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What is Backstitching on a Sewing Machine?


Just like the meaning of the term “the right side of fabric” eluded me when I began sewing, I was also being unsure about backstitching on a sewing machine. And I’m guessing that if I didn’t know how to backstitch, there are probably a few other people that are trying to figure it out, too.

So, backstitching, as the name suggests, is really just sewing backwards. You backstitch to secure the seam you just sewed. If you don’t backstitch, then your seam will unravel.

Now, these pictures and directions are from my sewing machine, a Janome. Your machine may be (probably is) at least slightly different. However, I’m guessing that no matter what machine you use, you will use the same general process. Your backstitch button may look different or be in a different place, but it should be similar. (Although the backstitch symbol on my machine is an arrow pointing backwards, which I am thinking might be universal.)

Ok. So. Let’s assume you’re sewing curtains or something where you’re going to need to backstitch when you start and when you stop.

Step 1 First, go ahead and sew about 5-6 stitches normally. (When I was learning to sew, I would always slow my machine down when backstitching. I don’t need to anymore, but I did then. So you might want to slow down your speed on your machine.)

first thing to do when backstitching on a sewing machine

Step 2 After you’ve sewn about 5 stitches ( if you sewed 4 or 7 that’s fine, it doesn’t have to be exactly 5 or 6, that’s just what I normally do) push the backstitch button and hold it down for about 5 stitches. (Be aware that this feeds the fabric through backwards. Your fabric will back move up, away from you while you backstitch. It’s supposed to. This is the backstitching.)

**On my machine you hold the button down, I can’t say for certain that this is the case with all machines. I would think so, since you usually only backstitch a few stitches at a time, but there may be some machines that you don’t hold the button down, you might just push once to start and once stop. Just keep that in mind.**

This is the backstitch button on my machine.

button to press for backstitching

As you backstitch, try to guide your thread directly over the stitches you just sewed. (If it’s not exact, who cares! Don’t stress.)

Step 3 After you’ve backstitched your 5 stitches, release the backstitch button and your machine will start sewing normally again.

Now, when you get to the very end of your fabric you’ll repeat the exact same process to secure the seam at that end.

So, sew all the way to the end of the fabric. However, instead of removing your fabric and cutting the thread, once you reach the end, you will:

(refer to Step 1) Press the backstitch button.

(refer to Step 2) Backstitch 5-6 stitches.

(refer to Step 3) Release the backstitch button and sew normally.

Now you’re done, with a nice secure seam.

One last picture, an example of what backstitching looks like.

example of backstitching


  1. I just started sewing and this has been so helpful….cnt wait to practice this more

  2. So helpful, thank you for the clear directions!!


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