The Running Stitch, also referred to as Straight Stitch, is one of the basic hand sewing and embroidery technique on which most other forms of stitching and embroidery are based. The procedure for working the stitch involves inserting the needle into a fabric and taking it out at small intervals.The length of each stitch may vary depending on the purpose it is used for, but generally the thread is more visible on the right side of the fabric compared to the wrong side


Running Stitch Uses

It is one of the most popular stitches used for a wide range of purposes starting from garment making to embroidering various articles like pillow covers, dresses, scarves, blankets, purses, lamp shades, curtains, table mats and bed covers.It is also used for appliqué making and hemming the sides of handmade fabric materials to give them a smother finish. Running stitch is often used for making leather articles such as jackets, belts and bags.


Running Stitch Variations

Its variations allow you to create designer patterns using this one simple stitching method. The most popular varieties include:

Double Running Stitch or Holbein Stitch – Double Running Stitch simply means working a second line of Running Stitches over the first one make a solid stitch line. You need to work the second row in the reverse direction, placing the stitches between those of the previous pass so that there are no open spaces in between each stitch. The Double Running Stitch ideal for embroidery outlining as it produces a single bold stitching line.

Basting Stitch – It is sometimes referred to as the Tailor’s Tack and involves making long Running Stitches mainly used for holding 2 pieces of fabric together. It is commonly used in dressmaking to roughly sew the pieces together to hold them in place during the final sewing.

Darning Stitch – Closely spaced parallel lines of Running Stitch, used as a decoration or for repairing worn out or torn areas of a fabric is known as Darning Stitch.

Double Darning Stitch – When the Darning Stitch is worked using the Double Running Stitch, it is referred to as Double Darning Stitch. This stitch has closely spaced parallel solid stitching lines which makes it perfect for embroidery borders.



The aim of the first inventors of sewing machines was to make a running stitch. Heilmann in 1829 took the centre-eyed, two-pointed needle devised by Weisenthal in 1755 and embodied it in an embroidering machine, where several such needles were similarly actuated over a moving web of cloth, so as to repeat patterns at various points from one governing design.

John J. Greenough in February 21, 1842, patent US 2.466used a needle similar to Weisenthal's, which he pulled through the cloth by nippers.

Benjamin W. Bean in March 4, 1843, patent US 2.982corrugated the fabric and pushed it on an ordinary threaded sewing needle and numerous other inventors pursued the same idea. It will be noted that the running stitch is here persistently aimed at and the same object has been followed up to the present time, the latest form of machine for the purpose using a spiral needle and making an overhand stitch along the edges of bags.

James Rodgers’ patent US 3.672, dated July 22, 1844.

Although Bean’s and Rodgers’ running-stitch machines experienced little commercial success, small manufactured machines based on Aaron Palmers patent US 35.252, dated May 13, 1862, were popular in the 1860s.

US 35.252  AARON  PALMER  (May 13, 1862)
US 35.252 AARON PALMER (May 13, 1862)

The patent model above is a small brass implement with crimping gears that forced the fabric onto an ordinary sewing needle. The full needle was then removed from its position and the thread was pulled through the fabric by hand.

One of the early commercial manufacturers of the Palmer patent was Madame Demorest, a New York dressmaker. She advertised her Fairy sewing machine in Godey’s Lady’s Book, vol. 66, 1863 and stated:

In the first place it will attract attention from its diminutive, fairy-like size and with the same ease with which it can be carried, an important matter to a seamstress or dressmaker employed from house to house ... What no other sewing machine attempts to do, it runs and does not stitch, it sews the more delicate materials an ordinary sewing machine cuts or draws....”

The Fairy sewing machine sold for five dollars and was adequate for its advertised purpose, sewing or running very lightweight fabrics. The machine was marked with the Palmer patent, the date May 13, 1862 and the name “Mme. Demorest.”



A machine identical to the Fairy, but bearing both Palmer patent dates, May 13, 1862 and June 19, 1863 and the name “Gold Medal,” was manufactured by a less-scrupulous company.


This machine was advertised as follows:

“A first class sewing machine, handsomely ornamented, with all working parts silver plated. Put up in a highly polished mahogany case, packed ready for shipment. Price $10.00. This machine uses a common sewing needle, is very simple. A child can operate it. Cash with order”.

Some buyers felt they were swindled, as they had expected a heavy-duty machine, but no recourse could be taken against the advertiser. Similar machines were also manufactured under the name “Little Gem” and " Family Gem". 


US 35.252      Aaron Palmer   May 13, 1862

US 38.837      Aaron Palmer    June 9, 1863


Running-stitch machines were also attempted by several other inventors. Shaw & Clark, manufacturers of chainstitch machines, patented this running-stitch machine on April 21, 1863 (US  38.246). From the appearance of the patent model, it was already in commercial production. 

Shaw & Clark Running Stitch Machine
Shaw & Clark Running Stitch Machine



On May 26, 1863, John D. Dale also received a patent US 38.658 for an improvement related to the method of holding the needle and regulating the stitches in a running-stitch machine. Dale’s patent model was a commercial machine. He also received a second patent US 44.686, on October 11, 1864.

John D. Dale  Running Stitch Machine
John D. Dale Running Stitch Machine
John D. Dale  Running Stitch Machine
John D. Dale Running Stitch Machine

John Heberling patented several improvements in 1878 and 1880. His machine, which was a little larger and in appearance resembled a more conventional type of sewing machine, was a commercial success.

US  204.604      Heberling John          June  4, 1878

US 227.249       Heberling John          May  4, 1880

US 227.525       Heberling John         May 11, 1880



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