Saturday, December 31, 2022

Why Hand Sewing should be the least of your worries

     Before I start this post, I should say that it's going rile a few folks. To the progressive types I might be preaching a heresy, and to the people who care less about what they wear and more about what they do, this might seem like I'm letting you off the hook. That I've finally seen the light and I don't care about the details anymore. Well, you're both wrong. So without further ado...

Michael Ramsey and Myself at Locust Grove. Micheal is one of the finest 18th century tailors in the hobby today. If you can afford his work, I highly recommend. 

There was and has been a major push in the last decade and a bit to move the hobby in the direction of hand sewn garments from head to toe. An admirable goal and I applaud those who make this commitment.         

    But, it is my opinion that hand sewing your clothes should be somewhat low on the priority list. 

    There's several reasons people list for not hand sewing their clothing. Money, time and not having the ability to sew. Money tends to be a bit more scary than it actually is. You can often find people in the hobby that will sew a garment for a reasonable price. Some folks will charge high prices, but the work is good so, I guess if you want that level of work, go for it. But suffice to say, it can be daunting. Not having the ability to sew and learning how can also be a daunting task when you're first starting out and of course theres the time aspect. Hand sewing takes a lot of time, and if you're not particularly efficient then sewing can take up huge chunks of it. 

    Now, stopping here, I just want to say. YOU SHOULD LEARN TO HAND SEW. At least so you can make some items or make repairs to clothing. But do you need to become the next bespoke tailor in the hobby?  No. 

    Theres a final aspect that I think is valid and that is, maybe you simply don't enjoy sewing. It might not be your thing. And that's okay. 

    So what should your priorities be? If it isn't hand sewn what should you be striving for? 

    First, the right materials. Choosing the correct materials. Correct materials will be the building block of the proper look. 

    Second, patterns and the right cut are crucial to achieving a period look. 

    Machine sewing, while frowned upon in some circles, will help you get in the field quickly and save you a lot of time. Machine sewn interiors will never be visible to the public or your fellow reenactors, however, anything visible should be hand sewn. I think this is a happy compromise to make. 

My shirt is hand sewn, but my jacket and trousers are machined on the inside with hand finishing 

    My kit is about 60-40 Machine to Hand Sewing. And I'm okay with it. Hand sewing has never been my cup of tea. I get really frustrated with it. So I usually buy second hand, order a machine sewn/hand finished garment, or if the price is right, something entirely hand-sewn. 

    So, what am I saying? Learn to sew. That's the best option. But if it's not your thing, it's okay. There's options. A completely hand sewn kit is cool and admirable, but I usually don't like being told someones kit is hand sewn. Feels like an invitation to stroke an ego. That's cool, your kit is hand sewn, but can you build this fire in the rain so we can stay warm? No. Also fine, but let's not act like anyone is cooler than anyone else here. 

    At the same time, not being able to hand sew yourself is not an excuse for making up whatever fantasy garment or ill fitting thing you can find wear because "People did with what they had" or "Out on the frontier they didn't know about the latest fashions" . Again, cut and fit are the key. 


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