how to hand sew a seam

How to Hand Sew a Seam

Have you ever wanted to try hand sewing but weren’t sure where to start? Hand sewing may seem old-fashioned, but it has many benefits over machine sewing and is a handy learning skill. From invisible mending to custom garments, hand sewing allows you incredible control and portability for all sewing projects. Read on to learn all about hand-sewing seams!

What is Hand Sewing?

Hand sewing uses a needle and thread to stitch fabric and other materials. It has been around for centuries, long before the invention of the sewing machine. Hand sewing was the primary way to construct clothing and other sewn goods until industrialization made machine-sewn products more accessible.

Today, hand sewing is still practiced by enthusiasts who enjoy the portability, control, and personal touch it allows. Hand sewing can produce seams and details that are very difficult or impossible to duplicate by machine. Many sewers still prefer the simplicity of a hand-sewing needle and thread for mending, alterations, embellishments, and small projects.

Benefits of Hand Sewing

While machine sewing offers speed and efficiency, hand sewing has some unique advantages, including:

  • Portability: No bulky equipment required, just small sewing tools
  • Control: Complete control over stitch size, placement, and tension
  • Quiet: Hand sewing makes little noise, perfect for sewing anytime
  • Mending: Hand stitches are ideal for invisible mending of holes/tears
  • Tactile: Enjoy the feel of stitching fabric by hand
  • Personalization: Add unique details not possible by machine

Standard Hand Stitches for Sewing Seams

When hand-sewing garments, crafts, or other sewn items, securing seams neatly is a top priority; here are some of the most common hand stitches perfect for sewing seams:

Running Stitch

The basic running stitch is a go-to seam finish. To sew a running stitch seam:

  • Thread a hand-sewing needle and knot the end
  •  Sew a straight line of evenly spaced stitches along the fabric edge
  •  Keep the tension even, and do not pull too tight
  •  Secure with a backstitch at the end

The running stitch creates a nice temporary seam for fabrics like lining that will later be slip-stitched. It can also neaten raw edges on projects like placemats.

Backstitch

Backstitch
Photo credit: freepik

The backstitch creates a tight, reinforced line of stitching for seams that need to be very secure. To backstitch:

  • Sew a small stitch forward, then a stitch back
  •  Bring the needle back up 1-2 stitches ahead of the last stitch
  •  Sew another small stitch forward, then back
  •  Repeat to the desired length

Backstitching prevents raveling and is recommended for seams on clothing, bags, plush toys, and other frequently used items.

Whip Stitch

The whip stitch neatly joins two folded edges together. To whip stitch:

  • Pin and fold fabric edges together
  •  Sew over the fabric edge, around the fold
  •  Keep stitches small and evenly spaced
  •  Avoid sewing through to the front side of the project

The whip stitch is perfect for joining lined garment edges, attaching binding, and closing pillows or stuffed toys.

Tips for Hand Sewing Seams

Follow these tips to help your hand-sewn seams look neat and professional:

  • Choose threads and needles suited to your fabric – lightweight for delicates, thicker needles and thread for denim
  • Cut fabric edges on grain and clip curves so seams lie flat when joined
  • Use an overcast stitch or pinking shears to finish raw edges and prevent fraying
  • Sew with even tension – don’t pull stitches too tight or too loose
  • Secure thread ends by knotting, backstitching, or running into a seam
  • Press seams flat before topstitching or crossing them with other seams

Seam Finishes for Hand Sewn Seams

How you finish seams will depend on the fabric and garment design. Here are some options:

  • Clean finished – Fold under raw edges, edgestitch to encase them
  • French – Finish inside edges separately, then sew the wrong sides together
  • Flat felled – Lap edges, sew, trim one side, topstitch both down
  • Overcast – Tiny stitch over raw edges to prevent fraying

These techniques result in professional seam finishes suited to hand sewing. They control fraying while minimizing bulk.

Common Projects for Hand Sewn Seams

Many sewing projects are excellent for practicing hand-sewn seams, such as:

  • Soft toys and dolls: Whipstitch edges together
  • Clothing: Try French or flat-felled seams on discreet areas
  • Quilts: Hand sew binding or invisible stitches to join pieces
  • Bags: Secure inner seams, then decorative topstitch handles in place
  • Placemats and coasters: Practice straight stitches on napkins and trivets
  • Pillows: Sew whip stitches to attach the lining to the outer pillow fabric
  • Mending: Ladder stitch to invisibly close holes and tears

The portability of hand sewing is perfect for minor repairs and crafts. Larger projects like garments can benefit from hand-finishing details.

FAQs

What are the benefits of hand sewing vs machine sewing?

Hand sewing allows more portability, control, quiet sewing, invisible mending, tactile enjoyment, and the ability to add unique details.

What hand stitches are best for sewing seams?

The running stitch, backstitch, and whip stitch are common hand stitches perfect for assembling seams.

How do I keep tension even when hand sewing?

Use an appropriate needle and thread weight for your fabric. Don’t pull stitches too tight or too loose. Secure threads neatly.

What are some seam finishes for hand-sewn seams?

Clean-finished, french seams, flat felled, and overcast seams are popular finishes that control fraying.

Can I hand-sew an entire garment?

Yes, though it requires patience and skill. Many sewers combine machine and hand sewing for garments.

What projects are suitable for beginner hand sewers?

Beginners can start with placemats, pillows, and soft toys, mending and hand finish details on larger projects.

Conclusion

Developing hand-sewing skills lets you broaden your creative possibilities and take your sewing anywhere. Start with some simple stitches and seaming techniques. Troubleshoot uneven tension and practice securing threads neatly. Soon, you’ll have the confidence to hand-sew projects big and small for a custom, hand-finished look. What will your first-hand sewn project be?

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Main image: freepik

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 169

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