Back-stitching… what is it and why do we need it? In the process of learning how to sew, back-stitching is probably one of the first terms you’ve heard. Back-stitching is the act of stitching backwards on a sewing machine or by hand in order to lock the stitch in place so that it doesn’t unravel or come apart with use. It is perhaps one of the most important habits you should develop as a dressmaker/seamstress. The devil is in the details and this is certainly a detail that matters in the sewing process. The good news is that once you get into the habit of back-stitching at the beginning and/or end of a stitch you will start doing it automatically, without thinking.
So why is back-stitching important anyways? Back-stitching contributes to the durability of a clothing item. It is not a secret that our clothing goes through a lot of push and pull throughout its lifetime. From stretching, to constant washing and drying and exposure to all the daily elements that contribute to a garment’s age, we can all agree that clothing has a pretty stressful life. By blocking stitches from coming apart with use, back-stitching is able to lengthen a garment’s life span. A simple locking of a stitch can make the difference between good and bad quality when it comes to apparel.
Back-stitching also facilitates the sewing process. When you’re sewing and putting all the pieces of fabric together, you often find yourself matching up seams and pulling on them in the stitching process. You need to iron every seam as you sew it which requires you to put some strain on the seam by ironing the excess down the middle or to a particular side. When your seams are back-stitched, you can pull and adjust them easily without having to worry about anything coming undone in the process. Having stitch stability in your seams is very important in sewing comfortably and efficiently. You’ll have to do a lot less damage control later on if all the seams are securely held in place during the sewing process.
How to Backstitch Using a Sewing Machine
Back-stitching On An Industrial Sewing Machine: If you own an industrial sewing machine, your sewing is most likely advanced enough to know how to do a back-stitch on it. However, even as a beginner you should be able to recognize the back-stitching "button" on any sewing machine. It is for this reason we'll show you this simple process on both an industrial and home sewing machine. The first thing you'll notice is that even though these two types of machines come from two different families, the back-stitching button looks and works almost identically.
To back-stitch on an industrial machine, press and hold down on the back-stitching button and press on the foot control. You will notice your machine will start sewing backwards. Maintain the fabric straight so that the backwards stitch goes right on top of the forward stitch you sewed previously. Let go of the foot control and back-stitch button once the backwards stitch reaches anywhere from 1/2-3/4" in average length. For added security you may sew another regular straight stitch on top of the back-stitching.
Back-Stitching On a Home Sewing Machine: You'll be pleasantly surprised to find out that back-stitching on a home sewing machine is an identical process to that of an industrial sewing machine. This means that you'll be able to recognize the back-stitching button as well as know how to use it on any type of sewing machine you might end up working with in the future- With back-stitching, you wont need to re-learn anything so you can focus on perfecting it!
Just like in the steps described above, you will need to hold down the reverse stitch button while pressing the foot control. This will get the machine to start sewing backwards. As described above, hold the fabric still so that the back stitch goes on top of the existing forward stitch- this will lock the sew line in place and create that durable finish you want.
Back-Stitching By Hand:
You might be asking yourself- why would I need to back-stitch by hand if I can do it on the machine? Well, there are a few instances when back-stitching by hand will certainly come in handy. When you're working with very delicate, thin fabrics like silks and chiffon, back-stitching on the sewing machine can be too rough and disruptive to these fine weaves. Back-stitching on delicate fabrics can cause them to bunch-up or even tear (if your machine needle isn't sharp enough). In this case, it is best to use the loose ends of your machine stitch threads to back-stitch by hand with a hand sewing needle. In addition, if you simply forget to back-stitch at the end of a straight stitch and you've already cut the threads, you can always back-stitch by hand to fix the problem!
Step 1: Once you've completed your regular straight stitch on the sewing machine, leave yourself some extra thread length to work with for back-stitching. You will use one of the two extra threads with a hand-sewing needle to lock the stitch in place by hand.
Step 2: Thread a hand sewing needle with one of the two loose threads.
Step 3: Apply a small stitch, about 1/8" in length to the area where the machine stitch ends and the thread connects.
Use the images bellow as a guide
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 but this time, sew directly on top of the hand-sewn stitch you just applied.
Sew in place by continuing this step for an additional 5 or 6 stitches until the machine straight stitch is locked in place. See the Image bellow for what the final hand-sewn back-stitch should look like.
Step 5: Use a sharp pair of scissors to trim the excess threads close to the back-stitch as displayed bellow.
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