French handsewing or "heirloom sewing" refers to the method of creating garments or linens by hand. With techniques such as rolling and whipping, handmade tucks, puffing and embroidery are often added entredeux, fine French laces (insertions and edgings), Swiss embroideries(edgings and insertions), and ribbons. Fabrics used are natural fiber fabrics such as cotton (batiste or organdy), linen (handkerchief weight), silk or wool (as wool challis). These are used not only for authenticity but for ease in stitching.
This art form has been handed down from generation to generation. Nuns in Europe sewed beautiful clothing by hand for royalty and later women enjoyed sewing handmade clothes for themselves, for others, or for their children. Creating clothes with a tiny needle and fine thread was in danger of becoming a lost art. Fortunately, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years. The techniques of French handsewing can be used to make ladies dresses, blouses, lingerie, children's dresses, bonnets, baby layettes, christening gowns, linens and boudoir pillows. With our fast-paced lifestyles, this often makes us nostalgic for the leisure time of yesteryear. Hopefully, our perpetuation of this art will generate our treasured heirlooms of tomorrow.
SAGA provides fine hand sewing classes at its annual convention. SAGA Stitches programs are available, as well as correspondence courses and chapter programs for those interested in learning fine hand sewing.
SAGA members may access the fine hand sewing bibliography here.