How to Sew a Running Stitch and When to Use it

We'll walk you through this one.
Ash Ash (311)
Total time: 1 minute 

The running stitch is one of the most basic stitches you can learn when hand sewing. It's been used by humans for thousands of years. We're honored to pick up the torch for a new generation and shed some light on how to sew this simple stitch.

Embroidery NeedlesEmbroidery Needles ×1
ThreadThread ×1

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...definitely one you need in your hand-sewing arsenal of expertise.

When I first learned how to use a running stitch, I was barely old enough to scrawl my name in cursive. If my memory is correct, I used this stitch to attach a big round circle of fabric to a square, much like attaching a patch. This circle would become the body of a turkey but that's beside the point.

This stitch is incredibly versatile. You can use it to define seams, in place of pins for drafting garments, to attach patches of fabric, and even as a decorative embroidery element.

This isn't the end-all-be-all stitch, but it's definitely one you need in your hand-sewing arsenal of expertise.

Before you begin to sew, you'll need to prepare your fabric. In my experience, this part of the process takes up the majority of the time spent on most projects. Your mileage may vary, especially depending on the difficulty of your project.

Now is the time to cut your pattern (if you're using one) and pin your fabric into place. Take note of where you want your stitch to run.

Start Running Stitch
  • Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end—I leave a tail about 1" long.
  • Pierce the fabric at the starting point of your desired stitch placement.

I usually begin from the underside of a given project (if there is one) and pierce upwards to begin a new stitch.

  • Pull the thread through, it should stop when the knot reaches the fabric.
  • Stop pulling at this point. It's possible to pull the knot through which can stretch the fabric, sometimes causing irreversible damage.
Running Stitch
  • Push the needle downwards through the layers of fabric, pulling the thread taut.
  • Carefully pierce the needle upwards into the fabric.
  • Alternate piercing the needle through each side being careful to produce an even stitch each time. Be sure not to pull the thread too tightly or your fabric will bunch. Fun point: doing this on purpose is how you make ruffles.

If you want to create a straight line, it can help to mark your fabric before stitching.

End Running Stitch

When the stitch is complete, tie a knot and trim the needle and thread from your project.

And be sure to check out my other stitch guides like how to sew blanket stitches, whip stitches, and backstitches.