View Full Version : Fire Nation Sewing Machines?

04-17-2012, 01:55 PM
I know I'm overthinking this, but I find the issue interesting.

In working on the shirt for Zuko's season 3 outfit, I find myself pondering whether to hand-hem it or machine-hem it. Machine-hemming would be infinitely faster, of course, but I'm a crazy clothing history guy, so I tend to hand-finish stuff if it's not from a setting that I know to be post-sewing machine (and even then, it'll depend on the garment). Sewing machines were, incidentally, invented in the 1840's, and entirely hand-made clothing all but disappeared by the 1880's or so.

Now, we know very little about clothing production in the four nations. It's probably safe to assume that the Air Nomads and various Water Tribes did/do not have sewing machines. Earth Kingdom... probably not, since the tech level seems to be pre-industrial for the most part. Ba Sing Se is anybody's guess, what with the whole cultural control business.

The Fire Nation, however, has reached a semi-industrial level, with at least one factory seen in the series, and coal being mined, ostensibly as fuel. The tech level would imply mid-19th century, and thus it would make sense that someone had come up with a sewing machine to speed up uniform-making at the very least. The question thus becomes whether machine-made clothes would be considered higher or lower quality than hand-made. In our world, machine-made clothes were cheaper, and things were usually hand-finished to give the impression that they weren't. (Think of it as saying "Hah, I can afford to pay for the extra time and labour it takes to do something by hand.") The Fire Nation seems to be rather proud of their machinery though, so overtly machine-made clothes might have carried a higher status simply for being modern. Thoughts?

Tl;dr: I'm a crazy history guy.

04-17-2012, 07:58 PM
I would assume that the Fire Nation would have the capabilities of machine sewing clothing, particularly if they've already got factories. As for whether or not Zuko's clothing was machine made, I think it partially depends on his outfit. I would think that ceremonial outfits would probably be hand stitched (many high end or delicate clothing is hand sewn nowadays even), but the outfit I think you're making seems like it's meant more for traveling or fighting. With that intention for the outfit, I would think that it would be made with the focus being more on sturdiness than ornateness or status. If we were going off of modern day machine stitching quality, I would think that this outfit would probably be machine made, but I'm not completely sure of the quality of machine stitches in the 19th century. Do you think/know whether machine or hand stitching was sturdier at their point in technological development?

Also, out of curiosity, are you making considerations into the make, quality, and fiber content of the fabric you are choosing? Have you found a fabric you like yet?

04-18-2012, 05:49 PM
After re-checking my sources, it seems that the 1840's date that stuck in my head was when they came up with the two-thread lockstitch mechanism, AKA the way modern machines sew which is indeed sturdier and more reliable than most handsewing (mine, certainly). The first sewing machine proper came about in the 1790s, which used one thread and did chainstitch, which can pull out if you look at it funny and is still used today on low end sweaters. So, I think it's safe to assume that machine-sewing would have been practical at that point, if only because it means I don't have to hand-hem stuff.

Yes, of course I've put thought into patterns and fabric. The pattern I'm using is based off of this (http://www.feoragdubh.eastkingdom.org/Patterns/moghul%20coat1.gif"), shortened and with sleeve gussets for the shirt (putting a gusset at the armpit gets rid of a stress point), and sleeveless and without the front extensions for the vest. It's a basic enough concept, and I've made, destroyed, and mended enough rectangular clothing at this point that I can safely say it's a practical design. The pants pattern I made up based on trial and error.

I was lucky and found some nice red cotton-linen blend on sale. It's not fancy, but it is comfy, and the trim on the collar and sleeves should dress it up a bit. I haven't quite decided whether to make the vest fancy or practical.