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what’s the best hand stitching method…

Cecile_Moore | Posted in The Archives on

I have just made my first blouse from a Burda pattern (the magazine) and I love the style of their underarm gusset but it was baffling to sew. I had to clip the inside corner all the way to the stitching just to finish the seam, and then it completely came apart. Thought I’d have better luck doing it by hand, maybe. Can anyone describe for me the hand stitch to use for a construction seam, or direct me to a source? Is it just a real fine running stitch? How do you reinforce a hand seam before you clip all the way to the stitching? BTW, how *do* you do those gussets on a machine? Burda’s instructions are minimal and cryptic.


  1. lin_hendrix | | #1

    Hello Cecile,

    You can use a backstitch (image attached). This is a very strong stitch and should be suitable for an underarm seam.

    I've included a side view. The individual stitches should be about 3/16" long. Viewed from
    the top the stitches are not parallel to the seam but slightly to the side, stacked on top of each other.

    The corner of the fabric that the gusset "sets" into should be reinforced with a tiny square (1/2") of iron on interfacing over the corner then a small machine stitch just barely inside the seam allowance, i.e. instead of 5/8" from the edge about 19/32". Then you *should* clip to the corner as close as you can get to the reinforcement stitching.

    It'll take me awhile to create a graphic about gussets (I wouldn't even attempt to describe further without a drawing).


    1. Cecile_Moore | | #2

      *Ahaa! Both these things make perfect sense! Thanks! I tried my hand stitching last night with a very tiny running stitch and reminded myself why I don't hand quilt. I can envision your description of the gusset perfectly.On the hand stitching -you mean the stitches are slightly diagonal (like just a few degrees) relative to the seam?Thanks again - Ceil >^, ,^<

      1. lin_hendrix | | #3

        *Hi Cecile, Yup, just slightly off. Of course if you're like me every stitch will *not* be perfectly aligned.I'll try working on the diagram tonite.--lin

        1. lin_hendrix | | #4

          *Hi Cecile, Here's a diagram of how I set in a gusset for an underarm seam on a kimono style sleeve. Principles are the same regardless of the garment.First off always sew the most difficult construction of a garment first, as flat as possible, i.e. don't put darts, zippers, etc. in until the gusset is sewn.Mark your seam allowances carefully on all pieces. For unstable fabrics you may need to stay stitch all seams involved. As before add the reinforcement stitching and little piece of interfacing.Straighten out the bodice seam as much as possible at the inner corner instead of trying to pivot around the corner. Your seam here should mimic the gusset shape not the bodice inner corner shape. Stop sewing at exactly the bodice/gusset seam allowance end.After the gusset is attached to both bodice parts then sew the side seams and sleeve seams. Again stop sewing at exactly the bodice gusset seam. You should meet up with your previous stitching.If you accidentally sew in a tiny wrinkle at the inner corner of the bodice just pick out a few stitches at the wrinkle and on either side. Flatten your bodice fabric, and pin; then sew again over the picked out part.Let me know if any of this is unclear or if the diagram (guss.gif) looks weird or funny.hope it helps,--lin

          1. thimble_ | | #5

            *Hello,I have a suggestion,What i always do in such tight spaces is trim the seam allowances right down to 1/4". this helps tremendously. Persoanlly I think 5/8" seams are ridiculously huge, and in so many garments I have seen critical shaping lost because of the width of the seam allowance! I usually work with 3/8" seams on everything, and 1/4" or 1/8" seams on tight pices like collars and gussets...of course it all has to be finished too, so keep that in mind...! Lin I think your pictures are great, what program do you use? I would love to be able to draw out all these problems rather than try to describe them.well ciao for now...and good luck!!!thimble!

          2. lin_hendrix | | #6

            *Hi Thimble, You're right about those seam allowances. The patterns I make for myself always have 3/8" to 1/2" seam allowance. About the only exception is when I do a flat fell seam and need that little extra bit to turn over. Regarding the graphics: I drew these out on the CAD software I use for work... it's for designing integrated circuits (electronics) on a Unix workstation. You caught me playing hookey! I capture the image into a Sun raster file then convert it to GIF using a popular (and free!) graphics tool, ImageMagick. If you do *any* image stuff at all for the web I highly recommend having a copy of ImageMagick around; it runs on virtually any platform (pc/Unix/Linux/NT) and can convert almost any image file to almost any other format. There's about a gazillion web sites; here's a few:http://magick.iacta.com/http://web2.airmail.net/bfriesen/webmagick/http://www.tu-chemnitz.de/~pester/ImageMagick.html/http://fjwsys.lanl.gov/ImageMagick.html/-lin

          3. Cecile_Moore | | #7

            *Hi Thimble! I like your idea - I have noticed that the burda patterns advise a half inch seam, which is a gracious plenty; and David Coffin recommends everything from 3/4 to 1/4 in his shirtmaking book (which is wonderful). But - do you trim the seam down before you stitch it? Or just clip the allowance way down? Speaking of shirtmaking - does anybody know a good source for very traditional men's shirt patterns? I have one from Vogue for a dress shirt, but my husband wants more ease in a work shirt. Should I just add more ease to the dress shirt pattern, and how? (there are very interesting men's dress shirt patterns around with funky styling touches, but my husband calls this the Eurotrash look, and will not be caught dead in them. He could be right, we live in Georgia. ;-) I need just a good old shirt.)

          4. thimble_ | | #8

            *Thanks for the info lin, i think I will just wait to get a scanner, as I am rather illiterate when it comes to computech stuff!Dear cecille,I always make a new pattern from the commercial tissue. whEN A client comes to see me with a pattern the first thing I do is staple it to a firmer brown paper. then I trim off seam allowances and change the style etc...it is much easier to do that than trying to work with that crappy tissue!as for men's shirts...They are very hard to crack...I have dicovered! I have neverending resources on men's shirts, but half of the drafts I have don't really make that nice a shirt! I think it is all a matter of trial and error! I always make a muslin from a pattern then drape it onot the client, tailoring it to suit him the way he likes it...for example the shoulder seam placement, the length of the sleeve, the neck size the length of the shoulder seam...etc! Then I transfer the pattern to card and style it there. As for these eurotrash shirts...you can easily change and add styling to a shirt. I have made for one client, a cowboy style shirt in green and white irridescent plastic, a basic cotton shirt and just recently a tuxedo shirt using two different weights of egyptian cotton and french cuffs...etc...so three totally different shirts from the same pattern, all I do is keep altering the ease, the collar, the cuffs...the details etc....!well ciao for now...thimble!

          5. Cecile_Moore | | #9

            *Hmmmm - green and white iridescent plastic? Do I want to know? ;-) Do you have a favorite pattern to start with? Have you ever tried Coffin's method of making a pattern from a commercial shirt by tracing it with pin sticks onto paper? DH has a real odd shirt that he really likes, that I may have to resort to copying.Can you recommend any good books on adding ease and similar fitting things? (I assume that is too involved a question for email.) Also a general question - what are y'all's opinions on the Taunton "Easy Guide to..." series? A good investment? Are they of interest to all skill levels?Thanks for all your help so far - maybe one day I will know enough to answer questions rather than just keep asking them!Ceil >^, ,^<

          6. lin_hendrix | | #10

            *Hi Cecile, I copied my boyfriend's absolute favorite shirt through a series of tracing/pinning/measuring then muslin fitting. That's how I got my starter shirt pattern. It *was* tedious but now I can whup out a shirt for him in record time. I change the collar, placket style, cuff detail, as well as adding a yoke, one pleat or two pleats in back. For dress I make the sleeves a bit fuller and add a longer point on the collar. Starting with a commercial pattern? I would advise against a pattern with a back yoke; my experience is that they *always* get the shoulder slope wrong. Get the no-yoke pattern to fit then alter if you want a yoke. As far as good books? I don't have any men's fitting books but I do like the thoroughness of Helen Armstrong's Patternmaking for Fashion Design; she has some good info on women's basic shirts and jackets that can be transferred to men's stuff. The Taunton Easy Guides? Weeeellll. Depends on your skill level and the problem you're trying to solve. I haven't looked at all of them; what I've noticed is they're directed at the novice to intermediate sewer. What they're missing is sewing technique and really complex fitting problems. They do seem to cover the basics. Depending on your dedication I would start investing time in learning patternmaking techniques; even though this is a very complex subject any knowlege gained is directly applicable to fitting (and fitting is what it's all about).hope it all helps,--lin

          7. thimble_ | | #11

            *Dear Cecile,hey thereI think copying is fine! But once you have copied the shirt pattern, have him try the shirt on...measure from the neck down to the waist, the hip(if applicable), the scye or underarm line, then apply this to the pattern. Remember that CF and CB should be perfectly straight, so you can square the lines from the Cb straight through the side seam to CF. THese guidelines are invlauable! You need them if you are ever going to fine tune the shirt pattern. Also this way you can calculate the percentage of ease around the waist the hip and the bust. For example say his chest measures 44" you measure the new pattern(excluding all pleats) along the chest guideline and it will probably equal 50" or so on an easy fitting shirt...appx 15 to 20% ease. Now if you ever wanted to change the ease, make it more fitted in the back or the front or looser at the back or the front it will be easy to do. Also when you buy a commercial pattern you can line up the two patterns and compare thingslike shoulder slope, height of the armhole, width of the pattern pieces etc....this way you will be able to gauge how well the shirt will fit before you even cut it. Ye I know it sounds like a lot of work, but once you start doing it you will start learning the relationship between ease and the pattern, where ease falls, where you need ease yaddayaddayadda!good luckthimble!ps irridescent plastic is cool stuff...and he is a pretty cool guy!

          8. Ceil_Moore | | #12

            *Hi again guys! Was out of town for a while, now I have upgraded my modem to the point where it no longer works. Back on the air now.I have found the wonderful Armstrong book at Powells.com used books, via bookfinder.com, a used and out of print search service. wonderful site, even more wonderful book! What fun! I showed it to a sewing friend yesterday, and she said to me, "you're an almost perfect Vogue 12 - You would rather spend three days drafting a pattern than moving two little darts???" and then she *screamed* with laughter. I pouted furiously, because she was absolutely right. I figure if I have to do anything, I might as well do it *all*; if I'm going to make a commercial pattern it should just *fit*, period. Busted! (so to speak...)I have just found a source for Tencel but it costs 16.00/yd; does anybody know of anything less expensive?Thanks - good to be back - Ceil >^, ,^<

          9. lin_hendrix | | #13

            *Hi Ceil, I was wondering what happened to you...Vogue Fabrics by Mail has some outstanding Tencels for $5.99 on up. Their subscription service is really great and goes for $20/year. I know the current Fall set has a sueded charcoal and a dark navygrey twill tencel for $7.99. These are jumper/drapey-pant/shirt-jacket weight. If you subscribe to their service the store will swatch for free! They buy in huge quantities so they can afford a lower price.Silk Road (in Austin) has some lighter weight tencels in *lots* of colors. I wouldn't make pants out of these because the fabric stretches out in the knees and seat quite a bit (almost two inches at the end of the day!). For tops though this stuff would be great.Here's their web sites:http://www.myvoguefabrics.comhttp://www.srfabrics.com--lin

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