What does stay stitch mean and why it shouldn’t be skipped

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You’ve most probably cut out a pattern and have found that one of the first steps asked for to sew up the garment is to Stay stitch?

Seems confusing because it looks as if it doesn’t really have much of a purpose and some of us may quit the step altogether! (that’s me here!)

However tedious this step may seem it actually is a step that (if done) works in our favor! And I’ll get to my story on why I say this later in the article but for now, let’s tackle what it means:

Stay stitch is a row of stitches that you sew, running along the curved cut of a garment piece such as the neck curve or the armhole curves.

What’s the purpose of a stay-stitch

It’s all about the fabric!

As you may know, whenever you cut a fabric against the grain- on the bias, that area gains flexibility and therefore can stretch.

Being that the shape of a neck or armhole is round and curved, these areas now have a bias cut, and therefore are delicate and are now able to stretch. And so:

it helps to keep the curve from stretching out by getting the fabric to ‘stay’ in place, thus preventing the finished garment from ending up distorted.

How to do a stay stitch

It is sewn in the seam allowance and never crosses beyond the seam line. To sew the neckline, typically there may be a 1/2” seam allowance, the stay stitch is done at maybe 1/4” seam allowance. By keeping it more closer to the cut edge of the neckline. This is so that it doesn’t show up on the finished garment.

Here’s a good video demonstrating how the stay stitch is done:

Sewing direction

You will find that the pattern is showing with arrows of which direction the stay stitch should go.

I believe the idea for this is so to keep all the different angles and edges of the pattern pieces symmetrical. Again, its all about the way the fabric behaves.

So for example, if on the right armhole you stay stitched from the top to the bottom then, for the left side you’ll do the same coming from the top to the bottom.

stay stitch direction

What is the Stitch length- used for the Stay stitch

I would say stick with the regular stitch length as what you would use to sew up the whole garment with. So something like Stitch length of 2.5 or 3 on the machine setting. I would stick to 3 and not use a stitch length beyond that.

I think if you use a bigger stitch length then it would defeat the purpose of the stay stitch.

Do you remove the stay stitching once you’re done?

Nope. No need to! As it gets sewn behind the seam, it won’t show up on the finished garment.

Because it stays on the inside of the garment it’s not necessary to take it out.

This explains why they say to stay stitch at something like ¾ to ¼ inch rather than ½ inch or more.

Is stay stitching the same as a Basting stitch

I have found that sometimes stay stitch can be confused with a basting stitch. So to bust this misconception at once- they are not at all related!

Basting Stitch

The basting stitch is used to join fabric pieces together temporarily. Its done with the longest stitch length (Stitch length 4 on the sewing machine) so that the basting stitch can be taken out once you finish.

Why the stay stitch shouldn’t be skipped

The way I look at it, the technique is as though a not so secret yet- a secret tip in a way!

Let me explain.

I say this because of my own experience.

Being mostly a self-taught sewing person (if that makes sense) I have made mistakes where it could have been avoided had I known about the stay stitch method.

Before I discovered sewing patterns. For the longest time when I used to draft my own patterns from scratch, one fact about me: I have always loved collar necks and whenever I used to draft collar necks and cut my fabric out to sew it always used to go wrong!

(By the way, this was way before YouTube- where I found out about sewing patterns.)

What used to happen was that when I went to sew on the collar band to the neckline all most ALL the time the collar band wouldn’t fit the neckline!

It was so frustrating.

And because of the frustration, I avoided making collar necklines for the longest of time.

This changed for me when I discovered sewing patterns through YouTube.

When I brought my first sewing pattern it was the New look 6374.pattern with stay stitch

Yes, it’s obvious why I chose that pattern. I chose that pattern for the collar and that’s where I discovered the stay stitch.

That was like a glory moment for me!

I was happy to discover the technique.

Finally, I had successfully made my first collar neckline perfectly on the first go!

Here’s that pattern sewed up with the collar:

After discovering the technique I figured that 2 things happen in our favor:

  1. The fabric pieces align well when you sew the pieces together.

  2. Prevents the finished garment coming out distorted.

The technique is especially helpful to beginners

A beginner in whatever the field, don’t know what they need to know right. That’s why someone who’s been there needs to present to them of all the good and bad of a given subject. Where they can be informed so that they can take on the task leaving them with little margin of possible errors to be made on their part.

When you are starting to sew as a beginner handling different fabrics can be quite a task especially if the fabric is slippery like a georgette. Some of us may even have a heavy hand in the way we handle the fabric which can result in unwanted frustration.

Having the guidance from a pattern to use the stay stitch technique will help solve these issues from occurring. Making the sewing experience a smooth one.

So should you stay stitch anytime there is a curve?

I would say always check your pattern instructions. Whenever a pattern calls for it then definitely don’t miss out on the step.

Even though I’m at a stage where I can cut out a pattern and sew it up with one short glance at the pattern instructions, I would still check if the pattern calls for the stay stitch.

It’ll help save you from frustrations of pattern pieces not aligning.


To sum up what I would like you to take away from this article is that whenever a sewing pattern calls for the stay stitch to do it. As you’ll know by now it is usually one of the first steps required at the sewing stage of garment construction. So before you set off to whiz that garment with the machine always have a look to see if the stay stitch is required.

It will save frustration while aligning pattern pieces together and the finished garment will come out as desired. Fingers crossed;)

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