Today, most sewing tutorials start with something along the lines of "get your your trusty sewing machine." But for the greater portion of human history, if something was going to be sewn, it was stitched up by hand. There's a misconception that hand-sewn items are of lower quality, weaker and less shapely than machine-sewn pieces. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, hand sewing has some distinct advantages over its machine-driven counterpart. Check out these 13 benefits to stitching your next project by hand.
1. Improves Coordination
Sewing by hand requires both your fingers and your brain, and, more importantly, it requires the two to work together. This kind of fine-motor control can help young children practise and hone their developing skills, and also keep elderly minds and bodies healthy for longer, warding off dementia and keeping fingers nimble.
2. Better Control
You're stitching away at your machine and suddenly you hear the dreaded crunch of something decidedly un-fabric-like under your needle. You've run over a pin you forgot to remove. Want to avoid ever doing it again? Take up hand sewing! You never have to worry about changing your settings, adjusting your attachments, or endlessly tweaking the thread tension. Hand sewing allows for more graceful gathers, flawless corners, and the exquisite details that set your work apart from the mass-produced stuff.
3. Highly Portable
All you need is your needle and thread, fabric, and scissors and you're in business! Whether it's fixing a fallen hem at work or patching up a button on a playdate, there's no need to haul out your heavy machine for a quick and easy fix.
4. Better for Delicate Fabrics
Some fabrics are just better sewn by hand. If they're prone to stretching or warping, excessive fraying or bunching, it's probably a good idea to spare yourself the hassle of wrestling your sewing machine into submission and stitching the fabric by hand. Likely, you'll get a better end result than you would from your machine anyway!
5. Preserves Vintage Techniques
Gorgeous Victorian gowns, homespun Renaissance skirts, and delicate, vintage embroidered handkerchiefs all have something in common—hand sewing. If you're interested in historical costuming, either as inspiration for modern works, or for historical recreations, you'll have to brush up on your hand sewing techniques.
You could get started in sewing by purchasing a sewing machine, a sturdy table to set it on, extra bobbins and bobbin storage, machine needles, and all the bits and bobs necessary to keep your machine running well. Or you could grab a pack of needles, a pair of scissors, and some thread, and get started! You'll also save on the repairs and maintenance that sewing machines require to be kept in good repair, which, depending on the brand you purchase, can be quite pricey.
Did you know sewing has been shown to lower your heart rate and blood pressure? Since it requires both mind and body, working in harmony, it's easy to lose yourself in the work and forget about the stresses of your day.
Sewing may be relaxing, but the noise of your sewing machine certainly isn't! With hand sewing, you can keep working even if you want to avoid disturbing others, or take your sewing onto the patio to enjoy the sounds of nature, or even listen to audiobooks or music while you work.
Whether you want a fancy feather stitch, a blind hem, or a simple straight stitch, hand sewing can handle it. You can work heavy leather and fine silk, switch from slippery satin to sticky vinyl all with only tiny adjustments to your needle and thread. With a sewing machine, you'd have to switch out the foot, readjust your settings, and hope that your machine's embroidery features have something that matches your vision for your project.
Ever sat down at your machine to start a new project and realised you were out of new needles? Or, even worse, ever had your machine break down right in the middle of something you just wanted to finish? It's much less likely to happen with hand sewing. Fewer variables means it's a more reliable process. With that in mind, however, it is important to use comfortable, ergonomically correct furniture while you're sewing, andt to take regular breaks to keep from stressing your hands, arms, neck, and back.
11. More Social
Have you ever heard of a sewing bee? They're not as common as they used to be, but these sewing groups were as much a social occasion as they were a chance to get some stitching done. Machine sewing classes are nice, but tend to be more isolating, as each sewist practises with his or her own machine and the noise makes conversation difficult. See if there's a sewing circle near you, or, if you're feeling bold, start your own!
12. Endless "Features"
Sewing machines today seem to come with all kinds of bells and whistles. Some are designed to stitch heavy material, while others are best for straight-line quilting, and still others are geared toward clothing construction. With hand sewing, you can do all this and so much more! You're limited only by your curiosity and imagination. There are lots of ways to discover new hand sewing techniques, from embroidery tutorials to haute couture sewing classes. Check with your local sewing supply shops for classes or private lessons if you want to learn more!
13. Slower than Machine Stitching
"Wait a minute," you say. "How is slower a benefit?" True, in some cases, it isn't. But in a busy, overscheduled world, sometimes it's nice to take a minute, slow down, and really focus on what you're doing. Many sewists find they make fewer mistakes when hand sewing, since you can easily stop and readjust as you go.