It is pretty well know that I like to sew. I try to work on some kind of sewing project everyday. Often at my machine, but sometimes it may be cutting out a pattern or fabric. I love that I can get a garment finished in a relatively short amount of time. Machine sewing allows me to whip out a simple shirt or dress or shorts in an hour or two. Rarely do I hand sew. My grandmother taught me to sew, starting by hand sewing dresses for my Barbies. The second thing I ever sewed was a bright yellow jersey dress with a gathered skirt and tank top bodice for my Barbie. I hand sewed every seam and hem. It felt like a long and arduous process. I wanted to use the machine and get it done faster, but my grandmother thought I ought to learn hand sewing first so I could learn, slowly, how sewing works, how stitches work, and how fabric behaves. She did not put it in so many words, though. But, I definitely gravitated to quicker sewing when I was older. I love using the sewing machine. If I have to stitch down a collar or bodice lining by hand, I will, and I usually enjoy that slower process of sewing, realizing that I get a better product when I do spend a little more time and effort, but the machine is so convenient and quick.
That said, I made a tank top with a pattern from Seamwork Magazine the other day. I made it from an organic cotton baby rib which I dyed with goldenrod from the meadow by our house. I realized I am not a huge fan of baby rib for garments (shirts at least) because it stretches just a little bit too much. It is such a soft fabric with a little bit more weight than a jersey, but I don’t think I’ll use it again. I loved the tank top anyway, though, because it fit well and it was a little more complex than a normal tank top (pleat in the back, gathered straps in the front, and a curved hem). I decided to make another but to do it more slowly. I had just read Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Stitch Book and thought I would like to try some of her techniques. I would hand sew the hems and do a reverse applique. I used an organic cotton jersey which I dyed with marigold, and the reverse applique fabric was the same but dyed with black walnuts. I used a dark brown top stitching thread for the hems and applique stitches. I changed the hem to be straight because I wanted to the look to be a little more different from the first tank top. I was really pleased with how it came out. And, I really enjoyed the slower process of hand sewing my hems and applique. I will definitely be doing this again – probably next on a skirt (I need to make a plan).
One of the reasons I thought about doing more hand sewing recently was because the end of summer can bring some of the best weather of the season, and we had the best of it over the last few weeks. It was warm, not too hot, much less humid and with a slight breeze. I just did not want to sit in my sewing room/mud room/laundry room to sew. I wanted to be on the porch, in the breeze, with a beautiful view and a glass of wine. With this mostly-hand-sewn project, I got it all. It was fun!
There is a rhythm to hand sewing – a meditative quality that makes it go by quickly – and when I can stay in that meditative state (i.e. not thinking too much about what I am doing, not over analyzing my stitches and state) I find that I sew the most even and beautiful stitches. Like my grandmother tried to teach me – hand sewing this was been a good practice to understand sewing, understand fabric, and understand how stitches work. And, to get a beautiful garment at the end – wonderful!