Tip for Beginning Sewists: Handsewing is your friend

When I was a beginning sewist, I avoided handsewing at all costs. If the fabric could be coerced under my machine's foot, that's where it went. Just recently, I began to change my ways. Why? Because sometimes, it is so much easier to handsew. So, so, so much easier.

Handstitched sleeve binding

Handstitching the binding
to the inside was easier.

Set in sleeve

This baby jacket sleeve cap
was meant to be handsewn.

Handstitched sleeve cap
Handstitching–it's not just for hems!

Want proof? Of course you do. Well, here it is.

Last weekend I was working on a small baby jacket, to fit a nine-month old. It's a fun and easy pattern with only three pieces–front, back, and sleeves. I added a lining so that it would be a bit warmer, and it also makes the inside look so nice. The edges are bound with bias tape. This pattern could not be easier.

The thing is, some of these areas are really tiny–the ends of the sleeves, for example. And some are just tricky to maneuver–such as setting in the lining sleeve.

After I wrestled with machine-stitching one side of the binding to the outside of the jacket sleeve, I got out my hand needle and handstitched the other side of the binding to the lining. It was far more relaxing–and actually took less time! For the lining, I pulled the jacket inside out, and pinned the lining sleeve cap to the jacket body. (I realized looking at that middle picture that I have a lot of random pins, and a fairly random method of pinning!)

Handstitching around the sleeve was a 10" sewing commitment. Two sleeves–20" total.

(Those of you who are really thinking this through may wonder why I didn't stitch the lining sleeve by machine, the same way I stitched the outer jacket sleeve to the jacket body. Good question! I wasn't paying attention for awhile, and got a step ahead of myself. Oh well.)

So, if you're looking at a tiny, tricky, or otherwise noodle-y bit of sewing, lift that presser foot and pull out your hand needle. You'll be glad you did.

And if you're looking for some inspiration for things to sew, you can pre-order the 2012 Stitch Collection.

I'm curious. When do you switch to handstitching–or do you avoid it at all costs? I'd love to know!

Happy stitching!



Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Hand Sewing

3 thoughts on “Tip for Beginning Sewists: Handsewing is your friend

  1. Just curious… where has the word “sewist” come from? and why? I’ve seen it used lots lately, especially in Interweave materials, and it makes me wonder what is wrong with the long-used, good-old-fashioned nouns of “sewer” and “seamstress” — either/both of which I am and have been for years.

  2. “Everything old is new again.” Hand sewing the sleeve cap of a lining is the traditional tailoring method I learned 50 years ago in college. I got my BA in Home Economics Education (now called Consumer Science or some other such) in 1964. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. (Echo the comment re “sewist”… it sounds contrived. And please not “seamster”. “Sewer” is a fine word.)

    Anyway–the question about when/whether I hand stitch. I actually like hand stitching, but two things get in the way for me.

    One is, how to manage the already-threaded needles that make it easy to just grab one and sew. Right now I have several stuck to one of those business card-size magnets in my studio, but I don’t like looking at the long thread tails hanging and gathering dust. What do others do?

    The other thing has plagued me since I learned to sew at age five: how to securely AND neatly begin and end the stitches. I can do either–secure, or neat–but never feel quite satisfied that I’ve done both at once.