Sewing: The basic stitches

Sewing has been around for over 20,000 years. Archaeologists have discovered needles constructed from bone from as far back as the ice age. It is believed they were used to sew together skins and furs to make clothing.

For someone wanting to pick it up as a new hobby it may seem a bit overwhelming, especially with some of the vocabulary such as bobbins, bias binding and over-locking.

Here are the basic stitches you need to know, thanks to Rachel Hodgson, professional costume and dressmaker…

Running stitch (Straight stitch):

This is the simplest stitch. The thread and needle come in and out of the fabric in short and even intervals. Perfect for tacking up edges or stitching two pieces of fabric together.

running stitch - how to sew

Back stitch:

This is a good strong stitch if you don’t have access to a sewing machine. These stitches are made backward to the general direction of the sewing. The needle is brought up from the wrong side and drawn through, leaving a small gap, then inserted back where the last stitch ended. Back stitching is the strongest stitch for attaching two pieces of fabric together in hand sewing. It is also commonly used for embroidery as its perfect for outlining shapes and letters.

Stab stitch:

Stab stitching is used on thicker materials when other stitches may not be possible. In stab stitching, you pull the needle and thread through every single time. You may not need to do this for other stitches. The thread and needle come up out of the fabric and then back down through the same hole to create a much thicker hold. Stab stitching is used in upholstery and soft furnishings. This is because it can go through many layers and can be easily hidden to the naked eye.


Herringboning is used to secure hems or fabrics that are too thick to double turn. The stitches work backwards to the direction of the sewing and alternate between the hem and the material it’s being secured to.


A whip stitch is when the needle is passed in and out of the fabric in a series of even, circular stitches that form around the edge of a fabric.