Being creative creatures we are always striving to better ourselves and our work.
Of course, there are always those quick projects where we just want to get it done and ready for the event. Those we simply “cut & paste” using the supplies and abilities we’ve developed over time.
But then as I was sewing on my 1875 evening gown ruffles this week I realized what a brilliant way to step up your skills when it comes to Victorian dressmaking. Duh! Like why hadn’t I really ever thought of this before? All you need is time…. …well, and patience. And the ability to not go crazy while building your skills, because the project won’t ever be perfect no matter how much time you spend on it….
Aside from the usual techniques we use to make fabulous historical costumes like flatlining, adding boning, and using hem facings – you’re doing them, right?? – a noticeable tactic to bump up your game is to hand sew all the trim.
Yes. I’m totally serious here.
And I do mean ALL the trim in all forms and manners.
If you want ruffles, gather by hand and tack to the skirt. If you want a bias edged finish, don’t run it through your machine. And you can’t very well make the oh-so-popular bow trim on a machine.
Nope – they were made by hand back then, so to follow suit we need to do the same.
Now really, I *know* our modern lives don’t present us with loads of hours where we can laze about making fine trimmings for our Victorian wardrobes. (This is not the Castle Anthrax… for you Monty Python fans.) But I did say you need time.
So that means if you want to win the Blue Ribbon you’ll need to start preparing for the game months in advance.
Making 19th Century clothing in our fast-paced, 21st Century world is crazy. We’re not used to things taking so long to get accomplished.
Well, neither did the Victorians. Once they were comfortable using the sewing machine off they went. However – they still mounted all trim by hand. Sure, the hems were machine stitched (well, some of them) and they used the machine whenever possible to gather up sections. But the finishing touches of ruffles and bows and fringe were still created by hand then tacked to the dress by hand as well.
So if you want to rise up and make first string, take your dressmaking to the next level by allowing time to create trim by hand. Whether you start with hems or just quit doing so much sewing on the machine, practicing your hand sewing skills will suddenly take your costume from “happy hands at home” to historical clothing.
To increase your Victorian hand sewing skills I highly recommend the following books. We also have an online class in the works to create Victorian trim samples. 🙂
Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail by Astrida Schaeffer
The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff
The Sewing Stitch and Textile Bible by Lorna Knight
Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer
Have you made any garments where you hand sewed the trim? Did you make the trim by hand too or merely tack it on by hand? What techniques of hand sewing do you struggle with or are wanting to learn? Share in the comments below.