How to Do a Running Whipstitch

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Needle and thread are needed for running whipstitch.
Needle and thread are needed for running whipstitch. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

A running whipstitch is used primarily to join two pieces of fabric together. Sometimes called overcast stitch, the running whipstitch is a quick and potentially decorative method of hand sewing. The fabric may be woven, crochet, or knitted. Crocheted blocks are generally whipstitched together along the edges, as are most knitted pieces. The process is simple and, as with most hand crafts, can be perfected with a bit of practice.

Things You'll Need

  • Needle to fit thread or yarn
  • Thread or yarn
  • Two pieces of fabric to stitch together
  • Thimble if needed for small needle
  • Pins

Thread needle.

Place your two fabric pieces together with right sides facing. Pin in place if necessary. Hold fabric with area to be sewn at the top. If you are following sewing directions or a pattern, check instructions for seam allowance. Quilt pieces are generally designed with a quarter-inch seam allowance. If you are not used to sewing seams, a line drawn across the seam area of a woven fabric can help you keep your stitches even. Use a fabric chalk or washable pencil in a contrasting shade to draw on fabric. Begin your sewing at the same end as your sewing hand. If you are right handed, begin in the upper right corner position where your seam will be located.

Secure one end of thread to fabric using a large knot in the thread, or stitch a knot into the fabric using the loop method.

Stab needle into both fabrics one-eighth to one-quarter-inch from seam edge. If running whip stitching knit or crochet fabrics, stab needle into first stitch on both pieces of fabric.

Pull thread through.

Stab thread into front, through both fabrics, about one-eighth-inch to one-sixteenth-inch down the seam-line from the first stitch. Stitch in second stitch from end if stitching in knitted or crocheted fabric.

Pull thread through back and stab needle into front, through both fabrics, keeping the stitches evenly spaced. Continue stitching until you reach the end of the seam or near the end of your thread.

Tie off thread end using the loop method. Trim tail or weave into knitted or crocheted fabric. If seam is unfinished, thread another needle and continue in the same manner.

Tips & Warnings

  • To tie a knot in fabric using the loop method, make a small stitch in and back out in the corner of the seam, or along the seam-line. Pull the thread through leaving about an inch of loose thread sticking up. Hold this loose thread with your free thumb. Bring the needle around and stitch the needle in and out again very close to the first stitch. As you pull the thread through, holding your thumb on the loose end, you will see a loop form. Pull the loop smaller and smaller until it is about one-inch in diameter. Then stick your needle into the loop. Pull the thread tight while still holding the loose thread end with your thumb. This will tighten the loop into a knot. Repeat the process to make a double knot and then begin stitching.
  • If you are using thread and a small needle, a thimble on the middle finger of the sewing hand can help you guide the needle with more precision. A thimble may take some practice to use skillfully, but most thimble users highly recommend them.

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