Common Sewing Stitches You Need to Know

common sewing stitches

Generally speaking, sewing machines in the current market come with a great range of functionality.  However, one of the most important tasks, perhaps the backbone of every impeccable garment, is understanding the various stitching techniques every machine has to offer.  No matter the complexity or style of your sewing machine, even the simplest ones should accommodate most of these common sewing stitches.

The fundamental art of stitching is primarily based on the stitch structure and the method used to interlace the threads.  Occasionally, you might get confused on what stitch to use where.   Not to worry; here is a comprehensive and easy-to-use guide featuring ten most common stitches to see you through your sewing projects.

1. Straight Stitch or Lockstitch

Common Sewing Stitches

To say that this is a common stitch is an understatement.  With its innumerable number of faces, this stitch is arguably the most versatile.  Formed by simply moving your needle from one point of the fabric to another in a straight line, this basic stitch can be created in different lengths, directions and with varying thread thickness to generate different effects.  Tip: The shorter the stitch, the stronger the seam.

To say that this is a common stitch is an understatement.  With its innumerable number of faces, this stitch is arguably the most versatile.  Formed by simply moving your needle from one point of the fabric to another in a straight line, this basic stitch can be created in different lengths, directions and with varying thread thickness to generate different effects.  Tip: The shorter the stitch, the stronger the seam.

2. Basting Stitch

Common Sewing Stitches

In the initial stages of your garment making, you might need to secure your fabric in place. Basting stitches temporarily hold your material together and are easily removed with a seam ripper after the permanent stitches are applied.  However, the quintessential use of this stitch is to mark the position of fabric elements in tailoring and the direction of stripes and prints to be able to match patterns as in the image above.

3. Zigzag Stitch

Common Sewing Stitches

Depending on what you are sewing, the straight stitch might not always come in handy.  Zigzag stitching becomes a more viable option in instances when you need to shell raw edges of your fabric to minimize fraying, secure elastic fabric and also for button sewing.  Tip: The zigzag width and length can be altered for desired design results.

4. Tricot, multiple steps zigzag or 3 steps zigzag

An absolute favorite of mine when I do not have an overlocker running and the perfect stitch for those that do not have a serger or overlocker to sew knits. 

5. Overlock or Overedge Stitch

Common Sewing Stitches

When it comes to professional efficiency, the overlock stitch just can't be beaten.  With exceptional ability to neatly put together two pieces of fabric, create stitch patterns than can accommodate an incredibly large bulk of stretch, plus tuck frayed edges, the overlock stitch will, without a doubt, give your garment a much cleaner and professional appeal.

Tip: Overlock stitches provide additional strength to fabric edges.

6. Decorative Stitch

Most simple sewing machines today have the ability to make a few decorative stitches. Combining these decoratives stitches together and with the help of beads and sequins, the look of your garment is greatly enhanced.

7. Blind Hem Stitch

Delicate silk, wool, cotton often requires unique hemstitching for a more refined look.  Blind hem stitching is very popular in this kind of design though it requires a special presser foot.   A blind hem stitch is shown here in green so you can appreciate the results.

8. Flatlock Stitch

Common Sewing Stitches

Similar to the overlock stitch, the flatlock stitch is used in the joining of two fabric pieces.  However, this stitch differs in that the flatlock stitch creates a thinner seam appearance since for this kind of stitching there is no fabric left in the seam allowance.  

Tip: Fewer layers of fabric along garment seams are more comfortable.

9. Chain Stitch

Common Sewing Stitches

Faced with a difficult inseam and side seam sewing encounter? The chain stitch ought to do it.  This ornate stitch is formed by a set of threads placed in interlocking loops to form chain-like stitches.  The chain stitch also works perfectly for denim bottoms as in the picture. 

This stitch requires a special sewing machine but it is possible to simulate it on a Bernina 880 if you are so lucky to have it.

10. Serpentine Stitch

common sewing stitches

Lastly, the serpentine stitch is a great alternative to the straight stitch. The gentle and curvy nature of the stitch allows you to carefully work on lightweight fabrics which are prone to slipping but without stretching them.  This stitch also comes in handy while working on elastic material.  With quilting projects, the serpentine stitch also helps to hold the quilting layers together and in place for a neat finishing.

One last thing about common sewing stitches

Though the extent of stitch techniques varies from one sewing machine to another, understanding the fundamental art of basic and common sewing stitches allows you to create an incredibly wide range of effects.  Using a variety and the most appropriate stitch for the job can have a significant impact on the aesthetic as well as the quality of your finished garment.  

Before embarking on your sewing project, always try out different stitching styles on scraps and think carefully about which stitches to use.  Adjust stitch lengths and widths for a more intricate look.  Most importantly, be creative and have fun!

What's your favorite stitch?  Do you use other stitches frequently that you think should be included in this list?  Please let us know in the comments below.

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22 Responses to Common Sewing Stitches You Need to Know

  1. Hanora Crowley says:

    Good article. Many coverstitch machines can adapt to do chain stitch

  2. Avelina Munoz says:

    You are fantastic thanks so much for your good advice it gave me the motivation to try out my different stiches

  3. Suzanne says:

    I like making my own undies and soft bras, which (obviously) requires some sort of stretchy stitch. So I have 2 favorites – a straight stitch using a double needle and a triple stretch stitch. Although I’d love to have a cover stitch machine, it’s outside the budget. But the double needle technique gives a somewhat similar result and is great for hemming knit dresses and t-shirts!
    Have you ever discussed the overcast stitch? I love to quilt and always wash my quilting fabrics before cutting, so I overcast the raw edges first to prevent the kind of mess that happens in the washer if you don’t stabilize them first (been there, done that!) I also like to use it on the seams of any woven fabric that will be washed often.

  4. Ruth says:

    I have had top of the line machines for 40 years from two different brands and none have had a chain stitch
    What home machine do you find that particular stitch in? I have often wished there was such a stitch!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Ruth, I have corrected the phrase that implied all that stitches can be done by any home sewing machine. It is possible to simulate the chain stitch take a look at the video I am sharing with you so you can have a look, it takes a bit of practice but the end result is very pretty.

    • sfward says:


  5. Karen says:

    I read this article with plans to send it to my adult daughter who has picked up sewing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t available to teach her and home ec wasn’t an option. I didn’t know about the flat-lock stitch. Your example looks like it was sewn with yarn. Is this stitch common on most machines? And the chain stitch, is that common on household machines? I know that a sewing machine produced in the 60’s had chain-stitch capabilities but I haven’t heard of it in our ‘modern’ world. We all have seen the chain stitch in our jeans, but you don’t explain WHY it is preferable. Thank you for putting together this helpful information.

  6. Susan says:

    Thanks so much for all your informative emails. I’ve learned so much! I appreciate the various topics you two cover! I teach a class that uses machine stitches in a decorative design. I had forgotten the serpentine!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      It is a pleasure Susan!

    • Cindy Porcelli says:

      I love your site and I am learning so much ! I’m off to research my machine to discover the decorative stitches I may have for making Christmas scarves..thank you!

      • Mayra Cecilia says:

        Please do, I will be sharing a boho-chic blouse and you will need the decorative stitches in your sewing machine to make the project stand out.

  7. Tina WEMYSS says:

    my machine has 48 different stitches and I seem to manage with those fine!
    Favourite is the blanket stitch, my Elna 6003 does not have a nice one, too thick but I seem to manage if I use a stabiliser underneath!

  8. Lynn says:

    I’m re-teaching myself to sew and this was wonderful information. I love your website thank you for sharing your knowledge. So glad I found it.

  9. Linda says:

    I use the buttonhole stitch for applique, etc.

  10. Melba H says:

    Very informative. I’m new to sewing and love this site. I have learned a lot here.

  11. Ade Twombly says:

    Very informative. Now I have ideas where to use all these stitches. I’m also enjoying all the patterns and information you’ve shared with me.Keep up the great work.

  12. Sue says:

    Under #2 The Basting Stitch, the sentence “However, the quintessential use of this stitch is to mark” isn’t finished. What is the rest of the statement. This info is very helpful.

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