ask me: hand sewing knots

It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for another installment of Ask Me. I’m having a lot of fun with your questions. Keep sending them in to


Ask Me


This week we get to start off with a great question!

I’ve never really known what to do when I get to the end of a hand stitched seam.  I always just wing it but think there must be a correct way to secure the thread end.  Should I try to tie a knot?  Should I just make several small stitches in one place?

There’s no single answer to this question. And that’s one of the great aspects of sewing; there’s usually more than one way to do things! (As someone with a mild aversion to rules, I sort of love this.) I have a few finishing tricks I use, depending on the situation. Here are a few of the most commonly used methods for finishing hand sewing:

Tailor’s knot: This is your basic pretzel knot, and if you’re careful you can push it right down next to the fabric so it’s positioned perfectly. (If you insert a pin into the center of it and hold the pin where you want the knot to end, the pin will help you to land the knot in the right spot.) This knot is good for lots of sewing and will end a thread reasonably well.

Tailors Knot Illustration

Figure 8 knot: This knot is a little fancier and a little more secure. It’s not difficult to make, however, and the extra effort makes it a very stable knot.

Figure 8 Knot Illustration

Backstitch: This is a great way to end a thread without a knot and without adding extra bulk at the end of a seam. Because you’re backstitching twice, in the same spot, the thread is held securely. And if your second backstitch crosses the first backstitch (not shown in my illustration below), that will make it even more secure.

Backstitch Illustration

I hope that helps!

I’m really interested in the evolution of a design through the pattern making process. Do you have any examples of how a design changed while you were developing it? Any “aha” moments where a new detail was added, or a new technique was included? I find your designs so clever, I can’t help but wonder how they came to be!

I love to peek behind the scenes too. And thanks for the compliment! I’ll try to do a better job of showing you design development in the future. I often get so busy that I don’t stop to document a lot of the process.

But here is a fun example of a design change that happened organically. When we were developing the Pinwheel Dress last year, Giulia developed a first draft of the tunic, and when we put it on the dress form it was too long. Long enough, in fact, to be a dress. We left it on the form as we developed a shorter version of the style, and when we put the shorter version on the dress form, on top of the longer version we realized that they were really darling when worn together! So the slip dress was an after-thought, or really a happy by-product of the tunic. I can’t find a photo of the two muslins together, but in this photo you can see how we’re drawing in the the top of the slip dress and how it will work with the tunic. You can also see that we were considering a sleeveless version of the tunic.


Like, I said, that’s a fun example of a serendipitous design detail changing dramatically during the process. Often it’s more little tweaks and changes that evolve a garment as we move along through the process. I’ll try to remember to take some more photos during our next development cycle to share with you.





  1. I love this sort of post. The secret life of O+S.

  2. Thank you! I will be referring to the knots you’ve shown. I sometimes use a quilter’s knot, but it doesn’t work well in all cases.

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