Hand and Machine Stitches & Why They Are Important

In the realm of sewing, while sewing machines have become ubiquitous, there remains a realm of tasks where hand stitching not only stands out but is also revered for its artistic flair. Hand stitches bring a unique decorative touch to projects, particularly excelling in intricate and challenging areas. They offer a finesse that elevates sewing beyond mere functionality to the realm of artistic expression.

At the core of sewing lies the fundamental act of joining two pieces of fabric, accomplished through two distinct techniques: hand stitching and machine stitching. Hand stitches, crafted painstakingly by the human hand and needle, bear the hallmark of artisanal skill and attention to detail. In contrast, machine stitches, a product of modern innovation, prioritize efficiency and speed. Each method brings its own strengths and limitations. Therefore, discerning when to employ the delicate artistry of hand stitching versus the swift precision of machine sewing is crucial for achieving optimal results in any sewing project.

The Different Type of Hand Stitches

Equipping yourself with a diverse repertoire of hand stitches is a valuable asset for any sewing enthusiast. These stitches empower you to infuse your sewing projects with artistry and finesse, resulting in stunning and embellished creations. In the following narrative, we present an extensive compilation of various hand stitches that every sewing aficionado should acquaint themselves with. Moreover, delving into the realm of fabrics is equally crucial. For a concise introduction to different fabric types, we invite you to peruse our “Beginner’s Guide to Fabrics.”


Basting or Running Stitch:

The basting or running stitch serves as a temporary bond for fabric pieces, either as a prelude to permanent stitching or to create rows of delicate gathers. Later, the thread can be easily removed. This stitch is executed from right to left, with a recommended stitch length and spacing of approximately 6 mm. To craft this stitch, puncture the fabric repeatedly with the needle, guiding the thread through in one continuous, fluid motion.


The backstitch is the go-to choice for creating robust, enduring seams. Commence with a secure knot and a brief initial backstitch. Stitch from right to left, forming stitches that measure around 3 mm in length. Insert the needle first from the front and then from the back of the fabric, pulling the thread through and returning the needle to its starting point at the conclusion of each stitch, ensuring it lays atop the fabric. Move the needle approximately 6 mm to the left, forming a double-length stitch at the back. Repeat this process along the entire seam’s length.


The hemstitch is a technique employed to affix hems discreetly, concealing stitches on the garment’s right side. Work it from right to left. Fold the hem’s edge, previously treated with a zigzag machine stitch to prevent fraying, toward the garment’s interior. Secure the thread on the interior with a few small stitches. Create a minuscule stitch over a few fabric threads, situated roughly 6 mm to the left, just above the folded edge, on the fabric’s wrong side. Ensure the stitch doesn’t penetrate through the fabric entirely. Subsequently, generate the next stitch approximately 6 mm to the left within the folded edge, guiding the needle upwards through the neatly finished edge. Repeat these meticulous stitches along the entire hem’s length.

Fell Stitch:

The fell stitch is ideal for securing hems with unneatened edges that are folded over twice. Similar to the prior stitches, it progresses from right to left. Pull the needle upwards through the fold in the hem’s turned-up edge. Insert the needle approximately 2 mm to the left, traversing over the fabric’s fold, capturing a few fabric threads. Be mindful not to pierce through to the fabric’s exterior, ensuring the sewing thread remains hidden. Draw the needle up, and insert it downward into the folded edge, again 2 mm to the left. Traverse the needle about 6 mm to the left within the fold, re-emerge, and pull the thread through. Continue executing these steps along the hem’s entirety.

Blanket Stitch:

The blanket stitch is primarily employed to reinforce thick materials’ edges, such as blankets, and is also recognized as the “Crochet Stitch” or “Cable Stitch.”

Edge Embellishment:

This versatile stitch lends itself to decorating the borders of items like wool or fleece blankets. It can also be utilized to create thread bars for attaching hooks. The process unfolds from right to left. Commence by anchoring the thread to the fabric and drawing it out just above the edge. Form a loop of thread on the left side. Insert the needle downward, roughly 5 mm from the fabric’s edge, ensuring the needle’s point lies atop the loop of thread to the left. Tug the needle and thread upwards and to the left, intertwining the threads at the fabric’s edge. Repeat this stitch uniformly to maintain consistent stitch size.

Creating Thread Bars:

To produce a thread bar, sew multiple parallel stitches using double thread. Pass the needle under the threads to the opposite side, with the working thread positioned beneath the needle’s point. Apply tension while executing tightly woven blanket stitches to fully cover the bar. Secure the thread’s end when finished.

When to Employ Hand Stitches:

Hand stitches find their utility in handling delicate fabrics like silk or lace, achieving decorative effects such as embroidery, basting or gathering fabric, and situations where a sewing machine is unavailable. These stitches provide superior control and precision, making them well-suited for intricate work or tasks requiring extra care.

The Different Types of Machine Stitches

Familiarizing yourself with the diverse array of machine stitches can greatly enhance your sewing prowess. These stitches not only expedite the sewing process but also contribute to achieving impeccably neat and professional results. Delve into the world of machine stitches with us as we unveil the most prevalent and indispensable types that every sewing enthusiast should be well-acquainted with.


Straight Stitch Mastery

The humble straight stitch, a cornerstone of sewing, is your go-to for all permanent seams. Its versatility shines as you can adjust its length from 0 to 5 mm. Typically, the sweet spot for seams falls between 2 and 3 mm in length.

Basting Stitch: A Handy Helper

On the basting setting, your machine performs a long stitch on top and a short one underneath. This temporary thread makes for easy removal, making it ideal for basting or marking. If your machine lacks this feature, don’t fret; you can always baste by hand. Just remember, basting stitches should nestle snugly within the seam allowance, close to the stitching line.

Zigzag Stitch: The Fray Fighter

Zigzag stitch steps in to save the day, preventing fabric edges from unruly fraying. Its parameters can be adjusted, allowing for various lengths and widths. Widen it, and you’ve got yourself a handy tool for sewing elastic. And for those without a dedicated elastic stitch, fear not; narrow the width (0.3–0.5 mm) of your zigzag, but test it on a sample to ensure it suits your needs. If you’re venturing into buttonhole territory, set the length to 0.25 mm and the width to 1.5–2 mm.

Hemstitch: The Invisible Art

Hemstitching lets you work magic, sewing hems almost invisibly by machine. On the front, only minuscule vertical stitches are visible. Keep in mind that not all sewing machines offer blind hemming, so if necessary, opt for hand-sewn hems.

Embroidery Stitches: Adding Personality

Embroidery stitches often build upon the trusty zigzag base, with occasional forays into straight stitches or creative combinations. They find their niche in children’s wear and ethnic-style clothing. While some machines can handle entire names, extravagant embroidery stitches aren’t standard fare and can impact the price significantly.

So, when do you turn to the power of machine stitches?

Machine stitches shine in several scenarios:

  • When tackling a large quantity of fabric swiftly.
  • When aiming for immaculate, even seams.
  • When seeking efficiency in finishing edges.
  • When indulging in creative flair with decorative stitches like zigzag or buttonholes.

Unleash the potential of these machine stitches to elevate your sewing projects to new heights. Your sewing machine is a versatile tool, waiting to transform your ideas into stitched realities.

Enhancing Craftsmanship: The Artful Fusion of Hand and Machine Stitching

The fusion of hand and machine stitches in sewing is an art form that can yield stunning and one-of-a-kind results. Imagine a quilt meticulously pieced together with the precision of a sewing machine, only to be elevated to a higher plane of beauty through the artistry of hand quilting. This harmonious blend of techniques can be applied in various scenarios, each imbuing your project with a distinct character:

  1. Unleashing Decorative Flourish: The union of hand and machine stitches provides a canvas for the creation of intricate and visually captivating designs. This marriage of techniques allows you to craft masterpieces that catch the eye and stir the soul.
  2. Elevating Detail and Precision: When your sewing project demands intricate detailing that machine stitching alone cannot achieve, the addition of hand stitches becomes indispensable. It’s the hand’s touch that lends that extra level of finesse and precision.
  3. Tailoring to Unique Effects: Some creative visions cannot be brought to life with a single type of stitch. By combining hand and machine stitches, you can tailor your technique to achieve specific, nuanced effects that are otherwise unattainable.

Guidelines for Seamstress Success

Regardless of whether you choose hand or machine stitches, a few golden rules can help ensure your stitches are nothing short of impeccable:

  1. Right Tools, Right Materials: Select the appropriate needle and thread that match the fabric you’re working with. This choice lays the foundation for successful stitching.
  2. Embrace the Art of Practice: Before embarking on your project, devote time to practice on a spare piece of fabric. Mastery is born from repetition and learning from your own craftsmanship.
  3. Hand Sewing Elegance: When working with hand stitches, protect your fingers with a thimble. It’s a small accessory that can save you from discomfort and elevate your precision.
  4. Consistency is Key: Whether you’re stitching by hand or machine, strive for even and uniform stitches. A seamless finish is the hallmark of a skilled seamstress.
  5. Machine Maintenance Matters: For machine stitching, regular cleaning and lubrication ensure smooth operation and longevity.

In Conclusion

Understanding when to employ hand stitches versus machine stitches is the cornerstone of achieving excellence in your sewing endeavors. Hand stitches shine when delicate fabrics and decorative intricacies are at play, while machine stitches offer efficiency and speed. However, it’s the artful fusion of both that can yield the most remarkable results. By adhering to these straightforward tips, you can embark on your sewing projects with the confidence of achieving stitching perfection every time.


What is the difference between hand stitches and machine stitches?

Hand stitches are created with a needle and thread, while machine stitches are created with a sewing machine.

When should I use hand stitches?

Hand stitches are often used for delicate fabrics or decorative effects.

When should I use machine stitches?

Machine stitches are often used for faster and more efficient sewing.

Can I combine hand and machine stitches?

Yes, combining hand and machine stitches can create a unique and beautiful effect.

What are some tips for successful stitches?

Use the correct needle and thread, practice on a scrap piece of fabric, keep your stitches even and consistent, and clean and oil your sewing machine regularly.


Hannah Nelson

Hi, there! I am Hannah Nelson, your host on this website. I started this blog to teach my lovely readers how to master the art of sewing effortlessly and how to turn this hobby into an income generating business.

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