girl sewing by hand a piece of fabric

Sewing machines are taking over and the art of hand sewing slowly sinks into oblivion. Or maybe not? I have to admit that I get a little bit nostalgic when it comes to hand sewing. After all, sewing is one of the oldest human crafts. We started sewing during the Old Stone Age at least 50,000 years ago. It evolved from stitching animal hides for clothing to decorative embroidery, quilting, and needlework. Of course, sewing clothes and other useful and practical items has always been not just popular, but necessary. 

Today, sewing machines rule and it’s only natural. You can’t stop time or progress. And to be honest, sewing machines are so much faster, more convenient, and they offer such a marvelous range of opportunities. Still, there are many reasons not to give up hand sewing completely. The art forms of hand sewing require time, patience, and dedication. But the satisfaction you get can’t be matched! If you’re in a lack of time or desire to create art, there are several other reasons to get a needle and thread and sew by hand. 

For starters, it’s inexpensive. Hand sewing improves your fine motor skills and coordination. It is as portable as it gets. You can carry your projects wherever you go. It is also quiet. While I love the sound of a sewing machine, it can be too loud and people around you might not be as enthusiastic as you are. Anyway, you can do your work without bothering anyone around you. Clothing repair is easier if you sew by hand. It is the same when you want to attach the applique onto the fabric. So, hand sewing is still convenient for many tasks.

Tips and Techniques

First, you need to prepare, which means getting all the tools and materials that you need. A needle, thread, scissors, seam ripper, and fabric are the essentials. That’s obvious, of course, but I mentioned it because there are two additional tools that you might find helpful. These are a thimble and a needle threader.

Some people never use them while others find them convenient. Usually, a thimble is useful when sewing heavy fabrics or multiple layers of fabric. Not all of us have perfect vision or steady hands. A needle threader comes to the rescue to make threading easy.

Running Stitch

This is one of the most common stitches. Actually, this stitch was the most used one by far, before the invention of the sewing machine. However, it is still widely used to repair a falling hem or when you work in narrow spaces that your sewing machine can’t reach. You can’t match the sewing machine’s precision and tightness, but if you do it carefully, it will be pretty and durable. 

How to do it: Stitch through the fabric, skip the desired distance and push it back through the fabric. You don’t have to pull the needle out of the fabric for each stitch. You can push your needle in and out of the fabric a couple of times before you push the needle all the way through.

Just make sure to keep the same distance and you’ll get several stitches at once. When you want to close the stitches push the needle through the fabric but leave some thread so you can create a loop. Push the needle back through the fabric and loop to make a knot. Repeat this a couple of times to secure the knot.


Backstitch sewing number order
Photo credit: sew4home

A backstitch is a very strong stitch. It is a very reliable stitch and it is often used to repair a seam, or whenever you want to create an extra-strong stitch. It is also useful if you want to cover a hole with a patch.

How to do it: It looks similar to running stitch, but a different technique provides more strength. Push the needle through from underneath the fabric and instead of moving forward go backward for the desired length of the stitch. Pierce the fabric from above and that’s your first stitch. Then move your needle forward to reach the farther end of the next stitch, push through and go backward to the closer end of the stitch to push through for your second stitch.

And that’s it, repeat the process until you finish your stitches. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually easy. Just check the photo and you’ll get it easily.

Basting Stitch

A basting stitch is a removable stitch. The idea is to hold two pieces of fabric together to make it easier to sew with the sewing machine. It is a good idea to use a thread of a different color so that you can easily see it and remove it. Also, you don’t want to baste exactly where you will sew final stitches. If you do so you might not be able to remove it.

How to do it: Actually, the basting stitch is the same as the running stitch. So, use the same technique. The only difference is that basting stitches are much longer and removable.

Slip or Ladder Stitch

A slip stitch helps you to create hidden almost invisible stitches. It’s great for closing stuffed projects or pillows or closing any kind of lining while keeping it unnoticeable. Use the thread of the same color as the fabric to make it completely invisible.

How to do it: First, iron the folds of your fabric. Start from underneath the fold to hide the knot. Then, pull the needle out through the fold. Take a small amount of fabric on your needle from the opposite side of the folded fabric and push it back into the fold at the same point as you did on the opposite side. The first stitch is finished. Move your needle underneath the fold and repeat the process until you close the whole line.

Overcast Stitch

An overcast stitch is a simple and effective stitch to secure the edges of the fabric and prevent unraveling.

How to do it: Start on the inside to hide the knot. Pull the needle up through the fabric and loop it diagonally around the edge. Repeat until the end.