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The Art of Hand-Sewing


Although Sewing Machines can produce almost every variety of stitch, there are always times when you need to sew by hand. sometimes a hand-sewn effect is desired and hand sewing can also complement machine sewing - tacking, for instance, is the best way of aligning and holding together layers of fabric for machining.

Needle marks and stitches can be hidden by careful preparation before undertaking any hand sewing, look carefully at the fabric, and select the finest needles possible and a thread of suitable colour and weight. right-handed people should work from right to left, left-handed people from left to right.

Pinning and Tacking

Pinning and tacking is used to hold fabrics pieces together before sewing. Pin perpendicular to stitching. Use tacking thread in contrasting colour. Remove tacking after sewing.

Joining Fabrics

Pin the fabric pieces together. Secure the end of the thread either by stitching over it or by tying a knot in it. Make all the tacking stitches about 1 cm long, or alternate stitches 1.5 cm long at the front with stitches 5 mm long at the back.



Slipstitch is used for hems or where a seam must be sewn from the right side of the fabric: for example, to close the opening through which something was turned right sides out.

Closing a Gap

Secure the thread and take the needle across the opening. Make a stitch 2 mm long in the seam-line fold. Bring the thread back across the opening and make a similar stitch on the front side. Continue this process to the end, and fasten off in the seam.


Tailor's Tacks

Tailor's tacks are used to mark fabrics that need to be joined accurately or to transfer a pattern mark to one layer of fabric or two identical pieces. Make tailor's tacks with doubled thread in a contrasting colour to the fabric. When a number of different marks are needed on one section of fabric, use a different colour for each to help you to distinguish them.

1. STARTING OFF Make a stitch about 1 cm long through the fabric, pull the thread through, leaving a 1.5 cm length of thread on the surface. Insert the needle into the first hole of the stitch again.


2. FORMING A LOOP Make a second stitch through the same holes. Pull the thread through, but leave a loop of tacking thread large enough to fit around your index finger standing out from the fabric.


3. FINISHING OFF A few stitches make a loop of many threads on the fabric. Finish the tack with the needle at the front of the fabric, and cur the thread to leave an end of 1.5 cm matching the start of the tack.


4. SNIPPING THE THREADS If the tacks are marking two layers of fabric, ease the layers apart and snip the threads as below. If they are made through a pattern lying on the fabric, cut the loop to remove the pattern.


Ladder Stitch

Ladder stitch is ideal for joining two pieces of patterned fabric, ensuring that the pattern matches exactly across the seam prior to more permanent sewing. Essentially, it is tacking the fabric sections together from the right, or patterned side.

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Although using a ladder stitch may result in a certain wastage of fabric, it is an essential technique for achieving a neat and professional finish when joining pieces of patterned fabric. You will need an iron for this task.

1. ALIGNING PIECES Lay the fabric right side up, overlapping the edges. Fold the edge of the top piece under by 2 cm or more for a heavy fabric. Press the fold, align the pattern, and pin the pieces.


2. STARTING SEAM Thread a needle with tacking thread and secure the end of the thread on the seam line. Make a stitch 1 cm long inside the seam-line fold in the top piece of fabric.


3. FORMING A LADDER Make a stitch of 1 cm long in the bottom piece of fabric. Make ladder-like stitches to the seam end, and fasten off. Fold the fabrics right sides together, sew, and remove ladder stitches.


Blanket Stitch

Blanket stitch is used mainly for neatening the raw edges of fabric, but it can also be used decoratively. Use a thick thread for decorative blanket stitch, especially if the thread is the same colour as the cloth so that the texture of the edging is clearly evident. Closely worked blanket stitch is used to secure the edges of buttonholes: proper buttonhole thread, which is fine but very strong, should be used for this.

1. MAKING STITCH Make the blanket stitches about 1cm in from the raw edge for heavy fabrics, 5 mm for light fabrics, and 3 mm for button holes. Catch the thread behind the needle.


2. TIGHTENING STITCH Pull the needle through. The caught loop of thread runs along the edge of the fabric before turning into the stitch away from the edge. Tighten gently to avoid puckering the edge of the fabric, and repeat the stitch all along the edge. Space the stitches widely on heavy fabrics, closer on light fabrics, and right next to each other for buttonholes.



This stitch is used for strong, permanent seams, particularly in awkward places, such as tight corners, where a machine is difficult to use. It can also be used sew in zips, if a machine cannot be used. A backstitch every so often in a hem, ensures that even if the hem catches and rips, only a short length will come undone and need resewing.

The Stitch

From the front, make a stitch 1 cm long. Push the needle to the back of the fabric, 5 mm back along the stitch, and bring it to the front 5 mm beyond the stitch. Repeat the process, sewing each stitch into the end of the previous one. At the front, the stitches should be 5 mm long; at the back they should be 1 cm long, and overlap.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Temoor Dar

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