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Basic Hand Stitches

Hand sewing seems to be polarizing: you love it or hate it. No matter what camp you’re in, I know you’re bound to bring out the needle and thread at some point!

While there are many, many different types of hand stitching, we have just focused on a few basic stitches you’re likely to come across in your sewing journey.

What’s your favorite stitch? Is there one you use all the time?


Catchstitch is a row of Xs on the wrong side of a garment and two lines of straight stitches on the right side. It holds two flat edges together and is flexible and strong.


Fell stitch attaches a raw or folded edge to a garment. It can create a sort of hinge and is often used sewing linings, but can also be used to applique.


Slipstitch is a hidden stitch used to join two layers from the right side together and is also used for hemming and finishing garments.


Whipstitch is a sturdy and visible stitch used for hemming and sewing seams.


Running stitch is an even stitch that is used to join two layers together and is meant to be permanent.


Basting stitch is an even stitch that is used to temporarily join two layers together. It is like the running stitch except the stitches are longer and wider apart.

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On , Elise Lin said: | eliselin1.blogspot.com

Thank you, this is also very helpful for me so I can learn the proper names of the stitches (since I’m not a native speaker).

On , Amanda said: | bimbleandpimble.blogspot.com

I’ve been known to attempt all of these stitches (with varying degrees of success) but the fell stitch is new to me. I’ll keep this one in mind for linings…

On , scuffsan said: | scuffsan.blogspot.com

I love the catchstitch because it is so pretty, but the one I use the most is the slipstitch. One stitch that you don’t mention here that I also use a lot is the pickstitch, this one really made me LOVE to install zippers.

Usually I’m always rushing to finish a project, I’m very impatient that way so it is no surprise I used to hate hand stitching – it took too long!!! But now I love it. It helps me slow things down and in the end that does make things look better.

On , Sew Little Time said: | somanypatternssewlittletime.blogspot.com

i wasn’t loving hand stiching until i got into making the Anise! i have always felt basting in particular was a waste of time, but now i can see how much better hand basting makes the final seam look, i will be doing it a lot more often! my most recent discovery is catch stitch and i have used it quite a bit recently.

On , Tessa said: | misstessamelissa.com

I use the slip stitch on practically every project. Shoulder seams after flipping a lined bodice right side out to closing up a decorative pillow, the slip stitch is my workhorse stitch. I use the whipstitch most when I am doing felt crafts or felt appliqué because I like the enhanced handmade look it gives for those kinds of projects.

On , PoldaPop said: | poldapop.blogspot.com

I LOVE the slip stitch! This was one of the first hand stitches I learned and it made for one of my first “Wow, so that’s how they do it!” exclamations (I think the second one was when I learned how to box a corner on a bag). I use it most often in attaching a lining to the zipper tape in a skirt or dress.

On , Natasha E said:

I love a few small STRAIGHT running stitch for many things. Practicing your hand stitching translates over to many different crafts.

On , Alice said:

LOVE your idea for adjusting for the turn of the cloth in the collar/undercollar. Why did I never think/hear of that? Thanks.

CraftCrave | Blog | Textual List: Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012

[...] Basic Hand Stitches – 1 freebie(s)? [...]

On , Daria Loginova-Edwards said: | verysmallfeetblog.blogspot.co.uk

Amazing!! Just what I have been looking for! Thank you xx

On , KEVIANNE NOEL said:

I LOVE IT I AM 13 YEAR 14 2013 AND I HAVE HOME WORK ON STITCH AND THIS HELP ME A LOT IT THE BEST TO HAVE FOR A PERSON LIKE ME LAST MIN HOMEWORK PERSON SO TANKS A LOT

On , keith louise M. brocklehurst said:

cute.

On , KEVIANNE NOEL said:

do u have any hemming stitch even basting uneven basting over sewing and chain stitch advise to give

Remix: Heart of Gold | Frocks & Frou Frou

[...] used a basic fell stitch to attach the heart, and always fed my needle through the centre of a sequin, so it’s pretty [...]

On , annanabigail said:

THANK YOU VERY MUCH. IT HAS HELPED ME

Pyjama Party 1 – The Belt | Did You Make That?

[...] is lying nice and flat. You’re nearly there! All we have to do now is use some hand sewing to slip stitch the opening [...]

On , sophie northover said:

I love it thank you, there was some very good information, I needed it for my homework and this is probably the best site I have looked on so once again thank you!

On , kalkidan addisu said:

as i am a fashion design student i use hand&cover stitch the thing is iwasn’t love not love i hate stiching untile i got this subject. but what is the difference b\n hand stich &chain stich and the needle that we use?

On , Monika said: | absolutelyhats.com

Thank you! This is a short & sweet list of stitches & covers the most important of the stitches for beginning milliners. (I frequently link here for my students)

18 Hand Sewing Tutorials for Beginners: Hand Stitches Edition

[...] Basic Hand Stitches – this is a beautiful and well illustrated tutorial. Though its not step by step, its quite easy to visualize how to do the stitches because of the clear photographs. [...]

On , princess tiana r. rivera said:

i use the whipstich for my project

Millinery Classes this Fall 2013 | absolutelyhats

[...] you really want to take a millinery class, but are worried about your hand sewing skill, then please click here to check out this link! You can practice your hand sewing on a piece of fabric, a needle, thread and a [...]

On , Gavin said:

i am trying to make a survivor style wrap thing for class, i actually need to make 10, and am doing this by hand. i was told i need a diagonal? stitch to allow the fabric to stretch?? If this is the case, can anyone give me advice on how to do this?

On , samiksha said:

hey thnx for dis, but some stitches r missing like backstitch, half backstitch plz ad dem too :) overol itz osm… actually needed for my students :)

On , vicky said:

IT helps me a lot I can see clearly the pctures thanks

On , Allen Chan said: | Pizza

These stiches helped me in my school project

On , scarletteabalo said:

these all stitches helped me in my school project.thanks .its osm.

On , Sara said:

The trouble is that there are so many ways of doing slip stitch that I have seen. Both in books and on line. They get shown differently and then also you get the same thing but with different names. Catch stitch is known as herringbone stitch in many books, where in one of my books catch stitch is a hem stitch probably like blind hemming. I used it as a child. I’m trying to find out what a definitive slip stitch is! I’ve done it your way but also ways that you don’t put the needle in at a diagonal. I must have seen at least half a dozen methods, some show just a little tiny single stitch yet others show two tiny stitches together. Some you go into the fold directly and straight out again and others like your method, right into and under the fold so the thread is hidden. It drives me mad! Also some approach the stitch with the fold above and others with it below. So really its safe to say I have no idea what slip stitch is as I have got increasingly muddled! I am hoping to find an older vintage book from the days when hand stitching was common place but I have some from the eighties and they don’t show slip stitch like yours. What you show I have seen and done before but it also gets described as ladder stitch. Which to me is slightly different! So bewildering. I can actually do hand stitching quite nicely, I just would like to have a more standardised idea of what it is I’m actually doing with some agreement and consensus.

On , Seah Bernadette Muyco said:

i like the catchstitch, fell stitch, and slip stitch.
I LOVE IT
but i can’tdo it. i think it’s easy but i’ll try it so hard….

On , karen kaye namoro said:

i lyk to sew and i lyk 2 know more !!!!!11

Closures, Hem, and Finishing  |  Colette Patterns Sewalongs

[…] Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the slipstitch, check out our tutorial on sewing basic hand stitches. […]

On , kathleen said:

What stitch should I use when taking in a sweaters side seam?

On , Doradeen Campbell said:

I love the slipstitch. I use this stitch for most of my projects. I am planning to start teaching my 2 little girls how to sew and making simple hand craft; this site will help me tremendously. The pictures are very clear, this will help a lot. thank you and keep up the good work.

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[…] stuffing (available at craft stores) if needed. Next I pin closed any large tears in preparation for hand stitching (smaller tears usually don’t need […]

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[…] the needle through the wrong side of the fabric at one end of the tear, pull through, and whip stitch the tear closed. I usually backtrack at least once to make sure the repair is sturdy. Whip through […]

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[…] you can begin the sewing process!  There are many different stitches that you can use, but I used a simple Running […]

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[…] (to see how to do the fell stitch, have a look at the second stitch on Colette Patterns’ “Basic Hand Stitches” guide).  Don’t be afraid to catch the facing and […]