What Is Heirloom Sewing: Uses And How To Do It

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Last Updated on 1 year by Susan Mayrich

The answer to what is heirloom sewing is that it’s essentially a technique mimicking vintage trims. We’ll go through some examples below to further understand what this means. 

what is heirloom sewing

But speaking of decorative sewing techniques, do you know that embroidery is also possible with a sewing machine? We have a tutorial on how to monogram a shirt with a sewing machine that you can check out. 


Everything To Know About Heirloom Sewing 


What is heirloom sewing?

Heirloom sewing refers to various techniques that you can do on the sewing machine mimicking French hand sewing techniques. These techniques include embroidery, tucks, and lace insertion on fine fabrics. 

Heirloom sewing is also among the oldest sewing techniques being started in the 1800s. The French stitching was delicate and originally made for royal families, and these garments and projects were preserved from generation to generation, hence the name “heirloom.” 


Examples of heirloom sewing:

  • Embroidery
  • Lace edging and insertion
  • Beading
  • Fagoting
  • Pintucks
  • Hemstitching and scalloped edges
  • Pleats, gathers, and ruffles
  • Smocking and puffing
  • Baby piping


What Are Heirloom Stitches Used For?

Heirloom stitches which include laces, ribbons, pintucks, pipings, or ruffles to name a few, are often used as embellishments. They can enhance the overall look of clothing such as gowns or even lingerie. 

Knowing how to do basic heirloom stitches can also help you recover vintage pieces. And since you do them on the sewing machine, you can do them quickly and easily with precise results. 

However, one can only consider their sewing technique as an heirloom by using the correct materials. This way, the result can indeed look like the vintage French hand sewing techniques.  


What Kind Of Thread Do You Use For Heirloom Sewing?

Fine threads, metallic threads, embroidery threads, and those made from cotton, polyester, silk, and rayon are often used for heirloom sewing. Choosing the specific thread type and weight will depend on whether you’re doing something decorative or finishing a project. 

You can also use cotton-polyester threads if you’re new to heirloom sewing and don’t know which thread to get. Just remember to consider your fabric and needle as well. 


What kind of needle do you use for heirloom sewing?

The needle you use for heirloom sewing should be comparable with your chosen thread. And since heirloom sewing uses extra-fine threads, then a sharp and fine needle should also be useful for this sewing technique. 

A recommendation is a denim needle or sharp needle. You can also read about how to use a twin needle on a sewing machine since some people use this needle type for heirloom sewing. 


What kind of fabric do you use for heirloom sewing?

  • Batiste fabric
  • Broadcloth fabric
  • Herringbone fabric
  • Lawn fabric
  • Linen and cotton fabrics
  • Organdy fabric
  • Swiss dimity fabric
  • Swiss dot fabric
  • Waffle fabric
  • Wool challis fabric


What kind of sewing machine feet do you use for heirloom sewing?

  • All-purpose foot
  • Blind hem foot
  • Cording foot
  • Pintuck foot
  • Piping foot
  • Ribbon foot
  • Rolled hem foot
  • Satin stitch foot

We recommend learning how to use different sewing machine feet. There are various attachments to choose from, so you must familiarize yourself with the uses of each foot. 


Is Heirloom Stitching Typically Done By Hand Or Machine?

Heirloom stitching is done with a sewing machine, but it’s meant to produce vintage French hand sewing techniques. This is why you need to check your sewing machine’s capacity and compatibility with various accessories and features if you plan on doing heirloom sewing. 


Traditional heirloom sewing vs modern heirloom sewing

In traditional heirloom sewing, you’ll use delicate materials that are white, off-white, or cream in color. The quality of the sewing is meant to withstand wear and tear, which is why heirloom projects like lace insertions and embroidery are both decorative and functional. 

On the other hand, modern heirloom sewing is more open to using different fabrics like linen and cotton instead of only batiste and broadcloths. And, of course, you’ll be using a sewing machine with modern heirloom sewing. 


What Are Heirloom Stitches On A Sewing Machine?


Zigzag stitches for laced edges

  1. Thread the machine with a cotton thread the same color as the lace
  2. Attach an edgestitch foot to the sewing machine
  3. Spray starch the lace
  4. Sew the laces together with zigzag stitches 
  5. Continue adding laces to finish the fabric edges 


Straight stitches for tucks

  1. Use the edgestitch foot and set the needle position to the left
  2. Mark where you want the tucks on the fabric and fold accordingly
  3. Position the material so the folds are to the left of the center, next to the guide
  4. Sew the fabric accordingly with the folded edge next to the foot guide and continue as needed


Decorative stitches for fagoting

  1. Use an open embroidery foot and set the machine to decorative stitching with its maximum width setting
  2. Place one ribbon on each side of the spacer and sew the entire edges of both ribbons
  3. Add more ribbon strips as needed



And that’s it! We just discussed what is heirloom sewing, which is essentially machine sewing mimicking French hand sewing techniques.

These include embroidery, lace edging, and fagoting on delicate materials, to name a few. The stitches you can use can be straight, zigzag, or decorative. 

We hope this was a worthwhile read. Leave us a question if you have any. 


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