Four basic stitches can get you through almost any type of hand-sewing repair. If you haven’t sewn before, you may want to practice a bit to develop the ability to stitch evenly in a straight line.
* Backstitch: Viewed from the top, backstitching appears as a continuous line of even stitches; viewed underneath, the stitches are twice as long as those on top and they overlap at the ends. Use a single knotted thread, and work from right to left. Insert the needle from the underside of the fabric layers 1/8 inch to the left of where your stitching will begin. Pull the thread through to the knot. Insert the needle 1/8 inch behind where the thread emerges (that is, where your stitching will begin). Bring the needle up 1/4 inch beyond this insertion, and pull the thread snugly. Bring the needle up 1/4 inch beyond the insertion, and pull the thread through. Continue in this manner, forming evenly spaced stitches about 1/8 inch long.
* Basting: Basting is used to hold two or more layers of fabric together temporarily during fitting or construction. You may want to baste a hem or cuff to make sure you like the length before completing the hem with a more permanent stitch. Use an unknotted single thread, so it will be easy to pull out, and work from right to left. Insert the needle from the right side, and weave the point of the needle in and out two or three times. Basting stitches may be as long as 1 inch. Pull the thread partially through, securing the unknotted end between your thumb and forefinger so that you don’t pull it through entirely. Reinsert the needle, and repeat the process. Leave the thread loose at the end so that it can be easily removed.
* Running stitch: The running stitch, used for delicate repairs, topstitching, and gathering, is worked in much the same way as basting, but the stitches are shorter and even. Secure the thread at both ends with a knot. Use a single knotted thread, and work from right to left. Insert the needle from the wrong side, then weave the point evenly in and out of the fabric two or three times. Pull the thread through firmly, but avoid puckering the fabric.
* Overcast stitch: This stitch is used to keep a fabric edge from fraying. Use a single knotted thread, and work from right to left. Insert the needle from the underside of your work. Pull the thread through to the knot, and insert the needle from the wrong side again, 1/8 to 1/4 inch to the left of the knot. Pull the thread through, but not too tightly or the fabric will curl. The more your fabric frays, the closer the stitches should be. Keep the depth of the stitches uniform, and make them as shallow as possible without pulling the fabric apart.