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Friday 13 March 2020

TWO Tutorials - Couture Rolled Hem + Hand Pick Stitch AND a Silk Slip Dress

julia bobbin
julia bobbin

Hi sewing friends!

Today I have two mini hand sewing tutorials to share with you, and a fresh new silk slip dress!

The Dress

Made with the most divine, 22mm silk satin from Tessuti Fabrics, this self drafted cowl neck dress features:
  • fully lined in a beautiful chocolate silk satin from The Cloth Shop
  • French seams
  • Bias cut silk
  • pick stitched underlining
  • bias cut spaghetti straps
  • hand rolled hem
I love taking a simple dress and making it 'extra' by adding couture techniques, such as a hand pick stitched lining instead of a machine under stitching.

Hand Sewing Is Your Friend!

Typically, when we think about hand sewing we associate it with 'hard work', but friends, I am here to tell you that hand sewing is misunderstood!

I used to do everything I could to avoid hand sewing, associating it with the chore part of making a garment; necessary but not enjoyable.
Looking back I realised that the reason I felt that way is because I never really understood HOW to do it, and didn't appreciate how transformative and useful it was to a garment.

Once you realise the benefits of hand sewing and learn how to do it (it's actually easier than using a machine!) the dread is taken away. In fact in my experience I now actually enjoy it! Now I look at patterns to see where I can actually substitute machine sewing for hand sewing.

So what are the benefits of hand sewing?
  • AESTHETICALLY PLEASING - there is nothing quite like hand finished details on a garment. It signifies couture and indicates the amount of effort and love put into a garment. The slight variations in stitches that are typical of a hand stitch, are in stark contrast to the uniform flat stitches of a machine.
  • THE CONTROL - Hand sewing allows you to be exact. You can manipulate the fabric in front of you and place it exactly where it needs to go. 
  • KINDER TO YOUR GARMENT - When you sew on the machine, you're forcing your whole garment under one small space, the needle. With hand sewing, you can sew with the garment on your lap, on a dress from, standing and sitting. You work on just the relevant area and don't add stress to the rest of the garment.
  • DELICATE FABRICS -When sewing with fabrics such as silk, hand stitching allows you to use less thread, and control the amount of layers you want the stitch to go through. On a machine the thread is continuous and goes through all of the layers, which can distort the fabric. Ever tried sewing a machine stitched narrow hem on bias cut silk chiffon? It's almost inevitable to end up with a hem that is twisted in some spots. This is basically non existent on a hand rolled hem.

The Hand Rolled Hem

SWIPE for left and right-handed views.

I am currently having a love affair with hand rolled hems. It just seems to be one of those things that once you've tried it, nothing else compares.

Not only is a hand rolled hem visually pleasing with it's tube like plump finish, it is also mesmerising how it works! Making those stitches and then pulling the thread and watching them roll, is some sort of sewing magic. WATCH the first video above to see it in action!

As with anything, there are many ways to roll a hem, but the above is how I do it.
There are two types of finishes for a hand rolled hem: The Italian and The French finish.

THE FRENCH rolled hem has the roll turned to the 'wrong' side of the fabric, which is typical for dress and skirt hems.

Above is an example of a French rolled hem, where the roll is on the 'wrong' side of the fabric.
This silk/wool blend pocket square is from Gentelman's Gazette.
THE ITALIAN rolled hem, and my personal favourite, is where the roll is turned to the right side of fabric. 
This is a typical finish on couture pocket squares (my other current obsession) and scarves and a favourite for couture houses such as Hermes (which is French; the irony!).

An Italian rolled hem, the roll is visible on the 'right' side of the fabric. The above silk twill pocket squares are from Rampley & Co
The Hand Pick Stitch

SWIPE for left and right-handed views.

A pick, or prick stitch refers to small, subtle back stitches that can be used to under-stitch a facing or lining (as I've done in the above video for my slip dress), or as decorative top stitch on garments such as lapels and pockets.

A hand pick stitched lapel on a suit is a strong indicator of a bespoke, high quality suit. Because of this, many 'ready-to-wear' brands use pick stitching on their garments to make it look high-end, but when you look up close, the uniformity of the stitch is a clear give away that it was done by machine.

A hand pick-stitch has slight irregularities and is usually done with a silk thread. Once you see the difference it's quite easy to spot.
A subtle, hand pick-stitched lapel from bespoke tailors Burdi Clothing
Final Thoughts

The more I go down the rabbit hole of couture sewing, the more I fall in love with it and want to learn more! 

What excites me the most, is that these techniques, though they may take a bit more time than a machine, are not complicated or reserved for the experienced and highly skilled. They are repetitive, easy enough stitches that home sewers can achieve whether beginner or advanced.

The end result is something beautiful, well engineered and a push back on fast fashion where everything is mass produced and not built to last. Hand sewing for the win!

julia bobbin

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