Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Slow Sewing

I'm sure you've heard of Slow Food, the movement
begun in Italy in opposition to fast food, which is about, among other things, taking the time to prepare and savor traditional and regional cuisines. Since then other Slow movements have sprung up, all advocating a slower pace and a greater appreciation of whatever that particular Slow is about. Where Slow Sewing is concerned, I could be the poster child, often by default if not by intention. A case in point is this dress, Simplicity 1914. While it's not a make-it-tonight-wear-it-tomorrow sort of design, it's also not especially complex, not made up in a demanding fabric, no ornamentation or anything else about it that's obviously time consuming. So what took me so long to make it?

Simplicity 1914 After sewing up the lining for this dress and then deciding I didn't want to use it, my dilemma was how to finish the inside seams which were shedding threads at an alarming rate. I don't have a serger, but I doubt if I would have used it in any case. My machine does have some overcasting stitches, but the problem with that is that every impression shows through on the right side of this lightweight fabric, and I could see that all that thread up and down seam allowances would just be too much. I considered simply pinking the seams, but that was, well, maybe too easy. So I decided to try hand overcasting with some fine thread. I got out my copy of Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques, found the how-to and the illustration of the proper stitch and began.


Yes, it did take me quite a while, but I think it was the best solution. And I am of the persuasion that if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing right. (Please filter out any pomposity you might have detected in that statement.) I just sat and listened to an audio book and stitched away, not an unpleasant way to spend a few mornings. After a while I more or less got the hang of it. So here is the result of my efforts.


 I imagine those petites-mains who stitch away hour after hour and day after day in the Paris couture houses can probably achieve a lot more precision and regularity. For anyone who wants to try it, the three key points are: sit at a table where you can rest your garment at a comfortable height, wax and press your thread, and keep the index finger of your left hand on the thread when you are making your stitch.

Searching on the Internet, I see that I'm not the only one to try hand-overcasting on a garment. On Frabjous Couture, the blogger relates her experience in hand-overcasting a silk charmeuse blouse which she says she also sewed entirely by hand! 

In the March 2011 (Number 153) issue, Threads had an article about Slow Sewing. Author Patricia Keay writes that “Slow sewing is all about adding quality to your life, not just your sewing. […] There are fast and long ways on all of life's paths. Time constraints aside, I know that taking the longer way often gives me more enjoyment.” She goes on to make the points that Slow Sewing aids you in helping you improve your skills and thus increase your confidence. By taking your time, you're able to focus on learning new skills and explore creative techniques, rather than rushing to complete a garment. Lastly, she sums up “Paying attention to all the steps, even the ones that don't seem like they'll show, makes a noticeable difference in the end. […] When you take time for excellence, you'll see new levels of perfection and achieve every increasing satisfaction, because you've given yourself the opportunity for greater creative enjoyment.”

So if you need a reason to dawdle, if you're prone like me to dithering over the details, there's your perfect excuse.

To read my Pattern Review of this dress and pattern, click here



  1. This is lovely on you, the color is so soft and flattering. I want this dress now!

  2. Julia, this is fantastic on you-the solid color of soft teal, the length, the sleeves and lovely waistband. It's just perfect. I love to add some handsewing to my projects, and must with some as I only have a SM. Your finish work is really pretty.

  3. That dress looks very classy on you!

    I'm a slow sewist, too, so maybe we're [sewing] twins! LOL