7 Tips on Combining Machine + Hand Stitching

Creating with Needle and Thread 

I think thread has multiple personalities. Whether it's structured and organized straight stitching, organic, hand-drawn effects with freehand machine embroidery, or the rich textured look of hand embroidery and appliqué, the tiny strands of fiber we take for granted are full of possibilities!

While I love exploring the different possibilities hiding within my needle and thread, I sometimes have trouble when it comes to combining stitching methods. It feels a bit strange to me to combine small perfect machine stitches with larger and more organic handsewn stitching. I'm still trying to figure out how to use multiple stitch techniques together in a way that looks harmonious instead of disconnected. 

The rich textures in Natalya's St. Pete Lace 7 are achieved through a combination of hand and machine stitching.
 The rich textures in Natalya's St. Pete Lace 7 are achieved through a combination of hand and machine stitching.


I was really excited to check out the new issue of the in Stitches eMag, which has a great article by Natalya Aikens called "7 Tips on Combining Hand + Machine Stitching." I really love eMags (electronic magazines) because they include lots of great interactive features-Natalya's article includes a video of her demonstrating stitching techniques in her studio! What a well-timed read! Natalya is an artist who combines machine and handstitching in her beautiful mixed-media works, but her tips are just as handy for sewists.  

7 Tips on Combining Hand + Machine Stitching 

1. If you have identified your design lines with bold machine strokes, don't take away from them by adding contrasting-thread handstitches. Try a coordinating color or a soft variegated-color thread to achieve the needed texture without excess boldness.

2. If sections of your piece have puckered and gathered between the machine-stitched sections, "smooth" them out with your handstitches. The beauty of handstitching is that you can pull and gather your fabric with your stitches as you see fit. Gathering a puckering section into a smooth but textured plane is one useful technique.  

3. To avoid gathering and puckering during machine stitching, use tear-away stabilizer, especially with sheers. Just don't forget to tear it away before adding handstitching. Instead of using tear-away stabilizer, you can use an embroidery hoop.  

Detail, St. Pete Lace 7 by Natalya Aikens.
 Detail, St. Pete Lace 7 by Natalya Aikens.


4. When adding handstitching to large areas that you want to make sure don't pucker, work on a flat surface, such as a foamcore board or a stretched canvas. They are lightweight and portable, and you can pin your work to them.  

5. Don't be afraid to overlap stitches, whether created by hand or machine. Lots of overlapped stitches add great texture and boldness. 

6. When handstitching, don't cut the thread longer than the length from your fingertips to your elbow. You may have to thread your needle more often than if you use a longer thread, but you'll spend less time untangling thread and feeling frustrated.  

7. If you're working your handstitches in a straight path, consider using a long needle. It will make life easier for your fingers because you can get more stitches on it in one swoop. 

Check out in Stitches Vol. 3 for more inspiration and experiment with the creative possibilities of thread in your next project! 

Happy sewing!

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Hand Sewing, Sewing Machine Basics, Sewing Stitches

About StefanieB

I'm the Managing Editor of Stitch magazine. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado with one fat cat, one very active dog, and lots of books, crafting supplies, and video games.