My first time hand sewing project has left the research and preparation stage and has finally entered the actual construction stage! I was so excited at the prospect of starting the project for real that I had to take photos to mark the occasion. Here I am, November 29th, 2009 actually cutting out the project!
And later that same day I finally began hand sewing the pieces together!
My process for choosing the stitch for the first seams included reading through the “Reconstructing History Sewing Techniques of the Medieval Period” sewing guide by Kass McGann as well as receiving some instruction from my mentors, Estela and Christiana. McGann talks about the Running Stitch, the Back Stitch and the Whip Stitch. My first instincts told me to go with the back stitch, since this is a stitch my mother taught me a very long time ago. McGann explains that this stitch was used in underarm seams, sleeve attachments and crotch seams because it remains strong. However, for the majority of my seams, I have been instructed by my mentors Estela and Christiana, that the whip stitch is the one to use. According to McGann’s sewing guide, this stitch would be used secure raw edges together but raw edges of fabric available in medieval times were manufactured so that the edges would not unravel, unlike today’s fabrics. McGann explains that those of us sewing in the modern mundane world make the mistaken assumption that all garments are constructed in the same manner, whether today or in medieval times. The sewing construction of garments today is based on the use of the modern sewing machine, which requires fabric to lay flat. In medieval times, garments were often sewn directly on the person and seam allowances were also rather narrow. Today our standard seam allowance is 5/8 “, which is wide. With this in mind, I have created my patterns with modern 5/8” seam allowances. For the whip stitch to be used on these patterns, my seams have to be folded down, then sewn on the outside.
As for choice of thread, Kass McGann’s guide talks about wool, linen and silk thread. Although I would like to use the most authentic materials as possible, the availability and cost of these materials makes it difficult for me to choose any of them. In the interest of keeping my project in the very least as natural as possible, I have chosen to use Gutermann 100% cotton thread.
Here is a photo of my very first seam on the green kirtle: