Hello! I'm Claudia Miller, a sewing instructor in Denver, Colorado. I teach basic sewing skills to children and adults at Sew You Studio.
Elizabeth has been doing a great job with her blog series on being a conscientious fashion consumer! I was thrilled to be asked to add to her series with a blog post about some useful tips for sewing--helpful when upcycling clothes. I know that with some basic hand sewing skills under your belt and an open mind, you can recreate and reinvent your wardrobe with items already sitting in your closet!
Today, I’m going to teach you two hand sewn stitches that, if done properly, will work just as well as sewing machine stitches. I will teach you how to make backstitches and running stitches:
Are you ready to learn some basic hand stitches? Let's go!
First, let's gather our tools. To hand sew, you need:
- a hand sewing needle: for general sewing, purchase Sharps in a size 7-10
- thread: I like to use a cotton/poly blend or mercerized cotton, all-purpose
- scissors: use whatever you’ve got but thread snips are great
- straight pins: optional, depending on the project, but very helpful
Next, measure out about an arm’s worth of thread and cut. You don't want the thread to be much longer than this because then you run into problems with tangling. Thread your needle and knot one end.
HOW TO KNOT THE THREAD
Hold the thread in your left hand between your thumb and index finger. Using your right hand, wrap the thread around the tip of your finger, making a cross with the thread over your fingertip.
While pinching the crossed threads, push your thumb forward so that the threads roll and end up in a tangle.
Continue pinching the tangled threads and pull on the thread with your right hand while sliding the tangled threads down with your left fingers.
You have a made a knot!
HOW TO SEW A BACKSTITCH
A backstitch is a very sturdy stitch. It is a hand sewn stitch that most resembles a sewing machine stitch on the front side. On the back side, the stitches overlap.
To get started, decide where on your fabric you will be sewing. Typically, you work from right to left or in the reverse direction if you are left-handed.
Bring the needle through the fabric to the upper side.
Take a small stitch back (towards the right) about 1/8” and bring the needle out about 1/8” to the left of the first stitch.
Begin the next stitch at the end of the first stitch and bring the needle out one stitch ahead.
Continue the backstitch until the seam you desire is completed. To end the stitching, you can sew a few backstitches over the last stitch or you can make a knot, see instructions below for how to make an end knot.
HOW TO MAKE A RUNNING STITCH
The running stitch is a very basic stitch and has many uses but is not as sturdy for sewing a seam together as the backstitch. It is quicker to sew, however. You can adjust the length of the running stitch: For more permanent stitches, make stitches about 1/8” long. For basting (temporary hold) or to gather fabric, make stitches about 1/4” long.
To begin a running stitch, bring the needle through the fabric to the upper side and take a few stitches towards the right. Weave the needle in and out evenly through the fabric making as many stitches as your needle will hold and then pull the thread through.
Continue the running stitch until the seam you desire is completed. To end the stitching, overlap a few stitches as explained above or make an end knot.
HOW TO MAKE AN END KNOT
Make a tiny stitch at the end of your seam.
Pull the thread until you have a small loop. Pass the needle through the loop.
Catch the end of the thread before it goes all the way through the loop, creating a second loop.
Bring the needle from back to front through this second loop and pull the thread taut to make a knot that ends at the base of the stitches.
Practice these techniques on a swatch of fabric so that you can be ready to tackle a project with confidence! Hand sewing has many uses and can be used to mend a garment, hem pants or a skirt, or create a new piece for your wardrobe from something you already own. It’s a necessary skill for dressmaking and a creative skill as well. I can’t wait to see what you reinvent from your very own closet! I’ll be waiting for you to share.
Once you’ve mastered hand sewing and you’re ready to learn how to use a sewing machine, check out my online class over at Atly: Sewing 101! You can also keep up with my own creations in the sewing room and in the garden on my blog, Dia’s Days.
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