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  • December 15, 2023 6 min read

    Sewing and stitching is a valuable skill set. It allows you to do quick fixes and even make full-scale outfits for yourself. If you have a love for all things sewing, the first step along the way is to understand the various types of stitching.

    Both manual and machine-based stitches present their own merits. In addition, understanding which stitching type works best for different fabrics and clothes is the first step in the sewing journey.

    To help you understand the basics, we have outlined this guide. Be it a simple straight stitch in a sewing machine or running stitches by hand- we have got it all covered!

    Types of Stitching Methods

    When it comes to stitching, there are two primary types of stitching methods- sewing with a machine and sewing by hand.

    Machine sewing is faster and ideal for bulk or large-scale projects. If you are looking for a quick fix, small sewing projects, or occasion indulgence, sewing by hand is a viable and economical option. However, it is expected to be more time-consuming than quick machine sewing cycles.

    Both can deliver excellent results, depending upon the skill of the user. In the next section, we will talk about different types of stitches in both hand and machine variants. 

    Different Styles of Stitching Using Machines

    Here are the most commonly used types of stitching done with a sewing machine: 

    • Straight Stitch- Basic Stitch Type for Beginners
    • Zig-zag Stitch- Ideal for Stretchy fabric
    • Overlock Stitch- Hemming Basics
    • Buttonhole Stitch- Make Buttonholes With Ease
    • Blind Hem Stitch- The Finishing Touch
    • Blind Hem Stitch- The Finishing Touch

    Let's dive deeper into them. 

    Straight Stitch- Basic Stitch Type for Beginners

    This stitching type is used for sewing seams, hems, and topstitching. It is also often used for finishing edges. They're simple rows of closely spaced stitches. It works well on different fabrics.

    You can also adjust the stitch length for different fabrics or decorative looks. If you are learning it, try testing this on a fabric scrap (2.5 for light to medium-weight cotton) first. You need to place the fabric correctly under the machine's foot.

    Check the machine tension by checking the machine tension to ensure your stitches look nice and even on both sides. 

    Zig-zag Stitch- Ideal for Stretchy fabric

    Zig Zag Stitch

    This stitching pattern runs in a zig-zag format. You will notice zig-zag stitches in the elastic section of the legs and neck in leotards or swimwear. It is ideal for hemming stretchy or loosely woven fabrics apart from sewing elastic.

    While making zig-zag stitches, the machine's foot moves left and right while you move the fabric. This makes the stitch go from side to side in different widths and lengths. You can adjust the machine to make the zig-zag narrower or wider.

    Overlock Stitch- Hemming Basics

    Over lock Stitch

    Overlock stitches are perfect for neat finishing the edges of the fabric. You'll often notice this stitch on branded clothes. Professionals use special machines called overlockers or sergers for this stitch type.

    These machines cut the fabric's edge as they go and create a smooth edge close to the stitching. Even if you don't have an overlocker, a regular sewing machine can still do the job.

    However, it will only lack the cutting function. Some regular machines have special foot attachments. This prevents the fabric from rolling up and looking messy.

    Buttonhole Stitch- Make Buttonholes With Ease

    Buttonhole Stitch

    Buttonhole stitches are for creating buttonholes. Imagine the buttonhole on a shirt – it needs to be stitched all around to prevent fraying or tearing. While this might seem challenging on a sewing machine, machines come with special attachments that make the process easier.

    With the buttonhole foot attachment, you can adjust it to the right size for your buttons. Instead of sewing around an already cut buttonhole, a better method is to sew the buttonhole stitches in place.

    Then, you need to snip the fabric open in the middle afterward to create a hole for your button to slip into. The buttonhole stitch closely resembles a very narrow zig-zag stitching pattern

    Blind Hem Stitch- The Finishing Touch

    Blindhem stitch

    Blind hem stitch sewing is visible only on one side, which gives a neat finish. Ideal for giving a neat touch on certain clothing types like jacket collars and cuffs, blind hems keep the stitch hidden on the outside.

    Although a bit tricky on a sewing machine, you can successfully create this stitch by being careful and going slowly to keep it concealed on the outside.

    It involves a varying-width zig-zag stitch and is often pre-set on most machines. For this stitch, you will have to use a specialized presser foot called the blind hem foot.

    Different Styles of Stitches By Hands

    Hand sewing is usually slower compared to machine stitching, but it offers a neater and more precise finish, especially for small areas.

    Check out these popular types of stitches for sewing with hands:

    • Running Stitch- Beginner's Basics
    • Backstitch- Simple Lines With Neat Look
    • Whip Stitch- Essential for Knitting, Crocheting, or Edging Wool
    • Catch Stitch: Ideal for Making Neat Hems on Non-Stretchy Fabric
    • Chain Stitch: Embroidery Basics
    • Ladder Stitch: Ideal for Closing Seams or Securing Fabric

    Let's dive deeper into them

    Running Stitch- Beginner's Basics

    Running stitch

    It is a simple up-and-down stitch that works well for many fabrics except slippery or stretchy fabrics. In this method, you put the needle in and out of the fabric to make the same size stitches. 

    Backstitch- Simple Lines With Neat Look

    Back stitch

    The backstitch is like the running stitch, but you go back over the stitch you've just made to remove gaps in the fabric between stitches. Backstitch looks neater when the stitch is visible on the outside of a garment. It also delivers extra strength for hems.

    Whip Stitch- Essential for Knitting, Crocheting, or Edging Wool

    Whip Stitch

    Whip stitches are ideal for quick edge finishing. It hems thick fabric or joins two pieces together. Unlike the running or back stitch, it covers the fabric's edge and seals in loose fibers.

    This stitch is excellent for attaching pieces of knitting or crocheting but not for very stretchy fabrics.

    Catch Stitch: Ideal for Making Neat Hems on Non-Stretchy Fabric

    Catch Stitch

    The catch stitch is nearly invisible on the outside if you stitch it neatly in a matching color. It's ideal for hemming or joining fabric.

    It often goes by names like herringbone. But confuse it with fishbone-like sewing stitching styles in embroidery.

    Chain Stitch: Embroidery Basics

    Chain Stitch

    Chain stitch is usually for embroidery but works for general sewing, too. It forms a chain of stitches, creating chunky lines. It's great for decorative outlines on clothes, like pockets or cuffs.

    Ladder Stitch: Ideal for Closing Seams or Securing Fabric

    Ladder Stitch

    The ladder stitch is almost invisible and used for closing seams or attaching fabric, like on handmade teddy bears. It's intricate and only done by hand. This stitch type involves stitching into the crease of folded and pressed fabric for an invisible join.


    In the world of stitch sewing, these are just a few examples of different styles of stitches. As you become proficient in these basic stitching types, you can further enhance your skills by exploring more varieties.

    To finish up, we've gathered some additional info in the form of frequently asked questions. Check it out to sweeten your knowledge!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What is Blanket Stitch? Is it done by hand?

    Yes! Blanket Stitch is one of the hand-done types of stitch sewing. As the name suggests, it is ideal for finishing edges on thick fabric like a blanket. This larger stitch is often done with wool or thick thread. It works well for materials like wool or felt.

    It involves sewing even stitches at a right angle to the fabric's edge and looping the thread along the outside for a neat finish. Besides edging blankets, it's commonly used in applique. 

    • Can I Create Buttonholes Without Using Sewing Machines?

    Yes, of course! You can make buttonholes with hand stitches. Hand-stitched buttonholes look different from machine-stitched ones but serve the same purpose – preventing fraying around a buttonhole.

    Hand-stitched buttonholes are like smaller blanket stitches. The buttonhole stitch is also used in embroidery, though not usually around an opening like a buttonhole.

    • What is a Lock Stitch?

    Some computerized sewing machines come with a special feature called lock stitch. It forms or ends a seam with a few small stitches, so you don't have to do the usual backward stitching.

    • What is a Basting/Gathering Stitch?

    A basting or gathering stitch is a simple stitch you can easily pull out. It's not as tight as regular types of stitching. It's looser and spaced out, which makes it easier to remove.

    You can use this stitch when you're temporarily sewing fabric pieces together. Later on, you can finish it with another type of machine or hand stitch. It's handy for testing sizing, and you can adjust the stitches later if needed.

    • What are some of the examples of decorative machine stitches?

    Fancy stitches on the sewing machine aren't for regular sewing; they're for adding some embroidery effect. Different machines have different types of sewing stitches, including Basting/Gathering Stitches and Lock Stitches.

    Check your sewing machine manual for a list of different styles of stitches and how to use them.