how to finish a stitch when hand sewing

How to End a Stitch When Sewing By Hand

For a finished, polished look to your sewing projects, be sure to end your stitches as beautifully as you started them. There are several ways to finish your stitches, and all of them will leave your work stronger, protecting it from unraveling whenever it’s worn, used, or washed.

Finishing stitches when hand sewing can be tricky, however. Tradition insists that the ends are invisible, which takes extra care. Start out slowly until you have the technique down, and practice will soon make it easy.

To start, always cut your thread by leaving enough to tie a knot without difficulty. Five or six inches should be enough. Always finish on the wrong, or back, side of your project, keeping an even tension on your thread.

Knot off

Using your fingers, make a tiny loop in the end of the thread, close against the fabric.

Pull your needle through this loop, then gently and smoothly pull until you’ve made a knot against the fabric at the end of the last stitch. You may want to hold the loop against the fabric as you pull.

Make a second knot to finish, pull it tight, and trim closely.


Knot off alternative

After making the last stitch, place the tip of your needle against the start of that last stitch, holding your needle flat against the fabric.

Gently push the needle into the stitch and forward, so that the tip of the needle emerges at the end of the last stitch.

Push the needle halfway through.

Wrap the thread two or three times around the needle. Lay one finger gently on the loops to hold them in place, and pull the needle through, forming a knot.

Back stitch

On your last stitch, pull your needle through to the right side of the fabric. Let’s call this last one stitch X.

Place the tip of your needle a third of the way back along stitch X, as if you were going backwards. Push the tip of the needle right into the thread of stitch X.

Pull the needle through to the wrong side. The tiny new stitch should be hidden in stitch X, and be one third its length.

Pull the needle back up through the fabric from the wrong side so that it emerges two thirds back along stitch X, and comes up through stitch X’s thread.

Finally, push the needle down through the original entry point of stitch X, and pull through to the wrong side.

With the wrong side facing you, gently push your needle tip under the last stitch, and pull the thread underneath the stitch to hold it. Trim close, being careful not to snip the stitch.


Fabric Finish

Begin and end near a seam, or wherever there will be extra layers of fabric where you finish. For instance, if hemming the skirt of a doll’s dress, begin and end at a side seam.

Make your final stitch where the hem meets the seam, with your needle on the wrong side.

Right along the top of the hem on the wrong side, make a tiny stitch in the fabric of the seam, then stitch over this stitch a few times to anchor the thread. Finish with the thread between the fabric layers of the seam, before trimming it closely where the end won’t be seen.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to have sharp scissors close to hand. Biting the thread or breaking it will result in ragged thread ends, instead of a polished, finished look to your project.

Scroll to Top