Thursday, January 7, 2016

To Hack With It

Why does Simplicity sell patterns under that name when some of the things you have to do for them seem less than simple? Like very small hems? Like preparatory stitches before the actual ones?

If you are experienced seamstress -- or seamster, in my gender -- you can ignore the rest of this, because your knowledge base and cloth soldiering will tell you this is kid stuff. But when you're a kid behind the machine, the kid stuff isn't kid stuff. This is where I trim the instructions and add some creative license.

In at least three projects now, I have substituted steps to make my life easier. A couple of big modifications involved instructions to sew by hand. But I found a way to get the same result using the machine -- and with a stronger stitch, too. Some patterns I've hacked because I wanted more of one thing or less of another, as you will see when I discuss some more projects here.

Is this sewing sacrilege? Not on your life, according to my two sewing mentors. One of them is my dear Auntie Susan, sewing pro who has made more than a few adjustments to the rules that come with the pattern. She was the one who offered to make me a new pair of stark white 1700's breeches when I started re-enacting. I know she made a few adjustments to make things easier on both her efforts and my body, although with time and my subtle shape-shifting, those 1770's breeches are now fitting me more like a pair of early 1800's pantaloons -- tight and to the point.

Various patterns are meant to be hacked, as we had to do on the weskit project. The layout specifically instructs you where you can add and lengthen. But if you don't see that, it's time to use your head and maybe some butcher paper. While I was working on my weskit, a young lady next to me was designing her own pattern for a corset. She knew there was little room for error, but she needed enough room to breathe. That's a task I don't envy one bit. If men nowadays had to wear corsets, you'd see the obesity epidemic plunge.

I consider making your own patterns like graduate school. I'm not there yet, but in my bookcase, I have a paperback titled How To Make Historic Clothing. It doesn't provide a lot of specifics, but it does have a lot of outlines. Someday, I'll get there, when the time is right.

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