Handsewing 101: Why Handsew Garments? + Choosing Fabric and Needles

Welcome to Hand-sewing 101 this week on the blog! This is the first post in this series where I will be discussing how to sew beautiful handmade garments and projects by hand-sewing. No sewing machine needed.

If you don’t already know I’m starting a business that will be teaching you how to hand sew with my hand-sewing kits and it launches next week on September 22nd!! Be sure to follow Thimble & Snip on Instagram for more details! To get you psyched about the hand-sewing fun I wanted to put together a series of blog posts sharing information on how you can be prepared to hand-sew garments from start to finish on your own! A couple of disclaimers: #1 I do not claim to be an expert on the topics discussed, however I have researched the information provided to make sure it is accurate and true to fact. Some of it is also based off of my own experiences as well. #2, “handsewing” is correctly spelled with a “-” however since I use the term so much and because I feel it should be one word you will see the correct spelling interchanged between these blog posts. Now, onto the post!

WHY HAND-SEW GARMENTS?

The very thought of hand-sewing an entire garment may be intimidating to many, and I will say it terrified me at first to even consider. However the reason I began this venture was because I was frustrated with not being able to take the art of sewing with me physically when I travel, being limited to a large and bulky sewing machine. I also wanted to just relax in my hobby occasionally instead of needing to always be at the sewing table.

I’ve recently started to manifest a simpler lifestyle and I have no regrets at all at in how it’s been helping me learn patience, take my time, and really pay attention to the details in life. Handsewing has definitely been a factor in that as it allows me to really form a relationship with a garment instead of creating just to wear.

As you read the following information, and the posts that will be coming in the following days, I hope you are able to get excited for handsewing and learn to find solace in the slowness of life. Let’s get into the good stuff now!!

UNDERSTANDING THE WEIGHT OF FABRIC

Choosing fabric when hand-sewing is important as it determines how a project will drape and the ease of sewing. When determining the fabric for a hand-sewing project, you’ll want to lean towards a light to medium weight fabric that has a good weave or interlocking of the fibers. Having fabrics like these can also be helpful in attaining neater stitches because you have the weave of the fabric to follow as a straight guide when sewing. No marking lines necessary. You also want to avoid very tightly woven fabric that will make your needle difficult to pierce through and cause occasional snags or holes. The tighter the weave of your fabric, the smaller you’ll want your needle to be so it can slide through easily.

Heavyweight fabric such as wool is easier sewn when you have the help of a dress form to pin the pieces to or a good area to lay your work on that gives you adequate space as the bulkiness can cause frustration to maneuver. Also fabrics like wool do not have a directly visible weave to them so marking them lightly with chalk or pinning sections can help you in sewing straight and keeping your work together.

Now that you know the best fabrics to choose when handsewing, what about needles?

CHOOSING NEEDLE SIZE AND TYPE

The most commonly used needles for general hand-sewing are sharps which are thin, sharp pointed general purpose needles that come in various sizes, generally 3/9 or 5/10 assortments or individual sizes. When choosing sizing for needles, the larger the number, the smaller the physical size of the needle , which is important to note when choosing needles that come in only one size. Needles use a “/” instead of a “-” when it comes to size ranges. Sharps come in sizes 1/12 with a round eye, providing extra strength as it pulls the thread through a garment.

Many think that the thicker the fabric the thicker the needle should be to correspond with its strength. This is  not necessarily true. When hand-sewing it’s important to think smarter and not harder and shoving a thick needle through thick fabric is not always smarter. There are occasions when using a large needle and a pair of pliers to pull the needle out may be best but using a strong smaller sized needle or a long thin needle for thick layered or heavier fabrics saves you the pain and headaches. Sharps are thinner needles in construction and make for going through thicker fabrics easier. When working with thicker fabrics, pull the needle in and out for your stitch and don’t “run it” through the fabric all at once. This will result in more accurate stitches and will help you to avoid breaking the needle. Also do not be opposed to using a thimble to help push the needle in and out of the fabric. You’ll know your fabric is too thick for a needle if it is very difficult to pierce the fabric with the needle or if you feel the needle start to get stuck in fabric. This is fine when using leather or other upholstery textiles along with pliers at times, but when sewing with  garment textiles like cotton etc you want an easy entrance into the fabric to give less pressure on your hand and wrist.

Quilting/Between Needles are similar to sharps in how sharp their needle point is, however they are shorter with a smaller eye allowing for small, quick stitches. You can definitely interchange these needles with Sharps for projects that require more precise stitching, patching or sewing in tight small corners of a project.

Self threading needles are an option to keep in mind for those who have poor eyesight or hand coordination when threading. These needles have a beveled top above the eye of the needle where the thread can be inserted and stay in while stitching. I prefer needles that require threading, and if you are the same but still have poor eyesight you can always opt for a needle threader.

Some of my favorite needle brands are John James and Bohin because the needles are sturdy and last a long time. You can test the quality of a hand needle by simply bending it. Strong quality needles will not bend easily.  Some other brands that have hand needles are Dritz, Clover, Singer and Tulip. Quality will vary but for the most part you cant go wrong with any of the previously mentioned brands. There are many types of needles for various projects but the above are what I find especially helpful when working with garment sewing, quilting or other small handsewing projects that are done using natural fibers.


Another framework behind hand-sewing garments is choosing thread that corresponds to your garment and/or fabric. Now that you understand how weight of fabric and size of needle affect your garment quality, tomorrow let’s talk about thread options.

Thanks for reading,

Enjoying this information? Comment on and like this post below to share your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “Handsewing 101: Why Handsew Garments? + Choosing Fabric and Needles

  1. I am really looking forward to this blog series! I sew all my clothes – on a sewing machine – and was starting to toy with the idea to hand-sew a garment, but didn’t really know where to start. Timely! 😊👍

    Liked by 1 person

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