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What Is Reverse Stitching

Most professional sewers tend to reinforce the beginning and end of their seam using various types of stitch patterns. The most common type is the backstitch which can either be done by hand or with the help of a sewing machine. The sewing machine has an inbuilt feature called the reverse stitch that performs the function of back stitching. This type of stitch ensures that your fabric doesn’t unravel or lose shape at the seam. I have put this article together to explain the working mechanism of a reverse stitch and its advantages.

What Is Reverse Stitching?

This type of stitch can be briefly defined as a feature on sewing machines that allows sewers to back up over stitches they have originally made. If you have just completed a seam, the ends of the seam are the most vulnerable parts of the machine-sewn seam, therefore the need to use the reverse stitch button on the machine to reinforce them.

How to Do Reverse Stitching?

Although the process of machine sewing a fabric or a different project is fast, sturdy and safe compared to hand sewing, but the weakness lies in the first and last stitches sewn by the sewing machine. This is the main reason for the integration of the reverse stitch feature on the sewing machine. The act of using a reverse stitch is called backstitching. 

Backstitching is achieved by sewing at the beginning and end of a seam back and forth, on top of the seam stitches, to keep the stitching from being unravelled.

The backstitch is usually done by hand while the reverse stitch feature is enabled on the sewing machine. For some sewing machine types, the reverse stitch function is a button, while it’s a switch in others.

Below is a brief look into the working mechanism of the reverse stitch feature;

Mechanisms for reverse stitching are most commonly found at the front of the unit, either at the middle of the faceplate, above the needle or at the left-hand end. Such mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes. It is advisable to consult with your manufacturer’s manual to find your own type and position. 

Once you select the feature, all you need to do is leave the needle down and change the position of the fabric and begin stitching. Also, make sure that the presser foot is down to avoid bunching up.

Here are basic steps to do a backstitch using the reverse stitching feature;

  • Place the entire piece of fabric under the presser foot when starting a seam, with the fabric aligned with your seam guide and the back of the presser foot.
  • Try to identify your reverse stitch knob, button or switch. Slowly depress the sewing pedal to launch the reverse stitch, keeping the reverse switch pressed down. Go very slowly, because the reverse stitches are most often just a few stitches in length.
  • Sew some stitches. Sew up a sequence of four or five reverse stitches to lock in any seamed edge. Reverse over the region you want to be strengthened to create a seam for handles or ties. Stop stitching when the needle is down.
  • Turn the reverse stitch function off. Wind down the sewing pedal slowly, and continue sewing as you would normally sew over the reverse stitches. Remove the sewing machine from your project and cut off any excess threads. Ensure to press your seam and also apply a seam finish.

Backstitches are not only useful at the end of seams, you could also use the back stitch in the middle of a seam. If you need to tear out a stitch area with your seam ripper to correct a mistake, you may now want to stitch back over the previous stitching to keep these stitches from falling out. Often when I sew a curve I get a pucker of fabric and instead of taking the whole seam out and stitching it all over again, I simply have to take out enough stitches to fix the pucker and resew the area again.

The reverse stitch also has an opposite number in the sewing machine called the lock stitch.  This features stitches forward and backwards on your seam but not repeatedly unlike the reverse stitch.

Difference Between Reverse Stitch and Lockstitch

Trying to reduce fabric bulks is a sewers issue. Even though we don’t think of thread as being bulky in itself but the side-effect of stitching a thread over another or too many lines of seams on top one another is a lump that can be felt on the fabric and this can be so bulky that it ruins the whole project. This issues is usually caused by backstitching.  When stitching on very lightweight or sheer cloth, several layers of thread are of particular concern, simply because the bulk is much more evident. This is where the lockstitch feature can be very useful. 

Lock stitches are often used on sheer fabrics and other fabrics that appear to have a large amount of sweeping drape, since back-stitch can interfere with the natural structure of the fabric.

The lockstitch can be done using the lockstitch feature on your sewing machine, if by any chance, yours doesn’t have this feature, then you can manually apply the lockstitch finish by by decreasing the length of the stitch and stitching two or four stitches at the same location or jamming the sewing machine.

The points below  highlights the basic differences between the lockstitch and Reverse stitch;

  • For the lockstitch, it takes two types of thread to make it, they include the bobbin thread, and the needle thread. While the reverse stitch is done using two or more threads namely the looper thread and the needle thread.
  • The lockstitch doesn’t consume a lot of thread like the reverse stitch.
  • The threads in lockstitch are held together by interlacing while for reverse stitches, the threads are held together by both interlacing and interloping.

Another simple and manual way to secure the seam stitch is by preventing the sewing machine from leaving a thread tail at the seam end. Pull one of the thread tails to the back, and firmly knot the thread tail to the fabric. In all, choosing any stitching technique is solely dependent on the type of fabric you are working on and more importantly, if your sewing machine has such feature enabled.

How To Do A Reverse Stitch By Hand

If you need to work on a small project which doesn’t necessarily require the help of a sewing machine, especially if you don’t have access to it. Then it is imperative that you know how to do a reverse stitch by hand to reinforce the beginning and the end of your fabrics. 

Here is how to go about it:

  • Thread a needle with a thread not lengthier than one yard. Ensure to double the thread and knot the two ends together for strong finish.
  • Next, mark the stitching line with a thin pencil line to keep the seam as straight and as clean as possible. Measure the seam allowance for curves, and make short marks along the seam to use as guide.
  • Start stitching through the point of entry, For the best backstitch, put the needle back through both layers of fabric just in front of the previous stitch. This style ensures that your stitching resembles a machine sewn stitch.
  • Move the needle back through the fabric to make the first threading, between where the needle came in and out of the fabric. Continue that way by pushing the needle out the way it came in. This stitches can be together or separated.
  • When a reverse stitch has been sewn you can see that the threads overlap on the fabric’s reverse side. Ensure to sew tiny stitches to secure your seam. For example, in a pair of tight pants a fabric seam such as a crotch seam requires solid, reliable seams.

The steps highlighted above puts you on track to doing a reverse stitch if you ever have to. 

Another notable and common way to secure your stitch by pressing them. This is entirely different from ironing which requires you to move your iron over the area of the fabric you need to press or the entire geometry. In pressing, you place a load on the fabric’s end stitches simultanously for an amount of time. Essentially, pushing the stitches locks them into the fabric and makes it less likely they will fall apart.

Related Questions

Do you bind off on right or wrong side?

You can bind off on both sides of your fabric depending on the pattern. But the most common technique is binding off on the right side. You’d work purl stitches on the bind and the right side of your work to show a knitted bind pattern.

What is a Kitchener Stitch?

The Kitchener stitch (also referred to as “grafting”) involves sewing together two fabric edges still attached to the needle without forming a ridge — or without causing a break in the stitching.

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