Nameless Tutorial #9

If you’re just now joining us, you won’t understand this entry. This entry is my latest entry -of a continual argument- that I’m having with my readers so if you don’t agree with me, join the club. To catch up, you’ll have to review the Nameless Tutorial series, most particularly entries 7 and 8 -the other links in this series can be found at the close of this article -which you can use to correct this problem. Be sure to read the comments as well.

Whenever I bring up the topic of work arounds, people get the idea that I don’t like hand stitching. I love hand stitching that adds value. Most of the hand stitching we see in garments amounts to work arounds. I don’t like work arounds when the obvious solution is to design the pattern in such a way that you don’t need hand stitching. If you do hand stitching, it is something that should stand on it’s own. It shouldn’t be a short cut you use because you couldn’t figure out how to do it by machine. Hand stitching should create value. If you’ve hand stitched the facings to the zipper, this doesn’t mean your product is better than one which is rendered professionally. Also, I don’t like it when people justify construction (performance related) hand stitching because I think hand stitching should be decorative. Hands should only be used for those things that machines can’t do. Now that is value.

Now I want to show you a beautiful piece of work; the entire front portion of the inside lining (that rests closest to the facing) is all hand embroidered in silk thread. The person who made this coat didn’t do a work around for the facing and lining juncture. Below is a photo of that part of the garment:

Now consider how the person who did all of the hand stitching above -creating a tremendous amount of value- would feel about the caliber of work by the person who did this:

Considering the comparative value of the two, I think the person who did the first sample would be dismayed if anyone thought the second sample was some kind of superior technique just because it had some hand stitches. Not all hand stitches are created equal. Whoever made the first sample went to the bother of sewing the juncture correctly and saved their handwork for something that mattered -the embroidery. So you tell me, which maker had the greatest integrity?

Here are some more photos of the inside lining of this coat (all cashmere, made in the 50’s in Hong Kong)

Now, regarding the competing “hand sewing theory” of that juncture; I think the defense of that boils down to two things, tradition and failure to be mindful. Tailors are bound to a long tradition full of idiosyncratic practices (when compared to technological innovations in fusing for example). While some of the methods are sound, that doesn’t mean that all of their practices are. It reminds me of that story of three generations of women who always sliced off an end of a roast before cooking it. Three generations of women did it because the matriarch did it. When the matriarch was asked why she did it, she explained that the roast never fit in the pan but the daughters -who had no such pan-size problem- followed the practice mindlessly and traditionally. In my opinion, if that hand sewing method of the juncture were sound, it’d be as neat and clean as mine, if not more so but it’s not. I simply cannot find a rational justification for it. Well, other than the fact that you’re in a business that relies on the mysticism of “tradition” to justify what you’re charging for tailoring. I don’t think it’s overblown to pay for a well fitting suit. I do think it’s overblown if you charge more because you had to hand sew a work around. You shouldn’t expect customers to pay more for something when the maker’s practices haven’t improved and evolved. Which has more integrity? There is nothing wrong with hand sewing! It just needs to have the integrity to stand on its own.

On a related note, one of my critics stated (regarding the new method of sewing this juncture entirely by machine):

You know–i love fast, simple solutions to stuff but fabric makes a big difference in what kind of construction works. Kathleen’s would work best with lighter weight fabrics–I’ve got a RTW jacket to prove that–but would be clunky with heavier and loosely wovens.

To which I’d respond that -as someone who’s made coats for most of my professional career- I’d disagree that it’d be “clunky” with heavier wovens (all pieces should be fused anyway, eliminating the concern over loose wovens). You can only look at fabric in relation to itself. If anything, the loft of the bulk of heavier goods would make it easier to conceal than with lightweight goods. It is much more difficult to remove impressions and the perception of layers in lightweight goods so if the effect is not discernible in lightweight goods, it’s not apparent in heavier goods either. Now, I have no problem with criticism but before anybody else jumps in to tell me how wrong I am, I’d suggest they actually try this method before they tell me that it won’t work. The links to doing it yourself are here, here, here and here.

The posts of contention are here and here.

In closing, I’m not trying to be argumentative. I’m trying to get all of us at a certain point where I can begin to discuss a concept called Standard Work. As my usual visitors all know, I often say that the concepts known as “whatever works best for you” or “it’s a matter of opinion” are mostly false. Nobody likes it when I say that but still, there are standard work methods that do work best. Really. And until I can get people to understand that there is a concept known as standard work -also known as best practices– I’m not going to be able to get you to learn why you should adopt them and then, once having done so, improve even those to develop yet other standard work practices. One concept feeds into the other. That is the meaning of incremental improvement which is the heart of the success in producing quality goods. First we have to agree on a standard practice. Once we’re on the same page, then we improve it. But if we’re never on the same page, we’ll never be able to improve anything. We’ll still be mired in endless bickering over the first way to do it and that is just silly and an abject waste of time.

Name this tutorial
Nameless tutorial #2
Nameless tutorial #3
Nameless tutorial #4
Nameless #5 (back vent)
Nameless #6 -Troubleshooting
Nameless Tutorial #7
Nameless Tutorial #8
Nameless Tutorial #9

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