Sewing techniques

Sewing techniques have central functions in a garment:

  • Keeping together the cut components, composing the garment, sometimes in multiple layers, and giving it its shape.
  • To maintain the desired shape of a part of a pattern, e.g., a pleat or a gathering.
  • Finish and strengthen raw edges and protect edges against wear and tear.

The stitches are one thing – a sewing technique is another.

The stitch is the smallest component in practical sewing. Several stitches together form a seam. Depending upon how the seams, one or more, cooperate with the arrangement of layers to be stitched together there are more sewing techniques to be chosen. Different sewing techniques give different character to a seam and possess aesthetical qualities, which make the choice of technology important for the general impression of the garment.

Treatment of different layers in a garment and workflow

In the older sewing technique the lining was a doubling of the outer fabric and equally cut. The two layers formed a unit, which was sewn together simultaneously in both layers with timesaving techniques. See examples below. Sometimes in fashionable women’s dress the lining of the bodice served as a basic support to which the outer fabric was formed or draped. The lining had then the function of a bodice. Women’s garments (except corsets) usually lacked interlining unlike men’s coats and jackets.

Documentation of sewing before the sewing machine

To describe the sewing techniques is often the most difficult and the most space consuming part of the documentation. There are no long established conventions, but it is important to be clear and consistent for others to enjoy the documentation. Many of the preindustrial sewing techniques in tailored garments lack a modern terminology or description. The sewing technique can be described in words. A simple drawing of the fabric layers and the seams could be a complement.

  • Note, always in the same order, stitches, sewing techniques, stitch length, tread (sewing direction), the start and end of sewing. Note also all that seems strange and abnormal.
  • Describe the layers involved in the seam and how they relate to each other.
  • Describe finishing of edges.
  • It is important to distinguish between seams belonging to construction and eking pieces (additional pieces of fabric taken from small left over sections in order to be as economical as possible).
  • Note primary and secondary seams.



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