Friday, July 25, 2008


I learned to sew when I was a small child.  An aunt had drawers of fabric she had never sewn and would never sew.  She let me pick out any fabric I wanted from that stash to make a dress for my doll.  And so I did.  Then we went downtown to the department store to find a pattern.  From her I learned about patterns.  About how to pick them, how to figure out the size, how to cut the fabric from them, and how to read the directions and sew them.  Sew them by hand.  I made an entire wardrobe for my favorite doll that summer.

Shortly after my husband and I were married, we purchased a sewing machine for me.  And I started sewing. I found an article in a magazine about the couturier houses in One thing I learned from it was that the dressmakers in these houses sewed the garments completely by hand (that has changed just a bit these days).  So I found some beautiful dark blue wool crepe, and some coordinating red wool crepe.  I bought a Vogue pattern.  I cut it out.  And I sewed it entirely by hand. It was a beautiful dress and I loved it.  But I did decide that, for me at least, sewing an entire dress by hand was perhaps a bit extreme.

Subsequently I learned more about couture sewing from books and articles.  I use many of these techniques.

  • Hand-picked zippers, for example, which are actually more secure than machine sewn zippers and look a lot nicer.
  • Hand overcast seams, a practice which results in the edges of the seams being as light and flexible as the fabric was meant to be.

Many things I sew I do not use couture techniques on. 

  • Children's clothes, for example, where I used all the industrial shortcuts I could find.
  • Nightgowns and everyday pants for myself.
  • Casual jackets and knit tops

But for my good clothes, I use many couture techniques. These clothes look better and fit better that they would if I didn't.

I listened this weekend to a podcast on couture sewing. I found it on Sew Forth Now. Here is the direct link to the program, called Couture Details. There I learned that the first thing that distinguishes the French couture houses is the fact that the fabric each uses is made exclusively for that particular house and is not available to anyone else.   When I make a garment with my handwoven cloth, that first criterion is definitely met.  Surely my handwoven fabric  deserves as much of my care and attention to painstaking detail as I have the time and ability to bring to it.

And so I ask, why on earth would anyone bring a serger anywhere near such precious fabric?

The question of what kind of serger to buy comes up again and again on weaving lists.   Not whether or not they should use a serger on their handwovens, but which serger should they use.   And I shudder. Sergers for knits, for kids' clothes. For throwaway one-season clothes. For very casual clothes.  These are perfect places to use a serger. But I do not use my handwoven fabric for any of these.  I do use it for clothes that I want to wear for many years, for clothes that are special.  This is not the place for a serger.

© 2008


callybooker said...

Thanks for the tip about this podcast - I am downloading it right now for listening on my next bus trip to Glasgow!

Peg in South Carolina said...

You are welcome, Cally. I hope you enjoy it.