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One stitch at a time

I've been slacking.  There are a number of things I need to do, but I've been sewing instead.  And I'm still sewing.  I got a gorgeous periwinkle blue Dupioni that is going to become yet another silk petticoat because a)  Low grade silk seems about correct for my class level, and b) It makes an awesome petticoat.

Hand-sewing doesn't even take all that much time, either.  I'm already hemming the third panel, and I only started sewing yesterday.  I'm using waxed silk, since linen tends to cut the silk apart, and I no longer use cotton/poly thread for anything I plan to wear at Gardiner's events.  

I've noticed a lot more people are moving towards full hand sewing, and it makes me feel all squishy - only a couple of years ago, people seemed terrified of the concept, and then I had about a year of people apologizing to me that their clothes weren't hand sewn (I don't mind, really - you can stop apologizing.  I really don't keep a score card).

(Well, not one based on that, anyway.)

But anyway - I like the trend, but no-one should feel obligated.  Costume is only a small part of the overall artistic work in the SCA, and if your thing is left-handed saddle widgets, then one can hardly begrudge a machine-sewn outfit.  I think there will probably come a point where enough people are hand-sewing their clothes that it will become a factor (though probably not a deciding factor for a long time) in consideration for a costume Laurel.

Uh, probably for Atlantia.  And probably not for quite a while.  But FYI, the more common something becomes, the more it becomes expected for certain levels of award.  Just so you know.  Besides, there will always be Laurels boycotting any advancement in expectations, so it's not a dealbreaker.

As for me, I just like the way it looks (better) - and the pattern shapes of period clothes are geared towards hand sewing.  There's a significant difference in pattern shaping pre- and post-sewing machine invention.  In many ways, the hand-sewing allows me to achieve the look I want more easily.  It's worth the extra time to have something I can continue to wear for years.

But back to my current petticoat - I'm going to try the waistband treatment that shows up in one of Jan Steen's paintings, and that is corroborated in Alcega's book.  I'll be gathering the top of the petticoat into a very narrow band, and stitching the pleats down on each side (rather than right through, utilizing two rows of stitching, rather than one).  

(This two-row stitching is speculative, but I live for experiments like this.)

I'm curious as to how the sewn pleats sit vs. cartridge pleating, which I'm becoming more and more convinced is reserved for attached bodice/petticoat arrangements only - where you won't want a big bulky amount of fabric that will distort the waistline.  I'm also curious as to whether the narrow band will roll under slightly, giving the appearance of a drawstring waist, because another of Jan Steen's paintings (yes, I need to scan the pics to show y'all) shows a woman with her bodies and petticoat clearly separate, since the waistline of the petticoat is 2-3 inches higher than the waist of the bodies, and shows through the opening in the lacing at the front (she is not wearing an apron), and looks for all the world like a drawstring waist.  But it's on a silk skirt, so I'm skeptible. 

Meaty stuff, this - I want to accumulate as much information as I can on the permutations of petticoats, bodies, and petticoat bodies, since I keep hearing about a current "absolute" that only petticoat bodies were worn, ever, and separate petticoats weren't done (which fails to explain the under petticoats, but these fads in costume research rarely seem completely logical).

While we're at it, this "they never dyed linen" idea is bugging me.  If they never dyed linen, why do I keep seeing Dutch paintings of linen aprons dyed yellow, green, and blue?  Sure, the colour is never as bright as it is with a protein-base fabric, but linen will take a dye.  Given the choice, I'd think most people would go with a little colour here and there.

But what do I know?

Back to the books...


( 115 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Jun. 18th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
::hugs:: I do love to hand sew. In my experience there is a rhythm to the seams that enhances the flow of the fabric and the drape. I'll be very excited to hear of the results of the double seamed petticoat waist band.

I can offer one tidbit on the colored petticoats. Were they starched? There is a trend in the early 1600s to colored starches. Popular colors were yellow, blue and red (pink).
{Source: Materials of Memory}
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Petticoats I don't know about - I'm looking at linen aprons. Without a corroborative link between a particular item and a written description of its material content, we can't tell whether many things are wool or linen, because they look so similar painted. Silk we can identify, because of the sheen.
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Jun. 18th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
The "They never dyed linen" thing annoys me too. I was so happy when that one Norweigian excavation came through a year or so ago that featured a linen dress that was dyed red with madder. Ha! Extant 14th century dyed linen. Take that you no-linen-dye-ers! I'm sure there are other textile finds of dyed linen out there too. I mean.. dude, you had linen, you had dye, you wanted pretty colors... why wouldn't you?

And a big old "Me too!" on the hand sewing. There are just some things that are easier to do by hand! You've got more control and can turn corners that would make your sewing machine weep and beg for mercy! And it looks nice too (on the visible seams and hems, mind you, on the long straight seems who can tell?)
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you for that link!!

Edited at 2008-06-18 02:05 pm (UTC)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
More later. Must work before we geek today. =) But I just wanted to say: "OF COURSE they dyed linen!"

Linen is easier to keep white than it is to keep dyed strongly, mostly because linens get washed more often than other fabrics (if at all). And linen bleaches out in the sun. But if you have a garment like an apron that is particularly susceptible to staining, doesn't it make more sense to dye it and hide the stains than make a new white apron more often?

Just speculation, but I have read that stained aprons were thought shameful. So before the advent of chlorine bleach, dyeing your apron is a great option.

And to the people who'll argue that linen doesn't take dye, lookie here: http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/georgian-baroque.php?s=&c=8&d=116&e=&f=&g=&a=167&w=2 That's linen dyed Barbie pink!
And here's yellow: http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/irish.php?s=&c=8&d=100&e=&f=&g=&a=196&w=2
The shift I made from this linen is still this colour. Almost five years of wear haven't dulled it.
And more yellow: http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/irish.php?s=&c=8&d=100&e=&f=&g=&a=195&w=2
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
I know, I know - but it's the current canard making the rounds, at least among some people in this kingdom, to the point that a friend got seriously docked in an A&S entry because she used dyed linen as a lining on a coat. *eye*roll*

All my 100% linens have faded over time, but that oesn't mean they didn't dye them - just that cheap dyes were probably more common for linen (like blue woad - duh!) since they needed to be dyed more often.

Plus, it's this whole "they only wore wool!" idea - well, sure - they used lots of wool in England, because it's cold a lot of the time, but they did have "canvas" doublets for the summer, because it did get warm, even then.

:) I love geeking in my comments - it's so much fun. and educational! But fun. And educational!

No, I'm not wasting time...
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
"Besides, there will always be Laurels boycotting any advancement in expectations"


Someday, I'd like to learn to hand-sew. Right now, I know nothing about it, and my attempts have turned into utter disasters. While I'm not looking to hand-sew an entire cote, being able to do the hand-finishing myself would be nice, instead of bribing one of my fiber-competent freinds to help.

Jun. 18th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
Ohh...but we soo loved being bribed...
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
I will have to double check and see if the aprons are linen, am sure some are... you can tell from the pressing. A list of private goods in the mid/late 16th century in Antwerpen has mention of blue aprons.
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
I must admit, I'm in the partial hand-sewing brigade. While there's a certain amount of my garb that will always be machine-sewn because of the ZOMG!!11!!WFTBBQ!!! I have nothing to wear for this event tomorrow... factor.

I'm becoming more comfortable with the gentle rhythms of hand-sewing and enjoy both the process and the results. I'm not a costume-laurel-to-be, but that doesn't mean I can't have some Really Spiffy Garb(tm) from time to time.
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
hehehe... I still (surprisingly) have the odd garment created under those circumstances!!! Usually because I put too many things in a-safe-place(tm)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... plenty of evidence of dyed linen in the Viking-era finds. At least, I'm assuming that linen found with indigo or weld proteins was dyed (and oddly, the archeologists assume so too, even if the fabric is mostly-brown now.)

Gotta love blanket rponouncements that lead to waves of smug mis-information. Remember when pink wasn't period? No, wait, you're not old enough to remember that.

I'm sure you remember the stories though. :)
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, I remeber being told that at my first event. Even then, I went "wut?" 8)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
I like hand-sewing, actually, and have for years. I'm working on a gonlek (Ottoman chemise) that I'm hand-sewing, and I actually hand-sewed some early garb of mine.

I wish there were more hand-sewing classes at Universities, etc.; I could use a lot of tips on technique, but I always seem to be teaching against the good classes...

Also, where are you getting waxed silk?
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
I'm buying cones of gemstone silk from Halcyon Yarn and waxing it with beeswax as I go. :)

Hand-sewing classes do turn up every now and then, but mostly as a "here are some stitches you can learn". A "Zen and the Art of Hand Sewing" class might be what more people are looking for - why it works, what they can get out of it, how long it takes - that kind of stuff.

I find it a very rewarding experience, and I'm pretty darned fast with a needle these days, so it just doesn't take too much more time.
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
While we're at it, this "they never dyed linen" idea is bugging me

Yeah, I was rather surprised when I ran into that one myself. Is it really still making the rounds?
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
It was about six months or so ago - I heard it again in passing at an event.

People hear something from someone they consider an authority, and they cling to it - it takes a long time to eradicate incorrect assumptions.
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)

This is early 17th century (but so are most of JA's doublets) and it's described as
'grey/brown'. Does linen naturally come in any color other than, um, linen?

On a related note, I'm not sure I understand the importance of the 'deliberately concealed' thing. Why do we care whether some dude accidentally bricked his doublet into the wall he was building or left it there on purpose? I have trouble believing that they were thinking of it as a time capsule at the time.
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
Either someone stole it and was planning to come back for it later, someone used it as a really odd insulation, or it's a Papist garment, attempting to flee persecution.


(edited because I can haz typo now)

Edited at 2008-06-18 02:31 pm (UTC)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
I'll send you the text on aprons (and the colors they were dyed) from the Textiler Hausrat that Katherine B has translated - lovely woman that she is!

I believe it states clearly that they were linen.

Also, there is a section on separate petticoats in that same source that I will try to dig up for you. It's been ages since I've read that bit so I am not going to try and quote anything in it.

I would post the whole lot in here, but threadjacking is so rude! *grin*
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
The secondary purpose of the comments threads in my research posts (the primary being for everyone to tell me how amazing I am) is for everyone to contribute what they know to the topic at hand - so 'jack away. :)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I <3 handsewing. I even love the long seams, because I can get myself into a lovely zen-like trance while doing them.

That said, for now everything hidden is machined, everything seen is hand done. Except for toddler clothes. The long seams just aren't that long and it takes me longer to dig out my sewing machine. I may hand-sew Jeff's gown, but I'm barely scrounging up any time to work on it. Grrr.

When the boys are older, then I'll hand sew everything again.
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm going to try not to blither on and on (I think I've done that enough about linen and dyeing, above).

Handsewing -- I started handsewing because I'm just plain BAD at machine sewing. I rush. My first machine's tension was always wonky. And my Japanese Mom gave me a bolt of acid green 100% silk kimono brocade and I knew there would never be another if I screwed it up.

So I started handsewing. And I came to hate sewing less. And then I came to actually enjoy sewing. So I stopped using the machine entirely and started handsewing everything.

Not because it was period. Because it didn't make me crazy like machine sewing did.

Shocked yet?

Then, in my study of extant garments, I realised that I couldn't understand their construction unless I reproduced the original using the stitches they did. I cannot explain to you (and probably don't have to) how eye-opening it was to find that if you sewed it this way by hand, it not only took less time than sewing it by machine, but the seam was stronger and the garment was just plain better made.

I love handsewing. I love using the stitches used on the original garments. I love trying to figure out how an original garment may have been sewn by using my knowledge of extant garments and backing it up with information from contemporary paintings when no garments particular to that time and place survive (like this: http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/tudor-elizabethan.php?s=&c=8&d=115&e=&f=&g=&a=231&w=2 ). And I LOVE when it looks just perfect!
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
Yes - all of the construction problems are magically solved when sewn by hand, especially curved seams.

Like I say (I think) in my hand-sewing article, curved seams doen by machine require clipping, which weakens the fabric. When done by hand, no puckering. :)

I *hate* working on my machine - I do it for modern stuff, and to save time on non-period costumes, but the fabric crawls, the tension messes up, I get snags, I break needles, etc. I feel much more calm when working by hand.

Plus, I get to watch television while I work - more work gets done that way. 8)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
*grars* Rant button activated!

How I hate absolutes! "They never.." "they always"

BAH! Like you know! *beats espouser about the head and neck with a roll of fabric*

Second biggest pet peeve with me, next to the whole "explanation" mavens who think there has to be a /reason/ for every fashion trend. "But WHY did they want to look like that?" "Because it would piss off their parents! Why do you dress like you do?" *grrr-rant*
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Jun. 18th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Well, I make English/Dutch petticoats, which seem to be straight, rather than the French/Spanish styles, which are more conical. My petticoats are not quilted, though there is evidence that many petticoats were lined (presumably for warmth, as many of Elizabeth's silk petticoats were lined with wool flannel).

Quilting seems to be a fashion that came later - the earliest quilted pettiocats turn up post-1630 (off the top of my head; I'd need to look it up for an exact date).

Depending on who you were, you'd probably wear one or two petticoats at the lower end, and maybe one more if you were richer. Plainer or older ones would be worn underneath, with the nicest one on top (where it would be seen). Most working class people seem to have worn a petticoat/petticoat bodies with another petticoat underneath, most likely for warmth, rather than to create a fashionable silhouette.
Jun. 18th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
I have an Alçega kirtle (59a, which I call "Mythbuster" because IMO the layout, clearly indicates the possibility of side-closing bodices NOT being Not Done) that I did with a pleated-in skirt. It's my Old Faithful, the dark green kirtle, done in wool, with a narrow bound hem in polyester orange shantung which I need to replace, as its getting raggedy and the skirt is gradually getting shorter.

The kirtle's wool, with the skirt attached directly to the bodice with a single line of stitching. Thanks to the wool being a flannel and likely also to its being fulled prior to using, it springs out attractively on its own - but with a petticote underneath, it's Even Better. The front is smooth, with pleating starting in front of the hip bones' points.

Someone got a picture of me in it plus petticote when I was given my OVO. The pictures are very much in motion, but IIRC you can still see what I'm talking about. I'll see if I can find it, if you like.
Jun. 18th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
I've gotten to love handsewing the last five years or so myself, it feels almost zen-like to settle into the rythm.

It has been catching on around here too, at the last several Lilies War they have had a Tailor's Workshop where they hand-sew a complete set of outfits for then then-reigning monarchs, including casting buttons and making shoes. This year it is viking.

Heading back out in a few minutes for the duration, took a couple of days to come in and rest the hip after setup (sold 5 already :)). Moonlight Madness tonight, rain predicted for tomorrow.....
Jun. 18th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
I handsew for a more practical reason: I have lots of downtime at work and no way to set up a sewing machine there. I can fit an extra 20 hours of project time in a week if I handsew. The prettier seams are just a bonus.

I had a wondering... modern construction technique forces you to consider the piece as two-dimensional because of the need for flat bits to machine. Hand sewing in the hem-and-piece method uses a different mental set, treating the garment not as a flat thing that pops into shape, but as a three dimensional item that must be built. (gusseted sleeves and cartridge pleating are big examples) I suspect that changing your headspace to the hand sewing mode helps one really understand the desired fit of a period piece.
Jun. 18th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
I find it does. :)
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Jun. 18th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Henry ROX!

We lived near in each other in the East, and I learned so much from him. His attention to detail is amazing.
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Jun. 18th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
My favorite thing that appears to be happening right now in the SCA, (well at least here in Atlantia) is the greater awareness of hand sewing. I don’t think it can totally be attributed to people just wanting a completely hand sewn garment, so much as they have become more aware of the inability to make things look right, using modern sewing techniques. I will always use my machine for some things, because until the kids stop growing, rolling in the mud, or for the dresses that I make out of my chosen 2 main looks, (1530-1560 German and Florentine) it definitely will have a place in my sewing, (hopefully guilt free) but I think that because of the greater flexibility and the increased awareness in the idea of making clothing not costumes, people are starting to take note that gold lame and stretch velvet just aren’t cutting it anymore………. Squeeeeeee it just makes me happy!

Anyway…Mistress, thank you, because even though there are a few who were simultaneously hand sewing the same time as you, it truly has been you who have increased the profile, and you really have created a legacy that has increased the overall standards in more then just your little corner of the universe, and that has been all you. You are a Rock Star!
Jun. 18th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
I enjoy your speculations, and your photos on hand sewing. I am trying that method on my current bodice, and found the problem of too tight a sewing does lead to that nasty ridge line. But live, experiment, and learn! Thank you.
Jun. 19th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
The little ridge shows up most often with light fabrics - I always get a tiny one when I sew silk. The stitch needs to be almost entirely on the edge - closer than you think is safe sometimes - to be able to "roll" out when you flatten the seam.

Keep going! :)
Jun. 18th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
I like hand sewing because I get to try different construction techniques to using a sewing machine. It is kind of fun and looks pretty. Appreciation of machine sewing requires a modern aesthetic - for example, to appreciate the "hard" lines of visible machine stitching as opposed to the delicate and discrete hand stitches (hems, for instance). A person can appreciate both, but they've got to switch their brain over from one mode to the other or it is ugly and jarring.
I am finding it just as interesting to learn industry sewing techniques for modern clothing as I am learning period sewing techniques for historical clothing. Machine sewing is so much easier when you know the "correct" way to do it - modern clothes are a product of machine sewing like historical clothes are a product of the technology of the time. Pattern instructions and sewing books do not usually give the appropriate techniques and production order. I have learnt to like machine sewing more by trying to work WITH it more rather than to try and do whatever I want. I think if someone wants to machine sew historical garb, they will have a hard time of it unless they modify the way the garb is made for modern techniques.
Jun. 18th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
I adore hand sewing on a posh fabric, so sensually pleasing.

I cna't visualize what you're describing WRT the pleating. Can't wait to see it.
Jun. 19th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
without getting into the others' comments, I have a question oh great Laurel :P

What is your opinion about folks who use machine stitching as a time saver, instead of hand sewing? I know that with practice one can get up a pretty decent speed with it; but for some folks, hand sewing is out for one reason or another (lack of dexterity, seriously no time to devote to it, something).

I wish I knew more about judging, because it seems to me that one should explain the changes or substitutions they make, and not get HIGH marks, but they also shouldn't get zeros either.

and who is spouting this nonsense about not dyeing linen??? MRF?? That's nearly outrageous as the idea that everything was black, brown or gray (because that's all that was available)...or that Pink isn't period.

Jun. 19th, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
Well, I have no idea who started the linen=/=dyed thing, but it pops up every now and then. I try to kill it when I see/hear it.

I have no problem with people using machine sewing as a time-saver - the only thing I prefer is that no machine sewing is visible on the outside of the finished project (which can be as simple as using a blind hem stitch to do the hem instead of a straight line). In judging, it falls somewhere in the middle - if is properly done and there's an explanation (and depending what the explanation is), I'll assess accordingly.

If the point is to make a hand-made garment, then they lose points. But until the standard is all hand sewing for everything (not gonna happen), I will not give zero marks for a machine sewn seam unless reproduction is the point (and even then, they'll just get a lower mark, that's all, not nothing).

Does that make sense? :)
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