Sewing: the joy of hand stitching

see those little pecks in the lining of the back?
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That’s understitching, done by hand.
I can’t believe it but that was one of the loveliest times I had last night, sewing in a little understitching by hand.
It goes quite fast to my surprise. And there’s maximum control over fabric and thread. Sewing by hand: a lovely thing to do?

It prompted me to take on that other job that was still waiting: fixing the neck line of the pink flowery dress. It was all wonky and tilted because I put in front darts when tired and not smart enough to get a ruler.
Without unpicking the seam I folded a new line and pressed it and sewed it in place by hand. The new line is on your lieft (my right when wearing it):
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Folded it too much perhaps and now it’s not the same as the other side?
No. It was folded while I was wearing it and although it looks crooked in 2D it is actually in harmony in 3D. Or harmony-ish.

In the picture there’s also a little tell tale handstitching at the top of the centre back. I pulled on a wrong thread and the centre back seam came undone. So I stitched a little.
Also one side of the front might benefit from a little extra understitching…by hand.

Since I seem to love to stitch by hand.

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Wriggle Dress: finishing touches, ugly bits.

I am not very subtle with my finishing touches I’m afraid. Whatever got the job done I did. There are some truely ugly bits…. and I am going to show you them.

For the sideseams I got confused about how to combine lining and sewing back and front together and still get a decent finished sideseam. So I just did first things first and I lined each piece separately:
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Then sewed them together using the tiniest of seam allowances (on the inside)
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Then I got worried that one line of stitching will never hold together two pieces of cloth and seams would be bursting and I’d be running along the street clutching pieces my dress together while trying to hide my face at the same time…

So I sewed a second time over the side seams. Which made them rigid and will probably chafe my skin when wearing them:
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Also I could not figure out how to sew the shoulder straps together. How to fold them into each other, lining embracing lining while the interlining was too thick to fold double? Not while there was also width to adjust and those pesky folds on the right shoulder to keep in check.
So I sewed things in place by hand and then ran the sewing machine over it. And then sewed all the little bits and frays in place by hand.
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This one has not yet received a go over with the sewing machine. The underside is still running wild. The sewed line you see is a basting that keeps the interlining to the fabric. (too narrow stitch width for basting I know)

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Now here come the real ugliest bits:
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This is the side seam under one armhole.
I took in the side bust a bit but only áfter I had sewn the side seams in my no-clutching-double-stitched-faux-French-seam style. After I took it in there was about half an inch of seam/fabric flapping on the inside so I decided to cut that away…

I’ll hand stitch over that to keep the fraying in check.

The other really ugly bit is the end of the zipper which the lining does not hide and the finishing of said lining. I tried a handrolled seam but … yeah… not easy.
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Also, this lining is such thin and delicate cotton, I wonder how long it will wear. This dress really makes me think about the thickness and sturdiness of the fabrics I combined in it. In a next dress I will be paying more attention to that: match them better.

Well, it is nearly a dress now. I will be wearing it. All that remains to be done is two little jobs and one big one: finish right shoulder strap, do something to that ugly side seam trimming and Hem The Dress.
I’d love to finish it to today, if I can find out a way to hem it by myself.

study: a gala dress my mum made

as I still await the arrival of the two patterns I studie clothes I own. I have one handmade dress, my mum made it for me exactly 20 years ago. (ok, 19 years and 50 weeks ago)

It still fits!
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It has prinsess lines, flaring skirt. It is made of silk (real silk, very flowing) and lined with synthetic shiny fabric, alsof very light and flowing)

You see some characteristics my body has: broad shoulders but not a big frame. A big bust (in relation to that frame) and neither a small waist nor big hips. I am a goblet. Or a reverted triangle.

V shaped necklines, 3/4 sleeves and garments that hug the hips and flare out at knee length look good on me. A wriggle dress will look smashing, as long as it suggests a waist rather than enforces it. (girl likes to breath)

There are a few issues with fit with this dress. The neck line gapes…
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and so does the side bust.

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It could do with a tuck but I do not yet know how to do this. I have read up on altering horizontal and vertical bust darts but with princess lines I take it the lines have to be unpicked. This dress is fully lined so that would mean unpicking the whole dress. Also, I may not want to because of sentimental value.

The gaping in the back might have been less 20 years ago, I am 41 now and my posture may have changed.

I love looking at the details. I start to see more and more things, the more I read about sewing.

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The princess line in the back runs all the way up to the shoulder seam.(but it isn’t centered)
The lining in the armhole is attached to the silk with minute little hand stitches.The lining doesn’t run to the very edge of the arm hole, it stops just short and it doesn’t peak out.

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there’s a zipper that is hidden, the silk has little overlaps to hide it.
A row of vertical little hand stitches runs next to the zipper, on both sides.

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I don’t know why those stitches are there. Perhaps to keep the silk lay flat over the zipper? No flaring upwards? I take it on the inside it keeps the pieces neat.
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from the inside it now shows me that the little stitches keep the lining nicely in place against the outer fabric. And out of the way when working that zipper, you wouldn’t want it to be caught in the zipper teeth.

Also in this picture you can see how the front neck was done. The lining and silk were sewed right in the ditch with the right sides facing. The piece was turned right side out and the seam was pressed.
I can see that the result is not as tidy as it was in the armhole, here the lining is visible from the outside. I do not know yet if this has to do with pressing, with bulk of the seam allowance in that part or with the used technique. I have read about other techniques but they take more time. This is a “good enough” fast technique.

It is fun to see some of my mothers thinking in this dress. She must have ran out of time or out of fun or it had to be finished sóón. She whipped open her bag of sewing skills and chose whatever got the job done.

This is what I love in all handmades, to see something personal of the creator come through. This is also why I do not care for perfect projects. (I aim for near perfection. Showing you my only sewing experiences in all their frumpiness (the skirt and the shirt) really put a dent in my self image.)

next: reinforcements
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The front of the neck is reinforced with white fusible ….eh… interfacing! that’s it!

  • interfacing reinforces parts of a pattern piece that need it. (front neck line, arm hole)
  • underlining reinforces a whole pattern piece. Basically you sew two pieces of cloth together and treat them as one. Good for shear fabrics (white linen, chiffon, organza) or very light fabrics (chiffon, silk).
  • interlining is the same as underlining but has the purpose of adding an extra layer for warmth.
  • lining is an extra layer between the outer fabric and the body. It serves ease of putting on and ease of wearing. It reduces sweat getting to the outer fabric (handy for linen as it will wrinkle when confronted with body moisture) or for warmth. Or for the sheer fun of it (” Care for a bright bold pattern inside your very mature jacket, sir?”). Lining hides the seams (and protects them somewhat I think).
  • a slip is a separated piece of undergarment, a little dress, to be worn under a dress. It has the same functions as lining.

In my dress the interfacing is fused to the lining. Very clever as it would have shown up miserably were it to be fused to the silk outer fabric.

The ‘ragged’ seam you see in the right side of the white interface is where the seam is that is pressed and that shows a little bit on the outside in the picture above this one. It has little cuts in it to allow it to follow the curve. Perhaps if it was trimmed smaller, the excess fabric cut away, it would have been pressed more out of sight.

But this would probably demand more measures to prevent that seam from fraying. No wait, fused interface won’t fray and neither will the lining it is fused to. It may be more difficult to press in its proper shape, a seam with a short seam allowance. This then would benefit from a small row of stitches that keeps it into place. But those stitches would be visible from the outside, as they would be through the silk, and that is not desirable on this dress.

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Inside I found three different kind of seams. One was pressed open, one was pressed to the side and one was pressed open and its sides handsewed. To prevent fraying I think. It also has little cuts, to allow for movement (?). I’ve seen this kind of seams online on a couture dress:

Marina von Koenig explains in a wonderful article over at Burdastyle.com

Here are two curves sewn together and the round cuts are for allowing that shape. The article also adresses working with linen and using both an interlining and a lining to get excellent results.

This is the kind of level I want to be at, intellectually. These are the sort of things I want to know, want to be able to do. Marina von Koenig has some wonderful reviews of dresses she made online.

Sparring partner in this yellow white dress was Susan Khalje who really knows a lot!

Years ago she wrote a wonderful book about using linen and cotton. It focuses on the fabric, not on patterns. It is no longer in print but it’s one I’d love to have. I’m thinking about buying the ebook even though I prefer paper books….

if only I lived in the USA…I’d take her class!

UPDATE: I purchased the ebook Linen and Cotton  by Susan Khalje with the publisher of Threadsmagazine. It was on sale and only cost $12,79.