machine vs hand sewing

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Biro
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machine vs hand sewing

Post by Biro »

I'm in a bit of a quandry here.. trying to get something to look as accurate as I can (look being the key word here) but I can't figure out which would be better given that I'm definately not good at needlework..

Looking at stuff like the St louis shirt (http://heatherrosejones.com/stlouisshir ... hance.jpeg) and seeing how fine and straight the stitching is, I wonder if for someone of my talents, using a machine will produce something that looks much more period than my big, wonky hand-stitches ever will. Certainly what I've done so far looks nothing like what the pro's did 'back in the day.'

Thoughts?

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Sophia
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Sophia »

Honest opinion there is no way you will be able to get an authentic looking shirt that is durable without at least hand finishing the edges and using machined french seams for the seams. A properly made shirt or shift is also easier to patch/mend than a machine made one.

Personally I think it is worth persevering and learning to sew properly. Set yourself up with a few large linen squares and practice your hemstitch - pull a thread to cut rather than ripping the cloth. Also boil your linen cloth at 90C and iron it before cutting.

Sarah Thursfield does an excellent pamphlet called Perfect Plain and Fancy Linens which is full of useful tips and some cutting layouts. You should be able to get a copy direct from her.

Other useful tips:

Invest in some 80/3 Nel linen lace thread (I use these people)
Buy some No. 3 betweens which are an excellent all purpose needle
Buy a lump of beeswax to wax your linen thread
Always sew with a single thread never longer than the tip of your middle finger to your elbow (a long thread is a false economy).

If you are in the London area get in touch and I will give you a hand!

Sophia :D
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Biro
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Biro »

Sophia wrote:using machined french seams for the seams. ......... Set yourself up with a few large linen squares and practice your hemstitch - pull a thread to cut rather than ripping the cloth.

Sophia :D
Hehe. I don't believe I understood a word of that :D

I'm not making a shirt - it's a cloak, so I'm just sewing a linen lining to wool, (that shirt is the only surviving textile I know of for 13c). It's a big cloak and seems to be an awful lot of 'edge' to sew. :cry: Just using backstitch because it's the only one I know how to do that was period. Still, I think my bad sewing has now advanced to the ability of being able to sew badly while watching bad kung-fu films... ]:)

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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by houseoffreyja »

Alternatively, you could buy one from me. P.M me for styles and prices and avoid all that angst.
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Miss Costello »

shame you're not closer to me biro, I love hand stitching.

(East Yorks)

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Neibelungen
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Neibelungen »

Most of the time the stitching looks bad, compared to an original for 3 reasons:

1. Simple lack of practise and patience. The more you do the better you get and the less you focus about how long its taking.

2. Using the wrong stitch. Most people do a back stich or a kind of whip stitch (especially on linings/hems), when they should be doing a different style of stich to get the desired apearance. This is especially the case on linens (which got washed and needed fine stitching to survive) and 18th C work, which does a few things differently from modern practices. It's something that gets left out or glossed over in textile books alot.

3. Huge needles. Takes a bit of practice to get used to small needles, but most people wonder why they can't get neat tidy stitches with a meat skewer !! (eg, the Billingate needle case had a 35mm needle in it.)
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EnglishArcher
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by EnglishArcher »

Why are you lining a cloak with linen?

If you want the cloak for warmth line it with wool or even fur. Linen will keep you cool; probably not want you want from a cloak. Linen will also trap humidity, meaning it could take ages to dry, if wet.
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by houseoffreyja »

Lining it with wool would be alright, but you have to be careful with fur. What period and status are you? This decides which fur you can use.
Elaine

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Vrouwe Morrigan
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Vrouwe Morrigan »

I'm just the opposite, I almost never use my machine, I don't know why I even bothered to buy one. I like handsewing it gets neater and as you pointed out already you can watch TV when working in your project. So almost all my stuff is handsewn.
As I also have a daytime job the only time I can work on my projects is in the evenings and the weekends, so I have to plan carfully otherwise I'm not finished before the event I will be needing them,and Im forced to wear something old :roll:
Sewing a garther round the hem of one of my Houpelandes takes some time, it has a hem of 6-7 metres.
I also have a large cloak, beautiful dark green wool lined with a grey wool, luckely for me only the grey wool needed hemming, the green could do without.

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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by m. demetrius »

If you want the cloak for warmth
I once lined a wool blanket coat with cotton flannel (partly because the wool was very scratchy, and partly because I didn't know any better) and found that the warmth of the coat on a wet morning went to near zero. It would have been much smarter to line it with soft wool. Hindsight, you know-- :roll:
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Sophia
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Sophia »

I also belong to wool linings camp, they are warmer. To be honest though I have never replaced my initial Sally Green cloak as I very rarely wear it - just not a practical garment for working in. A gown and then a coat is much better.

As a woman I have worn two gowns over my kirtle and then a coat - I suspect that.our ancestors simply didn't go out in bad weather unless they had to!
aka Thomasin Chedzoy, Tailor at Kentwell Hall

nest
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by nest »

Still new to this but i have found that hand sewing gives me a better feel for the construction of a garment. I have a sideless surcoat which is completely handsewn and I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to figure out why it wasn't hanging properly if I'd machine stitched it.

Hand sewing also makes for interesting chats on the bus when I get out my latest sewing project!

nest

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Biro
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Biro »

So, been persevering a bit. my stitching is getting smaller, neater and quicker - so I guess I'll stick with it. (Thanks for the encouragement!)

Using linen because the main goal I have here is using up stuff that I've had kicking around for years. I don't mind it not being particulary warm since my cotte is a pretty thick wool, so I only really feel the cold on the exposed bits (hands, back of neck etc.) or when it's windy (which i guess it should still help with)

Didn't realise about the moisture thing though. Guess I'll just have to live with it!.

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Sophia
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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by Sophia »

Delighted to hear things are improving - practice does make perfect. In period the people doing the sewing would for the most part have learned their skills by early adolescence at the latest and would have had lots of practice. I am quite serious about making up lots of useful linen squares, no re-enactment group with a living history display, particularly including food or cooking can have too many. You have table napkins, dish covers and if big enough head wraps for ladies who have forgotten their head gear on hand (I make a minimum size of 85 x 85 cm which is half the width of most linen, if you are lucky enough to 36" or 45" wide linen simply make a full width square).

If you make sure your cloak is no longer than mid-calf then you should be OK unless you go wandering around in knee length vegetation.

On the lining front I have done a modest amount of reading of easily available wills, accounts, etc. and I am sceptical about the large scale use of linen in particular dyed linen for linings. Certainly by the late C15th and C16th linings would appear to be unbleached linen on upper body garments where they don't show. Skirts, gowns and garments where the linings show and are coloured would appear to be various weights of wools, fustians and silks, both natural (off-white) and dyed. What becomes more important is the whiteness and fineness of your body linens.

P.S. If you want to use up scraps of wool sew several layers together to make period pot holders, put the heavier wool on the outside. Make sure you are using pure wool cloth.
aka Thomasin Chedzoy, Tailor at Kentwell Hall

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Re: machine vs hand sewing

Post by wulfenganck »

I'd go for handstitching/sewing too. ANother reason for me is as well the fact, that the hobby living history neither starts nor ends with wearing the clothing on an eventside. The research, planning and replicating the stuff is just as well part of the hobby - to be honest, it's probably the much larger part.
To make something with hands only gives a very different impression and understatement....and you'll get better....

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