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Sewing Tech
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Western European
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Eastern European:

- Shirts
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Ancillary Arts
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- Pouch Hinges, Part 1
- Pouch Hinges, Part 2

Demonstrations>Sewing Tech>Machine Seam Finishes

Historical Accuracy vs. Modern Convenience

I 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 seams.

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.

1. Sew normal seam allowance. After sewing, clip one side of the seam to about half of it's initial width. 2. Wrap the other side so that it overlaps the clipped seam and press.

3. Topstitch the overlapped seam down.
This seam is very sturdy as well
as decorative.

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 the seam.

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 on top. 2. Press binding strip so that it will easily fold over the raw edges.
3. Hand stitch the binding down,
using the seam stitch line as a guide.

There you have it! Happy Costuming!

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