Hand Sewing: Step By Step Tutorial

Hand sewing is one of the most relaxing and spiritual parts of needlework. Don’t let rushing and bad habits take you away from this ancient technique that will greatly enrich your sewing process.

In many parts of our projects, we have to use hand stitches that help us to better polish and control seams. Putting the sewing machine aside and looking for a corner with good lighting and a comfortable seat are the requirements to start enjoying sewing by hand. If you prepare a good infusion and play pleasant music in the background, you embroider it!

STEP 1 Prepare the thread

If we are going to join two fabrics provisionally and then sew them together, we will use the basting thread, which is 100% cotton and breaks easily. On the contrary, if we are going to sew permanent seams on the garment, the most suitable thread is silk, because it glides better and knots are easier to undo.

Whatever the material, when sewing by hand the length of the thread should not be excessively long. A trick to find out the ideal strand length is to place the end of the thread between your thumb and forefinger and run the strand of the length of the bent arm (as when we measured it) to the shoulder. As a general rule, the strand length should not exceed 80 cm, beyond this figure I venture to forecast problems.

To make sewing by hand more bearable, there is a material that seems to come from an herbalist but is extremely effective: beeswax. Helps make the yarn (be it cotton, polyester or silk) more slippery, preventing the creation of cumbersome knots. It is a method tried and tested for years by tailors and dressmakers. The resulting seams are stronger and more durable. It’s hard not to give it a try!

Let’s see how to apply such exotic material:

  • Pass the strand two or three times through the beeswax tablet.
Pass the strand
  • Iron the strand between two sheets of paper or absorbent tissue to undo the wax well in the strand and remove any excess.
Iron the strand between two sheets of paper

As you can see, the strands are fuller and softer (you have to check the latter in first person).

put them in a cup

A good idea is to cut a small supply that will last us the entire sewing session by hand. Once waxed and ironed, we can put them in a cup and serve ourselves to our liking without the danger of losing them.

STEP 2 threading the thread

Depending on the type of needle we use, passing the thread through the hole can be tormenting. Having an enhebrador on hand is a success, and if it is retractable like the one in the tutorial, more!

  • Gently thread the diamond end of the threader through the needle hole. Do not suffer, the material of which this part is made is flexible.
threader through the needle hole
  • Pass the thread through the looper lozenge.
Pass the thread through
  • Gently pull the needle threader and calmly watch the thread slip, to finish threading the needle!
Gently pull the needle threader

Finally, before starting to make our wonderful seams by hand, we have to tie a knot at the end of one of the ends of the thread, because we will sew with a single thread.

Next, we will analyze the step by step of how to make one of the most used stitches and whose elaboration is the base of the rest of the stitches.

Let’s go there!

STEP 3 Sewing to hemstitch

This point is worked from right to left if you are right-handed and from right, to left if you are left-handed.

  • Stick the needle from back to front at the point where we want to start sewing.
Stick the needle from back to front
  • The knot should be glued to the fabric, as a stop.

We can also start a seam with two stitches in the same place, one on top of the other. It is up to you.

two stitches in the same place
  • Determine the stitch length we want to make and nail the point of the needle at that point.

The shorter the length, the stronger the stitch will be, resulting in a permanent seam. If our goal is to temporarily join two fabrics, we will make the stitch lengths very long.

temporarily join two fabrics
  • With the tip of the needle stuck, re-nail from back to front the length of the gap between stitch and stitch.

It is much easier to do than explain, go ahead, girls!

re-nail from back to front the length
  • Stretch the tip of the needle until it is completely removed from the tissue.
  • Gently pull the strand until the stitches are looped in place, avoiding extreme tension.
Gently pull the strand until the stitches
  • Continue nailing in and out of the fabric as we have done previously, respecting the stitch length and the length of the space.
Continue nailing
  • When we have reached the end of our seam, we leave the needle out of the fabric and the strand stretched.
leave the needle out of the fabric

STEP 4 cast off

  • Drive the needle into the middle of the last space between stitches.
  • Take it out where the thread comes out, that is, through the last point of the seam.
  • Twist this reinforcement stitch backward.
stitch backward
  • On the second stitch, before tightening the thread fully, pass the needle through the loop.
On the second stitch
  • Stretching will create a knot that will seal our seam finish.
Stretching will create a knot
  • Cut with scissors near the two back stitches and polish the seam.
Cut with scissors

As we have previously commented, depending on the stitch length and the spaces between them, we can achieve stronger and more permanent seams or, on the contrary, easy to undo stitches that serve to temporarily join two fabrics.

In the image, we can see the basting stitch, whose stitches are long and the spaces are small. This seam is quick to make and it helps us to prepare our project before going to the machine or to see the effect of a garment before the final seam.

basting stitch

Instead, the seam that we see below with the stitches and smaller spaces, is the official hemstitch used to permanently join fabrics.

stitches and smaller spaces

To push the needle through layers of tissue without damaging our delicate hands, we cannot help but have a thimble in our sewing kit.

There are many and varied materials, the key is to try until you find one that is essential for us. They can be used on different fingers, up to using several at the same time … Personally I have not reached that point, but let you know that it is possible!

push the needle through layers of tissue


When we start sewing by hand and practicing stitches, one of the most important and confusing factors is sewing straight.

The origin of such sleeplessness is related to the harmonious taste of our sight. Since the objective is to understand where to insert and remove the needle, we can prepare a piece of fabric with a few lines and concentrate on the mechanics of sewing.

  • Mark on a fabric with a dots ruler every 0.5 cm or 1 cm.
Mark on a fabric
  • Sew by hand with the stitches as a reference to nail and remove the needle.
Sew by hand with the stitches

We are one step closer to becoming Victorian seamstresses, with their seamstress trimmed with lace and matching kitty.

The next day we will see the most useful hand stitches that should not be missing in your sewing repertoire. If the electricity goes out or you are going to spend the weekend in a cottage without electricity, you can continue with your work. Super cute!



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