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A Dutch Tailor on Handwork

handwork hand tailoring machine tailoring Ruben Bakker Tailoring in the Netherlands

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#1 tailleuse

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Posted 20 April 2015 - 11:11 AM

Ruben Bakker, a Dutch tailor, discusses his view on handwork. I don't read Dutch, so I had to use Google Translate. The text was reasonably understandable, except for a few patches.

 

If you're using Google Chrome and certain versions of Firefox, right click and you'll see the option to translate the text to the default language of your browser.  Otherwise, go to translate.google.com, paste the post URL (http://www.rubenbakker.nl/handwerk), and select the appropriate languages.


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#2 Schneiderfrei

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Posted 20 April 2015 - 12:24 PM

I have thought that Dutch must be difficult for those machines to translate, there were always very few dutch language pairs available.

 

Bing seems the most reasonable translation currently.

 

Babelfish was fun years ago.


Edited by Schneiderfrei, 20 April 2015 - 12:25 PM.

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#3 Alievens

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Posted 20 April 2015 - 04:52 PM

I think he used to be a member here.

Let me know if you want me to properly translate any paragraph.

Speaking dutch might just turn out to be useful for once...


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#4 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 20 April 2015 - 09:16 PM

In fact, I'm still here :) just not very active. Been developing my business, and I'm rather busy. Would love to get back to posting again.

 

in any case, I guess a lot of people here would like the article to be translated. FYI; it's just my (humble) point of view :)

 

I'll get to translating it soon enough. 


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#5 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 20 April 2015 - 10:50 PM

http://www.rubenbakker.nl/en/handmade/

 

Here you go. Careful when visiting the rest of the english version of the website; it's empty. To go back to the dutch version, see the links at the bottom of the page.


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#6 Henry Hall

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Posted 20 April 2015 - 11:07 PM

Bah! I just spent an hour translating it! Oh well.

 

Your own English version is quite different than the Dutch original.

 

Here it is if you don't mind:

 

Handwork?

 

By Ruben Bakker

 

Another question often raised, and the ensuing discussion, is the use or not of handwork. One may portray handwork as the alpha and omega of clothing, the other may dismiss it as an unnecessary, old-fashioned (obsolete) principle which ought to be forgotten.

 

The difference between the two is, however, a little more nuanced. Whether handwork adds value to wearing comfort as well as finishing cannot so easily declared and is heavily dependent upon the type of garment and the placing of the handwork, as well as personal taste.

This has arisen because modern machines can exactly replicate what the tailor previously did by hand. Today there are ever more machines being developed which hold to this principle: the philosophy of handwork, transformed into an automated process. Thus we have the chain-stitch which, traditionally, would be used to stay (strengthen) the armscye of a suit so that it doesn't stretch during both construction and wearing. There is now a machine that makes exactly the same stitch; which is even more flexible (or supple) and can of course be made more quickly (a minute as against an hour). In addition there is the well-known blind-stitch machine, which is also an exact copy of the handwork (5 seconds versus 5-10 minutes for a trouser hem). There are now even machines which mimic the irregularity and obvious charm of handwork. Today, no single part of a suit has any longer to be manufactured only by hand; for everything there are machines that can do it equally well.

 

Even though I have been trained to manufacture suits and shirts entirely by hand, I'm now more than ever convinced that machines can do it better and faster. Is handwork essential for the wearing comfort of a suit? No. For the quality then? No. Is it a seal of the artisan that you can and must pay for? Absolutely, if you have the money for it. Does it bring wearing comfort to a shirt? I think so. Does it afford beauty which offers surplus value? Absolutely.

 

There are, however, a number of selective 'sacred cows'. Handwork that can't be replaced by machine. These, however, are mainly the cosmetic variants of handwork, namely the buttonholes and setting of buttons, and the seams of a shirt.

A hand-made buttonhole can be made in several ways. The fundamental difference is that the buttonhole is first cut and then made. By machine is reversed and up to now no machine has been devised to replicate this. A hand-made buttonhole is a sign of hand-craft and, provided it is made by the right person, can be many times more beautiful than a machine-made buttonhole. Nor do the buttons escape handwork. Traditionally considered, a button has four holes. The tailors discovered that if the button is fastened from one point to all the other holes, the attachment of the button is stronger and less likely to drop off the garment. This is affectionately refferred to as the 'hen's foot stitch', because it does indeed resemble a hen's foot. In English they call it a crow's foot stitch, stitch of lily, in reference to the three petals of the lily.

 

The seams of a shirt are, in my opinion, also important. In a suit, or jacket, the seams are not finished because they are not visible; there is a lining covering the inner workings. On a shirt these seams are visible and therefore must be finished. On a handmade shirt we make a flat-felled seam at this point. This is a seam where the seam allowance is folded twice inside, to prevent the cloth ravelling and, of course, because it looks better.

Again this can be be stitched by machine, but here is precisely where handwork makes a difference. You need to see a machine seam as a stapling machine. Staple two A4 sheets of paper together in a straight line and you'll see that there's little flexibility there. Do this a second time alongside and you'll find that there's no more flexibility at all. Though cloth is a little softer, the principle remains the same. We carefully sew, by hand, the seam allowance to the cloth with a blind-stitch. Since this stitch isn't pulled tight, and only a single thread of the weave is picked up, this seam merely fastens and thus does not make the seam more rigid. The result is a flat seam many times more supple than it's machine-stitched opposite. In addition, by taking up only a single thread in the weave, it gives a subtle effect that looks elegant and is also a sign of artisanwork.

 

On a shirt there are flat-felled seams all over the garment and I seam all of these, on the entire garment, carefully by hand. This gives a shirt that, in combination with the floating interlining, offers a level of comfort that differs noticeably from the machine-made shirt. The shirt is almost imperceptible and the subtle indentations left on the cloth by the hand-stitched seams give a subtle detail showing both the work that has gone into the shirt as well as the very elegant detail.

 

http://www.rubenbakker.nl/en/handmade/


Edited by Henry Hall, 21 April 2015 - 02:28 AM.

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#7 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 12:15 AM

Dutch never translates very well to english if you do it literally. Hence the different translation :) Would prefer to link to the website, gives me more views, thus a better google rank ;) thanks for the effort tho!


Edited by R.m.Bakker, 21 April 2015 - 12:16 AM.

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#8 SPOOKIETOO

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 01:56 AM

Ruben - thank you for the translation. I understand just enough about other languages to know that most tend to lose something along the way when literally translated. Its a rarity to have the author make his actual intention known.

 

I also find it interesting that as a professional tailor, you are able to concede the value and sometimes superiority of the machine over us mortals. This fact is prevalent in so many vocations.

 

You have however caused me to want to try my hand at a hand finished shirt seam. I've calmed down with age and am no longer stitching furiously to be ready for my date to pick me up in 2 hours, so I am adding hand worked nuances when I can. Thank you. 


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#9 lepus

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 01:58 AM

Dutch never translates very well to english if you do it literally. Hence the different translation :) Would prefer to link to the website, gives me more views, thus a better google rank ;) thanks for the effort tho!

"Een handgemaakt knoopsgat kan op veel verschillende manieren gemaakt worden. Het fundamentele verschil is dat het knoopsgat éérst gesneden wordt, en dan gemaakt wordt."
"A handmade buttonhole can be done in a variety of ways; the fundamental difference between a machine-made buttonhole and a handmade buttonhole is that the handmade buttonhole is first cut, then made; with a machine made buttonhole the hole itself is cut afterwards, often leaving traces."

I would be extremely reluctant to consider that a fundamental difference: there certainly are buttonhole machines (straight as well as eyelet) that "cut before" instead of after; sometimes even the same machine can be set to do one or the other. They are less frequently seen though, generally more expensive and require a bit more attention, which makes them less attractive to industry, but they can produce fine buttonholes.

 

"Een handgemaakt knoopsgat is een teken van ambacht, en kan, mits door de juiste persoon gemaakt, vele malen mooier zijn dan een machinaal gemaakt knoopsgat."
"A well done handmade buttonhole is in fact, more beautiful than any machine made buttonhole."

I think so too, but with a strong emphasis on "can" (in Dutch, in English the statement is more pertinent). It's not at all unusual to see horrendous hand-made buttonholes (irregular, too wide, stitches on top of each other, shouting "look at me, I'm a hand-made buttonhole", etc.). If a hand-made buttonhole is not absolutely correctly made and in harmony with the garment, I'd much prefer a well-made machine one.

 

"U moet een machine-naad zien als een nietmachine."
"You have to imagine the machine-way as 2 pieces of paper, stapled together."

On the issue of stapling, it occurs to me that this is not a completely valid comparison. Certainly, your run-of-the-mill shirt can have relatively stiff flat felled seams, produced on a 2-needle machine. But the machine made seams of a custom made shirt, providing careful attention has been given to thread, stitch length and tensions, seem very acceptable to me. After all, a thread is flexible, unlike a staple. I also wonder how durable the hand-felled seams turn out to be (I understand them to be machine stitched once, after which the seam allowance is hand-felled down, but I may have misunderstood), I'll have to try it some time. But, in the end, it'll probably come down to personal preference to a large degree.
 


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#10 Henry Hall

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 02:30 AM

Dutch never translates very well to english if you do it literally. Hence the different translation :) Would prefer to link to the website, gives me more views, thus a better google rank ;) thanks for the effort tho!

 

Quite so. No language in fact. I tried consciously to translate rather than transliterate. I added the link to your website at the bottom now too.


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Each phenomenon which is taken up should be treated with as much thoroughness as possible at that standpoint... One thing at a time and that done well!

 

- Otto Jespersen (How to Teach a Foreign Language).


#11 tailleuse

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 04:05 AM

Dutch never translates very well to english if you do it literally. Hence the different translation :) Would prefer to link to the website, gives me more views, thus a better google rank ;) thanks for the effort tho!

 
 
Thank you for the translation, Ruben.  I really enjoy your posts. :)   I've linked to the one on the challenges of fitting several times.

Edited by tailleuse, 21 April 2015 - 04:12 AM.

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#12 tailleuse

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 04:11 AM

FYI; it's just my (humble) point of view :)




 
 

Obviously, but your view as a practitioner is valuable, and actually is similar to the views I've heard expressed by other tailors:  There remains a place for hand work.  It depends in part on the kind of garment, the desires of your customers, and their willingness to pay for the extra effort and time.

Edited by tailleuse, 21 April 2015 - 04:13 AM.

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#13 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 04:12 AM

I know tailleuse, and it is much appreciated. Now that the business has settled down a little bit, I hope to pick up blogging again. I will be shooting a shirtmaking video this week, however, I don't know how technically detailed it will be, as it is mostly for marketing purposes.


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#14 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 04:13 AM

It depends in part on the kind of garment, the desires of your customers, and their willingness to pay for the extra effort and time.

 

That's it right there :)


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#15 tailleuse

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 04:40 AM

I know tailleuse, and it is much appreciated. Now that the business has settled down a little bit, I hope to pick up blogging again. I will be shooting a shirtmaking video this week, however, I don't know how technically detailed it will be, as it is mostly for marketing purposes.


Everything you do (as is also true of the many professionals who participate here) is much appreciated. :-)

I'm subscribed to your email list, which is how I learned of the new post, and your blog is added to my RSS reader, but you might also want to consider creating a Pinterest board.

Edited by tailleuse, 21 April 2015 - 04:42 AM.

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#16 Alievens

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 05:04 AM

On the issue of stapling, it occurs to me that this is not a completely valid comparison. Certainly, your run-of-the-mill shirt can have relatively stiff flat felled seams, produced on a 2-needle machine. But the machine made seams of a custom made shirt, providing careful attention has been given to thread, stitch length and tensions, seem very acceptable to me. After all, a thread is flexible, unlike a staple. I also wonder how durable the hand-felled seams turn out to be (I understand them to be machine stitched once, after which the seam allowance is hand-felled down, but I may have misunderstood), I'll have to try it some time. But, in the end, it'll probably come down to personal preference to a large degree.

 

 

I once tried to prove that a hand felled seam was more flexible than a machine sewn. Even if only to justify the hand felling I usually do on the armscye seam of my shirts.

After stitching two pieces of fabric, I felled one seam down by hand, the other by machine. Surprisingly, I could not feel the difference at all.

I still hand-fell the armscye but I've been telling myself it's only for aesthetics ever since...


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#17 tailleuse

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 07:30 AM

I once tried to prove that a hand felled seam was more flexible than a machine sewn. Even if only to justify the hand felling I usually do on the armscye seam of my shirts.
After stitching two pieces of fabric, I felled one seam down by hand, the other by machine. Surprisingly, I could not feel the difference at all.
I still hand-fell the armscye but I've been telling myself it's only for aesthetics ever since...


Alievens,

Would you know of a link to an article describing how to hand fell a seam, or is possible to briefly explain how to do it? I've sewn such a seam by machine in the past, using two different methods, only one of which I've ever seen in a book.

Thanks.

Edited by tailleuse, 21 April 2015 - 07:31 AM.

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#18 Alievens

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 05:02 PM

I'll try to explain:

 

The seam has been sewn by machine. The wide allowance is either folded flat and pressed or will be folded by hand as you go. Fix the thread in the folded edge. 

With your needle, pick a few yarns of the fabric underneath and insert it a few mm further in the edge of the fold. Pull out the needle and repeat.

This is for a clean look on the right side of the fabric, where you will see only tiny picks.

When you want to fell linings, you move the needle under the cloth and take tiny picks in the folded edge of the lining.

 

I hope it makes sence!


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