Blend Hand Sewing with Machine Stitching – 7 Tips to Try

Hand sewing and machine stitching can happily coexist on the same fiber art piece. Personally, I love to add hand stitching to my sewing projects, even if the bulk of the stitching is done by machine.


‘Pete Lace 6’ by Natalya Aikens blends hand stitching with machine work.

If you’re putting a French knot here and a bit of chain stitch there, you don’t have to worry too much about combining machine stitching and handwork. But when there is a lot of overlap, there are construction and design tips you want to keep in mind.

Fiber artist Natalya Aikens frequently pairs hand sewing techniques with machine stitching in her artwork. She offers the following tips for using both kinds of stitches in harmony.

1. If you have identified your design lines with bold machine strokes, don’t take away from them by adding contrasting-thread hand sewing. Try a coordinating color or a soft variegated color thread to achieve the needed texture without excess boldness.

2. If sections of your piece have puckered and gathered between the machine-stitched sections, ‘smooth’ them out with your hand stitches. The beauty of hand stitching is that you can pull and gather your fabric with your stitches as you see fit. Gathering a puckering section into a smooth but textured plane is one useful technique.

3. To avoid gathering and puckering during machine stitching, use tear-away stabilizer, especially with sheers. Just don’t forget to tear it away before adding hand stitching. Instead of using tear-away stabilizer, you can use an embroidery hoop.

Detail of ‘Pete Lace 6’ shows how handwork
adds focus and interest to this piece.

4. When adding hand stitching to large areas that you want to make sure don’t pucker, work on a flat surface, such as a foam core board or a stretched canvas. They are lightweight and portable, and you can pin your work to them.

5. Don’t be afraid to overlap stitches, whether created by hand or machine. Lots of overlapped stitches add great texture and boldness.

6. When hand stitching, don’t cut the thread longer than the length from your fingertips to your elbow. You may have to thread your needle more often than if you use a longer thread, but you’ll spend less time untangling thread and feeling frustrated.

7. If you’re working your hand stitches in a straight path, consider using a long needle. It will make life easier for your fingers because you can get more stitches on it in one swoop.

I hope these tips from Natalya will encourage you to combine hand sewing and machine stitching more often in your fiber art.

For machine sewing tips and tricks, be sure to check out the new book Sewing Solutions: Tips and Tricks for the Savvy Sewist by Nicole Vasbinder. If you have any questions about sewing, this comprehensive guide is sure to have the answers. It would be a great gift for beginning to intermediate sewists.

P.S. Do you combine hand sewing with machine stitching? How? Share your tips!

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Machine Embroidery, Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

One thought on “Blend Hand Sewing with Machine Stitching – 7 Tips to Try

  1. I started my sewing career with garment sewing and then started quilting in my 30s, so my background is pretty traditional. I have begun moving in an art quilt directions and have been trying different techniques on some small pieces, including machine and hand stitching. It’s odd not to have rules to break…. But it is fun and freeing.