Introduction to Hand Sewing



About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

Hello and welcome to my hand sewing class!

Even if you sew primarily on a machine, being able to sew well by hand will allow you to finish every project you make in the cleanest, most professional looking way. Hand sewing is also the best way to mend and do repairs, which is fantastic if you're like me and always putting holes in your clothes. :D

By following along with this class, you'll learn a variety of stitches and techniques through two projects: handsewn felt coasters and a custom gadget case.


Step 1: Class Overview

As I've said before, we'll be making two different projects in this class. First, we'll make some stitched coasters to get down the basics, and then we'll move on to make a custom gadget case!

Project 1: Handsewn Felt Coasters

  • Introduction and Materials
  • Threading Needles and Knotting Thread
  • Tying Off to Finish Sewing
  • Sewing Running Stitch
  • CoastersSewing
  • Blanket Stitch Coasters
  • Sewing Whip Stitch Coasters

Project 2: Custom Gadget Case

  • Introduction, Materials, and Making Your Pattern
  • Pressing, Cutting and Pinning
  • Handsewing the Case
  • Using the Backstitch
  • Press and Finish Your Seams
  • Sewing the Top of the Case
  • Finishing the Case with a Slip Stitch
  • How to Sew on a Button + Conclusion

Additional Resources

  • What to Sew Next

Step 2: Sewing Dictionary

I realize that getting started in a totally new field can be a little overwhelming, so I've included this sewing dictionary of sorts for you to reference when you come across a word that makes little to no sense to you.

Appliqué The craft of sewing decorative bits of fabric onto a larger piece of fabric.

Backstitch In hand sewing, this is the stitch that is most similar to a machine stitch. In machine sewing, this is the stitching that happens at the beginning and end of a line of sewing to secure the stitches in place.

Basting Stitch This stitch is used to temporarily attach two pieces of fabric together. It's basically a very long running stitch. The stitches are long so they can be removed easily.

Batting Batting is a bit like cotton stuffing, but it comes in a flat, thin sheet. It is used to add padding and warmth to sewing projects, in quilts, and in appliqué.

Bias The bias runs diagonally to the straight edges of fabric. The bias is often the stretchiest part of the fabric, and cutting on the bias allows the fabric to be more flexible and drape better. Bias tape is made from fabric cut on the bias.

Blanket stitch The blanket stitch is a decorative and functional stitch. Often used on the edges of sewing projects, and in reinforcing the edges of buttonholes and eyelets.

Bolt The way fabric is measured in bulk. When you go to a fabric store, you're looking at bolts of fabric. A bolt of fabric is normally 40 or 100 yards long. The fabric width varies and can be found printed on one end of the bolt along with fabric care instructions.

Eye The eye of a needle is the hole opposite of the point of the needle. The eye allows thread to pass through the needle.

Finger pressing Exactly what it sounds like! Using your fingers to press a seam flat or open, instead of using an iron.

Gathering When you gather the fabric, you sew across the edge of a piece of fabric and then pull the thread tight. Gathering fabric allows you to control the creation of ruffles and pleats. To see how this is done, check out my "how to gather fabric" instructable.

Grain The grain describes the directions of threads in the woven fabric. In this class, the projects we're making are so small we don't need to worry about aligning our patterns with the grain, but larger sewing projects and clothing should always be cut and assembled with the grain in mind! This is a great explanation of grain from See Kate Sew.

Hem When you hem fabric, you fold over the edge and sew it down so the raw edge of the fabric is encased. Hemming is done in many different ways.

Lining Lining describes the fabric found on the inside of sewn items, like purses. A lining covers all the stitching and keeps all raw edges encased. Lining fabric is usually the same weight or a lighter weight than the outer fabric.

Nonwoven fabric Nonwoven fabrics are things like leather, suede and vinyl. These materials have no directional grain, or individual threads. They are created by different processes and have a very different structure than woven fabric.

Notions All of the tools and accessories used in sewing. This is the area in the fabric store where you can buy needles, zippers, thread, etc.

Overcast / Overlock This is a stitch that encases the entire seam allowance. Most often used in knit clothing, it keeps the seam allowance nice and neat and does not allow for unravelling of the fabric. This can be done by hand with a blanket stitch.

Pleat A structured fold made on piece of fabric, only sewn in place at the very top. Pleats are common in skirts and pants. They add fullness to the fabric.

Pressing Pressing is used while sewing to keep your work nice and neat. It's not like standard ironing where you're just rubbing the iron all over. Instead you'll concentrate on using the heat and weight of the iron to press seams flat and take out any wrinkles from sewing.

Ravel / Raveling / Unraveling This is what you call it when the edges of fabric fray. Any woven fabric will do this, but it varies according to how open the weave of the fabric is. You can control the raveling by sewing right next to edge of the fabric - the area between the stitching and the edge of the fabric will ravel, while the stitches protect the rest of the fabric.

Right side When following sewing directions, they will often refer to the "right side" of fabric. The right side of a fabric is the side you want facing out when a project is done. With printed fabrics, it will be the printed side. With other fabrics, you'll need to pay close attention to make sure you've got the right side!

Running stitch This is the most basic of hand sewing stitches. It's the fastest stitch to do, but is often not as strong or nice looking as the other hand sewing stitches. The basting stitch is a longer version of this.

Seam A seam is where two pieces of fabric meet when they're sewn together.

Seam allowance A seam allowance is the distance between your line of stitching and the edge of the fabric. This will vary based on the pattern you use, but you'll always sew on the seam allowance line. (Typically called a seam line.)

Selvage / Selvedge The selvedge is the flat, finished edge on of a piece of fabric. Not all fabrics come this way, but most cottons do! Sometimes the selvage will include important information about the fabric and grain, so check it out!

Step 3: A Little About Me

Hi! I'm Jessy Ratfink, and I've been addicted to publishing instructables for almost ten years now. It started as a hobby but grew into a job! I've always loved making and learning new things, and it turns out I'm pretty good at teaching people what I learn. Win-win. :D

When I'm not doing work for Instructables, I run making jiggy. I am pretty terrible at keeping my website updated, but I'm always creating new items for my shops! I make and sell hand embroidered hoop art and illustrations on Etsy and Handmade at Amazon. You can see my latest works on my making jiggy instagram account!

I primarily work with textile arts (embroidery, quilting, sewing) but I also love cooking, baking and woodworking - especially woodburning!

I chose to do a hand sewing class because I've been sewing for about 20 years now and I think a solid foundation in hand sewing is oh-so-important. Sewing on a machine might be fast and efficient, but hand sewing allows you to put beautiful finishing touches on whatever you sew! Plus, the satisfaction of making something entirely by hand just can't be beat. :D

And now that you've learned all about the class and me, let's move on to our first project: felt coasters!



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