How to End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

Sewing is much more than a craft. It’s a creative expression that brings life and longevity to fabrics. Embracing a sewing machine into my home marked the beginning of an adventurous journey into the world of fabrics and threads.

The myriad of stitches, each with its unique purpose, initially seemed daunting but soon became second nature with practice and patience.

Among the array of stitches, mastering the end stitch was a pivotal moment for me. It’s a fundamental technique that secures the end of a seam, ensuring the longevity and neatness of your work.

Without a properly executed end stitch, even the most beautifully crafted garment can unravel, diminishing the effort put into it. The end stitch, often overlooked, is the unsung hero of sewing, offering a strong and secure finish to every project.

As I navigated through the learning curve, I realized the importance of ending each stitch correctly. This article aims to share that crucial knowledge, guiding you on how to adeptly end a stitch on your sewing machine.

From securing seams to ensuring the durability of your projects, you’ll discover how to give your sewing endeavors the perfect finish they deserve.

How to End a Stitch on Sewing Machine?

End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

Mastering the end stitch on my sewing machine was a key milestone in my sewing journey, transforming my projects from amateur attempts to professional-looking creations. Here’s a simplified guide, based on my experience, on how to execute this essential technique:

Step 1: Begin with Basic Stitching

  • Technique: Start with a basic stitch, like straight or zigzag, and continue until you reach the fabric’s edge. As a beginner, practicing on scrap fabric helped me gain confidence before moving on to actual projects.

Step 2: Engage the Reverse Function

  • Finding the Reverse Button: Almost every machine has a reverse feature. On mine, it’s a dial marked with arrows showing the reverse direction. Ensure it’s properly set to reverse before proceeding.
  • Caution: Double-check this setting to avoid any mishaps.

End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

Step 3: Execute Backstitching

  • Backstitching Process: Press the reverse button to make 3 to 5 backstitches over your existing stitches. This reinforces the seam. Adjusting the stitch length for stronger stitches was a crucial tip I learned.
  • Stitch Length: Shorter backstitches are preferable to prevent unraveling.

Step 4: Return to Forward Stitching

  • Switch Back: After backstitching, return to normal stitching by flipping the reverse button back. Stitch forward for a few stitches to secure the seam.
  • Overlap Stitches: Ensure there are three lines of thread overlapping at the fabric’s end before stopping.

Step 5: Finishing Up

  • Lifting the Needle: Use the hand wheel to raise the needle, then gently remove the fabric from the machine.
  • Thread Trimming: Cut off the threads from the end, and for a neat finish, press the seams.

Learning to end a stitch properly is crucial in sewing. It’s not overly complex – just a matter of back and forward stitching at the fabric’s end. Once mastered, it ensures your seams are secure and your projects look impeccably finished.

More Ways to End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

Throughout my sewing adventures, I’ve explored several methods to elegantly and professionally end a stitch. Here are some alternative techniques I’ve personally found effective:

Stitching in Place: The Tack Stitch

For those who find backstitching a bit tricky, like I did in my early days, stitching in place, or tack stitching, is a great alternative. It involves sewing 5-6 stitches in the same spot to create a secure knot.

On my machine, I set the stitch length to zero and perform this at both the start and end of every seam. It’s particularly useful for thicker fabrics where backstitching might be too bulky.

Modern digital machines often have an automatic tack stitch setting, symbolized by a dot encircled by a circle. When activated, the machine performs several stationary stitches before continuing normally, and repeats this at the seam’s end. This feature, which I’ve grown to appreciate, simplifies the process of securing stitches.

Tying Off Thread Ends: A Gentle Approach

When working with delicate fabrics, I’ve sometimes had the fabric snag or ‘eat’ into the machine, especially with backstitching or tack stitching. In such cases, tying off the thread ends is a safer bet. It’s also aesthetically pleasing for visible stitch ends.

Here, you sew without backstitching, leaving long thread tails. I use a needle to pull all threads to one side and then tie them securely. This method is also crucial when sewing darts, as backstitching at the dart point can cause puckering.

Decreasing Stitch Length for Strength

In the absence of backstitch or tack stitch options, reducing stitch length is a practical alternative. I aim for 16 to 20 stitches per inch, decreasing the length at the seam’s beginning and end, which fortifies the stitching.

Embracing Manual Stitching

Sometimes, I resort to manual stitching for a more personal touch. After completing the seam, I use the excess thread to manually tie a knot, ensuring a neat and strong finish. This method adds a human element to the seam, blending machine efficiency with handcrafted precision.

These methods, honed through my experiences, offer diverse ways to secure your stitches, ensuring both the strength and beauty of your sewing projects.

How Do You Stop a Stitch from Unraveling?

End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

There are times when your stitches become visible and start getting out of shape. It is essential to secure such stitches with a backstitch or lock stitch. Backstitching is the ideal way to secure the stitch from breaking and hiding its seam. It is a simple backward and forward stitch done at the beginning and end of the seam.

How Important is Securing the Start and End of a Seam?

Starting and ending your stitching with one of these options is very important to keeping your seams strong. It is especially crucial for seams that receive a lot of wear and tension.
To understand the importance of backstitching, stitch two seams on some scrap fabric. Use one of the previously explained backstitching methods on one of the samples and sew the other without any backstitch. Now take the fabric and pull at the seam.

Notice, the seam without any securing stitch will start to come undone, while the other sample will hold strong. Adding a secure locking stitch really doesn’t add much extra time when it comes to sewing a seam, but it could save a lot of time that would need to be spent repairing an unraveling seam.

What is Locking Stitch on a Sewing Machine?

Locking stitch is yet another popular type of stitch done on a sewing machine. It makes single stitches at the beginning and end of the fabric, to keep the stitch secure. It is merely a straight stitch that you do on the sewing machine.

Why Do You Need to Secure the End of the Seam?

End a Stitch on Sewing Machine

When you sew a fabric, there is a start and end to the seam. It is essential to ensure that these points are not unraveling and stretching out in different shapes. You need to provide a neat finish to your stitching. The starting and ending point a seam can be secured with the help of a backstitch and lock stitch.

Backstitching is simply backward and forward stitching done at the beginning and end of the seam to make the stitch stay strong. Lock stitching, on the other hand, is a built-in stitch feature in a majority of sewing machines; it makes a single stitch on the fabric both forward and backward without repeating it.

Can a Zigzag Stitch Be Used As A Back Stitch?

Zigzag stretch is making a continuous row of letter “W” on the fabric. There are different types of zigzag stitches according to its stretch. The zigzag is commonly used for enclosing raw edges. So, in some cases, you can use a zigzag stitch as a backstitch to keep the seam from unraveling and proving a firm hold to the stitch. But, in most cases, a zigzag stitch also needs a backstitch for better hold.

Do You Backstitch A Stay Stitch?

Stay stitch is a regular stitch that you do on any fabric. It is done within the seam allowance so that it is not revealed on the fabric. You can backstitch your stay stitch if you need it. But, in most cases, the stitch line will be caught up in the seam. So, you don’t necessarily have to do a backstitch.

Do All Stitches Need Backstitched?

Any seam that is meant to be permanent will need to be secured with a backstitch. Stitches that typically do not need to be secured include stay stitching and basting as these steps are typically followed up by sewing a normal stitch that would include a backstitch. Additionally, you will never want to secure a stitch that is being used to create gathers. For gathering the thread needs to be allowed to slide through the fabric, locking your stitches with backstitching would prevent that ability. If you are following directions from a sewing pattern, backstitching will be assumed with any seam sewn and they will typically state only if you do not need to backstitch.



I bring over 10 years of experience in costume design and apparel making, blending my expertise in historical fashion with a deep understanding of character portrayal. Beyond creating and testing patterns, I'm passionate about teaching sewing techniques and sharing garment knowledge. Also, as a sewing blogger with a BA in Costume Studies from Dalhousie University, I enjoy writing articles that delve into the rich worlds of clothing history, sewing, textiles, and fashion. Follow my creative journey on Youtube => Elise's Sewing Studio Instagram => elisessewing

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