Whether you have a sewing machine or not, hand sewing is a skill everyone can benefit from having. For one, it comes in handy if you’re someone who frequently finds new tears in their clothing. However, we can also use hand sewing for bigger projects, too.
On the other hand, machine sewing is certainly more convenient. So in the case of hand sewing vs. machine sewing, the winning technique is whichever one happens to be the most useful for the project you’re working on.
Before the mass production of the mechanical sewing machine began in the 1850s, women did all of their sewing by hand. Poor and medium-income families continued to make all of their clothing by hand until well into the 20th century. That’s when cheaper, mass-produced fashion became more widely accessible. Since people could easily pick up a new skirt or shirt at a store, sewing became a less widespread skill. However, many of us continue to make our own clothes to this day.
In the spirit of times past, let’s talk about the differences between sewing by hand and using a machine. Both methods are near and dear to our hearts, and they each have their own advantages. Today, we’re going to find out all about them.
In recent years, there’s been a push from the sustainable fashion movement to return to the basics. After all, making your own clothes is more economically responsible overall, whether you do it by hand or with a machine. Thanks to this shift toward sustainable living, the number of people who know how to sew has gotten marginally higher in recent years. Still, it’s sadly much lower than it used to be.
Despite that fact, though, people ought to learn how to run a stitch by hand, at least. Granted, it’s not the most efficient way to sew a whole dress. However, being able to mend a hole on a shirt or a tear in a pair of jeans is an invaluable ability to have.
Now, that’s not to say that it’s impossible to finish a bigger project by hand. Many cosplayers and historical reenactment troupes make their clothes by hand for different reasons. Beginner cosplayers tend to do it because they may not have a sewing machine. Or, they could just be going for a particular look in order to stay faithful to the character they’re recreating.
On the other hand, hand sewing can also be a way for people to commit to their historical reenactment costumes. Making the clothes as they would’ve been made in the past is a great way for people to get into character. That’s also why hand sewing is sometimes used for period drama costumes as well. And, of course, it’s sometimes a matter of the material. For example, leather requires you to either use a special sewing machine or pierce and sew the material by hand.
If you find yourself in need of a new dress and you just so happen to have a machine lying around anyway, why not learn how to use it? It’s really much simpler than some people would have you believe. Just like with hand sewing, you’d need to thread your needle first. Then, slide your material underneath and hold onto the material as you press down the foot pedal. With a bit of practice, you’re sure to become a professional in no time.
At this point, you may be wondering: is there a difference between hand sewing thread and sewing machine thread? Well, the short answer is: there could be.
The most important thing here is the thread quality. Many types of threads have loose, stray fibers that aren’t ideal for machine sewing. This isn’t a matter of the material or the manufacturer, though. Cheap cotton and polyester thread can jam your machine and weaken your seams later down the line. Even if you work carefully, by hand, the cheap thread will break easily. So make sure you always invest in a good quality thread, no matter which technique you’re using.
Sewing machines are undoubtedly faster than hand sewing, that’s just a fact. A couple of inches of stitches that might take you an hour to complete would only take a few seconds to do on a machine. However, that doesn’t mean that using a machine is the ultimate sewing method.
Pros and Cons of Sewing Without a Machine
While sewing machines are undoubtedly faster than hand sewing, that’s not necessarily the be-all and end-all. Some people approach their sewing projects as their meditation and like to really take their time. It’s a bit like knitting, that way. And, once you gain some hand sewing experience, you might even find yourself working faster. Although, of course, you’ll never be anywhere near as fast as a machine.
The one area where hand sewing beats using a machine is precision. After all, you’d be able to control each stitch. With a machine, you can steer the material a bit. However, machines make mistakes all the time. When they’re fully operational, they allow us to get our work done more quickly.
Essentially, if you need to run a straight stitch, use a machine. But if you’re dealing with something more intimate, like a decorative stitch, you should grab a thimble now.
Hand sewing is also a more generally useful skill to have. Not everyone has a sewing machine. However, everyone can have a small sewing kit at home, in case something needs mending. Hand stitches are actually more durable as well since they don’t unravel as easily as machine stitches.
Finally, some people might say that hand sewing can force you to be more present when you’re making something. It basically forces you to pour your heart and soul into a project. We’re confident that everyone who sees the finished product will be able to sense the love that went into it.
If you want your hand sewing to look absolutely perfect, you’ll want to master two stitching techniques: basting and backstitching. Basting looks like a line of dashes with spaces in between them. These are usually temporary stitches that show you where to sew or trim a material. Backstitching is a full line, so you’d be making a row of stitches. A stitch is going to begin exactly where you ended the last one.
We recommend looking up videos of these two sewing techniques and practicing on a discarded piece of cloth. A couple of practice runs and you’ll be ready to sew with the best of them.
As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article, everyone can benefit from knowing how to hand sew, whether they had a prior interest in sewing or not. After all, hand sewing is a crucial life skill for both men and women. But it’s also a great sewing technique that allows us to make individual adjustments for each stitch.
Now that you know about the various differences between sewing by hand and using a machine, we’re sure you want to spread the knowledge. So share this article and comment below if you know something we neglected to mention. We’re always happy to hear from other sewing enthusiasts!