Sewing Blog

When to Trade Your Sewing Machine for a Needle & Thread

We are modern sewers, and we do so love our sewing machines. Yet even with today’s fantastic technology, there are still sewing tasks best tackled needle in hand. Let’s talk about when it’s best to break out your needle and thread instead of your presser foot.

When and Why to Sew by Hand

Photo via Stitched in Color

Hand sewing is super user friendly

Those new to sewing will appreciate that the tools of hand sewing are simple and accessible. A needle and thread are all you truly need to get started!

If you are interested in learning to sew, but not sure about investing in a sewing machine, start with a few small, hand-sewn projects or learn to repair an item you treasure.  The slow, easy-to-control pace of hand sewing is ideal for beginners.

Sewing by hand gives you beautiful results

But hand sewing is not just for beginners. For a number of sewing tasks, your best finish is in reach only when you sew by hand.

Consider clothing repair.

Let’s say a garment is opening along a seam. You can achieve a consistent, invisible repair if you hand sew it closed from the wrong side.

If the fabric is ripping or a hole has developed, your only hope for an attractive repair is a careful hand stitch. Quickly reach for your needle and thread to beautifully resolve the issue without much fuss, as soon as clothing shows signs of disrepair.

Are you making a simple garment?

Hand sew buttons, zippers and other details in place without the fuss of a special sewing machine foot. (You can even sew the whole garment by hand, if you’re up for a long-term challenge.)

Appliqué is another perfect application of hand sewing.

If you want to appliqué a shape or letter onto a background fabric, you can attach your appliqué layer with a simple running stitch by hand. It’ll be much easier to place the stitches just where you want them when you sew by hand.

You also won’t need fancy stabilizers to prevent your work from bunching. Hand appliqué can often be sewn without a stabilizer at all or just using a simple embroidery hoop. 

It doesn’t just apply to sewing either; hand sewing can be useful for quilting as well.

Ready to sandwich and quilt your quilt top? If you hand quilt or tie with chunky thread, you won’t have to wrestle the bulky work under your sewing machine.  You also won’t need to buy a special even-feed foot for finishing your project.

Similarly, quilt bindings sewn by hand with a blind stitch can be entirely invisible, whereas machine-sewn quilt bindings will always create an extra stitch line, at least on one side of the work.

Hand sewing also yields superior results when it comes to the finishing steps of many machine-sewn projects.

Sew by hand to create a flawless finish on garment facings and garment bias bindings at necklines and armholes, where your hand stitch can align perfectly with existing seams.

When hand sewing, you have the opportunity to place each and every stitch exactly right.  It’s this care and time invested that makes your most beautiful projects possible.

Sewing Fabric with needle and thread

Hand sewing for the experience

Beyond learning curves and practical considerations, modern sewers continue the tradition of hand sewing for the pure satisfaction of the experience.

Hand sewing arts such as English paper piecing, needlework, Sashiko embroidery and hand quilting are treasured as a way to unplug from the frantic pace of modern life and relax into a steady rhythm that invites company, contemplation and calm. Stitch by stitch, the very repetition of sewing by hand is a sort of meditation, a mediation that travels to baseball fields and road trips, on subways and sofas, cultivating a beautiful tranquility that fills the heart.

The Swing Skirt Techniques Construction class

Sew a Beautiful Garment, One Stitch at a Time

Creating hand-sewn, sustainably sourced garments isn’t just a fashion trend, it’s a growing movement that’s quickly gaining momentum. Check It out

2 Comments

Jennifer Boyle

Plus hand stitching can be done almost anywhere, it is much more sociable and can be a real conversation starter. I often travel overseas solo and hand stitching has been a friend maker!

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Sheri Linehan

I lived in Africa for many years and in some places we had no electricity. I have made clothing for myself entirely by hand. It is a very satisfying experience. I am currently a professional seamstress and still do many tasks by hand because it is actually faster for me than by machine.

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