How to Sew

Three Methods:Getting the Basics DownSewing Your First Straight StitchMastering Other Stitches

Even though people have been sewing since Paleolithic times[1] it can still seem like a daunting task to figure out how to use a thread and needle without some guidance. Because it's impossible for a single article to address such a broad topic, these instructions are geared towards the complete beginner wanting to do some basic sewing by hand.

Method 1
Getting the Basics Down

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    Iron or pre-wash your fabric. If your fabric is prone to shrinking, you'll be thankful you did. Do this well before you start sewing -- the fabric needs to be completely dry.
    • Follow the washing instructions for that specific fabric. Whether it's machine wash, hand wash, or hang dry, the instructions should be followed.
    • If you throw your fabric in the dryer and it comes out a little wrinkly, iron it. It'll be much easier to work with when you're sewing.
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    Thread the needle. When it comes to thread, more is better. Aim for cutting twice as much thread as you think you'll actually need. Taking one end of the thread between your thumb and forefinger, insert it through the eye of the needle. Then, bring the needle to the halfway point by bringing both ends of the thread together. Once there, secure the ends in a knot.
    • Cutting the thread with sharp scissors and licking the end can make it easier to guide through the eye of the needle. If you can't do it, your thread may be too thick or your needle too small.

Method 2
Sewing Your First Straight Stitch

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    Pierce the needle through the wrong side of the fabric. That is, pierce it through the side that people won't be seeing. Pull it out and through (you may need a bit of force), followed by the thread, all the way until it's stopped by the knot. If your knot goes through, simply make a bigger one.
    • The reason you start on the wrong side is so that this knot doesn't end up on the right side (the visible part) of a garment or fabric.
    • If the knot slips right through the fabric, there might be a few reasons for this:
      • You might need to make a bigger knot
      • Your needle might be too big, creating a hole in the fabric that's the same size or bigger than the knot, allowing the knot to pass through
      • You might be yanking the thread too hard when the knot meets the fabric
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    Pierce the needle through the right side of the fabric. Close to where you pierced your material initially, push the needle back through to the wrong side. Pull the entire length of thread and keep pulling until you feel resistance. You just made your first stitch on the right side! Congratulations! It looks like a little hyphen, right?
    • The stitch should be tight enough to lay flat on the fabric, but not so tight that it makes the fabric bunch underneath it.
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    Repeat the previous two steps. Always keeping close to your last stitch, pierce through the wrong side again. Pull all the thread out and voila -- your second stitch. Continue doing this, making sure each stitch is the same length as the one before.
    • Generally, the stitches should be in a straight line, like a less computerized version of this:
      - - - - - -
      • This stitch, with the wide intervals between each bit of thread, is called the basting stitch. This is generally used to hold fabrics together or to gather pieces of fabric.
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    End by piercing the right side. You're finished! The needle and thread should now be on the wrong side, where you can finish 'er off with another knot. Get it as close to your material as possible -- otherwise your stitches will move around and stretch out.
    • There is an alternative, however. You could push the needle to the correct side, but leave it loose. You want a loop on the wrong side. Then, put the needle through to the wrong side again, once more close to the piercing you just made. Pull it tight so there's no loop on that side, but keeping the original loop intact. Now, pass the needle through the loop and tighten all the way, undoing the loop. The loop serves to secure the thread to the fabric. Pass it through twice for good measure.

Method 3
Mastering Other Stitches

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    Practice a closer stitch. The basting stitch, as described above, is good for a start. However, the bigger the stitches, the more likely it is to tear or come out.
    • The basting stitch has a long stitch length -- sturdier stitches have medium or short stitch lengths. When piercing through the right side to the wrong side of your fabric, the next pierce should be as close to the former stitch as possible.
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    Start zig-zag stitching. This is a stitch that goes back and forth and is used when a straight stitch just won't do, like to reinforce buttonholes or in working with stretchable fabrics. It can also be used to temporarily join two pieces together at their edges. It looks just like a zigzag (hence the name) and comes in short, medium, and long stitch lengths, too.
    • A blind stitch is a variant of the zigzag stitch. It is also called a "blind hem." It is very similar to the zig-zag stitch, but it includes several straight, run-of-the-mill stitches. It's used to create an invisible hem; this is accomplished because only the zig-zags make it through to the right side of the material. With a reduced number comes reduced visibility.[2]
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    Sew two pieces of fabric together. If you're upgrading to this step, put your fabric together so that their wrong sides face outwards (and their right sides are together). Line up the edges along which you want to join them. Sew in a line that follows the edges.
    • Once you're done, pull the pieces apart. They'll be held together at the seam you just sewed, but the thread will be barely visible. A better way to do this, however, is by slip stitching.
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    Patch a hole. Sewing a rip or tear isn't too difficult. Just pinch the edges of the hole together, towards the inside (the wrong side). Sew the edges together in a seam. Use a short stitch length (no space between the stitches) to keep it from breaking open.


  • Wet the tip of the thread with your mouth for easier movement through the needle hole.
  • If you are a beginner, you should use thread that is pretty close to the fabrics color, but not the same so that you can see what you are doing and can unthread if you need to.
  • Try to make the thread match the fabric so that it is less visible if you make any mistakes.


  • Accidents can happen. Use a thimble, you don't want to get poked!

Things You'll Need

  • Needles
  • Scissors
  • Pincushion and pins
  • Thimble
  • Thread
  • Fabric

Article Info

Categories: Sewing Skills