“Sewing by Hand,” Ensign, Feb. 1982, 54
A few years ago, I succeeded in fulfilling an unusual desire. In the corner of the house stood a perfectly good electric sewing machine—and I had decided to make a garment entirely by hand.
Our grandmothers and their grandmothers had sewn by hand, we have all seen their handiwork and exclaimed over the time spent and the infinite patience they must have exercised. Wondering just how much extra time it involved and having more time than money, I chose a boy’s collarless jacket for my experiment. My husband’s old suit was resurrected and soon became pieces as our son’s coat emerged.
I learned that it did not take as much time as expected, and there were a few advantages I had not foreseen. One of them was the saving on thread. When using a machine, there has always been considerable waste of thread. Another advantage was the garment’s more precise fit, especially at the shoulders. As I sewed, I found I could ease the sleeve onto the shoulder with a bit more confidence. And there were fewer mistakes because I could see exactly where I was stitching.
I use two basic stitches. One is the back stitch, which consists of simply inserting the needle behind the last stitch and coming up in front of it. This is best used where there will be seam stress. The other, the running stitch, is done minutely (like a fine quilting stitch), mostly at the side seam. By the time I get to that point I am anxious to see the finished product and so abandon the more sturdy, but slower, back stitch. I always use a double thread, however, and the running stitch holds well on the side seams. Whenever possible, I use quilting thread for added strength.
Many people still do hemming by hand. One of our Relief Society sisters taught us to lock the stitch when hemming, and I have found it invaluable at those times when a heel catches the hem and loosens only part of it. Place the garment inside out, with the hem away from you. Stitch toward you, catching a good deal of the hem, and a very tiny bit of the inside of the material in your stitch. Bring the needle over the thread, locking it so that it will have less chance of unraveling in an accident. The stitch lies flat against the hem and looks very professional.
When the jacket was finished, I felt very humble and experienced a sort of kinship with our pioneer ancestors.
The next time I made something by hand was when we were taking a trip to visit relatives and I needed some blouses. I cut them out, planning to use my mother-in-law’s machine. She informed me that it needed repairing; so I found myself again sewing by hand, this time from necessity. The blouses fit nicely, and I again marveled at our wonderful grandmothers.
I recently finished my twelfth piece of clothing, and I’m “hooked.” I sincerely enjoy sewing by hand, and it is a welcome change from needlepoint and knitting. Thanks, grandma! Oreen Jackson, Seattle, Washington