Hand sewing has become a necessary process with the abundance of interlined draperies being done in this country today. I just finished a pair of bump interlined and blackout lined panels for myself. What a learning experience!
I had to hand-hem the sides and then sew on rings as I was Italian
stringing these panels. They have rod pocket headings so, thank
goodness, I didn’t have to hand tack the pleats. The face
fabric is a looser weave so it was not a problem, but sewing through
blackout lining and bump was work!
Hand sewing is not my favorite task but the lessons I remembered
and learned in this sewing project made it much more tolerable.
• Thread has a right and wrong end: The end that comes off
the spool first needs to go through the needle with the knot going
on the end that is last off the spool and cut. This does make a
difference. I had knotting problems when I forgot to do this.
• Silamide thread: Use this thread if you have the correct
color. It is already lubricated so the thread pulls through the
fabric easier. I didn’t have the correct color so this was
not an option this time.
• Thread Heaven: This product is to lubricate thread and prevent
knotting as you sew. I started out running my thread through Thread
Heaven, but I still had knotting problems.
• Bees wax: I pulled my thread through bees wax and then ironed
it to melt it. That will lubricate the thread. Without ironing it,
it will be tacky. This worked best with little to no knotting problems.
• Single thread: Use a single thread for sewing the sides.
• Four threads: Double the thread and thread the bend through
the needle. Knot all four strands together for sewing on rings.
This is stronger and faster, especially when you are dealing with
the weight in my panels.
In my April article (see “The Haystack of Needles, D&WC
April 2006, page 66), I discussed needles and encouraged you to
try many kinds. I hope you are doing that and saving those that
didn’t work so well the first time, because they just might
work better on another project.
• Long needles: Hemming really requires as long a needle as
you can find because you should be taking longer stitches than normal.
If you are sewing through many or thick layers, then a long needle
is necessary just to take a single stitch through all the layers.
This is where I was so glad that I had invested in a variety of
I pulled out all my longest needles starting with millinery needles.
However, their thickness for the longest length was so difficult
to pull through the layers. I then switched to a Gold Eye Quilt
Basting Needle, Size 7, 2 1/4 inched long. What a difference. This
needle was a little thinner, and being Gold Eye better quality,
so it was much easier to use.
• Short needles: I have a small hand so having to use the
long needles for the side hems was a little uncomfortable, but it
was the best of all options. However, when it came to sewing the
rings on, I tried a smaller needle, because I would be taking smaller
stitches. I also didn’t want a needle that was too long because
it takes longer to pull through the fabrics and you need more thread
at the end to knot or anchor your thread.
I settled on a Gold Eye 1 7/8 inches long with a long eye. It is
one of those odd needles I had collected over the years and had
lost its original packaging. I suspect it is an embroidery needle.
It gave me enough needle length to pull through all the thicknesses
and the large eye allowed me to double-thread it easily.
Occasionally I did run my needles through my hair to lubricate.
It helped but I could not do that for every stitch.
• Needle storage: I have found that those small booklet photo
albums for four- by six-inch photos are wonderful to store needles.
Very easy to flip through to see what sizes you have. Be sure the
plastic pages have an enclosed bottom because I have some that don’t.
This experience has certainly made me a believer in Gold Eye needles!
I also was very glad I am a packrat and saved all my old needles!
EASING THE PROCESS
• Thimble: I am sure many of you say you don’t want
to use a thimble. I didn’t until I had to hand tack pinch
pleats with double headings. Since that time, many years ago, I
feel naked if I don’t have a thimble on. My favorite is a
In this instance I was too lazy to go find it so I used a metal
thimble with gridded sides and top and the top has a rim around
it. See the accompanying photograph. Because of my small hands,
its construction was invaluable in pushing the long needle through
the side hems. I discovered that rim around the top is an incredible
asset! You might want to try a variety of thimbles too!
• Needle Grabber: This is a thin circle of rubber about 1
3/8 inches in diameter. This enables you to grip the needle to pull
it through the fabric faster.
Beeswax for grip: I mentioned above that bees wax, unironed is tacky.
As I was sewing, I had a “light bulb moment.” I rubbed
my fingers over the beeswax. It made them tacky enough to pull the
needle through the fabric without using the grabber for most of
my sewing. On top of that, I also discovered that it made my thimble
stay on my finger! This was a wonderful discovery because I have
never been able to make metal thimbles stay on my finger. That is
one reason I preferred the leather thimble.
• Weight/clamp the ends: As you sew hems, it increases your
speed if you can weight and clamp the ends of your side. Being able
to pull taut on your side will be more comfortable and faster.
• Standing: The fastest way to hem panels like I did is to
do it while they are lying on the table. For long panels, it becomes
a strain on your back and legs. To reduce some of the stress, put
one foot on a low shelf under the table and stand on one foot. Shift
back and forth as your leg tires. Use a stool to prop your foot
if you do not have a shelf.
• Sitting: If you have a back problem, it would be much healthier
if you can sit while you sew. Use a bar stool to sit at the table.
Be sure the footrests on the stool are comfortable. If you sit at
a machine, use the presser foot of the machine to hold the end of
your side so you can pull it taut for sewing.
I hope I have presented one or two tips that you weren’t aware
of. Always check out the quilt departments in your local stores
as they often have wonderful tools that will save you much time.
If you save a few seconds in a process that you are doing almost
every day, those seconds will add up to a nice savings.
Anything that reduces your stress in sewing, whether physical or
mental, makes your job much more enjoyable as well as healthy. You
love what you are doing or you wouldn't be doing it. Pick out a
tip or two that you want to try. Put them on your “To Do”
list and love what you are doing even more!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale
drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she
is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm
offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes
professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines.
She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry
vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including
Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and
Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.