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hand sewing stitches and resources

 
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I'm interested in doing more hand-sewing but with arthritis, some of these small repetitive motions are proving problematic.  So I started reading books on the topic, particularly victorian manuals as hand sewing was still common then and people would have to do this for hours at a time.  The methods must have some sustainability built into them.  

Manual of needlework and cutting out : specially adapted for teachers of sewing, students, and pupil-teachers by Walker, Agnes has some great tutorials on how to hold the cloth and needle.


Some other resources I've stumbled upon:

http://thedreamstress.com/2013/03/tips-and-tricks-for-hand-sewing-historical-and-otherwise/


http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/index-of-articles/historicalperiods/258-gentlemen-tailoring/915-late-victorian-tailoring-techniques-1


This is a good photo of how Agnes Walker suggests we hold the cloth.  It's been quite difficult getting used to this method, but I've read it can be much faster than the regular horizontal method I use.  I might try pinning the far end of the fabric to something to see if this improves efficiency because right now I'm feeling all thumbs.  

I've been using vintage needles but I notice that some of them have rust or burs on them, so I haven't used those ones.  Most of the needles I have seem to be regular or carbon steel.  Some of the needles have gold eyes.  

As for waxing the thread, I find it tangles just as much, if not more, than unwaxed thread.  I've tried threading the needle from both ends of the thread - but this makes no difference.  It makes sense it doesn't make a difference because the twistis the same no matter which way up you hold the yarn.  Modern sewing thread is a sss-Z (three S plyed Z-wise)
 
r ranson
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Of course, who can resist Bernadette Banner?  Her videos are so calming and inspiring.  









 
r ranson
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I agree, when using old tools, look to the old ways back when they actually used them. I do recall Bernadette saying that some sewing, like corsets, was simply done by men back then due to the strength required. I also wonder about any possible differences in cloth back then. I wonder if they ever sewed things before fullering and then fullered after. That would seem easier to me, but I'm not sure it would even work, definitely not on complicated items, but maybe on simpler ones?
 
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I have several books on hand sewing stitches, I knew where one was right off, the 1947 Good Housekeeping Needlecraft Encyclopedia. (  https://www.ebay.com/itm/1947-The-GoodHousekeeping-Needlecraft-Encyclopedia-Alice-Carroll-Hardcover-CG133/312108558969  https://www.ebay.com/itm/The-Good-Housekeeping-Needlecraft-Encyclopedia-HC-1950-Fourth-Printing-Free-Ship/324065337481 )  All kinds of interesting things covered. I find them at thrift stores, lots of older women around here had books like this. Might be worth watching stores near you to see if you can find things along this line.

Chapter titles:
1. Simple sewing
2. Advanced sewing and tailoring
3. Simple embroidery
4. Advanced embroidery
5. Applique, quilting, patchwork and tufting
6. Knitting
7. Crocheting
8. Hairpin lace, netting, and net embroidery
9. Tatting
10. Needlepoint
11. Rug making
12. Weaving
13. Sewing for the home
14. Miscellaneous
in over 450 pages.
I think I paid .25 cents for it, this type of book is too common to be considered collectible by most people. There are lots of this type of thing out there, especially in more rural areas and smaller towns. Tons of timeless information, it's just that most of the current world doesn't think it's useful. Check your local thrift stores.
:D
 
Pearl Sutton
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r ranson wrote: I might try pinning the far end of the fabric to something to see if this improves efficiency because right now I'm feeling all thumbs.  


You know  how I am,  never do things normally... I use C Clamps to hold things still. I can pull on them and it doesn't come loose. Pins come loose.
:D
 
r ranson
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

r ranson wrote: I might try pinning the far end of the fabric to something to see if this improves efficiency because right now I'm feeling all thumbs.  


You know  how I am,  never do things normally... I use C Clamps to hold things still. I can pull on them and it doesn't come loose. Pins come loose.
:D



C-clamp. :)
Like a modern sewing bird.
 
r ranson
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I just spent the last hour bouncing around google looking for a Canadian source of hand sewing thread.  I'm feeling more and more confused.  
 
r ranson
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Pearl Sutton
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C-clamp. :)
Like a modern sewing bird.

OH PRETTY!! I want a sewing bird!!
My clamps aren't pretty, unless you count the ones I have spray painted hot pink as pretty. They are pinked because I lose them when I drop them in the grass. 95% of my hand tools have been pinked. I tossed a crowbar out of my way one day, no way I got it more than 10 feet from me. Took me 20 minutes to find it.

:D
 
r ranson
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So I melted some of those beeswax pebbles into a mould but the new wax block is really soft compared to my old one.  Do they need time to cure or is that cosmetic purified beeswax not good for thread conditioning?  
 
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I think if you chill it for an hour or two, it will likely firm up, and stay that way, unless it's subject to higher heat, again.
 
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I don't own a sowing machine so everything is sown by hand, including patchwork and curtains. All I use is a needle and some cotton preferably in two colours so I can easily see my tacking stitches to take them out. I don't like pins as I stab myself with them, forget them on the sofa and then have to extract them from various parts of my anatomy. I even managed to push one right through my hand once, had to get my stepfather to pull it out, not very comfortable.

If the thread is tangling then either it is to long and/or you are twisting it as you grab the needle to pull it through. that little 1/4 turn each stitch soon adds up, With the needle pointing towards me I have to twist it clockwise to undo mine. The way I hold the fabric I spread it out between my fingers and then release a bit of the tension so I can push the needle back up rather than having to do each part of the stitch individually. That piece of cloth is the liner for a bag I am making if you squint you can see the seam next to my needle. when I was actually sowing this there was a row of blue tacking stitch (giant running stitch) in there as well.
DSC_0344-1-.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC_0344-1-.JPG]
 
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r ranson wrote:

I've been using vintage needles but I notice that some of them have rust or burs on them, so I haven't used those ones.  Most of the needles I have seem to be regular or carbon steel.  Some of the needles have gold eyes.

I've used some of Hubby's "emory cloth" - a type of very fine cloth backed "sand paper"(I'm not sure it's sand that's on it) to remove rust and burs from needles and even to sharpen machine needles so I can use them longer before replacement.

and also wrote:

As for waxing the thread, I find it tangles just as much, if not more, than unwaxed thread.  I've tried threading the needle from both ends of the thread - but this makes no difference.  

When I cut a piece of thread, I hang it from one hand and pinch it lightly with my other thumb and finger and slide down to the end a couple of times. This seems to remove a bit of the twist and reduces the problem. Despite that, I often still have to do so again part way through sewing with it. I think the key is to do so before it becomes a knotted mess.

Are you sewing left-handed or right-handed? I accidentally got "left hand quilting thread" once. Apparently the twist is opposite and it makes a difference!
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I find. Using very short needles is easier for me I use a size 11 between. Roxanne needles are best,, I think..
Jinny Beyer is an an amazing quilter who completely handsews all her quilts. She wrote a book about hand sewing techniques and while it is specific to quilts many of of her methods work for general sewing and mending. I used to use a product called thread heaven but it is no longer made. I use thread magic now. Not as good but better than beeswax
Also do not make your thread too long it is asking for trouble. I use silicone thimbles with metal tips. Leather ones wear out fast and all metal ones are stiff and clunky. But silicone conforms well to arthritic fingers. You need the metal tip unless you enjoy getting stabbed bu needle ends.
 
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First off let me say that I too now want this sewing bird. If only because it is pretty and nobody I know would have a clue what it was!! Talk about a conversation piece!

As a child I used to watch my step-grandfather's mother hand sew alot of things. She had me mesmerized by the tiny stitches in neat, straight lines. I would watch for an easy 1/2 hour without saying a word. I emulate and try to channel Mildred now when I am hand-stitching anything worthwhile.  She was born in the 1800's, always dressed in a go-to-sunday-meeting dress and hairdo!
 
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Common pin cushions used to come often shaped like a tomato with a little strawberry attached. The strawberry was filled with sand and was the place to clean up a rusty pin or needle.
 And yes if your thread is twisting and knitting try using a shorter one till you get the hang of keeping your thread straight. Then you can use a longer thread. Also you may double the thread back close to the length and pull the tail out a little each couple of stitches to help with this problem. A waxed thread may not be easier to deal with but it makes a sturdier thread and was often used for heavy buttons or edges that would be stressed. A really difficult thick cloth could require using needle nose pliars to pull the needle through after getting it started by pushing against a hard surface.
 New sewers often practiced various stitches with a sampler which was decorative. Another way is to make a small crazy quilt which features a decorative stitch along the two sides of each patch. I like this way! Hand sewing is a useful skill and a fun pastime too.
 
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I use my sewing machine only for tough fabrics like jeans, everything else I sew by hand. My trick number one for straight seams is to keep the seam slightly stretched. I don't have a sewing bird as such, I use a binder clip for holding the fabric and tie the clip with a string to wherever, a bit like in one of the photos above. +++ Second, for holding the fabric, I let it hang over the middle finger, not the index, and with the thumb on top. When you try it, you'll find that the whole hand is much more relaxed. No pressure on the thumb necessary, it's just there for friction, therefore no pressure on the thumb joint. +++ Third, for every kind of stitch test the most comfortable stitch direction or angle (to the left, right, upwards=away from you or downwards) which makes sewing not just easier but also quicker. +++ As for backstitches, for normal seams I go back only 1/2 or 2/3 of the stitch length, leaving a gap to the previous stitch. The seams look very neat, like running stitch, with small stitches, and it's less likely that I split a thread (which can happen when I stitch back exactly where the previous stitch ends).
 
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It is very important that you keep your needle sharp.
The "strawberry" sand will clean the lint but I inherited a small Whet Stone about 1 inch by 2 !/2 inches from my Grandma. She would roll the needle along the stone whenever it would get a burr or just dull. A little drop of water is usually sufficient but an actual burr may need a light weight oil, like sewing machine oil, which also cleans and prevents rust as with any tool.  The stone is a smoother surface than sand paper or even emery cloth and can be kept close at hand. A sharp needle will obviously be easier to push through your fabric and break fewer threads.

I also will echo the advice to leave a small gap when back-stitching but it takes practice to keep your stitches even. Of course a thicker fabric will be harder to make multiple stitches at a time. I was told that the reason to wax the thread was to reduce drag while being pulled through the rough cotton fabric or the eye of the needle as well as keep it stronger.

Another tip she gave me was to be aware of the thickness (size) of the thread for the project which changes the size of the needle. Mostly I'm sloppy about that and just use what is at hand but you will be less frustrated if you pay attention to these basics while developing your skills. Keeping a small pair of needle-nose pliers in your sewing box will also be helpful.

Finally, as mentioned above, thimbles come in many styles and sizes too, and you need one that stays in place on your finger by itself. I haven't shopped for these in a very long time and my town no longer has a sewing shop but I am lucky enough to have the sewing boxes from my progenitors with several options from women who never threw anything away. Like everything else the choice will depend on whether it is pushing a needle and needs the little dents or for preventing pricks while holding the fabric and needs to be smooth. The leather is more flexible but won't last as long as it gets pricked.

Hand sewing is very rewarding as are the other fabric, needle, and yarn arts. Like everything else, after you learn the skills you can choose which "rules" to ignore.
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I don't know if its been said said before and im a beginner in historical sewing but I made myself a small cushion where I pin the cloth to keep tension. Then I stack pillows/cushions until the small cushion is at the right height and it's almost vertical.
 
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I don't know if I wrote a reaction here, or only 'liked' some.
Anyway: I do hand sewing (depending on what it is, I have a machine too). But it is too difficult for me to explain it all in English. Or to make photos of me doing it ... And I think most of you did well explaining it here.
 
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When I cut a piece of thread, I hang it from one hand and pinch it lightly with my other thumb and finger and slide down to the end a couple of times. This seems to remove a bit of the twist and reduces the problem. Despite that, I often still have to do so again part way through sewing with it. I think the key is to do so before it becomes a knotted mess.



Oh I was so confused reading about the twisty thread at first, until I got to THIS comment, and realised I do exactly this too, just hadn't thought much about it but likely I do it because of twists in the past (because we all have a few twists in the past, right? ;)

I don't know if it may make sewing easier, but I do not tie a knot in the end of the thread. I sew several tiny stitches instead (inspired by sewing machines back-and-forthing) It seems quicker than knots.
 
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Black, super fine (1500 to 2000 grit) wet/dry sand paper is good for keeping needles sharp.
Sharp needles are easier for my arthritic hands to push through material.
I get my sand paper at ACE hardware.
 
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My mom had a pin cushion shaped like a tomato with a sand filled strawberry for cleaning the points of the pins and needles.  My daughter is doing a lot of sewing and has made a pin cushion, I've been thinking we should attach a little sand bag.  Any advice as to a particular sort of sand to put inside?
 
Phil Swindler
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Julia Winter wrote:My mom had a pin cushion shaped like a tomato with a sand filled strawberry for cleaning the points of the pins and needles.  My daughter is doing a lot of sewing and has made a pin cushion, I've been thinking we should attach a little sand bag.  Any advice as to a particular sort of sand to put inside?



This is the science teacher speaking, not a sewing expert.
Given how hard carborundum is, I would think that would be good if you can get it.
 
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Most of my tips would be from Bernadette Banner and Abby Cox videos, but I think one of the biggest from those is using good needles. Abby goes over how important it is to have decent length needles with smooth eyes, i.e. not the kind you'll find at Joanne's. Needles from England and Japan seem to be of the best quality, and the eyes are larger and smooth, which make them easier to thread. One gal uses embroidery needles for sewing, which are longer than sharps and thus can be easier to handle.

Burnley and Trowbridge is a site with really good thread, including old-fashioned 2-ply. Abby suggests using only strong, smooth silk or linen (the linen always needs to be waxed, but it's generally the only thread that does). I've read/heard that keeping a shorter length of thread, only about one arm's length, makes it easier to handle and less likely to tangle. I'll eventually try not even cutting a length and just sewing straight from the roll, because I'm curious about it and the method I use doesn't require knotting the thread, it's just a single layer rather than doubled.

A recent video I watched (from Bernadette Banner, her newer "I sewed a pirate shirt" one) mentions that before the Victorian era, the stitches weren't as small or neat, because their attitude was more "get the job done" than "make it pretty", and since I'm hoping to one day sew a full wardrobe for myself I think I'll follow the 1800's example instead of the Victorian, because I know I won't have patience for 2mm back stitches, haha. Just a reminder that Victorian manuals are probably going to be really strict about stitch sizes, when it's not actually necessary.
 
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Greetings!

Just spotted this whilst catching up on the daily-ish emails - belatedly.  My sewing experience is entirely
practical, usually non-clothing, and often on a small live-aboard sailboat.  Swallowed the anchor now,
and live ashore.

The single most useful non-needle tool for this is the "Palm" - a captive thimble/glove combination.

This is essential if one needs to drive a needle through six layers of heavy sail cloth - not unusual, and
it makes sewing lighter materials much easier, especially for arthritic hands like mine.

On Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thimble#Sewing_palm
DiY approach: https://www.instructables.com/id/Sailmakers-Palm-how-to-make-one./
Commercial one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oshp1sj4Yuc

Palm Anecdote:
Back in the late 90s I was interviewing crew for our home-built Wharram catamaran to cross Biscay
and head South to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.  A quiet teenager applied, and when asked
what Biscay experience he had had, he replied "Twelve years since my first trip as crew".

He and his father had had a legendary Biscay crossing in their Wharram cat when he was five.  
Signed him on as crew, pronto!  Never regretted it.

He then spent all his spare time aboard  repairing and upgrading
everything that he could, as we voyaged South over the coming fortnight.
Much of that was sewing.... Sewing anti-chafe leathers onto our sails,
and so much more -  beautifully done too.  

Not possible without a Palm, imho.  Leather and a wodge of sailcloth!

My own sewing is never beautiful, just practical - and as my joints fail,
I need a Palm for most things I sew. It really makes a difference.

HTH.




 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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After I watched some videos on hand-sewing youtube suggested this one to me. For the experienced hand-sewing person it's nothing new. The calm way it's filmed made it nice (to me) to watch it.


 
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r ranson wrote:another clamp: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/115198381/kakehari-japanese-third-hand-clamp-and?ref=shop_home_feat_1



Cool! That's what that thing is! You solved a mystery for me. One of these was among the junk treasure left in the house we bought.

It's tied to an unfolding stand thing. I thought it was a clothes pin and was confused as to why it was tied to this stand. Thank you!
DSC_5174.JPG
sewing clamp
sewing clamp
DSC_5176.JPG
sewing clamp folded stand
sewing clamp folded stand
DSC_5175.JPG
sewing clamp unfolded stand
sewing clamp unfolded stand
 
r ranson
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can I "stay stitch" by hand?  
 
Cindy Haskin
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Of course you can stay stitch by hand. I do it often in hand stitching.
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