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A Dutch Tailor on Handwork

handwork hand tailoring machine tailoring Ruben Bakker Tailoring in the Netherlands

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#37 cperry

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 05:14 AM

Hi back to you, Schneiderfrei,
 
I think it would be great to visit a few Shirtmaking sites.  The thread here has piqued my interest in visiting places where they have the tools to do all parts of the process by machine; just to see...
 
I've enjoy reading all the comments here, of course.

The closest option I have here in Minnesota is the makers of the St. Croix men's shirts in Winona, Minnesota, where I'm told they still do a lot of handwork on their shirts. It's Italian fabric and made in Minnesota. The ladies who do this work have the option of working from home, and some have worked for the company for many years. (So I'm not sure how much of the industrial equipment I would see as mentioned above, but....) Their sales lady pointed out on their knit shirts how the placket is still done carefully by hand. They do allow tours, and I just need make arrangements sometime. I mention that only for interest sake.

Edited by cperry, 24 April 2015 - 05:46 AM.

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#38 Alievens

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 06:35 AM

The closest option I have here in Minnesota is the makers of the St. Croix men's shirts in Winona, Minnesota, where I'm told they still do a lot of handwork on their shirts. It's Italian fabric and made in Minnesota. The ladies who do this work have the option of working from home, and some have worked for the company for many years. (So I'm not sure how much of the industrial equipment I would see as mentioned above, but....) Their sales lady pointed out on their knit shirts how the placket is still done carefully by hand. They do allow tours, and I just need make arrangements sometime. I mention that only for interest sake.

 

Note that, in factory terms, "done by hand" often means nothing more than a manually operated (sewing) machine as opposed to automated machines doing several steps with an operator merely "feeding" the machine.

 

Not that it's reprehensible, just deflation of terminology.

 

Factory visits are fun though.


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#39 cthomas

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 07:55 AM

Similar to when a sweater is called "hand-knitted" when it's done on a knitting machine. I guess that's legitimate, but I think most people have an image of someone sitting with knitting needles.

 

Very much true, although I think that with knitted pieces it might be a bit more obvious because of the gauge (with needle often being a bit bigger and uneven). Although experiencing both hand-knitting and by machine and needle, I can say both are quite a labor some and difficult task.

 

With the whole felled vs french seam thing, it might just be as simple as that the top stitching from felled seams are more related to masculine items, while a ladies' shirt is expected to be cleaner and thus less visible stitching.  And while you can top stitch a french seam, it does give more bulk and I can assume it isn't originally meant to be stitched again and so something else was invented that works better


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#40 Alievens

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 08:37 AM


I know that some people will say a seam is hand-felled if it is machine stitched, but without a special machine or feet and thus hand-folded and all.

 

Similar to when a sweater is called "hand-knitted" when it's done on a knitting machine. I guess that's legitimate, but I think most people have an image of someone sitting with knitting needles.

 

 

Somehow, I missed these posts. I didn't want to shamelessly repeat what you both said :)



#41 Henry Hall

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 08:37 AM

Before the advent of the machine serger, I'd assume that all cotton undergarments (shirts/nightshirts, shifts etc) always had enclosed seams. They have to be regularly washed and anything other than an enclosed seam wouldn't stand that much handling.

When saying "flat-felled seam" it has to be taken into account that the one commonly made by hand (using a machine or not), where you: seam, trim one of the allowances, fold the longer one over it and stitch down, is not the same as the one used on commercial shirts. These are 'hooked' into one another and stitched down using a double needle. This is what differentiates it from one made with a single needle.

Edited by Henry Hall, 24 April 2015 - 08:38 AM.

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#42 cperry

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 09:50 AM

 

Note that, in factory terms, "done by hand" often means nothing more than a manually operated (sewing) machine as opposed to automated machines doing several steps with an operator merely "feeding" the machine.

 

Not that it's reprehensible, just deflation of terminology.

 

Factory visits are fun though.

True enough.  I know there is also a difference between something crafted specifically for one person and "hand crafted" for the masses.

 

My interest would only be to see at this point.  I've seen inside an automobile factory, but not a shirt factory. :)

 

In the 'heirloom sewing' circles, there are those who only go after the hand worked techniques, and then there are those who purchase an embroidery machine (and this is a separate science).  I have seen some remarkable machine embroidery.  The home sewing machine has come a long way in its ability to create embroidery that is worked on very lightweight fabric and looks very close to handwork.  I have also seen amazingly beautiful hand worked embroidery (and often prefer it over the machine version).  Reality is, I've also seen both and that didn't go so well.  :)

 

It seems to me, what they call French hand sewing (and some rename to "heirloom"), the French seam is preferred due to the light weight of the fabric, ie. batiste, lawn, voile.  I would think the fell seam is better with slightly heavier fabrics, like shirting fabrics.

 

It would also be interesting to see the old method of pulling a thread and weaving the shirt seams together.


Edited by cperry, 24 April 2015 - 09:53 AM.


#43 tailleuse

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 11:03 AM

Hi cperry, Well that's something that has been on my mind during this side issue of the seams.
 
French seams are actually less bulky, they get out of the way in movement.
 
And, yes I agree hand sewing gives control over the cloth.


A French is less bulky. A fell seam has more layers and more stitching, which produces more bulk. But with shirting it isn't a big deal. As I said, I think the flat felled seam is used more because it's considered stronger and it's part of the style signature of a certain kind of American shirt.


Edited by tailleuse, 24 April 2015 - 11:05 AM.

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#44 Henry Hall

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 11:08 AM

Eh? A ff seam has fewer layers. 3 with the small enclosing fold. A French seam has 4 complete layers and they are folded towards the outer cloth making 5 layers.

Edited by Henry Hall, 24 April 2015 - 11:12 AM.

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!

 

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#45 dpcoffin

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 11:47 AM

Fascinating thread, thanks all! Some links relevant to topics here:

 

Double (or triple)-needle flat felling as done on jeans, work shirts and apparently almost all US factory-made shirts, in action (chain stitched—these days desired, formally despised:):

 

 

 

Quotes from making a men's shirt from Garsault's L'art du tailleur, published in the 1760s:

 

http://www.marquise....er/18hemd.shtml

 

"The seams should be flat-felled ones. Garsault sometimes whipped seams (e.g. for the sides of the body and the legthwise seams of the sleeves) because he's normally using the full width of the wide fabric, i.e. he's dealing with selvages. If you're lucky enough to be using such narrow fabric, go ahead and whip the seams. But wherever a cut edge comes into play, a flat-felled seam is preferable."

 

From Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660 (Patterns of Fashion) Paperback – October 9, 2008

by Janet Arnold :
 
V_C2015-04-23_06-24-04_PM.png?dl=1
 
Apparently, a felled stitch has been the preferred one for shirts for a LONG time, at least when not joining selvedges. (Fabulous book, btw! Packed with patterns and detail enough for reconstruction.) Felled seams are certainly stronger than French ones, simply because all the stitching goes through the main body fabric, not just the second pass. And they're much more graceful—willing to lay flat no matter the shape—when it comes to negotiating curves, don't you think?
 
I recall reading on a very serious, no-nonsense men's sportwear site that a serger-finished woven-shirt seam was to be preferred for active wear because it was the "most flexible" seam possible.
 
I admit I had the same reaction then as I do whenever I read the same thing about hand-felled seams, which is: How is that the SEAMS could be responsible for the flexibility of any shirt? If the shirt fits and is well designed for movement, how would I ever even FEEL the seams as distinct from the cut? I can never recall feeling a seam's inflexibilty, even a non-stretching one on a knit shirt, where you might expect the difference in the fabric compared to the seam to be noticeable, except when pulling parallel to the seam, in which case it's not going to stretch differently based on how it's finished, but based on how it's made in the first place, no? Not that I don't believe the reports of those who extol how great such hand-sewn shirts feel. I simply doubt that I personally would really notice; not princess enough to be bothered by that sort of pea, I guess:) No matter since I seriously doubt I'll ever buy one and I KNOW I'll never make one! No question the LOOK, and the SKILL, is impressive...
 
dpc

Edited by dpcoffin, 24 April 2015 - 11:53 AM.

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#46 Schneiderfrei

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 12:48 PM

Now that's the kind a historical proof I like!

 

Many thanks DPC


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#47 SPOOKIETOO

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 10:48 PM

Yes, thank you so much, David!

#48 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 08:47 AM

Love the fact I got your "Shirtmaking" book right here on my desk DPC :) Learned a lot from that book. Not everything was useable for me, as I think it is for many people; we read something, develop our own way from the instructions found, and use that technique from that point onwards. Nonetheless, your book has been a great inspiration for me, and I think for a lot of us.

 

On this topic; I'll be back in my workroom on monday and will shoot some pictures of the flat felled seams and compare them to machine made (double needle) seams.


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#49 dpcoffin

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:09 AM

Thank you, Ruben. It's always gratifying to hear one's been useful:)

I'm certain pretty much everyone who's made any progress after reading and trying my techniques—or anyone else's—has found they made even more progress after tweaking (or even rejecting) them to better suit themselves and their own goals. In fact, I think that's the very essence of how craftsmanship is developed, and progress made!

 

And I'm always completely fascinated and inspired by YOUR amazing blog posts and pix, thank you so much for being so generous. I well know how time-consuming such efforts are.


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#50 dpcoffin

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 03:38 AM

A while back I got an email question about shirt seams from a reader looking at the chain-stitched seams on his shirts and trying to make sense of them. Here's my reply, fwiw:

 

"What you're seeing on your shirts is not, strictly speaking, a flat-felled seam. It's an industrial technique that requires a chain-stitch machine with a built-in folder that wraps the two seams around each other and stitches them down twice (or three times) all at once with a double (or triple) needle, as opposed to flat felling which is done on a standard lock-stitch machine (like all home sewing machines), and requires two passes under the needle, one to close the seam and the second to "fell" it, as described in my book that you have. (Lockstitch machines can use double or triple needles, too, but they don't chain stitch, so all the threads from the multiple needles are caught by a single bobbin thread, resulting in a zig-zag on the wrong side.)

 
Here's a pre-production screen shot from my new book on shirtmaking, coming out in June 2015, which shows the construction difference :
fell.jpeg?dl=1
 
And here are some shots of the finished difference on shirts I own (a Paul Stuart, and a Charvet):
charvet.jpeg?dl=1
 
 
 ...and shirts I've made:
dpcfell.jpeg?dl=1
 
 
 
Hopefully you can see that these all have a very narrow (1/8-in.) side seam with a single row of stitches on the outside and two on the inside. When I wrote my book back in the 1980s, this was typical for expensive dress shirts, like Brooks Bros, and the two above, which is why I chose to describe how to do it in my book, which is all about high-quality dress shirts (the new one's about all kinds of shirts). These days it's much rarer to see this, as you've noted, even on expensive shirts, simply because it's slower to do, and factories all have the fancy machines. 
 
And these days, the chain-stitched seams have even become something to show off, what with the current interest in work-wear, and in classic American factory craftsmanship, so you'll see lots of expensive designer work-shirts with their chain-stitched thread ends untrimmed and dangling off to make sure you notice that they're done this way. You can see many examples of this on my Pinterest board about side-seam gussets, a related technique usually reserved for work-shirts, here:
 
 
Some home sergers  these days can do chain stitching (one needle at a time), so if you want to simulate the effect on your shirts, you can sort of do it, but the double pre-folding will be tricky, and you'll still need to make two or more passes under the machine.
 
You can read more about the whole question of what's "better" here:
 
 
...and make up your own mind with the links here:
 
 
...and read about (and watch) the specialized folding/chain-stitching machines from the links here:
 
 
Check those out and you'll know as much about shirt side seams as I do:)"
 
 
I recently saw a video on flat-felling from Janet Prey, who's aunt Margaret Islander had apparently been a contract sewer for Nudie of Hollywood in the 50s, (creator of MANY astounding cowboy shirts for Roy Rogers and the like), and she claimed that Nudie had taught his sewers to make FF seams exactly as shown in my top diagram, in two passes but without a specialized foot, and with the folded width ¼-in. instead of ⅛ as I'm showing here. Seems obvious to me, having used the foot which works this way (and has been available to home and factory sewers since the later 1800s to judge from old sewing machine manuals I've seen), but she claimed that it was "revolutionary" at the time, or something like that.
 
I'm very eager to see everybody's further pix and thoughts!
 
dpc

Edited by dpcoffin, 30 April 2015 - 03:39 AM.

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#51 Henry Hall

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 08:26 AM

'Classic factory craftsmanship'...it sounds like an oxymoron, but I know what you mean. With the U.S. being the original leader of factory-made clothing at the time, made with many new sophisticated machines, it also went in hand with a time of rising national prosperity and I think that's some of what makes people nostalgic for it.

 

Chain stitched seams though... They look quite cheap and horrid nearly all of the time. I hate the stitching on jeans, the ugly serging on the fly and button catch of my Levis is not pretty,nor all that hard-wearing it seems. The flat seams though are quite solid and strong; twin industrial like the last example in your extract.

 

I've not made many shirts (a mere 4 in fact), it's not my thing, but I made the last and a pyjama jacket with rather wide (both hand- and machine-felled) seams; at least a centimetre. I don't see the high value of very thin seams at all.


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).


#52 dpcoffin

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 09:07 AM

I've not made many shirts (a mere 4 in fact), it's not my thing, but I made the last and a pyjama jacket with rather wide (both hand- and machine-felled) seams; at least a centimetre. I don't see the high value of very thin seams at all.

 

 

I doubt there's any intrinsic, physical value to them comparatively, except perhaps in realms where seam "flexibility" is noticed, in which case I'd guess that narrower would be more flexible...dunno!

 

I'm sure I value them mostly because that's all I ever saw in the shirts I admired long before I ever thought to make one, so they just feel like part of the feature set to my eyes. Plus, "narrower" does seem to me to have some aesthetic connection with "finer", however imaginary...a finer, more delicate, less bulky, somehow more "magical" line, etc...

 

Since then, though, I very much enjoy the strength combined with very narrow seam allowances factor. And once I discovered that there's a foot that makes that happen beautifully and effortlessly, it also became clear that the narrower seam allowances are somewhat better suited to being wrapped by a shaping presser foot than wider ones, in wider feet of the same type, just as narrower rolled-hemming feet work better than wider ones, with less fabric twisting or distortion.



#53 tailleuse

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 09:37 AM

Hi back to you, Schneiderfrei,
 
I think it would be great to visit a few Shirtmaking sites.  The thread here has piqued my interest in visiting places where they have the tools to do all parts of the process by machine; just to see...
 
 

 

I'd love to visit some factories, but it wouldn't do to be too romantic. I had a teacher who had worked in a factory in what I assume was a supervisory role. (When younger, he did a stint actually sewing, but that's a different story.) He said it was absolutely filthy, except for the areas directly relating to the shirts. Anywhere the product was being handled, clean paper was put down. He didn't give the name, but I don't think it was a bargain-basement manufacturer.


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#54 Henry Hall

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 10:02 AM

I'm sure I value them mostly because that's all I ever saw in the shirts I admired long before I ever thought to make one, so they just feel like part of the feature set to my eyes. Plus, "narrower" does seem to me to have some aesthetic connection with "finer", however imaginary...a finer, more delicate, less bulky, somehow more "magical" line, etc...

 

Since then, though, I very much enjoy the strength combined with very narrow seam allowances factor. And once I discovered that there's a foot that makes that happen beautifully and effortlessly, it also became clear that the narrower seam allowances are somewhat better suited to being wrapped by a shaping presser foot than wider ones, in wider feet of the same type, just as narrower rolled-hemming feet work better than wider ones, with less fabric twisting or distortion.

 

Yes, narrower is probably associated with finer and more delicate. And probably an image of being more difficult to make.

 

You know I tried that flat-fell foot (after reading your book as it happens) and I just could't work with it. It's possible I just didn't persevere enough. They're a real nuisance to feed into.


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).





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