How to Sew: The Overcast Stitch

The Overcast Stitch

Garments can be sewn entirely by machines and fancy tools, but there is no replacement for quality hand sewing. It will take any item and elevate it to a higher quality, as you will be employing the same techniques as the finest couture sewers. In this series of posts, I will guide you through the main hand sewing stitches that you might encounter while sewing garments.

There are a million and one ways to finish the raw edge of a seam, from pinking the raw edges with pinking shears to serging the edges, or even zigzag stitching on the fabric’s edge, but none of the seam finishes is more elegant than a hand-sewn overcast stitch. Just like if you were sewing with a serger machine, this technique wraps the thread around the raw edge of the fabric, preventing the fibres from unravelling while wearing or caring for the garment.
This seems like a slower process, but it can move quickly once you get the hang of it and it can lend a nice touch to the inside of your garment. This technique is lovely on fine fabrics like silk but also serves as a great way to finish thicker fabrics like wool.



Find a needle that is the correct size and type for the fabric you are sewing with, making sure that the needle isn’t too heavy or light for the fabric’s content and weight. Pair that with thread that matches your fabric and thread the needle. Tie a knot at the end of the thread and insert it through the fabric just below the raw edge. Pass the needle from the backside to the front side so the knot is hidden underneath.


Loop the thread over the edge and pass the needle through the fabric from back to front, a small distance to the side of the original stitch. This stitch is easiest done when working from right to left.


Pull the thread tight and you will see the first loop formed over the edge of the fabric. Be sure not to pull the threads so tight as to crimp the fabric. It should be flat and smooth on the edge.


Repeat by wrapping the threads over the edge and passing the needle through the fabric from back to front. Note that the thread with the needle attached is under the loop so the loop of thread can wrap itself around the fabric’s edge. Otherwise, if the thread is on top of the loop, it will form a knot.


Pull the threads tight as you did with the first stitch to form a second stitch. Repeat this over and over until the entire edge of the fabric is wrapped in thread.