This is about hand stitches. Parts of this are also in posts on machine and other methods for Basting and Gathering.

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All these hand stitches – basting, running, gathering – are made with the same movement, in different lengths.
Usually by pushing the point of the needle down through the fabric then up to the front again, before pulling the thread through.

This group of hand stitches are the easiest and the most used of all stitches.

See separate post on
Starting and finishing hand stitching

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Basting stitch (tacking)


Sewn through 1 layer of fabric for marking.
Through 2 or more layers for a temporary hold.

Long stitches which are easy to pull out and re-do if they’re in the wrong place.
When all is correct, do the final stitching and pull out the basting.

Here’s a video from Sew New York.
Though if you want to mark the line to sew along, I would do it with a marker pen or tailors chalk, rather than a seam gauge.
I also usually don’t start stitching with a knot, as this makes the thread more difficult to pull out.

The best basting stitch depends on how strongly you want it to hold.
Usually :
Long-short stitches for ‘thread marking’.
Even stitches about 1/4″ long for holding fabric pieces together.
Angled stitches for a really strong hold, see
post with video on diagonal basting from FashionSewingBlog

Best to use a contrasting colour thread for basting, so it’s easy to see.
There’s even special basting thread. Spun to be extra smooth so it pulls out easily.
The last thing you want with your main sewing thread is that it pulls out easily !

Here’s a more general post on Basting .

Running stitch

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Stitches are shorter than for basting, this is used for permanent stitching.
The two parts of the stitch may be different lengths, or the same length.
Used for light stitching which doesn’t take a great deal of strain.

After practice you’ll be able to save time by using a rocking motion to get several stitches on the needle before pulling the thread through.



Like a running stitch, with both parts of the stitches the same length.
The shorter the hand stitches, the finer the gathering !
Usually sewn through 1 or 2 layers of fabric, the gathers get too bulky with more.
Leave long threads at beginning and end of stitching, so it’s easy to pull up the gathers.

Here’s a more general post on Gathering .

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The shorter and more even in length the hand stitches are, the higher quality the stitching.
Hmm – girls used to be judged on this. . .
I wouldn’t score very highly !

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Links available April 2014

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