Hand stitches are some of the first things we learn as sewists, but once we graduate to sewing machines, it can be easy to forget our roots. Whether you’re looking to refresh your own hand sewing skills, or introducing a new sewist to the hobby, check out these 12 projects that are perfect for a needle and thread.
1. Embroidered Wall Art
Embroidery is one of the best ways to practise your hand sewing. There’s no need to worry that your seams won’t hold up to wear, and it gives you an excellent chance to practise a wide variety of stitches. If you’re new to embroidery, you may want to start with a kit. These come with everything you need to get started, from all the appropriate floss colours to a carefully marked up length of fabric that shows you what kinds of stitches go where. When you’ve gotten a few projects under your belt, try your new skills on wearable projects!
2. Clothes Mending
There’s always something that needs mending, from too-long trousers that could use a new hem to blue jeans that need a bit of patching. All of these little projects are great for working on your hand sewing skills. For hems, check out the blind hem stitch to set your skirts and trousers to just the right length without revealing your stitches. Patches can be a design statement with reverse applique—use colourful patterned fabric stitched in from the reverse to mend the worn spots.
3. Hand Quilting
Don’t be intimidated by the thought of sewing an entire quilt by hand! If you’re just getting started in hand quilting, think small. Start by quilting placemats or potholders before graduating to larger projects. Ask after local quilters’ circles to find guidance and mentors.
4. Microwaveable Pocket Warmers
These great little projects are easy to whip up even for beginning sewists. Stitch and turn palm-sized pockets and fill them with uncooked rice or flax seed. Use ladder stitch to close the gap invisibly, and your pocket warmers are ready to keep fingers toasty in the bitterest weather. For a kid-friendly version, use felt to make the pockets. Since the raw edges needn’t be finished, your young sewist won’t even need to turn the pockets after stitching.
5. Throw Pillows
Give your space a bit of a pick-me-up and practise your hand sewing at the same time. Start from scratch and create pillows to be stuffed and stitched, or make pillowcases instead to cover the pillows you’ve already got on hand. Be sure to measure and cut carefully when making pillowcases. Just as when stitching by machine, seam allowances are still crucial to include in projects where fit is important.
6. Handmade Handkerchief
This is a simple project that gives you a chance to practise delicate stitching, plus something a little fancier if you so desire. Traditionally, men’s handkerchiefs measure 12 inches on a side, while ladies are slightly smaller at 8 inches square. Of course, you can make them any size you like! This tiny project is also a great excuse to spend a bit extra for some fancy material. A silk handkerchief with a hand-made rolled hem and a simple embroidered monogram? What a perfect gift!
7. Cloth Napkin Sets
Another simple and practical project, cloth napkins offer a great opportunity to practise mitred corners. Use material made from natural fibres, like cotton or linen, as these are more absorbent. If you’re worried about stains, try a fabric with a blend of natural and synthetic fibres—these often have more stain resistance.
8. Mug Rugs
These double-layered coasters not only prevent moisture rings on your furniture, they help keep your mug of tea or coffee toasty! In essence, they’re tiny quilts, so you can use them to practise some of the same techniques, from using bias tape to bind the edges to piecing your top layer to simple quilting. Try making them in a variety of shapes and sizes to see how different effects turn out.
This classic project is also a great way to get rid of little scraps of fabric and embellishments you’ve been holding on to. Choose a simple shape—squares and rectangles are common, but hearts are also a traditional choice— and cut out a front and back for your sachet. Use a soft woven fabric, preferably undyed so there’s no chance of transferring colour to the linens or clothes your sachet is stored with. If you want, you can embellish your sachet before assembling it. Embroidery, lace, and appliques are all excellent techniques. If your sachet is being stored with sentimental items, like baby blankets or wedding clothes, consider embroidering the names and dates for posterity. Stitch and turn your sachet, remembering to clip curves and corners, then fill with your favourite scent—cedar shavings, rose petals, and lavender blossoms are all great choices.
10. Quiet Books
Not only are these great projects for working on your sewing skills, they’re wonderful gifts for children or expecting parents. Felt pages stitched with buttons, toggles, ribbons, and other sensory details give little ones plenty of fun things to play with. Make sure that everything is securely attached; loose buttons can be choking hazards.
A sewist can never have too many pincushions! One for beside your sewing machine, one tucked in your mending basket, even one on an elastic band to wear on your wrist (very handy when you’re fitting clothes!). Pincushions are tiny, densely stuffed pillows, and are great projects for hand-sewing. Stuff your cushions with natural wool, which packs much more densely than poly fibres, or opt for a bit of steel wool, which helps sharpen your pins each time you stick them in.
12. Fabric Embellishments
The internet is filled with ideas for fabric bows and flowers, and all of them are great for making by hand! Use up scraps of fabric to create soft, blooming flowers and add them to a headband, or create appliques to stitch to pillows, blankets, and more. Let your imagination run wild!