Sew From Wide To Narrow

Sew From Wide To Narrow

Dec 17, 2020Ann Steeves

There Are No Hard and Fast Rules in Sewing…”… except for one. Always sew from wide to narrow.” -Susan Khalje

I have not been able to sew anything for several weeks, unfortunately. Not for any bad reasons, just because for a while life got in the (good) way, and currently we're renovating our upstairs bathroom, which means that my sewing room and cutting room (yes, I am a very fortunate brat) are taken up with plumbing, tiles, toilets and vanities. So here's one from almost 10 years ago that still is sewing gold.

During a class I took with the wonderful couture teacher, Susan Khalje, someone asked about "directional sewing" and whether you needed to follow it. I don’t know about you, but when I made an A-line skirt in the past, I would sew starting at the waist, and ending at the hem. It’s how I always had sewn my skirts. It's also how directions on most patterns show you to sew. It works fine on straighter styles, but I’ve never been very happy with the results on my A-lines. They always seem to be a little wavy, which bugs me.

So when Susan uttered those words, I looked at her and said, “I’m going to test that out!” So here you can see the results of that exercise. First off, I cut two “A-line skirts” (mockups) from some heavy silk charmeuse I have lying around. Silk is good to use as an example because it shows every ripple, bump and lump. But you can do this test on any fabric and you’ll get similar results.

The first one I did was the narrow-to-wide version. As I said, this is my usual method.

And here is the result I get.

As I joked in the class, it looks like my usual A-line skirt. But in seriousness, the rippled seam has always driven me crazy. I press it, and it still has some distortion.

Next, I sewed it from wide to narrow. Other than reversing my usual direction, I made no changes: same needle and thread, same stitch length, same tension.

And here's the result.

And here are the results side by side.

What a difference the direction of your sewing makes! I’m not a textile scientist, but it has to do with the stability of the fabric along the diagonal. If someone has a thorough explanation, let me know and I’ll be happy to link to it. But the fact is, it works. And it's how I sew my garments now, all the time.

HTH and happy sewing!

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