A Beginner Guide to Different Types of Stitches

If you have only learned the basic running stitch in sewing, then it’s time to expand your knowledge. There are many types of sewing stitches that you can use to accomplish different tasks. If you want to sew an eyelet, you’ll want to master a blanket stitch, but if you want a clean-cut edge, you’ll want a zigzag stitch.

As part of our hand sewing and sewing machine stitch guide, we will examine different types of sewing stitches and discuss seam finishes. Our tips and tricks can help, and if you want even more information, check out these sewing resources.

Key Takeaways

  • Stitches are classified into basic groups:
    • Class 100: Single Thread Chainstitch
    • Class 200: Hand Stitches
    • Class 300: Lock Stitch
    • Class 400: Multi-thread Chain Stitch
    • Class 500: Over-edge Chain Stitch
    • Class 600: Covering Chain Stitch
  • Examples of machine stitches include Chain stitch, Lockstitch, Zigzag stitch, Running stitch, Back stitch, Satin stitch, and Overlock stitch.
  • Types of hand stitches encompass a wide range, such as:
    • Back tack and Backstitch for anchoring and durable seams.
    • Basting stitch for temporary holds or reinforcement.
    • Blanket stitch for finishing blanket edges.
    • Blind stitch for inconspicuous hems.
    • Buttonhole stitch for reinforcing buttonholes.
    • Chain stitch, Cross-stitch, and Embroidery stitch for decoration or seams.
    • Darning stitch for repairs.
    • Overcast stitch, Pad stitch, and Pick stitch for edge finishing and securing fabric layers.
    • Running stitch, Saddle stitch, and Topstitch for seams, decoration, and edge finishing.
    • Whipstitch, Ladder stitch for edge protection, and invisible seam closing.

Using The Right Sewing Tools

Invest in high-quality sewing tools before delving into the various types of sewing stitches. Although it may be tempting to purchase cheaper tools, we recommend investing in high-quality tools that will last. You will need the following sewing supplies to get started:

  • Needles
  • Thread
  • Sewing scissors
  • Small ruler
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Marking pencil
  • Straight pins
  • Narrow and wide bias tape
  • Hem tape
  • Stretch lace.

Moreover, if this is your first time sewing, you may want to brush up on some sewing terminology. For example, before you can master basic sewing stitches, you must know what a sew and a hem is.

Different Types Of Hand Stitching

Different Types Of Hand Stitching

In addition to knowing some basic hand-sewing stitches, knowing these stitches can prove useful when you don’t have access to a sewing machine. When working with delicate fabrics or seeking greater control, many sewers prefer basic sewing stitches by hand. In addition to creating flawless corners, these hand stitches allow you to create more intricate details. The different sewing stitches on clothes can make a difference to your sewing projects.

Running Stitch

There are many variations of the running stitch, one of the most basic types of hand stitches. It is used for gathering, mending, and tucking. To lock the thread into place, you can either knot it or take a couple of backstitches. More extended versions of this stitch become basting stitches.

Throw your needle through from the fabric’s back (wrong side). Once it hits the fabric, stitch the knot to the left or right. Repeat the process by bringing the thread back up.

Basting Stitch

Make longer stitches (between 1/4″ and 1/2″) using the same technique as the running stitch.

Hand basting is still valid, especially for heavyweight wools like leather and Melton and lightweight fabrics like silk and chiffon. Today, we tend to pin-baste our garments and projects more than hand-bast them.


Backstitching was one of the most practical types of hand stitches before sewing machines were available.

Take a small stitch from left to right, then insert the needle just beyond where the thread emerges from the previous stitch. The needle should always be inserted at the end of the previous stitch as you continue.

Catch stitch (Cross-Stitch)

Invisibly tack facings and finish hems with fabric that doesn’t fray with this stitch.

Take tiny stitches along the hem and the garment from left to right. Don’t tighten or tighten the stitches. On the right side, they will look like small stitches and crosses on the wrong side.

Slip Stitch

I use this stitch whenever I need to finish hems and other hems. If done correctly and with care on both sides, it is tidy and almost invisible. Once you master it, you’ll love it, too.

Pick up a fabric thread at the same point as the needle passes through the hem’s fold. Approximately 1/2 inch apart, make loose stitches.

Blanket Stitch (Buttonhole Stitch)

By learning the buttonhole stitch, you can hand sew eyelets and buttonholes.

Insert the needle through the fabric 1/8 inch from the edge, with the right side facing upward and the thread secured on the wrong side. The working head should be wrapped behind the eye end and the needle’s point. The knot should be brought to the edge of the fabric by pulling the needle through. As you stitch and knot, make sure the stitches are closely spaced.

In the eyelet variation, a circle is worked with a wrapped edge inside; in the blanket stitch variation, a quarter-inch space between the stitches is used.

Different Types Of Sewing Machine Stitches

Different Types Of Sewing Machine Stitches

Once you understand hand-sewing stitches, you should familiarize yourself with some of the most common sewing machine stitches. You can make stronger and more durable stitches by using a sewing machine. In addition, sewing machines make it easier to work with heavy fabrics. Our sewing techniques machine stitch guide below will help you master these stitches to tackle easy projects like headbands and drawstring bags.

Standard Forward / Backward Stitching

Approximately 1/8-3/8 inch from the edge of the fabric, begin straight stitching. Pin or bast the seam in place, then backstitch the forward stitch. Finish by repeating the reverse stitch.

Use the straight stitch for seams, understitching, stay stitching and simple top stitches.

ZigZag Stitch

Combining a stay stitching line with the zigzag stitch will give you a clean finish on raw edges. You can adjust the stitch to adjust your project’s width and length. Sewing machines can be used for hemming jeans, for example.


With most sewing machines, you can sew buttonholes, either with an automatic foot attachment or a pre-programmed buttonhole foot; both are available for most mechanical and computerized sewing machines.

You can find these details in your machine’s manual.

Blind Hem Stitch

On the sewing machine, two or three straight stitches are followed by one wide zigzag or catch stitch. Blind hems are folded under and away, with just the hem edge showing, just as in hand-stitched versions.

Seam Finishes

Now that you’ve mastered the different sewing stitches, it’s time to finish the seams. Using seam finishes will prevent fraying and prolong the life of the seam. The type of fabric, strength, type, and appearance of the seam should be considered before choosing a specific seam finish.


Most fabrics can be finished with a zigzag pattern. Once the seam has been sewn and pressed open, the raw edge should be zig-stitched and trimmed away. Depending on the fabric weight, the width and length may vary. A variation involves trimming the seam edges to half their depth, zigzagging them together, and pressing them to one side.

Turn and Stitch

Pieces of cotton that are crisp are usually treated with this method. Finish the folded edge by machine stitching along the folded edge, allowing a 1/4 inch allowance. By the pattern, seams are then pressed to one side or open.

As a result, the finish is neat and durable.

Bias Tape

Jackets and skirts without linings typically use this method.

Place the bias tape around the raw edge and stitch through all layers, enclosing the raw edge. It is recommended to place commercial bias tape underneath the fabric on the wider side.

A contrasting or matching bias tape can also be made yourself.

Pinked Seams

Seams that are pinked are the simplest to finish. Using pinking shears, the seam allowance should be trimmed away as little as possible. There is no hard-wearing version of this version. It works best on wool and polyester fleece.

The edges can be trimmed with pinking shears after machine stitching 1/4 inch from the seam.

Hand Overcast

Small areas or thick fabrics can be finished with a hand-overcast seam instead of a zigzag stitch. The raw seam edges should be overcast by hand, taking very loose stitches.

Top Stitch

Top stitches create a hard hemline that can be used as a decorative finish or to strengthen seams.

The seams should be pressed open and then stitched on the wrong side. Sometimes, a contrasting bobbin thread is used to pink the seam beforehand.

Types of Stitches & Stitching Techniques FAQs

What are the basic types of stitches available for sewing projects?

There are two main categories of stitches: machine stitches and hand stitches. Machine stitches include a straight stitch, zig-zag stitch, overcast stitch, and buttonhole stitch. Hand stitches offer various options, including running stitch, backstitch, blanket stitch, and more, each with a unique application and aesthetic.

How do I choose the right stitch for my sewing project?

The stitch choice depends on the fabric type, the project’s purpose, and the desired finish. Straight stitches are commonly used for basic seams and hems on light to medium-weight cotton. Zig-zag stitches are essential for stretch fabrics and seam finishes, while decorative stitches add embellishment. For hand sewing, select stitches based on the technique (e.g., embroidery or appliqué) and the effect you wish to achieve.

Can you explain the difference between a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch?

A straight stitch is the most basic sewing machine, consisting of simple lines for seams, hems, and topstitching. It’s versatile and adjustable in length. On the other hand, the zig-zag stitch moves the needle side to side to create a zig-zag pattern, which is ideal for stretch fabrics and appliqué and preventing fabric from fraying.

What is the best stitch for finishing seams?

For machine sewing, the overcast stitch (or overlock stitch) is widely used to finish seams, preventing the fabric from fraying without cutting it, similar to a serger’s function. In hand sewing, the blanket stitch or whipstitch is often used for edge finishing on fabric that doesn’t fray easily.

Are there any stitches specifically used for decorative purposes?

Yes, both machine and hand sewing offer decorative stitches. Machine sewing includes decorative zigzags, scallops, and various patterned stitches that add flair to projects. Hand-sewing decorative stitches include chain stitches, French knots, and embroidery stitches like the lazy daisy, which can embellish and add texture to your work.

How do I perform a buttonhole stitch on a sewing machine?

Modern sewing machines often have a special buttonhole function that automates the process. To create a reinforced hole for buttons, you sew a very narrow zigzag stitch or a specific buttonhole stitch around a preset area. Consult your machine’s manual for the specific steps, as they can vary between models.

What is the importance of adjusting tension when sewing different stitches?

Proper tension adjustment ensures that stitches are evenly formed and look the same on both sides of the fabric. Incorrect tension can lead to loose, puckered, or uneven stitches. For optimal results, each type of stitch and fabric combination may require a slight adjustment in tension.

Can hand stitches be as durable as machine stitches?

Yes, certain hand stitches can be incredibly durable. The backstitch, for example, is known for its strength and is often used for seams in hand sewing. While machine stitches are generally faster and can provide consistent durability, hand stitching with the right technique can achieve comparable strength, especially in garments and items subjected to less stress.

What are some tips for beginners learning different types of stitches?

Start by mastering basic stitches, such as the straight and running stitches, before moving on to more complex ones. Practice on scrap fabric to get comfortable with tension, stitch length, and rhythm. Learning to thread a needle properly and understanding the basics of fabric grain and stitch spacing can significantly improve your skill level for hand stitching.

How can I learn more advanced stitching techniques?

Consider taking sewing classes online or in person at local craft stores or community colleges. Many resources, including sewing books, online tutorials, and forums, are available to help you advance your skills. Practice is key, so working on various projects with different fabrics and stitches will enhance your proficiency and confidence in sewing.


We’ve covered many stitches so far, but this is just the beginning. As you develop your skills, you can master even more sewing stitches.

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