How to Finish a Stitch in Hand Sewing

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Have you been doing some hand sewing and aren’t 100% sure how to finish a stitch as you near the end of the thread?

If so, you’re in the right place!

You’ll learn multiple ways to securely tie off a thread in hand sewing. In addition, I’ll show you two ways to make sure your finishing knots don’t come undone.

Just So You Know: I’m right-handed and don’t know if my tutorials will work for those of you who are left-handed. Still, I encourage you to take a look at the videos and photos. Hopefully, the technique will be something you can use.

Sanity Saver: When you’re hand sewing, it’s common for the thread to get twisted and become difficult to work with. If this happens to you, hold up the project and let the needle and thread dangle. The thread will unwind but the needle may fall off the thread so keep an eye on it.

Needles and Thread

To keep this post focused on helping you learn how to finish a stitch at the end of a thread, I don’t talk in-depth about selecting needles and thread for your project.

However, these are two important factors in hand sewing.

Needles

If you have questions or want to learn about hand sewing needles, check out the Hand Needle Guide from Joann.com.

It features photos and descriptions of 14 different hand sewing needles, as well as needle threaders, thimbles, and a couple of other hand sewing tools.

Thread

Does thread have you confused?

According to this sewingpartsonline.com article Thread Mastery: A Guide to Understanding Thread, an all-purpose thread is what you’ll use 95% of the time. It is good for all weights of fabric and is usually made from polyester or cotton.

The Thread Mastery Guide is very in-depth and provides A LOT of information. If you want to learn more about thread, it’s a great resource to read and bookmark for future reference.

Books for Your Library

The above-linked resources on needles and thread are free, but if you are looking for some excellent books to add to your sewing library, I recommend the following two books.

The book Know Your Needles by Liz Kettle

Know Your Needles by Liz Kettle is a pocket-sized resource that provides easy-to-consume information about both machine and hand sewing needles.

For each needle, photos are included along with details such as fabrics, threads, sizes, and tasks that are appropriate for the needle.

There are 13 sewing machine needles and 17 hand sewing needles featured in this book.

Book - The Ultimate Thread Guide by Becky Goldsmith

The Ultimate Thread Guide by Becky Goldsmith lives up to its subtitle Everything You Need to Know to Choose the Perfect Thread for Every Project.

My favorite part of this book is the section on thread manufacturers. There are 14 manufacturers presented in the book and each has a 2 page spread giving a snapshot of their threads at the time of the book’s printing (2019).

A chart is part of the snapshot and is a quick reference of the different threads that include the name of the thread, fiber, weight/ply, use, and needle size.

In addition, there are several chapters to help you build foundational knowledge about threads.

Tips to Finish a Stitch Successfully

Regardless of how you tie off a stitch, there are some things you want to keep in mind.

  • Leave enough thread to comfortably execute the tie off method with some thread leftover after you’re done. (I usually leave between 4″ – 6″ depending on the length of my needle.)
  • After making the knot but before cutting the thread, bury or weave it through the fabric or stitches on the backside of the project.
  • New to hand sewing and unsure of how to tie knots?
    • Consider getting a scrap of fabric or make a scrap quilt sandwich.
    • Do several lines of running stitches.
    • Practice the different ways to tie knots at the end of a thread until you are comfortable.
A scrap quilt sandwich
Use scraps to make a quilt sandwich and practice knot tying. Sew a piece of batting between two pieces of fabric. Sew a few rows of stitches to hold them together.

Before showing you multiple techniques to tie off a thread, let me tell you about the 2 additional steps I usually take to make sure my knots and hand sewing don’t come undone.

  • Bury the Thread
  • Weave the Thread

These methods are done after tying the knot.

And, to be honest, they aren’t necessary.

However, if you want some peace of mind that the hand sewing you’ve done will stay and your knots aren’t going anywhere, consider burying or weaving the thread if it makes sense on your project.

I bury or weave the thread because:

  • It keeps me from cutting too close to the knot and accidentally clipping it undoing all of my work.
  • Adds another layer of security.

Bury the Thread

If the location of the knot will get a lot of use or friction, burying the thread is one way to go…if there is a place to bury it.

You bury the thread after you make the knot.

How to Bury the Thread

If the project has multiple layers of fabric like a quilt or pillow, you’ll be able to bury the thread.

After tying the knot to finish the stitch, insert the needle close to the knot and between the layers for about an inch.

Push needle in seam by the knot.
Bring the needle out about an inch from the knot.

Pull the needle and thread through and clip the thread near the fabric layer. Be careful not to cut the fabric.

Clip the thread.

If a tip of the thread shows, adjust the fabric layers until it slips in between them.

Weave the Thread

If the hand sewing is on a project with a single layer of fabric, you can weave the thread through the stitches after making the knot.

I do this for the same reason I bury the thread…I don’t want to accidentally cut off the knot and have may work come undone.

How to Weave the Thread Through Stitches

After tying the knot on the wrong side of the fabric, weave the needle in and out through 3-4 stitches.

weave through stitches away from the knot

Pull the thread.

pull the thread

Turn the needle back toward the knot and weave it back and forth through the same stitches.

Weave back through the stitches toward the knot

Pull the thread and clip it.

Clip the thread

How to Weave the Thread through Fabric

After tying the knot on the wrong side of the fabric, weave the needle in and out a few times away from the knot through a section of the fabric that won’t be visible (under a binding, inside a seam, etc.)

Turn the needle and weave back through the fabric toward the knot. Cut the thread.

Weave the thread through extra fabric
A – the knot B – weave away from the knot C – weave toward the knot D – cut the thread

The woven thread lines are roughly parallel to each other.

How to Finish a Stitch in Hand Sewing

Whether you’ve been doing the ladder stitch, running stitch, blind stitch, or whip stitch, at some point you’ll need to tie off the thread.

When you do, it’s important to feel confident that it won’t come undone.

There are 3 ways I use to finish a stitch and secure the thread when I’m hand sewing:

  • Loop through an existing stitch
  • Backstitch
  • Hide the knot

Each finishing method will hold the thread and your hand sewing secure, but for a little extra security, you can bury the thread or weave it as described above.

One method of tying off a thread isn’t better than another method. Use which one makes sense to you based on the hand stitch you’re doing.

Video Tutorials

There are videos included in each section of the stitch finishing methods so you can see them in action.

In addition, toward the bottom of the post, I included a video that shows how to tie off 4 basic stitches ( ladder stitch, running stitch, blind stitch, and whip stitch) in multiple mock projects.

You’ll be able to see the finishing methods more than once as well as how to bury and weave the thread before cutting it.

No matter what type of stitch you need to tie off, you’ll be prepared to make a knot that won’t come undone.

Method One – Loop Through an Existing Stitch

This method works anytime you have a stitch you can pass the needle under.

1: Slide the needle under an existing stitch.

Pass needle under a stitch.

2: Pull it through to make a loop.

Pull needle to make a loop

3: Pass the needle through the loop.

Pass needle through the loop

4: Pull the needle to close the loop and make a knot.

Pull thread to make a knot.

5: Repeat under the same stitch to make a second knot for added security.

A second knot was made.

6: Cut the thread.

Remember: You can bury or weave the thread for additional assurance the knot won’t come undone.

Watch the Video – Make a Loop Through and Existing Stitch

Method Two – Backstitch

The backstitch is a good method to use if a knot will make a lump and show on the project or leave an indention after pressing. (If this is the case for your project, I don’t recommend weaving the thread after backstitching.)

There are several versions of the backstitch but I’m going to show you two variations.

Important: When done correctly, the backstitch is under the last stitch on the front of the project. It should be difficult to see.

Both are done on the wrong side of the fabric.

Each version is made by inserting the needle at a point behind where the thread emerges.

Version One: Single Backstitch

1: From the wrong or backside, insert the needle through all fabric layers in the same place the prior stitch ended.

Insert needle from wrong side of the fabric.

2: Bring the needle back up at a point behind where the thread emerges.

Bring needle up through fabric

Note: A shorter backstitch is more secure.

3: Pull the thread through locking the stitch in place

Pull the thread through.

4: Cut the thread.

Cut the thread.
View of the back of the single backstitch.
The front view of the single backstitch.
View of the front of the single backstitch.

Watch the Video – Single Backstitch

Don’t Forget: When done correctly, the backstitch is under the last stitch on the front of the project. It should be difficult to see.

Remember: You can weave the thread for additional assurance that the knot won’t come undone if doing so won’t leave a bump in the project.

Version Two: Backstitch with a Loop

This version of the backstitch adds an additional layer of security.

1: Take a short backstitch behind where the thread emerges. Don’t pull the thread all the way through. Leave a loop.

Take a short backstitch where the arrow is pointing.
Take a short backstitch in the space the arrow is pointing.
Taking a small backstitch.
I’m taking the backstitch. See the tip of the needle next to my left thumb?
Make a loop
The arrow is pointing to the loop that was made from the backstitch. The other loop is a result of a twisted thread.

2: Take another small backstitch on top of the first but not in the same holes.

Take another backstitch
Tip: Hold the loop under your thumb.

3: Bring the needle and thread through the loop.

Bring the needle and thread through the loop.

4: Pull the thread until both stitches are flush against the fabric. Clip the thread.

Pull the thread until loops are flat.
Pull the thread.
Completed backstitch with a loop
This is the view of the backstitch made with a loop on the back of the quilt sandwich.

Don’t Forget: When done correctly, the backstitch is under the last stitch on the front of the project. It should be difficult to see.

Front view of a backstitch with a loop
This is another practice sample of the backstitch with a loop. The arrow is pointing to the stitch the backstitch is under.

Watch the Video – Backstitch with a Loop

Method Three – Hide the Knot

Hiding the knot method is usually used in quilting projects because knots can be unsightly.

Since both sides of quilts are visible it makes sense to not want any knots.

Important: Hiding the knot should only be done with one strand of thread. This way when the knot is pulled through the fabric, the hole it leaves is tiny.

1: Hold the needle in one hand and the thread close to the fabric in the other. Bring the needle in next to the thread.

Hold needle and thread. One in each hand.

2: Wrap the thread around the needle twice counterclockwise.

Wrap thread around needle twice.

3: Working close to the fabric, hold the thread taut so the loops around the needle don’t come undone.

Hold the thread taut.

4: Insert the point of the needle close to where the last stitch ended pushing it between the layers of fabric/batting about an inch. Still hold the thread taut.

Insert needle close to where the thread is coming out of the fabric.

5: Bring the needle back up through the top of the fabric. Keep the thread taut.

Bring needle back to the top of the fabric.

6: Pull the needle through. The loops will fall off the end of the needle and be right next to the fabric.

Pull the needle through.

7: Slowly pull the thread until all of the thread has been pulled through and the loops are resting right against the hole in the fabric. The loops have formed a knot.

Pull the thread until the loops form a knot.

8: Tug firmly on the thread until the knot “pops” and goes through the first fabric layer into the batting. You may need to tug a few times until it pops. Caution: If you tug too hard, you could rip a hole in the fabric.

Tug on the tread until the knot pops underneath the first fabric layer.

9: Clip the thread.

Watch the Video – Hide the Knot

Video – How to Finish 4 Different Stitches in Multiple Mock Projects

Now you know multiple ways to tie off threads and a couple of techniques for an additional layer of security to your hand stitching.

Do you want to know what these methods look like on projects?

In the video below, I demonstrate how to tie off 4 basic stitches ( ladder stitch, running stitch, blind stitch, and whip stitch) in several mock projects.

As you watch the video, remember, one method of tying off a thread isn’t better than another method. Use which one makes sense to you based on the hand stitch you’re doing.

  • Introduction
  • 1:39 – Finish the ladder stitch in a pillow by looping an existing stitch and burying the thread.
  • 3:24 – Finish the running stitch in decorative stitching by looping an existing stitch and weaving the thread.
  • 5:26 – Tie off the blind stitch in applique with looping an existing stitch and weaving the thread.
  • 7:17 – Tie off the blind stitch in applique with hiding the knot.
  • 9:40 – Tie off the blind stitch in a hem with a combination of the backstitch and looping an existing stitch then burying the thread
  • 11:30 – Finish the whip stitch by looping an existing stitch and burying the thread.
  • 12:37 – Finish the whip stitch on a label by looping an existing stitch and burying the thread.
  • 14:20 – Finish the blind stitch in a binding by doing a single backstitch and weaving the thread.
  • 15:33 – Finish the blind stitch in a binding by hiding the knot.

Note: I took my own advice and went with the method that made sense to me as I tied off the stitches in the video. My intent was to use all the methods, however, the backstitch with a loop didn’t get used.

Hand Sewing for Beginners

There are several basic hand stitches you need to know. Sometimes hand stitching does the job better than your sewing machine or it allows you to do something your sewing machine can’t.

The type of stitch really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

I created a series of picture and video tutorials to demonstrate hand sewing techniques you should know:

You can see all the above lessons in one place at Types of Hand Stitches: a Guide for Beginners.

Projects With Hand Sewing

Most of the sewing projects featured on The Ruffled Purse require the use of a sewing machine.

The projects below need a little hand sewing, too.

Looking for some projects that require only hand sewing? Check out the following posts:

Embroidery Books

The ability to hand sew can be used with a variety of sewing interests such as mending, quilting, clothing, and embroidery.

If you’re interested in embroidery, there are a couple of books you need to check out. Both are part of my own personal sewing library.

Two books with embroidery projects

Doodle-Stitching by Aimee Ray starts off with more than 20 pages of information to get you started with embroidery including a stitch library, materials and tools, and sewing essentials.

Then there are almost 30 fun projects with detailed directions to get you started on incorporating embroidery into all kinds of sewing and quilting projects.

Patchwork Loves Embroidery by Gail Pan has a few pages of general instructions and visuals of how to do basic embroidery stitches.

The best part of Patchwork Loves Embroidery is how most of the projects combine hand stitching with quilting.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

Make sure you sign up for Snappy Scissors (my FREE newsletter sent directly to your inbox) for ongoing sewing inspiration and education. You can find the sign-up box at the bottom of the post.

Also, like or follow The Ruffled Purse® on Facebook. This is another way to stay up-to-date on the fun things going on at The Ruffled Purse.

You can even follow me on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube! 😊

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