Tacking refers to stitching or using some other means to keep fabric layers together temporarily in preparation for stitching before the final permanent sewing or as a means of marking before stitching.
Why do we make Tack stitches ?
There are places in your fabric for sewing where you are not able to mark patterns using the usual way – with chalk or tracing wheel, on the face of the fabric.
Maybe you do not want to make obvious markings on your precious fabric or maybe it is dryclean only fabric and you do not want to touch even a drop of water to remove difficult marks; maybe it is a heavily beaded/sequined fabric; maybe it is an open loose weave fabric and you cannot mark any other way; maybe your chalk is missing and you have rusty pains; maybe you have more than one layer of fabric in which the markings have to be exact.
Check out the post on the different basting stitches used in sewing, if you are looking for stitches that are temporary stitches holding fabric layers together
Tacking stitches as a marking tool
Tacking stitches are used very efficiently to temporarily mark on fabric.
Positions like dart positions, buttonhole endings, foldlines, pleats, closures, pocket corners etc are marked using tack stitches this way.
Different types of tacking stitches
Regular tacking stitches – these are simple evenly spaced running stitches. On your sewing machine just make the longest straight stitch.
Long and short tacking stitches – these are straightly made running stitches but long and short stitches are made alternatively.
Diagonal tacking stitches – These are not made in a straight line as you do the regular tacking stitches. They are made vertically in a column with each individual tacking stitch made diagonally. This hand made stitch is very useful in keeping layers of fabric together – covers more area than the straight stitch.
Slip tacking stitches – This is a type of slip stitch used on the outside of the fabric to match patterns. It is used when you have to fold an area of your clothing and you want to match a design /pattern (eg checks, stripes etc)
Check out the post on Slip stitch
Bar tack stitch – you can learn more about this stitch here – Bar tack stitch
Tailor tacks – A tailor’s tack is a loose looped stitch which is cut on the fabric, as an indication as to where to stitch finally.
Tie tack stitch
This is a stitch used to join fabric layers together in one spot. The needle makes a loop stitch and take out the tail so that you have two tails on top of the fabric. These tails are then tied to make the tack stitch.
How to make the Tailor’s tack stitch
Step 1 Keep the pattern paper on top of the fabric layers
Thread your sewing needle so that you have two strands of a contrasting thread on the needle.
Step 2 Make loose running stitches of 1 to 1.5 inch length through all the layers – the pattern paper and the fabric layers.
Leave a lot of tail at the start and at the ending and make really loose stitches so that they project out as loops. The stitches should appear like small loops on the surface.
You can make individual tack stitches or continuous tack stitches depending on the purpose. For button positions, buttonhole ends etc individual tailor’s tacks are used. For dart markings, seams etc you make continuous tack stitches.
Step 3 When you have finished the stitches, cut through the top of the loops of the stitches.
Use the thread snips for this or sharp small pointed scissors. It will now look like the above picture . You should make bigger loops than what I have made if you have more than one layer of fabric under the pattern paper
Step 4 Now you can carefully remove the pattern paper.
The cut loops will give you direction as to where you should make the permanent stitches
Step 5 If you have more than one layer. (ie you have two identical fabric on which you need to make the markings at the same place) Carefully open up the top layers of fabric and as you open very carefully cut the stitches in between.
This will leave thread markings on both the layers of fabric. You have to ensure that the thread do not come off the top layer as you cut.
After you have made the final permanent stitches you can simply take off the tacking stitches; they come off easily enough.
If the fabric is very fine and you are afraid that these tacks will slip out you will have to make bigger loops so that you have longer tails. You can also make knots with the tails to ensure they do not fall off.