craft, Mary Frances sewing

Baste it!

Part of why I started making the projects in the Mary Frances sewing book was to up my hand sewing game.

I actually hand sew a whooooole lot of dance-related costumes, they’ll make some cameos here as will my homemade clothing because many of the leftover fabrics that are going into the projects are from much larger projects.

Like how the leftover satin I used to make a snake and armbands for this original costume is now the bias-tape for the Mary Frances Kimono Robe.

The first take-away from starting on these projects is: BASTE EVERYTHING.

A basting stitch is a temporary running stitch used to tack fabric in place until a final seam/stitch is sewn. After the fabric is properly joined the basting stitch is then removed.

The Thimble People have me basting EVERYTHING. At first I resisted, as I’m used to pinning and clipping everything, but on small, finicky projects pins and clips seem too large and awkward. Basted fabric is also less likely to shift around or scratch you.

And, because I do a LOT of hand sewing on the train, it’s been easier to hand stitch in transit after prepping with a basting stitch at home then to remove pin after pin as I stitch on the train..

Below is an example of projects basted for train-commute stitching, and my train stitching kit…contents may vary.


Mary Frances had to baste even more than I do. You may have noticed that there’s no Mr.Iron involved in The Thimble People line-up. Bybido, a blogger I’m following while doing this, surmised that it’s because of the relative dangers of kids using irons unattended.

I don’t think that quite explains it, as the Kitchen Friends from the last book involve a lot of items that heat up. I’m wondering how much irons were actually used by home sewists prior to 1915 when the books were published. Electric irons were invented by then but were new, novel, and rarely in homes. Mary would probably have had to deal with two sets of irons that needed to be heated manually (one in use and one being heated) whose temperatures fluctuated wildly and could easily have burned or scorched fabrics even under use of a semi-experienced adult. I assume if anyone ever had to use a manual fabric iron it was Katie, the servant girl, and that higher positioned home-dwellers felt the job arduous and beneath them.

Mary probably had to do a lot more pinching, using the sewing bird, and pinning fabrics into place with constant basting being the only way to keep everything in order…which is also why she’s usually using lawn cotton*, which holds a pinch better and is generally thinner and smoother than a lot of the cotton >I’M< using.

*Lawn cloth or lawn is a plain weave textile, originally of linen but now chiefly cotton. Lawn is designed using fine, high count yarns, which results in a silky, untextured feel. The fabric is made using either combed or carded yarns.-Thanks Wiki!

I’m ironing like crazy. You can’t make me not.

So, three cheers to my modern iron and basting!


Soon; The Sewing Bird. I covet.


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