Introduction: DIY Sutures

Picture of DIY Sutures

Disclaimer: the information in this instructable might come in handy sometime, but I didn’t attend medical school and don’t have the license (or the inclination, for that matter) to practice medicine (as practice it would be, indeed)outside the friendly confines of my bathroom. The general consensus is that a doctor should be consulted in matters pertaining to your health. After all, they spent more money on their formal education than we did, and they need something to show for it.

This instructable is meant for adults only. I'm a mother, and I know how pissed I'd be if some lunatic told my son how to sew himself up. I don't need your mom pissed at you or me. 

This instructable contains pictures and descriptions of an actual laceration (mine) and the skin sewing process and is therefore unsuitable for people who are squeamish about that sort of thing.

We good? Okay, let's get started, then. It's sew time.

Step 1: Get Your Supplies Together

Picture of Get Your Supplies Together

What You’ll Need

Laceration that won't behave
Clean towel
Sterile Gauze
Antiseptic (hydrogen peroxide or bactine)
Needle (curved is what the doc uses but straight works, the smaller the better)
Alcohol (Isopropyl not drinking) and cotton ball
Lighter or matches
Thread (silk or nylon, fishing line works)
Bandage large enough to cover wound

Step 2: Take the Ibuprofen

Take the Ibuprofen. This is going to hurt a little. Take another few just for good measure. Don’t take aspirin. Thin blood is not the way to go with DIY invasive medicine. Wash your hands if you didn’t already do so.

Step 3: Prep Your Work Area

Lay out your towel on a firm flat surface. This is your dedicated work surface, so make sure you have ample space. Lay everything you need out and take a quick inventory. I didn’t do this and ended up forgetting the scissors. Oops. Take the wrapper off the bandage, the top off the antiseptic. You don’t want to have to fumble with those later.


Step 4: Sterilize Your Equipment

Grab your lighter, and put your needle in the flame. Heat it up. Don't burn yourself. Wipe your needle and line down with a cotton ball soaked with alcohol. Thread your needle and set aside. (Alternatively, you could boil your needle and line in water, but I didn't want to turn on the stove and draw attention to my antics lest they be halted unnecessarily.)

Step 5: Assess & Prep the Laceration (with Final Gut Check)

Picture of Assess & Prep the Laceration (with Final Gut Check)

Give your wound another good look. If you've come this far, you probably think you need stitches, but you might not. Would it stay together with butterfly bandages? Superglue? If so, go that route. I've glued on a few occasions with great results. In this instance, I had already tried butterflies, which failed immediately. Since the laceration was completely through the skin and a few inches long, I felt superglue wouldn't be effective.

If the area around your laceration is quite swollen (mine was), ice it for a few. You have a couple of minutes to kill before the ibuprofen starts working anyway. This will help the swelling go down and give you a little added numbing benefit. Not near enough, but we'll pretend it helps. Don't apply the ice directly to the wound. You don't want to soften too much skin or you'll have a helluva time keeping your line in it without it cutting through. Thoroughly clean your cut with an antiseptic like bactine or hydrogen peroxide. If you feel like throwing up after the cleaning of the wound, go take care of that before proceeding. I did.

Gut check time. Take a deep breath. If you feel unsure of your ability to stitch yourself, abort mission. It's okay. Most people don't do this sort of thing, anyway. Take a good look at your cut again. Still think it could benefit from stitching and still don't want to go to the hospital? Yes? Still with me? Okay, sport, grab your needle. It' sew time!

Step 6: Sew It Up

Picture of Sew It Up

 Ever been sewn up by a medical professional? Usually they take a curved needle, run it from the outside through the entire layer of skin, then across the laceration back through the other side,bottom to top and out. Then they tie off each stitch with a square knot. This is called a simple interrupted suture. The benefit of this type of suture is its strength (since it is anchored on both sides in the entire layer of skin, which is quite thick) and its independence from other sutures. Should one suture fail, the rest will remain in their places to keep the wound together. It didn't take long to realize this method was not going to work in my situation. The first obstacle was my straight needle. Once I got it all the way through my skin, it was kind of a dead end. Turning the corner to cross the wound required a lot of strain on an already injured part of my body, and also got it to bleeding again. Compounding the problem was the fact that the laceration being stitched was on my hand. That means that I only had one hand to use, and it's job was stitching. When I tried to go back up through the other side, my skin provided enough resistance to the needle that it just pushed the skin away and the cut open wide instead of nicely piercing the skin so I could complete the stitch. I ended up holding the skin in place with 2 fingers and pushing the needle throughwith my thumb. Frankly, after one pass in this manner, I felt a little like passing out. Okay, maybe more than a little. So I modified the stitch and the rest was cake (compared to the first stitch, at least).

Instead of going all the way through the skin at a steep angle, I went only halfway through at a much gentler slope. After the needle exited at the center of the cut, instead of entering back through in the same direction and going bottom to top, I changed directions and went top to bottom again. The direction of the stitch was always toward the cut, which meant I was always pushing the two pieces of skin toward each other instead of pulling one away during the stitch.

Doing it this way is much less traumatic, but makes interrupted suturing impractical if not impossible. Instead, do a series of running stitches in this fashion. I did mine in 2 sections. (Note: Don't strain the stitched area any more than you have to, either while stitching or during your recovery period. The drawback to uninterrupted stitches is that if part of the stitch fails (ie, pulls out), the whole stitch slacks)

Starting at the midpoint where the cut is the widest, stitch to the end of the cut, alternating sides. Make sure and leave yourself a good sized tail on your first stitch so a) it doesn't pull through and b) you have something to tie onto when you start the second segment going the opposite direction.

As you stitch, the goal is to pull the line snug enough so your skin approximates its original position. If your skin is puckering or rolling at stitch points, you either are pulling the stitches too tight or not stitching deep enough to get a good anchor.
When you reach the outer edge of the laceration, loop back to the stitch prior and knot. Cut the excess line from that end only (you should still have your tail in the middle). If you don't have enough thread left on your needle to complete this running stitch segment in the opposite direction, reload now.

Now go back to the midpoint of the laceration, tie the second length of thread to the first tail, and stitch in the same fashion as before, in the opposite direction, to the other end of the cut.

When you reach the end, again loop around the stitch prior and knot. Exhale.

You made it.  Nice stitching!

Step 7: Cover It Up

Picture of Cover It Up

 As much as you want to admire your handiwork at this point, you're going to need to get it protected. Give it another shot of antiseptic and put your bandage on.

Step 8: Watch It Close

Picture of Watch It Close

When you get a deep cut, you always run the risk of infection. It doesn't matter if you sewed it up or your doctor did. Keep it clean, keep it protected, and watch it closely. Change the bandage a few times a day. If at some point it starts being redder, hotter, or uglier than it was when you buttoned it up, don't wait until it kills you. Take further action. Infection is serious business. 

This is my hand post-healing. The scar will stick around, but I just consider it a reminder to be cautious with sharp objects.


SherylinRM (author)2017-10-19

I had my arm ripped open once and sewed it up. Was not fun but it worked :)

Good instructable :)

violetsmuse (author)2017-08-24

I agree with you, I wouldn't have used super glue either, it looked too deep. I grew quite faint while reading the steps but sometimes one has to make do. As in not having enough insurance, no access to medial care, etc. I don't have a weak stomach nor am I afraid of anything medical. Weird that I got woosy, lol. You were so brave and good for you!

sarahlynnmurphy (author)2013-06-26

Super glue works really well on cuts that won't stay closed! No need to stick yourself with a needle :-)

slo5oh (author)sarahlynnmurphy2013-09-20

+1 for superglue. Newskin works well on minor cuts, but I find it will peel off in less than a day. Superglue stays put and will seal the wound shut.

Drake88 (author)slo5oh2016-09-20

Something I have done in the past - newskin(superglue) and then steri-strips. Depending on the length of the wound this might work and might not. Usually I use the steri-strips first, then glue the areas between the strips carefully so the glue does NOT get on the strips. I also try to keep the area covered with at least two layers of heavy gauze(or some flexible bandages -placed to hold the wound closed- covered over with another large plastic backed bandage).

Also - pain killers are okay, but a local anesthetic is better - try using some of the OTC stuff they have for toothaches(Lidocaine) that is usually in the mouthwash/toothpaste isle of the local pharmacy/ store. Try not to get it directly into the wound - just rub it in gently with a *gloved*(do NOT want numbed finger doing stitches!) finger keeping it out of the wound as best you can. Keep rubbing it in for a minute or two after the feeling around the wound stops to increase the numbness duration so you can make the stitches correctly(my first time I didn't do this and had to hurry - the wound is a little 'off' and the skin now 'pulls' a little funny when I need it to move).

CraigH71 (author)2016-06-02

About to spend 5 days sailing offshore. Thanks for the tutorial, hopefully I won't need it!

The cloud 1808 (author)2016-04-01


cosarara (author)2013-03-24

Why don't just go to the doctor and let a profesional do it?

cannotw8 (author)cosarara2016-03-29

I had a er doctor give me two stitches without any drugs for pain and i was stuck with a 700 bill after insurance

NoynonMayta (author)2015-09-20

horror (*0*)

mary.schipke (author)2014-09-24

Here is my "tried and true" method when I stepped on a food processor double-edged blade. Ouch! For those who are "chemically sensitive" or allergic to many of the above-listed items, I found this procedure perfect. Boil water. Insert non-waxed dental floss, surgical needle, and hemostats to sterilize. Now, pour boiling water directly onto cut. This will sterilize and cauterize the wound. Sew up wound. Bandage. Use food grade alcohol (such as Tito's vodka) to keep wound clean.

ApprenticeWizard (author)2013-02-07

Instructive. A note on antiseptics listed, though: the hydrogen peroxide. In common concentration (~3%) it is not an antiseptic, and at antiseptic concentration (~35%) studies have indicated that it it does harm to the wound. Use it if you have no other choice, but not as a first choice

Wikipedia Hydrogen Peroxide

Absolutely correct. Betadine is what medical personnel use before stitches or surgical procedures. It'll burn (it's povidone-iodine), but if you can't take that, you probably shouldn't be stitching yourself up. Good litmus test if you should proceed, with no embarrassment factor of showing up at the ER half stitched up.

Thanks for your insight ApprentiveWizard and undergroundcarpenter

Phil B (author)2012-08-26

Once there was a bad joke about what you call a do it yourself surgery kit. The answer was"suture self."

peteyd60 (author)Phil B2014-03-05

"suture self"....Cute

geewizartcool (author)2013-05-07

Also a good rule of thumb to remember is to make the stitch as long/wide as the laceration is deep. The decision to use ibuprofen is expedient as you don't want the anti clotting action of aspirin. One thing that i would recommend is the use of local anesthesia-Lidocaine you can buy it with no credentials at many stores, the one that i have used is called burn-jel and it is 2.5% pure. rub it into the skin around the cut and let the drug kick in, but get your suturing done before it wears off.

Samw (author)2013-03-04

Just curious, wouldn't it be inadvisable to use a blood thinner while working on a bleeding wound?

east fork spring (author)Samw2013-03-04

Yessir. I think I mentioned that in there...

onemoroni1 (author)2013-02-07

Hay, my dad did this for our dog when she got hung up on the fence spikes trying to jump over and lacerated her groin. The dog lived. Once when I used to flip knives and catch them the blade landed between my ring and small finger leaving a 1" slice. It's amazing how much skin is there. I opted to tape my two fingers together for it to heal rather than get stitches. Good "prepper" instructable.

mslaynie (author)2013-02-07

Ugh, so creeped out now... *laughs* This reminds me of what my father and grandfather used to do. They were both very anti-hospital... if you aren't sick when you go in, you are when you come out. My grandfather almost cut a finger off one day while working in the field, so he came in, cleaned it well with rubbing alcohol (gah *shudder*), then stitched it up himself. After covering it with a bunch of Mercurochrome (or was it merthiolate... the icky, painful pink stuff), bandaged it, and went back out to finish up his day of work.

I am such a wuss, and I end up going to the hospital most of the time with this sort of thing. But when you either can't get there or what, this is a good skill to know.

SewLolita (author)2013-02-07

well, I love your writing style, and your dedication to the DIY movement, to stop and take photos :D
however, my reaction is still largely the same as when my carer does 'fixes' on himself (...and I have single use sealed needles, an ex-hospital autoclave, and sterile surgical bits and bobs that he can use :p) Dear LORD what's wrong with a hospital...

if the line's not sterile, your hand might get infected and, my tendancy towards getting over-excited leads me to believe that will inevitably result in it falling off :D

aside from non-sterile thread problems, The flame method isn't likely to sterilise a needle, as it needs to be at 130 degrees for at least 15 minutes to kill germs properly, and anything short of a sootless torch is going to introduce small amounts of carbon/soot, and tiny amounts remaining after you clean it can lead to irritation and bigger,lumpier scars. ;) I'd recommend ordering some individually sealed pre-sterilised needles, if you do this type of thing with any regularity ;)

not that I'm the best example of following my own advice, i manage to wound myself greiviously and am too stubborn to seek medical attention for anything that doesn't need stiches ... and did a sublingual frenectomy on myself... :p damn remote locations :p

HicksCustomFurniture (author)2013-02-05

Oh my daaaays! You're one tough cookie!

ilpug (author)2012-08-27

Wow, you are a tough one. I probably wouldn't be able to do that. I do recommend using un-waxed dental floss though, as it has no rough edges and is easily sterilized. Also, sewing needles are pretty dull, sewing pins are actually usually sharper. Try poking the pilot hole with a pin, then run the thread through with the needle.

l8nite (author)2012-08-26

A lot of people have grabbed a sewing needle thinking "how difficult can it be? Like thematthatter says though, sewing needles are NOT sharp enough to use on living flesh and I can tell you from personal experience that even using a proper suture set it's no fun stitching yourself up. All in all a very interesting "ible"

dreiseratops (author)2012-08-26

Sorry if you mentioned it some where already.
Did you fall & try to cath yourself on a sharp piece of glass? WTH?
Cheers. You are hardcore.

1tri2god (author)2012-08-26

East Fork Spring, as a doctor who did go to medical school, etc. thank you for putting that disclaimer on the front end of this instructable.

thematthatter (author)2012-08-26

Im not going to post a lecture on why this is bad. I have done this before.

But i will give some advice.

Sewing needles are tooo dull to go through skin. as you found out. A better (and safer solution) is to buy Suture packets, they make different kinds, different sizes, different types of needles (you want a cutting needle). Advantages, its presteralized, its real stuff, your body isn't going to try to fight it and the needle is sharp enough to cut through skin.
disadvantages they are about $12 a piece.

Regular super glue is good for small wound closers, and also after you stitch it up to minimize scaring for large wounds.
triple antibody plus is good to apply after you stitch it up. its probably the only over the counter antibiotic you'll be able to get a hold of.

if you have access to Chlorhexidine gluconate you can use that to wash the wound out.
The thing you want to avoid is trapping bacteria under the skin. You can end up with a life threatening infection when the anaerobic bacteria starts multiplying under your skin

About This Instructable



Bio: I'm a life-hacking reuse junkie who loves to create, even if all I'm making is a mess. I love hammers and rocks and ... More »
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