How To Tie Off When Sewing: A Step-By-Step Guide

Sewing projects often require tying off thread at the beginning or end to secure stitches. Whether you’re sewing by hand or with a sewing machine, properly tying off is an essential technique for any sewing enthusiast.

Tying off can seem tricky when you’re first starting out, but learning proper methods will give your projects a polished, professional finish. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about how to tie off thread when sewing.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: To tie off by hand, knot the thread close to the fabric. Take 3-4 stitches backwards on top of each other, then insert the needle back into one of those stitches and pull tight.

To tie off with a sewing machine, sew 3-4 reverse stitches then raise the presser foot and pull the threads to the back. Read on for step-by-step instructions on tying off for both hand sewing and machine sewing.

Tying Off By Hand

When it comes to sewing, tying off your stitches properly is essential to ensure that your work stays secure and doesn’t unravel. Tying off by hand is a simple and effective way to finish your sewing projects. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to tie off when sewing:

1. Make a Starting Knot

To begin, make a starting knot at the end of your thread. This will prevent your stitches from coming undone. To make a starting knot, take the end of your thread and wrap it around your finger a few times.

Then, pinch the wrapped thread with your thumb and forefinger, and slide the knot off your finger. Pull the thread tight to secure the knot.

2. Take Small Stitches Backwards

Next, take small stitches backwards to secure your work. Insert your needle into the fabric, a short distance away from where you want to tie off. Bring the needle up through the fabric, and then insert it back down a short distance away in the opposite direction.

Repeat this process a few times to create a row of small stitches.

3. Pull the Threads Tight

Once you have taken a few small stitches, it’s time to tie off your work. Hold the fabric taut with one hand, and with the other hand, gently pull the threads tight. This will secure the stitches and create a tight knot.

Trim any excess thread close to the knot, being careful not to cut into the fabric.

Tying off by hand is a tried and true method for finishing sewing projects. It allows you to create secure stitches that will withstand everyday wear and tear. Remember to always make a starting knot, take small stitches backwards, and pull the threads tight to ensure a professional-looking finish to your sewing projects.

Tying Off with a Sewing Machine

Sew in Reverse

When you reach the end of your sewing project and want to tie off your thread securely, one of the easiest ways to do so with a sewing machine is by sewing in reverse. This technique involves sewing a few stitches in the opposite direction of the seam you just sewed.

By doing this, you create a small knot at the end of the seam, ensuring that the thread won’t unravel.

Raise the Presser Foot

Before you begin sewing in reverse, it’s important to raise the presser foot of your sewing machine. This step is crucial because it allows the fabric to move freely without getting stuck. Simply lift the presser foot lever located at the back of the machine, and the presser foot will be raised.

Don’t forget to lower it again once you’re done tying off to continue sewing.

Pull the Threads Back

After sewing in reverse, the next step is to pull the threads back to create a neat and secure finish. Start by lifting the presser foot again and gently pulling the fabric towards the back of the machine. This action will create a loop of thread on the underside of the fabric.

Grab both the upper and lower threads and pull them towards you, guiding them through the loop. Finally, give the threads a firm tug to tighten the knot and trim any excess thread.

Tying off your sewing project with a sewing machine is a quick and efficient way to secure your stitches and prevent them from unraveling. By using the sew in reverse technique, raising the presser foot, and pulling the threads back, you can confidently finish your sewing projects with a professional touch.

Tips for Getting the Perfect Tie Off

Use Sharp Scissors to Trim the Thread

When it comes to tying off your thread while sewing, using sharp scissors is crucial. Dull scissors can leave frayed edges, making it difficult to create a clean and secure tie off. To ensure a neat and professional finish, invest in a pair of high-quality sewing scissors.

Not only will sharp scissors make it easier to trim the thread, but they will also prevent any damage to the fabric.

Tie Off Close to the Fabric

One of the most important aspects of tying off when sewing is to do it as close to the fabric as possible. Tying off too far away from the fabric can result in loose ends that may unravel over time. By tying off close to the fabric, you create a secure knot that will hold your stitches in place.

Remember to leave a small tail of thread before tying off to ensure a strong and stable knot.

Match Thread Color to Fabric

Matching the thread color to the fabric is an often overlooked but essential tip for achieving a seamless tie off. Using thread that closely matches the color of the fabric helps to camouflage the knot, making it less visible.

This is especially important when working with fabrics that have different colors or patterns. By selecting the right thread color, you can ensure that your tie off blends seamlessly into the fabric.

Tie Off Multiple Threads Separately

When working with multiple threads, such as when quilting or embroidering, it’s important to tie off each thread separately. This prevents any loose ends from intertwining or causing tangles. By tying off each thread individually, you can ensure that each one is secure and doesn’t affect the others.

This extra step may take a bit more time, but it will result in a more polished and professional finish.

Common Tie Off Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Not Pulling Threads Tight Enough

One common mistake when tying off in sewing is not pulling the threads tight enough. When you finish sewing a seam or securing a stitch, it’s important to give the threads a firm pull to ensure they are secure.

If you don’t pull them tight enough, there’s a chance that your stitches could come undone, leading to a unraveling of your fabric. To avoid this mistake, always double-check your tie-off by gently tugging on the thread tails to make sure they are firmly locked in place.

Leaving Long Thread Tails

Another mistake that many sewers make is leaving long thread tails when tying off. While it may seem like a small detail, leaving long thread tails can lead to tangling and snagging as you continue to sew.

These long tails can get caught in the presser foot or other parts of your sewing machine, causing frustration and potentially damaging your work. To avoid this, trim your thread tails to a manageable length, typically around half an inch.

This will help keep your sewing area neat and ensure that your threads don’t get tangled or caught.

Tying Knots Too Far from Fabric

Tying knots too far from the fabric is another common tie-off mistake. When you finish a seam, it’s important to secure your stitches by tying a knot. However, if you tie the knot too far away from the fabric, it may not be as secure as you think.

This can lead to loose stitches and an unraveling of your work. To avoid this, make sure to tie your knots as close to the fabric as possible. This will ensure that your stitches are securely anchored and will not come undone.

By being mindful of these common tie-off mistakes and following the tips provided, you can ensure that your sewing projects are secure and well-finished. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if you make these mistakes initially.

With time and experience, you’ll become more proficient at tying off your stitches and creating beautiful, durable garments.

When to Tie Off in a Sewing Project

Tying off is an important step in sewing that ensures the stitches stay in place and prevents unraveling. Knowing when to tie off in a project is crucial for achieving a professional-looking finish. Here are some key moments when you should tie off:

Tie Off at the Beginning

When starting a sewing project, it’s essential to tie off the thread so that it doesn’t come loose during the stitching process. To do this, begin by threading the needle and leaving a tail of about 3-4 inches.

Take a small backstitch or a few small running stitches at the beginning point, then sew over those stitches to secure the thread. Trim any excess tail, and you’re ready to stitch your project.

Tie Off at the End

At the end of a sewing project, it’s crucial to tie off the thread to ensure that the stitches don’t come undone. To do this, sew several small backstitches or running stitches at the end point of your project. Then, sew over those stitches to secure the thread.

Trim any excess thread, and your project is complete.

Tie Off When Changing Thread Colors

When working on a sewing project that involves changing thread colors, it’s important to tie off the old thread and start with a new one. To do this, sew a few small backstitches or running stitches at the point where you want to switch colors.

Trim the excess thread, and then start stitching with the new color. This will ensure a clean transition between colors and prevent any loose threads from showing.

Tie Off When Changing Stitch Length

When adjusting the stitch length on your sewing machine during a project, it’s a good idea to tie off the thread before making the change. This will prevent any loose stitches from forming and ensure a smooth transition.

Simply sew a few small backstitches or running stitches at the point where you want to change the stitch length. Trim the excess thread, adjust the stitch length, and continue sewing with confidence.

Remember, tying off at the right moments in your sewing project is crucial for achieving professional-looking results. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to secure your stitches and prevent any unwanted unravelling. Happy sewing!


Learning how to properly tie off thread is an essential skill that takes sewing projects to the next level. With the techniques outlined above for both hand sewing and machine sewing, you’ll be able to achieve a professional-looking finish.

Tying off may seem tricky when you first start sewing, but with practice it will become second nature. Keep these tips in mind, be patient with yourself, and your tie offs will have your projects looking polished. Happy sewing!

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