Basic Hand Sewing

Long ago, in days gone by, when covered wagons crossed the west (are you becoming nostalgic yet,) women folk had homesteading skills. One of those skills that could be elevated even to an art form was sewing by hand *gasp* By hand you say!?!?! Yes! Fast forward to today and while a few homes may still have sewing machines, very few people use them anymore. We have become a society of replace, not repair. Which is very sad in my opinion. And it is rare to find a women that still takes hand sewing to the elevated form of art. When was the last time you sat around cross stitching with friends on a Saturday night? I’m just say….

So why then if we can replace instead of repair, or have the dry cleaner do our hems (no I have NEVER used a dry cleaner, I don’t think I own a single thing that requires one) why then should anyone in this day and age learn to hand sew? Because, I said so!! Honestly though, think of the money you can save by hemming your own items, replacing buttons, or how amazingly awesome you will be to your children when you can fix their favorite stuffed animal that has seen better days! There is satisfaction in doing it yourself and pride from a job completed by your own hand.

Hand sewing requires very few “tools,” takes up very little space, and who knows, you might even find a new hobby by learning just a couple of simple stitches! So go get some thread, needles, and scissors and let’s get to work learning the basics of hand sewing.

The Basting Stitch

The basting stitch is usually sewn with a single thread. The purpose of a basting stitch is to temporarily hold pieces of fabric together until final sewing by hand or machine. Honestly I rarely, if ever use a basting stitch. If I am temporarily holding something together, I use pins. That being said, this is a great stitch to start with for practicing your spacing. The stitches are farther apart then the running stitch. Once you get down sewing even stitches like the basting stitch, sewing a running stitch is easy.

The Running Stitch

The running stitch is a small stitch, sewn with a single thread for securing two pieces of fabric together (like delicate work on clothing.) However, having the country kids…. I always double my thread, my family, well they are rough on clothes. A double thread is a must on those overly loved stuffed animals too. You can also double your thread to pull fabric into gathers, like little bags. A single thread would not have the proper strength for pulling.

The Back Stitch

The back stitch creates a strong, secure seam. The front of your fabric will have a nice row of stitch, and the back will look like longer overlapping stitches. Make a stitch like you would for a running stitch but then on the next stitch go back behind where the needle just came out. Your needle should then come back out ahead of the last stitch. Think of it as a one step forward, half step back kind of deal. This is a good stitch to use when hand sewing pillows.

The Hem Stitch

Now depending on how “good” you get at this (which isn’t hard) you can make this stitch “invisible.” Simply fold over the edge of the fabric you wish to hem. You can iron it if you want, it will help you keep your stitches straight. Once you have tied your single thread to the material with a knot (on the inside fold of fabric) this stitch is fairly simple to do. You simply go from inside folded fabric with larger stitches to the outer fabric (the side people will see) with tiny stitches. Don’t pull your thread to tight or it will pucker. While this stitch is easy to do, it is hard to explain, so check out the photos.

I personally am lazy and tend to fall back on a running stitch for darn near everything I do, which is a shame because really there are so many reasons to use the proper stitch for the job. But in my house, even when fixing socks, I use a double threaded running stitch. While it may not be as pretty, it sure holds up against the men folk in this house!

So why not get a needle (choose your size depending on fabric type, the thicker the fabric the bigger the needle) and some thread and try practicing a few stitches. You never know, you might just be a natural! And think of all the great things you can make or repair once you hone your skills.

**Homestead Tips on Tuesday is a weekly series where we help you learn skills, tips, and trick to help you on your journey of homesteading. Many places post list of things you should/could do as far as homesteading skill, but I feel lists are at times overwhelming and can make people give up before they even start. So every Tuesday I share one thing for you to try or consider. I hope you join us every Tuesday and I would love to hear about your adventures with each weeks topic.**

46 thoughts on “Basic Hand Sewing

  1. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog. It has such an honest, down-home good feeling to it and for that I commend you! I've enjoyed reading your DIY tips on the maple syrup section of your blog- like making your own taps. Those things are expensive, and better yet- the homemade evaporating station. I'm excited to finally try my hand at maple syrup this year. We live in NE Minnesota where wild maples are abundant and it's about time I take advantage 😉

    Thanks so much for all of your great information!


    1. Tapping trees is so much fun. We only tap three trees and make more then enough for our own personal use and giving to friends. And with the cold winter we should have an awesome season again this year!!

  2. I learned basic hand sewing skills for mending at a semi young age. Didn't have a sewing machine and hated throwing out shirts that had small pin prick holes in them or the numerous stuffed animals that were loved to the point of popping their stuffing. I really believe that everyone should know how to do the very basics and plan on teaching my kids.

    Thanks for making me feel like I am not the only one who thinks this way!

  3. My daughters participate in a Keepers of the Faith club that focuses on all things homemaking. I love that they have the opportunity to learn things that I had to learn as an adult.

    1. When I am alone and doing it, yes… but when my children are bugging me… it is not so relaxing LOL "Moooom is my (fill in the blank) done yet"

  4. I learned to machine sew at age 9, 43 yrs. ago. I did hand sewing before that. I use a machine now but do some hand sewing on clothing for Living History Interpretation of 1847 time period. Of course I still do many repairs by hand. I hand stitched repairs on a pr. of leather gloves for my son today. I hate thimbles and stuck the eye of the needle in my thumb quite a bit. But the gloves are usable for awhile yet. I will continue to do both hand sewing and machine sewing as long as I can. Even my son hand sews many things as he is a bachelor and doesn't want to bother me. I do some machine stitching for him though. I repair till repairs need repaired and if the item is rotten I repurpose for rags. With the avaiability of second hand clothes it isn't worth thread sometimes. Someday everyone will need something repaired by hand. But billions don't know how. Glad to hear some still do.

    1. I am so with you on using something till it is no more. Great to hear your son sews. Mine is very into learning the skill (mostly I think he like the machine peddle…. too much like a race car!)

  5. Definitely do some hand stitching around here too! Always holes and tears from the 4 kiddos that have to be repaired! I have been Dr.Mom for the stuffed animals more times than I can count! Great post!

  6. I took home ec in school and learned to sew by hand and on a machine (as well as from my mom) but there are many people that aren't learning at school or from parents anymore. I am a lazy sewer and though I can do it, I usually save all of our sewing for my mom 🙂 They come to visit once a month and she sews anything that needs to be fixed and my son just said to me that grandma needed to look at his coat because McQueen was coming off a little. I felt a little guilty and then decided that my mom likes to be needed and appreciated for her sewing so I am going to leave it for grandma 🙂

    1. Thank you for saying so. I have a quilt I started a decade ago and STILL haven't finished LOL Too many stuffed animal repairs got in the way.

  7. I love handsewing. Some people say that I must be patient, but I saw they must be patient with the sewing machine. The machine drives me nuts when it jams or the stitches are loose! Your newest follower 🙂

  8. Love this…sewing was something I didn't learn until my mid 20's, husband had to teach me how to sew on a button! Thanks for sharing on Simple Saturdays!

  9. Great tips! My 20 year old daughter taught herself to sew with Youtube–I wish I could say I taught her, but I don't really know how. One of my goals… I am loving your blog so much and have followed via several routes. I'm striving to continue to be more self sufficient!

  10. Love this! I agree that young people need to know how to do some basic things like sewing. I recently started teaching my oldest how to and my son will soon learn too. Thank you for linking this up with us for MMM link up party this week! I am loving your blog!! I am learning so much. My ultimate dream is to buy some land somewhere and do some homesteading. It is a very beautiful and honest way to live in my opinion.I hope you will come back by tomorrow evening or Monday and link up some more great posts like this one!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It is nice to know people actually enjoy what I am doing and of course I will come back and thank you for hosting!

  11. This is definitely good to know! I am sort of backwards in that I am able to hand sew (I learned while volunteering at a living history museum) but the sewing machine absolutely scares me! I really need to learn though. Thanks for sharing this post.


  12. Hi I am Trish from I wanted to thank you for this post. I love it. And I love your blog. I thought I was the only person that still hand stitched. That photo of the hen coming out of the coop in your header is adorable. I took several photos of a hen and a rooster on the church grounds. They were taken with my cell phone, so the quality is not good. Maybe, I will upload them to my blog. I like hand stitching, just not things that takes long time…because I am slow and don't have that much patience. I do a lot of repairing. My daughter is always bringing things for me to repair. A couple of months ago I made her a Pocahontas costume for school. I was just ecstatic about it. So, yes does makes you feel good to know that you sew it with your own two hand. It was tight on her…but she didn't pop a stitch. I use to cross stitch…but it has been a while and I believe I may have forgotten how. I had a great aunt who hand stitched almost all of her clothing. I was raised on the farm. Again, thanks for this post.

    1. It does make a difference when someone can teach you instead of having to figure it out alone. A friendly guide can make a new task easier to tackle.

  13. Really good information, more people should do their own repairs and save money and feel useful. I have clothes that say "dry clean" but I throw them in the washing machine anyway…cold, gentle and either lay flat to dry, hang on the line or, very rarely, toss them in the dryer on cool heat. I'm too frugal and independent to dry clean clothes.

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