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The Elizabethan Seam: Sewing by hand effectively, strongly, elegantly

Laura Mellin, June 2007




Almost overnight, whip stitch has become my favourite kind of stitch, and my sewing machine is no longer my default when I sew something that needs to be robust.

After having success with flat felled seams, I decided to try the Elizabethan seam technique described by Mellin. I used it to make a housecoat inspired by fifteenth-century Burgundian court robes, but in fleece because my house is an ice box. Admittedly, I resorted to trying this technique after my sewing machine threw a hissy fit over the thickness of the fleece, but I'm so glad I did.

I found the technique remarkably quick and easy. I hardly ever use running stitch (or backstitch for that matter) because I find it so difficult to make it even. Whip stitch is far easier to achieve a consistent size of stitches, and the fabric really does go flat beautifully.

Although I don't think this technique is quite as strong as flat felling with very small hem stitch, it's certainly as strong as machine stitching, and looks very neat. Not to mention that it's so much quicker! Flat felling is wonderful, but it takes a long time. The Elizabethan seam is far faster. I marked out, cut and stitched the entire robe (which is floor length, with large sleeves, underarm gussets and godets in the skirt) with the exception of the hem between Saturday morning and Sunday lunchtime.

There's a wonderful satisfaction to be had from handstitching. I'll certainly be using this technique again.

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December 2009

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