Get Ready For Some Hand Sewing!

Sewing by hand is a fun and relaxing activity that can be enjoyed by all ages! (And for some ideas on how to teach the littlest among us, see my post on How to Teach Hand Sewing to Littles!) Another great thing about hand sewing is it requires inexpensive and readily available supplies (perfect for those of us stuck at home right now #thankscoronavirus).

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So, without further ado, here is a list of some basic hand sewing supplies:

  • needles – embroidery needles are, well, good for embroidery and they have a bigger eye for threading
  • needle threaders – nice to have so that you don’t spend five minutes licking the end of the thread and trying to poke it through the needle eye
  • embroidery thread – it comes from the store in little looped packs, but if you are able to buy embroidery bobbins (or make your own from a small piece of cardboard), it is totally worth it so that your nice embroidery thread doesn’t end up as a tangled ball of mess. (Here’s a video with a tip for how to wind embroidery thread on a bobbin without knots!)
  • fabric – obvious, but I do want to note that you don’t need a special kind of fabric (unless you are cross stitching, you can use fabric that has little squares woven into it – called Aida cloth). You can even use an old pillowcase or sheet!

Some nice to have supplies:

  • embroidery hoop – for keeping your project flat and taut while you are working
  • Pilot Frixion Gel Pens – you’ll see differing opinions in the sewing world about using these pens, but in my opinion, they are awesome! They contain heat sensitive ink, that when heat is applied, the ink disappears. Bad when your professor leaves your term paper in his car in July in Houston, great when you make marks on your fabric for sewing, and then you just place the iron on it and the marks completely disappear! Some people claim that the pens show some “ghosting,” meaning the ink leaves behind a slight discoloration on some fabrics where your marks were. I personally have not experienced this, but I guess to be on the safe side, it’s always best to test the pen on an edge of your fabric. For me, they are an indispensable tool in my sewing tool kit!

Ok, let’s get started!

1. Measure and Cut Your Thread

I like to tell my students to measure about an arms length of thread. The amount will be slightly different on everyone, but it is a really good guideline for getting a piece of thread that is not so long it tangles easily, but not so short you have to keep stopping and rethreading, which is annoying.

2. Decide How Many Strands You Want To Use

Embroidery thread is really six strands of thread all twisted together, so you can choose to use all six strands (like if you wanted a dark pronounced line like when embroidering the mouth on a stuffed animal), but most of the time you will use just two or three strands. For our purposes right now, we are going to separate out the threads in half, so three and three. Pull the end of your thread apart a little bit and take three threads in each hand and gently pull apart all the way until you have two separate pieces of three strands each.

3. Thread the Needle

Watch the video below for a demonstration of how to use a needle threader. Trust me, it is worth learning to use!

Here are some step by step pictures as well:

1. Put the metal loop of the needle threader into the eye of the needle.

2. Place a small bit of the thread through that needle threader loop.

3. Holding the needle in one hand and the threader in the other, pull the threader and thread through the eye of the needle.

4. Once the little end is all the way through, gently pull the threader off the thread, and your needle is now threaded!

4. Knot Your Thread

Once your needle is threaded, you will have a short tail and a long tail. We are going to knot the long tail only.

Why not tie both ends together evenly? Because if you mess up a stitch (and everyone does sometimes!) and both ends of your thread are knotted together, you will have no way to fix it, and you will have to cut your thread, which will make many or all of your previous stitches fall out and you will have to start over. Womp, womp. If you only knot the long end, then you can pull the needle off your thread, pick out the messed up stitches, rethread your needle, and on your way you go!

I would say that knotting the thread this way works well for ages 7 or 8 and up. Any younger than that though, I do recommend knotting both ends together to prevent frustration. (You can read more about that a post about Teaching Hand Sewing to Littles.)

I’ve posted a video below of how I like to knot my thread (and once you get the hang of it, you’ll get a good knot every time!)

Now you are ready to sew!!!!

One final tip: When you sew, make sure you hold the needle (after you pull it up through the fabric) right on the eye, so it’s like you are holding the thread and the eye of the needle at the same time. You will want to do this because if you don’t, your needle will keep coming unthreaded and you will have to keep stopping over and over to rethread your needle, and you will cry.

Ready to get started on a project? Here are some great projects for beginners – and I recommend starting with the Embroidery Sampler first to learn and practice lots of really cool stitches!

Embroidery Sampler

Tracing With Thread Embroidery



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