It’s Sewing Saturday, and that means it’s time to learn how to handle that hand sewing needle! We are going to work on learning a few different techniques for tying off your thread, how to thread the needle, and how to sew on a button. We’ll also teach a super simple stitch called a whip stitch! These are the beginning tools you need to do some very basic repairs on clothing and other items.
If even threading a needle or knotting your thread is completely foreign to you, I would highly recommend reading through our descriptions of how to do everything first, then go back and attempt everything,doing some practicing until you feel comfortable with threading and knotting. The same holds true for any of the other things we teach! Read it, maybe re-read, then attempt to do. You’ll thank yourself later.
A couple of notes before we get started…Yes, this is a long post. Yes, there are lots of pictures. Yes, my hands are very dirty. Well no, they aren’t…they are just paint stained, but clean. Sorry about that! I was painting earlier that day and could not get it all off of my hands 🙂 (I’ll be sharing what my latest painting project is in a post early to mid week next week.)
Here is what you are going to need today:
(If you are not sure what these items are, you can go back and read post 1 to learn more, or click on the words below…they are links that will take you to Amazon where you can see what I am talking about, and of course, order if you want to. Please read our disclosure statement in the sidebar or at the bottom of the page.)
5″ fabric squares (see below for details)
Tape measure (Completely optional…that will depend on you and your confidence level)
Some of you may be wondering how on earth you could possibly cut nice squares of fabric…well, there are two ways, one having better results than the other, but both being effective. I typically use my rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. If you intend on following along, it will probably be recommended that you purchase these at some point, possibly sooner, rather than later.
If you do not have these tools, you can create a template for yourself. To get a nice, true square, take a fresh sheet of paper (preferably printer paper, with nice corners).
Pick the corner you intend to cut your square from. Put a mark 5″ inches wide and 5″ high. Fold the paper at one of these marks so that the edges of the paper line up to make a nice clean edge, then press the edge with your finger to get a sharp crease.
Now do the same thing at the other mark going in the opposite direction.
This should create a true square that you can then cut out. If you are doubting how square it is, you could fold the outside corner up to the point where your two creases meet. If all of the edges line up appropriately, you have a true square.
Cut your paper square out, but PLEASE do not use your sewing scissors. (Note: I have extra scissors in my sewing room for craft supplies and cutting paper so that my sewing scissors do not get damaged cutting things they should not. You would then use your paper to trace a square onto your fabric. You might want to trace your square onto a piece of cardboard or card stock, so that you have a more durable template to work with in the future.
Once you are finished cutting out your square, you can then use it to trace a square onto your fabric, and cut out. The number of squares you cut out for today is up to you, though you should probably cut out at least 3, maybe 5. If you happen to own a rotary cutter and ruler, I hope you already know how to use them…If not, I’ll cover that in another post soon.
Threading and Knotting
Trudy-How I knot my thread: Cut a length of thread approximately 18”-22” long. Any longer and it has a tendency to gnarl up on you while sewing, shorter and it’s often not long enough to do what you want.
I thread the thread through the needle eye and bring it about 2/3 down to the other end. Because I’m right-handed, I hold the needle horizontally in my left hand, the eye of the needle facing the palm of my left hand, needle point facing out.
I take my right hand and grab the longer end of thread and bring up the end and hold it down with my left thumb, then I wrap the thread around the needle three times coming from behind.
Carefully, I grab the needle with my right hand and the wrapped thread is now on the needle and I take my thumb and forefinger of my left hand and gently grab the wrapped thread and slide it off of the needle towards my left. You should have a neat knot at the end of the longer side of the thread.
I understand that this is not the easiest thing in the world to explain, so we made a short video showing what she did. Play it as many times as you need to understand what is happening. And please, click on the pictures to ensure you are understanding the details 🙂
Danielle-How I knot my thread: I remember being a little girl and just NOT being able to knot my thread like my mom. It was frustrating, and I stuck to what I knew best. As an adult, I finally tried this method again since I now actually comprehend what she is doing, and I was able to complete the knot without issue. The video is 23 seconds, but you can knot your thread even faster once you get the rhythm of it down pat.
However, there are two ways I “start” my thread for hand sewing. For the majority of the hand sewing I do, I use one method for threading my needle, and it does not include a knot. This is VERY easy, so if you are having trouble with knots, keep practicing, but you can use this method without issue in the mean time.
I start by cutting a piece of thread that is the length of one arm, plus the width of my shoulders (that’s roughly one yard in case you want to measure it out), or up to a full two arms width (for me that’s roughly 5′ + some inches).
Any longer than that and your thread will want to tangle and knot up on itself. Bring the two ends of the thread together, and thread them through the eye of the needle. Pull the ends about 6″ through your needle, more if it makes you feel better. This will create a loop of thread, and that loop will act as your knot…I’ll explain more shortly.
The second method is the one I use second most often, though if I really have this method of my mom’s down pat, I will probably us that instead to save a little time. To make the knot, I thread the needle as I would normally. Take the long end of the thread and fold it back up on itself about 2-3″ (you can do a much shorter fold as you get better with this, but for the sake of ease, just give yourself room). Then make that oh-so-common knot at the end of your thread. Repeat 2 more times to give yourself a thick knot. It can take some practice to thicken your knot…you may end up with knots in a row. But I find that you can get it placed correctly nearly every time by using your thumb and forefinger to gently hold the second knot forming over the first.
Note: It is pretty important to have clean ends on your thread when trying to thread your needle. A frayed end will make it very difficult to thread. A good pair of scissors (I keep a pair on hand just for my hand sewing/cutting threads) will make this MUCH easier on you!
Some people will just have an infinitely hard time threading their needle. There is a little tool out there for this, though I rarely ever use one (I don’t even have one at the moment). These often come in those travel sewing kits, but they do make it easier to thread a needle if you are having trouble. You insert the little wire end through the needle, put your thread in the much larger eye of the needle threader, and then pull the needle threader back out of the needle. If I had one of these still, I would do a demonstration, but I don’t…maybe some other time.
Sewing a Button
Trudy-Sewing on a button:
1.Take a length of thread, pull it through the needle and I knot the two ends together in the same manner I thread a needle to do hand sewing, only the ends are tied together and the length of both is the same. This is for speed and durability.
2.Again, because I am right-handed, I place the button on the object to be sewn and hold it down with my left thumb and forefinger and I have the threaded needle in my right hand. I bring the needle under the fabric where the button is to be sewn, placing it under one of the holes in the button, then bringing the needle up through the hole and pulling until the knot stops on the back of the fabric.
3.I then bring the needle down through the next hole. This will depend on whether it is a two or four hole button, but if it’s a four-hole button, bring the needle down into any of the other three holes, pulling until you feel a gentle tug signaling that you are at the end, then bring the needle up through the next buttonhole perpendicular to that. (Pay attention to what you opt for as it will change the look of your threaded button. You will either end up with two parallel lines of stitching or an X across your button. Either is fine, but if you are sewing a button back onto an article of clothing, you will want to pay attention to how it was sewn on in the first place.) Whichever pattern you choose, stick with it!
4.Repeat what you did on the first. I follow this pattern two to three times and on the final stitch when I’m ready to go to the back of the fabric again….
5. Instead of going through the button and fabric, I only go through the buttonhole, then I take the thread and wrap it around the threads between the button and fabric twice, then make a stitch through the fabric under the button and on the back I knot the thread on the back and snip it about a half an inch away from the knot.
My method for sewing a button on is not so different for that of my mom. This is using the first method I mentioned for threading a needle, the one where you have the loop. Make a small mark on your fabric where you want the button place. Put your needle through your fabric, top to bottom, and then put your needle back through your fabric, bottom to top. Do not pull your thread all of the way through the fabric. When you are bringing your needle back up, insert the needle through the loop at the end of your thread. This should attach your thread to your fabric in the correct position for your button.
From this point, I do exactly what my mom said in her directions from step 3 onward. To knot your thread, you will make a knot in a similar manner to what I did when I made a double knot on the end of the thread.
For this little practice run, I want you to take 2 of your 5″ squares. Pin them together at the corners of your fabric.
Create a knot with whichever method you are comfortable with for now (keep practicing with the different methods…eventually you will get comfortable with them!). With your thread started, you are going to stitch around the perimeter of your squares. You can practice with different depths and widths between stitches, but to start, I want you to aim for 1/4″ deep and 1/4″ apart. You want to practice being consistent.
To make the whip stitch, you with insert your needle through one side of your fabric squares (call that the front) and pull it completely through (the back), but not tight (the fabric should not bunch much if at all). Bring your needle over the edge and back through the “front” of your squares. Repeat until you have gone around the perimeter of the blocks. Do this with varying stitch depths and spacing. When you are finished going around the block, knot off your thread as we discussed in the button section.
This stitch is sometimes used on the edges of things like fleece blankets (though it is not the same as a blanket stitch…we’ll cover that later), and the novice sewist will often use this stitch to close a seam on their first pillow attempt (we won’t-we’ll be using a different stitch). Honestly, this stitch is not the prettiest or most easily hidden. But it can be used to repair a popped seam on say …a shirt sleeve. You’d really want to do your stitching on the inside of the fabric to hide your work, and you should always try to use the bet match of thread to keep things discrete.
I believe I stated in either post 1 or 2 that we’d be doing a throw pillow as one of our first projects on here. I plan to cover simple sewing projects, some kind of small quilting project, some clothing projects, and also to teach you basic alteration and repair skills as well. If you have a sewing project you would like us to attempt, please leave your ideas in the comments here on the blog, and we will see what we can do. Next week I will try to get a list of projects that we will be doing, as well as what supplies you will need. I want to give you time to get things, but remember, you can always come back to these posts at a later date if you are not able to get what you need right now!
We have written another post that is up today about finding a sewing machine for you to work with as we proceed. Click here to learn what to be looking for as you prepare to start machine sewing. Please, do not be alarmed by the fact that you will need a sewing machine! I promise that it does NOT need to be a huge investment for you. Read that post to find out more!
How did we do? Did we leave you feeling lost or confused yet? I hope not! If you have questions, please let us know, we’ll do what we can to help you through it! Don’t forget to share this post, and don’t forget to let us know what projects you might like to do! And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our Sewing Saturday’s!
Love~ Danielle and Trudy
P.S. I am an Amazon affiliate, so I may receive a small commission for any products purchased through our links. I try to only link to items that I own personally, or that will help you with your needs. I know how expensive starting a new hobby can be, so get your supplies where you are going to get your best value!