A Simple Tutorial for Tying Off a Stitch by Hand and Machine

When we spend hours upon hours making something beautiful out of fabric and thread, we want it to last a long time. 

One of the ways we can ensure the lifespan of our seams is to tie off the stitches properly.

This is a surprisingly overlooked step, but with a bit of practice, it will be a quick and easy way to secure your hand stitches for years. 

We will also discuss how to finish a stitch using a sewing machine, so let’s jump into it!

Why It’s Important to Know How to Tie a Knot in Thread the Right Ways

It is a common misconception that hand-stitching is outdated or not as “good” as sewing with a sewing machine, but if you do it correctly, your sewing projects will stand the test of time. A key to the success of your sewing is tying or finishing the stitch correctly.

Let’s address some of the reasons why it is vital. 

  • It gives the finished piece a professional look.
  • It secures your stitches and seams.
  • It allows you to cut the excess thread without worrying about the stitches coming undone. 
  • Depending on the technique you use, it can add to the decoration of the piece. 

How to Tie Off a Stitch 

In this tutorial, we will address three simple yet effective options for how to tie a sewing knot to finish a stitch. No matter what type of sewing you do, it is essential to know how to use these three methods to ensure your stitches are secure. 

The first two are specifically for hand sewing, and the final method will be for those who sew with a sewing machine.

Method #1: The Classic Tying Off a Stitch

This method has been used for thousands of years and is an excellent way to finish any type of hand stitching, whether piecing quilt blocks or creating intricate garments. 

Step One: Stitch the Required Stitches

I am using a running stitch in this example, but you can use any stitch you want. Once you have finished the stitches you want to place in your project, pull the needle through to the piece’s back (wrong side). 

how to tie off a stitch

Make sure you leave about 4” of thread length to be able to do this properly. 

Step Two: Make a Tiny Stitch

Take the needle, go perpendicular to your stitches, and make a tiny stitch through the fabric between the last two stitches you made. 

how to tie off a stitch

Pull the needle through, but not all the way. You want to leave a small loop. 

how to tie off a stitch

Step Three: Make the Knot

Feed the needle through the loop twice and then pull the thread tight to create a secure knot. 

how to tie off a stitch
how to tie off a stitch
how to tie off a stitch

Step Four: Hide the Thread (optional)

In some applications, you may want to hide the end of the thread in the project before you trim it. This is a common practice if you have made something with stuffing or are finishing a seam on the outside of a sewing project, like a bag where you don’t have access to the back or wrong side of the fabric. 

To do this, follow Steps 1-3. Then, feed your needle through one layer of fabric about ½” to 1”, poke the needle back through the top, and pull it all the way through.

how to tie off a stitch
how to tie off a stitch

Now, you can trim the thread, and you have completed tying off a stitch!

how to tie off a stitch

Method #2: The Quilter’s Knot

This knot is called the “quilter’s knot” because quilters use it to finish their hand-quilting stitches; however, you can use this technique to complete any type of hand stitch. It is a slightly different technique than Method #1 but achieves the same result. 

Step One: Create the Necessary Stitches

Stitch whatever stitches you need for your project. In this example, I am doing a backstitch for a little variety. You can use any stitch. Flip the piece over to the “wrong side” or back. 

how to tie off a stitch

Step Two: Wrap the Thread Around the Needle

Make sure you have left about 4” of length on the thread. Hold the thread in your dominant hand and the needle in your non-dominant hand. 

how to tie off a stitch

Wrap the thread around the needle 2-3 times, wrapping the thread towards you or counter-clockwise. 

how to tie off a stitch
how to tie off a stitch

Step Three: Create the Quilter’s Knot

Push the needle through one layer of fabric, pulling the thread taut so the wrapped thread remains in place.

how to tie off a stitch

Pull the needle completely through the fabric and pull the thread tight to create the quilter’s knot. I am pointing to the tiny knot with the tip of my needle. 

how to tie off a stitch

Give the thread a little tug to conceal the knot through the fabric. Be careful not to yank the thread too hard because this could rip or damage the fabric. You’ll get a feel for it once you’ve practiced a few times. 

how to tie off a stitch

Trim the excess thread.

how to tie off a stitch

And that is how you tie off a stitch using two tried and true methods! Now, let’s go over how to secure a stitch with a sewing machine. 

Method #3: [Video Tutorial] Finishing a Stitch Using a Sewing Machine

Now, let’s discuss securing our stitches using your sewing machine. All modern sewing machines have the function called “reverse stitch.” This feature allows you to backstitch, which is the best way to secure your stitches using a sewing machine. 

Step One: Start the Stitches

Whenever you sew any kind of seam, you want to backstitch at the beginning and end of your chain of stitches. Begin stitching and stitch about 3-4 stitches.

Step Two: Reverse Stitch

Use the reverse function of your sewing machine to reverse those 3-4 stitches. Every machine is different, but your machine probably has a reverse button or lever somewhere on the front of the machine. 

This is placing double stitches at the beginning of your stitching, which secures those first stitches and will stop them from coming undone whenever there is tension put on that seam. 

Step Three: Finish the Stitches with Backstitching

Continue your regular sewing until you reach the end of your stitch line. Backstitch again with 3-4 stitches and stitch forward over those stitches.

Cut the top and bobbin thread, and there you have it! Super simple backstitching that will keep your seams secure for years. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and that you have the confidence to tie off your stitches like a pro! You can use these three methods for all kinds of sewing projects, so go out there and have some fun with it!

Learn how to tie off a stitch in this blog post with pictures included so you can follow easily. Bonus: a video tutorial is also available.