The Types of Stitching by Hand

Written by deborah jones
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The Types of Stitching by Hand
Stitching by hand provides the finishing touch to many sewing projects. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

We're so used to letting sewing machines do the job of stitching that many people new to the craft consider that sewing is impossible without a sewing machine. Hand stitching is an age-old craft, with the skill often handed down through generations from mother to daughter. It's possible to make entire garments or home accessories using various hand stitching techniques, or to create elaborate and decorative pictures.

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Hand Stitching Uses

While sewing machines take the drudgery out of many sewing tasks, and make it possible to create large items such as curtains very quickly, hand stitching is often used for small tasks and is quicker and more efficient than setting up a sewing machine. Other sewing tasks, such as attaching buttons, hemming or making running repairs in damaged garments are commonly done by hand.

Dressmaking Stitches

Dressmakers use several different kinds of hand stitches to complete various stages in a garment's construction. Basting stitches temporarily hold fabric in place either to ensure correct fitting or when sewing together slippery material such as silk. Stay stitching is another form of hand stitching. This is used to stabilise the edges of stretchy fabric such as jersey, so that areas such as necklines don't stretch out of shape during sewing. Other types of hand stitches describe the appearance of stitches, such as running stitch, which is a sequence of small, evenly spaced stitches, or backstitch, that produces a line of stitches without any gaps between them.

Embroidery Stitches

Embroidery stitches create surface decoration on fabrics in both home furnishings and garments. There are many different types of embroidery stitches that are used to achieve different effects. Embroidery stitches have names such as alphabet stitch, which is often used in the creation of monograms, or applique stitch, used to attach one piece of fabric on top of another. Embroidery stitches, such as chain stitch or berry stitch, are also used to make embroidery pictures.

Tapestry and Cross Stitches

Tapestry and cross-stitch sewing projects are also commonly done by hand, with both crafts having distinctive hand stitches. Cross-stitch is commonly worked on a fabric called aida. The stitches are formed by two small diagonal stitches which cross each other on the front of the work. Working adjacent areas in different colours produces a picture. Tapestry stitches are also used to create hand-stitched pictures and are worked in such stitches as half cross tent stitch or mosaic stitch. This kind of tapestry work is also called needlepoint.

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