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Jun 17, 2013

The Great Sewing Machine Backstitch Debate



When you start sewing a seam, you backstitch, right?  I mean we all do, don't we?   

Don't we?

Nearly every sewing machine made in the last eighty years has a backstitch (or reverse stitch) lever, button, or switch.  If we weren't supposed to backstitch, they wouldn't be there.







I own two Singer 66 models (both more than eighty years old) and neither has a backstitch lever -- there's just a knob that controls stitch length and no reverse.  I guess the backstitch function hadn't been invented yet.  That bothered me when I first started sewing with them.



In all my couture sewing books, however, there is a general consensus that you do not backstitch (or reverse stitch) at the beginning and end of seams.  You either pull the loose thread ends through to the back of your fabric and knot them, or you start (and end) your stitching with a teeny stitch that won't pull out (and increase your stitch length in between).

I just read Roberta Carr's wonderful "Couture, the Art of Fine Sewing."





Her message about backstitching?  Don't do it!



Claire Shaeffer, in "Couture Sewing Techniques" writes:

"Machine backstitching is never used in couture because it adds stiffness and bulk to the seamline, and it is almost impossible to remove without marring the fabric."





UPDATE:

Just checked the legendary Edna Bishop.  She advocates holding the fabric with your left hand and stitching "several times in one spot" instead of backstitching.  She refers to this as "lockstitching."





I backstitched the hem of my madras shorts and you can see the overlapped stitch if you look closely.  On a garment like this it doesn't bother me in the least; this is definitely not couture!



When I was sewing Cathy's silk charmeuse dress last month, I did notice that if I backstitched I could definitely feel a lump from the extra stitches.



What I will often do when I sew is to start stitching a little forward from the end, backstitch a few stitches (to the true end) and then continue stitching forward.  That way there are some double stitches, but there aren't triple stitches, which is what you get if you start stitching at the very edge, stitch in reverse, and then continue stitching forward.  Does that make sense?

Something else to ponder: when you sew, nearly all your seam ends are going to be encased in other seam ends: i.e., the sleeve seam will be encased in the armscye seam, the skirt seam will go into the waistline seam, and so on.  Hems (or a topstitched cuff) could be an example of a seam that would not be encased by anything else, though on a fine garment you're not going to use your machine to hem anyway, right?  

My hunch is that most of us were taught to anchor a seam by backstitching.  Most sewing books contain that instruction, and it's a difficult habit to unlearn.  Whether I backstitch or not, the only time I have to deal with stitches coming loose is when I've cut a few inches off a sleeve or a pants leg, before I've finished the hem.  But I suppose it also depends on the fabric you're sewing with and the stitch length.

So how about you?

Have you experienced unpleasant stiffness in a seamline due to backstitching?

Have you ever not backstitched and been sorry you didn't because the seam opened up?

Where do you stand in the sewing machine backstitch debate?  (Shhhh...we won't tell Claire Shaeffer!)

85 comments:

  1. Hi Peter

    Interesting questions. I started sewing on a machine built in 1899 and didn't know anything about reverse feed and back stitching until I got my Singer 401G. Interestingly its manual advocates the method you use of starting the seam a little way in and backing up to the start line. I've been using this method with the Singer 201 on my latest project but it doesn't come naturally and normally I don't bother. If the stitch length and tension are correct then seams shouldn't ravel - right?

    Hugs
    G

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  2. I was a rebel, um, I mean back-stitcher in my youth. But then I discovered the lock stitch when I upgraded my machine to a Janome and I have changed my ways.

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  3. I do back stitch as I am used to it, learnt sewing that way, but when the fabric is sheer or sensitive like silk , which I sew a lot with the amount of traditional Indian Silk skirt and top (pattu paavadai) I make for my daughter , I give back stitch a miss and instead leave enough thread while finishing and use hand needle to take thread to other end , this is done only on places where stitch is visible like neck finish and top stitching or pleat overlay stitches ... When the stitch is going to be hidden by seam joints then I go ahead and press the most used reverse button of my sewing machine without any guilt :)

    Adithi's Amma Sews

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  4. I almost never use "reverse", as this tends to draw up the last forward stitch, resulting in a lump. For seams on all but the softest or thinest fabrics, I turn the pieces around, then sew forward in the direction opposite the original line of stitching. If the stitching will show or the fabric will not tolerate two rows of stitching, I tie on the underside. It adds only a small amount of time overall.

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  5. I never backstitch. My grandmother was a professional seamstress and she never did. She also did not believe in stay-stitching; she felt that it distorted the neckline. So I never do that either. I feel like an outlaw.

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    1. I've returned to the stay stitch fold after years of eschewing it. It just seems to make curves retain their shape and makes it easier for me to work with them. Just me. In a few years I may migrate away again.

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    2. I find stay stitching useful as a deterrent to clipping too far (as in a neckline that must be stretched a bit to fit a collar) and as a guide for basting (I baste nearly everything except straight side/back seams because I'd rather not stop to pull out pins).

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  6. What a great post! I've never thought about not backstitching but the idea of using small stitches to begin is interesting, might try that
    I'm studying clothing production at the local TAFE and we use industrial machines and we were taught to always backstitch 3 stitches. That's the industry standard for normal (not couture) clothes.

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    1. Christina, do you start from the very edge (creating a triple layer of stitches) or in a bit from the edge (creating a double layer)?

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    2. Like Christina, I was taught industry standard (back stitch x 3) but always start approx 3 stitches in... Ie creating a double layer. I generally don't back stitch if the seam will be secured by subsequent seams.... Eg side seam that will later be secured by hemming

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  7. I usually just hold the fabric so it doesn't advance and take two or three stitches...then sew.'I only backstitch on costumes in places that might have stress.

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    1. That´s nice! but does the machine not suffer from that practice?

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  8. I like the idea of beginning and ending with a shorter stitch. I learned to finish the point end of a dart that way because backstitching can look really bad there. It only makes sense to do the same on regular seams.

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    1. This is my preferred method and discovered it in the same way. I believe it was from pattern instructions published in the 90's. Technique for the household seamstress have changed some since the 60's when I learned from my mom. She was a devout backstitcher, but I've broken myself of it. My mom would never have finished a waistband with bias tape and the "stitch in the ditch" method that I much prefer over folding up the seam allowance and slip stitching.

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    2. Also affordable home sergers take care of a lot of those raw edges that otherwise would have had to be hidden or finished in some way -- unless you're sewing couture-style and shun sergers.

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  9. As an anal-retentive quilter, I do not back stitch unless I'm sure the thread ends will be enclosed in a seam. Stiffness is not an issue for me. The elegance of the stitched line is the thing I look for. And to a lesser degree, durability - we've all had seam ends come unravelled, but it doesn't happen very often.

    I pull the top and bobbin threads to one side, knot the threads, then pull the knot and ends into the seam or quilt sandwich using a self-threading needle. Hate the self-threaders for general use, but for burying threads they are indispensable. These are my favorite:

    http://www.clover-usa.com/product/0/2006/_/Self_Threading_Needles_Assorted

    It's most important when I'm quilting, but I also do it when topstitching.

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    1. I need to get myself some of those...

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    2. You said it right - the elegance of the stitched line!

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  10. I started sewing again when my now 5yo was a baby I didn't backstitch on a few jumpers I made when she was tiny and they started coming apart while she was wearing them. So I guess not doing it is fine as long as you do something but just cutting the threads is a big no.

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  11. I learned to backstitch in junior high and did it for many years until I read about the "over-ride the feed dogs" technique. Its what Bill J decribes above. I think I may have read it in a Sandra Betzina book. It is kind of hard to remove, but it dosn't cause that little pucker .
    I'm not sure I could bring myself to not take any precations whatsoever at the beginning and the end of a seam!

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  12. I don't backstitch. I was taught in sewing school not to do it as most seams are buried in the seam allowance.

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  13. My machine seems to work better if I use your method of starting a way into the seam and then reversing and sewing back over that. When I try to start on the edge, I often have trouble getting the fabric to want to move into the feed dog.
    Thanks for bringing up stuff like this. I've learned a lot reading your blog.

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  14. I don't backstitch, because I tried doing it on the very first thing I sewed and it went horribly wrong (combination of the needle was too big for the fabric and bits of the fabric were sucked down and it all got tangled up with the bobbin thread, sigh, those where the times). After the first tears dried, I thought I'd just pull the thread and make a double knot and no one will ever know. I thought all this time I was cheating and I'd never be a proper sewist if I don't backstitch and was psyching myself up to trying again. Hah ... now I can say I am practicing my couture techniques :-)

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  15. Industrial machines (both vintage and modern) never back stitch; I suspect that's because it cuts down on productivity in a factory setting. If I'm using my industrial machine and I need to back stitch (like for a dart) then I just leave the needle down and spin the work around and then sew in the opposite direction.

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    1. It seems that industrial sewingmachines are different on my side of the world LOL! I work in clothing industry and the machine I use daily, backstitches. I have to, it is even said so in my work contract LMAO!

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    2. My industrial has a reverse lever so I know they do backstitch. I know I've read on Fashion Incubator that the servo motors often come with an automatic backstitch, so I know it must be done in at least some industrial settings.

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    3. That's really interesting because here in the States I've never seen an industrial with a back stitch function (especially on used/vintage machines)....a friend of mine has a Juki D-series industrial that's about 4 years old and there is no back stitch on it either. As usual we Americans think what we see is the way things are everywhere lol.

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    4. Come to the Dallas area and you'll encounter any number of sewing factorys that use machines that backstitch....my favorites are the ones that are adjusted to back stitch on their own, no lever to press !!

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    5. I've used industrial machines here in the states that have had either manual or automatic backstitch and it was expected that they be used.

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  16. I backstitch - probably because it is on my machine so I use it. I do like your idea of starting in a bit, thanks for the tip.

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  17. I don't start with a backstitch - I usually do it after I've taken 4 or 5 stitches forward (otherwise you're more likely to suck the edge of the fabric into the feed dogs if it's thin) and I only do it for my kids' clothes or things that are going to get a lot of stress on the seams. Sorry, but even places where you'd think that the thread wouldn't come out my kids can manage to be rough enough to pull a seam. Plus, we're talking fabrics like corduroy and denim, where a stiffer part in the seam isn't really all that noticeable in the grand scheme of things. Sewing a tote bag is also a place where I would backstitch.

    I've never sewn on a machine that didn't have a reverse lever of some kind, but my Janome also has the option of a lockstitch, where the thread ends up knotting on one side. I don't really like this option, since I find it more bulky than the reverse stitch.

    What does Claire Shaeffer say about darts? I've seen people say that you should always tie the thread ends and then I've read that you should shorten the stitch length at the end of the dart and just leave the ends, since a shorter stitch would make it less likely that the dart would come undone. That's a debate I'd like to hear input on.

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    1. Yes, I think we are missing the Great Sewing Machine how-to-sew a dart Debate. i can´t get to sew them properly.

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    2. I always sew darts by starting with tiny stitches (or backstitching) and then going to a longer length until the dart begins to narrow. That's when I go to a tiny stitch length and just sew off the edge. I leave about an inch of a tail and I have NEVER had a problem with darts coming undone.

      Another method I'm familiar with is to take your thread tail and rather than cut your threads immediately, to shift your fabric and sew a few stitches in the body of the dart itself to anchor the tail. Then cut your threads.

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    3. Great post, Peter.

      I like the tiny stitch idea instead of backstitching. Could you please tell us what a "tiny" stitch length is?

      Thanks

      Spud.

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    4. I think it's in the realm of 20 stitches per inch (or more).

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    5. Thanks a bunch. I will definitely give this a go :)

      Spud.

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    6. for darts i've seen in one of the couture books that you pull up your bobbin thread and thread it through the needle from back to front, then knot it to your top thread, then wind your top thread back so that the knot is all the way back to the spool. then start your stitching at the dart tip and there's no tying necessary! you have to cut your threads and re-string it all for the next dart. it's a pain, but very cool!

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  18. I've started paying more attention whether I really need to backstitch - if the seam is going to be enclosed or clipped, I don't bother. My machine doesn't like backstitching, and everything always gets tangled up anyway, so I avoid it wherever I can.

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  19. Ha, I just got done with some nightly sewing and felt like such a rebel because I didn't back-stitch. I figured the seams would be crossed with other seams so I should be okay.

    My mother and grandmother always taught me to back-stitch by lining the edge of the fabric up to the back of the presser foot and back-stitching to the end and then going forward. I was always told to mind the tension, stitch length and my sewing lines to create a "clean" finish that didn't pucker. They were awesome seamstresses......I still remember the small lip pucker of disapproval when my mom saw me do the "triple stitch" back stitch. :-) (Please don't get me wrong. They were lovely, kind ladies who loved to teach. They just firmly believed in doing things the proper way.)

    I am a lot more....carefree! But I do tend to back-stitch if it is a seam that has a lot of stress .

    I've never sewn with silk so....I have nothing to add to that conversation. But I will file this away for future knowledge.

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  20. My machine has a feature called "fix" instead of backstitch, and it definitely creates a bit of a lump. My sewing books also advise not to backstitch the tip of a dart—just to make really tiny stitches instead.

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  21. I'm in the no backstitch camp, mama (50's era seamstress) would be spinning if I ever did that!

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  22. I backstitch the way you do; it makes me feel slightly nervous to even THINK of not backstitching a seam. Even though my modern Janome has a lockstitch facility, I backstitch through habit. Apart from on darts; I was taught to never backstitch those but to tie the threads. Though knots in sewing always make me a bit queasy: knots come undone...

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  23. I worked for a year as a womans wear tailor for a young fashion designer and only time I used backstitching was when we were sewing jeans :)and on bottom hem I ended my seam in the exact point I started it (I calculated my stitch length before LOL) pulled thread ends to the left side, knoted them AND hid the rest inside the hem.

    The whole idea behind coture is that one must never be able to tell how and with what the garment is put together. Also the seams are pressed super duper flat. All of the hemming is done by hand and so on!

    In every day sewing, it depends on the fabric and the garment type. If I am sewing a silk dress I do not backstitch. On jeans, I do, even on the bottom hem.

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  24. I've started sewing my seams with a short stitch (I found the tip in Timesaving Sewing, a Singer book). I've been pleasantly surprised at how well it holds and how quickly my sewing goes. It's certainly my go-to for seams now.

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  25. I learned three methods to start and end a seam when I was taught to sew in 4-H a zillion years ago. (Sewing was taken very seriously in my rural community and even though I hated all the attention paid to what I then considered unimportant details, I appreciate it now and wish I would have paid more attention.)

    (1) back stitch, which was considered the norm, but not the best way to start and end a seam; (2) pulling the thread to the back and knotting; and (3) stitching in place. This is done by stitching forward a stitch or two, then putting the stitch control on 0 and stitching (in place obviously) for a stitch or two, then moving the control back to 10 or 12 stitches per inch and stitching on.

    I loved the third option because I always ended up with my thread getting wadded up when I back stitched. (Hold onto those thread ends...) My mom hated stitching in place, but I'm not sure why. Once I mastered back stitch, I quit sewing in place.

    Now when I'm sewing something that will "show" I pull the threads through to the back and knot. Nine times out of ten, I trim the seam and it doesn't matter how I started or stopped it.

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  26. Interesting that a "couture" book is even discussing machine stitching since the couture garments are almost always hand stitched : )

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    1. Major seams on garments are sewn by machine in couture ateliers and bespoke tailoring establishments.

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  27. Depends on what I am doing. I make lots of things for the home so I do back stitch for wear and tear and sturdiness. For clothing though, I have always pulled the threads through to the back and tied several knots. especially if it is to be seen. I don't sew clothes anymore, but on some items I do just tie the threads.

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  28. ooooh~ thanks for sharing. i never realized about this though i suspected back stitching isnt great with delicate fabric like rayon or silk. i actually triple stitch in the beginning, and with rayon or silk it tends to pull the fabrics and "gather" it. time to try your recommendations!

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  29. Backstitching is an open invitation for your machine to nom down on your fabric. If another seam is going to cross the seam I'm stitching then I won't back stitch. Even though I have a fancy machine if I have to reverse back I prefer to needle down and pivot 180 degree to avoid going off track. Reverse feed is not the same motion as forward.

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  30. I never back stitch because the first machine I had would suck the fabric down into the plate whenever I tried. So I never formed the habit. And I only bother to reduce the stitch length at the start if I am sewing couture. Otherwise, just sewing seems to be secure enough, and most seams are crossed by another seam or hemmed, holding the first line stitching secure.

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  31. Have you experienced unpleasant stiffness in a seamline due to backstitching?

    My answer is no. I have not experienced unpleasant stiffness in a seam line due to back stitching.

    Have you ever not backstitched and been sorry you didn't because the seam opened up?

    I've never been sorry I haven't back stitched because the seam opened up.

    Where do you stand in the sewing machine backstitch debate? (Shhhh...we won't tell Claire Shaeffer!)

    I believe that a sewing machine back stitch should be seen as a fail safe but it has its disadvantages. The back stitch should be at the discretion of the seamstress/tailor. As long as the back stitch does not interfere with the construction or aesthetic of the garment, then I'm ok with the back stitch.

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  32. well i never had serious problems when backstiching but when I skip them my seams will fall apart even it is say side seam of shirt that has a sleeve on so I almost always backstich

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  33. My grandmother was a professional dressmaker, and I was taught that you never backstitch, except perhaps when sewing denim. Nevertheless, I occasionally break that rule and regret it soon afterwards. Still, I never backstitch when topstitching or edgestitching.

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  34. I backstitch if it's going to be trimmed off, e.g,, in a hem or armscye finish. And I do start in a bit, go back 2, then forward, to reduce bulk and get a clean start. Other than that, I'm a pull-thru-knot-and-bury aficionada!

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  35. I don't back stitch when making clothing,but never knew it was a no-no. I just figured, why bother? Most seams are encased or crossed with additional seams. When I end stitching, I will often finish on top of the beginning of a top stitched hem, carefully and slowly making sure the stitches overlap for three or four stitches, pull loose ends to the back, knot and sink the loose ends inside.

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  36. I usually backstitch, even on the really old singers...I just rotate the garment and then re-rotate it. But maybe now I will think more about it.

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  37. I was mystified about this issue when I moved from an electric to my ~120yr old treadle. What about backstitching? The denizens of the Treadle On list had a lot of useful suggestions, like this batch from Phyllis Rosenwinkel of Iowa:

    W&W did design and use reverse on some of their industrial machines, but not on the domestic ones. There are several workarounds for machines lacking reverse.
    1- Turn the fabric around and begin to sew back over the seam.
    2- Shorten the stitch length for the last half inch.
    3- Shorten the stitch length by preventing the fabric to move easily though the dogs and foot
    4- Sew to the end, Stop. Pull the fabric back 1/4 - 1/2' and restitch the seam.
    The how to do this is determined by the fabric an the perceived need. I've sewed for nearly 60 years and rarely need to reinforce seams in this manner.

    Anyway, I've gotten a lot more relaxed too about backstitching (or the other substitutes for it) and most of the time I don't bother, except where it won't be contained in another seam, e.g. hems, as you pointed out above.

    One issue I sometimes have with the lack of backstitching is seams coming apart a bit at the edges during the rigors of assembly. I just did some A line dresses for my daughters for instance, and some of the side seams started coming apart a little at the bottom of the scye while I was working on other parts of the dress, before I had put binding around the armhole. Stitching at a tighter pitch at the beginning would probably solve this, as would knotting the threads after putting in the seam, or just being more careful.

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  38. I rarely backstitch any more. When I do need to make sure stitches will not start unstitching themselves I do one of several methods -
    1. sew a few stitches like normal, lift the presser foot, move the fabric back to where I started and sew the seam
    2. short stitches at the ends (usually by holding the fabric, not changing stitch length)
    3. start sewing in reverse a few stitches then finish seam
    4. sew a few stitches toward the edge, turn the fabric and sew the seam
    5. stitch a few stitches, reverse, then stitch the seam. I think this is how I was taught many years ago.

    I prefer methods 1 & 2 because it involves less fiddling with fabric or machine. I usually only do the last if I really really want to make sure it doesn't come undone. Methods 3 & 4 I usually use when working with flimsy fabrics that pull into the machine easily

    My machine does have the ability to lock the stitches by taking extremely tiny stitches, but it's even worse to remove than the triple stitching if needed.

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  39. Interesting! "Always backstitch when you start a seam" was the first sewing lesson I learned. Sometimes I just don't (out of sheer laziness), but I regret it if the seams come apart.

    They are a pain to unpick, though.

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  40. Interesting post, Peter! I kind of came to the non-backstitching revelation myself just recently. My SM has a "fix" in place and a "stop" stitch function that sounds exactly like what Edna Bishop describes. It's very handy and I've never had a seam fail. Plus, my sm's backstitching isn't the prettiest stitch.

    Lately, when a fabric is too flimsy to start at the edge or use the fix stitch for fear of it getting drawn into the throat plate, I'll actually start stitching at the crossing seam line, but going toward the edge (so wrong direction), then I stop with the needle down, rotate my fabric to the right direction and stitch the seam as normal. It seems to work better and, as you say, there is then only 2 lines of stitching instead of 3.

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  41. So the only time I don't backstitch is when I am not coming to a circle, like side seams, shoulder seams. OR when I forget to. Oops

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  42. I only backstitch to reinforce a pocket usually or any area that will receive a lot of stress. I will also do a backstitch if a seam is not crossed by another and then I only go 3 stitches.

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  43. Thank you for all of the research on this post. Your double layer back-stitching technique sounds good. I might try it, but generally am happier pulling threads through and knotting, especially when sewing lightweight fabrics.

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  44. i tend to start my seams like you--start in a little then reverse and keep sewing. my mom taught me to pull the threads and knot them (which i did for years!) but lately i've taken the backstitch route unless i'm sewing something fancy!

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  45. It's a matter of the type of sewing and the fabric. In regular sewing, I back stitch at the beginning and end of normal seams, but not usually on anything that will be sewn in layers, for example, a yoke on a shirt.

    For couture, I was taught to leave long threads, to bring the upper thread to the back, to thread the two strands into a needle and sew them by hand. It's less bulky than sewing machine.

    The reason for avoiding backstitching in couture, in addition to the thickness is that it disrupts the fabric. With certain fabrics, backstitching will eat the fabric.

    I sometimes use the "method" where I start the seam a few stitches ahead of the edge, then tack back then advance forward.

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  46. The biggest lesson I learned about backstitching towards the start was that you only need to do a couple of stitches unless it's performance wear. In my first sewing lesson I wasn't told how many stitches and as someone who naturally engages in overkill I would do six.

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  47. I rarely backstitch, even though I was taught that by my mother. Why? Because I'm LAZY. That's my motivation for not doing it. I figure that whatever method I use to finish the seam, it covers me, and I've never had any problems with stitching falling out because of that.

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  48. I backstitch. It's so ingrained in my muscle memory, I don't think I could not do it. I don't think it's a huge issue, though, if you have another seam that crosses it as that tends to anchor it like you said.

    That said, when I'm basting things, I don't backstitch and my seams always come apart.

    I was curious about this, as well, as I didn't think RTW backstitched, but then I took a higher quality garment apart and lo and behold, there was backstitching. However, the thread they used was noticeably thinner than home sewing thread, and much stronger, so didn't cause lumpiness in the backstitching.

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    1. I think you've hit the nail on the head there: if backstitching causes stiffness or bulk, it is probably because the thread is too heavy for the fabric.

      It's nice not to have visible backstitching (i.e. in topstitching), but I always use it when seaming.

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  49. I never back stitch or lock stitch a seam at the ends. 1) I don't see the need and it's a PITA. 2) I use my serger for constructing the majority of most garments.

    Where seams are not finished by sewing over with another seam, I use a needle to pull both threads to one side and sew a couple of concealed back stitches by hand. Serger thread tails get passed back through the serging using a tapestry needle.

    Sarah @ Sew Drastic

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  50. How interesting! They do have a point that it adds annoying bulk to the seamline, and it's true, I NEVER can unstitch it without the fabric looking, well, stitched. So I could see where they were coming from but at the same time, how would lockstitching solve either of these problems? I could understand if you're doing it on a machine that doesn't have a backstitch but doing it in place of it I just don't see would be worth it. I like your idea to double-stitch as opposed to triple-stitching though, I'll have to try that from now on.

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  51. I call uncle on the "bulk". Try as I might I cannot see how two threads of a diameter of a few micro-millimeters can add "BULK" to a seam. Bulk? A few microns? Haven't the ladies who lunch and their minions who sew for them heard of the laws of physics?


    Your machine might eat the edge if you start the backstitch in the wrong place. (And a knot is definitely more tangible than a backstitch.) But bulk? I'm not buying that line!

    But maybe I am just in a bad mood. I couldn't sleep all night. I'm black and blue. Must have been a pea under the mattresses......

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  52. I don't backstitch because I sew on an antique machine. It used to bother me when the pattern instructions said backstitch but I have never had anything I made come apart.

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  53. I was taught in school not to use the knotted method instead of backstitching, but I always did your method of reverse first and then forward until I started using my 2nd hand elna that has a tempermental reverse switch. I recently sewed my wedding dress on it and I didn't backstitch much on it since I was using silk crepe and charmuese and I didn't want to mar the fabric. Since I read this post I've been working on a crepe de chine Tiny-pocket tank and I haven't backstitched on it once.

    As for bust darts... I sew off the point (using tiny/narrow stitches) and take 2 or 3 extra stitches to twist the threads, then I lift the presser foot and replace it just inside the dart allowance at the point and sew off again. Then I snip the threads. No knotting or backstitching.

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  54. Wow I didn't know there were so many different opinions on this topic.

    I started with a Forward-Back-Forward and currently use Back-Forward (because three times seemed excessive).

    I don't have any experience, it's just what someone told me to do or I read it somewhere. Now I will have to experiment a bit... I don't like backstitching in general but I thought it was just something you had to do.

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  55. This is interesting! I have a Singer Featherweight, and though I think I did briefly read something in the manual about backstitching, I don't remember how to do it. I always leave tails at every seam, and then when the garment (or section of garment) is done, I knot the thread of any seam that hasn't already been stitched over. The other day I started a costuming internship, and was instructed to backstitch at the beginning and end of every seam. It was hard to remember to do.

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  56. My machine has a feature that automatically adds a back stitch to the beginning and end of seams; at the end I have to touch a button. It also has a lock stitch feature. It just depends on the fabric if I use it or not. Before I got this machine I always tied then clipped the treads.

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  57. My mother always backstitched so that was how I did it, until I upgraded to my White FR rotary that doesn't reverse... I turned the material to accomplish a backstitch until I READ the directions that instruct to drop the stitch length to 0 for 3 stitches, then roll forward at normal length. Having applied this technique through several projects now, I think it works better.

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  58. I worked at a place where it was a reprimand offence to use the backstitch lever - you had to turn your work .Even though I don't work at that place anymore as a result, I now only very rarely use the backstitch lever at work or when I sew projects at home.

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  59. How I backstitch on an antique singer with no backstitch option: I turn my work upsidedown, then I stitch for an inch toward the top, stop, now with needle still in fabric lift lever swing work back around the right way, now put presser foot down and sew as usual. now at end of work, stop- with needle in fabric lift presser foot, turn work upside down put presser foot down sew an inch up. stop. that's how I do it on an antique machine :)

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  60. Ive never even thought about back stitching. ..I couldnt even say how much I do It.....i know I definitely do it sonetimes! Its definitely something to think about essential as I want to venture into more delicate material :)

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  61. The internet is bogged down with bogus blogs with no real message but the post was fantastic and well worth the read.Thank you for sharing this with me. janome sewing machine

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  62. I always do something to secure my seams, because I know from experience that if I don't, they WILL come undone, no question about it. I don't have the patience for knotting threads, so I'll either lockstitch, backstitch (if I'm only doing a mockup), or (more often) reduce stitch length. As a sewing teacher, I instruct my students to start stitching a little ways in from the edge, then go backwards, then forwards to finish the seam. But as soon as they're confident enough with the basics, I teach them the couture method of reducing stitch length in lieu of backstitching.

    To the person who denies backstitching adds bulk, I'm guessing you don't press your seams flat, then open. Because if you do, you'll notice that where you've backsitched, the seam often refuses to press totally flat, and if you run your fingers over the seam, it's considerably thicker right at the backstitching. This happens more often with beginners who can't manage to sew directly over their previous stitching, but it can happen to anyone.

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  63. I first started sewing on one of those old Singer manual machines. It just shows how far the new sewing and embroidery machines have progressed.

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