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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Learn to Sew: Backstitching

Last night I finished up my last session of my four-week Beginning Sewing: The Basics class. I've been teaching this class almost every month for the past 20 months. I've learned a lot about beginning sewing! So here is the most common question I get: "When do I backstitch?" 

The purpose of a backstitch is to lock the beginning and ending of a seam. So you backstitch when those seams need to be locked! Generally that means almost anytime other than basting, decorative stitching, and quilting. There are plenty of other times you don't backstitch, but I'm keeping it simple! When it doubt, backstitch!

Here are my steps for backstitching:

  • Place your fabric in your machine and line it up at the proper seam allowance.
  • Start a little in (about a 1/8" - 1/4") from the end of the fabric.
  • Hold on to your tails (thread tails) and take a few stitches forward (about 1/4" to 1/2"). Let go of your tails.
  • Sew in reverse until your needle is almost to the the end of fabric. You'll be sewing right over those initial stitches you took. 
  • Stop and go forward and continue on until you've reached the end of your seam.
  • Stop about 1/8"- 1/4" from the end of the fabric,
  • Go in reverse about 1/2" or so, then sew straight off the end of your fabric. Yes, you'll be sewing into nothing.
When you are making a project that involves corners, you'll want to be sure that your backstitching overlaps. This will strengthen the seam joint. This is especially important when you are clipping your corners.

And one more thing...don't sew over pins. If you hit the pin with your needle, you can break your needle, mess up the timing on your machine, and jam that pin into your machine. Go slowly and take them out as you go. Once you get good, you won't need pins on many projects!

When you are doing a decorative stitch, you can do a quick reverse to lock in your stitches - but don't over-do it your you'll ruin the look of your decorative stitch. When top-stitching, you can avoid the ugly backstitching look by making your stitch length smaller when you begin and end (for about 1/8" - 1/4").

A note about the locking stitch. Some machines come with a stitch that knots the thread. This is a great alternative to a backstitch BUT only when you are doing a decorative stitch or top-stitching. It isn't as strong as backstitiching and isn't suitable for any seam that needs to be held in place.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a technique for getting nice corners (e.g., for a pillow cover) without clipping:


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