Hello dearies! What do you seek for in everything you do? Do you seek perfection? Why? As a seamstress I am always seeking to better myself and make a garment to the best of my ability. I know I am never going to get anything absolutely perfect, that just isn’t possible in this world. But that doesn’t mean that you and I can’t make a study of bettering our technique day by day. Sewing is a craft, and whether you are just getting into it, or have sewn for 10+ years as I have, or even longer, you are constantly learning something new.
Over the past three or so years as I have earnestly endeavored to make my clothing of higher quality, I have started to evaluate what standard I hold my sewing to. Do I try and make my clothes as good as ready-to-wear, or better? If I want to start at the easiest side of the spectrum, how do I make my clothes as good as ready-to-wear? And if I want to go beyond, what does that look like? Well, my dears, I am going to give you a brief introduction today into how to take your sewing up to the next level, by taking cues from ready-to-wear, and beyond, in how we finish our garments. This is not an end-all Clothing Finishes reference, but merely an inspiration, a cross section if you will, of what we can aspire to in the art of sewing.
For the sake of ease in reading this post, the graphic above is a reference point as to how the photos below have been organized. That which is “okay” (i.e. somewhat acceptable to the home seamstress, though we should be striving for better than that) is on the left, and the example of what we should be striving for is on the right. I do want to say here that some of the examples of what is “okay” are from garments that I have made and still wear. Like I said, sewing is a learning process, you are always improving and bettering your skill every day that you work at it. So don’t lose heart! Take all this with a grain of salt and as a goal to be heading towards. You have to start somewhere, and you have to have a goal to be heading towards if you want to get anywhere else than where you are.
So now, let’s talk sewing, shall we? Starting with the most important part of any garment: the seams, or, in this case, how we finish those seams.
Here we have three garments of similar lightweight sheer/semi-sheer materials. On the left is a RTW silk blouse, in the middle is my nylon plisse dream Party dress, and on the right my cotton/silk voile 1958 Party Dress.
So, why is the finish on the blouse on the left only okay? To be honest it is a perfectly acceptable finish to just serge the edges of your fabric, and it really is the RTW industry standard. But if we want to go beyond that, say closer to the level of haute couture and bespoke garments, and make something even sturdier and more beautiful in such a lightweight material, we could use a seam finish such as I used on the two dresses to the right: a french seam. Not only is this sturdier than just serging the raw edges together, but it is a softer finish against your skin and will make the garment wear and last longer.
Here is a great tutorial on how to make french seams on any part of a garment, from a shoulder seam to an armhole.
Sorry! Too big of pictures here to put them side by side. But I think you can tell which RTW jacket is of higher quality. Both jackets are made of similar materials. The one at the top is made of corduroy, the one below that of cotton velveteen, which is essentially corduroy without the wales (don’t ask me to explain that 😀 ). The jacket below is so much nicer to wear, and will last longer too, because the main material isn’t being directly exposed to your skin and sweat. The lining acts as a barrier, as well as a slick surface, making the garment feel smoother against your skin, and less likely to catch in a funny way on your other clothes that you are wearing beneath your jacket.
Can you tell why I have yet to make myself a jacket? There’s a lot that goes into those things! But if you are at the stage where you feel like you can tackle such a monumental task, here is a tutorial on how to alter your pattern pieces to create a lining for your jacket or blazer.* What is the difference between a jacket and a blazer anyways?
He he he! The hem on the left is making me cringe more and more every time I look at it. Yes, this is from a skirt that I made several years back. This was back when everyone in our house hated making hems. We would do anything in our power to avoid them. But, that was because we didn’t know how to finish them properly. The gorgeous hem on the right is from a Ralph Lauren kilt skirt that I thrifted a few years back. Isn’t that hem just beautiful? No raw edges to be seen, as they are hidden by the seam tape. And on the right side of the garment, you can’t see a single stitch! That is a beautiful hem!
Buttonholes. Right. Umm… Let’s just say the dress on the left was before I knew better. Okay, okay, there is nothing wrong with machine worked buttonholes. They just don’t look as pretty as handworked buttonholes. But, I know, handworked buttonholes are hard to do well. I don’t even do them (mostly because I don’t have any buttonhole twist). So what do you do when you can’t make a handworked buttonhole? Why you make a bound buttonhole of course! The blouse on the right is probably the best example of bound buttonholes I have made yet. Bound buttonholes truly are the best alternative if you can’t make a regular buttonhole. Granted, they don’t work well on sheer or very bulky materials, but on everything else, they look fabulous! And you don’t have to stress over whether or not your thread matches perfectly.
I have a lovely (if I may say so myself) tutorial on how to make bound buttonholes that you can pop on over and take a peek at if you like.
Before I sign off, I want to answer the questions I posed at the beginning of this post, and then I want to hear your answers in the comments below! Yes, I do seek perfection in everything that I do. Why? Because Christ has redeemed me, and every single breath I take, every move I make is to bring honor and glory to Him. After all, my chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. As followers of Christ, we are to be striving to be evermore like Him, until He makes us complete and perfect in His presence. Now, does God leave a project half-done? Does Jesus half-fix us? NO! He is making us to be perfect in HIM. So shouldn’t we be following the Creator’s example and be striving after perfection (or at least the closest that we can on this fallen earth) in all aspects of our lives, as He is in us? This applies to craft as well as our behavior. God is sanctifying us daily, and that sanctification should extend to the work of our hands as well.
What do you seek for in everything that you do?
Do you seek perfection? Why?
What standards do you hold your handiwork to?
Brigid, the Middle Sister and Singer
P.S. This post is meant to be an encouragement, not a discouragement to those who are just getting started in the sewing realm. It has taken me 10 years, 10 years! to get to where I am at now. But don’t give up. Work hard, and remember, you don’t fail. You merely learn a hundred ways how not to do something.