Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Customize Ready Made

I needed a new purse. I could have made one, but didn't have the time. When I was out shopping I found a purse on clearance that I liked, except for one thing. It had an animal print sash, woven through large grommets around the top of the purse. I looked it over carefully, and determined the sash was easy to remove. I bought the purse. When I got home, I removed the sash and used it as a pattern. I made a new one, suited to my taste and personality. I used fabric from my stash, and the entire operation took only 5 minutes.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Favorite Sewing Tools

Everyone has favorite tools. Sometimes they are used as they were intended to be used, other times not. Here are a few of mine.

The bodkin. It beats a safety pin hands down for threading elastic or cording through a casing.

My set of tube turners. This is one of the best things I ever bought. Big or small- as in button loop or spaghetti strap small- you can turn a sewn tube right side out in a jiffy.

I love scissors and have a collection of them.My favorites are the XL Fiskars and the XS embroidery snips.

I have a gridded quilter's ruler with raised lines on the back to keep it from slipping. You can use it like a ruler, or a square, or to mark angles. You can see through it which is really handy, and did I mention this model has a raised grid on the back? The smooth ones slip and slide even with anti slip dots on the back. I love this ruler.

Tailor's chalk isn't used as often as it once was, but I still prefer it over marking pencils and markers.

The ergonomic seam ripper is a huge help if you have arthritis- and even if you don't. It it easy to hang on to, which makes the work easier. What tools do you prefer?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sewing Books

There are many good books out there on sewing, some general, and many more for niche areas. I love books and own many, so I thought I would comment on a few of them. The sewer's Bible of my collection is The Vogue Sewing Book.  I actually have two copies, an older one and an updated version. It covers just about everything from style and fabric choice to hems and seam finishes- plus everything in between. If you can only buy one book, get this one.

 I also own The Complete Step by Step Guide to Home Sewing. It covers curtains, cushions, pillow cases, tablecloths, lamp shades, kitchen items, furniture covers, and more. Heirloom Sewing for Today by Sandy Hunter is a beautiful book. It is not just eye candy, though.   It contains patterns and techniques for a nice variety of projects in the heirloom sewing style. 

I do a lot of historical costuming and have always loved tailoring, so it should be no surprise that I own The Victorian Tailor and The Tudor Tailor. I also own Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket.

What sewing books would you recommend?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Perfect Double Topstitching

Getting two evenly placed rows of top stitching is really pretty simple. You need two spools of thread and a double needle. Schmetz makes them in two different needle widths.

Make sure you have a foot with an opening wide enough for both needles to enter without hitting the foot. Replace your regular needle with the double needle. Place the spools of thread side by side on the thread posts. (Hint- if you only have one spool of the desired thread, wind a partial bobbin of that thread to serve as a second spool.) 

Holding the threads together, thread your machine normally- as if they were one thread. When you get to the needle, separate the threads and run one thread through each needle. Experiment with stitch length on a scrap before top stitching your garment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

All Threads are not Equal

Just like needles, threads are designed for different applications. The list includes embroidery, invisible, metallic, top stitching, buttonhole, denim, leather, upholstery, elastic, serger, quilting, bobbin (plus whatever I left out!) and the most commonly used thread, the all purpose variety. They are made from different fibers, too- cotton, silk, rayon, and polyester being the most common. 

A Rule of Thumb- if you are doing something named on the thread spool, that thread will probably do a better job for you. For example, top stitching thread used with a top stitching needle produces a stitch line made to be seen in a beautiful way. Done with all purpose thread and needle, the same stitching blends into the garment. Upholstery, leather, and buttonhole threads are much heavier than all purpose thread. Embroidery thread has body and luster. Bobbin thread is thin and lightweight, designed to eliminate bulk on the back of an embroidered piece. Hem your jeans with a heavy needle (size 16 or 18) and jeans thread (I have it in 2 colors, denim and orange) for a ready to wear look. Also, using the wrong thread and needle type may cause your machine to stitch improperly. Make choosing the right thread part of your project planning process- you will be surprised how much better your work looks!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pressing Aids

There are two categories of pressing aids- liquid or spray formulas you apply to the fabric, and objects used to shape or protect the fabric. The latter category includes pressing hams, which enable you to press a curved seam, and the oblong version which is great for pressing sleeves. A press cloth placed between the iron and the fabric prevents scorching or the creation of a shiny surface. A thick towel or needle board is used when pressing velvet- the fuzzy side faces the towel.

My two favorite liquid pressing aids are Faultless Premium Starch and a simple vinegar and water solution (50/50) in a little spray bottle. They both add body and crispness to your work. Starch does stain some fabrics, so always test it on a scrap first. I have never had a problem with the vinegar solution, but I would recommend checking that on a scrap first as well. The vinegar solution really is amazing and has become an indispensable aid in my sewing room.

Next tip- freezer paper in the sewing room

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 Days of Sewing Tips

I am jumping on the #1 Days of... blog train with what will hopefully be helpful sewing tips. There are lots of participating blogs on a wide diversity of topics. If you would like to check some of them out, go to http://www.thenester.com/2012/09/31-dayers-2012.html and scroll down to the large square icons representing each of the pages. Without further ado...

Sewing Tip #1: Make friends with your iron. Did you know there is a difference between ironing and pressing? Ironing is using the iron to remove creases and wrinkles by sliding the flat face of the iron back and forth across the cloth. Pressing is a slow, deliberate process. Let's say you are pressing a quilt seam open. Place the seam on your ironing board, wrong side up. Open and press down with your fingers. Place the iron firmly on the area for a few seconds, then lift- do not slide- the iron off the cloth. Repeat for the next section. Do not move the quilt block until the fabric is totally cool. If necessary, flip it over and repeat from the right side of the fabric. Fabric is more easily shaped when warm and moist, and you can distort your work by moving it when it is warm. 
Tomorrow's tip- pressing aids. See you then!