Sewing Glossary

How to Back Stitch

September 5, 2023 by

A backstitch is led by setting the needle back of the end of the last stitch, then bringing it out in front of the end. Basically, a stitch in which the thread is doubled back on the preceding stitch.

The backstitch tends to be quite tight and locked stitch, making it appear very neat.

These stitches form lines and are most often used to outline shapes as it adds fine decoration to an embroidered picture.

It is commonly used both in embroidery art and in cross-stitch projects to add details to designs, or used to portray greetings by stitching words and letters.

Backstitch is the basic stage for beginners to learn which is fairly easy to do once learned. Also, various kinds of applique can be done through backstitch.

It’s basically to sew with stitches overlapping with each other, done in a typical direction of sewing.

The easiest tip to start a backstitch can be done by using a short-length needle, (1.25 in (3.2 cm) long) also use a shorter hole in the needle and not an elongated one.

An elongated hole will make thread insertion more difficult. It will be easier to practice in an embroidery hoop but fix your fabric evenly and remove any creases.

Take a pencil or fabric chalk and ruler, then draw a straight line on the fabric. Then sew according to that chalked line you have marked already.

You can do backstitch in curve lines or a circular shape but if for the first time then start with a square marked line.

It is instructed to do the backstitch going from right to left and left to right. Try to do both ways. Practice on a small square of cotton using different needles.

Examples of backstitch include basic outlining hand embroidery, cross-stitch, and sewing stitch, and also in Assisi embroidery as well as occasionally in blackwork.

It is the first kind of stitch to learn when learning embroidery. It is used as a base for embellishment as in Pekinese stitch.

Backstitch is typically used for hand sewing, by attaching two pieces of fabric and stitching them together. Backstitch is also commonly used for embroidered lettering.

You can start by choosing a thread, needle, and a piece of cotton fabric.

Materials Needed:

  • Fabric or material to be sewn
  • Needle
  • Thread
Table of Contents

1. Thread the Needle

Cut a length of thread (usually about 18 inches long) and thread it through the eye of the needle.

Knot the end of the thread to secure it.

2. Position the Fabric

Align the two pieces of fabric you want to sew together. Place them with the right sides (the sides that will be visible) facing each other.

3. Start the First Stitch

Insert the needle from the wrong side (the side that won’t be visible) of the fabric to the right side, bringing it up through the fabric.

4. Create the First Stitch

Pull the needle and thread through the fabric until the knot at the end of the thread stops it on the right side of the fabric.

This creates your first stitch.

5. Form the Second Stitch (Backstitch)

Insert the needle back into the fabric, starting slightly ahead of the end of the first stitch (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch or as desired).

Bring the needle up through the fabric, so it exits slightly behind the end of the first stitch.

6. Pull the Thread Tight

Pull the thread and needle through the fabric until the stitch is snug but not too tight. The goal is to create a continuous, even line of stitches.

7. Repeat the Process

Continue this process of stitching back and then stitching forward, keeping the stitches close together, to form a continuous line of stitches.

8. Finish the Backstitch

To finish your backstitch, make a small backstitch at the end of your seam. This means stitching backward one more time before tying off the thread.

9. Tie Off the Thread

To secure your stitching, create a knot by making a small loop with the needle and pulling the thread through the loop. Repeat this process once or twice.

Trim any excess thread.

To see it in action, we recommend this video by Red Ted Art:

The main necessity of the backstitch is to sew strong seams without a sewing machine. It is also used as an alternative to machine sewing because it gives a neat look.

Apart, it is stronger than the simple running stitch. However, it requires more time but can be carried out in a quick manner.

When hand sewing, backstitch can be used for decorative things as they can form outlines or shapes.

For example, most commonly used to create tiny stitches in embroidered floss for dolls’ face-like eyelashes shape and smiling outline.

Also, back stitches are required doing multiple chores such as repairing seams, hand sewing applique, and even attaching a zipper.

It is also needed when attaching two pieces of fabric together.

The reason to name it backstitch, is as the needle is inserted into the fabric mainly behind the thread of the preceding stitch.

Hence it is conducted by the insertion of thread backward than the usual forward stitch.

A running stitch is made by inserting the needle into the fabric in front of the thread from the previous stitch.

Whereas in backstitch stitches are sewn backward to the direction of the sewing. It is continuously completed without any spaces.

What is a back stitch on a sewing machine?

A back stitch on a sewing machine is a function that allows the sewer to create a row of stitches that go back and forth in the same spot. This helps to reinforce the beginning and end of a seam, preventing it from unraveling or coming apart over time.

Do all sewing machines have a back stitch?

Not all sewing machines have a back stitch function, but it is a common feature on many modern machines. Some older or basic models may not have this function, but most machines designed for home use will have a back stitch option.

Is straight stitch the same as back stitch?

No, a straight stitch and a back stitch are not the same. A straight stitch is a basic stitch that goes in a straight line, while a back stitch is a stitch that goes back and forth in the same spot, helping to secure the beginning and end of a seam.