These days I’ve been reading more sewing blogs then I’ve been blogging myself. One reason is that there has been an explosion of interest in sewing in the past 2-3 years and tons of people are excited about learning a skill that 10 years ago I was convinced was a dying art. It’s really wonderful to see genuine enthusiasm and a lack of fear although at the same time I’ve seen a lot of finished projects that really could use some constructive criticism. One area of friction has been from experienced people like me who question whether or not something is a genuinely accepted sewing technique or just the sewists untested assumption that their technique is indeed the best way to do something.
This type of conflict has been in the business for years and it’s generally resolved by what’s called “best practice”, which is simply a documented and quantified way of establishing that a methodology is the sound because it’s been widely adopted and proven to be successful. An example of a sewing best practice is pressing, a topic that Ann has made a personal mission in her blog posts and videos. Every sewing project needs to be pressed during construction. Pressing during construction is an industry best practice. It’s a standard part of RTW production and there is no excuse for any sewist to neglect doing it while making a project. Why? Because the end result is that “happy hands at home” amateurish sewing and really who wants to go out in public looking like that?
So this is the first in a series of sewing “best practice” blog posts.
Let’s look at buttonholes. The buttonhole placement noted on commercial home sewing patterns, certainly in the Big 4, is just plain wrong when compared to RTW best practice. Big 4 pattern instruction place buttholes too far from the finished edge of shirts, jackets and coats. I have tested this assumption against the RTW in my closet and here is what I found; feel free to test this yourself with the RTW in your closet:
Shirts The distance from the finished edge was either ¼ or 3/8 of an inch
Jackets The distance was either ½ or 5/8 of an inch
Dresses The distance was 5/8 of an inch
Coats The distance was 5/8 to ¾ of an inch depending on the heaviness of fabric
Now let’s compare this to a pattern, here is Simplicity 2339, a shirt pattern and the distance recommended in the placket is ½ inch. Not at all what I saw in the RTW shirts in my closet. In another example, I looked at Vogue 1266, a coat pattern that has been in production for several years. I measured the pattern piece at center front and the buttonholes are placed at 1.25 inches from the finished edge! I didn’t see any coat in my house that has a buttonhole (or snap) placed any further back than ¾ of an inch. The irony here is that the tech drawings always show buttons right up against the center front line.
I know you’re asking yourselves; does ¼ inch make a difference? The answer is yes. Pleasing design in a garment and flattering fit for the wearer is about the happy confluence of many elements working together in harmony. These elements include the design and that lies with the talent of the designer.But there are many other things solely within the control of the sewist. Fabric and fit are two of course. Another element that sewists tend to not thoroughly consider is proportion. Proportion is not fit, rather it’s how the structural aspects of the garment work together on the finished garment and on the wearer. A master of proportion is Carolyn, who blogs at “Diary of a Sewing Fanatic”. Carolyn’s sense of proportion is flawless. She knows precisely where her buttonholes need to be on her garment and on her body. The hems on her sleeves, skirts, dresses, pants and the placement of her necklines and collars is in perfect proportion to her body and each hits at exactly the right place on the garment and on her frame for everything she makes…everything.
Buttonholes needs to be placed in the right proportion to the finished edge just like other elements of a garment.
Next post: more on proportion