Wednesday, June 24, 2015

She's Crafty | Defining Tailor's Tacks and Jodhpurs

Even though I have been around a sewing machine all my life and have heard a lot of sewing terms used by my mother, I am a complete newbie when it comes to sewing. I feel fortunate to have someone like my mother around who knows quite a bit about sewing and sewing terminology. However, since I'm a DIYer to my core, I've been seeking out the knowledge available in sewing dictionaries and reference sets. They're handy in a pinch and entertaining even when you are not actively sewing.

The Fashion Dictionary by Mary Brooks Picken is one such interesting read.

Although our copy is a reference
book available only at Cesar Chavez,
you can request a copy via Link+.

Speaking of growing up with sewing and fashion terms, whenever my mother and I went clothes shopping and tried on a pair of pants with excessive hip space my mom would say something like, "these look like I'm wearing jodhpurs!" At a young age, I gleaned from this exclamation and the subsequent laughter she would emit that a pair of pants that look like jodhpurs but were not meant to actually be jodhpurs was not a desirable pair of pants. Comical, yes, but not appealing in that "I'm gonna wear these in public" sort of way. She would then put her hands in the pants pockets and flap her hands around creating "wings" out of her extra hip space.

To my delight, a definition for jodhpurs appears in the Fashion Dictionary:

jodhpurs. Breeches cut full above the knee, closely fitted below, with cuff at ankle, sometimes with strap under foot; designed for horseback riding.
Reminds me of pants worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police...and Katherine Hepburn.
Royal Canadian Mountie.
Photo by Smudge 9000. Some Rights Reserved.

Fibula, pinafore, Battenburg lace (and all the other styles of lace known to humanity), flamefoil, and The Beatles (yes, the band), all have definitions in the Fashion Dictionary. You can even find a step-by-step illustration of how to properly wrap a sari!

Finding such a gem at the library came at a perfect time since I just started a new sewing project a few days ago. It's only my second sewing project following a pattern and when I came face-to-face with a scattering of seemingly random circles on my pattern pieces, I vaguely remember my mother saying something about tailor's tacks in the past. These circles are not alien artifacts like crop circles, nor random decoration. In fact, they mean something that humans like my mother actually know about. So, I asked her again about these circles and tailor's tacks and she went over the concept as only a patient mother of a terminally forgetful offspring can--she's had about thirty-plus years of grueling practice!

Sewing patterns come with markings that need to be transferred from the paper pattern piece to the piece of fabric you will be cutting out. Sometimes these will be solid dots, open circles, or even squares. These markings refer to important areas that will be addressed in the pattern instructions at some point.

Most fabrics do well with marks made with a special fabric pen or pencil or a piece of fabric chalk. For heavier fabric and pieces cut on a fold (thus cutting through two layers of fabric) a tailor's tack is an easy way to get the most accurate marking on all layers in one movement. Sewers like my mom also prefer to use tailor's tacks to make all her marks since all you need is a needle and some thread.

The Fashion Dictionary and the Tailoring volume of the Singer Sewing Reference Library, both have an entry about tailor's tacks. Tailoring offers a step-by-step "How to Make Speed Tailor's Tacks" section with pictures.

Tailor's tacks or speed tacks in action. From Tailoring.

Elsewhere in the book, Tailoring also introduces readers to what is known as a tailor's ham. It actually looks like a fabric ham. A tailor's ham is used to press curved parts of apparel for a better fit.

From Wikipedia. Creative Commons License.

I'm telling you, these books are entertaining even if you're not actively panicking about what the next step in your pattern instructions mean by, "Baste stitch along the fly curve."


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