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To end a stitch when you’re sewing by hand, stop with several inches of thread left. Bring the needle under your last stitch and make a loop large enough to insert your finger. Now, bring the needle through the loop and pull it tight to form a knot. Finishing stitches on a sewing machine is just as easy. You can lock the stitch or tie it off. We’ll explain how.
- 1 What You’ll Need to Complete This Tutorial
- 2 6 Ways to Tie off a Stitch By Hand
- 2.1 Tying off a Double Thread, Method 1
- 2.2 Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 2 (Finishing Stitch)
- 2.3 Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 3 (Back Stitch)
- 2.4 Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 4 (End-Off Backstitch)
- 2.5 Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 5
- 2.6 Tying off a Single Thread
- 3 How to End a Row of Machine Stitches
- 4 Specialty Tie-Off Techniques
- 5 Final Thoughts
It sounds so simple: finish your row of stitches and tie it off. You might even think about skipping that step. Don’t! The truth is, though, there are many ways to secure your stitches, whether you’re sewing by hand or by machine. Some work better than others. Confused? No worries. We’ll show you several different ways to secure your stitches.
What You’ll Need to Complete This Tutorial
If you’re sewing by hand, both the tools and the technique will be different than for machine sewing.
Tools for Ending a Row of Hand Stitching
Tools for Ending a Row of Machine Stitching
- Sewing machine
- Scissors or snips (optional if your machine has a thread cutter)
- Your project
6 Ways to Tie off a Stitch By Hand
The simplest way to tie off a row of hand stitching is to make a knot at the end. There are several ways to do this.
Tying off a Double Thread, Method 1
My mother taught me to always use a double thread for hand sewing. It makes the stitches stronger, and it’s easier to tie off when you’re finished. There are actually a few ways of tying off a double thread. Here’s the first.
Make the final stitch in your row. Make sure to leave a few inches of thread at the end. You’ll need this to make your knot.
Now, separate the two threads. Bring one of the threads over the other then under. Pull just enough to bring the threads to the edge of the fabric. Don’t pull too tightly, or it will pucker the stitches. This is the first part of your first knot.
Repeat Step 3, pulling the knot tight.
Step 4 (optional)
I like to make at least one more knot after this. Some people even make two more.
Snip off your thread end.
Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 2 (Finishing Stitch)
Here’s a third method to tie off your double thread sewing and keep your stitches secure.
Finish your row of stitches, leaving a few inches of thread at the end.
Bring your needle down through the fabric near the end of your final stitch. Don’t pull it tight. Rather, leave a loop.
Now bring your needle back up, very close to where you brought it down.
Insert your needle through the loop and gently pull it down to the fabric. Don’t pull too tightly! Leave a smaller loop.
Now bring your needle through the loop again and give it a final pull.
Snip off your thread end.
Watch this method in action below.
Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 3 (Back Stitch)
With this method, you’ll be using the previous stitch to secure your finishing stitch.
Sew the final stitch in your row, making sure to leave a few inches of extra thread at the end.
Bring your needle back under the last stitch, forming a loop.
Now, pass your needle through the loop. Pull gently until the knot settles onto the fabric.
To secure the row, repeat steps 2 and 3 to make a second knot.
Now, snip your thread ends.
Confused? This is how it’s done.
Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 4 (End-Off Backstitch)
An end-off backstitch, or back tack, is an easy and secure way of tying off a row of hand stitching.
Finish your stitching, leaving several inches of extra thread at the end.
Now, bring your needle around, inserting it back into the fabric just after the end of your last completed stitch.
Bring the needle back up through the fabric, very close to where you brought it up at the end of your row of stitches. Now you have a loop. Pull the thread gently until it sits against your fabric.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice more. But do not pull your last loop tight.
Finally, bring your needle through the final loop. Now pull it tight.
Snip your thread ends.
This is how it’s done.
Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 5
This is a quick and dirty way of tying off your thread. It may take a bit of practice to get the knot to sit perfectly on your fabric, though.
Stitch until the end of your row, leaving a few inches of thread at the end.
Bring the needle around to form a loop large enough to insert your finger.
Now, holding the loop to your fabric with your finger, double back with the needle. Bring the needle through the loop and pull gently. Use your finger to keep the knot snug against your fabric.
Repeat the knot if you like. This part is optional.
Snip off your thread end.
Tying off a Single Thread
There are occasions when you’ll want to use a single thread instead of a double thread. You can tie off your single thread stitching using the finishing stitch, backstitch or end-off backstitch methods above. You can also try this.
End your row of stitches, leaving several inches of thread at the end with which to make your knot.
Bring your needle back over the last stitch, like you would for a backstitch or end-off backstitch.
Insert your needle behind your last stitch and gently pull to form a loop.
Run your needle through the loop. Now do it again.
Pull your knot tight and snip your thread ends.
Watch how it’s done here.
How to End a Row of Machine Stitches
If you’re using a sewing machine, there are a few ways to secure your stitches.
Method 1: Making a Lockstitch
A lockstitch is an easy way to secure a row of stitches using a sewing machine.
Sew three to five stitches forward. Stop.
Reverse over those three to five stitches. Stop.
Sew back over the stitches one more time.
Now you can snip your threads with confidence.
Want to see how it’s done? Check this out.
Method 2: Using the Auto-Finish Function
Some sewing machines have a lockstitch button. This button makes a lockstitch for you, automatically, so that you don’t have to manually sew, reverse, and sew again. Some even fancier machines, like in the video below, will allow you to program lockstitches into sequences of stitches.
Method 3: Tying Off by Hand
Can you tie off a row of machine stitches by hand? Absolutely! We would use Method 5, above.
Specialty Tie-Off Techniques
Sometimes a regular tie-off isn’t exactly the right thing. Here are a few specialized tie-off techniques for tricky situations.
Hiding Your Knot Between Layers
With a lot of hand sewing projects, it’s fine to leave the starting and finishing knots on the wrong side of your project. But some projects, for example quilts, don’t have a wrong side. Hand quilting takes a lot of effort, and you don’t want to ruin that effort by leaving unsightly knots on either surface.
Here’s how you hide a finishing knot between fabric layers.
As always, leave four to six inches of thread after the final stitch in your row.
Loop your needle around to the end of the previous stitch, as if you were making a backstitch.
Now, bring your needle through the loop and pull it snug but not tight.
Now, loop your needle again, going the opposite direction, that is, from the end of the stitch you just made to the beginning.
Bring your needle through the loop and pull snug.
Now, insert your needle through the middle of the stitch and bring it under the top layer of fabric only. Gently pull.
Finally, snip off your thread end and smooth your fabric so that the attached thread end is hidden underneath the top fabric layer.
Watch the process here.
Another Way to Hide a Knot
Here’s another way to hide an end knot. You don’t have to have multiple layers of fabric, but it helps.
This method uses a quilter’s knot to secure the row of stitches. Quilters use this knot at the beginning of a row of hand quilted stitches. You can also use it at the end.
Finish your row of stitches, leaving several inches of extra thread.
Wrap the thread three times around the needle.
Now, while holding the knot, reinsert the needle back into the fabric close to where it came out, and pull it tight. It may take a bit of practice to make the knot, but keep working at it.
Pull it until the knot disappears back beneath the top fabric layer.
Now snip your thread end and gently pull the fabric until the thread end disappears.
Here’s how it’s done.
Hiding Your Finish in a Seam
If your row of stitching finishes in a seam, you can use any of the above finishing methods then hide the knot and thread ends inside the seam.
If a job is worth doing, it’s doing right. And there are a lot of right ways to finish off a row of stitching! Whether you’re sewing by hand or sewing by machine, the right technique can keep your stitches secure and attractive.
Did you enjoy our tutorial? Do you have a favorite technique that might help our readers? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!