Saturday, January 9, 2016

Eye Of The Needle

"Who taught you how to thread a needle like that?"

One of my sewing mentors watched curiously as I stuck a single thread through the eye and pulled it back, twizzling it around to thread close to the needle to hold it together, more or less. I frankly couldn't remember who taught me that, or whether I just made it up as I went along.

"I've never seen anybody do it that way," she observed.

She wasn't objecting. But she did have a system that worked for: using one of my little fingers to make a knot in the ends of the thread so that I would draw two threads at a time through the fabric. I had trouble getting my fingers to knot the thread, which is probably why I fell back on my own system long, long ago.

I don't enjoy hand stitching, but it's a fact of life for buttons and touch-up jobs. I recently learned of at least four different hand stitches: blind stitch (which I don't want to do), whip stitch (which I have done before I knew it was called a whip stitch), basting stitch (which I can do with the machine), and back stitch (which I've done in a few fix-up jobs). Die-hard historic sewing purists will not go near a machine if they're sewing something made before the machine came around, which is more than understandable. One historic friend of mine is hand-sewing a soldier's Civil War shirt to add to the authenticity factor.

People like me, however, have limited time, lots of projects pinging around in our heads, and we want to spend less time sewing the garment so we can spend more time wearing it. I have devised ways to get around instructions telling you to hand-sew something. Many times I can fold the fabric into the machine to create the same result of the hand-stitch, just faster. In many of those cases, the handwheel on the machine serves the function of the hand-stich. I turn it slowly, and slow and steady prevails.

Any hand stitching I do for an extended amount of seam is going to look like a horror show on fabric, as much as I try to keep things neat. I had to whip stitch all away around the waistband of my puffy 1600's breeches, when I probably could've found a way to do it by machine with enough thought and experimentation. Nobody will see that part of my handiwork, thankfully. When the instructions called for your servant to hand stitch the bottom leg cuffs, I hacked a way out of it with nobody the wiser.

As my skill level rises, I'll probably find a way to hack around more hand-stitching work. Period correct it's not, but unless you want to get out the magnifying glass and inspect it, I doubt you'd ever know the difference.

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