Hand-Sewing Stitches For Making Clothes By Hand

Hand Sewing Stitches

I am sharing with you the best hand-sewing stitches for making clothes by hand.  Let me first clarify that there are many hand-sewing stitches and combinations of stitches that can be used to make clothing by hand. But I will focus on the three that I have used in the past and two more that are an essential part of finishing a garment by hand. 

If you like to learn a bit more about the history of this art form, I have an article that will shed a light on this topic.

The Easiest Hand-Sewing Stitches

My techniques below are not entirely historically accurate, however. If you are seeking stitches for the purpose of historical costume reconstructions please find the best resources at The Met in New York and my personal favourite the Royal School of Needle Work founded in 1872.

hand-sewing stitches

Note: Before you use this stitches wax and cut the thread twice the distance of your thumb to your elbow. 

The Running Stitch

I use the running stitch mostly for basting.  Although it can be used to sew the sides of loose skirts, pants, and blouses.  A running stitch that is done at 1 to 2mm in length is a reasonable stitch to sew a silk blouse, thin linen, or to attach a trim where more than one row of stitches is necessary. 

If you are using the running stitch for basting, a 4 to 5mm length is best used.  This stitch is very useful to keep things together until a stronger stitch can be used or to make ruffles. 

How to make the Running Stitch

Mark the seam allowance with tailor's chalk or erasable pen.  Use pins along the seam allowance to keep the fabric from moving.

I will show you how to make an anchor stitch, however, making a knot is perfectly fine. 

hand-sewing stitches

Insert your needle from the top of the fabric to the bottom and pull the needle out 2mm in front where you inserted the needle.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

 Leaving a small tale insert the needle again in the same place you did taking the needle out in the same place. Pull the thread tight. This stitch should lock the thread in place. 

hand-sewing stitches

Run your needle three to four stitches on your seam allowance line.

hand-sewing stitches

Continue inserting and taking the needle at the same length to make your stitches regular.  Make an anchor stitch or a knot at the end if you are using it to temporarily secure the fabric.  Leave without a knot if you are planning to gather the fabric. 

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

The Backstitch

A very strong stitch historically found in diminutive sizing one stitch per every two weft threads.  The backstitch takes time, however, it will last centuries if you choose to use linen fabric.

How to make the backstitch 

Insert at the edge of the fabric, pull the needle and thread back out 2mm from the edge of the fabric.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

Insert the needle once again where you first inserted the needle, take the needle out 2mm from where the thread is out or twice the distance where the needle has being inserted. You are indeed taking the needle back for every step you take making this the ideal strong and durable stitch for sewing any kind of fabric.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches
Front View

hand-sewing stitches
Back View

The Running Backstitch

This stitch combines both the speed of the running stitch with the strength of the backstitch perfect when time is of the essence to finish a garment or attaching a zipper. Work as small as you can to make a durable stitch.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches
Front View

hand-sewing stitches
Back View

The Whip Stitch

The best stitch to hem garments and to turn down seams to hide raw edges.

Fold the edge of the hem twice.

hand-sewing stitches

Stick the needle behind the crease to hide the knot.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

Grab one or two threads from the bottom and two from the top pull the needle and the thread tight.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches
Front View

hand-sewing stitches

Combining hand-sewing stitches for clothes

As I mentioned before the best stitch for making clothes is the backstitch, however, I find that the running backstitch combined with the whip stitch can be used to make durable garments.

Running Backstitch and turn under whip stitch

hand-sewing stitches
Front View

hand-sewing stitches
Back View

Reduce the seam allowance to 3/8″. Cut one side off the seam allowance leaving one side to 1/8″.

hand-sewing stitches

Turn the seam allowance over the short side on the seam allowance and use the whip stitch.

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches

hand-sewing stitches
Front View

hand-sewing stitches
Back View

I hope you find these instructions easy to follow and that I have persuaded you to try making clothes by hand even if you have a sewing machine.

The best things in fashion take time and are mostly made entirely by hand. Hope you consider giving it a try.

I look forward to your comments below. Please share your experiences, good or bad, with sewing by hand.

Here are a couple of patterns that will be easy to make by hand.


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12 Responses to Hand-Sewing Stitches For Making Clothes By Hand

  1. Roberta Roberta Plummer says:

    I love had sewing and I too find it relaxing! I’m a quilter and do both machine and hand stitching. Its great to be able to do stitching by hand when you are on the go. You can take it with you any place!

  2. Nathalie Shields says:

    Thank you for the very clear explanation. I prefer hand stitching to sewing with a machine. I am glad I found people who feel the same.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Welcome, Nathalie! I do prefer hand stitching, it is relaxing and the quality of the garment is of the highest standard.

  3. Beverly Judeikis says:

    I have been hand sewing since I was a little girl. I would make clothes for my Barbie doll. I didn’t learn how to use a machine until was 12. I enjoy hand sewing very much and find it very relaxing.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      I do too, I use hand sewing when I am away from home and a sewing machine is not available. Very relaxing indeed. Like you, I started making clothes for my sister’s Barbies I had quite a collection back then. My first sewing machine was a Christmas gift at 15, such a treat!

  4. maria says:

    Beautifully done! I had forgotten many of these stitches and you helped remind me of some of these my mother taught me so long ago. Thank you!

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Thank you, Maria! Indeed this was taught from generation to the next by the fire at night. I think those days are back and we must share the knowledge and enjoy each others company while doing something artistic.

  5. Eunice says:

    Do you have any tips on how you would attach elastic by handsewing?

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Yes, I have a couple of ways and will make a post about it. Then we will combine all these techniques and make a couple of great clothes. Stay tuned!

  6. Deborah says:

    Great instructions. Can/Will you make this into a pdf file? It would be great if you can.

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