Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hand Sewing

What is it about hand sewing?  I'm at the point of inserting the lining sleeves and I'm going to do it by hand.  So I've paused (or am procrastinating) to write this blog entry instead.  In my youth, I hated the hand-work that went with finishing a garment so much that most of my "finished" garments required at least one safety pin...  I still yearn after beautiful machine techniques that substitute for hand stitching and count it as a victory if I only have to wield a needle to sew on the buttons.  However, sometimes, I come up against it, and I choose to use hand-sewing for certain tasks. 

For instance, I've already inserted the shoulder pads in my Vogue 2770 jacket with hand stitches as seen in this post.  I like to bag the jacket body lining (without sleeves) by machine, then hand-baste the lining around the armscye of the jacket.  Sewing the sleeves this way ensures the lining will not budge inside the jacket.  Then, you stitch the sleeve to the lining using more-or-less invisible stitches.  The sleeves likewise will never budge.  If there is the correct amount of ease in the lining, all will be well. 

I did this on my orange plaid jacket as you can see in this post, and I like how it looks, once done.  But hand-sewing is definitely not my favorite part of sewing. 

Which may also explain why I signed up for a class on PR with Susan Khalje.  The class name is "Couture Hand Stitches" and we're supposed to learn these ones:

  • The Basting Stitch
  • Hand Overcasting
  • The Catch Stitch
  • The Slip Stitch
  • The Fell Stitch
  • The Invisible Hem Stitch
  • The Back Stitch
  • The Prick Stitch
  • The Thread Chain
  • The Thread Bar
  • The Blanket Stitch
  • The Buttonhole Stitch 
I downloaded the first lesson today but haven't had time to read through it.  I did spot a very definitive statement to the effect that the "only" satisfactory way to underline anything was to hand baste the two layers together at the seamlines.  Harumph I say.  We'll see if she can make a convert of me. I will review the class once I'm done with it - it's my first on-line class outing and Ms. Khalje seems to be very well-regarded generally on all things "couture". 

Random information:  "couture" is a pretty ordinary word in its language of origin, which is French.  It simply means "sewing".  "Haute couture", on the other hand, was a very formal term which designates those design houses which are formally designated as members of the French Chambre syndicale de la haute couture.  According to Wikipedia, to be eligible for this they must:
  • Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
  • Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
  • Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
Sigh.  Even Wikipedia acknowledges that this lofty élite term has been watered down and confused. Simple French words may tend to have a certain je ne sais quoi about them - thus prosaic "sewing" has become something elusively elegant and (perhaps) unattainable. 

If only, after (virtually) rubbing shoulders with Ms. Khalje, my hand-sewing will have this je ne sais quoi too.  Right now, my stitching is rather utilitarian... (and I don't much like the process either). 

Jacket is almost done ...


  1. I hope you enjoy the class and it doesn't seem like too much punishment! Looking forward to seeing the jackedt :)

  2. I took a French 'couture' class many years ago and I learned how to put in a whole lining by hand. Not only not the most fun thing to do, but it didn't hold up well, no doubt because it was my first attempt. My first sewing book was the Vogue book from the mid 70's and I tried out all the hand stitches in various garments. The worst looking by far was the overcasting of seams. Ugly. Give me a lining or my serger any day. Hopefully you will gain enjoyment as well as expertise in hand sewing and the class will be become a joy. Well, there is always hope, no?

  3. We coined the term "7/8ths done" this weekend. It seems that many of us get clothing justthisclosetofinished, then put off the last bit. You are getting so much done lately!

  4. I took her hand stitching class and found it to be very useful. I use one of her methods to hem pants and now they never come undone. I haven't put in a pricked zipper yet.

    Marilyn D.