Guide to Basic Sewing Stitches
Sewing is the thread that holds the fashion industry together – quite literally! Nearly every manufactured garment is a product of its fabric and the various hand-sewn or machine-made stitches, threads, and finishes that hold it together. It is essential that anyone involved in the production of apparel be ale to tell the difference between the many types of stitches used in the industry today. This brief introductory guide to basic sewing stitches will introduce and explain the most common machine and hand stitches used.
Before the Singer, the Bernina, and the many other sewing machines on the market became everyday commodities in the home and in the factory, garments were made solely by hand. This included every step of the sewing process (hemming an edge, joining two separate pieces of cloth, finishing a seam, etc.). Many garments today are still sewn by hand utilizing the following basic stitches.
The running stitch is the most basic and most commonly used stitch, in which the needle and thread simply pass over and under two pieces of fabric. It’s exactly the same as a basting stitch, except it is sewn more tightly to create a secure and permanent bind. The technique can be identified by the spaces left between each stitch on both sides of the fabric, creating a dashed line of thread.
A basting stitch is one of the simplest stitches in sewing, used to temporarily hold together two pieces of fabric. Think of it as a “rough draft” that will later be removed and replaced by a more secure and more permanent stitch. Sometimes also called a tack stitch, it is done quickly with a simple over/under motion, resulting in a long and loose stitch that is easy to remove.
The back stitch is a variation of the running stitch, but with each pass of the needle, the needle and thread doubles back on itself. This eliminates the visible spacing – the dashed effect – seen in the running stitch, and instead creates a more polished straight line of thread on the surface of the fabric.
A catch stitch, or cross-stitch, is one of the standard sewing techniques used for hemming. The use of this stitch creates a zig-zag series of X’s on the underside of a piece of fabric. Strong and flexible, these stitches are barely visible on the outside of a garment and offer a clean finish for raw edges.
The slip stitch is a strong, sturdy, and permanent way to finish a garment, and another great stitch for securing hemlines. However, unlike the catch stitch, using a slip stitch results in a nearly invisible bond on both sides of the fabric.
The advent of the sewing machine in the early 18th century completely revolutionized the apparel industry by streamlining production and changing how clothing was traditionally made. Today, almost apparel construction is done on machines. These machines often have a wide range of capabilities, but almost every machine has the ability to perform these three basic stitches.
The straight stitch is a series of straight stitches equidistant from one another, all in uniform length and spacing. It is the most common stitch that serves as the backbone for nearly all sewing machines varieties.
The backward stitch is merely the machine’s ability to carry out the straight stitch in verse. This capability is helpful for securing the beginning and end of any other stitch, keeping the thread from unraveling or losing its shape.
The zigzag stitch is a sewing technique where the needle and thread move back and forth at alternating angles. It is the second most common stitch after the running stitch and is present in nearly all sewing machines today. Due to its strength, it is often used to finish seams and raw edges, and to reinforce buttonholes and in stretchable fabrics.
Sewing machines, both industrial and home models, are also frequently attributed with the ability to make buttonholes as well as create a variety of hemming stitches and decorative stitches. It all depends on the specific machine at hand, with each brand and model offering its own unique assortment.