If you made it here and you’re reading this, it means you already have an interest in sewing and looking to find out more on how to sew by hand. But you might not have the expertise or access to the machinery. Not having any sewing experience or sewing machine at home might seem intimidating…hell, even discouraging at first! But guess what…you don’t have to have any of those two things to start your sewing journey!
You might be thinking “ah, a handmade cushion cover would be such a nice birthday gift for my mom” or “I would love to make my own tablecloth from this cool fabric I found the other day”. All of these things can be made with the few tricks that I am about to show you right now!
But I would like to encourage you to up your game a notch and consider another thing…something you wouldn’t have thought in your wildest dreams! Annnnd here it goes….why don’t you try to start MAKING YOUR OWN CLOTHES??? You heard me! Yes, it’s possible. You absolutely don’t need to have a sewing machine to make your clothes. Let’s face it, in the 21st century it’s not a common item in our households, it’s expensive annnd it needs a lot of space. There are sewing patterns that allow you to sew your own clothes by hand. If you feel inspired, here is an example for you.
Start making your clothes by hand. No sewing machine or experience needed.
So keep reading below where I explain the types of stitches you need to learn (trust me, they are not hard) and tell you where and in what circumstances you need to use them. And if you want an easy-to-read manual on how to do them, get it here below. IT’S FREEEEEE!
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Content we will cover:
Back stitch by hand
An illustration of a back stitch. Get the free manual.
When to use a back stitch
Basically whenever you need to stitch two garments together, use a back stitch. This is one of the easiest stitches that you need to know, and you can make your full garment or project with just this one stitch. The other two stitches are used to prevent the fabric from fraying, or to finish a hem (not sure what a hem is? I’ve got you covered, read here).
You should also know that backstitch is the strongest stitch. If I had to pick one stitch to teach you it would be this one. This is because of its back and forth flow. The smaller stitches you make, the stronger your stitch will be and the more secure your project or garment will be. Even when sewn by hand, backstitch is the strongest and most durable stitch! So don’t worry, your clothes will be pretty secure when you use this stitch!
What is a back stitch
The final look of a backstitch will be a straight line, the closest resembling a machine stitch. The stitches will follow a back and forth motion, so each new stitch reinforces the previous one. If you use really tiny stitch lengths, your garment is even more secure. This is because it won’t matter if you thread breaks, the next stitch won’t be effected. If you want to see exactly how to sew by hand a backstitch, get the guide here.
Overlock stitch by hand
An illustration of how to sew by hand a catch stitch. Get the free manual.
When to use an overlock stitch
So as I mentioned above, certain stitching techniques are used to stop the fabric from fraying. The overlock stitch is one of them. An overlock stitch is usually done by a machine…BUT A DIFFERENT MACHINE…called an overlocker or a serger. This is yet another machine that you would need to buy to make you garment nicely at home…although it can also be substituted with a zigzag stitch, if your sewing machine has it.
Buuuut don’t worry! An overlock stitch can also be done by hand, so you don’t need to spend extra money and space in your home to buy and overlocker (which can be as expensive as a sewing machine itself!)
Whenever you use a backstitch to link two garment pieces together, the seam (not sure what a seam is? Read here!) has to be finished with an overlock stitch so the fabric doesn’t fray. You may also chop the seam to a narrower size, so it doesn’t create a bulk when you wear your beautiful handmade clothes!
What is an overlock stitch
In the free PDF guide that you can get here I show you exactly how to sew by hand an overlock stitch. Essentially, you will need to use a double thread and the aim is to cover the seam with your stitches. This will prevent any potential fraying. You will need to pass the needle in between the double threads and this will create little triangle shapes on one side of the seam.
Catch stitch by hand
An illustration of a catch stitch. Get the free manual.
When to use a catch stitch
A catch stitch is one way to finish a hem. As its name suggests, it’s job is to hold the end of the fabric, folded back on itself and secure it to the rest of the fabric.
What is a catch stitch
I like this stitch type because it secures the hem nicely, works well with stretch fabrics and on the right side (on the outside of the garment) it’s invisible. To make it look invisible indeed, you need to use a thread that matches the color of your fabric exactly. When you secure the hem to the fabric, you will need to pick only one thread of the structure of the fabric with your needle in order to make it invisible on the other side. Basically, with this stitch, we are trying to avoid to go through the fabric with the needle to secure the hem to it. Instead, we just want to secure it to the back of the fabric in a way that it’s not seen on the right side. The free PDF guide explains this in more detail, with illustrations that will make it easier for you to follow.
More info on how to sew by hand
What is a hem?
I bet you’ve come across this word a few times, leaving you confused…what could it mean? All those sewing gurus keep using it over and over again, “hem” as a noun or “hemming” as a verb. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what it is actually!
A hem is the end part of the fabric of your clothes (or any other sewn item). It’s the side of the fabric that’s not connected to another piece of fabric. If it’s left as is, it has the potential of starting to fray and we don’t want that! So we have to hem it to give the end of the garment a nice finish. And by hemming, we usually mean that the end side of the fabric is folded back on itself twice and sewn in place. This way the fraying edge of the fabric is hidden away and the problem is solved.
Of course hemming has different techniques, all used according to the fabric and your taste. My favourite is the hidden one where you can’t see any stitchings on the right side of the fabric. So it kind of looks like the end of your garment ends in a folded backwards motion and only magic is holding it up! But in reality, the stitches are so so so tiny that you won’t be able to see them.. .plus the thread used matches the color of the fabric perfectly.
On a blouse, you usually need to hem the bottom edge of the blouse and the bottom edge of the sleeves. The neckline is not hemmed, instead, you use other techniques to give it a finish. This can be either a collar, a facing or in the case of our boat neck top, a neckband is attached to the neckline. On a dress or trousers again, the bottom edges are hemmed with a technique of your choice.
What is a seam?
A seam is the thin edge of two pieces of fabric that are joined together, usually by a straight stitch. It’s the part of the fabric that you’re not going to see when wearing your clothes, they are going to be on the wrong side of the garment. A seam allowance refers to the width of this narrow edge and usually it’s about 1cm.
Some sewing patterns will already include seam allowance in them, in that case you don’t need to do anything else with the pattern, just cut out the fabric along the pattern. The Aya Mana sewing patterns already include seam allowance and tells you exactly the size of the seam allowance.
How to sew by hand?
In conclusion, I walked you through 3 basic stitches: the backstitch, the overlocking stitch and the catch stitch. These three stitches can be sewn by hand. They are relatively easy to learn and are extremely powerful! You don’t need prior sewing skills or sewing machine to make your own clothes, e.g. the Aya Mana Boat Neck Blouse sewing pattern can be done using only these three stitches. The smaller the stitches are, the more secure your garment will be! You can also download a FREE PDF guide that shows you exactly how to do these stitches step by step here.