Sewing Secrets Are The Best Secrets

Have you seen the news about The Phantom Thread? Ooh, I can’t wait to see this film! I might enjoy watching it as much as I loved reading The Pink Suit. I do love to see sewing in my other cultural pursuits.

There’s a lovely detail from the film’s trailer, about the designer sewing secret messages into his dresses. This made me think of all those sewing patterns we come across with their rusty pins, scribbled notes, newspaper clippings and love letters. I live in hope of inheriting a pattern or sewing machine that hides a secret love letter.

hidden stitching

Hidden compartments, invisible stitches, the innards of a make that are covered up for ever with the final stitch … the world of sewing is rich with secrets.

Do you sew messages into your clothes or scribble on patterns? Do you have any stories to share from inside a couturiers or your own sewing room?

Sewing secrets are the best secrets!

old tape measure.jpg

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33 Responses to Sewing Secrets Are The Best Secrets

  1. I love the idea of secret messages in a dress!! WOW!

    I’ve been dying to see The Phantom Thread ever since I heard it was being made way back in the summer, but it looks like it won’t be released in theatres here in Canada, so I’m incredibly bummed out about that – I LOVE Charles James. I’m just going to have to wait until it’s released on DVD,I guess.

    I don’t scribble notes on my patterns, but now maybe I should start, for the future seamstress that ends up using my pattern. 🙂 And the next time I sew something for a loved one, I think I’ll hide a little note inside it somewhere. 🙂

    • Replying to my own comment, how gauche! LOL. I just saw the trailer and re-looked the film up on and realized the movie is not completely based on the life of Charles James. Hmm…when I read about it back in the summer it sounded like it was based completely on him, but I guess it was (as an IMDB reviewer stated) “inspired by the life and work of nine fashion great designers.” I’m still dying to see it!

  2. Susan Bowdler says:

    Love the idea of a secret message sewn into garments, I shall start leaving messages straight away! I have often scribbled on patterns, not sure anyone would be able to understand any of my scribbles though…..
    Looking forward to seeing the film, loved The Pink Suit, always like incidental sewing tales.

  3. Melody A. says:

    what a great idea , I wish I had thought of this in to put a message in all the garments and quilts I have made. I do pray over my quilts that they will give blessings to the recipient. Maybe that counts a bit. LOL as always enjoy reading your posts. Take care and Happy Holidays from Iowa

  4. Heather says:

    I buy and sell sewing ephemera and there are always stories and sewing implements that I don’t recognise. In the first sewing box I bought there was a pair of button hole scissors, they are amazing! Home made pin cushions, endless tins of pins that are like pokers and hundreds of cards of darning wool – people must have spent hours darning. I save all the Sylko thread and occasionally get real button hole thread or silk thread. I often feel for the niece who will have to sort my stuff out when I go!

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Button hole scissors do sound amazing!

      • Elizabeth Gray says:

        Button Hole sissors are amazing. I was given a pair when I was about 12 yrs old and I still have them. I am now 72 and don’t know how I would have lived without them.

  5. El says:

    Thank You so much for letting me know about this movie. Looks fabulous.

  6. Thank you for the recommendations, Karen! Gonna buy the book, gonna watch the film.

  7. Kathy Lynch says:

    Thanks Karen for the link to the “love letter in sewing machine” story – how lovely. Oh, wouldn’t that just be FAB to find such a thing! (No ‘?’ needed there!) x

  8. Penelope says:

    That reminds of a story about Alexander McQueen when he worked on Savile Row.

  9. Yvonne says:

    Oh wow! Love the things I learn here, Karen!

  10. Colesworth says:

    Really looking forward to this one. I very much enjoyed reading ‘The Sewing Machine’ by Natalie Fergie

  11. Karen I have never left a secret message in a garment, but when I reupholster a piece of furniture, I always cut a swatch of the old fabric and pin it to a note about where we got the piece and when I recovered it. I always wish I would find such things and I hope one day it makes the next upholsterer happy!

  12. When I made my first ever wedding dress, back in the 80s, I sewed a hair into the hem. I had read somewhere that it was a traditional thing to do, a bit of benevolent witchcraft bringing luck to the wearer. I have always hand hemmed such dresses, and always sew in a hair. Maybe I’ve inadvertently cursed many brides, what a thought! Anyone else heard of that ‘tradition’?

  13. Fabrickated says:

    I like to line my outfits with silk which I paint. I write my name and the date on each one, but I realise now how dreadfully dull this is. I should write slogans or graffiti, or perhaps poetry or love letters for Karen.

  14. I haven’t done that before but I will now. On a side, what is that lovely vintage pattern in that last picture? I love the cut of that gown!!

  15. Ruth says:

    My secret message was sewn into an embroidered message attached to a rock. Let me explain. We raised our children in a house built on a rock. They loved climbing it, showing it off to their friends. So when my oldest, Maryellen bought her first home, I had my husband go to the basement and chip off a bit of the rock. I embroidered a bible quote about “Rock as your foundation…”. I attached it to a hand knitted casing the covers the rock. Inside the embroidered piece of linen, I hid the prayer from St Teresa of the Little Flower, the same prayer my grandmother hid behind my mother’s baby photo. Both my mother and daughter share the same name and the same saint who looks after both of them.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      That’s such a beautiful story! You’ve just made me burst into tears at the train station! Thank you for sharing.

  16. What a wonderful idea. I have never done this but whilst decorating my family and I used to sign the bare plaster wall of the houses where we lived with our names and the dates that we lived there so one day when someone has stripped off the wallpaper they will find it. Sad I know but I like finding things like that too. Xx

    • Phnip says:

      I’m glad I am not the only one who does that! But I also always write a wee description of what was special about that day; what the weather was like, what birds were in the garden, what the children were doing and so on.

  17. Claire says:

    I have left messages in clothes I’ve made. The first was a shirt I made for my fella, it was his 40th, I bought some white tape and super small chain stitched using normal sewing thread, ‘Je t’aime’ – (I love you). He’s French. I stitched this onto the inside yoke.
    Another shirt I made for my son who doesn’t see me unfortunately – long story – divorce, manipulative ex… Anyway, I send gifts to him via my daughter. In his shirt I made and stitched in a label with ‘Love’ written on it. Still no response to this but hey, one day…. He’s now 19.
    Last Christmas I made a shirt for my daughter (17) and made a label for hers, ‘Oovou x’. This is her secret made up word that means, I love you. Only her and I use this word so it makes me smile when I iron her shirt for her.

    • SUSAN says:

      Claire – I feel for you. I too have a son that blames me for everything (sounds like for similar reasons) but I too have a lovely daughter who understands. Hang in there – you can only do your best as a mother and I love that you have sent him a message of love in a garment. Hope he wears it and it works it’s magic!
      Happy sewing.

  18. I don’t have any stories to share about messages sewn in garments, but does The Dressmaker qualify as enough of a sewing film to get a mention? and it’s certainly based on a book.

  19. LinB says:

    I sometimes embroider messages into garments, sometimes write them with a Sharpie. My own dear Ma embroidered “Here’s a pillowcase, stitched in blue, just a reminder that I love you” for my dorm room in college. I still have that pillowcase, umpty-ump decades later.

  20. I will write messages and words as I free motion quilt, especially in the borders. Then I see if anyone notices. Those that know me look for it.

  21. Mary in Thailand says:

    “My Pink Suit”
    By Stephen Leacock
    Just a short story written just about a century ago, by a man with a new suit (not really) and a sense of humour.

  22. Jacqueline says:

    I can’t wait to see The Phantom Thread! I love films that involve anything about the world of haute couture.
    I’m in the process of making a sheath dress using couture methods, and as it’s my first garment using these methods (even though I’ve been sewing since a little girl) I am intrigued by the idea of writing messages within the core of the garment. While working on my garment (plenty of hours hand sewing to think…) I’ve been etertaining the idea of writing on the silk organza underlining such things as date, materials, and methods, but also a bit of what has been going on in my life at the time of working on this garment.

  23. Emma says:

    I embroidered “Happy Birthday, I love you” in glow in the dark thread into the collar stand of the shirt I made my other half.

  24. Zoe says:

    There’s a Spanish book and TV series, El tiempo entre costuras (“The time in between stitches”, I guess, but it seems it was translated as The Time in between) about a Spanish seamstress living before the II world War who was hired by British intelligence to spy on the nazis through their wives who visited her high-end sewing studio. She wrote coded messages for the intelligence on her patterns, making them look like cutting lines (line, dot, two lines, three dots etc).

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