Tacking stitch is simply a form of running stitch. It tacks onto so many projects and is worth knowing for all its uses and down to earth simplicity. There are variations of tacking stitch and different lengths and strengths. Many busy sewers may be tempted to avoid tacking stitch and rather use pins to tack, but this stitch can save time in the long run.
What is Tacking Stitch?
Tacking stitch is the same as a basting stitch which is a temporary way to hold a seam before you sew it with the machine. It is a larger version of the running stitch with the length of the stitches varying depending on the fabric and the project. You can hand tack or machine tack using a long stitch.
Tacking Stitch vs Pins
Using a tacking stitch is far more secure than pinning. Pins may fall out or get caught under the machine. In slippery or difficult to sew fabrics, pins are not recommended.
The purpose of the tacking stitch is to hold the fabric together ready to sew. Tacking should be firm and evenly spaced.
Tacking stitch makes sewing plaids and pattern matching easier and more reliable. I use it any time I need to sew a sleeve as it is better than pins to get the shape right.
Tacking pulled up can help create loose gathers and tack stitch made small and close together makes great reinforcement.
Uses of Tacking Stitch
- Reinforcing stress points like pocket corners.
- Holding multiple layers of fabric in place for machine sewing.
- Attaching labels and tags to garments.
- Holding slippery fabrics in place prior to machine stitching.
- Preventing batting from slipping for quilting projects.
- Securing lining for jackets and skirts.
- Preparing the muslin pattern and fitting for a special garment prior to making the real finished outfit. This is especially useful for a professional making a pattern for a client for the first time and before cutting out the expensive fabric.
- Securing zippers and other more complicated additions to a garment.
Tacking has different uses and there are different types of the tacking stitch. Tacking is not really just another running stitch!
How to Do Tacking Stitch
This is how you do a simple up and down tacking stitch.
- Thread the needle and knot the end. Your needle can be threaded with a double or single thread.
- You will be working right to left (assuming you are right-handed).
- Bring the needle from up from underneath to the top of the fabric at (1)
- Put the needle back down again at (2) and come up at (3).
- If you are confident, you may find it easier to take a few stitches at a time.
DOWN - UP- DOWN - UP....
Remember smaller stitches have more control! Longer stitches are faster but have less control.
The stitches can be even or unevenly spaced.
Types of Tacking Stitch
Here are eight different variations of tacking stitch.
The tacking stitches are looped loosely to mark different points of a pattern and then snipped to pull apart and mark the second part of the pattern underneath. Tailor’s tacking is very useful for marking delicate fabrics that you prefer not to mark with a pin or tailor’s chalk.
Further Reading: Tailor's Tacks
Long and Short Tacking Stitch
This is the most commonly used tacking stitch. Using the tacking stitch in long and short strides helps secure the fabric of a garment and prevents slipping. It is also a quicker way of completing the tacking stitches if you are in a hurry to get the job done.
Long and short tacking uses a running stitch where the top threads are longer than the spaces.
Diagonal Tacking Stitch
Stitched in vertical columns and at a slant. This is a great way to secure large pieces of a project or the inner lining of a jacket as it prevents slipping.
Set your machine on a long stitch setting. This is usually a length of 4.0-6.0 on most machines.
Using a long stitch means the threads will easily pull out when the tacking is no longer needed. A seam ripper will make short work or removing the stitches. If you don't backstitch the ends then you may be able to just pull the bobbin thread.
Tie Tacking Stitch
This is a useful form of tacking to ‘tie’ several layers of fabric together. The needle and thread make a loop at the point where you want to tie the fabric. The loop is made into two tails that are tied together on top of the fabric.
This version of tacking is used often on quilts to tie the layers of batting, lining and quilted fabric together. In some cases, the tie tacking is used as part of the quilted effect.
Hand tacking refers to any of the taking stitches that can not be worked by machine. A strong cotton thread is recommended because it pulls out easily.
Arrow Head Tacking Stitch
The arrowhead tack stitch forms a point and arrowhead shape. It is useful for securing kick pleats or shirt vents. This tacking stitch may be used decoratively and even finds a place in embroidery designs.
Bar Tacking Stitch
This is a high-density machine stitch used to reinforce areas of garments that take more strain than most. Pocket corners, loops on jeans, belt bands and the ends of zip openings are some of the stress areas, especially in denim fabrics, that use a bar tack.
Here you can see bar tacking used at the top of the pocket edges. It looks like a tiny horizontal zig-zag stitch.
Tacking Stitch - In Conclusion
Tacking stitch is versatile, useful and a real asset to the couturier who wants to provide a really perfect fit and finish for a garment. The tacking stitch is definitely a good way to start right in the process of sewing a garment and can make the difference in the fitting and finish of any dressmaking project.
The wise old saying ‘a stitch in time saves nine,’ surely applies to the simple tacking stitch if you tack your seam and get it fitting and secure before sewing the piece. In this way, you will be sure to get it right the first time and save pulling out the stitches you machined in a hurry. Your tacking stitch done in time will save more than nine!