Monday, August 02, 2010

Handmade Homemade (Vogue 8392)

It's been more than a month since Zoe posted Thoughts on Forgiveness about her imperfect homemade clothing versus perfectly-stitched mass-produced clothing.
Not only do I forgive the signs that put my clothes into the homemade/handmade catagory, but I guess I've learnt to almost embrace them.
She was writing in response to Susannah's Handmade or homemade? post. 
Does the homemade look of the clothes you make ever get you down? Sometimes, even on the rare occasions when I do pretty much everything right, I find it difficult to love a garment I’ve made for the sole reason that the finished product doesn’t look as “good” as what I might buy in a shop.
I’m not sure the mass-produced look is the best standard for home sewers to aspire to. For example, I’m fairly sure the universality of stretch fabrics, which make sizing so convenient for mass-producers of clothing, has contributed to a loss of understanding of what constitutes good fit — even among home sewers, who tend on the whole to be keenly aware of actual body size and fitting issues. Nobody expects RTW (ready-to-wear) clothes to fit perfectly. We do expect them to be stitched perfectly. So anyone looking at a garment will tend to notice imperfections in stitching more readily than bad fit.
Actually, I am not one bit ambivalent about the home-madeness of my clothes.

I can't replicate the quality of a factory-sewn garment because I lack the specialized equipment and I don't practice enough to get it perfect. But I can make my clothes fit my body shape and my special needs*.   My self-made clothes are in a whole other category than store-bought clothes.

Firstly, my home-made clothes fit much better than RTW.

I prefer to sew with patterns from companies that use a consistent sloper so that I know which pattern alterations I have to make with each new pattern.  With Vogue/Butterick, a size 12 fits through the shoulders, but I need to taper it out to a 14 at the hips.  I have a slender neck so I extend the shoulder 0.5" into the neckline on both sides, then I pinch out 0.5" at the CB (0.25" if cutting on the fold).  If the sleeve is close-fitting, I measure the upper arm circumference and add 0.5-1", if needed.

Because the handkerchief-weight linen/cotton blend is sheer, I made the front double layer, sandwiching the shoulder and side seams between the layers for a clean finish.  I also used french seams for the sleeves.  The only serged finish is in the armscythe.

I don't have a binder attachment for perfectly bound edges (see the Bernina video to see how this works), so my stitching is a bit uneven.

But, if I used a special binding attachment, the binding ends would be joined in a perpendicular seam, often in conjunction with a garment seam.  That's a whole lot of layers in one place and the lump would rub uncomfortably, no matter how well it is sewn.  My homemade garment has a spiral seam for lump-free comfort.
The finished neckline is not perfect, but it is smooth and comfortable.

My impatient photographer did not give me fair warning before snapping this.  I think I was still telling her how to adjust the camera setting.  Here's the blouse with RTW jacket and shorts.

Vogue 8392 Flickr slideshow
Vogue 8392 Pattern Review

* I have extremely sensitive skin that injures easily.  RTW clothes are a crapshoot.  I have had to throw out new clothes because they cause me to bleed.  When I sew, I use soft fabrics and high-quality thread that won't chafe.


  1. I used to fret over my clothes looking like high-end RTW, but I really don't care anymore, and embrace the handmade and even homemade aspects of the things I make. My skills have suffered from lack of use, and my time is extremely limited right now so I am happy to do what I can.

    As for bumps and chafing and rubbing, I don't have anywhere near your issues, but too many RTW features poke and prod in places where I am stiffer or different than the standard model. Aside from better fit, which is almost a given, and comfort issues, I am increasingly inclined to think that almost anyone can go out and buy something but making (or refashioning) your own is much more interesting. Or perhaps I am just tired of the complacency bred by the ubiquity of cheap clothing.

    Oops, off topic.

    Love your blouse and your outfit.

  2. I love your blouse and would wear one like it in a heartbeat. Since most people don't know anymore what high quality clothing should look like I no longer worry about the look of my handmade clothes. I hate tags rubbing on me and I also have very sensitive skin. Handmade lets me avoid rough edges and annoying tags. Plus I get to pick my favorite colors.

  3. Food for thought about handmade v manufactured. My reasons for making my own (or my family's own) clothes have changed a lot over the years. Financial, creative, urgency, fit or even just so that I feel like I'm doing something constructive with my time.
    Sometimes things don't fit well, or don't turn out as intended, but I've learned a lot from those kinds of experiences over the years.
    When I've found a pattern I like I tend to use and re-use it with various tweaks and changes.

    Your top looks great- especially with that special jacket!