20 August 2011

Is the sewing machine your friend or your frenemie?

When creating costumes that are pre mid 19th century, is the sewing machine your friend or your frenemie?

My Singer falls into the frenemie category. In the two years that I’ve been creating period clothing, I’ve machine sewn a few skirt panels. And I used it for the center back panel on my latest gown (for reasons discussed in this post), otherwise I hand sew everything. It’s my favorite part of the process.

I sit on the couch, pop in a period film and chill out. It’s relaxing and productive all at once.

But there’s more to it. I spend a lot of time researching correct fabrics, appropriate accessories, etc. to learn more about the 18th century and to create the right “look” from a certain era.

I’m less proud of the few garments where I cut corners and ran the skirt panels through the machine. And as my 18th century wardrobe grows, I find myself shying away from those items.

My goal in making period attire is to gain a better understanding of life in the 18th century. I’m not the kind of person that will shun all things modern when I dress in period clothing. (I wear contacts, take aspirin, use sunscreen, keep a cell phone in my colonial pocket, etc.)  I feel that spending extra time to correctly construct my clothing deepens my appreciation for the process and creates a more valuable end result.

What are your thoughts on machine sewing pre mid 19th century garments? Is your sewing machine your friend, or your frenemie?

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  1. I've never run anything through a machine, so it's my complete enemy!

  2. I'm all about the pretties myself, and so while the right kinds of layers and underpinnings and cut is essential, I'm only hand sewing where I would hand sew anyway. I love hand sewing, but not foe a whole dress :) But I think the important distinction is that I don't want to get into the 18th C experience, not at this stage in my life anyway. If I did, I'd be frenemying my sewing machine too :)

  3. My policy on pre-machine period sewing is to do it by hand, although I once made a française on the machine for a quick costume. That turned out ... all right, most of the issues were just to do with my lack of experience.

    But for modern sewing? A frenemy. Oh yes. Or just an enemy. Because it's so easy to speed up, I sew too fast and make terrible mistakes that could have been prevented if I was sewing by hand and able to adjust the fabric constantly.

  4. A thoughtful well written post on a topic dear to my heart. I love the long seams by hand, it is so soothing and zenlike. Plus you build up speed and accuracy, the more you do. My vote is always for handsewing.


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