Hand Sewn/Sown

When I was a kid, my mother taught me to sew by hand. Though we didn’t own a sewing machine, she said I needed to learn the basics, like sewing on a button or sewing a hem on pants or a skirt. So I learned two basic stitches—the running stitch and the whip stitch. Later I bought this book, which lists other stitches. (This article lists some of the stitches I learned.)

Sewing anything by hand takes time and patience, especially if the goal for whatever you’re working on is that it be neat and durable. One day, however, I’d like to learn to use a sewing machine. (My sister-in-law has one.) That would certainly save time.


Stitches on felt

As I pen this post about hand sewing, I can’t help thinking of how I used to write everything—stories, poems, and even novel drafts—on legal pads or notebook paper. But when I acquired one computer after another, I stopped writing most things by hand, with the exception of some letters and some journal entries. (Yes, I still write letters. Not a ton, but a few in a month.)

The thing is, I type faster than I write by hand, which is why I turned to the keyboard many years ago. I reasoned, why not cut out the middle man by writing on the computer, rather than writing on paper and then having to type my handwritten text. But the words I’ve sown by hand on paper seem to have more depth. When I take time to physically write, I wind up writing more.

At first I thought that was just my perception. But an online article “Your First Book: Handwriting vs. Typing. How to Write It?” by Zoe Nixon states

Depending on the individual, some people confess that writing by hand allows their creative minds to work easier than when they type.

Here is yet another article on the subject: https://www.simonandschuster.com/getliterary/benefits-writing-longhand-versus-computer/

And another: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/03/creative-writing-better-pen-longhand

While I doubt that I’ll return to writing a whole novel by hand, I know the value of writing tricky scenes by hand. As one of the above articles suggested, I often doodle as I write. If I have multiple characters to maneuver in a scene, drawing their positions on paper (standing or sitting? punching first or dodging?) helps me write about them more effectively. This tactic also helps me discern if a scene is too overcrowded and in need of adjustment.

What about you? Do you first write by hand or do you enter your text on a computer first? Let me know in the comments!

Though her chicken is excited at having written her first novel, Pinkie Pie thinks it needs a revision. All of the dialogue consists of only one word, “Cluck.”

Computer from somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie.Pinkie Pie, computer, and chicken are from the My Little Pony Equestria Girls Minis Pinkie Pie Slumber Party Bedroom Set by My Little Pony.

36 thoughts on “Hand Sewn/Sown

  1. Pretty much all of my final output is in digital format, but I also like to keep a stack of A4 paper and HB pencils nearby. As a very abstract thinker, sometimes I have no other way to flesh out an idea, than to scribble and doodle the concept on paper first!

    • Yay for the paper and pencils! I keep a stack of blank journals handy for that reason. I also am partial to thin Sharpie markers and my old drawing pencils. Using them makes me feel serious about writing. 😀

  2. I love to sew by hand – it feels much more satisfying than sewing by machine somehow. My mother taught me both as a kid but as an adult I never bothered to get a machine – what little sewing I do now, I always do by hand. As far as writing goes, I definitely find that my thoughts flow better when I’m writing by hand though most of the writing I do is on computer for the sake of speed and convenience. I think the speed of typing actually doesn’t allow the brain to move ahead if that makes sense. I always find I have to revise anything I type much more than things I write longhand. Which is why for complicated reviews (or when I was working, complicated reports, etc) I always make copious handwritten notes before starting to type.

    • It’s nice to know your process, FF! 😀 When you write the posts that summarize your quarterly reading, do you write those by hand? Or is it easier to type them, since you can pull the links from past reviews?

      The most sewing I do is when I’m sewing together pieces of a crocheted work. I usually use a large tapestry needle for those. And the important thing is to follow the pattern of the stitches.

      • Those ones I type for the reason you mention – much easier to put the links straight in, plus I really just cut and paste from the reviews. But things like reviewing a classic or a history book work much better if I write notes first.

      • Makes sense! If I have to review a book or write a critical analysis essay, I usually jot notes down in a journal or on post-it notes that I stick in a print copy of the book. 😊

  3. I admire those who can sew by hand. I struggle with just sewing a button. As for writing by hand, it’s my favorite way to begin drafting a new short story or book. I think a lot slower when I’m writing and these days, it’s good for me to slow down sometimes. Great post, L. Marie!

  4. I love writing on paper first; preferably sitting in the sun or wrapped up in my throw on the settee in winter. It’s a break from the screen and you just keep writing – my spelling is much better, but the writing so untidy I can’t read it later! This all ties in with sewing – we need to keep using our hands in different ways to keep them flexible for as long as possible!

  5. Stitches on felt are hard. Sometimes if I have a thick fabric, I punch the tip of the needle into a bar of soap – easier to penetrate the material, I think. I seldom sew anymore – only to replace a button or mend a seam.

    I have read research on handwriting vs. computing when composing. Like you, “I type faster than I write by hand, which is why I turned to the keyboard many years ago.” BUT, if I feel stuck, or looking for a way to organize, say, a blog post, I might grab my yellow pad.

    Yay for Pinkie Pie and her Clucking! Thanks, L. Marie.

    • Great tip on the soap, Marian! Yes, felt is rather thick. I find that I can’t use my usual tapestry needle. I have some very sharp needles that are good for felt. 😀

      It’s so interesting that when we’re stuck, paper and pencil/pens is the way to get unstuck. When I was involved in teaching adults to read and write (very challenging), I learned how writing by hand stimulates the brain. I’m not exactly sure why it does, but I need to do it more.

  6. I was never good at hand sewing, or machine for that matter. I blame it on bad eyesight, not my impatience.

    I understand what the article is suggesting with regard to handwriting versus typing, but I’ve found just the opposite. If I pick up pen and paper I feel stymied, but if I sit at a keyboard I get on with things. Not necessarily great writing at first, but a start that can be polished later. For me writing on paper is all about lists and doodling.

    • I know what you mean, Ally. Sometimes if I want to just write anything to stimulate the juices, I’ll quickly type something, because I can do it quickly, and feel a sense of accomplishment when I produce two or three pages. 😀 But when I need to flesh out a scene, I often have to turn to paper and pen.

      My blog posts are mostly written on the computer. But usually, when I’m working on an idea, I’ll jot it down in a small notebook I keep in my purse.

  7. Always amazed by the connections you make in these posts. I do bios and outlines by hand, but then type. My fingers ache because I grip the pencil too hard as I get into it. Slows me down especially now that I’m older and don’t bounce back as easily.

  8. I learned to sew by my Ma, also…hand sew as well as machine sew – on an archaic second hand steel bodied Singer Machine…A skill like that learned in childhood is like typing – never forgotten and useful in many variants throughout life!
    As for hand written vs computer written…I could only do NaNo on the computer because of the need to get word count on the page quickly…but as for its quality?
    Both have strengths & weaknesses in approach, but for anything more than scribbles, I prefer hand written with a dab of computer written…

    • I also thought of you, since you are a quilter. I remember your recent flamingo project, Laura. 😀
      How do you compose music? Is it by hand? I’m very curious. This is a world I know very little about.

      • The short answer: a combo of both. Mostly hands-on with the instrument (instruments), getting ideas down long hand, then at some point transferring them to NOTION in order to try out other ideas to add – faster than by hand, since the playback is easier to repeat and adjust and evaluate via computer than with real instrument-instruments…anyway. Hope that gives you an idea of an answer to your question!

      • It does. The only other composer I’ve known is a guy I knew in college, back before we could enter anything via computer. 😀

  9. I learned to sew both by hand and on the machine, but I never got good at it. I prefer stitching by hand, though, especially creative stitching like embroidery, needlepoint, and smocking. As for writing, I do both, like you. There’s just something about writing longhand that feels luxurious and also gentle, in a way. I write longhand cursive, but surprisingly, these days, students can’t read or write cursive. I fought this battle for many years with fresh-out-of-college teachers, who considered cursive writing archaic. I think the pendulum is swinging, however. Writing by hand, especially the flowing style of cursive, does much more for the mind than just getting the word on paper.

    Great post, Linda!

    • Thanks, Sharon! I’d heard that students can’t read cursive. I used to use cursive whenever I wrote a story by hand. Nowadays I print everything. But sometimes I’ll go back to cursive, particularly when journaling.

      It’s sad that cursive writing isn’t taught as much. When students look at the Constitution, can they decipher the signatures?

  10. I loved writing by hand, but my hands are filled with arthritis now. I can barely hold a pen some days. Typing doesn’t bother them, at least so far. I have diaries that I’ve written since the age of eleven, but can’t do it anymore.

    When I was a teenager I wrote an entire novel in a notebook. Back in ’87, I did a tutorial on my first Word Processing program and got so excited that I wouldn’t have to use white-out anymore for the electric typewriter. I’m so grateful for MS Word for writing my stories.

    I’m sure you could pick up sewing with a machine lickity-split. It’s great that you know how to sew by hand. I struggle with simply sewing on a button. 😝

    Where’s the sunshine, eh, L.? These gray days match my grieving mood. In case you don’t know, check out my post from three weeks ago.

    • Hi, Lori. I saw your follow-up post and had commented on it. So glad you posted a link to the announcement. I’m really sorry. What a blow! 😢 So hard! You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers. (Yes, the sunshine has disappeared.)

  11. I can sew on a button, repair a hem, but not much else. Sadly, I am the mother who stapled her younger daughter’s badges to her sash! 😦
    I wrote by hand in journals for so many years and found I was a more balanced person for doing so. These days, I write mostly via electronic means. It is faster, for sure, and there is something to be said for the act of pen meeting paper that still appeals to me. I have several journals here and there to grab and write in – and I do – but, not regularly. I find I remember things, facts, sentences better when I write them by hand.

    • Ah the days of sashes and badges! I’m trying to recall how my Girl Scout badges were attached to my sash. Either Mom did it or got someone with a machine to do it. I can’t remember which one.

      I also have several blank journals around, waiting to be written in. I keep a small one in my purse for the odd note.

  12. I enjoy sewing by hand. Depending on the task, I’ll just sew by hand rather than drag out the sewing machine, clear space on the dining room table, wind a bobbin … so much goes into getting the machine set up. Once I got a computer, though, writing longhand took a nose dive. I might use a journal to jot ideas or play around with scenes. Sadly, my handwriting has gotten a nose dive too. If I have to write more than a few sentences, my hand and fingers cramp. Still, I try because writing by hand focuses my mind in a way that my “devices” don’t.

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