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Rules For Home Sewing

( Originally Published 1924 )



Whether one creates a beautiful gown for the sheer joy of beholding her own workmanship, or whether she strives to effect a practical economy in so doing, some simple yet fundamental laws of cutting, fitting, and constructing must be observed by the artist as well as by the amateur.

Such laws are herewith set down :

Classify your type, your size, coloring, and possibly your temperament.

Know your silhouette. They range in outline from oval or circular to the extreme rectangular. The knowledge of your own may prove disillusioning, but it is necessary in order to decide upon correct design.

Study the latest authoritative fashion sheets, giving attention to outline, which takes in sleeves, to lines which give the illusion of height and to those which emphasize width. The placing and treatment of the waist line, the style and finishing of the neck of the garment are to be considered as well as the general effect.

Then select a pattern. It is well to select at first a plain pattern which can be used as the basis for many frocks. The size of the pattern should (if the form is irregular) agree with the bust or the waist measure, dependent upon the one which is proportionately larger.

If one takes her own measurements, she should stand before a mirror while doing so. The following measurements are necessary for fitting: bust (the tape line placed over the shoulder-blades and the points of the bust) ; the waist (the natural placing, i.e., where the torso bends) ; the hips (over the hip joints). Before taking the skirt length, a tape is placed around the waist and all measurements are taken from it to the floor—front, sides, hips (over both because they often vary), and center back.

The next step is to cut out a dress model by the selected pattern from unbleached muslin or some inexpensive fabric which can be used as a house dress. If seams are not allowed on the pattern, one should cut three-eighths of an inch outside the edge of the pattern wherever there is a seam, and always remember that the pattern is only a guide, not the last word.

Then comes fitting. On the muslin model, mark the central vertical back and front lines. These are the basic lines from which all altering is done, and on their static position depends the alignment of the garment. Then draw the alteration lines (the edge of the pattern is never touched for alteration —only for changing the design of the pattern). Width alteration lines are vertical, parallel to the center front and back lines and five and one-half inches distant from them.

Narrowing of the pattern is done by taking tucks of the necessary width on these lines, or widening by setting in pieces of the width desired. (Remember that all the alterations are made on the muslin model, which should fit perfectly before the final material is cut into).

In widening or narrowing, the alterations may vary in width according to the amount needed; for instance, the bust may be large in proportion to the chest, so that the added width would be graduated. It may be necessary to take a dart below the bust in the underarm seam.

In altering the skirt, if more width is needed across the thighs, a pointed piece may be set in the slashed back alteration lines ; if more stepping room, a pointed piece (the point at the top, as in the back) may be set in the front alteration lines.

The length alteration lines are: chest, a horizontal line three and one-half inches down from the shoulder; waist, a horizontal line one and one-half inches, measured on the side seam, up from the waist line (a curved line to conform to the normal waist placing). On these lines, needed alterations for lengthening or shortening the waist are made.

Skirt lengths :—If a skirt is too long, it should not be cut off around the bottom nor be lengthened by adding at the bottom, unless it is a perfectly straight skirt. The upper alteration line is eleven inches down from the waist, measured on the side seam. The lower alteration line is four inches up from the bottom of the skirt after the hem (if al-lowed by the pattern) has been turned up.

If the skirt is too short—for instance, four inches—two inches would be inserted at the upper alteration line and two at the lower. If the skirt is too long, an equal amount would be taken out at the two alteration lines.

For sleeve alterations, first cut and baste the sleeves according to the pattern directions. Pin the sleeve in the armhole and then baste it, holding the sleeve toward you. If the sleeve does not fit, do not alter it at the seam or cut it off at the wrist lest it twist. Alter, for width, on lines drawn one and one-half inches from the seam (always make corresponding alterations in the garment to preserve the smoothness of line when the sleeve is sewn in). Be sure that freedom for arm movement is allowed. Alter the sleeve for length on lines four inches above and four inches below the elbow. Neck lines require skilful treatment. It is best not to cut out the neck until the garment is fitted; but if it is done and the neck is too low, it can not be remedied by drawing up the model, it must be built in. If the neck of the model does not lie flat, take darts at the side width alteration lines. In placing the waist-line, consider the finished garment, so that the Law of Proportion will be carried out.

When the model has been perfectly fitted, it is ready to be used as a pattern for cutting materials.

In choosing the style of garment and in cutting, materials should be considered as to texture—linen, cotton, wool, and silk; as to finish—plain, nap, pile, satin-faced, and twill; as to design—stripes, plaids, and figured, which in turn are geometrical all-over, bordered. Some materials are handled as tho plain, such as shepherd's check, small polka dots, and extremely small figures.

In nap material, the nap should run downward, and for this reason it never cuts to the advantage that plain material does. In pile materials, such as velvet, except panne, the pile should run upward. All satin-faced materials, such as satin and broad-cloth, should be cut from one end of the fabric, which end makes no difference. Light will then strike the garment in all parts the same way. The lines of all twills, such as Poiret, should run up-ward toward the left shoulder.

Great care must be taken in cutting striped and plaid materials. If a stripe of the same color comes at the center back and center front, the figure appears more slender. Stripes should be matched. Horizontal lines should be maintained in plaids. If the slope of the garment is such that the horizontal lines can not meet all the way, they should meet at the waist. Circular effects are not for plaids. Geometrical figures should be kept as plaids.

In cutting, the material should be kept in one piece as far as possible, the pattern laid according to perforations and directions given. Mark every perforation. Leave one and one-half inches extra in the armscye.

If the materials are those that stretch easily, first lay on your model and mark around it with tailors chalk or pencil; then, before cutting, stitch on marking with a loose machine stitch. If the material is flimsy, as chiffon, lace, or Georgette, the garment is cut and practically made over paper. With fraying fabrics, first bind the edges.

There is an art in basting a garment. It should be flat on the table, and long loose stitches taken; silk should be basted with silk.

The order of sewing a garment is to finish the seams, then the placket, then the sleeves, collar, edges, hem, and other details.

Since time is the most valuable commodity of life, use hand-work only where it is for effect. Use long stitches on the machine, except for cotton. Stitch the garment in the direction in which it is to fall; as from the top of the skirt downward, the neck to the armscye. One should master the use of machine attachments.

It is important to know exactly the necessary amount of material. If the dress is to be of costly material, it is wise to delay buying it until the pat-tern has been made up in an inexpensive material, perhaps something that can be utilized as a house dress. After the trial dress has been basted and carefully fitted, it can be used as the pattern, and the amount of material for the more expensive frock can be exactly estimated. The indignation caused by one's finding it necessary to waste material by straightening a crooked end carelessly cut by the salesman will lead one to accept avidly the suggestion that the salesman be required to cut the material by a cross thread.



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