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The meaning of ‘Haute Couture’

We’ve heard this term, but what does Haute Couture literally means.

It means, “sewing at a high level” or “finest high fashion sewing.” Let’s just say that there is more time spent in putting the garment together, and that includes hand stitching.  Hand stitching has many virtues. You can control the construction of your garment more precisely, sew inconspicuously from the right side and work in corners of the garment that are too narrow to be sewn on a sewing machine. If the hand stitches must be removed, they are less likely to mar the fabric than machine stitches.  And when permanently in place, hand stitches are softer than machine stitches because there is only one thread instead of the two linked by the machine.

In many European countries, children are taught the fundamentals of hand sewing when they are five or six years old.  At the Chambre syndicate’s school in Paris, apprentices, who generally begin their apprenticeship after high school, perfect their hand sewing skills on samples before they undertake sewing a full garment.  In this country, home sewers tend to be much more familiar with the sewing on a machine than with sewing by hand.

Use long needles for long stitches. Use needles with oval or long eyes for coarse threads and easy threading.  To prevent rusting, store your extra needles in their original packages. A thimble is indispensable in couture sewing.  It not only protects your finger, but it also helps you make neater stitches with greater speed.  There are two types of thimbles:  the more widely available and more often used closed-end dressmaker’s thimble and the open-end tailor’s thimble.

Hand-sewn stitches fall into two basic categories according to their use:   temporary and permanent.  Temporary stitches, which are frequently referred to as basting stitches, are used for marking the garment, preparing it for fittings and keeping the various fabric layers in position during construction.  Permanent stitches are used to manipulate the surface of the fabric.  (such as pleats, tucks or gathers).

Expensive sewing machines are wonderful, but hands are ever greater.  Like the kids like to say, “talk to the hand.”


About Sally Cowan (50 Articles)
After Keeping You in Stitches for over 45 years, Sally enjoys her memories of events that happened on her way to retirement. Author of 6 books, lectures, teaching, and TV host on PBS and now has time for her many cats and Snuggles, the dog. She also loves playing trumpet in the Anastasia Baptist Church orchestra.

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