One of the most common questions I've been getting lately is some variation of, “Can I sew your pattern without a sewing machine?”
The answer is always going to be yes!
There is nothing a sewing machine can do that you can't do by hand. (How do you think people made clothes, plushies, and more for thousands of years before sewing machines were invented?)
The difference is sewing everything by hand is more time consuming and requires experience and practice in making small, even stitches. Meanwhile a sewing machine will make those same stitches for you quickly and nearly perfect each time.
Of course, sewing machines can also be expensive, they require electricity, and they introduce their own sets of challenges like slipping fabric, machine malfunctions, etc. You need a sturdy table to set them on, a chair to sit in, and space for it all.
Meanwhile you can toss some fabric, a needle, and thread in a bag and take it anywhere to hand sew! Sit in front of the TV, travel on the bus, visit a park, you’re not limited with hand sewing in the same ways you are with a sewing machine.
Another major downside to hand sewing I don’t see discussed often (but I think it should be!) is the possibility of repetitive strain injuries. Making the same small movements over and over, holding tools with small handles, or even a lack of movement like clutching the fabric tight with one hand can cause injuries. So if you plan to hand sew often set yourself up for success and take regular breaks, stretch your hands and wrists, use a brace when needed, and always choose ergonomic tools when available.
So how exactly do you hand sew a plushie?
It’s easier than you think! Just a few basic stitches and you will be ready to go. I recommend practicing your stitching before starting a project on pieces of scrap fabric if it’s your absolute first time sewing.
First, I use a backstitch for most of the plushie. This stitch involves inserting the needle, making a stitch, then going back over the stitch.
Here’s a good tutorial for it: https://youtu.be/O7l2FVZL5ho
Here’s a good tutorial for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1-B01FB56s
And to close the stitch I use a ladder stitch (you can find a diagram of this in all my patterns).
I’m not the master of hand sewing by any means, but there’s a huge amount of information out there about sewing! If you’re interested, many others have already covered this topic in great detail. There's more stitches you can use to create decorative effects or that may be easier for you to personally sew. But I find these 3 are really the only ones I need!
Want to see it in action?
I’ve made a video here where I entirely hand sew a sting ray. I repeat a lot of this same information here as well as showing some tips and tricks I use when hand sewing.
Hope that helps you all!