Sewing by hand



By Caitlin Kelly

When was the last time you sewed anything by hand?

It’s now considered such a retro idea. Get new clothes! Take them to the dry cleaner for repairs!

Do you even own a sewing box, filled with needles and pins and a rainbow of spools of thread?





When I was at boarding school, we each had a two-tier sewing basket. I loved it and the sense of always being ready, that it gave me. We learned only a few stitches but I’ve never needed more, and have made tablecloths and pillows without a machine using these simple stitches.

I admit, embarrassedly, I don’t know how to knit or crochet or embroider, all arts I truly admire. So this, for now, is the extent of my skill.





Instead of being attached to yet another screen, touching more plastic and metal, there’s the softness of linen or cotton or silk.  The endless challenge of threading that damn needle!

As someone always curious about pre-industrial life, I love how this simple action repeats one made over millennia and across every geographic boundary.

I find it meditative and soothing and love making little repairs or making small sachets filled with dried lavender out of vintage textile scraps, tucking them between ironed pillowcases in the linen closet or thrown into our suitcases when we travel.

I also have some lovely antique buttons, with no official use (yet!)

Here’s a pillow cover I recently made from some flea market white linen and a great 30s bit of cutwork I found in a Paris flea market that someone dyed indigo.



8 thoughts on “Sewing by hand

  1. carolyn

    I sew, quilt, knit and crochet and I can’t tell you the peace that simple handwork brings me. I love the feel of yarn or fabric running through my hands or under my machine needle. It saved my sanity when my children were young, was my therapy when they were in their teens (my most productive years!) and now is a way to relax and distract myself from chronic pain. I’m not sure what I would do without handwork of some sort…if I’m not sewing, knitting or crocheting, I’m reading, my other indulgence!

  2. I have a box that I love, filled with buttons and threads, and ribbons and needles. that being said, I only really do repairs or small alterations on pieces. i sewed when I was in middle school, and tried to make a few things when my daughters were young, though I rarely create anything with needle and thread these days. I do love the process, the creation of something new, the beautiful fabrics that can be involved, and the calming feel of it all. you’ve inspired me to try making something for my house again.

  3. Hi Caitlin,
    Amazing that I happened upon your blog on my Auntie’s birthday (August 17th).
    She was one talented seamstress in her day!
    Sewing anything for everyone, but mainly bridal gowns or other fashions.
    Need I say more?

    Growing up, my Auntie tried to teach my sister & I how to sew one summer.
    My sister took to it somewhat, but me, I was a tomboy and could barely sit inside long enough to learn to sew a decent pillowcase.
    The sewing machine intimidated me. In some cases, even today, it still does.

    Which is how I came about sewing mainly everything by hand. I don’t do it that often or that extensively, but whenever there’s a repair to be made I stitch by hand.

    I’ve gotten better with the sewing machine, but somehow usually default back to hand stitching. I can really appreciate this blog, as I sew a lot by hand when traveling or at home. And yes, I too have a round, tin sewing kit, filled with all my pins, needles & threads, ready to take on almost any repair thrown my way!

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