How to Hand Sew a Durable Backstitch

hand sewing materials
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

A backstitch is one of the strongest hand sewing stitches. The backstitch gets its name because the needle goes into the fabric behind the previous stitch. On the contrary, with a running stitch, the needle simply passes through the fabric an even distance in front of the previous stitch. Once you understand the backstitch technique, it is a fairly quick and easy stitch to do. It can be used for mending seams, hand sewing small projects, attaching a zipper, and more.

Tip

For added durability select a strong thread type, such as hand quilting thread.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler

Materials

  • Fabric
  • Thread

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Needle and Mark the Seam

    Thread a needle with a piece of thread no longer than a yard. Longer pieces tend to get tangled and knot as you sew. Knot the end of the thread with a large knot that won't pull through the fabric. For extra strength, you can knot the two ends together to double the thread.

    To keep your seam as straight and tidy as possible, it's helpful to mark the line of stitching with a thin pencil line. On straight seams, use a ruler. For curves, measure the seam allowance, make short marks along the seam, and then connect them so you have a guide to follow.

    getting ready to hand sew a backstitch
    Mollie Johanson
  2. Make the First Stitch

    Push the needle into the fabric where you want to start the seam. Bring the needle back through both layers of fabric just in front of where the knot is. Then, push the needle back into the fabric between where the needle went in and out of the fabric to create the first stitch.

    starting to hand sew
    Mollie Johanson
  3. Continue to Stitch

    Bring the needle through the fabric the same distance you came forward when creating the first stitch. These stitches can touch each other, or you can space them a little farther apart. Continue stitching in this fashion across your seam.

    Take your time to sew small stitches if you need a secure seam. This is especially important for parts of a garment that need durability, such as a crotch seam. For other sewing projects that don't require high durability, you can make the stitches a little longer if you want to work faster.

    handsewing a backstitch
    Mollie Johanson
  4. Finish the Seam

    Once you've sewn a distance, you will see the threads overlap on the reverse side of the fabric. If you're sewing very small stitches, they'll almost appear as a solid line. To finish the seam, make a few stitches right on top of one another. This will anchor the thread like a knot. Cut any excess thread off the knot at the beginning. 

    Comparing Different Hand Sewn Back Stitch
    Mollie Johanson