Hand stitching is one of the essential sewing skills that any sewer must master and perfect in order to get those beautiful quilts done. While most modern machines have eliminated the need for hand stitching, there are still many places where hand stitches are necessary for a high-quality finish. Plus, the joy of making something with your own hands never gets old!
In this guide, we are going to discuss everything you need to know to help you master a variety of different stitches.
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Sewing is one of the most enjoyable and cost-effective hobbies. However, with so many sewing supplies, it can quickly become overwhelming for a beginner. While you will need an extensive range of supplies to get the job done perfectly, not all tools are essential. Here is a list of some of the materials you will need:
Just like how its name sounds, a seam ripper ‘rips’ poorly done or unwanted stitches. It acts as the ‘eraser’ in sewing. As a first-time sewer, it is only expected that your first set of stitches may not come out as you expect, and that is where your seam ripper will come in handy. Just be careful when using your seam ripper, because it’s easy to accidentally cut through your fabric in addition to your thread—especially if you’re working on sheer fabrics.
You will definitely need a good pair of sharp scissors to cut the fabric you want to sew. The sewing industry comes with different types of scissors, and each has its unique function. We will get into many details with the others, but for starters, get yourself a reliable pair of sewing scissors.
Embroidery scissors must be sharp at all times; otherwise, they can potentially ruin what you’re working on. Your scissors should never cut anything else apart from fabrics. Blunt scissors will chew your fabric and will slow you down even when cutting the smallest piece of fabric.
Pinking shears have jaw-like edges that are designed to cut the edges of woven fabrics, creating the zig-zag pattern. The main purpose of these shears is to prevent fraying. You will need this pair if you are working with light-weight fabrics.
An obvious tool for any tailor or seamstress. Your tape measure will be your closest companion because you will need it when taking all your fabric measurements as well as measuring people and other objects. Just keep one around your neck when working, so you don’t have to keep looking for it.
Thimbles and Bandages
First time sewing means walking away with several prick injuries on your fingers. Sewing for long hours can also lead to sore fingers, and that’s why you need a thimble. You can get a metallic one or a plastic one depending on your preference. Just make sure it fits perfectly.
Another essential tool to add in your toolbox is the needle threader. It is a handy tool that helps you thread both sewing machine needles as well as hand needles. It comes with a thin metal loop when inserted through the eye of a needle, it brings out the thread easily. So, no more eye-straining!
The running stitch is the first stitch most beginners learn first, as it is important in many embroidery projects, and it can be manipulated in different ways to achieve different results. From its name, a running stitch is worked by simply running a threaded needle in and out of the fabric at regular intervals. The most important part of a good running stitch is uniformity. To make your running stitch, prepare your fabric, and thread your needle. If you have made marks on your fabric, it makes things much easier as this stitch involves making stitches in a straight line and allowing a reasonable space in between.
Bring your needle through the back part of the fabric and draw it to the front. Take the needle again down through the front to the back and use the needle to space and make your next hole at the bottom and draw it again to the top. Continue creating your running stitches while spacing the stitches evenly until you get to the end. The more uniform your stitches are, the better your end product will look, and the stronger the stitches will be.
The whipstitch is one of the easiest hand stitches you will ever come across. It involves threading spirals around the edges of one or both sides of the fabric. This type of stitch consists of short, neat diagonal stitches, which are mostly used in hemming. Once you have threaded the needle, arrange you two pieces of fabrics, placing one on top of the other.
Make sure the edges are even before you begin sewing, and make sure that the inside part of the fabric is facing out. Start your stitching by sliding your needle through the top layer of the fabric while holding the two pieces carefully. Draw the needle up through the bottom of the top layer. The next needle should touch both fabrics and circle around the bottom layer of the fabric while piercing directly under the first hole.
Draw your needle through both layers and make sure it comes out near the same position as your primary half stitch. Pass the needle beneath the bottom side on the fabric to make an angular stitch. Continue making the same stitches while mimicking the previous one until the end. When done, make your final full stitch and tie the finishing knot tightly to secure the stitches.
Basting stitches, also known as tacking, are long, easy to remove running stitches that are made by hand or machine. Basting stitches are mainly used to hold two fabrics together before the actual stitching is done to improve accuracy and organization in the sewing process. You might think that it is a waste of time since you already have the measurements, right? Wrong!
Basting stitches are quite important as they eliminate the need to rip out permanent stitches, which can easily ruin the fabric. They also allow you to test the garment for the specific placements such as darts before permanent stitches are made. Basting can also hold slippery fabrics like satin together for you to ensure you do a neat job when sewing.
Since you will be making large running stitches, you may want to use pins to hold the fabric as you stitch to ensure that you are stitching in the right direction. While pins can just do the job, heavier garments require basting stitches to make sewing easier. Since basting stitches are temporary, they do not need to be neat as they will be removed once the garment is sewn. To remove them, you only need to cut the knot and pull the entire thread.
Cross stitch is one of the oldest stitches that have been around for ages, and also one of the easiest forms of embroidery for any beginner. Cross stitch typically comprises X-shaped stitches created on the fabric with an open and even weave. Depending on your design preference, you can choose either to go with the modern or traditional or somewhere in between. As a beginner, the best way to go about it is to get a cross stitch kit that will guide you on where you need to stitch, the colors to use, and so forth. Cross stitches can be done on various fabrics, but the most commonly used are linen and Aida.
Cross stitch is worked in neat rows running horizontally or vertically. You can refer to your chart to get the areas to begin your stitching. Begin from the back and bring your needle up while creating a hole towards the front. Leave behind an inch of thread at the back; you will cover these tails with your stitches as you work on securing it. Next, move diagonally from where you started and make a half cross stitch and so on. Continue making these half stitches across the row or column until you get to the end, then circle back in the opposite direction to finish the stitches.
As you do your stitches, try to lock that tail of thread from earlier beneath them. This helps ensure that your stitches won’t unravel and also makes the back look tidier.
The ladder stitch is widely used, both machine-made and handmade. That is why it is also known as the blind stitch, the invisible stitch, the slip stitch, and many other names. It gives a super-powerful finish on collars and cuffs. You can also use it in bindings, applying an applique invisible, closing a lining, or closing stuffed items like pillowcases and bean bags.
To get these stitches started, you need to prepare your fabric like making marks and ironing the folds. Next, place fabric whose seam allowances are folded towards each other. Begin your stitch by hiding your knot around the seam allowance, and pull your needle and thread make sure to thread out from the edges where you made the folds. Grab a small part of the fabric from underneath the opposite side inside the folded fabric and pull your needle out. Insert the needle again from the other side and repeat the pattern until the whole fabric is complete. To finish the seam, pull on the thread and watch the fabric pull itself together, hiding the threads completely.
Remember, you need to follow the same pattern throughout to get this stitch correct—the secret behind getting the stitch correct lies behind where to stick the needle. If you pierce the wrong side, you will need to undo in order to continue, which can be utterly frustrating.
If you want to add eyelets or buttonholes using your hands, you will need to learn how to make the blanket stitch. Just like its name, the blanket stitch is mainly found in blankets. To get this done, you need to thread your needle and make a tail knot. Send your needle right inside the fabric from the backside. To anchor it, Pierce the needle up from the back again so that it comes out through the same spot. Next, stick your needle under the loop you just created. Make sure your needle goes sideways at the edge of the felt. That will get your thread properly anchored.
Now to make your blanket stitches, stick your needle down from the upper side of the fabric, which is about an inch from where you first anchored your thread. Next, bring your needle up from the back and across the loop of thread. Before you pull to a tight stitch, make sure your needle has gone through the loop of thread.
Another popular and widely used stitch is the backstitch. This stitch comes in handy every time you have a torn blouse, shirt, or ripped pant. Instead of rushing to your busy tailor who will only dump your garment in their store for months, you can fix your clothes pretty fast with some well-done back stitches. Backstitches are usually permanent, as they are used in seams to make them stronger and durable. With that said, back stitches are the strongest stitches you can ever make with your hand.
From their name, these stitches are worked by running your threaded needle back and forth. Start by sticking your needle under the fabric and make a small space on the opposite side and draw your needle on the same side you entered as if you are holding a garment with a pin.
Next, pierce your needle exactly where you had pierced when making the first stitch, and this time draw your needle a bit further from where you drew the first one. Repeat the pattern while making sure your stitches are tight and neat. The best back stitches have a very small space between them, so make sure you are consistent. Also, make sure to use your thimble as back stitches can get your fingers quite sore with a few pricks.
Blind Hem Stitches
Blind hem stitches are exciting to do. The secret to making the best stitches is to make sure that your stitches are not visible from the outside—hence the name blind hem. These stitches are mainly used in hemming garments such as skirts, shorts, and pants that are made of soft, light-weight material. You can go with single or double hems depending on what you want to achieve. To make these stitches, you will need to measure your fabric and add about two extra inches for your hemming project.
Fold and iron the hem of your stitch and prepare your needle. You also need to make a few markings with a pencil or chalk. Once you have the markings, take your pins and put the pins in place across the hem to give you a feel of how the garment will look like when done. If you are satisfied with the results, iron the hem with pins again and remove the pins. Now, make your stitches by picking a single strand of fiber from the lower side of the hem and another on the upper side. Keep alternating till you are done stitching.
Stitching is an art, and learning how to stitch using your hands is an exciting experience. Whether you’re practicing the basics fromt his guide or getting into some new stitches from a beginner sewing book, knewing how to sew by hand is a skill that will be helpful throughout your entire life. With each practice, you become more proficient in sewing, and the more you learn, the more you understand which stitches work best for which projects. Whether you are learning to be a proficient tailor or you simply want to learn something beneficial to help you fix your clothes, this knowledge will definitely add value to your life and will stay with you forever.