Three Tips For Left-Handed Sewists

When you’re part of the left-handed 12 per cent of the human race you need to make some judgement calls when it comes to sewing patterns.

Fortunately for left-handed people, we have learnt pragmatism, dexterity and an ability to think outside of the box since birth. High five! High left-handed five!

Still, a few tweaks in sewing construction can help make life easier, and here are my three top tips for my fellow people of utmost brilliance.

sew over it joan dress neckline

1. The Joan Dress is designed to have the neck tie resting against the left collar bone. My Joan Dress has the tie resting against my right collar bone. Why? Because I’m left handed. I carry my tote bag slung over my left shoulder. I don’t want straps crushing a key detail in the dress design, or making me uncomfortable. Decision made, and shift that neck tie to the right.

lapped zipper left handed

2. When inserting a centre back lapped zipper, think about which hand is going to be reaching behind to do up the dress. Your left or your right? Lap your zip accordingly and don’t mindlessly follow pattern instructions.

Bear the same principle in mind when you’re thinking about placement of side zips and waist ties or buttons. Which side of your body will be easiest for your left hand to reach?

button embellishment

3. Embellishment. Before adding, consider which shoulder takes the weight of your bag. You don’t want to be wincing as button shanks dig into your flesh. Choose what’s best for your body. Your body.

So, I think we’ve established that a) left-handed sewists need to do a tiny bit more thinking and b) we’re brilliant.

Any other tips for a left-handed creative?

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67 Responses to Three Tips For Left-Handed Sewists

  1. redbarngirl says:

    Everyone tells me I should get left-handed scissors, but since I was little, I’ve always cut with my left hand using right-handed scissors because left-handed ones were pretty much non-existent in school. Recently, I tried to use left-handed ones but I couldn’t get them to work properly because I was so used to rotating my hand differently in order to see what I was cutting. No wrist/hand problems at all. Yes, we are brilliant!

  2. LizD says:

    From one left-handed sewer to another – good thinking Karen! Thanks.

  3. I’m left-handed but carry my bags on my right arm or shoulder… always assumed it was so that my left hand was free for door knobs, to reach in my bag, etc! I definitely do think about embellishments like that though, for that reason.

    I always have to take care when following instructions for hand sewing, especially a catch stitch hem. I can do it the right-handed direction (not holding the needle right-handed of course, but the orientation of the project and the direction of sewing), but it goes waaaay faster if I orient everything the opposite way.

    We are definitely a brilliant lot! 😉

  4. Hannah says:

    Love this… Lefties are the best. 🙂

  5. Left handed fist bump!

  6. susew says:

    I have never considered altering clothes based on my lefthandedness. One thing I find annoying is that sewing books only have photos using righthanded sewers. When I’ve been learning a new to me hand sewing stitch I have to turn the book upside down to view the sewing steps in the correct direction for me ( left to right).
    I carry my purse on my left shoulder.

    • Agreed. But if I was a publisher looking at satisfying 12% of readers or 88% of readers with my expensive photo shoot, I know what decision I’d make. Hence, the pragmatism we all have learnt since birth! I know there are books out there aimed at a left-handed audience because I own some of them. Interestingly, I never use them.

      • Knitlass says:

        Oh sister! My biggest crafting hurdle was learning to crochet (again) a couple of years ago. Crochet books are rubbish – with one illustration for lefties and 497 for righties. Then I was referred to an ace little book which has right and left images for *everything*. It is brill and it did the trick. I can crochet!

        Ps I am with you on the scissors – can’t get the hang of left handed ones and much prefer the right handed ones…

      • Lyndle says:

        My crochet book I had as a child (it was a ladybird book, if you remember those) said left handed crocheters should use a little mirror to view the pictures. Does that work? (I’m not left handed so just accepted the instruction, but now I’m thinking about it it sounds awkward)

      • Janet says:

        I often sit with the diagrams facing a mirror and follow the reflected instructions instead. Harder to do with YouTube, though!

  7. esewing says:

    Love this post , I’m right handed but did once try to teach knitting to a left hander , emphasis on the ‘tried’

  8. Emma Jayne says:

    I own left-handed scissors (different pairs for threads, paper, fabric and pinking). I have to think carefully about pin direction… because if I’m sewing by machine I’ll be removing with my right hand and if just cutting out fabric with a paper pattern I’ll remove with my left.
    My husband also believes we have a left handed ironing board… it’s against a wall in my sewing room with the iron cord only reaching the plug socket if it’s set up left handed!

    • Kathryn says:

      ooh where did you get left-handed pinking scissors?! I had a look online but couldn’t see any. I really need a new pair (mine are probably from the 1980s and are definitely blunt!) and I’d love to replace with left-handed ones.

  9. oaklandbex says:

    rotary cutter! i love a scissor, and use them in my right hand like you do, but sometimes a rotary cutter, and my lefty ambidexterity, are the answer!

  10. Jo Laycock says:

    I think I get on ok as a leftie in a right-handed world, but I’ve never got the hang of right-handed scissors. I ditched my pinking shears ages ago because the blades cross on the wrong side for me so I can’t see what I’m doing. I never considered my handbag though (always on the left, right feels weird) – will definitely give it some thought next time I make a top with fancy neck/shoulder features!

  11. smashandme says:

    I can’t use left handed scissors either! I haven’t really ever thought how my lefty-ness affects my sewing but I can see that why I find some things so dam awkward. I think that due to having to adapt to the right handed world for 38 years that I am ‘ambidextrous with a left side preference’.

  12. Robin says:

    Thanks for the tips Karen. I use left handed pinking and fabric shears, but also have a few ambi shears as well, including those with springs which are super gentle on the hand and easy to use. I wear my shoulder bags on the right, and a watch on the left wrist. It seems many lefties adapt in different ways, and frankly I am not even conscious of what adaptations I have made. I tried knitting as a girl, but I never got beyond the basics. My sisters were right handed, my mom was “corrected” to be a righty in school – thankfully, I don’t think they do that anymore! But I miss knitting, it seems like such fun.

  13. I’m left-handed too! My textiles teacher at school was left-handed and had no trouble cutting with right-handed scissors, so when I asked for left-handed scissors I was told off for causing a fuss and just get on with using the right-handed ones, but they just don’t cut for me! The irons at uni are against the wall and are obviously designed for right-handed people so a bit of maneuvering sometimes. If doing a side zip, that can be sewn on the opposite side to make it easier to get on and off as well.

    • Oh, I’m always driven to distraction by the ironing situation in sewing classes. They’re all set up for right handed people, space is usually limited, and I’m the annoying sod who is wrangling ironing boards around when there’s little room to move as it is.

    • Ros says:

      I am right-handed, but my mother is left-handed so I have learned to iron left-handedly.

  14. francescapia says:

    Ooo dear I really don’t think always carrying your bag on the same shoulder is a good idea for your posture or any other lefties. ..i can usually tell if women wear their bag on the same shoulder all the time because it’s higher than the other. ….

    • rowena says:

      I was going to post just to say this as well! Please try to switch back and forth as much as you can remember – your back will thank you as you get a bit older! I do really like the idea of being conscious about zippers and other fastenings, though. When mine are wrong it’s because I made a boo-boo….

    • A says:

      Even better — ladies stop carrying heavy bags. I went back to college and noticed all the young people just carry a little wallet. I was really sticking out with a shoulder bag, so I learned to set my self up to get along with just a wallet wrist-let – sooo much better for my shoulders.

  15. Barbara Johnson says:

    When I enrolled in sewing classes in school (eons ago), my parents bought me shears they had been told were left handed. They weren’t and as a result I became a right handed cutter. And yet, I use a rotary cutter with the left hand. I will have to look into the one mentioned above that is specifically for lefties. I haven’t had trouble with it though I drove a right handed quilting teacher to distraction over it. She freaked over me using the “wrong” side of the quilting ruler!

    Purse hangs on my left shoulder. Watch is on my left wrist.

  16. MaryEllen says:

    A Lefty sewer my entire life – I loved this post!!!!!!

  17. Kaitlyn says:

    My grandmother began to teach me how to sew when I was very young. But I was “kakky-handed”, so she decided I needed proper sewing classes. From ages 8-18 I had weekly patchwork classes, which was brilliant, and laid the sewing foundation very well

  18. Kathy Lynch says:

    I actually noticed you’d moved your Joan dress tie to the right shoulder & wondered if you’d made a “boo boo” but felt it indelicate to ask…I’m very well mannered for a “righty”. LOL But far from a mistake, you were indeed being brilliant! 🙂

  19. Jane says:

    I’m not left handed but I’m always being told I wear my watch on the ‘wrong’ wrist for a right hander (my right wrist). Is there a right or wrong?! My friend Joe (tie maker) is also right handed but hand sews with his left hand, he says he just can’t do it the other way round, weird! x

  20. Lesley King says:

    My daughter is right handed and I can already see confusion in our future as I try to teach her things that as a leftie I’ve had to bodge to make it work.

  21. John Yingling says:

    I am am a male sewer who is a left handed writer, but right handed scissor cutter, but I prefer to hand stitch left wise, and yes, I reverse all the hand sewing instructions. By the way, I throw right handed, and I think, if I ever played the guitar, it would be left handed. Right now, I am typing on my IPad with my left forefinger. Sticking pins in fabric, left hand, cutting with a razor blade or Xacto knife, ambi, using a rotary, ambi, but left preferred – weird! Finally, look at your sewing machines, basically a left-handed tool, since the control of the fabric is with the left hand, but the controls remain on the right side !?! Why weren’t the first machines open on the right side? Would that make it a left-handed machine since the controls, buttons, etc. would be on the left side??? Oh yes, and I iron right side, God only knows why!

  22. jenibrown says:

    Never thought about altering sewing for my left-handedness but will definitely consider it now! And was completed unaware of a left-handed rotary cutter – can someone post a link? Knitting and crocheting as a leftie is far more complex than sewing, however – so I wonder, are you a leftie knitter as well? English or continental? And what techniques did you find hardest to learn/get your head around? (asking because I have a blog with guides for leftie knitters and am always looking for suggestions on techniques to provide help on…)

  23. Lydia-Ann says:

    I’m a life long left-handed sewer and have never consciously thought about altering patterns, but now that I think about it when I made my first pair of dress slacks, I did move the side zipper to the right and put the pocket on the left. Left side pockets being the preferred place to keep lip balm or bus fare.

    Years ago my right handed sister and I invested in a rotary cutter that can be set up right or left handed Fiskars 45mm, though we got ours at a local Jo-Ann Fabrics, and have had no problems finding replacement blades.

  24. Love the tips for swapping sides for embellishments on garments! Great idea! We have left handed dressmaking scissors on our website to make sewing easier for left handed Sewists too.

  25. Nini says:

    My best purchase was lefty duck billed scissors. Before finding them trimming a baby hem was a nightmare!

  26. shaewc says:

    Left-handed sewists unite! 😉

  27. JustGail says:

    Nice thoughts on swapping sides for details and closures. About the left-hand rotary cutters, aren’t the yellow Dritz(?) able to be used either left or right handed?

    Regarding learning from a right hander, I’ve seen tips that if you sit facing each other it goes better. This would be the same as using a mirror on books. And for knitting, to try the continental method where you hold the yarn in left hand might work better. Yvette Stanton put out a Left Handed Embroiderer’s Companion book a few years ago, and it’s brilliant – http://www.vettycreations.com.au/left-handed-book.html
    I’m not affiliated in any way. I’m not left handed when doing needlework and I bought one, just in case I ever know a lefty who’s wanting to learn and just can’t get it with normal books. Or if I ever can’t use my right hand.

  28. JustGail says:

    Come to think of it, I may be a lefty when it comes to knitting (what little I can do) as I can’t do diddly when I hold the yarn in my right hand.

    • jenibrown says:

      You’re a left-handed knitter if you move the stitches from the right needle to the left, regardless of which hand you hold the yarn with. You will also need to reverse non-symmetrical pattern instructions and read knitting charts differently and, depending on whether you’re a combined knitter (http://www.anniemodesitt.com/knit.html) or not, you may need to reverse the direction of your increases and decreases.

      Knitting in this way, but holding the yarn in your left hand is called English knitting and holding the yarn in your right hand is Continental knitting. Reverse everything above and it’s for righties (description of English vs Continental here is for righties: http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2014/02/english-vs-continental-knitting/)

      And if you want to make your life really difficult by doing combined continental knitting, check out my tutorials here: https://jenibrown.wordpress.com/knitting-for-lefties/

      • JustGail says:

        OK, I move stitches from left to right, so I’m not left-hand when knitting. I wonder if it’s because I did a bit of crochet and tatting first where I hold the yarn/thread in left hand that yarn in the right hand gives me fits when knitting? And for as little as I knit, I’m not going to give it much thought. No matter, you made some really nice tutorials, I added them to my bookmarks.

  29. This is some great advise. I have never had to change a pattern to accommodate my left-handedness, but I think that is because I don’t think I pick designs that require it. However, when designing my purses, I do very much, think about the direction of the pockets and strap. If I’m designing for myself everything is left-handed friendly. If not then everything is right handed friendly. I have a hard time finding purses in stores because they are usually designed for right handed people. The zipper goes a the wrong way and the pockets are on the wrong side. I do find some there are amby but very seldom. Either way it gives me an excuse to make more stuff.

  30. Margaret says:

    I am left-handed I knit right-handed. When I was very young my mother taught me to knit and she was right-handed so that was how I was taught. It never seemed difficult to me. My problem is embroidery as all the information is for right-handed people.

  31. Mary says:

    I never had a pair of left-handed scissors until I was an adult. Now I have LF scissors and pinking shears and no longer sport a deep ridge over my left thumb (from using right-handed scissors). Of course, I am also old enough to have had teachers who tried to get me to use my right hand, not my left. If there is one other thing lefty’s are, it is stubborn. We have to find our own way of doing things and go with what works for us.

  32. LinB says:

    I am right-handed, but should try to use my left hand more — to build new neural pathways in my dried-up old brain.
    I did teach myself to knit “German” or “continental” style. Continental knitting places the greatest burden on one’s left hand, to control tension and to “throw” the yarn around one’s working needle — even if you hook yarn through a stitch with your right hand, your left is still in control.
    Best thing about continental knitting is that you don’t drop yarn when you reach the end of a row. Those microseconds really add up over the course of a large piece of knitting, making you feel fast as lightning at getting to the end of a project.

  33. Donna F. says:

    I am left handed. I have always cut using my right hand. When a left handed scissor was available, I could not use it. Another item I have found that are made only for right handed people are wallets. Try it. You open most wallets and they are upside down.
    Left handed must stuck together.
    Happy Creating.
    Donna

  34. I’m a card carrying genius leftie for sure. The one exception is scissors. I cut with my right hand! Always have. The great things about this is that I can use left handed scissors in my left hand if I want to. I can have a pair for each hand while cutting out a fiddly garment, it’s quite handy.
    I teach sewing and quilting and lampshade making, so I have to teach classes of mostly righties how to use rotary cutters safely, how to hand slip stitch etc, and I always get the righties to watch me directly across and imagine they are looking in a mirror, I get the lefties to stand beside me. Then everyone has the best experience. Of course right handed people are not used to being taught by a leftie so they are at the disadvantage.
    But then, they are being taught by a cabaret performer and comedienne so my fabulosity makes up for it, in spades 😉

  35. John Yingling says:

    I’m a male sewer who writes left but scissors right, and can use a circular cutter both ways. I hand sew left, iron right, and pin left. If I had to learn to play guitar, I think I would go left. And I am using my left forefinger to type this on my iPad. Question, what hand direction is a sewing machine ? Was Eli Whitney right handed? We manipulate the fabric left when sewing, but the controls are right- handed. What if the needle was on the right ? As a lefty, that sounds and feels right, I mean, correct. In conclusion, we lefties always have to adapt to a right dominant world.

    • Katie says:

      If I recall correctly, the original sewing machine was hand cranked, with the crank on the right side of the machine.

      • John Yingling says:

        Excellent point. Those early sewers must have had some strong right arms!

    • JustGail says:

      I consider sewing machines right handed, since as you noted, the controls are all on the right. As far as manipulating fabric, I do the large movements (moving fabric so it doesn’t drag while sewing) with left, but the finer adjustments with my right (like aligning the stitching path with presser foot & needle) and also pull pins with my right. That’s another reason I think machines are right handed – if you pull pins with left, there’s no place within reason to put a pincushion or dish on the left side. Unless you are sewing small projects. Or are very creative in your sewing setup.

      • John Yingling says:

        As a matter of fact, the pin magnet is forever changing position, and I pull pins with either hand and am always looking for that dang magnet!!!

  36. Karen says:

    Don’t let being left-handed get in the way of learning or teaching anything manual!!

    A great-great-aunt of mine did beautiful embroidery, left-handed, and thought she wouldn’t be able to teach, until she realised that she should sit opposite her pupil rather than next to them. They copy what they see as in a mirror.

  37. Dara harper says:

    Thank you! I am a “Leftie”, too! That’s our SUPER POWER! I enjoy reading your posts!

  38. Mona says:

    Such an important post! The struggle is real for us lefties… When I was learning how to use scissors in elementary school, we never had a pair of left handed scissors that were (1) locatable and (2) not covered in glue so I learned how to cut with my right hand.

  39. Danielle says:

    What a great post. I am a lefty! And I cut lefty with righty scissors. But I never considered handedness when it came to design and embellishment. Definitely something to think about! Thanks for posting. Comments are a good read, too!

  40. rubydocrafts says:

    Why have I never right of this before? Genius 😄

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