What Is A Hand Overcast Stitch And How To Sew It?

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A hand overcast stitch (also referred to as a whip stitch) is a diagonal type of stitch used to finish raw edges of fabric in order to prevent fabric from fraying.

It is a soft and flat seam finish, which is also really time consuming to sew. Use this technique if you do not have a sewing machine, you are currently working on a haute couture dress. Or just do not want to use a sewing machine (because you are working on a really small project) or find hand sewing relaxing.

In this tutorial, you will learn:

How to prepare a guideline?

If you are not proficient a hand needle (like me :), start by sewing a guideline along the raw edge of the fabric with a sewing machine. This guideline will help you to keep the distance between the individual stitches and the depth of the stitches uniform. This guideline is not essential. You can skip it and sew the whip stitch straight away following these instructions.

Use a colour that matches the colour of the fabric. In this tutorial, I’m using a white upper thread so that you can see it on the fabric well.

Set the stitch length to 4 mm (about 3/16 inch). On our Brother KD 144 sewing machine, it is stitch number 10.

Long straight stitch setting on a Brother sewing machine.

Sew a straight line about 5 mm (1/8 inch) from the edge of the fabric, do not forget to secure the thread at the end and at the beginning by backstitching.

Guideline for hand whip stitch made by a sewing machine.

How to sew a hand overcast stitch?

Pick a thread that matches the colour of the fabric and thread a hand needle. Tie a knot at the end of the thread and start at one end of the fabric next to the guideline sewn by the sewing machine (see the image below).

If you did not sew a guideline, make sure you make the stitches about 5 mm (1/8 inch) deep and 4 mm (about 3/16 inch) apart from each other.

Stat of a hand overcast stitch.
Beginning of a whip stitch.

Go around the edge of the fabric and stick the needle from the backside of the fabric close to the next guideline stitch (see the image below).

Sewing a hand overcast stitch.

Pull the thread and create a stitch around the fabric (see the images below).

Pull the thread to make one hand overcast stitch.

Make sure you are not pulling the thread too tight, otherwise a tunnel will be formed at the edge of the fabric (see the image below).

Thread pulled too tight distorting the hand overcast stitch.

Continue until you reach the end of the fabric. Secure the thread, cut away redundant threads and finish your project.

Finished edge of fabric using a hand overcast stitch.

In the image below you can see how a hand overcast seam finish looks like with seam allowances pressed open.

Sample of hand overcast seam finish.

Conclusion: hand overcast stitch

Overcast stitch is rarely used as an edge finishing stitch these days. Yet it’s really useful to have it among your sewing skills. You never know when your machine fails you just a few inches before the end of your project. 🙂

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