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hand sewing
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shannon stoney
hand sewing on 01/10/2006 13:30:19 MST Print View

My zigzag machine is broken, and my antique treadle machine is too heavy to take with me when I go to Houston on Sunday. I am thinking I might make some gear by hand while I'm there. Is there anything wrong with that? Like, what if you sewed the seams on a tarp by hand and then sealed them? The stitches might not be as small and close together as a machine-stitched seam, but if you seal it, who cares? Right?

And about that backpack kit that Ray sells: would it be possible to make that without a machine?

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: hand sewing on 01/10/2006 15:12:23 MST Print View

I thnk it says on the Ray Way site that someone hand stiched a quilt, it took them a while, but you could do the same with the backpack.

Ben Thompson
(studiofluid) - F
Re: Hand Sewing on 01/10/2006 17:24:10 MST Print View

Hi Shannon,
A sewing machine creates a stitch that is a bit more complicated, and robust , than a basic hand-stitch.

AYCE at thru-hiker has a nice tutorial about how to replicate the lock-stitch by hand, for potential repairs on the trail.

Your project sounds possible (and tedius!), but I think I'd pass, and take along a good book or two.

I know what you mean about wanting to get started on a project... making gear can be addictive! Have fun.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: hand sewing on 01/10/2006 17:29:33 MST Print View

Anything you can do with a sewing machine, you can do as well with a simple needle. Just check around on stitches. The main thing is keeping seams straight, so use lots of pins and even a good marker. Depending on your fabric and color, you can use chalk, tailor's chalk, or a Sharpie. The Sharpie will wash off with alcohol.

With a little practice you will find that you can do things with a needle that are impossible with a machine... especially close work where several seams come together.

And your seams will be stronger than with machine stitching. Machine stitches bend the top thread around a loop of bottom thread. That cuts the thread's strength IN HALF! Hand stitches keep the thread straighter with no kinks, so the same thread is TWICE AS STRONG compared to machine stitching.

Advice: Don't ever use a stitching awl. The needles are too big, the thread is too coarse, tension is impossible to get right.

Learn a few simple stitches with a single needle. And like Grandmother, run your thumbnail down the seam as you complete several stitches to settle the stitches. The most useful hand stitchs are the 'back-stitch' (or 'lock-stitch'), the 'whip stitch' and the simple in-and-out 'running stitch'. Look for these in any sewing book. The running stitch is really good for long seams because you can keep them straight and the first run of stitching is almost like basting; it holds the pieces together. If it doesn't look right, you can pull it out easily and try again. When it looks right, go over it again, stitching through the same holes but with the thread going in the opposite direction. That gives a solid stitch line and tends to lock the thread. If your stitch length is regular, it will look like machine work.

Uniform stitch length is the main thing that separates the experts from novices, but don't sweat it. Most manufacturers use long stitches because they are stronger. You will find professional stitch lengths ranging from 6 to 16 to the inch. Most do-it-yourselfers use short stitcher because they incorrectly think it is stronger and they don't know how to feed slick fabric smoothly. If you keep your stitches at 8 to 12 to the inch, they will work fine.

Hand stitching may be a little slower than a machine, but you can do it anywhere. I have rebuilt backpacks for people on long trails who found their whoopee-do packs were killing their backs - using nothing but the needles I carry and dental floss.

shannon stoney
hand sewing on 01/10/2006 18:50:56 MST Print View

This is encouraging. I enjoy hand sewing and I do it a lot in fact, on regular clothes, but never before on fabrics like rip stop nylon.

The idea of going back over the seam in the opposite direction seems like a good one.

I have never used an awl and I don't have one. That would seem quite tedious, to poke the holes before stitching them.

I was wondering what to do, say, when stitching through several layers of fabric and foam on things like backpack straps. Maybe I just need a longer, bigger needle for that?

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: hand sewing on 01/10/2006 19:43:39 MST Print View

Yeah, at least a longer needle. If you don't want the holes to get too big, us a doll-maker's needle - long and thin. There are dozens of needle designs for special situations. Those kits of 'heavy duty' curved and leather needles are sometimes useful, but they are usualy too big for most jobs - even pack straps.

By the way, its way easier to hand sew pack straps than to work thick foam under a home sewing machine. (A good reason for using thin foam) And if you are making a polyester quilt, you won't have to worry about fibers of 3D snagging on every available place on the sewing machine.

Just put on some good music, get a cuppa, put your feet up, and start stitching.

Edited by vickrhines on 01/10/2006 19:47:29 MST.