Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nuts and Bolts, 1: What is a seam?

***This is the first installment in my series for beginners.  The information included is very basic, but quite helpful if you are learning to sew.***

What is a Seam?  A seam is the stitching holding 2 or more pieces of fabric together.  This is a seam:


To start your seam, match your 2 pieces of fabric together.  Line the raw edges up with a marking on your foot plate.  How do you know which ruler to use?  That depends on what your pattern tells you to do.  Commercial patterns like McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick and Vogue usually call for a 5/8 inch seam allowance.  (A seam allowance is the space between your seam and your raw edges.  It allows for raveling, fitting changes, alterations, etc.)  That means that you need to line the raw edges of your fabric up to the 5/8-inch line on your foot plate.  Your needle will now stitch a seam 5/8-inch from the raw edge of the fabric.

You can secure a seam by backstitching.  In other words, you sew back on top of your seam to make it secure and keep it from coming “unstitched”.  Start your stitch by sewing two or three stitches.  Then, hold down the reverse (backstitch) lever or button on your machine and stitch backwards two or three stitches.  Let up on the button and sew forward.  You repeat these back stitches for two or three stitches at the end of your seam.  When do you need to backstitch?  Anytime you want a secure seam.

The question I hear most often from beginners is:  “How do you know which stitch to use?”  Basic seams require your needle in the center position and a stitch length of about 2.5 mm.  You can use your sewing machine manual to learn how to change your machine to these settings.

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