How to Decide when to Hand Stitch or Machine Stitch

Learn Stitching Stitching Machine

One of the most common dilemma with sewing beginners is to decide, when to hand stitch and when to machine stitch your clothes.

There are some basic things you can keep in mind while deciding between the two. 

A stitch is a vertical or horizontal looking line like this- - - - - - - - - - - - going in one direction and it can move in different directions.

Sewing Machine (1)

Stitching is – joining two pieces together. A stitch, which is primarily used to join two pieces together is called a basic Stitch.

A Stitch is a thread or a loop to join pieces together.

Types of machine stitches

Types of Hand Stitches

  • Back tack - Back Tack is backward stitch or number of stitches, to anchor tacking or basting pieces.
  • Backstitch - When you don't have a sewing machine, but you want a sturdy hand stitch for seams and decoration, then Backstitch is popularly used.
  • Basting stitch - This type of hand stitch is used for reinforcement or for temporarily holding fabric in place, it is similar as Tack Stitch.
  • Blanket stitch - You make wide or long stitches on the edges of a thick fabric. This stitch is used to finish and hem blanket sides.
  • Blind stitch (or hemstitch) - As the name suggests, this type of slip stitch is used for neat finishing of hem line.
  • Buttonhole stitch - Though, generally a buttonhole stitch is done by machines now-a-days, but in absence of a machine, you can make a buttonhole stitch for reinforcing buttonholes and preventing cut fabric from raveling.
  • Chain stitch - Most Chain stitch is used by hand or machine stitch for seams or decoration.
  • Cross-stitch - This stitch is usually used for decoration, but it may also be used for seams.
  • Catch stitch  - It is a flat looped stitch used in hemming, and it is also called Flat and Blind catch Stitch.
  • Darning stitch - Darning stitch is used for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting.
  • Embroidery stitch - You can use any type of stitch, even a straight stitch to make one or more stitches, forming a figure or a pattern of design.
  • Hemstitch  - Hemstitch or Hemming stitch is a decorative technique for embellishing the hem of clothing or household linens.
  • Overcast stitch - Overcast stitch is used to enclose a raw, or unfinished, seam or edge. 
  • Pad stitch - This stitch secures two or more layers of fabric together and provide firmness.
  • Pick stitch - It is a hand stitch that catches only a few threads on the wrong side of the fabric, difficult to produce nicely so typically used for hemming high quality garments.
  • Running stitch - It is the simplest stitch used for hand stitch for seams and gathering.
  • Slip stitch - This is a form of blind stitch for fastening two pieces of fabric together from the right side without the thread showing.
  • Stoating - Stoating is used to join two pieces of woven material, such that the resulting stitches are not visible from the right side of the cloth.
  • Tack - Tack Stitch is quick, temporary stitching intended to be removed, you can use pins for this purpose while sewing.
  • Tent stitch - Long diagonal embroidery stitch at a 45-degree angle, generally used while sewing thick fabrics, woolens and coats .
  • Topstitch - Top stitch is used on garment edges such as necklines and hems, helps facings stay in place and gives a crisp edge.
  • Whipstitch - Whipstitch is used for protecting edges of the garment.
  • Ladder stitch or mattress stitch - It is used for invisibly closing seams from the outside, i.e. to close a pillow after being stuffed.


How to decide which Stitch is perfect for your work?

A stitch is used for two purposes :- Temporary and Permanent

Temporary Stitch

A stitch which is used to baste two pieces together till the time Permanently strong stitch is done, is called a temporary stitch.

For example ______________________a Running Stitch,which can be taken off.

Running Stitch ———- It runs in one direction,no expertise required except keeping your nose straight. Stitch length can be long or short. Can be used for decorative purpose also.

Diagonal Stitch ///////// It is done on the joints of a dress till trial. After that this stitch is taken off.

Thread Mark Stitch _________ On thick fabrics, where it’s difficult to get tracing marks clear, this is an effective way.

It goes like a running stitch but alternate stitch is tightly done.

After that, loosely done threads are cut with a scissors. By this method, thread marks are visible on the fabric.

A temporary stitch is taken off after final stitch. It need not be as finely done or nicely placed as a permanent stitch.

Permanent Stitch

As its name suggests, this stitch is permanent and is not taken off. In fact, if it puckers by accident, we run to our needle and put the stitch back neatly and nicely.

A permanent stitch—————–may also look like a basting or running stitch but it’s finer and shorter than that.

Some examples are Hemming, Round Hem,Back Stitch, Fine Stitch,Quilting Stitch, Padding Stitch etc.


We know which stitch to use where. Now, we need to know what is the best way to do it. How to do a stitch?

There are two methods to do a stitch – By Hand or By Machine


Stitches are done by hands since centuries.

Stitches by hands take a lot of time and precision. Since ages, our tiny but mighty needle is at work in every household. This type of stitch is more flexible.

There are so many types of stitches which are done by hands for decoration and increasing the beauty and value of a dress.

  • Work is more beautifully and intricately done.
  • There is an individual expertise in each work.
  • Skill and experience matters.
  • Hand embroidered and hand made work is more expensive.
  • Two pieces may not be identical and
  • Can not be mass produced in short notice.


Various types of stitches can be done by machines ever since our friendly sewing machine came into existence.

Sewing machines are also available with pre-loaded set of designs and patterns. Many computerized machines can give you result par excellence.

    • Machines take lesser time to complete a stitch.
    • Work is identical and can be mass produced.
    • Work is economically available.
    • Lesser dependence on skillful manpower is required.


A stitch by hands is always more flexible,sturdy, intricate, beautiful and appealing. Even though, it costs more it’s better to go for hand stitch if the purpose is to decorate or to beautify.

For embroidery and designing, hand stitch is preferred due to flexibility of design adaptations.

A machine stitch should be used for joining parts, routine wear, fast work and saving time.

The choice is yours. Find your purpose and start with needle in your hands or in the machine. 

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