Handmade, Hand Sewn and Hand Stiched

Taking a deep dive on what Parlay 8 considers high quality work.


11/6/20210 min read

Handmade – made by hand or by the use of hand tools

Hand sewn - sewn by hand rather than machine. Handstitched. Hand-crafted, handmade - made by hand or a hand process

Handstitched - sewn by hand rather than machine. Hand sewn. Hand-crafted, handmade - made by hand or a hand process

My original intention was to dig into these words and to understand how the terminology is used for tailors and seamstresses in the current modern world. What do I consider what I do? Is handmade, handmade if a sewing machine is used?

Hand sewn and handstitched all are obvious with what their definitions are. When you speak of hand sewn or hand stitched it is known that you sat there with a needle and thread and put together this project without the use of a sewing machine, period.

So is what I make less than handmade? Or do I downplay the role in what other tasks go into making a garment. The sewing machine is just one piece of the whole role when it comes to the construction of garments. I still have to cut the patterns out by hand, pin and put together before it even touches the machine. (Let’s not even get into the modifications for body sizes or special adds).The sewing machine cannot complete the garment to the finish line either, at least not in the cases of what I make. There are steps that do require a hand sewn or hand stitched touch. Such as shank buttons, or slip stitching a lining closed. Would this technically be called a hand finished product?

The English language has probably the most words that are commonly swapped out for each other when the TRUE Webster definition does not support the intent of the word. People argue that handmade nowadays means that the item was made completely by one person. That the machine used was not automatic means and methods but in the case of a sewing machine a “hand tool”. Although hand tool is a hand powered tool, not other power driven, which is not the case of the sewing machine.

So does mixing means and methods make the process of creating a piece of clothing, or anything for that matter, now make it considered commercially made? When you start to get into the reenacting world, this is really a topic of debate. If you are reenacting a time period, the mindset is use the tools they have. But for a modern day person who works a full time job, do those have the time to handle their everyday life and still sew a full period kit? If time isn’t a constraint, then yes you can very much do so.

There are still many who use the blended tools to complete the project with the illusion its 100% handstitched. Inside seams and other stich lines unseen by the keen eye are done with a machine and then its hand stitched. With all visible seams to become hand finished.

For Parlay 8, as I described above, I do a mixed method. It’s a necessity with the garments I make, and a normal job to balance with Parlay 8. Have I done hand stitched garments? Yes I have actually. I was insane to work on my first pair of stays and do them strictly by hand (News Flash: Only half of them are done and the finished half still needs eyelets done.) It’s not to say I can’t, or won’t. It just depends on the needs. For my own sanity and time, most non visual seams will still be worked with a sewing machine. Ballast and I are about to make some new kit that is more historical accurate with materials, cut and method. BUT the inside seams will still most likely be machine sewn or French seams.

We love to wear our kit. REPEAT, we love to WEAR our kit. Without taking short cuts that will diminish the quality of work that is put out there, tips and tricks will be utilized.

The other piece to all of this, at least for Parlay 8, was that when we started we wanted to make quality pieces that were affordable. Time put in for a 100% hand stitched garment is costly. And to be frank currently people do not want to spend the money on things that are not life living necessities. The cost to cover my time alone for making a piece would probably never truly be covered or compensated. The market for handstitched is not overpowering to say the least. Most goers to a renaissance faire are not looking for the most historical accurate piece. They have a vision in their mind of what they want to look like, and that is also what we do.

So if we are going to accurately describe what we do here for Parlay 8, it would be home made. By Webster dictionary’s definition homemade is made in the home, on the premises, or by one's own efforts. We are 100% homemade (well we don’t make the fabric or press the wood into boards or grind our own paint but you get what I mean). Everything is somehow hand finished and its 100% made by Ballast and me unless otherwise stated.

Thank you for joining me in my little rabbit hole this month. Please let me know what your thoughts are about the definitions and how you see them used in the comments. Check out our Between the Bulkheads on YouTube later this month as well as we touch a bit on this.