Looking back over our sewing patterns so far, we've noticed that we seem to have a bit of a thing for hand stitching. A lot of a thing, in fact. Turns out, we've recommended finishing hems, waistbands and linings by hand in all three of our patterns - which comes as a surprise as we had no idea what perfectionists we really were! Ain't nothing like a flawless finish, so we're going to take you through four of our favourite and most useful hand stitches.
*WARNING - this is a super nerdy post, filled with loadsa close up step-by-step images of sewing samples and long winded explanations. To be digested in small doses...!*
First things first - there are two main ways to thread your hand sewing needle and both are good for different techniques:
Single thread: thread your needle but knot only one end so that the other is free to come unthreaded - this is especially useful for embroidery techniques where you might need to quickly and easily unpick a few stitches.
Double thread: thread your needle and knot both ends together - the doubled up thread will make for a more secure stitch, but is impossible to unpick without cutting the thread and starting over!
Running Stitch - what's it good for?
Good for gathering or ruching fabric to make gathered skirts, basting seams and stay stitching a curved edge to prevent it from stretching. A running stitch looks exactly the same on both sides of the fabric.
- Working from right to left (or left to right for lefties), insert your needle into the fabric and bring it back out again (fig.1)
- Now weave your needle in and out of the fabric, keeping the stitches as even and straight as possible (figs.2,3&4)
Back Stitch - what's it good for?
Mending clothes by hand - the back stitch creates a strong seam and can reach awkward, fiddly places that a sewing machine can't. From the right side, the back stitch looks like a straight machine stitch, but the stitches overlap on the wrong side.
- Working from right to left, insert your needle into the fabric and come back out again, pulling the thread through (fig.1)
- Re-insert your needle half a centimetre or so to the right of where your needle just came out, and come back out half a centimetre to the left of your first stitch (fig.2)
- Continue like this, inserting your needle at the end of your last stitch to the right, and coming out one stitch ahead to your left (figs.3&4)
Blind Slipstitch - what's it good for?
This is our most favourite. A pretty much completely invisible stitch that is perfect for pretty much anything - from basic hemming to finishing the inside of a waistband, à la Charlotte Skirt, finishing raw edges of a bodice lining as in the Elisalex Dress and finishing the sleeveless armhole of the Victoria Blazer.
- Press your fabric and pin the fold into place ready to be blind stitched
- Insert your needle through the folded edge (fig.1) and pull the thread through
- Pick up a couple of threads from the fabric directly underneath the point where your needle just came out (fig.2) and pull the thread though (fig.3)
- Reinsert the needle into the pressed edge of the fabric directly above the point at which your needle just came out (fig.4). Using the pressed fold as a guide, slide the needle an centimetre or so along inside the fold and then come out again (fig.5)
- Keep repeating figs. 2 - 5 along the entire length and securely knot off your stitching at the end
Blind Catchstitch - what's it good for?
Especially good for hemming, in particular hems that require flexibility or easing in.
- Press the hem in by 1/4″, and then press in again by 1/2″, or however much or little in order to achieve your desired length
- Working from left to right, insert your needle inside the fold (fig.1)
- Make a little stitch in the fabric just below the fold (fig.2)
- Next make a stitch in the main body of the fabric, moving diagonally down to the right of your first stitch (fig.3) and pull the thread through, keeping it secure but not too tight (fig.4)
- Moving diagonally up to the right, make another little stitch in the fabric just below the fold (fig.5) followed by another little stitch from the main body of the fabric (fig.6), and so on
Finishing off your hand stitches
Just as we back stitch on a sewing machine, securing the end of a line of stitching to prevent it from coming undone, so we have to securely knot the thread when stitching by hand as well.
- On the wrong side of your fabric, and with your needle still threaded, insert the needle close to where the thread is coming out, catching just a tiny thread of the fabric as you go (fig.1)
- Pull the needle and thread through, stopping when you have a little loop to insert your needle through (fig.2)
- Bring the needle and thread through the loop, keeping the forming knot close to the fabric (fig.3)
- Tighten the knot and snip the thread a few millimetres from the knot (fig.4)
Phewzers!! You can be sure we'll be back next time with something a hell of a lot more frivolous than this! Good time to get the old glue gun out methinks...