Day 2: Basic hand-sewing

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Today is Day 2 of 31 Days of Sewing School.

Most of this month will be about machine sewing. We will cover everything from materials to familiarizing yourself with your machine before we dive into some basic techniques and tutorials.

But today, I figured we’d start at the very simplest of sewing skills: sewing by hand.

I’ll explain a few of the basics and show you how easy it is to stitch by hand.

All you need for hand-sewing is a needle and thread. It’s the most basic way to mend something, sew on a button or channel your inner Laura Ingalls. It’s also a stepping stone to embroidery, cross-stitch, appliqué, hand-quilting and binding, and more.

What you need to know about sewing by hand

Choose your needle. The thicker the fabric you are sewing through, the bigger your needle should be. For embroidery thread, you’ll want a needle with a bigger eye (the hole of the needle). Embroidery needles are not as sharp. For regular hand-sewing choose a sharp needle with a standard-sized eye. (An assorted pack might be helpful to keep on hand.) You can store your needles stuck into any scrap of fabric or felt.

For kids, choose a plastic needle with a large eye. This will work great if you want to teach your child to hand-sew with embroidery thread (thicker and easier to use). A pipe cleaner can also be folded and twisted around a strand of yarn for sewing on hole-punched foam or cardboard.

Single or double? If you want to sew on a button or stitch something where you want a more-reinforced stitch, thread your needle and then tie both loose ends of the thread together. If you’re doubling your thread, be sure to cut a piece twice as long as you need.

If you are sewing a simpler stitch (like a hem), tie a knot in one end and let one end stay loose while you sew.

Stitch size. For mending or a secure seam, you’ll want to make small stitches that are close together. Hand-basting and gathering require a longer, farther-spaced stitch (a running stitch).

How to sew by hand

  1. Cut your thread, thread your needle and knot your thread with a double or triple knot. Leave the other end loose.
  2. Start on the wrong side of the fabric (the side that won’t show) so your knot will be hidden.
  3. Start your needle going up in the fabric. Pull your thread taut, all the way through.
  4. Point your needle back down, careful to use an appropriate-sized stitch.
  5. Come back up. Repeat for as long as necessary.
  6. Finish with a final stitch going down, so you can tie off the thread on the wrong side again.
  7. Tie a double or triple knot and trim threads. You did it!

More tips:

  • Run your thread through beeswax (or Thread Heaven) to strengthen your thread and help it glide through your fabric better.
  • Thread your needle with the end of the thread that was loose on the spool. Then tie the knot with the cut end. This way your thread will unravel less (it’s the direction in which the thread is meant to be sewn).
  • You might want to keep a small caddy with all your hand-sewing needs in it: needles, thread, small scissors, etc.

How are you today?Happy hand-sewing!  Have you done much sewing by hand? If not, do you feel like you can get started your mending pile now? I hope so! I’ll try to tackle more mending techniques on the future here on Simple Homemade, since I know a lot of you are interested in that. Tomorrow I’ll start sharing a few inspiring sewing resources with you.


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About Nicole

Nicole can be found blogging at her lifestyle blog, and is the editor of Simple Homemade. She loves to read, sew, make ice cream, take pictures, watch baseball and go for walks by the beach with her hubby and three little kiddos. She loves anything handmade and is affectionately known as a bit of a hippie among family and friends.


  1. I actually love sewing by hand, there is something peaceful about it. I think maybe because I spent a good part of my middle school years doing embroidery. Now, when I am sewing on the machine, I end up doing a lot of hand sewing anyways, sometimes it is easier for me. Perhaps I just don’t know how to use my machine well enough!

  2. Stephanie says:

    What does a good knot on a single thread look like? A pretzel or a fisherman’s? Mine already run through unless I double knot them, which is difficult on something so tiny, usually it takes a few tries. How do you recommend to do them?

  3. Thanks, Nicole! I just got a sewing machine last week as my birthday present (and am a total newbie to sewing), so I am THRILLED about this series! I’m so glad you’re doing this!

  4. Do I get a big duh! stamp on my forehead if I always thought you knot the ends together? :-0 Thanks for this.

    • You’re welcome! I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but it’s just not necessary to always double it. It will be more streamlined and less bulky if it’s not doubled up. :)

  5. I started off sewing by hand in middle school and eventually learned to sew with a machine. I’m not a seamstress by any means, but now that I live overseas and am separated from my machine, I’m planning to sew some dresses for my girls…by hand. Maybe a little ambitious?

    • Wow! That *is* ambitious! {Please come back and show us a photo of your first masterpiece on our facebook page or something! :) }

  6. I’m loving your series. I’m not a great seamstress but love having things to do with my hands especially in the fall and winter. Thanks for taking the time to write I think it will encourage me to restart a project and I’m sure I’ll pick up new ideas and skills.

  7. My mother in law taught me how to hand sew last year, particularly how to hand piece for a quilt. It’s such a slow craft but I love it – I can do a little at a time when I need to relax, and the feeling of it growing over time is so satisfying…

  8. This is so helpful to a beginner and someone like me who’s been sewing awhile.
    Well written and easy to understand for someone just starting out. I had forgotten about the beeswax tip. Keep these coming and thanks for sharing.

  9. Nice to be here and see your post!

  10. Threading the needle with multi-stranded thread can be tricky. Try folding it over the eye of the needle and pinching the fold between your finger and thumb nail. Sometimes it is easier to get a folded strand through the eye of the needle rather than a raw edge of cut thread.


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