Historical Accuracy vs. Modern Convenience
love my sewing machine... I mean it. I really love
my machine. But I also really love being as historically accurate
as possible when I sew. Solution? The following three seams
are very period and easily made with a machine. Sewing
with a machine means that I have more time for other things.
While I will not shirk my hand sewing (no matter how much
I am tempted), I do try to cut corners wherever possible using
the following methods. And I nearly always sew any long seams
using my machine. Come on, intrepid costumer! Let us wander
away into the land of Machine Seam Finishes!
The French Seam
This is my favorite... and not just because I run a French
persona! A French seam completely encloses all raw edges within
itself. It's an easy finish seam, requiring only that you
sew every seam twice by machine. French seams are great for
fabric that is sheer - if you're using a thin silk or linen
for underwear, French seams are going to be your best friend!
French seams are also great for fabric that wants to unravel.
To create a French seam, use your standard seam allowance.
For some of you this will be five eighths of an inch or perhaps
just one half of an inch (apologies to those of you using
metric measurement). First sew a seam with the wrong sides
of the fabric together that is just under half the amount
of width as the seam allowance you use.
Press this seam open. Pressing is important in this case.
If you do not press, it will be almost impossible for you
to get a good finish on your seam. Fold the fabric along the
pressed seam line, so that the right sides of the fabric are
together. Press again, so that the fabric has a crisp edge
for you to sew..
Sew your new seam, using the other half of your seam allowance,
this time with the right sides of the fabric together.
|1. sew initial seam, wrong sides together, at a little
less than half the width of the seam allowance.
||2. Press seam open, flip right sides together and sew
another seam, using the rest of the seam allowance.
|3. Finished seam completely
encases the raw edges.
The Flat-felled Seam
I've never gotten the hang of the flat-felled seam. I much
prefer French seams. One of my apprentices has never really
gotten the hang of French seams but really likes flat-felled
seams. Regardless of which one you understand better, they
are both excellent finish seams. Flat-felled seams, in addition
to being good for unlined garments are also extremely strong
To make a flat-felled seam, start with at least a five eighths
inch seam allowance. If you are sewing thick fabric, make
the seam allowance at least one half inch. Sew right sides
together. Trim the underneath seam allowance to about a quarter
inch or half of what the seam allowance is. Fold the raw edge
of the untrimmed seam allowance so that it is overlapping
the clipped seam allowance and press. Top stitch the overlapping
seam allowance down near the folded edge.
The Bound Seam
The bound seam requires the use of an extra strip of fabric
and some hand sewing. To make the bound seam, first either
make or purchase bias or straight of grain binding strips
of sufficient length for the project. The binding strip must
also be double in width what you are using for seam allowance.
Put right sides of fabric together and lay binding strip
on top. Stitch all three together using your standard seam
allowance. Press the seam sideways rather than open. Then
simply tack the binding strip down around the raw edges of
This particular treatment is extremely period, especially
for Central Asia and Eastern European clothing during the
late sixteenth century. Rather than doing what we do today,
which is to sew the shell and lining separately and then put
them together, in period, the shell and lining pieces were
put together before they were sewn together. Binding
strips were used to encase the raw edges. This method makes
lining a whole lot easier!
|1. sew right sides together with binding strip placed
||2. Press binding strip so that it will easily fold over
the raw edges.
|3. Hand stitch the binding
using the seam stitch line as a guide.
There you have it! Happy Costuming!