|A Girl Sewing by Philip Mercier, ca 1750|
I don’t sew my historical clothes completely by hand, well, not all of them at least, but I do a lot of hand-sewing on every project nevertheless. I use my machine for assembling my clothes, to stitch a skirt together, or a bodice. Basically because it is faster. And I sew my stays on a machine, because my hands can’t cope with sewing so many seams through all those layers of fabric. But hand sewing can offer a lot that a noisy machine can’t.
|The Needlewoman by Diego Velázquez, 1635-1643|
Period accuracy Well, duh, of course! The sewing machine didn’t reach the general populace until the last half of the 19th century, so of course you are period correct if you sew you clothes by hand. But what you may not think about is that the clothes were designed to be sewn by hand, not with a machine, and if you try to sew a period pattern on a machine, you may have difficulties that disappear when you do it by hand. My big revelation on this subject was 18th century sleeves. I insisted for a very long time to do them on the machine, fighting a very uneven battle and a lot of seam ripping and teeth grinding. Then I tried to set the sleeves as they are described in one of my books, completely by hand, and everything just feel into place and the sleeve looked so much better. Some things are easier to make by machine, but trust me, not everything.
|Interior with Woman Sewing by Wybrand Hendriks|
Control When you stitch by hand, it is much easier to control the fabric. It is, I admit, a bit of a skill to make sure that your stitches end up exactly where you want it, but fiddly and tiny bits are so much easier to get right if you can use your fingers to control it rather than your pressing foot.
Social One of my favourite things with hand sewing is that you can do other things while you sew. At the machine you have to concentrate very closely on what you are sewing and it is usually not noiseless either. I can talk with family and friends while I hand sew and I can watch movies or TV. My son and I are currently having a Doctor Who-marathon and I do a lot of sewing while watching.
Mobile Small projects or smaller parts of one are easy to bring along. I have a friend who always sews on her train commute. I sew at breaks at work, or in a waiting room.
|Young Woman Sewing by the Light of a Lamp by Georg Friedrich Kersting, 1823|