The running stitch is one of the easiest and most common stitches in embroidery and is often used for hand stitching seams. Put simply, it is an evenly spaced up and down stitch that anyone can do.
In embroidery, the running stitch can be used for decorative purposes and creating flower stems, outlines and intricate swirling patterns. The running stitch can also be used in quilting to sew the layers of fabric and batting together.
When hand stitching seams, the running stitch is fast and easy and the stitch that most beginners use.
The humble running stitch can also be used to gather fabric and is particularly useful for gathering heavy fabrics such as canvas which is difficult to gather with a machine.
The nice thing about running stitch is that the back and front of your project will look attractive with nice evenly spaced stitches. This is why it is often the preferred stitch for quilters.
Which threads to use for a running stitch?
- If you are sewing simple seams, then you can use regular thread or a thicker thread for stronger seams or heavy fabrics.
- When used for embroidery and quilting, the running stitch is usually stitched with embroidery floss.
How to Sew a Running Stitch
Thread your needle with either a double or single thread. Commonly, a single thread is used for embroidery and quilting, and a double thread is used for sewing seams.
Put your needle in the wrong side of the fabric and come up to the top. The knot will be on the underside.
Now put the needle back down through the fabric a short distance away. Then up again at the same distance.
If you are right handed then you will be working right to left. If you are left handed you will be working in the opposite direction of course – left to right.
Smaller stitches will create a stronger seam and are less likely to catch.
Repeat! DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP (see numbers 1 to 10 below)
The stitches don’t necessarily need to be evenly spaced. Look at the different looks you can create by varying the stitch lengths.
When you are using an embroidery hoop like the one pictured, you will generally need to take one stitch at a time. But when stitching seams you will be able to make several stitches at a time and sew really fast.
To finish your line of stitching, knot off on the back of the fabric.
Finishing a Hand Stitched Seam for Beginners:
If you are a complete beginner, here is how you knot off.
Bring your needle to the back and take a small stitch in the fabric.
Before the loop of thread is pulled right through, put the needle back into the loop. Pull tight.
For extra strength repeat this process. Then cut the thread and you are all done!
Running Stitch Templates
Running stitch can be used to outline and create simple embroideries for clothing and quilting.
I did this quick cat embroidery to show you how the running stitch can be used for outlines of animals, flowers and any other motifs you can think of. Children’s clothing look especially cute with animal embroidery. You can embroider directly on the clothing or sew on scraps of fabric to make patches.
Print block letters on your computer printer and use them as a template to create running stitch monograms.
Traditional Japanese Sashiko embroidery uses small running stitches to create intricate repeating patterns.
The running stitch really is the easiest embroidery stitch you can ever do. Once you can master this simple stitch, you can build upon it to create many more beautiful stitches.