Sewing tips needed

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#21
Knots hold just fine and aren't as bulky as backstitching. Back when I was in 4-H (ancient times), and even in 8th grade home economics class (also ancient times--back then, required for all us girls and not open to boys), I was taught to hand-knot the thread ends when machine sewing. Of course if you sew over the thread ends, (i.e. an adjoining seam), that holds the original threads just fine.

As mentioned, serging is definitely not kosher for 19th century garments. In any case, it removes the seam allowance, thus leaving no alteration room for those of us who tend to expand and contract with the seasons. :bounce: I read a suggestion, which I have since followed, of using a 1 inch seam allowance in dress bodice side seams.
 
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Mrs. V

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#22
Knots hold just fine and aren't as bulky as backstitching. Back when I was in 4-H (ancient times), and even in 8th grade home economics class (also ancient times--back then, required for all us girls and not open to boys), I was taught to hand-knot the thread ends when machine sewing. Of course if you sew over the thread ends, (i.e. an adjoining seam), that holds the original threads just fine.

As mentioned, serging is definitely not kosher for 19th century garments. In any case, it removes the seam allowance, thus leaving no alteration room for those of us who tend to expand and contract with the seasons. :bounce: I read a suggestion, which I have since followed, of using a 1 inch seam allowance in dress bodice side seams.
Sounds like good advice. Do you gather your skirts, or do you make the cannon pleats? My day dress has the pleats..I used clothes pins to hold the gathers while I sewed them.
 
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#23
That's interesting! How well does the knot work? Does the seam hold pretty well?

I've not learned how to use a serger yet. I have to watch more demonstration videos on them to see if it's something I want to invest in. The end results look so neat, but they also look so...final.
I can see where a serger has a place in the modern sewing 'kit' but when I had one, I found I used it very rarely. As period tailors / seamstresses, we have so many tools to use to create well finished seams, a serger seems superfluous. Needless to day, I no longer have mine.
 

Mrs. V

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#24
I can see where a serger has a place in the modern sewing 'kit' but when I had one, I found I used it very rarely. As period tailors / seamstresses, we have so many tools to use to create well finished seams, a serger seems superfluous. Needless to day, I no longer have mine.
I have a serger, and I need to figure out how to properly tension the durn thing. Right now I don’t have room to have it out all the time, so my pinking shears get a workout instead. Speaking of which, anyone know if the modern pinking shears deviate all that much from those used long ago?
 
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#25
The period pinking was more like scallops and was often done with a cutting machine. There is no modern equivalent, although you could use a dime or penny for a pattern for a scalloped edge and cut with sharp scissors (assuming you're better at cutting than I am!). Here are samples done using a cutting machine: https://annaworden.com/2018/03/27/pinking-service-available-soon/

Seams were finished with an overcast stitch rather than pinked. (Reference: Elizabeth Steward Clark's Dressmakers Guide) On skirt seams, the selvage edges were usually used, so overcasting was unnecessary. . Unfortunately, modern reproduction fabrics have a rather wide selvage, often 3/4 to 1 inch, which needs to be trimmed so the seam won't be too heavy. 1/2 inch seam allowance is standard for the Civil War period. As noted above, I make an exception to allow for weight gain, to which I am prone.

I use gauging for gathering skirts. http://www.thesewingacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/2010Gauging.pdf In the Civil War era, this method was used primarily for cotton dresses. If you use silk or wool, you'll want to pleat.
 

Mrs. V

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#26
The period pinking was more like scallops and was often done with a cutting machine. There is no modern equivalent, although you could use a dime or penny for a pattern for a scalloped edge and cut with sharp scissors (assuming you're better at cutting than I am!). Here are samples done using a cutting machine: https://annaworden.com/2018/03/27/pinking-service-available-soon/

Seams were finished with an overcast stitch rather than pinked. (Reference: Elizabeth Steward Clark's Dressmakers Guide) On skirt seams, the selvage edges were usually used, so overcasting was unnecessary. . Unfortunately, modern reproduction fabrics have a rather wide selvage, often 3/4 to 1 inch, which needs to be trimmed so the seam won't be too heavy. 1/2 inch seam allowance is standard for the Civil War period. As noted above, I make an exception to allow for weight gain, to which I am prone.

I use gauging for gathering skirts. http://www.thesewingacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/2010Gauging.pdf In the Civil War era, this method was used primarily for cotton dresses. If you use silk or wool, you'll want to pleat.
Thank you for that! I was given several dresses that need to be cut down for my size, and I was wondering what to do with the skirts in terms of regathering them. I will use this technique.
 
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#27
I has seen seams on CW Era garments, and noticed the scalloped cuts, and has assumed they were done by hand... makes more sense that they had a machine for such cuts. I've worked with a LOT of wool jean and other coarse wool fabrics, and pinking the edges always caused problems. I'm gonna have to try scalloping the edges from now on, why I never thought to try it before, I'll never know.

Where possible, flat-felling the seams is always an option. I know it looks scary, but they're pretty easy.
 

Mrs. V

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#28
I has seen seams on CW Era garments, and noticed the scalloped cuts, and has assumed they were done by hand... makes more sense that they had a machine for such cuts. I've worked with a LOT of wool jean and other coarse wool fabrics, and pinking the edges always caused problems. I'm gonna have to try scalloping the edges from now on, why I never thought to try it before, I'll never know.

Where possible, flat-felling the seams is always an option. I know it looks scary, but they're pretty easy.
Working with a pair of modern riding breeches that I plan to flat fell the seams..the previous tailor did a terrible job in my opionion..
 
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#29
"I am in the process of making some officer coats and I seem to be having a hard time with the shoulder insignia on the union coats. The insignia is so thick and imbedded with adhesive that its almost impossible to pass a needle through them."

Don't try to sew all the way through the strap. You need to "whip stitch" them on, just catching the folded edges of the cloth underneath the embroidery and the top layer of the coat. None of this stitching should be visible from the "face" of the strap.

If the coat is going to be dry-cleaned, it's nice to have removable straps. You can put "hook and eye closures" on the bottom of the straps; these engage with a small metal bar that is sewn onto the coat. Problem with these is they can get knocked off easily during a march or battle.

If possible, place the straps on the coat while the customer is wearing it. You want the strap in the middle of the shoulder so it is equally visible from front or back. Don't line up the back of the strap with the shoulder seam of the coat or the straps will be too far back in wear.
 
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#30
"Tailors in the Civil War era were very reluctant to use sewing machines. Therefore, officer coats (normally ordered from a tailor) should be hand sewn. "

I'm sorry, but I think you'll find original Federal officer's coats often have machine sewing - particularly the quilting in the chest area.

It's true that officers were not issued clothing and had to pay for their own. That doesn't mean every piece was hand-made by a "bespoke" tailor. Most junior officers were not wealthy men and could not afford this; plus, the number of officers was large enough during the war to support ready-made makers. I'd be very surprised if established firms such as Brooks Brothers did not stock officer's clothing in standard sizes - which would also help explain where some of the "private purchase" sack and frock coats worn by some enlisted men came from.

While a lot of original officer's clothing survives, it seems it has not received the same scrutiny as enlisted items as to sources, variations and patterns. This would make an interesting research project for a collector or college student.
 
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#31
In terms of using machine sewing vs. hand sewing debate for authenticity. I found hard to believe that with the required output of uniforms to meet the demands of an army at war and the invention of the sewing machine in 1846, that all authentic uniforms were hand stitched.

Now I do believe that a certain small percentage were either done by tailors our outsourced to individuals that put pre-cut patterns together, but if the technology is present and the demand is high, the argument favors machine stitching. Thanks everyone for making it clearer.

This is a great conversation about sewing techniques and the like. I am also surprise everyone as one of my "extra hobbies" is to make outfits for my 2 year old daughter. I enjoy seeing people's reaction when they find out that it was Dad made the pretty dress.

I don't have a classic, foot pedal sewing machine, but really handy with my modern machine and the serger. Was thinking about getting a W&W kit (need new trousers) and was thinking the best way to sew it together. They argue hand-sewing for authenticity, but note the top of this post. Again thanks.
 
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#32
"I don't have a classic, foot pedal sewing machine, but really handy with my modern machine and the serger. Was thinking about getting a W&W kit (need new trousers) and was thinking the best way to sew it together. They argue hand-sewing for authenticity, but note the top of this post. "

Well, if your modern machine makes a two-thread lockstitch (like almost all do), that's the same stitch made by the machine Howe patented in 1846. Period machines used different mechanisms (most used a long bobbin and "shuttle" to carry the lower thread), but the finished stitch is exactly the same. So there's no reason not to use your modern machine on that account.

Whether hand or machine sewing is appropriate for the specific item you're making is a larger subject. Books have been written, but I'll offer a few generalities:

- The pre-War regular Army seems to have viewed stitching issue clothing for soldiers as a form of welfare for military widows and orphans. Hand stitching was required because the ultra conservative quartermaster general's department didn't trust new technology. So Federal arsenal made clothing was hand stitched at the beginning of the war and seems to have stayed that way throughout.

- The majority of Federal wartime uniforms were made by contractors, who were required to deliver huge quantities of material in a very short time. As a result most surviving Federal contractor made uniforms are fully or partially machine sewn.

- Some early-War Confederate uniforms are known to be machine sewn (some fascinating articles about the work of the Industrial School for Girls in Charleston, SC have recently appeared in the CMH Journal). However, almost all surviving CS mid to late war uniform items are hand sewn. One plausible explanation is that the South had no sewing machine factories, and machine needles became hard to get as the blockade tightened.

Whatever you decide to do, be aware that period machines could only sew a straight stitch. All buttonholes should be hand sewn (which is much stronger and better looking when properly done anyway!), and there should be no visible anachronisms like serging and zigzagging.
 

JAGwinn

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#33
My wife had a bear shoppe in Pekin. Making keepsake bears from clothing of family members. I tried my hand at it and this is the first one I did:
bearfront.JPG
bearside.JPG

She made several thousand bears from coats and uniforms and any material presented by survivors for keep sakes for children and grandchildren.
This is an example of her using uniforms of military men:
Muhick02s.JPG


These 3 bears are my favorite. The hats were made from a hat. She used the insignia when possible:

wurl.jpg


Sorry for hijacking the 'thread'...
 
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#34
"I don't have a classic, foot pedal sewing machine, but really handy with my modern machine and the serger. Was thinking about getting a W&W kit (need new trousers) and was thinking the best way to sew it together. They argue hand-sewing for authenticity, but note the top of this post. "

Well, if your modern machine makes a two-thread lockstitch (like almost all do), that's the same stitch made by the machine Howe patented in 1846. Period machines used different mechanisms (most used a long bobbin and "shuttle" to carry the lower thread), but the finished stitch is exactly the same. So there's no reason not to use your modern machine on that account.

Whether hand or machine sewing is appropriate for the specific item you're making is a larger subject. Books have been written, but I'll offer a few generalities:

- The pre-War regular Army seems to have viewed stitching issue clothing for soldiers as a form of welfare for military widows and orphans. Hand stitching was required because the ultra conservative quartermaster general's department didn't trust new technology. So Federal arsenal made clothing was hand stitched at the beginning of the war and seems to have stayed that way throughout.

- The majority of Federal wartime uniforms were made by contractors, who were required to deliver huge quantities of material in a very short time. As a result most surviving Federal contractor made uniforms are fully or partially machine sewn.

- Some early-War Confederate uniforms are known to be machine sewn (some fascinating articles about the work of the Industrial School for Girls in Charleston, SC have recently appeared in the CMH Journal). However, almost all surviving CS mid to late war uniform items are hand sewn. One plausible explanation is that the South had no sewing machine factories, and machine needles became hard to get as the blockade tightened.

Whatever you decide to do, be aware that period machines could only sew a straight stitch. All buttonholes should be hand sewn (which is much stronger and better looking when properly done anyway!), and there should be no visible anachronisms like serging and zigzagging.
Awesome. Thanks for the history.

I guess the next question for those that want to use a modern machine to copy a period stitch, other than using the straight stitche, is what is the most accurate stitch length?
 
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#36
"I guess the next question for those that want to use a modern machine to copy a period stitch, other than using the straight stitche, is what is the most accurate stitch length? "

Well, believe it or not, by the 1860's most sewing machines had adjustable stitch length. My ca. 1867 Singer 12 will sew anything from a very short length (probably over 40 per inch) to about 1/8".

What a period machine won't do (except for a couple models made by the Florence company) is sew in reverse. So if you want to lock your seam down at the beginning and end you can do one of three things:

- Leave some extra thread and tie off/hand stitch the ends

- Sew forward a couple stitches, then stop. Reset the material and sew over your first stitches

- Sew to the end of the piece, stop with needle down. Turn the material around, then sew over a few stitches.
 

Mrs. V

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#37
"I guess the next question for those that want to use a modern machine to copy a period stitch, other than using the straight stitche, is what is the most accurate stitch length? "

Well, believe it or not, by the 1860's most sewing machines had adjustable stitch length. My ca. 1867 Singer 12 will sew anything from a very short length (probably over 40 per inch) to about 1/8".

What a period machine won't do (except for a couple models made by the Florence company) is sew in reverse. So if you want to lock your seam down at the beginning and end you can do one of three things:

- Leave some extra thread and tie off/hand stitch the ends

- Sew forward a couple stitches, then stop. Reset the material and sew over your first stitches

- Sew to the end of the piece, stop with needle down. Turn the material around, then sew over a few stitches.
My first machine only had a forward stitch. I used to just turn the fabric and over stitch. Sometimes I wish I still have that machine!
 

Northern Light

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#38
My wife had a bear shoppe in Pekin. Making keepsake bears from clothing of family members. I tried my hand at it and this is the first one I did:
View attachment 209375 View attachment 209376
She made several thousand bears from coats and uniforms and any material presented by survivors for keep sakes for children and grandchildren.
This is an example of her using uniforms of military men:
View attachment 209377

These 3 bears are my favorite. The hats were made from a hat. She used the insignia when possible:

View attachment 209378

Sorry for hijacking the 'thread'...
Those are absolutely adorable! What a wonderful idea for keepsakes. A friend of mine found a woman in Nova Scotia who made bears from old fur coats. They were beautiful as well. Oops, no more high-jacking.:O o:
 

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