least. In embroidery, the stitch is recognizable for the 45-degree-angled pattern it makes. Simple, yet effective.

21. The Topstitch

Topstitching is also quite unique. Most of the stitches that deal with high-quality clothing tend to hide the thread. But this one does the opposite – it proudly displays it.

If we want to topstitch, we grab a little of the fabric and get our needle through. After this, we simply stick the needle a little ahead of where we came out with it. That way we have a simple pattern that looks like the backstitch.

This stitch is neat because it brings something new to the original fabric. We can use the same color and match the pattern to the final product. Alternatively, we can pick a different color and go wild with our creativity. But aside from looking good, our topstitch will keep the fabric together.

22. The Side Stitch

When doing a side stitch, it’s important to know that it’s done on the upper, or right side of the fabric. This stitch is perfect for edges of clothing, especially if we want to maintain the edge tape in its place.

The only step that requires us to use the wrong side of the fabric is the first one. Of course, we stick the needle in this way to hide the knot. Once we do, we maneuver the needle along the edge, catching all layers of edge fabric AS WELL AS the edge tape. The very second we feel the needle holding them, we pull it upward and stick it all the way through.

The stitches here are small, barely visible, yet sturdy and durable. It’s the perfect stitch for loose hems of jackets or coats.

23. The Whipstitch


The last of the hand stitches on our list also deals with edges of the fabric. It’s also one of the most basic stitches to use for repairs.

When we want to close up two bits of fabric with the whipstitch, we first need to hold the bits together. They should form a “mouth,” with the edge of each bit representing one “lip.” Our needle first enters the inside of the top lip, so that the knot can be hidden on the inside. After that, the needle goes through the bottom AND top lip. As such, the thread should be over the lip, sewing it shut. Repetition follows until the whole process is done with and the “mouth” is shut with thread completely.

Are There More Stitches Out There?

Oh, loads! However, most of these hand stitches are just slight variations of the basic ones listed here. Sometimes a single stitch can have up to twelve names! However, even with these 23, our readers will be able to weave, sew and decorate any fabric of their choosing. A little creativity goes a long way.

If you liked this comprehensive list of hand stitches, please share this list on your social media. Don’t forget to comment below if you have any questions or suggestions regarding sewing and stitches.

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
Add Your Reply