When finishing the inside of a garment, a catch stitch, sometimes called a herringbone stitch, is useful for tacking hems and seam allowance. This easy hand sewing stitch keeps a low profile on the front while the zig-zags allow for movement on the back.
Even when you sew clothing or other items with a sewing machine, there are often steps that come out so much better when you hand sew them. These details can truly elevate a project! For these cases, it's good to know a few stitches for the different situations you may encounter. For example, a blind hem stitch is usually ideal for sewing hems, but some fabrics work better when you use a catch stitch to do the same thing. In addition to tacking hems, you can use catch stitch to tack the seam allowance back so it always lays flat.
When you sew stretchy fabric on a sewing machine, it's common to use a zig-zag stitch so that the stitches have some stretch too. Catch stitch works in a similar way. It crisscrosses and gives your stitching enough movement to accommodate for knit fabrics. Catch stitch is also commonly used with heavier fabrics.
Grab a piece of fabric to practice with, and learn this useful hand sewing stitch!
Equipment / Tools
- Hand Sewing Needle
Before you start sewing, choose the correct thread for your project. Match the fibers of the thread to those of your fabric, and try to match the color as closely as possible. In most cases, you can use the same thread you used to sew the rest of your project. For this tutorial, the thread color contrasts so it's easier to see.
You also need to select an appropriate hand sewing needle. Thin, sharp needles are good for fine sewing because they slip through the fabric easily without making large holes in the material. Ideally, the needle and its eye should be just large enough to accommodate your thread.
Fold back the hem or seam allowance that you are sewing or tacking. Be sure to finish the edge either by pressing and folding the edge under twice or by using an edge finish like an overcast stitch, pinking shears, or overlock stitching. This will prevent your fabric from fraying.
Thread a Piece Through Your Needle
Cut a piece of thread that's about the length of your arm and thread it through your needle. A longer length of thread makes it more likely to tangle. Tie a knot at the other end.
Work this stitch from left to right.
Anchor your thread in the folded back fabric edge. You can do this by taking an extra stitch through the fabric. (This anchoring stitch is hidden in the fold in the photo.)
Bring the thread through the folded back fabric. To the right of this and on the back of the outside fabric, make a tiny stitch from right to left. Try to catch only a few threads of the fabric.
Make a Right-to-Left Stitch
To the right of this and on the folded fabric, make a stitch from right to left.
This stitch doesn't need to be as small because it's on the back of the hem or seam. It is a good idea to keep the line of stitching even, both here and on the upper row.
Make Another Stitch
Make another tiny stitch on the upper row, again inserting the needle from right to left.
Stitch on Lower Line
Stitch on the lower line from right to left.
With each stitch, pull the thread through all the way, but don't pull it too tight. Of course, you don't want the fabric to pucker, but you also want the zig-zags to have some give and movement.
Repeat the steps as you continue sewing along the hem. Try to keep the stitches evenly spaced. For this example, the stitches form a shallow zig-zag, but you can make them closer together if you need more stitches or to avoid these longer bits of thread that may catch on things.
Ironically, catch stitches can get caught on the inside of your project, which is why this is a good option for things like skirts or coats with a lining. The lining offers a bit of extra protection for your hem or seam.
On the right side of your garment or another type of sewing project, you should only see tiny stitches. They'll be all but invisible with matching thread!