What is a Saddle Stitch?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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A saddle stitch is a decorative, overcasting stitch that is made at a hem, collar, cuff, pocket or on any other visible outer side. The thread used for this stitch is usually in a contrasting color to the fabric or surface to make it stand out; aside from using a different colored thread, a thicker or heavier thread may also be used to increase the visibility of the contrast stitching. In addition to being of decorative intent, saddle stitches are also meant to hem in and protect the material edges.

Saddle stitching is done in a similar way to a running stitch. The needle is moved in and out along the stitching line, keeping a distance of about half an inch between two stitches. The length of a stitch should be the same as the distance between the stitches. The saddle stitch can be worked through the fabric layer so that the stitches on the underside look the same as the stitches on the topside. If this reversible look is not required, the underside stitches can also be concealed within the hem.

While working the saddle stitch, it is important not to pull the thread too tight, as this can cause unwanted gathers. To get rid of gathers, place the work on a flat surface and smooth the stitches along the stitching line in the direction of the needle. Stitching can be made easier if a long sharp needle is used.


Take several stitches on the needle before pulling the thread through. It will help to wear a thimble to both protect the finger and help push the needle along. Cutting the thread to a manageable length will keep it from tangling. Some people coat the thread with beeswax to get around thread tangling issues.

Aside from garments and fabrics, saddle stitching is used to sew leather articles and to bind magazines and booklets. In leather-working, a double row of saddle stitches is common and can prove to be quite strong and durable. An awl is used to make a series of holes in the leather and a long thread with needles at either end of it is woven back and forth, front to back, through the holes in a saddle stitch. To finish, the needles are both passed to the same side of the leather and the two thread ends are then tied. Saddle stitching in the case of booklets and magazines is done by folding the papers in half and stitching them together along the spine.


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