‘What’s a catch stitch?’ you may well ask yourself when various names of this useful stitch are thrown about in sewing circles. A catch stitch, catchstitch or even a cat stitch all refer to a hand stitch that does a clever job of hemming or stitching something down by hand. There is no catch, just a great way to finish off your sewing in a professional way.
Catch Stitch Tutorial
The catch stitch is a durable hemming stitch that is ideal for hems of bulky fabrics and even stretchy fabric as it has a bit of elasticity and allows a bit of movement in the hem that allows the hem to hang nicely.
The back of the fabric looks like diagonal stitches in a cross shape. Read more about how to sew a hem.
You should never find yourself in a ‘Catch 22’ situation if you follow these straightforward instructions for sewing a catch stitch.
Use catch stitch for:
This common stitch is useful for the hems of heavyweight fabrics and gives a professional look to the finish of a tailored garment.
The catch stitch is very similar to the herringbone stitch in embroidery. It is made by small stitches above and below that form a cross.
How to Do Catch Stitch Step by Step
Step 1 – Press the Hem
Press the hem on the inside of the garment according to your pattern instructions. Catch stitch is normally done on a wide hem. For my sample, I pressed up the raw edge by ½ inch (12mm) and then pressed the hem up 1 inch (2.5) again.
For really bulky hems such as those found in a thick wool skirt, you may only be able to fold the hem once. You can serger the edge to stop fraying or add a piece of bias over the raw edge. An overcast stitch could also be used as an edge finish.
If your pattern has a narrow hem, adjust the seam allowance to change it to a wide hem.
Step 2 – Starting Stitch
Choose a hand sewing needle size suited to your fabric and a cotton color to match. I have used the red thread just so you can see the stitches. When you do a catch stitch, you want it to be invisible on the outside.
Thread the needle double and knot it at the end. For really fine work you could use a single thread.
You will be working the catch stitch from right to left (assuming you are right-handed). This is a different direction to most hand stitches so may feel a little strange at first.
Push the needle into the fold of the hem, to the top of the fabric, so that the knot and end of the thread is enclosed in the fold. This should be around ¼ to ½ inch (6-12mm) from the fold and not right on the edge.
Step 3 – First Catch Stitch
Insert the needle at (2) and take a small stitch from right to left. You will notice that (2) is at a diagonal angle from (1).
The smaller the stitches at (2) the more invisible your outside hem will be.
DIRECTION OF CATCH STITCH – You will work from left to right with the needle always pointing to the left
Step 4 – Repeat
Re-insert the needle in a straight line (horizontal) into the hem at (3). This is parallel to the first stitch and catching only the folded hem. The needle should not go through to the outside fabric. You will see that this is a small-sized stitch like at (2).
Pull the thread through and you should see a cross shape just above the fold of the hem.
Repeat steps one, two, and three and you will catch your hem like a professional seamstress.
In the photo below you can see how the back and right side of the fabric look. The zig-zagged stitches hold down the hem edge and prevent fraying.
When done in a matching thread color, those tiny stitches on the front will be almost invisible.
Alternatives to Catch Stitch
This stitch simply works by catching a small part of the fabric at the fold of the hem and then slipping the needle and thread through the fold ready to start the next stitch. The thread is enclosed in the fold and the tiny stitch taken up is all that shows.
The running stitch will show on both sides of the fabric and lends itself to a contrasting color in an embroidery thread for some decorative stitches. The types of stitch can vary according to the style of pattern and the amount of creative design you might like to add.
Catch Stitch Alternatives
If you don’t want to use catch stitch for hems you can use a basic running stitch or back stitch. These 2 hand stitches however will show on the outside of the garment fabric. You can also use sewing machine stitches with a straight stitch or blind hem stitch.
Catch Stitch -In Conclusion
The catch stitch is one of the basic stitches and will always be a favorite for finishing your haute couture garment. You can be sure the finish of your work will be completed with ease and never catch you at a bad time.
- GENERAL HEMS – How to Sew a Hem (This is the best article to read if you are not sure what kind of hem you need. It gives a rundown of all the most common types)
- NARROW HEMS – Sew a Narrow Hem
- ROLLED HEM FOOT – How to Use a Rolled Hem Foot
- WIDE HEMS – How to Sew Wide Hems
- CIRCULAR HEMS – How to Sew Round Hems
- BLIND HEMS – How to Sew a Blind Hem
- RUFFLED HEMS – Lettuce Hems
- KNIT FABRIC HEMS – How to Hem Knit Fabric, Catch Stitch
- KNIT HEMS – Twin Needle
- SQUARE HEMS – How to Sew Mitered Corners
- HAND HEMS – Hemming Stitch
- NO SEW HEMS – How to Use Hemming Tape
- SIMPLE HEMS – Single Fold Hems
- DOUBLE HEMS – Double Fold Hems
- BIAS – Bias Tape Hems
- SCALLOPS – Scalloped Edges
- INVISIBLE HEMS – Blind Hem Stitch