One of the things I did this spring was sew three linen shirts for Dr. Mike of the Detached Hospital. The first one was 90% hand sewn. In the interest of actually, you know, getting them done, I took some shortcuts on the other two. And I swear by all that is good and holy, that I took pictures.
I must have dreamt it, because there are no pictures. And I was rather proud of some of the detail work, too.
Anyhow … here are my observations for those that aren’t OCD or are sane enough to not want to do the whole thing by hand.
1. Use quality linen. Using cheap linen means all of your hard work falls apart sooner. If you can tear your linen, find something else. As I understand it, this means the fibers have been chopped up to work on equipment used for spinning and weaving cotton. One of the major features of linen is the long staple length which means it will last forever.
2. Go ahead and do all the long interior seams on the machine.
3. Go ahead and do the side slits and hem on the machine. I thought it would bug the hell out of me, but unless the recipient is waltzing through camp in nothing but a shirt, nobody will see it. And even then, it didn’t bug me nearly as much as number 7.
4. Made sure all the finishing details, like the top stitching on the collar and cuffs is done by hand. Ditto with the front slit and the openings in the sleeves. People see these areas. It’s subtle, but it makes a difference.
5. Make sure the cuffs are narrow as in no more than an inch wide.
6. Gathers … I didn’t notice a big difference between the ones I gathered and sewed by hand vs. the ones I gathered and sewed on the machine. This tells me I need to work on the gathers I do by hand.
7. Oddly enough, the thing that bugged me the most was overcasting the interior seams with a zig-zag stitch. I figured nobody would see it, it wouldn’t matter, but it really changed the way the garment ended up being shaped. Go ahead and flat-fell your seams.
8. Buttonholes: The fastest cheat? Do them by machine with the narrowest stitch you can, and then re-do them by hand. I did the first set by hand, and the linen was so coarsely woven, they pulled out, so I had to sew over that by machine, and then over that by hand. Again.
In other news, Sweet Daughter got two new shifts made out of cotton muslin. (The 18th century kind, not the modern kind.) She really, really likes her shifts to be as light as possible. These were all sewn by machine except for the neck opening, the sleeve hem and the flat felling of the sleeves which were all done by hand. All the interior raw edges were overcast with a zig-zag stitch on the machine - oddly enough, this didn't bug me like it did on the shirts. I think it was a matter of scale. The shifts were a lot smaller, and made of much lighter material. The hem was blind-stitched on the machine – I even put the growth tuck in by machine. I figure that nobody will ever see those details. And the hems by her hands and face were done by hand, and that’s all anybody sees. And as a result, these were knocked out in two evenings.
Your mileage may vary of course, but when pressed for time, this is what worked for me.