Sometimes stitching by hand is necessary instead of using a sewing machine, and sometimes it is preferred. Whichever you choose, here are some common hand stitches, what they are used for, and easy instructions to master them yourself.
What is Hand Stitching?
Just so you know, if you click on a product on beginnersewingprojects.com and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission at not additional cost to you.
Hand stitching is the process of sewing without a sewing machine. The hands are used to push and pull a needle threaded with thread through fabric for constructive or decorative purposes, or sometimes both.
Sewing by hand requires only requires a needle (our recommendation) and thread. Some people also wear a thimble on their thumb or other finger to protect the skin when pushing the needle through fabric. Thimbles have come a long way since the metal cup your grandmother used!
Why Sew by Hand?
Delicate fabrics and overlays often require hand stitching. Some stitches are meant to be temporary while fitting a garment and are easily removed later.
Certain projects look best when they are sewn on a sewing machine but finished by hand. For example, when sewing a pillow. After turning the pillowcase inside out and stuffing it, hand stitches close the opening neatly and precisely.
Works of art can be created only using hand stitches too. Completing a cross stitch kit like this can be relaxing and rewarding. Some people even use them to reduce anxiety.
Stitching by hand is also a wonderful way to introduce children to sewing. Many of our felt craft projects are perfect for kids and use light hand stitching.
What are Common Hand Stitches?
The common hand stitches included in this tutorial are:
- Blanket Stitch
- Cross Stitch
- Overcast Stitch
- Running Stitch
Each stitch is described below, along with the best uses for the stitch and how to execute them. They can each be mastered within a few minutes, even for beginners.
The backstitch secures hand stitching at the beginning or end of a row of stitches.
Bring the needle and thread to the underside. Then insert the needle through through all fabric layers a stitch length behind, and bring it up just in back of the point where the thread emerges. Pull the thread through.
Hand basting is used temporarily to check fit and construction of a garment. It is made of short (1/4″) stitches that are the same distance apart.
Working from right to left, take several evenly spaced stitches onto the needle before pulling it through.
A blanket stitch often covers fabric edges in a decorative way. This stitch is commonly used in our felt projects. It is a great stitch for children and beginners to master. The size of the stitch and spacing can be consistent or varied.
Work from left to right, with the point of the needle and edge of the fabric facing toward you. The edge of the fabric can be folded under or left raw, like when sewing felt or around a fleece blanket.
Secure the thread, and bring it out below the edge. For the first and each succeeding stitch, insert the needle through the fabric from the right side and bring it out at the edge.
Keep the thread from the previous stitch under the point of the needle, and draw it through to form a stitch over the edge.
The chainstitch is a continuous series of looped stitches that form a chain. It is usually used for decorative purposes.
To make a chainstitch, work from right to left. Fasten the thread, and bring it up to the right side. For each stitch, loop the thread up and around. Insert the needle just behind where the thread emerges and bring it up, over the looped thread, a stitch length in front of that point. Pull the thread through, to the left, to form a looped stitch.
The cross stitch is made up of horizontal stitches that cross each other to form X’s. It can be used decoratively or constructively. You can even create an entire scene from thread using the cross stitch.
To make a cross stitch, work from top to bottom or left to right. With the needle pointing one direction, make a row of small, horizontal stitches spaced as far apart as they are long. Pull the thread taught. When the row is finished, reverse direction. Make another row of small, horizontal stitches crossing the other row to form X’s.
An overcast stitch is used for finishing the raw edges of fabric to prevent it from fraying. Generally, the more the fabric frays, the closer together the overcast stitches should be sewn.
Working from either direction, make diagonal stitches over the edge of the fabric. Space stitches an even distance apart at the same depth.
A running stitch is a short stitch that is used for delicate sewing job such as gathering or mending. The stitching is usually permanent.
To make a running stitch, work from left to right. Weave the point of the needle in and out of the fabric several times before pulling the thread through. Keep your stitches and the spaces between them small and even.
The slipstitch is a nearly invisible stitch made by slipping the thread under a fold of fabric. It is often used to join two folded edges.
It is best to use a slipstitch when hand sewing binding onto a quilt or when closing a project after turning it right side out, such as a pillow.
Work from right to left to make a slipstitch. Secure your thread. Then bring the needle and thread through one folded edge. For the first and each succeeding stitch, slip the needle through the opposite fold. Then bring the needle out, and draw the thread through. Continue to slip the needle and thread through the opposing folded edges.
A whipstitch is a variation of the overcast stitch. The difference lies in the angle at which the needle is held. It is generally used to join two finished edges. However, it can also hold a raw edge neatly against a flat surface.
To create a whipstitch, insert the needle at a right angle and close the edge while picking up only a few threads. The space between stitches can be short or long, depending on your fabric, project and needs.
Don’t forget to pin this information for later, and try your newfound sewing skills on some easy projects listed below.