Hand Sewing Level II: Common Stitches & Where to Use Them | Bernadette Banner | Skillshare

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Hand Sewing Level II: Common Stitches & Where to Use Them

teacher avatar Bernadette Banner, Dress Historian & Filmmaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Tools & Materials You'll Need


    • 3.

      A Quick Refresher


    • 4.

      The Herringbone Stitch


    • 5.

      The Blanket Stitch


    • 6.

      The English Stitch


    • 7.

      The Drawing Stitch


    • 8.

      The Pad Stitch


    • 9.



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About This Class

Ready to take your hand sewing to the next level? Join dress historian and YouTube star Bernadette Banner to learn the next set of helpful stitches for your hand sewing journey—all you need is a needle and thread.

Join Bernadette in her studio once again to enjoy step-by-step hand stitching walkthroughs--whether you just need a quick refresher or are ready to learn them for the first time. Drawing from her background as a dress historian, Bernadette employs sewing techniques used for centuries to bring you hands-on demonstrations of useful stitches for mending or sewing garments by hand. By mastering these more specialized stitches, you’ll learn to find the balance between seam strength and time to select the perfect stitch for the job at hand.

Seamsters and sewing machine loyalists alike will learn something from hands-on lessons in how to complete:

  • The Herringbone stitch
  • The Blanket stitch
  • The English stitch
  • The Drawing stitch
  • The Pad stitch

Plus, tips and tricks on using the pad stitch to sculpt your fabric, learning how to identify the strength of each stitch, and understanding where where best to employ them.

Whatever your sewing goals may be, by the end of this class you’ll have the tools, knowledge and confidence to hand sew like a pro! 


This is a class for all levels, especially beginner seamsters. To follow along, you’ll need some basic sewing supplies: a needle, sewing thread, scissors and practice fabric.

Meet Your Teacher

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Bernadette Banner

Dress Historian & Filmmaker


Bernadette Banner is a filmmaker and dress historian, best known for her YouTube channel documenting the exploration, reconstruction and interpretation of historical dress. Her work focuses on English and American dress predating the widespread use of the electric sewing machine, with a particular focus in the years of dress between 1890 - 1914; all reconstruction work is done by hand or with the use of period authentic machinery.

In addition to rediscovering the methods by which clothes were made in the past, the Bernadette Banner YouTube channel seeks to explore how we in the 21st century can learn from and adopt historical sewing techniques and attitudes towards dress in an effort to fight the effects of fast fashion and mass manufacture.

After some years working on cos... See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to this level to class on the fundamentals of hand stitching. My name is Bernadette Banner and my job involves the study and recreation of historical pre 19th century garments. Throughout my adventures, I picked up on a number of hand sewing techniques that have been used for centuries before the invention of the sewing machine. Techniques that have been used for thousands of years, been used to craft garments that would last for a lifetime. Today I'm here in hopes of teaching some of these techniques and tricks to you and perhaps inspiring you to pick up a Sewing or mending project for yourself. That is the beauty of Hand Sewing, know, sewing machines or electricity needed. All you need is your own hands and a needle and thread it in order to craft entire wearable, durable garments or to make the clothes that you have live on a little bit longer in this class. So we'll learn some more advanced hand stitching techniques beyond just the basic construction all stitches that we learned in part one, the Herringbone stitch, the Blanket stitch, the English Stitch, The Drawing stitch, and the pad stitch, as well as where and when to use each of them. Understanding these stitches will allow you to choose from a wider variety of techniques when working on your own sewing projects, to choose which one might best suit your specific purposes. So if this sounds like something that you'd like to give a go, keep on watching 2. Tools & Materials You'll Need: The beauty of hand sewing is that you really don't need much to get started. All you need is your project or a scrap of fabric, tea towel or a Blanket to practice on a needle and some thread. Keep in mind that anything you stitch on can be unpicked and return to its original state. So feel free to use any piece of cloth for practice. The thickness of your cloth will often determine the size of stitches you'll be able to make. So don't be discouraged if you aren't able to make perfectly tiny stitches. If you're using a thicker cloth, generally smaller stitches make for a stronger seam. But this also comes with a trade-off that smaller stitches make for a more time-consuming seam. All throughout history, stitches have had to weigh the pros and cons of finishing a seam quickly versus capitalizing on strength. So feel free to do the same for your own projects. Here's a hint, seems that don't need to take a lot of strain. Like for example, long skirt seems or hens can often be compromised on strength without affecting the quality of the garment while saving you some precious time. In terms of thread, any thread will do for practice purposes. So don't let a lack of the perfect thread to stop you from starting to so for a garment, it's best to match the weight of your thread to your fabric. You'll want a thicker threads for heavier cloth, otherwise, a thin thread might easily snap. On the contrary, a heavyweight thread used on a very fine cloth will be overwhelming and can cause it to pucker. Historically, threads were commonly made of silk, linen and by the 19th century cotton. All of these, as well as modern synthetic threads, are excellent to use and Hand Sewing. Silk is generally the strongest thread with synthetic threads running a close second, cotton is moderately strong but inexpensive, and any of these can be used in a sewing machine as well. Linen thread, however, it should not be used in a sewing machine to get the full strength of linen thread, each piece should be smoothed over with some beeswax to stop the flux fibers from catching on the fabric and weakening. It's an excellent, sturdy and historically appropriate thread to use for hand sewing, but just requires this little extra step first. In terms of needles, feel free to use whichever size needle feels most comfortable in your hand. Generally, the smaller the needle, the smaller the stitch. So once again, don't be discouraged if you aren't able to achieve perfectly tiny stitches when using a thicker needle for find sewing on thin fabrics, I personally like to use a number ten sharp, but these are on the more extreme small side and might take a bit of getting used to. But anything 4-7 should be on the more standard size. Longer needles will be needed for thicker fabrics and thicker eyes will be needed for heavier threads. So it helps to have a multi-site package that will allow you to choose which one is appropriate for the job. You'll also need something to sniff your threads with some wax if you'll be using linen thread and a thimble for finger protection, especially if you are working with heavy or tightly woven materials. Now that we have everything we need, Let's get started. 3. A Quick Refresher: Before we jump into the fund stuff though, we first need to take a quick minute to make sure we remember the fundamental Stitches. Since these terms, running back and whip stitching will be referenced as components of some of these stitches we're about to learn. These are all demonstrated in more detail in my Sewing Basics class, along with the instructions on starting and stopping the stitch. So feel free to pause and head over there if you need a more in-depth refresher on bees, they're running stitches. You're a straightforward linear over and under stitch. It's not the strongest stitch, but it is definitely the fastest. And the foundation of basic settling. The backstitch is similar to a running stitch in its linear travel path, but the needle is inserted behind the thread for each stitch and brought up ahead again so that the thread is pulled in a counter direction and locked firmly into place. This is the strongest of the basic stitches. The whip stitch is also sometimes called the felling or hemming stitch. Historically, it's a stitch that travels in a spiral and usually spends two planes of cloth. It's often used on hens, on patches, or when layering one piece of cloth onto another. Right. Got that. Now that we're solid on the basics, let's have some FUN. 4. The Herringbone Stitch: The Herringbone stitch is also commonly known as a cross stitch. A cat stitch or catch stitch is an excellent option for heaven's due to its strength, speed, and ease in navigating curves. And it's, in my own opinion, one of the most aesthetically pleasing stitches. While rare throughout most of history, it started to gain popularity in the late 19th century to secure bones into dress bonuses, and really picked up speed as the 20th century progressed. It should be cautioned though, that it's best not to use a Herringbone stitch on the handle of a long garment that might be worn with heals. The long exposed threads between each stitch are prone to caching. So maybe opt for a more compact felt him, if you're planning to wear heels and do lots of dancing and you're long gown, start your stitch with a single box stitch at the point where you want to begin, it's best to begin on whichever side will allow you to bury the tail of your thread, one starting. Sometimes this might be either the upper or lower side, but sometimes in the case of hems on a single layer garment, one of these sides will be a single layer of fabric and we'll have nowhere to hide the tail. The Herringbone Stitches worked laterally from side-to-side and in the opposite direction from which you're needle is facing. If you're right-handed, the needle will be pointing to the left and you'll be working from left to right. Lefties will have their needle is pointing to the right and we'll be working from right to left. Bring your needle down to the other plane of fabric, and a little ways across. The distance is entirely up to you, but this will determine the angle of the crossing thread. So be ready to replicate this height and distance for your subsequent stitches to keep the seam looking nice and even take a small stitch here with the needle facing your previous stitch. Keeping in mind that this may be seen from the front of the garment if you're working on a single layer, travel the same distance now across and backup the same height as the first edge. Once again, we're going to take a small stitch with the needle facing back towards our previous stitches. Like the backstitch, this backwards and forwards, pull up the thread, will help to lock it into place and will make your seam nice and strong. Continuing this manner along the remainder of your seam until you've reached your stopping point. And thus you have a Herringbone seam. Go ahead and give the Herringbone stitch to try for yourself and feel free to leave photos of your progress on any of these stitches in the project gallery below? 5. The Blanket Stitch: Let's have a look now at the Blanket Stitch. You might recognize this one from it's common application on the edge of blankets, hence its name. This stitch is excellent for either securing two pieces of fabric together along the edges, as well as finishing, fortifying and stabilizing those edges. This stitch is primarily used on thicker cloths that aren't otherwise easily prone to frying, like wolves and fleeces, which are sturdy enough that the edges won't buckle under the tension of the Stitch. Blanket stitching is inevitably a very visible stitch. So feel free to get creative with it and to use a contrasting thread color to treat it simultaneously like a little decoration. Silk thread also works particularly well for this due to its nice shiny finish. They're getting at one edge, anchor your thread with a small between layers of fabric. If your fabric is only a single layer, this will be visible from the underside, so try to keep it as small as possible. Then bring the needle up through the exit point of the thread, wrapping that thread around the edge of the material. But before we pull the thread fully flat, we're first going to pass the needle through that loop and then pull it flat. Travel a small ways across your edge for the next stitch, the distance you take is up to you and this will determine the density of your stitching. So just be prepared to repeat whatever distance you do choose for the remainder of your stitching. Once again, we're going to bring the needle up from the underside, passing that needle through the loop before pulling it completely flat. We want to make sure that we're keeping these stitches at identical depths so that they all match and don't look varied and chaotic unless that's your goal, in which case, absolutely go for it. What we're effectively doing here is we're building up a nice a loop, the barrier along the vulnerable edges of the fabric which will help to guard it from where. This is very similar to the buttonhole stitch, which does the same thing but with knots along the edge instead of just loops, we did go over the buttonhole stitch in part one of Sewing Basics. So if you need a refresher on that, do feel free to pause and go over there to catch up. To carry on from this stitch. If you've run out of thread, simply begin your new thread at the stopping points of the last one. Loop your new thread through the last stitch and continue on. Once you've reached the opposite end or have run out of thread, you can finish off your stitch. The beauty of working with decorative stitches is getting to watch this lovely pattern just grow before your eyes. This is such a satisfying stitch to do and it's very meditative. Once you get the hang of it, give it a try for yourself and see how you do. Whenever you're ready. We'll move on to the next stitch. 6. The English Stitch: The English stitch is one of my secret favorite stitches. While very limited and potential application, it is extremely useful when you do have the opportunity to use it. This Stitch was commonly used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, especially to Stitch bought his scenes together. It's secret weapon is its ability to secure four layers of material at once, extremely durably, so that there is no seam finishing needed at the end. Just one single-step needed to attach out and finish the seams of a garment. It's a huge time-saver. The English stitch is best employed when you're wanting to connect the two panels of a flatline garment. That is, two panels which have both an outer fabric layer and an inner stiffening or lining layer, which will be treated as one, not made up as separate fabric and lining components and connected later, as is very common in modern sewing. To prepare your panels for stitching, the layers are first assembled and the seam allowances of the edges to be stitched folded inwards so that they're no longer seen. It's generally best practice to base to these edges down rather than just pending them so that your layers are perfectly positioned without the potential warping of pins. But you might be able to get away with just pinning if your fabrics are particularly stable. Once both sides of your panels have been thus treated, line them up as you would a normal seam with the right sides facing each other and the flatlining layers facing out. After beginning your stitch on either side, insert the needle at the edge of the lining on one side and bring it up through the edge of the outer fabric on the opposite side. Make sure you pull your thread nice and snuggly, especially if you're working on bodies seems Which will need to take a lot of strain. Now bring your needle down slightly and insert once again at the edge, at the lining on this opposite panel, bringing it up once again on the fabric layer on the panel across. Once again, we're capitalizing on the backstitch style of backwards and forwards pull on the thread to ensure that our seam is nice and strong. Keep going according to this pattern. Insert at the leading edge on one side, exit at the fabric edge opposite, making sure you're pulling your thread nice and taut. And eventually you'll have a completed seam. Open your panels out and give them a good tog. The folds of the fabric should work themselves fairly flushed to one another, giving a nice, clean, strong seam without much seam bulk, you shouldn't be able to see a significant gapping when pulling at the two panels when the seam is finished. Otherwise you're seeing maybe a bit weak. This is really is such a little known but useful stitch to know because who doesn't want to avoid seam finishing when at all possible? Take a minute to pause and give this one a go for yourself if you like, and I'll catch up with you in the next lesson. 7. The Drawing Stitch: The Drawing stitch is yet another little known historical stitch with such underrated modern-day value. It's been around since at least the early 17th century and is an excellent way of invisibly joining two pieces of fabric edge to edge without leaving any traces of thread. This is great for long side seams along folded edges where a running stitch wouldn't usually reach as it effectively functions as a running stitch. It's best for seams which don't need to take significant stress, although it worked firmly, it can be fairly strong to begin anchor your thread and then bring the needle through the folded edge of the fabric. Insert the needle again on the opposite fold at the point directly parallel to the other half. And it's take a small stitch vertically along that fold. Pass the needle across once again and repeat on the other side, inserting the needle into the fold directly parallel and taking a small vertical stitch. Precise spacing isn't strictly essential here since this stitch is invisible. But the closer you can make these Stitches, the stronger and neater your seam will be. You do want to make sure that you're matching your fabric hubs as best as possible and doing your best to keep your entry and exit points as parallel as you can. This will ensure that your fabric pieces stay straight and don't want to shift slightly on the diagonal. Once you've reached the end, you can finish off your thread, test the strength of your seam by giving it a little tug. The less light you can see between the gaps of the Stitches, the stronger your seam will be. A gap of more than a millimeter or two might mean that you have to pull it a bit tighter next time to make sure that it's super-strong. Keep in mind that with hand sewing garments, most of the time we're stitching for strength. There's no delicate needle work here or lightly talking on the trimmings that the machines can't reach. We're doing as our ancestors did for thousands of years and building seems that will outlast the fabric itself. Have a go at this to treat yourself and feel free to share your progress in the project gallery below once again, and let me know when you are ready to continue. 8. The Pad Stitch: Pad stitching is less of a stitch itself and more of a technique as a whole. When Pad stitching is employed, It's usually on an area of a garment that has two layers of material which needs to be specifically shaped or sculpt it against one another. So this technique requires an additional element of fabric manipulation. For example, you might want to pad stitch the lapels of a jacket to ensure that they roll back nice and smoothly, or perhaps a color so that it sits in a nice, perfectly smooth curve. This stitch and the technique is a whole is absolutely essential to know if you plan to get into tailoring, since it's integral in shaping the garments to form around the curves of the upper body. The stitch itself though, is a very simple. The Pad stitch is worked vertically and travels horizontally. Anchor your thread either at the top or bottom of the material, either will do. Take a small horizontal stitch in place. Since Pad stitching is almost always used as a temporary or hidden stitch, you don't usually have to worry about hiding your knots and tails nicely as this will be covered up later anyway. Then travel a little ways down and take another small stitch. Continue traveling down the length of your material, keeping your stitches and distances traveled relatively uniform to ensure that your Stitches turn out evenly. When you reach the bottom or the top of your first column, travel a little ways horizontally and then continue the same stitching pattern in the opposite direction, either up or down from the direction you traveled initially. Keep in mind that the Stitches you take will likely be seen from the front of the fabric. So it's best to try and make these stitches as small as you possibly can, while still catching that under layer of material. Keep traveling along your columns until the desired area has been covered, then finish off your thread. Larger Pad Stitches can be worked quickly to temporarily base two layers of fabric together and to prevent them from shifting out of place before they can be sewn. But smaller stitches are best used for permanent shaping work. That's the basic method for Pad stitching. But let's have a look at how to use Pad stitching to add dimension to your shapes. Theoretically will have two layers of cloth, the outer fabric and the stiffening layer, which will help to give it some structure. Usually this is some sort of horsehair canvas or non-visible interfacing. The trick is to use geometry to our advantage. Say this is going to be a color which we want to fold over and to curve around smoothly. Tight roles can be worked into the material by wrapping your fabric layers around a finger and working your pad stitch into shape. The fabric layer on the underside of the curve will need to be slightly smaller than the fabric curving over top in order to prevent that underside fabric from forming ripples. But by melding the two pieces of fabric together in that non rippled curved position, it physically won't have enough material to uncarved. This will ensure that your pieces of fabric will behave how you want them to, in their finished warm, working, gentler curves into panels such as to round out the chest area of a suit jacket. It can be done by stitching over a Taylor's ham or some other, such a rounded cushion to make sure that the fabric is positioned in the three-dimensional shape you want it to stay in permanently. Pad stitching itself is super quick and easy to get the hang up, but the sculptural aspect of it can take a bit of practice. So do give this a go for yourself, play around with it and see what sorts of funny shapes you can add into your garments. 9. Conclusion: And that brings us to the end of our lesson for today. I hope you learned some new stitches that will help you in your sewing and mending journey, or perhaps got some ideas for some new tricks you can try. Feel free to leave your questions or thoughts in the discussion section down below. And of course, to post photos of your progress in the project gallery so we can all celebrate your hard work. It has been lovely getting to stitch with you today. All the best on your sewing adventures. And I shall see you next time.