As we continue journeying through The Simple Home by Rhonda Hetzel I was incredibly excited to see sewing as the focus for the month of August. Sewing is a hobby that I have enjoyed for a very long time but had put aside for a certain season of my life as I focused on other things. This excuse to point our attention to domestic crafts and household linens this month was certainly something that brought much happiness.
There is a wonderful sense of familiarity and peacefulness that feels a bit like coming home when you re-discover hobbies that have brought so much joy in the past. Remembering the thrill of creating something with your hands or the accomplishment of mending a favorite pair of shorts rather than throwing them away is rewarding. But somewhere along the way, the desire and ability to create has almost been lost. In our home I hope to re-ignite this creative part of housework.
If you are unfamiliar we are using this book as a guide to a portion of my children’s home-education this year. It has become a curriculum-of-sorts for us as they join me on some of the activities each month. Last month I focused on organizing our family laundry room which was mostly a project for myself and then they participated as we made these homemade dryer balls and natural fabric softener. This month they are learning some basic hand-sewing skills; simple things such as sewing on a button or repairing a seam. First, we began by gathering a few materials for our basic sewing kit: a set of sewing needles in assorted sizes, straight pens, thread, ribbon tape measure, a nice pair of scissors, fabric pencils, and a seam ripper (in case we mess up).
We chose to focus on 5 basic stitches: running stitch, backstitch, catch stitch, ladder stitch, and blind hem stitch. Before we get to those, here are a few general hand sewing tips to help you get started:
- Most hand stitches are sewn with a single thread although buttons, hooks, and eyes are sewn with double thread.
- A good rule of thumb is to cut your thread into a length no longer than your outstretched arm. Longer ones are more likely to tangle and wear out the thread before you are finished with it.
- Use a sharp needle with the smallest practical eye for your project, this will make it easier to push through your fabric.
- Before trying to thread your needle snip the end with sharp scissors so that there aren’t any tiny little threads hanging from the end. Hold as close to the end of the thread as possible, the less the thread is able to move, the easier to thread. If you have a hard time try getting the thread into the eye of the needle, try wetting the end of the thread or use a needle threader.
- Make sure you anchor your stitches at the beginning and end in places that will not show. You can do this by knotting the thread and bringing the needle up through a part of the fabric that will be hidden such as between fabric layers or on the wrong side.
- If you will be trying these with younger children you may consider having them work off of an embroidery hoop. This makes holding the fabric less challenging. You may also wish to draw lines for them to follow or “pin points” for them.
Please note, I am left handed so to most of you it may seem that I did all of these backwards. Most of these stitches (unless noted) I worked in a way that seemed natural and from which I had most control, from left to right.
The simplest and one of the most commonly used hand stitches is also one of the most versatile. It can be used for embroidery, mending and basting. Before the creation of the sewing machine this stitch was the one used in most handmade clothing and household linens. The simplicity of this stitch makes it ideal for a child’s first introduction to needle and thread.
How to Stitch
To make the running stitch first thread the needle with yarn and secure the end with a knot. Make running stitches by running your needle and thread in and out of the fabric layers over and over again. Pass needle from back of fabric to front to make a stitch. As you become more comfortable with this pattern, you can repeatedly rock needle up and down to pick up bits of fabric at regular intervals, allowing a few stitches to collect on the needle before gently pulling it through the fabric. Do not tug on the needle or the fabric will pucker. If stitching in a straight line, the stitches and the spaces between them should be of equal length. When finished, weave needle through the thread on the back of the project and knot.
The backstitch is very strong and useful. It is perfect for creating seams that can resist pulls or strains and for mending seams as well. You find this stitch along the hems of denim jeans and clothing that are intended to be used roughly.
How to Stitch
Bring the needle and thread from the back to the front of the fabric. Put the needle back down through the fabric about 1/8-inch away from where you started **Stitch A** (For right-handers, it may feel more natural to move to the left; left-handers may prefer the right).Bring the needle up approximately 1/8-inch away from where you went down. **Stitch B** Pull the thread through. Put the needle back down in the same spot you did before in Stitch A, taking a backstitch. **Stitch C**
Used for hemming and tacking down the inside edges of a garment. This is a great stitch to use when you want your hem to be discreet and not distract from the garment. This stitch creates a row of overlapping diagonal stitches on the wrong side (almost like a chevron), and then tiny stitches on the right side. It’s sturdy, and creates a more visibly pleasing look on the inside of your garment.
How to Stitch
**With this stitch, start from the opposite end that you would normally start**. Hide your thread knot by coming up from the underside of the fold with your needle. ** Stitch A** At a diagonal, pick up a very small amount of fibers (one or two threads) just above the fold. Your needle should be pointed at your starting point when you do this. **Stitch B** Cross back over, and pick up a a small amount of fabric on the fold (only picking up threads of the fold, do not go all the way through) again with your needle pointing at your starting point. **Stitch C** Continue at this pace, spacing your stitches evenly. This will create that crisscross/chevron effect. Make sure you only pick up one or two fibers each time, showing minimal thread on the correct side of the fabric.
LADDER STITCH or BUTTONHOLE STITCH
Often found on blanket and towel edges or when two pieces of fabric are sewn together such as on an appliquéd shirt. You can use this stitch any time you need to enclose a raw edge or protect edges from wear.
How to Stitch
To make a ladder stitch, hold the fabric over your finger and insert the needle from the bottom, bringing it up a short distance from the edge. Before you pull it through, grab the threads, place them behind the eye of the needle, and wrap them around the needle tip, (from the direction of the old stitches toward the new ones). Pull the stitch through, keeping the little knot of thread that forms snug but not too tight against the edge of the fabric. It’s the little knots that make a wear-resistant edge. Space the stitches as close together as the knots will allow.
BLIND HEM STITCH
Used to create invisible hems, this technique is perfect for lighter and silkier fabrics since it’s stitches won’t be seen.
How to Stitch
Begin by hiding a knot in the fold of your hem allowance. Starting 1/4″ away from the edge grab 1-2 fibers with your needle from the front of your fabric (just a few fibers, so that your stitch will not be seen from the front) and then insert it into your hem allowance. Slide the needle through the inside of your hem fold bringing it back through to the front of your fabric to grab more fibers from the front of your fabric. Continue until your reach the end. Slip know to secure and then drag a tail through them hem allowance to hide.
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