Learn to Hand Sew an Overcast Stitch and Beat the Sewing Machine

Sewing machines are great, but sometimes there’s nothing better than that hand-sewn touch. Take seams, for instance — you can choose from approximately a million and one ways to finish the raw edge of one, but for elegance and finesse, a hand-sewn overcast stitch wins every time.

This technique wraps the thread around the raw edge of the fabric, preventing the fibers from unraveling while you wear or care for the garment. This stitch is definitely worth knowing how to do by hand — while it may sound like a much slower process, it moves quickly once you get the hang of it. Plus, you can use it on fine fabrics like silk or thicker ones like wool to give the inside of your garment a classy, couture touch.

How to Hand Sew an Overcast Stitch

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Thread
  • Fabric/WIP project
  • Needle
  • Instructions

    1. Find the Right Needle

    overcast stitch step 1

    Grab a needle that’s the right size and type for the fabric you’re sewing. Make sure the needle isn’t too heavy or too light for the weight of your fabric.

    Thread the needle with a color that matches your fabric. Tie a knot at the end of the thread, and insert your needle through the fabric just below the raw edge. Pass the needle from the back side to the front side so the knot stays hidden underneath.

    2. Loop the Thread

    overcast stitch step 2

    Loop the thread over the fabric edge and pass the needle through it. The needle should pass through the fabric from back to front, moving a tiny bit to the side of the first stitch you made. (Note: It’s easier to do this stitch if you work from right to left.)

    3. Pull the Thread

    overcast stitch step 3

    Now you’ll see the first loop you’ve formed over the edge of the fabric. Make sure not to pull the thread so tightly that you crimp the fabric; the thread should look flat and smooth along the edge.

    4. Repeat

    overcast stitch step 4

    Wrap the threads over the edge and pass the needle through. Once again, the needle should go through the fabric from back to front.

    Good to Know: The thread with the needle attached should be under the loop, so the loop of thread can wrap itself around the edge of the fabric. If the thread is on top of the loop, it will form a knot.

    5. Pull

    overcast stitch step 5

    Pull your thread again to form your second stitch.

    Repeat this motion over and over until the entire edge of the fabric is wrapped in thread.

    overcast stitch final product

    Your stitches should look like the ones in the image above. It may take longer to get a feel for this technique when you’re first learning, but soon you’ll be working fast — just like a machine, only so much better.

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