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What does “home sewn” mean to you?

marlenec | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi, all .. how about a bit of diversion on Super Tuesday? I’m sure there are a lot of Runway fans on this forum! Two weeks ago Miichael Kors said one of the dresses looked “home sewn.” While we SEW at home, we don’t want are garments to look home sewn! So here are two questions I’d like to ask everyone:

1. What makes a garment look home sewn?

2 What can do to make our garments more couture rather than home sewn ?



  1. katina | | #1

    Good question. Haven't seen the show, but to me 'home sewn' often doesn't look crisp. That's usually down to lack of pressing every step of the way and lack of lining/underlining/interfacing, etc.

  2. starzoe | | #2

    There is quite a large community of young "designers" who are popular with (naturally) the young crowd with money to spend. I must say that the majority of items offered by these would-be designers are definitely "home sewn". Added to the lack of workmanship in these clothes, bags, etc. is the fact that strange combinations of fabrics and colours turn up in some weird and wonderful designs.I am not against any one of the above except the poor workmanship, but I feel that clothing/accessories are in the art category, they should fit well, be well constructed, be pleasing to the eye. I love art-to-wear which sometimes goes to extremes with strange and beautiful combinations of colours and textures but I also think day-to-day clothing should present a certain cache of attractiveness and compatability. The cotton blouse you ran up this morning without any couture touches could certainly qualify.

  3. jjgg | | #3

    This topic has been covered before, but to reiterate my answer, there are many reasons things look "home sewn" Fabric - the fabric available in places like Joanns is lousy (and that's being polite) Cheap polyester crappy fabric is what is available to many people. For a garment to look good you need good fabric.Home sewing techniques that are written up in the pattern instructions - lousy way of doing things. There are much better ways of sewing."make it quick and easy" - looks home sewn,5/8" seam allowances - home sewn.trying to copy techniques that the industry uses that just cannot be reproduced with a home sewing machine - for instance, an elastic waistband with several rows of parallel straight stitching. There is no way to do this and make it look professional on the home sewing machine. The industry has a machine with 3 or more needles so it sews all the rows at the same time - hence the stitches line up with each other. There are other ways this can be done at home and look good - several rows of casings and 1/4 " elastic in each casing.Now, there is a big difference between 'ready to wear' and 'couture' Ready to wear is often lousy also. You can easily do couture at home. Thats all about precision sewing - HAND BASTING all your sewing lines, not working off a 5/8" seam allowance. HAND BASTING your seams before sewing them on the machine. Putting linings in by hand, using proper underlinings, etc.The next big issue with home sewn is fit, commercial patterns don't fit people, and most home sewers do not know how to fit. It's why so many sewers go into quilting - nothing to fit.Pressing, like someone else mentioned, if you don't press as you go , you will never be able to make it look good.Interfacings, The junk available at Joanns is worthless.Lack of good sewing classesI could go on and on, but I'll stop here and let others weigh in.

    1. cree9 | | #4

      I agree with much of what you had to say - but for years I have made and worn clothes that I am not sure but to me they were comfortable and didn't look homemade. My entire wardrobe when traveling in Ireland and England in the early 70s was home sewn and I was over there for a month or so. I have had people berate others when they don't appreciate my homemade jeans. I have to say that I haven't made myself any clothes for a number of years as I can get things cheaply from Walmart or the like and my lifestyle doesn't need anything fancy so sweat pants, jeans, and the like I just buy and save myself the hassle. I have made some pants for this coming summer and am also doing a few cotton tops and even some shorts - but then I've never strived for the couturier look - in fact when Christmas shopping in malls I look at the dresses in windows and wonder who has the places or events to wear these items - all much too fancy for where I live and what I do. I still have memories of my children not wanting to wear things that I made them - I think mainly because they did not come from some store - except for Nehru shirts which my kids all loved - don't ask me. I have a picture of 2 girls now grown and married wearing dresses that I made for them for a wedding and their mother still remembers them as being wonderful to wash and wear.

      1. Crazy K | | #6

        Oh Boy........do I hear you!  I look at clothes in stores at the mall and admire........but bottom line is, I would NEVER wear them.  They just don't fit our present lifestyle.  I have made many things in my day and most did not look homemade.......maybe not couture..........but, hey, I lived in the country........small town USA.......farming type.  No one......and I mean NO one wore designer clothes.  A nice fit, neatly pressed and appropriate for the occasion was about as fancy as anyone got.  I lived next door to a lady who sewed for brides and bridesmaids to supplement their farm income.  She was a very talented lady and her dresses where 'to die for'.  Several other ladies that I knew and admired did sewing and alternations for many over the years.  While I agree that the fabric available to most of us today lacks in quality......there are some shops out there that still carry the 'good stuff'.  In my years of sewing and learning........the biggest secret is to press, press, press!  You can take a gorgeous piece of fabric and use a great pattern and make it look like you dug it out of the laundry basket if you don't press as you sew! 

        There............you have my nickel's worth..........


      2. jjgg | | #8

        Couture doesn't have to mean fancy dressy garment. Couture literally means "sewing" Haute couture means "high sewing". This is quality I am talking about, not fancy ball gowns. A button down shirt, an A-line skirt can be made with couture techniques - it just makes the sewing more precise and careful. Quality, thats what it is.As to fit - well lots of RTW (ready to wear) doesn't fit either, I see so many people walking down the street (or elsewhere) and I just want to go up to them and tell them I can make clothes that would fit them better.Why is it that manufacturers think that obese women all have football shoulders? I hate seeing women with shirts that have the shoulders half way down their upper arms because they had to buy that size to get it around their chest/stomach.I agree with the poster that wrote some things are just easier to buy at Wallmart. While I won't shop at wallmart, I agree, jeans, and some other things are just easier to buy with a lot less hassle than makeing them. I make clothes that I intend to keep around for a while, classic styles that won't really go out of style, because yes, to do it right, a lot of time and effort has to go into sewing.

        1. dressed2atee | | #18

          EXACTLY!!! The word "Couture" is simply thrown in front of techniques and used so inappropriately in the garment industry these days!

    2. scrubble4 | | #10

      jjgg: to reiterate my answer, there are many reasons things look "home sewn"

      I remember reading your explanations before, but really appreciated reading them again.  Just a reminder of what is needed to look good.  thanks for doing this again.  Scrubble4

      1. jjgg | | #12

        Can you tell I get very passionate about this subject.I get a kick out of being asked "did you make that?" People are amazed (and disappointed) when I say no, They expect all my better clothes to be "home made"I just made a button down shirt, out of some nice rayon fabric I had on hand, this is my 'muslin' before I cut into the expensive cotton shirting, I also wanted to try out some sewing techniques. (I had made a muslin, and made my alterations to it, but I wanted to make a 'real' shirt, and wear it for a day or so to see if it really was a good fit - and yes, it needed tweaking just a bit more - I raised the underarm one inch and extended the shoulders out 1/8 inch). I tried it on to show my husband, and he wanted to know "when did you go buy that?" (lets forget the fact that there was a cuff on only one sleeve at the time!). Then my son walked into the sewing room, saw it and now he wants me to make him some shirts! I guess since I borrowed some of his shirts to see how they were made, I should make one for him.

        1. Ralphetta | | #13

          Just to clarify, I want to be sure we're all answering the same question. I understood this was prompted by the comment on Project Runway and we were describing what we thought would prompt something to be dismissed as "homesewn." I was describing the epitome of bad homemade.

          1. jjgg | | #16

            I don't own a TV, have never seen Project Runway, so I guess I'm off on a different tangent.

        2. scrubble4 | | #14

          jjgg: "I get very passionate about this subject."

          I love your passion and think we all profit from you recounting your sewing adventures. 

           "(lets forget the fact that there was a cuff on only one sleeve at the time!)"

          This really made me laugh.  We see the smallest nuance that is not "right" and our DH's seem not to see these details.  I think they must be getting the big picture.  My proof of that is often when my DH is watching T. V. for a news cast, weather report etc. he will say, "Why don't you consult for these women.  Their clothes look terrible on them." 

          So I take that as an indication that from years of living with an obsessive person about  fit and style he has inculcated some of it. 

          I love reading your posts, keep them coming.  Scrubble4

        3. dressed2atee | | #19

          Ditto, I get all the time "I know you made that!"  I am soooo thrilled when I can say yes I did!

  4. Ralphetta | | #5

    What does home sewn look like?lumpy...tension is usually too tight so the seams aren't smooth...round corners when they should be sharp....just follow the written directions and don't give any thought as to how it is going to actually fit a human body....sometimes the actual sewing may look very neat on a hanger but the finished product is an example of how to use the machine and looks bad when actually put on a 3 dimensional body. that's what it means to me

  5. BernaWeaves | | #7

    "Homemade" screams "I never fit the pattern to me, I just cut it out and sewed it together." 

    I remember my mother always fitting the paper pattern to me, and making adjustments to it before ever buying the fabric.  She would then do her own layout, which often used less fabric than what was recommended.  She always pressed as she went, and trimmed all the hanging threads.  When done, her garments looked nicer than ready made, and fit better, too.


  6. sewelegant | | #9

    I can remember when my favorite reason for being in church was to study all the garments on display in front of me and figure out who had sewn their own.  Back zippers that did not meet evenly at the neck was a big clue.  Puckered seams.  What a treat when I observed a hand picked back zipper insertion!  I wondered if she had sewn it herself or had it made by an expensive dressmaker!  That encouraged me to learn all I could (mostly by reading sewing books; Vogue and Threads were favorites) and it was a personal challenge to not have someone say "did you make that".  When I look back through old family photos, my children and I are usually wearing something I made and from this distance I do not see the mistakes, only how nice they look, so I guess I should not have been so touchy, most people who did ask me that knew I sewed and were really just in awe of the fact I could do it well.  I don't spend any time wondering about who sewed what any more... so many purchased garments do not look like they were sewn by a skilled seamstress.  They look like production line items and more than once I have taken back something that did not hold up after one wearing.

  7. Pattiann42 | | #11

    We have two choices:

    Factory made and custom made.

    Custom made does not have to look homely if the sewer makes good choices in fit, fabric and notions.............and does not take short-cuts in the construction of the garment. 

    Making sure the sewing machine and serger are in good working order; having the proper type/size new needles in the machines are also important in getting the best possible results.

  8. jomuir | | #15

    Some of the things I think contribute to the home sewn look are:Poor or awkward fit.Any visible lumps at area where there are many layers being sewn through, as if the sewer forced the bulky bit through the machine.Puckers at hems.Not notching or clipping at curves, again giving a puckered appearance.Using the wrong weight interfacing, almost always too heavy, or not fusing well.Seam binding-so many patterns call for it, and it is so often not needed or applied poorly. I think that may be my biggest pet peeve.Visibly crooked stitches, like on a zipper fly, or other crooked topstitching on bulky areas.Using the wrong fabric for the pattern, I think sometimes one likes the fabric and forces it onto an inappropriate pattern.Pressing has already been mentioned, and its true that many folks just don't know how important it is to press at every step (and its not mentioned in most pattern instructions, except at points where the whole project will be ruined if not pressed). I would say, if I can look at an item and see where the sewer forced something to fit or turn, etc, that screams homemade to me.

  9. dressed2atee | | #17

    I saw that episode and I really didn't see what he saw that made the garment look homesewn.   However, I agree with all of the comments about what home sewn is.  I have learned to press as I go.  I have different size hams and pressing aides.  I know people who don't use these things at all and it shows in the finished garments.  I always explain to my clients that cheap fabric makes cheap looking clothes. 

    Happy sewing!


  10. Teaf5 | | #20

    It's too bad that "home sewn" has become an insult, but it's the first thing I think of when I see an oversized sleeve hanging off the gigantic shoulder seams of a petite woman's top. I just want to go up to her, pinch about four inches of fabric out of the center back and show her how much better the garment and she will look! (The church "critic" and I must be related.)

    1. kbalinski | | #21

      I have to agree, it does feel like an insult.  I don't know whether to be happy or sad when someone at work asks, "Did you make that?".  Does that mean it's so poorly constructed or fit that it's obviously not store bought, or does it mean it's so unique and well fit that I must have created for myself.  I'm a huge Project Runway fan, I have 2 seasons on DVD, I never miss a new episode... maybe Tim Gunn would pick me for his makeover show, but instead of shopping at the mall, he could look through my fabric stash and pattern drawer, and say, "Oh, Kristine... this is all wrong" or "don't ignore your inner voice, you know what you're doing!"

      In the end, I get so much enjoyment from sewing my clothes that it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks.  It is my treasured gift from my mother, her teaching me this skill that her mother taught to her.  Like any other skill, it will always need to be fine tuned, and improved upon.  Between reading these discussions (which lead to a whole other world of blogs and information) and reading my Threads magazine, I'm sure that my skills will continue to improve, and I will have more and more people ask, "Did you make that?" because it's so incredibly crafted and eye-catching, that they'll just know I did.


      1. Ralphetta | | #22

        I don't think that people asking if you made it necessarily means they think it looks "homesewn."

      2. rodezzy | | #23

        Noboby really in many of my circles of activities knew I sew (except for the quilt guild).  I got complements on my coats and other accessories, both sewn and/or crocheted/knitted and people asked the familiar question "Where did you buy it, do they have any left", and when I started telling them that I made it, they were wide eyed and lost for words.  "You made it?" 

        People that sewed also didn't know I had made stuff, but as some as they learned that I had made some things, they started inspecting them like I was in a class or something.  Then they started trying to find something wrong, like asking/telling me that my fleece coats could/should be lined. 

        I made them how I wanted them.  Other than that, they couldn't find anything else to say.  I'm proud of my work, and I know there is room for improvement in anything that you do, and that you should strive to do the best, but everything doesn't have to be that involved to get a good fit and/or look.  So, I know what you mean.  I learned to sew in high school, no one in my family sews or any fiber arts.   When I'm trying to impress for competition, I employ all the skills I've learned over the years.  Sometimes you just want to sew something.

        1. SAAM | | #24

          Amen, Rodezzy, and shame on those people who tried to find fault with your work. I've loved seeing the pictures of your projects and they all look great to me. We sew because we love it and because we love the finished results. Usually it's my friends who know I sew who ask if I've made a particular garment, because they assume I make everything I wear, which is hardly true. (I've mostly been sewing for my daughters lately.) I happily accept the compliment of people asking where I've bought something I've made, even better when they assume it's a designer item. That means I've done a good job. I think there's a difference between "home-made" and "made by hand," and what it really comes down to is both the sense of taste and the care that is put into the creation. After all, "made by hand" is what the finest couturiers do. Who's to say we can't do that as well?SherryP.S. I think lining your coats with fleece would make them too heavy and uncomfortable to wear. How could you bend your arms with the outer fabric plus the thickness of the fleece? If you're ever interested in trying lining, regular coat lining or flannel-backed lining would be much better choices. :)

          1. rodezzy | | #25

            Thanks for your comments.  I enjoy hearing possitive comments.

            Listen, I wasn't saying to line my coats w/fleece.  The coats are made of fleece fabric already.  One is actually a double faced fleece and very warm, even in this minus degree weather we are having here in Chicago now.  You have to dress appropriately for the weather here, we haven't had this traditional kind of winter for a couple years and people have gotten a little spoiled, but this morning on the news interviews of people about the weather, the people that have lived here the bulk of their lives and born here, simply told the truth, this is commonly the weather for Chicago during most winters at this time of year.

            I do love many types of crafts and have done many over the years.  But sewing is such a good thing to know because you can make things for all occasions and anything.  So I have made lots of objects over the years.  But I also love crochet and have made dolls, dresses, scarves, and many things over the years.  Now, I'm stressing to do more and good knitting.  I learned at the same time (age 9) as crocheting, but always did the crocheting, not the knitting. 

            So, my boss is running around now, and I had better get to work.

          2. MaryinColorado | | #26

            The first time I worked with fleece, I made a beautiful gray printed fleece coat.  It turned out perfectly, is reversible, got many compliments.  Unfortunately, it is way too hot to wear for everyone who's tried it.  I know about fabric weights and density and such, but really loved the idea of it being reversable, and the pattern specified fleece too.  Someday I'd like to try the pattern again out of a lighter weight fabric.

            So just keep on keepin on...you know what you're doing!  As evidenced by all the great photos you've posted. 

            Guess thier mommies didn't teach them that "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  I love the comeback "why do you say that?"  They rarely have an answer and it gives me a private giggle the few times I've tried it. 

          3. rodezzy | | #27

            Thanks for your support, now can you do something about that mountain of fabric I have yet to make anything out of?  (giggle).  Naw, I know, I will eventually.  I've vowed not to buy anymore fabric unless it is project specific and I am making it right then.  Usually, that is a quilt for someone else.  That's why I probably have so much fabric I bought for me still sitting around.  Oh, well.  I wore my Home Made (yeah!) hearts fleece coat today with matching head band hat.  I look so cute.  Every time I wear that coat men compliment me on it more than women. (giggle)  I like that!

          4. MaryinColorado | | #28

            Wow!  I bet you look lovely and the guys can't resist you looking like such a sweethear!  Happy Valentines Day!!! 

            It snowed last night and the roads are super slick!  My car handled like a dream, but an SUV almost slid into me as he rounded a corner too fast and slid right at me!  My guardian angels must have been watching as he would have plowed right into my drivers' door!  My heart was pounding so hard, I thought I'd go wee wee wee all the way home! 

            Now that the grandkids are all safely at school, I can get some "work" done here.  I'm embroidering Dragonflys onto some beautiful handdyed fat quarters. 

            Have a safe and happy day in the "windy city".  Do people still listen to WLS?

          5. rodezzy | | #29

            Thanks, Happy Valentine's Day to you too!

            Yes, I bet that was scary, I'm so glad you and yours are safe and sound.  Those butterfly's sound beautiful, please post pics in the gallery when done.

            Yes, I believe WLS is still around.  I'll do a search on my car radio when I go to lunch which will be right about now....

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