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May 21, 2013

In Praise of Pinking et al.



Friends, do you pink much?

I almost never do, primarily because most of the projects I work on either have enclosed seams (like men's shirts) or I serge my seam allowances.

On the skirt of my silk dress, however (which only had 1/2" seam allowances) I could think of no better way to finish the seams than pinking, and it worked beautifully.  I often think of pinking as an easy way out, or very home-sewn looking, but sometimes it is the best option, especially for delicate fabrics where serged or more thickly finished seams could leave an imprint when pressing. 

I never even considered serging this silk, though I guess if my serger can handle poly linings, it can handle silk.  But the possibility that my serger would chomp through my dress because I wasn't paying close attention discouraged me from even trying.  Plus I was afraid it would stretch things.

Do you ever serge silk?



Today I had to make a quick silk organza run, as I had exhausted the single yard I bought a few months ago to experiment with, in the making of this 40's dress.  I used it to make bias strips to interface my facings, turned it into stay tape, used it to make a back stay, and finally, decided to underline my tulip sleeves with it to give them more stiffness.

The first sleeve turned out great; I had to cut the second one twice, however, as the first time, the organza and the sleeve didn't seem to be relating properly.  The second time, I was extra careful to make sure the grainlines were even, and I cut them both together (atop a piece of tissue paper).



I enclosed the outer edge of my seam between my fashion fabric and the organza (after trimming the seam allowance).



The tulip sleeve has two pleats on either end, and then one end is lapped over the other before it's attached to the bodice.  You'll see the sleeve when I show you the finished dress -- it's quite a nice design element.

This has been a very challenging project for me, involving a number of firsts:

1) first silk garment.

2) first zipper stitched by basting the center seam, adding the zipper and then pulling out the basting.

3) first project sewn on my Bernina 930.

4) first time I've worked with silk organza.

I think that's enough firsts for one project, don't you?



In addition to silk organza, I also bought some Russian veiling at Mood (three guesses what that's for), and then spent the rest of the day tweaking things.  I've found working with silk charmeuse to be difficult, especially in a dress that has many gathers.  The silk has a beautiful drape but very little body of its own.  If I'd made this dress in something heavier and more stable, the dress would have been easier to construct, I believe.

Between my healing tooth (or rather, gums) and the sudden extreme heat (I think it hit 90 today), I'm not really at my best and my sewing has suffered: today was full of stupid mistakes and a lot of ripping out of seams, which is not something you want to do with silk charmeuse if you can avoid it.  Happens to everybody, I guess...

Readers, that's it. I hope you're doing better than I am.  I am eagerly anticipating the end of this project.

Have a great day, everybody!

(An important message from Ginger Rogers...)



45 comments:

  1. You impress me no end. Your work is beautiful! No, I can't guess what the veiling is for, but I'll bet I'll feel silly not knowing. Thanks for your updates. I'm always eager to see what you've accomplished.

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  2. I serge my seams with a narrow three thread serge or enclose them. But pinked seams do look nice and they are very flat.

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  3. urrghhhh your title reminds me that I promised myself I'd work on the referencing in my thesis today. Dun wannaaaa

    I'm afraid of pinking because, as you said, it can look very 'home sewing' and I'm not sure how it holds up to protect against fraying in the long run.

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    1. I have quite a few vintage dresses from the 1950s with pinked seam allowances and trust me, it holds up really well as a method to protect against fraying!

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  4. I use my pinking shears all the time. Pinked edges always make me think of the 60s for some reason and I'm ok with my clothes looking like they were made in the 60s.

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  5. I've serged silk and it worked just fine. It just takes a steady hand.

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  6. I have serged silk with no problem. Don't have pinking shears. They do remind me of my mother though, she pinked.

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  7. Actually, nearly all mid-century clothing that didn't have French or Hong Kong seams (meaning MOST clothing) had pinked seams. I'm talking about mass produced and even dressmaker and designer clothes, not just home sewn items. But many of those home sewn items were so well made, they are still going strong today. And not because they're made of indestructible modern synthetics, but because they were so carefully constructed.

    I am sitting here surrounded by a sea of pink(ing), and it is vintage goodness, for sure.

    For me, it's serging that more often gives me the heebies jeebies. To me it says, "modern, cheap, and easy." Not overlocking, which is different. But true serging, where the machine cuts and stitches the raw edges simultaneously.

    Then again, I swoon over hand-sewn buttonholes, especially bound buttonholes, which you don't see too often in modern clothing, at any price point.

    Your work is beautiful, by the way, and getting more so as time goes by.

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  8. I have a vintage cotton dress with pinked seams. It has worked fine since the late 50s/early 60's. I think I'll pink more often. It really reduces bulk.

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  9. Do people stitch a vertical line and then pink (which I've seen suggested in some sewing books) or pink without adding a line of stitching?

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    1. Both. If, after testing a scrap by pinking and handing to my cat for a little 'destructive testing', I think the fabric a touch too fray-prone, I add the line of stitching.

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    2. On the rare occasions that I've pinked, if the seam will be visible and take stress, I've first straight stitched beside the pinking. If it's on lining fabric (to be enclosed) I haven't bothered.

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    3. On fabric that's likely to fray, I have sewn the seam, pinked the seam allowances, and then sewn either a plain stitch line or a zigzag stitch line on each seam allowance.

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    4. Just hung a dress on the line with that exact sort of finishing. It's what I would do if I (a) sewed and (b) were concerned the pinking would be insufficient to stave off unraveling.

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  10. I do love my serger, but I stitched and pinked (that is, pinked next to a line of straight stitching on the seam allowance) all of the seams on my wedding dress, which was silk crepe. Overlocked edges would have shown through the fabric but the pinking is nice and flat.

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  11. I pink (that's so much fun to use pink as a verb!) without adding an extra line of stitching. Don't know if that's right or not, but it works for me.

    How does Ginger Rogers have such a tiny waist?! And I had to laugh at about 50 seconds in...my son used to put his hands up to his face, and make the same expression as Ginger did, when he was begging extra hard for something

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  12. I picked up a copy of Constance Talbot's "The Complete Book of Sewing" after you had blogged about it a while back. One suggestion she had in the book was that if the home seamstress didn't have/couldn't afford pinking shears, that the pinking could be done with regular scissors, one painful zig-zag snip at a time. Makes me grateful for my pinking shears for sure (and I usually don't put the line of stitching in next to the edge)

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  13. Do you pink after you press open the seams or before? I find it hard to press open after pinking.

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    1. I do both -- you're going to want to touch up your seams at some point with your iron after pinking.

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  14. I always pink open seams on fine fabrics as you cant see them after pressing and they have less bulk than a serged seam. If you iron the organza and the silk the static holds them together and they are much easier to work with.

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  15. I too have had sort of a negative attitude towards pinking but more so because I feel like it doesn't even work! I don't know, I guess I just like the look of serged seams better (so much prettier :) but I agree, sometimes serged seams create more problems than they fix. I've never had trouble serging silk but I definitely have with other lightweight fabric like chiffon but I mean that was probably just a stupid idea on my part now that I think about it. haha

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  16. thanks for the detailed info on your progress. hope you're rinsing with an antibiotic mouthwash on a regular basis; salty tap water at room temp is also good. take care of yourself.

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  17. In 1940's Sears catalogues, they talk about the clothes having pinked seams, it was commercially acceptable at the time. Serging fine silk can run the risk of railroad marks on the front if you press it on the outside. Or even on the inside.
    I love pinking - if I am not doing flat felled seams or french seams, I tend to pink. You can get a pinking blade for your rotary cutter that makes it quick and easy to pink long seams too.

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  18. I have pinking shears (why are they called "shears" and not just "scissors?") but I rarely use them because they're so heavy. Perhaps I should shop around for a lighter weight pair that I'd use more often?
    Regarding the Ginger Rogers clip, why does her dress have an opening in the bodice centre back? Is it just a fashion thing? Or was it to help her get into (or out of) it? Interesting, anyway!

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    1. I'd guess it's the opening (as it looks like there's a zipper or buttons beneath it). It looks like an organza redingote in a shirtwaist style over a strapless cocktail dress -- can you imagine how many yards of fabric must be in that skirt?

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    2. Jen in Oz - Actually, all dressmaker shears are called shears, not just the pinking variety.

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  19. I'm wearing pajamas with pinked seam allowances right now (made from a vintage sheet). I tend to pink all the seams of skirt linings. The weight of the fabric I'm using is typically my guide on whether I pink or overcast. To pink, I use the shears that belonged to my wonderful grandmother, Mary. She had two pair, one quite huge and the other more manageable. Each has that plastic embossed label with her initials, which makes me think of her when I get them out.

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  20. Yes, I pink a lot since I sew on an antique machine and I don't own a serger. I don't think the homemade look is a bad thing. Why should factory-made be the standard?

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  21. It's been years since I've pinked the seam allowances, but remember when I first started sewing the first time around (a few decades ago!) not just pinking the seam allowance, but cutting out the pieces using the pinking shears. Mom probably has patterns with pinked edges yet. I still pink the edges of my patches for jeans repairs. It seems to me that pinking works best on a fairly tight woven with some body to it. The added line of stitching comes into play if there's a possibility of the fabric continuing to ravel right into the seam stitching.

    I think pinked seam allowances became "happy hands at home" when knits and serged seams became more common in RTW, and sergers came out of the factories into the home.

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  22. My pinking shears haven't even creaked open in the past year or so. I never feel the need. It is sweet to find it inside an old or handmade garment, though. In my opinion, there are always better options.

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  23. I have a serger but I pink whenever the fabric is sheer or too lightweight for anything else. I run the thread line only if the fabric looks like it wants to fray.

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  24. Inside the bias cut dresses of the 1930's, the pinked seam allowance was the flattest finish they could do, even flatter than a hand-overcast. I believe the prejudice against pinking came when the serger became more commonplace in the sewing market.

    But I use it when working with 4-ply silk crepe--it truly is the flattest finish.

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  25. From time to time I'll get a vintage pattern where the original user cut the pattern out with pinking shears. I'm not sure that makes for very accurate seam allowances, though. I pinked recently on cotton voile. I felt like serging was just too heavy for it.

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  26. I was pinking seams just two nights ago - wasn't a garment though; a 1940s story book inspired cloth doll instead.

    I like pinking, but i also like french and flat felled seams.

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  27. I just pinked for the first time, even though I've owned pinking shears forever. I made a coat out of silk linen and had planned to overcast the seams by hand, but instead reached for the pinking shears. They worked great!

    I'm looking forward to seeing your finished dress.

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  28. I love pinking, and I've used it a lot on silk or rayon wovens. Fancy seams are fine and all, but I'm short on time and pinking works a treat.

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  29. I still don't know if I can afford the added expense of a serger, and to be honest they intimidate me. So I often use pinking, it works very well for lighter fabrics.

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  30. I use whatever finish suits the project. I try, for myself, not to come across as preachy or snobbish when offering advise about different ways to finish seams. Not always successfully.

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  31. If I need to serge fabric that might imprint when ironing, I will use 3 spools of very fine thread that will disappear into the fabric.

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  32. I don't have a serger and I don't make anything that intricate just stuff for the home. I use French seams for pillow cases and such. For other items I don't open my seams, I iron and let the seam lay where it wants. I use a very small zig zag stitch and stitch over the seam twice. It looks very neat, I probably do not need to bother for many projects but I just like the look of it. I have never owned any pinking shears. I think I must get a pair now.

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  33. Well, unless Simplicity's father is planning on making an honest woman out of Cathy, I'd guess that the veiling is for a crinoline. ;-)

    I pinked the back stay that I created for a jacket so that there was no risk of it showing thru. In general I only pink when the seam isn't going to be visible and the project is a quick and easy one that I don't want to invest a lot of time in.

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  34. Pinking shears kind of drive me batty, I don't like the way the action feels in my ahnd, but I do like to use an Olfa pinking rotary blade.

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  35. I have my pinking shears next to my machine (duh!), so now am reminded to use them, and more about when is best. Thanks! I love 50's to 60's sewing. RE: confused sewing, after a few complicated days, and late nights, my 60's style violet linen-like shift was getting away from me, and nearly became a wadder. But sewing buddies (on-line) and Hubster to the rescue. Yes, I can be 63 and wear a 60's shift well. Cathie, in Quebec, where it's hot and raining. LOVE your work on the dress!!!!!!!!!!!! I once borrowed a 40's silk dress, similar to yours, and it was pinked inside....

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  36. I don't have a serger. So I do use the pinkers if I don't ziz zag the seams. Can't wait to see the finished project.

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