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Hand Sewing Basics To Know

Updated on April 25, 2013
Four hole button
Four hole button | Source
Decorative Top / Straight stitch
Decorative Top / Straight stitch | Source
Hem stitch, matching thread
Hem stitch, matching thread | Source

Knowing basics, is always beneficial. Like knowing how to boil water can feed you if only the most simplest of meals, knowing how to do some basic hand sewing techniques can save a garment.

Knowing the basics of anything can ultimately save you time, money, something you love and your sanity.

So, here are some simple sew basics that can do all of those things and more!

The great thing about sewing is that you can do it at any age, of course supervision is needed for smaller children, since there are sharp, pointy things involved. That aside it is never too late to pick up a needle and thread and practice.

Trust me you'll become someone's 'shero' or hero, whatever the case may be...


Threading a needle

As basic as this seems, it is important to choose the right size needle for the type of work you are doing. If a needle is too big you can ruin your fabric. If it is too small it may not go through the fabric easily.

Making sure the thread end that you will be pushing through the needle's eye should have a crisp cut - blunt or at an angle, from a sharp pair of shears or scissors, is vital. You want to get the needle threaded relatively easy and quickly.

This usually takes practice, but making sure the thread has a good cut is important.


This is used to keep your length of thread from tangling. It is optional when sewing. For a novice or beginner though it can 'bee' your best friend or tool.


You want needles that are in good condition.

They come in a variety of lengths. The eyes vary in size according to the size of the needle's length and width.

Remember, there are lots of different needles for a variety of different fabrics and different jobs, so make sure you are purchasing and using the best needle for the fabric and job you are plying it for or to.

Basic stitches

You don't need anything fancy when sewing. Most garments or fabric repair require the most basic of stitches.

  • Hand basting or Running stitch
  • Blind stitch
  • Catch stitch
  • Whip or Hem stitch
  • Tacking stitch

Basic knots

Basic knots are used to tie off the stitches, so they are secure. You also have to know what knot size is needed. Choosing either one end of the thread or both ends knotted together when sewing something by hand makes a difference depending on the placement and the strength that is necessary to hold the stitches and the fabric together.

For seams

Most seams are straight and only require a basic stitch, most likely the running or basting stitch. The straight stitch. The length of the stitching is up to you depending on whether it is a temporary stitch or needed for permanency.

For instance basting stitches are long, slightly loose straight stitches used to test a garment for fit, look and basically to keep it from falling apart before the final permanent sewing is use to complete the garment.

These are typically removed once the product is deemed worthy of being called 'ready'.

For buttons

Two hole, four hole, shank, large or small, knowing what kind of button you have and what garment it belongs to, makes your choice of needle, thread and procedure simple.

When buttons come loose it is normally because the thread is loose or broken from being snagged.

Knowing how to attach buttons is a life saver. Knowing the basic quick form in how to attach any kind of button can make a hero out of you. You just need to remember to make it secure using the right color thread and knots.

For hems

if you cut something that is too long you will need to restitch the hem. Hems require straight stitches or a cross stitch, so that it is harder for it to come loose.

For basic patterns that only require you to sew straight seams, knowing what stitch is needed isn't hard. Many crafts and areas of clothing require only a straight stitch, so making something or repairing something makes it possible for anyone who has a rudimentary idea of how to sew productive.

Alternatives to needle and thread

  • glue
  • tape

Basic tools, needed

  • needles
  • scissors or fabric shears
  • matching thread
  • needle threader optional
  • straight pins
  • pin cushion
  • thimble optional

Knowing how to sew, especially by hand is a great thing.

Why, because wearing clothing with seams are always subject to the threads coming loose. Or hems coming undone. Or buttons popping off.

Knowing how to ply a needle and thread is a basic skill that can be an asset to anyone not just the homemaker or the seamstress or even the person who enjoys doing any craft that involves fabric.

It also makes you self sufficient, especially when something happens to your favorite piece of clothing. Or a sock. Or a blanket or even a pillow.

Learning how to repair something made out of fabric makes doing things around the house even more enjoyable because you can save things you love, repair things that have small damages and continue to enjoy those things.

It also makes you feel as if you aren't wasting your money either. That you are able to take care of, at the very least the small damages or clothing mishaps.

Knowing just the basic sewing tips can also save you money, time and your sanity, because teaching a child basic sewing skills gives them hours of enjoyment making crafts as well.

So, go ahead and get sewing, if only attaching those pesky buttons...


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    • Celiegirl profile image

      Celiegirl 4 years ago

      Thanks Marcy Goodfleisch, just knowing the basics has saved me many a disaster. Have fun!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      You've given some nice information about this growing hobby (and skill). I have several friends who are experts with quilting and sewing - so I'm eager to learn more!