Why make a garment, that is rarely seen, by hand? Good question. It would be faster maybe even easier. So why bother?
Lots of reasons, but the most important is the interpretive value that the garment has when made by hand. As I mentioned in my last post, nothing makes more of an impression than the words, "I made it myself, all by hand". This phrase opens the doors to the most interesting and educational conversations! Try it -- you'll be surprised.
The other equally important reason is that it's the proper way to make the garment. It is impossible to make most 18th century garments correctly by machine. Machine sewn seams look like machine sewn seams. In addition, lots of the work can't be done by your sewing machine -- like stroke gathers, flat felling, etc. Yes, there are ways of "cheating" but it's just not the same.
Many would argue that most people just don't have the time to do it by hand. Wrong! Think of all the time you spend with idle hands -- watching tv, waiting at the doctor's office, waiting for your kid at soccer practice, town meeting, taking the train to work. Hand sewing is portable, you can take it anywhere and make progress. Try that with your sewing machine!
Finally to those who physically can't hand sew due to a condition like carpal tunnel or arthritis or bad eyesight -- why not consider an 18th century custom -- bartering. Is there something you can do for someone else? -- perhaps buy some fabric for them, give someone a ride to an event, swap your modern expertise for some sewing time, offer an item you are no longer using - be creative - it worked then, it can work now.
Finally, I know I've been doing a lot of babbling lately and you are wondering where my shift is -- I confess, I took a diversion -- I'm working on a gown for an event a few weeks from now and will probably jump to finishing my quilted petticoat this week, but if you see me sitting around someplace in the near future, trust me, I'll be working on that shift.