How to Backstitch

In this article, you will learn three ways to secure the start and finish of a stitching line — backstitch; lockstitch; and shortened stitches.

When you’re sewing seams, you will need to secure the start and the end of each seam line that you want to commit to permanently.

Because if you don’t, those seams will start to unravel faster than you can say, “No, you didn’t!”

And you have three choices. You can…

  • Backstitch
  • Lock stitch
  • Shorten stitch length

How to Backstitch

Modern machines have a backstitch or reverse button. Or they should!

The downward curved arrow is the universal sign for backstitch.

Did you find it?!


Backstitching is super easy.

Most instructions tell you to stitch forward a few stitches, backstitch, and then stitch forward again at the beginning and at the end of a stitching line.

Of course, this works. But it can get bulky and not cute. So I prefer to use this method…

Let's Practice How to Sew

Step 1: Position your fabric under the presser foot so that the needle is about ¼ inch in from the raw, top edge (see image above). This way you will avoid your fabric getting buried in the hole in your needle plate! Ugh!

Step 2: Lower your needle into the fabric either by pressing the needle position button or turning the handwheel towards you.

Step 3: Lower your presser foot.

Step 4: Now, press the reverse button and backstitch two to three stitches without sewing off the edge. I find it helpful to do this slowly so that I don’t sew off the edge.

Step 5: Then, release the reverse button and stitch forward.

Step 6: As you are near the end of the stitching line, about ¼ inch shy of the raw edge, press the reverse button to backstitch again a maximum of three stitches and release the reverse button.

Limiting your backstitching to just three stitches avoids an ugly ending to an otherwise pretty stitching line!

Step 7: Now, continue stitching forward and off the edge of the fabric.

Step 8: Then lift your presser foot, remove the fabric, and snip the threads or use the thread cutter.


This method results in less bulk at the start of your seam line. And it’s prettier too.

I know you’re probably thinking, “Whatever, Janine.” But trust me, for certain fabrics like chiffon or lightweight cottons, it can make a huge difference. You’ll see.

Sew easy tip: Some machines have a built-in stitch for backstitching  So all you have to do is position your fabric, sew your seam line. Then, as you near the end of the seam line, you press the reverse button once and let the machine do its thing! With this feature, no more backstitching than absolutely necessary! Love, love, love!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to sew a plain seam.

Okay. Now let’s move on to another option…

How to Lock Stitch

Many sewing machines today, certainly computerized ones, come with a nifty, built-in option to secure the start and the end of a seam line. It is called the lock stitch.

How to Backstitch

If your machine has this feature built-in, you will likely see the button in the image above near the other operational buttons, such as the reverse button.

And/or, you’ll have a selection choice like stitch type #2 and #4 in the featured image at the top of this article. (Stitch type #1 and #3 are for the backstitch at the far left and at the center positions, respectively.)

Basically, when you choose this stitch, your sewing machine will go up and down in place a few times at the start of your seam line, creating a tiny little knot. Repeat at the end of the stitching line.

No bulk. Just a sweet, itty bitty knot! Love it!

Sew easy tip: If your machine does NOT have a built-in locking stitch, try this: (1) Set your stitch length to 0mm; (2) Gently hold both the needle and bobbin threads behind your presser foot to avoid jamming; (3) stitch in place a few times at the start; (4) Set stitch length back to regular and stitch the remainder of the seam; and (5) as you near the end of your stitching line, set stitch length again to 0mm and stitch in place a few times to finish.

Finally, here is one last option for securing a stitching line…

Shorten the Stitch Length

How to Backstitch

This is a great option for sewing darts and when sewing delicate, lightweight fabrics.

In other words…

  1. At the start of your seam line, shorten the stitch length to 1.0mm and sew for about ½ inch.
  2. Stop and INCREASE stitch length back to normal, which is usually 2.5mm.
  3. Continue to sew your seam line. And as you near the last ½ inch or so, stop and…
  4. Reduce stitch length to 1.0mm again and complete the seam line.

That’s it.

Trust me, your seam line is secure! Those itty bitty stitches are near impossible to remove even when you desperately need to! Ask me how I know this!

Sew easy tip: Since shorter stitch lengths are a total grizzly bear to rip out, do remember to increase the stitch length back to the regular stitch length for the remainder of your stitching line!

The End

This article has shown you three ways to secure your permanent seam lines:

  1. backstitch;
  2. lock stitch; and
  3. shorten the stitch length.

This means that you’re now the boss of starting and finish your stitching lines!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!