26 January 2015

First Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge: a Paean to Flat-Felled Seams; or, What It's Like to Sew Fettuccine, and a Possible Pshat in a Little Poem by Sarah Schenirer

This year the HSF is the Historical Sew Monthly, which is a speed I can actually keep up with.
The motivation fits in nicely with my own sewing plans. So I'm in, way at the beginners' end of the HSFers.

The rest of this post is about clothes.

I used the January challenge to finish a Victorian project that's been cooling its heels in the sewing basket since August.

Pattern: Ch. 4 (I think) Of Elizabeth Stewart Clark's Dressmaker's Guide.
Fabric: White cotton muslin.
Is it a good project for beginners? Yes.

It's not a pattern at all, it's instructions, since the garment is made entirely of rectangles and triangles: measure so many inches and rip. That was something new.

I've been researching 12th century dress simultaneously, and it is intriguing to see that the basic rip-a-rectangle tunic of the prehistorical bogs survived as everyday wear, albeit not as an outer layer, into the mid-19th century.

But the really exciting new technique is making flat-felled seams.
A flat-felled seam involves lots of pressing and two straight lines. In the rest of my life I am not a precision-straight-line kind of person; so I am amazed to find that when I take my aggressively steamed fabric to the machine I can actually get the two lines to come out parallel. It is deeply satisfying.

Now I want to flat-fell my dishes instead of washing them, flat-fell my children instead of putting them down to nap, flat-fell the snow instead of shoveling it. Make flat-fells, not war! Flat-felled seams, the answer to all the world's problems!

And when you have to sew one flat-felled seam over another, it is like sewing fettuccine: also very satisfying.

I used to look at dressmaker's accounts of their projects and wonder at the incredible prowess that allowed them to show with pride both the inside and outside of the garment. Flat-felling has suddenly thrust me into the category of exalted beings who can't tell the difference between the outside and the inside of a garment.

There's a Yiddish poem by Sarah Schenirer (1883-1935, my heroine, who is responsible for girls' Jewish education as we know it) about a girl who finds herself stranded for the Sabbath without a change of wardrobe; so she decides to wear her dress inside-out all week and then on Shabbos she has the special treat of being able to wear it on “the glorious right”.

This always mystified me, because I thought of it in terms of our modern cheap factory-made clothing, which inside-out would attract a lot of negative attention, and rightly so (exposed serging, yuk!) – but now I think I understand: it's a dress with properly finished seams.

Before she became a teacher, Sarah Schenirer was a dressmaker.

The rest of the HSF details:
The challenge: no. 1, Foundations.
Year: The photograph I want to replicate probably dates to c. 1851.
Notions: None.
How historically accurate is it? Inasmuch as I followed Elizabeth Stewart Clark's instructions... probably immensely.
Hours to complete, total cost: I do not remember.

1 comment: