Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Keeping an Old Skill Alive

Isn't it strange how sometimes when you least expect it,
something strikes you or takes you by surprise?
A week or so ago, I ran across an add in one of our semi-local publications.
It was from a woman who wanted to learn how to sew by hand
with the specification of "without a machine" as if "by hand"
meant in addition to a machine.

I read and re-read the little plea for help.
It struck me for some reason~
weather it was shock that she hadn't been taught such a thing as a child,
or wasn't able to work it out,
or self-reflection that perhaps I should be more grateful
that I know how to hand stitch (and actually enjoy it,)
or actually a bit of sadness that she hadn't been able to find someone near her
to show her such a basic skill.
Perhaps it was a combination of all the above.

I did respond via email but also hoped that mine was one of many
and that perhaps a neighbor a few doors down would walk over
to her house and say plainly, "Here, let me show you. . ."

With that, I would like to show you folks the most basic method
of hand stitching for general purpose.
Please keep in mind, there are many ways to hold a needle
and just as many variances as to preferences for this method or that.
This is just one of those many ways.
This is a regular running stitch.
This stitch is the most basic stitch for holding two pieces of fabric together~
Keep in mind your "fabric" can be anything from a silk scarf to canvas tarps.
I used two different colors so you can see it better, 
and two strands of dark thread to stand out even more.
Also, you would usually have your edges even, 
I staggered them so you could see.
The physics of it is that the needle goes up and back down through the fabric
spanning the length of your seam.

Though you can do this by poking your needle down and pulling your thread through then poking the needle back up and pulling the needle through for each and every stitch, the easier and usually more efficient way to accomplish this is to "stack your needle" or "stack your stitches" (I've heard it said both ways.)
To do this hold the needle kinda at a slant and move it up and down through the fabric maybe 3-4 times then pull the thread through the fabric.
You will figure out what is comfortable for you depending upon the size of your needle and the thickness of your fabric.
I also used a large needle to demonstrate.
I would recommend a thimble or even a piece of duct tape 
on your "pushing finger."
The goal is for your stitches to be as even as possible.  
Also, the smaller your stitches, the stronger your seam will be.
This stitch can be done in a straight line or around curves.
If you get a little "off straight," either pull it out or
make a very small stitch to get it back in line.

Once you reach the end of your seam, to create a knot,
take a very small stitch in the seam allowance, then before pulling the thread tight, pass your needle under the loop,

pull your thread, then go under your next "loop" with the needle,
pull your thread, then do it one more time.

I typically go through the loop at least 3 times but often 4.
Snip close to knot leaving a very small tail to ensure it doesn't unravel.
With that, you have just hand stitched your seam.
At this point, you would open your two pieces of fabric
and iron or press open.
Typically, if using two different colors, you would press toward the darker color.
Sorry I took the picture before I made my knot.
This is indeed slower than using a sewing machine,
but it requires no expensive devise, no electric to operate,
no maintenance, oils, or up-keep, and very little space to store.
The only supplies needed are needle and thread, scissors (or sharp teeth,)
and the item which you are stitching.
This should get you started.  Warning, it's addictive:)

I will also apologize if a few of the pictures are a little less than perfect.
It's a challenge to show stitching while hugging a tripod with a camera
beeping and ready to snap a picture:)



  1. it is hard to believe someone can grow up having never hand stitched she was really missing out on the most reaxing form of stitchery, do hope she can now do it, your tutorial is very clear for beginners maybe she will move on and start embroidery and come to love all those stitches too

  2. We used to learn to sew in him economics class

  3. What a great tutorial, should this lady ever contact you! And it is quite sad that she never learned to sew by hand. This was a skill I taught my children when they were very young. We also learned to hand sew in school, making our own stuffed animal. My kids were taught to make their own pillows and stuffed toys. I'm glad I taught them, as schools nowadays do not teach those skills, sadly!

    Excellent tutorial! :)

  4. Thank you for the step-by-step pictures. That made it very clear. Although, I know how to hand sew, that clarified a few things for me.

  5. There are many basic skills that I had the privilege of learning during my childhood. This was due to the resurgence of old time handworks and crafts around the Bicentennial. It is no longer the norm to pass these skills down. Now, I am inspired to make a list of some of these old skills and make a point of teaching my girls the basics. Thank you for reminding me.
    Please drop by and say hello!
    ஐღMrs.Laura Laneღஐ
    Harvest Lane Cottage
    ...doing what I can with what I've got where I am
    on a short shoestring budget!

  6. I can imagine how you had to balance your camera to get these pictures, it's tricky when you are by yourself!
    I love the slower pace of hand stitching sometimes although mostly I do appreciate the speed a machine can give when you just want to get some thing made. I agree it's important to pass these skills along, like sewing on buttons or mending a seam that's coming undone, important and easy skills to learn.

  7. I was just reading an article that pointed out how many adults don't even know how to boil an egg, I am not surprised they do not know how to sew by hand (or machine).
    Thanks for sharing at Simple Homestead Hop.
    This was our most visited post last week and will be featured tomorrow on the hop! :)

  8. What a sweet, old fashioned lesson! Thank you for taking the time to care! :)

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