Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A hint for threading your needle...

Before threading your needle,
use your finger to wet the back of the needle's eye.
This moisture should wick your thread
right on through the eye.
**Note: I'd love to give credit to the person who first wrote this tip, but I don't remember where I found it!**

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My 3 Rules About Sewing Machine Needles

Ever find your tension is off or that your machine is skipping stitches? It's time to check out that sewing machine needle! Here are 3 rules to remember: Rule 1: Change your Sewing Machine Needle frequently! Needles will dull. Period. I recommend buying them by the handful when your local stores run notions on a 50% off sale. By stocking up, you'll be ready to use a new needle with every new project. Also, check your needle frequently for burrs and blunt tips. These will cause snags in your fabric. Rule 2: Pick the right needle for the right fabric. Generally, you'll need a size 11 or 14. However, there are a few things to remember. Rule 2.1: The thicker the fabric, the bigger the needle, bigger the needle size. Most manuals have a table listing the size needle that you need for certain fabrics. Here are some basics:
  • Use a size 9 for Very Lightweight Fabrics, like Chiffon, Lace, Organdy, or Tulle.
  • Use a size 11 or 12 for Lightweight Fabrics like Chambray, Gingham,Satin, Lawn, Single Knits, Jersey,Thin Leather, or Suede.
  • Use a size 14 for Medium-weight Fabrics like most of your quilting cottons or Flannel, Velour, Broadcloth, Linen, Velvet, Double Knits, Vinyl, or some Leathers or Suede.
  • Use a size 16 for Heavy-weight Fabrics including Denim, Sailcloth, Fake Fur, and thick Leathers.
  • Use a size 18 for Very Heavy Fabrics like Canvas, Duck and some Upholstery fabrics.

Rule 2.2: Pick the right type of needle for the fabric. Basically:

  • Woven fabric: Universal needles or Sharps
  • Knits: Ball-point needles
  • Leathers: Wedge-point needles (AKA leather needles)
  • Most topstitching: Topstitching needles

Rule 3: Make sure your needle is inserted properly.

Any questions, refer to your sewing machine manual.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Getting to Know Your Sewing Machine Manual

My mom has a saying:
"Get out your manual."
Every time I'd complain about my bobbin thread breaking or my machine making a strange noise or not being able to balance the tension, I'd hear
"Get out your manual."
So, in honor of my mom, for this post, I need you to:
"Get out your manual."
You can find it, right? Mine is here... That's right, it's within arm's reach of my machine. Did you find yours yet? Okay then,
"Get out your manual."
...and a stack of sticky notes. In my beginning sewing class, I have my students mark some pages for easy reference. Even now, these are the pages I turn to most often:
  • How to insert my needle (You know, flat side to the side or back.)
  • How to wind my bobbin
  • How to thread my machine
  • How to adjust the thread tension
  • How to adjust the stitch length
  • How to switch out the presser foot
  • How to reverse a stitch
  • How to use that silly button-holer
  • How to maintain, clean, and possibly oil my machine
If you mark these pages with stickies, the next time you get stuck, the answer will probably be close at hand. So, the next time you want to throw your sewing machine out the window:
"Get out your manual."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remember to raise your needle to its highest position!

Are you having a problem with your needle coming unthreaded each time you get ready to stitch a new seam? Several of my girls in my latest sewing class were having that very problem. I watched them a time or two and found the cause.
When you finish stitching (and locking) a seam, turn your flywheel toward you to raise your needle to its highest point. THEN, you can pull your fabric out and clip your threads several inches away from your needle.
When you don't raise that needle, the tension is still on the thread. When you pull it away from the machine, you are stretching your thread. After you snip, the thread is bouncing back--right out of that needle. Any questions? Leave me a comment or drop me an email!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tutorial: Vinyl Beach Bags

Vinyl makes a great beach bag. But, there are a few tricks you need to know before you start: 1. Once you poke a hole in vinyl, it says there. So, use pins only when necessary. Instead:
  • Secure edges with paper clips.
  • Use a strip of painter’s tape to secure a zipper.
  • Secure edges with tape. (Remove promptly to avoid icky residue.)
2. Topstitch ¼ inch on each side of the seam to hold seam allowances in place. 3. Finger press only: Move your fingers along the seam line, pressing the seam allowances open. 4. Use a plastic or Teflon sewing foot. If these aren’t available, place a piece of tissue paper between your vinyl and your presser foot. 5. Use a NEW size 11 needle. 6. Increase your stitch length to 3.0 mm. 7. Don’t backstitch to secure seams. Leave long tails and tie knots. To construct your bag: 1. Cut out 2 rectangles 22 inches wide x 18 inches tall. 2. Cut out 2 rectangles 4 inches wide x 27 inches tall.
3. Fold under ½ inch on the top edge. Tape into place.
4. Place the zipper coils along the fold and tape into place.
5. Stitch along the zipper tape.
6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for the other large rectangle of vinyl.
7. Unzip the zipper about 8 inches and fold the pieces right side together.
8. Stitch the edges with a 5/8 inch seam.
9. Open out the bottom corners.
10. Pinch the side seam and the bottom seam together. 11. Mark a line 2 inches from the point and 4 inches wide.
12. Stitch along this line. 13. Stitch again ¼ inch outside this seam.
14. Trim the corner. 15. Repeat steps 9-14 for the other bottom corner. 16. Turn the bag right sides out.

17. Handles: Using the long, skinny rectangles, turn in each long edge into the middle.

18. Fold the new edges to the middle.

19. Stitch close to the each outside edge. This will be much easier if the tissue is between your presser foot and your vinyl.

20. Mark the bag in 4 places: 6 inches in and 1 inch down from each top corner. 21. Secure the straps to the outside of the bag at these marks.
Be patient when working with vinyl (it sticks to everything) and have fun!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

2 Ways to Embellish a T-shirt

Here are 2 easy ways to embellish a t-shirt:

1. Applique!

2. Stencils!

Book Review: Of Course You Can Sew!

Of Course You Can Sew! Basics of Sewing for the Young Beginner
by Barbara Corrigan
Published in 1971
ISBN: 978-0385076975
Some Chapter Headings: Equipment Fabrics Accessories from a Straight Piece of Material A Shift or Robe from Turkish Towels How to Use Patterns

I liked:

  • The prose. For example, take this paragraph from the Introduction, "Haven't you envied your friends who have an endless supply of new clothes which they've made for themselves? You hear tales of how an inexpensive piece of material from a remnant counter has turned into a lovely party dress, while you've been trying to figure out how to persuade Dad to give you still another advance on your allowance to cover a down payment on that dress you saw in the store window."
  • The chapter on "Basic Stitches" that covers everything from threading a needle and diagrams showing how to knot your thread to explaining running stitches, back stitching and hemming.
  • Instructions on how to use a thimble (a lost art for certain!).
  • A great chapter on the basic sashes, belts, totes and headbands.
  • The "How to Use Patterns" chapter that is most thorough, including pinning, marking darts and notches, stay stitching, and facings.
My dislikes:
  • Not any really, especially when you consider this is a book for beginners.
Conclusion: "Cute." That's the word I'd use to describe this book. I think it is absolutely darling. I love the way it's written. It covers the most basic of basic ("Now place two layers of material together, and pin them together.", page 22) while also explaining techniques like under stitching. Plus, I love the confidence it exudes when, in closing, it promises "When you have learned to make all the things presented in this book, you will be able to create an almost complete wardrobe, lacking only a coat and slacks..." (page 127). Would I buy it for myself? As a sewing instructor, I am considering this book. I think the progression it uses to teach sewing would work very well for beginners of any age. Would I buy it for a beginner sewer? Most certainly. This book would be perfect for someone that has never sewn, but is ready to start.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My 5 Favorite Sewing Tips

Here are my 5 favorite sewing tips (for today anyway, because tomorrow I'll probably learn something new):

  1. Wet the back of your needle before trying to thread it. The surface tension from the water pulls the thread right on through.
  2. Compare your pattern pieces to a RTW piece that has a similar fit. This is particularly helpful if you're fitting a difficult client (like my hubby).
  3. Instead of chalk, mark your notches, darts, etc. with a dried-up remnemt of Ivory soap.
  4. Put a shirt together at one shoulder (or if it has raglan sleeves--at 3 seams). While it's flat, serge your neck binding (or cuffs onto sleeves) on the neck line. (I find it easiest to place if I've notched center front, shoulders and center back on both the shirt and the ribbing.) Then serge the remaining shoulder seam, all the way up the ribbing.
  5. Choose your pattern size based on your front width measurement (FWM). This is a great N. Zieman tip. To take the measurement, find the crease in your skin where your arms meet your body and measure straight acros your chest. Round off to the nearest half-inch. A FWM of 14 inches corresponds to a size 14 and every 1/2 inch difference is a pattern size. (I.e., 13.5 inches = size 12, 13 inches = size 10, 14.5 inches = size 16, 15 inches = size 18)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Applique Martha's Favorites

Applique Martha's Favorites
by Martha Pullen
Published in 1991
ISBN: 978-9992865163
Some Chapter Headings: Types of Applique Stitch Maneuvers Applique Designs Fancy Closures-Not Just Buttons I liked:
  • The clothing patterns included with this book: a girls' jumper, a boys' suit, and an apron.
  • A great supply list that explains why you need all those things, like stabilizer and interfacings.
  • The very detailed (at first glance primitive, but actually quite informative) diagrams in the "Stitch Maneuver" chapter that instruct you as you begin to applique, turn inward or outward curves, form corners and stitch points.
  • The "Little Red Riding Hood" applique design.
My dislikes:
  • While some of the designs are very cute, others are quite dated (think things we wore in the 70s!).
  • I found the boys' suit to run very small.
  • No instructions for sewing snap tape into the crotch of the boys' suit.
Conclusion: First, this book is a bargain, when you consider all that it contains. Just purchasing a girls jumper and a boys' suit pattern could run you upwards of $20. Plus, you get all the applique designs and how-tos. Second, if you can sew, you can applique and this book is detailed enough to show you how. Even if you don't love these designs, you can take this information and make your own designs. Would I buy it for myself? I already did--several years ago, when I wanted to reproduce similar designs to those I'd seen at a local upscale children's boutique. While I don't refer to the book often anymore, it was invaluable while I was learning to applique. Would I buy it for a beginner sewer? This book would better serve an advanced beginner.