Sew Slow, or the Joys of Handstitching

According to a quick Google check, my current sewing machine will stitch over 750 stitches per minute.

Some things can only be done by handstitching–
and some designs are worth every stitch.
Shown above is a close-up of the Hexagon Bag
from Japanese Quilting by Yoko Saito.
All photography by Yasuo Naguno.

I've not clocked my handsewing capabilities, but I can assure you that it isn't even close to that. In fact, if I could handsew 40 stitches a minute, I'd be surprised.

The fact that I am enjoying handsewing more than ever these days obviously has nothing to do with the speed in which I can finish a project.

So what is it about taking needle and thread to cloth without the benefit of an accelerator that has become so appealing?

1. Handsewing is quiet. If my day has been particularly hectic, quietly stitching is a pleasant antidote. Sewing and curling up in a comfy chair are not mutually exclusive.

2. Once I learned three basic handsewing stitches, I could conquer the world. I recommend the backstitch, applique stitch, and a blind hemstitch. (Stitching guides for these and other hand stitches are on the SewDaily site.)

3. Portability! Pop that project in a tote and I can get together to stitch with a few friends or make some progress if I'm the passenger in a car or commuting on the train.

4. Even the tiniest pieces will bend to my will when I stitch them by hand.

5. Some phenomenal things can only be done with handsewing.

If you need a little more convincing about that last point, take a look at this new book available from the Sew Daily Shop. Featuring the most glorious fabrics, Japanese Quilting: Piece by Piece by Yoko Saito also finds that sweet spot of combining handstitching for the small, intricate piecing, and machine stitching when you need to create sturdy seams.

Japanese Quilting: 
Piece by Piece 
by Yoko Saito
The photography is as
inspiring as the

Although I've never attempted anything this intricate with my handsewing, I'm inspired to pull out my taupe fabrics, a needle, and thread. And I'm going to slow down and enjoy the process.

Sew Daily readers–are you doing more handsewing these days? And what types of handsewing projects capture your attention? We'd love to know what you're up to!

Happy stitching!




Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


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12 thoughts on “Sew Slow, or the Joys of Handstitching

  1. I too love handsewing and have just finished using small scraps to make 72 -4 inch squares of litte men and women approximately 3 x 2 inches. shoes , hats hands etc were all buttonhole stitched.. Although my arthriticy fingers ached at times it is worth it.

  2. I have been making a bedspread of recycled denim and various fabrics that I have done some surface designs on and stitching by hand that has been inspired by boro and kantha cloths. It is turning in to a really crazy covering.

  3. I have always adored hand-stitching because of the control over what you’re doing. I had the urge about a month ago to make a completely hand sewn blouse. I gathered some fabric from my stash of at least 300+ yards, then decided that none of my patterns were right for this project, so I proceeded to draft a very simple, sleeveless pattern. Wanting to keep the theme in neutrals, I gathered some tan linen, cream colored gauze, and for the bottom, remnants of a white cotton bedskirt with battenberg lace trim. That is the ONLY machine stitching on this blouse. Seems as though the creative bug has hit me with this, and despite wanting to make something very simple, it’s turning out quite elaborate with french silk ribbon embroidery and cream colored buttons, pins, and loads of flat lace, some of it cotton and crocheted, some machine made. I think I’m going to love it when it finally is done. I’m making it to wear over a long sleeve knit top, so I’ll be able to wear it in all seasons.

  4. Hand sewing can be so peaceful–no technology required, no beeps, boops, need for finding a plug. I can do it on a plane, in the back yard, in the car, waiting for a meeting to start….and I can do things with a simple needle and thread that just don’t work as easily with a machine!

  5. I have always enjoyed hand sewing. My mom taught me to embroider at the age of 5, and I have never looked back. Now I can say I’ve been sewing for …. well, maybe we will skip that. I just finished a wall hanging challenge piece over the weekend, and trying to make bias curve to look like wrought iron was a challenge. I would never have accomplished it with the sewing machine.

  6. I love the portability and tranquillity of hand stitching. I am hand piecing scrappy Drunkard’s Path squares and blue and white stars for two different projects. I LOVE using inklingo which allows me to print faint lines on the fabric so my hand piecing and stitching comes out perfectly. The hexagons featured in this post would be so easy using inklingo.

  7. I am 33 and have been hand sewing exclusively for the last 3 years. Honestly, I don’t think I could work a sewing machine now! LOL I sew all my 2 year olds clothes, my sons PJ’s, most of my clothes, and just about anything else I can find. I wouldn’t trade it for a machine ever! And recommend it to everyone I know.

  8. I love the peace and meditative quality of handsewing, especially after a busy day. Talking amongst my crafty friends, it seems we all appreciate handsewing more as we get, well, more mature. I agree with Neidpath though, arthritis presents a challenge! Now the schedule of life is not as full, I can take time for the beauty in small things like tiny stitches and the satisfaction of a wee piece of stitched fabric looking just right to me. Add in bead embroidery and I’m in heaven!

  9. I started handsewing as a child (my mother wouldn’t let me near her White sewing machine), and have enjoyed it my whole life long. I took tiny cloth dolls to stitch in my college lecture classes, made pincushions from tiny cross-stitched pieces, and this summer, sewed an invisible seam on seven 24″ couch cushions and two 18″ toss pillows over the course of two days! My arthritic fingers are still recovering from that little project. I would love to start “heirloom sewing” to make Christening gowns and other baby items. That is my goal for this winter.

    Thanks for this post, have fun with your quilting and power to the needle!

  10. I have been doing a lot of hand sewing latley. It started with an American Girl doll dress pattern. I did it all by hand, and I liked it because it was titally stree-free. Then I started going back to quilting, all hand piecing. And it is so relaxing to do while I watch tv and listen to audio books. It’s rating right up there with my knitting for free time activities. I look so busy who’s going to complain. It’s work that fun!!!