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How to Sew A Bar Tack

What is it?

A bar tack is a set of close, dense zigzag stitches used to reinforce stress points of a garment. It will look like a thick, straight bar of stitches. Bar tacks prevent clothing from ripping or tearing as it’s worn.

Bar tack on patch pocket

Bar tack on patch pocket

Bar tack on belt loop

Bar tack on belt loop

When do you use it?

Use a bar tack to strengthen areas of a garment that may be under stress and need reinforcement. Bar tacks are often sewn to secure the edges of patch pockets (page link), hold down the top and bottom of belt loops (page link), and strengthen stress points on trouser fly closures (page link) and at the top of slits. Sew bar tacks in contrast thread as a design feature or make them in matching thread so they blend in.

Tips + Notes

  • After sewing the straight stitch to mark where the bar tack goes, if the placement looks wrong or if the line is crooked, now is a good time to rip it out and start again!
  • If your bar tack doesn’t look dense enough, shorten the stitch length (switch to a smaller number) so the zigzags are closer together.
  • Loosen the top tension on your machine for smoother bar tacks. This means that more of the top thread is pulled to the bottom layer and results in a smoother bar tack on the top as the top thread is pulled tightly over the fabric surface.
  • When sewing bar tacks at the top corners of pockets, work from the pocket toward the edge. This way you only have to mark the start point, as the end is the end of the pocket. Mark the start point ½” (1.3cm) from the edge, and sew toward the edge. Stop once you reach the end of the pocket.

How to sew a bar tack

How to sew a Bar Tack (1)

Decide on the length and placement of the bar tack; ½” (1.3cm) is a standard length, so use this as a starting point. Starting at one end of the tack placement, sew with a regular straight stitch to mark the bar tack area, and backstitch back to the starting point. I found six machine stitches worked out to about ½” (1.3cm). This makes it easy to see where your bar tack is going to start and stop.

How to sew a Bar Tack (2)

Without removing the fabric from the machine, change the machine settings to sew a narrow, dense zigzag, between 2mm–3mm wide and 0.3mm–0.5 mm long. Sew from the start point to the end point with the zigzag stitch.

How to sew a Bar Tack (3)

Make a few practice tacks on scrap fabric to be sure you’re happy with the look and the length. Use a doubled thickness of fabric, so the scrap you’re testing on is close to the thickness of your project. This is a good time to try out bar tacks in different colors if you’re considering contrast stitching. Write down the stitch length and width so you remember what you’ve decided.

How to sew a Bar Tack (4)

When you’re ready to sew the real bar tack, sew the regular straight stitch first to mark the bar tack placement, switch to zigzag and sew the bar tack.

Turn over the work and gently pull the bobbin thread until you see the loop of the top thread. Insert a pin into this loop and pull the top thread to the back of your work. Tie both threads together in a knot to secure. Clip threads close to the knot. Press.

About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine