The Art of Sewing - Master It!

By: Francesca Fiori

The art of sewing is generally defined as the process by which one object is joined or fastened to another with thread and a needle. Sewing is often considered to be one of the oldest art forms in existence—in fact, some scientists suggest that it may have been developed as early as the Stone Age. While sewing was once essential in the production of clothes, shoes, and household materials, today it is pursued primarily as a hobby. Individuals who are interested in developing their sewing skills should familiarize themselves with the techniques, tools, designs, and definitions of the trade. While this information can be obtained by reading books or watching educational videos, participation in classes or clubs can also be beneficial.

Techniques and Types

Sewing is generally broken into two classifications, which include plain and fancy—or fancywork—stitching. Traditionally, plain sewing has been identified as the process by which clothes, linens, or other basic items are created or mended, while fancy sewing is more often associated with the production of trims, decorations, and accessories. Though plain sewing usually focuses only on hemming or darning, fancywork can include such processes as knitting, crocheting, embroidery, needlepoint, and other similar crafts. Depending on the specific type of craft being undertaken, techniques used when sewing are often quite different. For example, while knitters may rely primarily on the knit and purl stitches to create works of art, embroiderers may focus instead on the use of the running or daisy stitch. Identifying and perfecting the appropriate technique is essential to ensuring optimal results when sewing.


As with other forms of art, a number of specific tools are necessary for success when sewing. Unfortunately, the types of tools required often vary quite dramatically depending on the specific kind of stitching project. While knitters can usually achieve optimal results with the use of wooden or metal needles and yarn alone, plain sewers may instead require sturdy thread, a few needles of various size, and a pair of sharp scissors. Sewing machines, which can be used for anything from hemming pants to creating luxurious bedspreads, are also a popular tool used in both plain and fancy sewing. While most basic sewing tools are usually inexpensive, some—such as a sewing machine—can be quite pricey. Designs and Styles Sewing designs and styles are also commonly referred to as patterns or templates. While some patterns—such as those used in the production of clothes—are usually intended to serve as a tool when cutting out pieces of fabric, others are only used as reference materials when identifying where certain numbers or types of stitches should be placed. While there are a variety of different brands of sewing patterns currently on the market, the most popular include McCalls, Vogue, Simplicity, and Butterick. These, along with other brands, can generally be found at most home improvement or arts and crafts stores. Individuals who are especially experienced in sewing may also feel comfortable designing their own styles and patterns. While this process can be challenging, the end result is often highly rewarding.


To achieve success when sewing, understanding the basic terminology is essential. While there are a number of terms whose comprehension is important, the most common include top-stitching, under-stitching, construction-stitching, and back-tack. Generally, top-stitching is identified as a type of plain sewing in which the stitch shows on the outside of the fabric. In contrast, under-stitching occurs when very fine stitches are created which are not visible on the exterior of a product. Construction-stitching is an especially basic form of plain stitching in which products are simply attached to one another, such as in darting, and often requires the use of back-tacking, in which stitches are taken in reverse to secure the start of a piece of thread. Fancy sewing generally has its own unique set of terminology, which includes knitting, purling, crocheting, and performing ribbon, daisy, and cross-stitches. In most cases, these terms and techniques will be defined in the sewing patterns that require their use. Individuals who have a difficult time mastering these techniques may want to consult with a more experienced seamstress for advice and guidance.

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