You don’t need a sewing machine to do basic sewing. A needle, thread, a few pins and a pair of scissors are all the tools you need for mending an opened seam, sewing a patch or even making a cute stuffed animal. With these sewing stitches, accuracy is the key. Practice and you’ll develop speed as well as precise, well-spaced stitches.
You can practice your stitching by making decorative throw pillows, cornhole bags or fleece stuffed toys. It’s a fun way to develop a new skill, and you’ll be surprised at how often those basic sewing skills come in handy!
Let’s learn some hand sewing techniques that any beginner can start using today. Here’s a video to start, followed by some helpful tips and tricks to help you out!
Needle And Fabric Fundamentals
Your fabric and the needle are both in motion as you sew. Just as you need both hands acting simultaneously to play the guitar, both of your hands are working in tandem when you hand sew.
What Your Right Hand Is Doing
While holding your needle with your forefinger and thumb, insert the needle through the fabric. You use your middle finger to push the needle through the cloth, then grasp it again with your forefinger, and thumb to pull it through. Practice doing this until it’s a natural, fluid motion. If you’re doing a lot of hand sewing, a leather thimble saves the skin on the tip of your middle finger.
The fourth and fifth fingers of your right hand are also holding the trailing edge of the fabric. This helps to keep the tension across the seam area taut and hold both layers of fabric together as you sew your seam.
What Your Left Hand Is Doing
The left hand acts much like the tension foot of a sewing machine. You manipulate the angle of the fabric as the needle pierces it. As the needle enters the fabric, it’s angled downward toward the point of the needle. As you bring the needle back out of the fabric, you adjust the angle, so the needle tip point upward and the fabric is angled downward. Both hands doing the work make your stitching much easier and efficient.
Knotting Your Thread
Whenever you start a line of stitching, you need a knot at the end of the thread. Holding a length of thread in your left hand, wrap the end around your forefinger, making sure the loop overlaps the end. Roll your thumb over the thread so it wraps around itself as your thumb moves over your finger. Grab the end with your right hand and pull gently with your left to tighten the knot. After you’re done stitching, you can cut any excess thread off, leaving a 1/8-inch tail.
Backstitch – Your Basic Seam Stitch
A backstitch is a firm, sturdy stitch that holds together well. If you sew with small, regular stitches, the backstitch can be used for seams that are almost as durable as machine stitching. Before the invention of the sewing machine, this was the basic stitch used to make clothing.
For standard fabric of normal thickness, your stitches will be 1/8-inch apart. This makes for a sturdy seam. Larger stitch space will leave gaps, and smaller stitches may give a bunched appearance to the seam. You are working from right to left as you sew.
Near the beginning of edge of your seam, bring the needle up from the bottom until the knot reaches the fabric. Take a stitch 1/8-inch to the right of the point of insertion and bring the needle up in the same beginning spot. Do this a couple of times. This secures your thread in place and is called tacking. Use this stitch at the beginning and end of any seam.
Begin stitching by inserting your needle down near the initial insertion point and bringing it up 1/8-inch to the left. Insert your needle at the last insertion point and bring it up 1/8-inch to the left. Continue with this stitch, keeping a straight line and parallel stitches. Finish the seam with a few tacking stitches and trim off the thread.
Running Stitch Or Basting Stitch
This stitch is very quick to do and, if done with wide spacing, is very easy to pull out. Stitched close together, it’s the stitch hand quilters use. After tacking the end in place, insert the tip of your needle in the fabric. Use your left hand to angle the left side of the fabric down and bring the tip of the needle through the fabric at the spacing you want to use. Push the needle through with your right middle finger and pull the needle out with your forefinger and thumb. Continue the push through and pull out sequence, keeping in mind that the stitches are straight, equally spaced and parallel. For looser, wider spaced stitches, you can do more than one stitch at a time.
Blind or Invisibile Stitch
Fold down and iron the fabrics that you are stitching together. This straight, crisp fold is the line you follow with your stitching. Insert your needle through one of the folded creases, from the inside to the outside. Tack your stitch in place on the inside of the fold, which conceals your thread.
Insert your needle directly across from your starting point in the folded crease of the other piece of fabric. Bring the needle back through the fold 1/8-inch to the left of the insertion point.
Repeat this procedure directly across on the first creased fold. As you make these stitches, gently pull them, so they are taut but do not bunch or gather the resulting seam. Your stitching is invisible, and the seam looks the same as the rest of the piece. Gently pinch the seams together as you sew and pull the thread to ensure that the tension and stitch spacing is uniform.
Hand stitching is a lost art that can save you money on repairing clothes or home decor items. It’s fast, simple and only takes a little practice to become proficient. You may not need to use it often, but it’s a good skill to have for emergencies and unexpected fabric fails.