What I did this week... Hand Sewing and Buttonholes

Yesterday I practised some hand embroidery, as you can see. I'm not very good at hand-stitched satin-stitch monograms yet, but I can do those on my sewing machine with free-motion.

Those things that look like aeroplanes from 80s arcade games are called "crowsfeet". They are essentially a kind of decorative bar-tack. I sewed the very white ones with basting thread because it was only practice, and that thread is relatively cheap. The blue ones are sewing with embroidery silks (made of cotton) or floss.

The dots near the top are French knots. I suppose they would come in handy for certain effects, like the middle of a flower, but they are not my favourite embroidery stitches.

I also tried a few hand-stitched buttonholes, again, not my forte, my sewing machine makes up for that. While we're on the subject of buttonholes... (I'm going to get a name for buttonholes. : ) )

When my ruffler arrived I tried it out on the Toyota as well, and while the machine was out, I had a go at a buttonhole. Then, to compare with the ones my Brother XR6600 makes, I sewed one on that and then showed them both to Mum who always used to make hers by hand. She preferred the Toyota's buttonhole. So I sewed another on the Brother, this time shortening the stitch length to 0.2 and sewing it on the same grain as the Toyota buttonhole (I was sewing on twill so it made a difference). This time Mum preferred the Brother's buttonhole. I was glad about that because the Brother is an upgrade so it ought to be better.

Standard Buttonhole
This buttonhole (yes, singular - I used couple shot) was made on my Brother XR6600 using no stabilizer or interfacing, just two layers of linen (you know, the fabric that hates to be top-stitched). The picture on the right is the RS, and the one on the left is the WS. It looks great on both sides, doesn't it? I know the picture is blurry - even with the image stabiliser switched on. I coloured the fabric in the slot with black ink to make it look better rather than carefully cutting away the fabric threads and risking cutting the stitches.

There are very few pictures of buttonholes made by Brother Sewing Machines on the Internet, so I'll add a few more: one of a keyhole buttonhole, and one of a round-ended buttonhole.

Keyhole Buttonhole
The same arrangement as before (RS, right; WS, left). The minimum stitch length for this buttonhole is 0.3 which I used, leaving the width were it was. Curiously enough, the better side is the WS in this case. I think I'll have another go later.

Round-end Buttonhole
This is the round-ended buttonhole, which curiously looks chunkier on the WS than on the RS. The stitch length I chose was 0.2 and I narrowed the buttonhole to 0.3 which refers to the total width of the buttonhole, not the width of the "beads" (the sides).

(Looking at this photo, I can see I didn't trim a thread close enough!)

I wanted to know if Bernina sewing machines really do stitch as well as they claim so I searched Google images. I did see one very nice keyhole buttonhole sewn on a Bernina 380 (about £1k) but apart from that and perhaps the old buttonholer attachments, the quality of buttonholes seems to be largely a user issue. Some one had a great tip on their blog to use kitchen paper to stabilise buttonholes. And of course, with a one-step you have to pull down the buttonhole lever (I'm surprised people don't know about that).

More Drawn-thread Work
Also, yesterday night I tried my hand again at drawn-thread work, which I was calling hem-stitching but that was ambiguous so I had to remember the real name.

The top picture is the wrong side. The hem is turned up, but if I do say so myself, it's so well done that you can'r really see it.

The bottom photo is the RS. Doesn't it look nice?

A Practice "Box Pleat" Placket
A while ago there was a website called vintagesewing.info - you may have heard of it. On it there was a book called "The Nu-Way Course in Fashionable Clothes-making". Now, I am not really one for sitting a a computer to read and sew, so I copied and pasted the whole thing to Microsoft Word and edited it to look right on my reader, working in table of contents, and then saving is as two files: one a a Word Document, the other as a PDF.

One of the chapters in this book is about making a Tailored blouse and inside it tells you how to make a one using what they call a Model Pattern (what we call a Master Pattern). To make the front you have to fold the fabric and make the placket before you even lay your pattern piece on it. There are two plackets suggested: the closing under a box pleat, and a box pleat closing.

Having already learned the first one, I had a practice at this one. The instructions can get a little confusing because they are all words and no pictures, but it boils down to being a hem-tuck on the front of your blouse. So this is the one I basted for practice, sort of complete with a hand-stitched buttonhole. (Now you see why I like machine buttonholes so much.) This sample is only about  3" long, but it served it's purpose.

What else have I done this week?
Well, our Simplicity contract has ended so we have to pack up all the patterns and send them back (we have to pay the postage of £70 and buy the boxes about £30).

Apart from shop-work, I have cleaned the oven and discovered that anyone with nice nails doesn't do much housework. Now I know why women always used to wear gloves when they went out - wash-day hands and ahem, less-than-perfect nails! Since dishwashers and washing machines became the norm, women have shed their lovely cotton summer gloves! When I was little I always wanted some white gloves. All we could ever find were lace gloves. Now I have found out about "Communion Gloves" about 14 years too late! Still, if ever a child wants nice white gloves, I know to tell them (or their parents) about Communion Gloves.

Until next time, Happy Sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner


  1. Do you still have a copy (PDF or DOC) of "Nu-Way Course in Fashionable Clothes Making"? My wife has become quite interested in 1920's fashion (due to our family forming a 20's era jazz band I expect ;) and I'd love to get her a copy of that book as it turns up everywhere as The Reference, only with that website gone, the book itself is nowhere to be found!

    1. I've replied to your comment on Google+.

      You can still read vintagesewing.info on Google's Wayback machine:



Post a Comment

Popular Posts