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All illustrations, text and designs contained in this site are  Copyright 1982-2012 Kannik's Korner, or its licensors.
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Further Information about Stitches

Regarding "The Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing", Book I and Book II:

There has been some question on some of the women's e-mail lists as to whether the stitches included in our Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing books are appropriate for 18th century use, and even that the stitches are 19th century inventions. Our response follows:

The stitches in the first book are quite basic, and most are certainly used, even prior to the eighteenth century. [If anyone is aware of any sewing books published prior to the 18th century, which describe stitches, please let me know!] Quoting the first line of the Introduction to the Book I: "It is intended that this guide will assist one, whether lady or gentleman, in developing skills in basic clothing construction techniques used from the eighteenth century through the present day." No statement is made that all of the stitches in the book are appropriate for 1775-1782 (the period used by American Revolution era groups.) If a stitch or technique is used in the 18th century and used still in the 19th century, does that make it, then, a 19th century stitch? I would suggest it would be both an 18th and 19th century stitch.

Both books are beneficial for both 18th and 19th century sewing. As with any other thing you make for your living history interpretation, use what is right for your character. If you feel that a particular stitch or seam technique is not right for the garment you are making, don't use it! However, you might be surprised to find that most of what you learn will be used in either period. If you learned to sew in high school or 4-H, you will probably know some stitches which may NOT be appropriate for 18th century use! [For example, the blind hem stitch.]

In the previous discussions about whether ANY of the techniques in the books are 18th century, I had to point out that most of the stitches, themselves, such as the running stitch (which was even apparently  in question), date back to about the time people began sewing. Seam techniques, and other information included in the books, vary in origins; but, they can all be safely used for 18th century, specifically 1750-1800, with the possible exception of the French seam. This does not mean that the French seam was not used; but, if you want to be safely "authentic" for mid-18th century, based only on my own current knowledge,  I would suggest using another method for a finished seam. There are several options, again, depending on what you are making, the fabric, and the particular seam.

Remember, these books are intended to help you learn to sew so that you can improve your overall appearance and interpretation, no matter what you are making! Happy Sewing!

The "cartridge pleat" issue:

There have apparently been several discussions on women's 18th century e-mail lists about gathering techniques. I have twice been asked to comment.

Regarding gathers: There are no "cartridge pleats", included in either book, as that term was not found when researching 18th century or early 19th century sewing books. There are gathers included in both books. Book I contains plain, or running gathers, which are also sometimes called "stroked gathers", because of the use of the needle in straightening, arranging, and smoothing each gather - called "stroking the gathers". Book II includes the attachment of wristbands and collars (etc.) to such gathered pieces; this technique is seen on many original shirts and other garments. Book II also includes the attachment of gathers made to a piece of cloth on which the top raw edge has been turned down and the gathering stitches are made through both layers. These are then attached to the finished edge of another piece by catching each gather on one side. [See Book Two, pg. 22 for the details.] This technique was used in many peasant clothes of the eighteenth century, and is carried through into the 19th century. The title for this portion is "Gathers for skirts, and Attaching Them".

In summary: I believe the term "cartridge pleats" is NOT an 18th century term, and is not even an early 19th century term. (I will let the Civil War ladies fight it out among themselves.) If what you are talking about is making several parallel rows of corresponding running stitches, drawing them up, and then stitching that larger drawn up piece to a smaller piece (or a smaller piece over the raw edge of the drawn up piece), then it is most certainly appropriate for the 18th century. [Example: look at the technique used on original 18th century men's shirts. You have to look closely!] What matters, is WHERE you are using the technique, and ON WHAT. [Example: If you are making an English style 1770s gown, you would probably use small pleats to fit the skirts to the bodice rather than gathers.]

If you are making things for earlier than 1750, I would advise that you do your own research. I tried to be careful not to mislead people who would be the most likely readers - i.e. those who do living history garments for F&I era, Rev War era, Federal/Empire eras, and 1812/Napoleonic era. This included getting documentation for the use of the brass rings for buttons. What you do with the information is up to you! Before you start "crossing out" pages though, I would suggest that you make your own penciled notes in your copy of The Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing, Book I or II, so that you can change your opinion, as research progresses rapidly in the costume field now.

Additional Comments (Jan. 2002) In the book "The Fashion Dictionary", by Mary Brooks Picken (p. 282, New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1957/1973, ISBN 0-308-10052-2) the definition of cartridge pleats is: "Round pleats formed so as to resemble cartridge belt. Similar to French gathers, but often larger. From 1/4 inch to 1 inch in circumference." The illustration shows a flat piece of cloth with an attached strip of cloth, which is looped in repeating tube shapes, stitched to the flat cloth between the looped tube sections - looking exactly like a belt for gun cartridges.

Regarding Cross stitches vs. marking stitches:
I have not noticed the stitches on 18th century shifts and shirts having a "marking stitch" which was the same on both the inside of the garment as the outside (there probably are some, but I haven't noticed any in my research - will start making special note.) For practical reasons, this was probably used mainly on household linens (napkins, table cloths, sheets, etc.) which may need to be seen from both sides. Personal linens (shifts and shirts) are not intended to be seen from both sides, and therefore the extra work was probably not considered necessary. Marking the items was for identification in laundering, and for household inventory purposes. (How many of us know how many sheets we have??? Times change!) For this reason, the "plain" cross stitch is used in the book (remember - this is "Plain Sewing"!) This stitch would be seen in samplers, as it was a required stitch to learn for children, and samplers were worked to learn the stitches. The nicer stitch which is the same on both sides, would also be appropriate to learn, and worthwhile to use on your finer linens.

I welcome other's solid research, and am always interested in seam or stitch techniques found in original garments that date 1700-1820. I am not as interested in things past 1820, but it is of interest to see things prior to 1700, which shed light on origins and dating of techniques.

I hope this helps a little bit. Have fun sewing, and "don't get your thread in a knot" over stitches!

Kathleen Kannik
12-11-2000 /updated 1-27-02


All illustrations and text contained in this site are Copyright 1982-2003 Kannik's Korner.
All rights are reserved, and none may be used without prior written permission.