When Did You Learn to Hand Sew?

I was trying to think back today to when I first learned to sew by hand, and I honestly don't recall.


i honestly can't recall when I 
first learned hand sewing.

I remember that I used to play at my grandmother’s feet (or maybe under them!) while she sewed at her machine. I must have had a keen interest in sewing even then and I am sure that at some point or another, she must have coached me with a needle, thread, and a piece of cloth, if only to divert my attention for a few minutes.

But I don’t have any memory of that moment when I first picked up needle and thread. You would think that with a craft that has become such a passion for me that I would recall that singular moment with great clarity.

It seems as if I have always known how to sew, and I can’t think of a time when I didn’t.

Isn’t that the way it always is with something that we love and have practiced often, especially if from a young age. The technique becomes so ingrained; the movements that were awkward at first turn fluid and intuitive.

Remember learning to knot a thread by rolling it over your forefinger?  I tried to teach that once to a co-worker and we ended up laughing hilariously over it. She just couldn’t get the movement, no matter how many times I coached her. I am sure that my grandmother patiently taught me the same sewing technique with similarly mixed results. 

But the fact is that there is always more to learn in sewing, and that learning never ends. The next time I am struggling with a new technique, I will try to remember to acknowledge how far I have come. There was certainly a time when I didn’t know how to thread a needle or knot a thread.  But I’m glad I do now.

For lots of patterns to help you practice your hand-sewing and many other techniques, this is your last chance to save on the Bag It! Premium Collection with 40+ tote, messenger bag and clutch patterns.

Do you remember when you first learned hand sewing? Do tell!

Happy stitching!

 

 

 

 

 

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Hand Sewing, How To Sew
Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

38 thoughts on “When Did You Learn to Hand Sew?

  1. I remember when I first learn how to hand sew . I was about 7 years -old and I remember that my mom was showing me how to sew buttons on my dads shirts and then she show me and my sister how to sew some more holes on my dads old holly pants and his shirts as well . I learn how to make little doll -blankets Because we didn’t have a sewing machine. So that is how I learned how to hand -sew. Then when I was in middle school we started to learn how to use the sewing machine . From there we learn how make wrap – around -skirts, then it was aprons, than it went from there . I have made a lot of quilts since than I have been teaching my 2-daughters , and my son how to hand-sew , and machine -sew . And now I’m 50 years – old and still learning more about sewing . I’m still learning more about quilting . ” There is always more to learn. And you are NEVER to old to learn how to sew.

  2. I remember I was 7 and staying with my (late) Nanna. We went to her local market and I chose a cream brushed cotton fabric with little bunnies printed on it. She showed me how to make a pattern for simple pj’s. I remember those 2 weeks quietly sewing away by hand (a miracle as I was such a tom-boy!) My Nanna sat on the floor with me whilst we cut out the fabric and told me some stories about the 2nd world war. Special moments I still hold dear to me.

  3. I’ve been hand sewing since I was 4 years old. My mom and grandma sewed and handed me a threaded larger needle and fabric and told me to watch and learn. I started making doll clothes from the beginning. Since there were always needles and scissors around from them working, I knew the rules and they didn’t worry about accidents. I never had any accidents until I got my first treadle sewing machine at age 7.

  4. Like many others I don’t remember the first day, but certainly know it involved Grandma Ajootian and Barbie! We started to sew together when I was two years old. I used to sew the clothes right onto my doll, until I got frustrated with that and Nana showed me the glory of snaps. The we moved on to the old black and gold Singer and had been converted to electricity, but ran like a Swiss watch.
    Now I have been a professional seamstress and am still sewing some 54 years later. What a gift our families gave us to cherish forever.

  5. I was 5 years old. Mom taught me 5o thread a needle , tie a knot at thecend of the th4ead and make very simple dresses for my Barbie doll from square pieces of cloth.
    I can remember the fascination with different materials, the same fascination I have today.

  6. One of my fondest memories of my grandmother was her teaching me how to finger-roll the knot back in the 50’s. I don’t think I’d even seen my mother do that and she taught me how to sew on my own treadle machine she bought me when I was 8. She had a steel-cased Pfaff she bought in the early 50’s and I still have to this day, along my many other machines. When I was hand sewing something in the office several years ago, an engineer saw me finger-roll the knot and asked me what I was doing and how. He just couldn’t get it ! Ha ! Ha ! Mechanically-inclined but not quite coordinated.

  7. I first experience with sewing was in my 6th grade Home Ec class. Our first project was an apron and from there I was hooked. I saved my babysitting money (50 cents an hour back then) and purchased my first Singer sewing machine when I was 12. I’ve been sewing ever since, over 50 years, taught my daughter to sew and am now teaching both my granddaughters. My oldest granddaughter just completed a rag quilt for her little sister as an early birthday gift (she is going in the Air Force and leaves Monday for basic training) and the little one sews pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer.

    I’ve sewn everything from baby clothes and clothes for the kids, blue jeans and shirts for DH, christening, prom and flower girl dresses…upto jet ski and boat covers. Plus alterations. I am now trying my hand at quilting. It is a lost art with the younger generation and I am trying to keep it alive with my granddaughters.

  8. Such great memories this question evokes… it was 1959 and i had just gotten the first edition Barbie with pony tail and black gown. Mom got me one additional outfit for her but that was it. Being a single mom she consulted with her friend who was an e cellent seamstress. Pat instructed us on coice of fabric, etc so off shopping we went. I think I can smell the sizing in the fabric store. Mother knew this would keep me busy and afford me a wardrobe for my Barbie. That week with supplies in hand, Pat patiently taught my eight year old hands how to sew. The excitement and joy I felt upon completion still resonates today when I create something new. Ston stitches and happy hands to all. AJ

  9. I don’t remember when, it seems I’ve always knew how to sew. I do remember that my father taught me how to cut pattens and use the machine. The rest just happened. He bought me my 1st machine in 1968.

  10. Such great memories this question evokes… it was 1959 and i had just gotten the first edition Barbie with pony tail and black gown. Mom got me one additional outfit for her but that was it. Being a single mom she consulted with her friend who was an e cellent seamstress. Pat instructed us on coice of fabric, etc so off shopping we went. I think I can smell the sizing in the fabric store. Mother knew this would keep me busy and afford me a wardrobe for my Barbie. That week with supplies in hand, Pat patiently taught my eight year old hands how to sew. The excitement and joy I felt upon completion still resonates today when I create something new. Strong stitches and happy hands to all. AJ

  11. I remember playing with scraps and pins and trying to figure out how my mother made them stick together. Mom cut a pile of circles and put them in a shoebox with scissors, thread and a needle. This was my first sewing project, yo-yos. I remember carrying that box around and sitting by the fire place sewing on the yo-yos. Eventually they became a clown. I was 3 or 4.

    From that time sewing became a part of my life. Sometimes I think of all the stitches creating the story of my life. A tiny scrap can bring back so many memories of my mother, grandmothers and my children. I was a Homes Economics teacher for more than 30 years and have had the pleasure of teaching many people to sew. I share in their pride when that first project is finished.

    I gave my granddaughter a sewing machine when she was 9 . The first thing she made was a quilt for me. My son said “it isn’t very good” but I think it is just perfect. She is 13 now and sometimes can be caught sewing when she is supposed to be doing homework.

    Can you tell that I love my craft?

  12. Indeed, a vivid childhood memory. Des Moines, Iowa. Summertime, sitting at the back of my neighbor Martha’s driveway, by the garage. I see the woven folding patio chairs. Too hot to be inside with no air conditioning. She taught me to blind hem. My mom sewed, too, but Martha got me on my way. My brothers and sisters and the neighborhood kids would get together and do hand embroidery in our back yard, too! My sister still has one of the tablecloths and my brother has the matching bbq apron. Love it! Thanks for taking me to a happy place this morning!

  13. I was about 8 yrs. old. My mother always sewed and I just imitated her. I made my little sister Barbie doll clothes. I had my first paying job at 8…..our neighbor paid me .50 to make a Barbie doll dress for her granddaughter. It is a love that I still cherish. The feeling of creating is so fulfilling.

  14. I was 5 and my mother wanted me to give up my “blanket” . So I cut it up to make doll clothes and Mom showed me how to sew the pieces together. They were very crude but I have been sewing since. Yes we darned socks back then but it was never the “fun” part for me.

  15. I was 5 and my mother wanted me to give up my “blanket” . So I cut it up to make doll clothes and Mom showed me how to sew the pieces together. They were very crude but I have been sewing since. Yes we darned socks back then but it was never the “fun” part for me.

  16. My Mom had (actually still has) a Necchi sewing machine. It has a huge cabinet with lots of room underneath. It has a knee press rather than a foot press, so I didn’t have to worry about getting in the way. I was about 4 years old and I would sit underneath with scraps of fabric from whatever she was making and sew them together. Then I would cut holes for the arms and neck to make my baby doll some clothes.

  17. My mother taught me simple embroidery stitches while she was expecting my brother, so I was 5 at that time. I think she also taught me to sew buttons onto fabric scraps about the same time. There is a picture of me sitting outside under a little tree (in the early spring) sewing on buttons. I hadn’t mastered the concept of pushing the needle up from the bottom side, just top down.

  18. I was in primary school when I started to sew clothes for my Barbie. I used the patterns in the magazines that was meant to enlarge for women clothing. I remember that I helped my mother on Saturday afternoons when she was cutting her pattern to sew during the week,

  19. We used to visit my Great-Grandmother during summer vacations on their farm in North Carolina. They were sharecroppers and never owned any property or had any money, so she made all the clothes for the family by hand until she was given a treadle Singer in the 50’s.

    She was in her late seventies at the time, and her eyesight was going but she still loved to sew. She would always ask me to thread the needle for her, so while I sat there and waited for the next “re-load” she would talk to me about what she was doing. At one point she gave me a scrap and we started to practice. It was love. Better than any relationship I’ve ever had.

  20. We used to visit my Great-Grandmother during summer vacations on their farm in North Carolina. They were sharecroppers and never owned any property or had any money, so she made all the clothes for the family by hand until she was given a treadle Singer in the 50’s.

    She was in her late seventies at the time, and her eyesight was going but she still loved to sew. She would always ask me to thread the needle for her, so while I sat there and waited for the next “re-load” she would talk to me about what she was doing. At one point she gave me a scrap and we started to practice. It was love. Better than any relationship I’ve ever had.

  21. I remember learning from my grandmother also how to hand sew. It would have to have been before I was 13 yrs. old, and more than likely between ages 7 and 10. That was when my sisters and I picked up the sewing bug.
    Our grandmother had been a seamstress at Marshall Field’s in Chicago in the early part of the 1900s, and sewing is in our blood. I do remember her showing us how to roll that thread on our fingers to make the knot. I think I caught on rather soon. Also how to sew on a button – and how to put a straight pin under the button so as to create a thread shank, for thicker fabric button holes.
    At that time and later even (1950’s – 60’s) more parts of a garment were hand sewn, than when sewing was revolutionized later with more industrial techniques coming on the scene. I never, – I will admit it! – liked hand sewing, and so I took to the new methods like a duck to water. If it said to hand sew, I would figure out how to do it by machine. (Tho not buttons by machine.)
    But then, how do I explain that now I have taken up crewel embroidery, which is all hand stitches, I love it?!

  22. Reading some of these is like walking down memory lane. So many of you seem to be the same age (or close) as myself – born in the early 50’s. Post war babies! And we were the ones who got the first Barbies –how Barbie inspired so many of us to sew! I too – and my sisters – made so many clothing items for our Barbies – from sloppily hand or machine stitched to much more polished ones.

    I learned so much from sewing Barbie clothes! I always told my sewing students that I made my early mistakes this way (in miniature so not a lot of waste of fabric – just scraps) and learned what worked and what didn’t. By the time I was in high school, I could mix up pattern pieces from different patterns, and make a unique garment of my own.

    No matter what one might think of Barbie in other aspects thru the years – she was a real inspiration and teaching mechanism for so many of us, and several generations, to learn a skill we love. Three Cheers, Barbie!

  23. I have very similar memories. My earliest memory of “sewing” is of cards that had a picture with holes in the card and you laced a shoelace-like yarn in and out of the numbered holes. I was probably 4. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s lap and pulling the thread up through her embroidery, and I remember the call of “Dee Dee!” whenever my mother or grandmother dropped the dish of pins.

    My grandmother was a seamstress that took in sewing from the New Yorkers that “summered” near her home. I remember sewing with the scraps from silks and satins that made up the gowns she made them to bring back in time for the Season. I had the best-dressed Barbies in Connecticut!

  24. Hello,
    I learned to sew when I was about 6 yrs old. My mother showed me and my sister to sew doll clothes. I was so amazed that sewing inside out made the doll clothes look so “finished”. My mother gave us all kinds of scraps to design our fashions. I actually learned a lot about how a pattern fits. My grandmother encouraged me to sew with her featherweight machine which she promised me if I continued to sew. I have that machine today….

  25. Preschool. I went to a Montessori and they specifically handed all the children a plastic tapestry needle a length of yarn and a panel of flexible plastic mesh-grid. We would sew the yarn in and out the little square holes until we’d used it all up. Good hand-eye coordination exercise, too.

  26. I’m 58, and I still have a plastic sewing basket that I got when I was around 5, though the original contents are long gone. I still keep my spools of thread in it. I don’t remember trying to hand stitch back then, but I do remember embroidering tea towels and pillowcases (some of which I still have) when I was 8 or so. I think I learned from a booklet. My mother didn’t sew, but my Aunt Hazel did, and she would give me her scraps, which became my Barbie dresses (and yes, I still have those too!) Big stitches, but I was happy with the results.

  27. I wanted to sew before I could read! I must have been about four years old when my mother let me cut up an old dress to make a dress for my doll. I admit I got impatient and glued together the matching panties.

  28. I am much like you. I cannot recall when I learned to hand sew. But I do know my mother taught me, I just don’t remember learning! Seems like I could always sew. I don’t remember sitting down at her sewing machine for the first time ever, but I must have, because my mom taught me that also!. She was a consummate seamstress and embroiderer, and actually won awards for her embrodery. Later in life, she sewed, by machine and hand, a Betsy Ross flag which she gifted to me. My DH and I had it framed and it graces our “Great Room” even now! Aaah, the memories, all good (even when seams had to be ripped out.!)

  29. I don’t remember my first stitches either, but they were stamped embroidery pillow cases for my own bed. Mom added crocheted lace trim and I used them for years with no memory of creating them. In kindergarten, I brought in a doll dress I made for show and tell. Sadly, I got in trouble for “lying” – the teacher tried to make me say my mom made the dress, and called her when I would not!

  30. I learned to sew by hand from my father. He learned how to hand sew while in the Navy. They had to be able to repair their uniforms themselves. My sister-in-law commented on how well I stitched, she was surprised that it was actually by hand and not machine. My father really only taught me one stitch, the backstitch, but it is a versitile one that can be used for woven or stretch fabrics.

  31. Like you I don’t really remember when I first learned to do hand sewing. I must have been 3 or 4 years old. What I do remember clearly is when I first made an actual hand-sewn doll dress. I was 5 years old and watching my mom cut out and sew some article of clothing, some sort of shirt as I recall. To me it was like watching a magic show! I was so intrigued by the process that she set me down and helped me cut out-without a pattern-a simple doll shift-type dress for my baby doll that very same day!. (Perhaps I was just bugging her so much it was the easiest way to get me out of her way). I then sewed it together under her watchful eye, following her verbal instructions. I added a button and blanket stitch-edged buttonhole at the back neckline. It wasn’t fancy, but to my 5 year old self it was beautiful. This would have been in the mid-1950’s. I’ve been sewing for dolls ever since and particularly enjoy making Barbie doll clothes.

  32. I was probably 6 or 7 and my Aunt Marjorie taught me to sew a felt jumper (semi-circle skirt and 2 straps with a snap closure) for my Ginny Doll. I have been sewing ever since. Got my first sewing machine at 13; Grandma and Margie made the $50 downpayment and I had to pay $5 in babysitting money every month. My sister now has that wonderful Singer with Cams.
    By the way, our daughter learned very early too, from me 8^) and went on to attend design school after college and was a designer for Tommy Bahama for 7 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She is now developing her own line of young children’s clothing. I like to think I got her off to that with a good start.

  33. I was 5 years old and wanted to make a dress so bad…so my neighbor/baby sitter gave me some fabric. I laid it out on the sidewalk and traced one of my own dresses and then hand sewed the seams and hem!

  34. I first learned how to hand sew when I was about 9 years old. I would spend at least one week every summer with my aunt in a tiny town (pop. 16) in Central Minnesota. She would make us Barbie clothes on her sewing machine all the time. This particular summer she cut out simple shapes for Barbie outfits (robe, top) and showed me how to make a knot and then hand-stitch them together up the sides. She then showed me how to hem the neck, front, bottom and sleeves. The final touch was sewing a ribbon around the neck as a closure. I was thrilled..

  35. I was no more than 3 years old — before we moved to our house — sitting on my great-grandmother’s bed, carefully sewing big buttons into the squares of a piece of blue and white gingham under her direction. I’ve always found hand sewing comforting, almost meditative, and I like to think it started all the way back then.

  36. I first learned at home age 8-9 in the ’50s, using embroidery thread to put a mark in my and my sisters’ underpants so that it was easy to see which belonged to whom. And in those days elastic always seemed to go, so that was also one of the jobs my mother had me do. Then when I was 11ish I had to cross-stitch and hand-sew a tea cosy at school – it never got finished. Followed by other school sewing projects. I didn’t enjoy sewing then and still don’t really enjoy it, but I like a finished product and the satisfaction that brings, so I have been sewing for my daughters, making home furnishings and repairing clothes whenever the need arose. I would never make something like a quilt, where you first cut up perfectly good fabric to then painstakingly put it together again!

  37. Dear Amber, I started hand sewing in 1949 at age 5. I used to pick up scraps from clothes my mother used to make me and make dresses for my dolls. Of course they only covered the front of the doll! Actually they hardly covered anything! LOL! But at least I learned how to use the needle and thread. I started using my mothers 1951 Pfaff sewing machine at age 7 and was sewing on it, with her help, making simple things. By age 10 I was sewing my own clothes. I thanked my mother everyday for teaching me. I made my childrens clothes and now am a quilter. There is still so much to learn and never to old to learn new things. Sincerely, 7 grandma. Actually, it should be 8 grandma, as our youngest daughter blessed us with a little grandaughter 2 weeks ago.

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