Learn to love hand sewing

One of my resolutions to reduce my environmental impact is to develop my sewing skills (to extend the life of my clothes and make a few things I need to replace disposable options). Thanks to a special delivery, I am now the caretaker of my grandma’s sewing machine, but I am going to need some practice before I get any of my clothes close to the machine. Finding the right settings is much harder without a teacher that knows well the machine, the fabric, and the thread.

First round of machine sewing practice: two drawstring bags I made out of an old pillowcase. Thanks to the zero waste chef for the idea!

In the mean time, I am learning how to enjoy hand sewing. The life of quite a lot of clothes can already be extended with a needle and some thread. I’ve been fixing holes and sewing buttons before, but one thing I really needed to get into was hemming trousers. Is it just me or are trousers always too long? Ok maybe I have short legs, but 100% of my trousers are too long when I buy then, so either I fold them, which doesn’t look to good, or I let them long and the bottom gets damaged. I used to not be bothered, but if I have to make a few clothes last for years, they might as well fit me properly.

How I hemmed my favourite jeans

There are already a million tutorials on how to hem a jean and I am not even sure this is close to the best way of doing it, but I wanted to show that it is easy to do even without any sewing skills (and I want to remember how I did it).


A few pins, thread, a needle (and a touch of patience).


Use the pins to mark the desired length. Make sure it doesn’t get too short when you sit down. Cut the excess, keeping about 2 cm below the mark. Turn the pants inside out and iron the hem in place.


I’m always struggling to make the knot on the thread big enough (it looks so easy when my grandma works her magic). I think that is one of the things that has put me off from doing more sewing: by the time I have a satisfactory knot I am fed up already. But I found a trick! I do one stitch, then a second one in the same spot and pass the needle through the loop of the second stitch. Kind of in the same way you would do to finish the work. For security, I take the end of the thread in the first few stitches, but I am not sure it is necessary.


Version 2

Take a only a few threads from the fabric so that the needle don’t go all the way to the outside and then take the needle through the hem. The easiest way to understand is probably to look at this video (in French :S). I did a knot every 2-3 cm not to have to redo all if part of the thread breaks.


Make a knot by getting the needle through the loop of the last stitch.

The whole thing took me about 40 min, but in front of a movie or better with a radio pod cast, I find it rather relaxing. And with experience it should take less time.


I also tried this method with a lighter fabric. Since it was fraying a lot I folded the end of the fabric inside. It also took a bit longer since it was harder to take few enough threads to stay on the inner side of the fabric, but other wise it was pretty much the same. Both pants are much more conformable now.

Version 2


If sewing is really not your thing, you can always bring your jeans to your local seamstress. I am not sure how much a hem cost, but a few years back I brought my favourite coat for some serious fixing and it was much cheaper than what I would have expected.


7 thoughts on “Learn to love hand sewing”

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