My Favorite Tool for Hand Sewing: Some of that Beeswax

I was sewing for many years before I discovered beeswax. I knew about it and I scoffed at it. What was the use of adding one more step to the sewing process? I wanted to have my project finished already!

From all the notches in my beeswax,
you can see I have waxed many a thread.

It wasn't until I took a couture course at Fashion Institute of Technology that I changed my tune. My professor was a young Russian woman who was so meticulous in her sewing skills. Everything she created was absolutely beautiful. Just to watch her work patiently and steadily was a joy.

A big part of couture work is basting. The mantra is "Pin, Baste, Stitch." That's how you can ensure that seams line up correctly, that you don't lose or gain fabric in the stitching line, and so forth.

On one of the first days of class, she said, "I am going to teach you how to baste." "Really," I thought, 'this is going to be a very short lesson."

It was not short at all.

First, she laid the layers of fabric on the worktable and worked standing up. She insisted that this was important for keeping the fabric flat and stable. Then she pulled out the beeswax and recommended using silk thread. She ran the thread through the beeswax notch and then ironed it carefully. Ironing melted the beeswax into the thread and made it pliable and smooth.

Next, while standing and keeping the fabric as flat as possible, she basted a perfectly even running stitch through the layers. The needle and thread slid smoothly through the fabric, with nary a pucker. Very different from the bunched up basting I had been doing previously.

I was a convert, and as you can see from my beeswax, I have waxed many a thread.

For more on hand sewing and couture technique, order the new Handsewn book in the Sew Daily Shop.

I am so excited by the renewed interest in hand and couture sewing. It is a beautiful art, well deserving of revival. Have you started to become more interested in hand-stitching and couture techniques? Or has it always been your passion? I would love to know.

Happy (hand) stitching!









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About Amber

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

12 thoughts on “My Favorite Tool for Hand Sewing: Some of that Beeswax

  1. I have always enjoyed hand sewing and have been doing a great deal more of it recently. My grandaughter, who is 10, is very interested in sewing and I have been teaching her to sew for the past four years. She has an especially good eye for fabric and the use of it. Just last week we talked about basting and I explained to her the value of having something basted before sewing it on the machine. My mother was a great believer in basting, however, I had never heard of the bees wax technique. Thanks for the information on this trick. Happy Sewing to all. AmyLou

  2. I have done a lot of hand sewing. I took my first sewing class as a high school freshman in 1961. I still remember being daunted by having to hand stitch the hem in the full skirt which we were required to make. My bee’s wax looks like yours but it is darker, probably with age. I have never ironed it either. I will try that soon.

  3. I’m definitely interested! A couple of years ago, my brother recovered a large amount of kimono fabric from a house that was abandoned by a neighbor- she had a drug problem, and had been hacking up antique kimonos and selling the fabric swatches on Ebay. She left them behind when she lost the house. Most of the fabric is in hacked-up pieces, but there are many examples of hand-stitching still remaining in them (she, ah, did not discriminate, during her shredding…) The more that I’ve looked at how these were once put together, the more that it has impressed upon me how very sturdy these examples of hand-sewing were- as good or better than machined work! Handsewing also fits a busy lifestyle much, much better than machine sewing- handstitched work can be put down, so that a child with a boo-boo can be kissed, or a pot of boiling water can be attended to. It can also be stored in a much smaller area, which means a lot to those of us with limited space for our crafting supplies- a work in progress with your machine means leaving out the machine, and possibly a worktable laden with sewing supplies, patterns, cut pieces, etc.- a sewing basket takes up almost no room, comparatively. It’s definitely an idea that’s coming around again!

  4. I truly love handsewing. I only wish I had the time. Even simply hemming garments or making repairs bring me please. I would love to find the time to learn to more effectively and beautifully use this much loved activity. Thank you for the wonderful information.

  5. Nice post, and good to know about the Handsewn book. I do love the idea of developing a competency in this area and am glad experts are sharing these skills. I’ve been wanting to take Susan Khajle’s Couture Handsewing course on Pattern whenever I see it, but haven’t had the chance – so this book will be a handy way to learn more as time permits.

  6. My mom taught me my hand-sewing, and my couturier techniques. Years ago I taught the same, but the interest waned, and I stopped teaching. Maybe I need to pull out my sample book and lesson plans and start teaching another generation?

  7. Loved reading this article, Amber. I have bees wax in my sewing box but haven’t used it as much as I should. This will inspire me to pull it out more often.

  8. Loved reading this article, Amber. I have bees wax in my sewing box but haven’t used it as much as I should. This will inspire me to pull it out more often.

  9. thank you for this essay on beeswax. I never knew I needed to iron it after running it through. So I am putting your book on my wish list, I think you have a lot to teach someone who loves to sew, some new tricks! It is hard to find information beyond the “beginner” stage.

  10. I think hand stitching in any form is good for the soul. It gives us time to slow down and think in our so hurried lives. I like to use a product called Thread Heaven but never knew that the thread should be ironed after using beeswax. Maybe I’ll have to give it another try.

  11. I have wanted to sew many projects, but living in a small space requires me to do a lot of moving and replacing to get at the machine. I have toyed with hand sewing, but I am so sloppy with my stitches that I hesitate. Now maybe with these tips I can try my “hand”…