Sewing · Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled

Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled: Stay-Stitching Scrutinised

The second post in my Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled series! Last week I dissected basting stitches and this week you can join me in investigating stay stitching!

This term was submitted by Cubbyholes, who introduced me to the word for the first time! I’d never heard of it! So, what is stay stitching?

There’s no distinct dictionary definition of stay stitching, so I’ve assembled my own!

Stay Stitching: A single stitch line through one layer of fabric to prevent distortion/fraying during handling and construction. Usually done on the edges of curved sections such as necklines and armholes in a specific direction designated on the pattern.

The Main Points:

  • Through single layer of fabric
  • Sewn close to the edge of the fabric within the allotted seam allowance
  • Not removed after final construction
  • In a certain direction (usually noted on pattern)
  • Typically done on curved edges, like edges that are “off-the-grain” or cut on the bias (stay tuned, this is next week!)

Why Stay-stitch?:
Edges of your garment that are not cut straight on the grain are more likely to fray or distort during the handling of the fabric and sewing of the item. Stay stitching helps to keep the fabric stable and prevent stretching both while you’re making your piece and afterwards whilst wearing and washing.

Where / When?:
Sewn within the seam allowance for the edge you are working with. Sew your stay stitch line 1/8(3mm) away from the seam line between the seam line and the edge of the fabric.

staystitch example real photo
Stay stitching on the neckline of a shirt I’m making!

This is an example of some stay stitching I did on a top/shirt thing I’m in the process of working on! (My first attempt at something wearable, eek!) Hopefully you can see the stitches close to the edge of the fabric of the neckline. This line is inside the seam allowance for the top so the stay stitches should be hidden when the eventual seam is complete.

The location on the garment will typically be outlined on the pattern, along with the direction the stitches need to go in (though this is normally from the outside of the garment to the centre). Usually curved or diagonal edges require stay stitching, for example necklines, curved waistlines or arm holes.

Staystitch example
Example of stay stitching directions on a neckline. Usually stitched from both outer edges to centre.

Do I have to do it?:
I do hate to burst your bubbles, but yes, you probably should. It doesn’t take too long; just running off a single line of stitches where the pattern dictates could give you a much better-finished item that is more likely to hold its shape while you’re putting it all together. Your item will look more professional and it will be much less likely to stretch after a while too! You don’t need to stay stitch all seams, just the ones your pattern tells you to!

I hope I’ve helped clear up any questions on stay stitching! If you would like a visual demonstration of how to stay stitch I recommend this video by Professor Pincushion who goes into good detail about how it may appear on a pattern too!

Happy Sewing!

Have you been baffled by a sewing word lately? Let me know so I can cover it in another installment of this blog series!



8 thoughts on “Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled: Stay-Stitching Scrutinised

  1. Wow! Great explanation. Thanks for covering this. I guess this was why things got wonky when I ignored doing this. I’ll be doing this from now on for sure, now that I know it does matter. Good video as well. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem! Glad I could give you some more information on it! I did the research for this just in time to make sure I did it on the shirt I’m making, which was lucky! It’s good to know that it is important! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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