Monday, June 29, 2020

Terial Magic on Knits

     I'm not a  huge fan of sewing with knits.  Knits curl, stretch, shift, drift, distort, sag, droop.... and ripple forward while sewing.  It's like trying to cut jello with a serrated knife.  They lack self-discipline.  I like well-behaved, on-grain, stable fabrics. Reminds me of teaching students all those years.   I had to get really creative with disciplinary techniques for all those children with creative mindsets.  The secret was to keep them so busy they didn't have time to think .   It's only a matter of finding tips, tricks and the latest sewing notions to cure what ails them.

     The challenge is to 'tame the beast'.  This may require testing a variety of threads, needles, and feet to see what will work with your fabric weight and your machine. The more sophisticated machines with dual feed, sensors and variable thread sensing tension systems may help.  Keep in mind that all super lightweight fabrics and very thick fabrics will be more challenging than mid-weight fabrics. 

 Given the fact that rayon and synthetic fibers are more predominant it is important to be mindful of their properties when stitching or pressing with an iron. Their inherent sensitivity always makes me select a cotton knit if I can get my hands on some. Cotton is somewhat easier to work with.   Many of the knits have (elastane) added which helps with resilience and body.   There is such a thing as too much lycra (in my opinion) which causes the fabric to have no draping properties.  Reminds me how my mother dried bath towels.  She would let them dry on a wooden clothes dryer.  When those towels were dry they could stand up in a corner by themselves to saying nothing about scratching your skin like using a sheet of sandpaper.  We didn't own a clothes dryer when I grew up.  Everyone hung their clothes outside or in the basement.  (And she didn't use softener in the rinse cycle.)  Now, can you visualize a fabric with too much body ???

Fabric(s): The process I am suggesting in the steps below is for washable fabrics. 
Pattern:  Loose tank style dress. 

Cutting The Pattern:   Use tons of pattern weights to hold the fabric and pattern in place so the pattern and fabric can't possibly drift on your cutting mat.  The weights I use are from a marine supply house that my sewing buddy gave me for my birthday.
This will keep the layers from shifting while you are cutting the seam lines with a rotary blade. Using shears means the fabric is being lifted from the surface. Pinning the knit doesn't stop the fabric from drifting between pins especially if the fabric is sheer.

Taming The Fabric:  Use a solution of Terial Magic Stabilizer in a spray bottle to spray the seam allowance area.  I use equal amounts of product to water.  Do NOT use the concentrated strength. It will be harder than cardboard if you do.   I spread each pattern piece on the shower curtain.  I lightly spray a solution of Terial magic along the seam allowances.  This stabilizer will 'lock' the stretch when the fabric has dried.  While it may be safe to use an iron to speed up the drying process on cotton fabrics like quilting cottons I do NOT recommend it on rayon .   Rayon is more 'heat sensitive.'  It may possibly damage /melt the fibers if the heat setting is too hot.  It's much safer to air dry.  The edges will curl when they come in contact with the moisture.  That's fine.  They will press out flat after drying.

Sewing Option#1: Sewing knits on a serger is definitely faster and often eliminates many of the stretching issues.  Differential feed also helps. 
Sewing Option #2: Many people who do not own a serger can still obtain excellent results with their domestic sewing machine.  The problem many people experience is with the two layering shifting forward and stretching as they are seaming.  The two layers do not move evenly.  The feed dogs of the sewing machine are working the lower layer.  If you happen to own a sewing machine with the integrated dual feed function then you definitely want to engage this feature to activate the upper feed system.  
Sewing Option #3: The Even Feed  Quilting foot can be somewhat helpful as well.

Additional stabilizing step:   Use strips of sheer fusible interfacing to stabilize the armholes and neckline and hemline.  This extra step helps to prevent these areas from stretching out of shape.

This is a SELF-LINED bodice. It's safer to use the same fabric because they will shrink at the same rate.  Also, if the fabric peeks out to the public side it will not be noticeable.

  Step One:  Stitch the neckline twice.  Place the second of stitching directly on top of the first line.   ( A triple stitch function may cause the fabric to stretch because the machine is moving back and forth.  So that's why I sew two separate lines.) 

Sewing on a 1/4 inch wide strip of silk organza is another great technique if you do not want to use the fusible interfacing.
If your fabric is heat sensitive or bulky this is very effective.

Step Two:  This technique is known by many people as the Burrito Method.

Roll up the garment from the armhole toward the opposite arm hole.  Stop when you are about two inches from opposite armhole.  It will look like a long tube.
Bring one layer of the armhole over the tube.  Notice how there is a bulge in the strap.  One shoulder seam is rolled up inside the other shoulder seam. The line of pins are placed to keep the garment from travelling into the armhole waiting to be stitched.

Also, take note that the edges are uneven.  The bodice self lining is showing 1/8th inch beyond the outside of the garment. I am purposely applying a 'favoring' to these edges.  This will keep the bodice from peeking to the outside when the garment is turned inside out.  Clip in the curved area like you would do for a woven to keep the seam from wanting to bend/curl.

Turning the garment inside out:  You will actually pull the entire garment through the the shoulder seam.

Hem Line:  Stitch the HEM before the side seams.  Fold the hemline up about ONE inch.  Press.  Hemlines less than one inch may curl to the public view.  Hand baste near the raw edge.  This will keep the two layers from forward rippling as you stitch cross-grain.  This also serves as a guide line if you are using a COVER STITCH on a serger.  I have also sewn a hemline with straight stitches on my domestic sewing machine using Guterman Maraflex Stretch Thread with a 3.5 stitch length.  (I get this thread from WAWAK tailoring supply.)  The reason I am using this method is to avoid sewing the hemline in a circle.  While I do like that method this eliminate crossing over the side seams where many sergers will jam because the foot doesn't want to climb over the seam line.  This often requires a 'hump jumper' or a few layers of fabric beneath the back of the foot to make the entire foot level. This alternative method works very nicely if you have issues with your serger doing the circular method. The only trick is getting the two layers even at the bottom.  Basting cures that issue!

Side Seams:  Hand baste with a contrast thread the edges of the side seam allowances.  This will prevent the edges from curling and from shifting as you serge the side seam.  Make sure the hemline edges are even.  Lock them together with a strong basting stitch.

Viewing the side seam at the hemline: 
I  press the seam to one side and secure with a few straight stitches to flatten the
seam line.

Viewing the wrong side of the garment you can see the underside of the cover stitch.  Because I took the time to hand baste a guideline on the hem I was able to cover the raw edge more successfully.

Serger Seam: 
First I baste my raw edges to keep them from curling.  This will also keep the layers from shifting.  I am using a two-needle serger side seam.   Allow at least a 4 inch chain of stitches to run off the end of the seam at the hemline.  DO NOT CUT  THIS CHAIN of THREAD.   Use a hand sewing needle with a large eye.   Thread the needle hole with the chain stitches.  Insert the chain into the seam allowance to hide.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Have Covid Cabin Fever? I bet you I can make a 'Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear' by the time this virus passes !

     When it comes to any sewing project I just sort of create as I go.  I have a few general ideas in mind but nothing concrete.  I have to explore my stash to find possible coordinates, linings, trims, buttons, zippers, threads, etc.   After all, it would be a 'sin' not to use some of the stuff from shopping expeditions at those gigantic vending halls while attending Original Sewing and Craft Expos!  We gather like cattle to shop in those market places!  So, peruse your collection of treasures for your next project.  You never know when an item will say, '"pick me, pick me".   Admit it, we all spend days, even years fondling our treasured purchases just contemplating how to use them in a project.   And since we really can't shop locally for fabrics and notions during these months of confinement we should use what we have.

      When I cut out the fabric for the pattern I always wait to cut out the lining.  Since lining is one of the last steps it can wait until I know what I'm doing.  I like to see how the construction process goes.  Naturally,  I test out ideas on samples first before I take the plunge on the garment because I know I will make many changes when I see the results on samples. I will make thread color adjustments, stitch length adjustments, and needle type.  Yes, needle!  If I am top-stitching the garment I can get a nicer stitch with a straight stitch plate, straight stitch foot,  and needle with a larger eye !  If I have to make any fitting adjustments to my garment I don't want to repeat the same correction on the lining.  I will tweak my changes on the pattern before I cut the lining.
   Pattern guide sheets are intended to show you a chronological sequence of construction.  They are NOT attempting to show you the most appropriate seam finish nor can they suggest how to embellish beyond the basics.  The seam finish is determined by the type of fabric you have selected and the weight.  From that jumping point you can get creative with your own ideas.
      I  never make a garment and then go to the store for buttons.  I do that in reverse.  If the fabric is blouse weight I buy blouse size buttons.  If it is heavy weight I buy jacket size buttons.   I  buy gorgeous buttons to match the fabric and then I pick out a pattern to coordinate with the button size and style.  With all the patterns I have to pick from surely I can find one with the correct amount of buttons.  (Button and Notion Center, Rockville Centre, NY. is the BEST ! )

This is Vogue Geoffrey Beene 2195 and I am using a denim from Emma One Sock. 

Vogue 2195  inside view of jacket front with exposed pocket pouch.

     Quite often denim jackets are UN-LINED.  Some of the nicer  ready-to-wear jackets will have 'Bound ' seam finishes.  (see attachment below)

 The guide sheet illustration shows exposed pockets and minimal support near the zipper.  A full FRONT self lined facing will cure both these issues.

Easy fix:  Simply cut out two more pieces of the front panel like the upper yoke.
This is a bias binder to create BOUND seam finishes. 

BOUND seam finishes on a Bark Cloth cotton dress. 

This is my pocket welt. I use a light weight fusible to stabilize grain distortion. By using a trapezoid rather than a rectangle the side seams are rotated.  (This is also known as a Japanese welt.)


This is the interior view of the back.  The pattern does NOT call for a back lining.  It's very easy to create a lining by using the same pattern piece for the jacket.  I chose a cotton batik print because the jacket is denim.   If the jacket were wool I would have used a silk twill.

   When I cut this jacket out I had NO plans to add embroidery.  One of my sewing buddies suggested some embroidery.  (Don't you just love taking photos and texting with your sewing companions?  It's the best tool ever!)
      These swirls came from the Bernina Inspiration collection that came with 830LE.

     Normally I would stitch the embroidery onto the fabric BEFORE I cut out the pattern piece.  It's easier to hoop yardage than to figure out placement between seams and zippers.

     This beautiful cotton denim came from Emma One Sock in PA.  The quality is superb! So incredibly soft without the bounce back of lycra.  I'm not overly fond of lycra because the elastane alters the natural drape.  Every once in a while you may encounter the needle snagging the lycra causing a dot of white.  That makes me grit my teeth!

I had every intention of making button holes for the cuffs.  I tested out several button hole styles with different density and bead width.  What is especially nice about a Bernina button hole is that you can spread the bead width for a wider opening on thicker fabrics!  My Bernina 830 LE stitched out a gorgeous button hole.  When I cut the button hole open on my sample I decided I didn't want to see any of those little yarn whiskers.  And I'm not about to put on any liquid glue to stop fraying.  Those liquids discolor the fabric and create a crusty droplet!   That's when I heard a little gremlin in my head telling me to use snaps as the closure with a button on the outside.  (My #1 sewing buddy uses this technique all the time.)
The monitor isn't showing an accurate color . 

I am using the same printed Batik for a blouse. No buttons yet. 

By adding a full front facing the pocket is completely concealed and the zipper has more support.

During this time when we are spending most of our time at home with our families I am so very thankful I have a hobby that allows me to spend my time productive and creative.  It's even more rewarding when you can pass on the love of sewing to your children, grand children and friends in person or with the assistance of technology ! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Lost Art of Tailoring- Blending the Best of Both Worlds

     Any garment that requires lots of 'HAND' sewing seems to scare people away. (This is what students in classes have said.) Personally, any project that takes weeks or months to complete probably will not be on my bucket list anymore.  I like products and gizmos that make the task fast and perfect.  The tailoring process can be very time consuming and challenging if you choose to create the entire project with nothing but hand sewn methods.  I love the quality of traditional methods but I want it faster.  There are so many new products and
techniques available to speed things up.  I like to use traditional 'sew in ' canvas on strategic areas and fusible on the rest. (And your hand sewing skills can be sloppy because it's all on the inside !

  It may be difficult to find instructional materials with good visuals if you are trying to learn the process.  Most sewing people probably do not own text books on the topic (like I still have) but there are a few good tailoring books written by Adele Margolis.  Her books are still available on the internet.   Booklets written by Stanley Hostek on tailoring are available at Amazon.  His hand sewing skills are beyond amazing!  Claire Shaeffer and Roberta Carr are also good resources.

     Traditional 'Sew-In' type woven inter-facings have lost their popularity because people want faster results offered by fusible products.  I get it.  Try using HAIR CANVAS in strategic areas like a collar stand.  HAIR CANVAS provides a strong yet soft support that fusibles can't seem to replicate.  Again, stitching does not have to be neat.  Hair canvas panels on the front of a jacket or a coat will support the buttonholes and the area where the button are sewn.

Look how beautifully the collar stands up without collapsing!  Without the support from the canvas it will collapse and look shapeless.

  Fusible inter-facings available today are significantly better than the products we used in the 70's and 80's.  I try to combine the best of both worlds to speed up the tailoring process without sacrificing the quality of my work.  (Hair canvas is available from tailoring supply houses like located upstate NY.)

In the photo below I have fused a product called  'Grid-Weft'.  It is a very loosely woven fusible mesh  designed to beef up a limp or loosely woven fabric. On fabrics that ravel a great deal the fusible locks the yarns in place. This silk tweed is loosely woven and has a  significant amount of fluid drape weight.  The Grid - Weft will help to reduce shredding and stabilize the grain.  Regular fusible inter-facings tend to create a more rigid 'body'.
     After the mesh is fused to each pattern piece I mark all of my notches, darts, buttonholes etc. with contrasting colored thread for excellent visibility during the construction process.

The BLACK is the fusible GRID WEFT.

The horse hair  (hair canvas ) is attached to the GRID WEFT with hand CATCH stitches to keep it secure.  The catch stitches on the edge of the hair canvas are stitched to the black Grid Weft to keep it from curling .

The dart was cut out.  The edges of the dart were butted up together .  Then a strip of silk organza was placed over the cut edges and they were zig-zagged together.  This eliminates the bulk of the dart yet still provides shape of the dart.  Also, notice how the horse hair canvas is NOT incorporated into the seam allowance.  There is a strip of TAN silk organza that is sewn to the canvas and then the silk organza is sewn to the fabric.  It is important to keep the canvas away from the seam allowance because it will add tremendous stiffness and you will not be able to press the seam open.

The catch stitches on the edge of the hair canvas are stitched to the black Grid Weft to keep it from curling and flapping. The stitches do not have to catch the fabric but they can.
 The under collar has weft FUSIBLE interfacing applied to the fabric for body.   This is NOT the GRID WEFT product.  The under collar needs body and structure.  In addition to the fusible interfacing there is a portion of the under collar with the hair canvas.  This area is know as  a 'stand'.
The hair canvas has tiny catch stitches to keep it securely attached to the interfacing.   The stitches do not go through to the fabric.  You can also machine stitch a line of straight stitches at the fold.  Fusible hair canvas is another option for this step if you do not wish to hand stitch.

 In the photo above you can see how the hair canvas allows the collar to stand up beautifully on it's own.
 In the sleeve cap I added a 1 inch wide strip of bias mohair to give loft to the sleeve head.

Ready made shoulder pads are often made of foam covered with nylon.  I find these pads hard to work with.  The foam usually ends up tearing and crumbling.  The shape of the pad doesn't seem to fit right where it connects to the armscye of the sleeve.  The curves are in the wrong places.

See how the pad is shaped ?  That's because each layer was sprayed with 505 temporary spray adhesive and shaped on the shoulder of my  mannequin.  You can even do it on your own shoulder.
Making your own shoulder pads are incredibly easy to make.   I shape a few layers of hair canvas and a couple pieces of cotton flannel .  You can add fleece depending on how thick you want them.  Then I stitch them together with a few loose stitches since the spray glue is temporary.  Because these are fabric and not foam they will stitch to the seam allowances beautifully.  This size shoulder pad provides gentle structure and support without looking like football shoulders.

This silk tweed fabric came from Sawyer Brook,  MA.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Geoffrey Beene Jackets and Coats (Vogue 1741,1985)

 I have constructed this Vogue Geoffrey Beene 1741 jacket at least six times and will keep making it!   The shoulders are slightly dropped and it does not require shoulder pads.  Sometimes a very thin shoulder pad is desirable to maintain shoulder support.  It feels like a sweater when you wear it.

Note: These patterns are Out Of Print.  They are very hard to find.  Every once in a while you might get lucky on Ebay or Etsy. 

This one is made with raw silk.  The button holes are 'windows'.   Buttons are natural shell.   I did not follow the directions for the pocket welt.  I always construct a pocket welt with a diagonal side seam to eliminate the bulk on the side seam.

The rust and grey is a wool fancy tweed.  The button holes once again are 'windows'.   This type of button hole is particularly well-suited to loosely woven fabrics.  Machine made buttonholes will tear away from loosely woven fabrics.  Buttons are from Sawyer Brook Distinctive fabrics in MA.

This wool tweed has mohair and a few metallic threads woven in.  I made Bound Buttonholes for this one.

Fabric: Sawyer Brook, MA.

This is Vogue Geoffrey Beene 2195.  It has a dropped shoulder.   No lining.  Angled shoulder yoke and cuffs.

I'm sure you could eliminate the cuff and have a plain sleeve too.

This is a medium weight Pendleton wool flannel.  High quality woolens may not need a lining because they aren't itchy.

On a few of these jackets I did a partial lining to the back panel. I doubled the front panel to conceal the pockets and give the zipper more support.

This jacket works so well with pants for a more casual look.
It uses a 24 inch separating zipper.

Please let me know if you would like directions to create a welt pocket.

In my opinion, their envelope photo doesn't do justice to end product. 

I turned the jacket inside out so you can see how I added the lining to the back plus I added a free-floating back 'stay' with an embroidery.  This provides additional structural support to the shoulder hanger.


More fabric from Sawyer Brook MA.

Pendleton wool of course.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Barnyard Baby Quilt

It took me about 4 months to finally get this baby quilt done.  I started in January of 2020.  I kept getting interrupted with other important projects like face masks.  That's perfectly fine.  It gave me time to think through how I wanted to plan things.  (I have this quilt hanging from the gutter on my deck for photography.)
Quilting Designs:  It took forever to figure out a method to machine quilt this project.  How do I go about quilting a quilt that has all these appliques ?  Every scene is this quilt was an applique with computer embroidery done in the embroidery hoop. It's not like you can slap it on the longarm quilting frame and stitch through the designs.  Although I did use my Bernina longarm Q-matic to quilt a continuous design in the borders. Quilting around the appliques is a challenge.  I felt like my options were limited to free-motion stipple, echo quilting, or channel quilting.  If anyone has another idea I would love for you to share it! 

Quilting:  On my Bernina 790 I tested 'Free-Motion work 'with the BSR foot.  While this does have a slight learning curve I liked the fact that the stitches were rather consistent. Gripping the quilt and moving it around is another issue.  Gloves do help but there is quite a bit of stress on the hands.  I actually tried using one of those 'old school' embroidery hoops so I would have something to grab.  It most certainly was easier to push the frame around and the fabric was taut.  I definitely like the BSR and will use it on another project.  I have mixed feelings about combining computer work with manual work.  In my opinion there seems to be a dis-connect in appearance. I'll get over it.

I also tried Ruler Work with foot #72.  (feed dogs DOWN)  This is also hard on the hands.  I feel as though I need a third hand to hold the ruler while trying to push the quilt.  This takes a good bit of practice to get consistent stitches.  I know this is a very popular technique and many quilters like ruler work.  I guess I simply need a lot more practice.

Finally, I tested the 'walking foot' (feed dogs UP).  The stitches were consistent and my hands weren't stressed out.  You are more limited on your stitch patterns. Obviously you can't do a stipple stitch which is my favorite.  Basically straight or slightly curved lines.  I tested every technique on scrap quilt sandwiches before working on the quilt.

All these appliques are a lot of fun to create and certainly create an adorable quilt.  The quilt is not as soft, flexible or cuddly as a plain fabric quilt.  I feel this type of quilt is perhaps better suited to a wall hanging vs. a bed quilt.  (click on each photo to see the channel stitching more clearly)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Buying Your First Sewing Machine

Advice for first time machine owners:  What do you really need? 

IMost beginners rarely own a machine when they begin their sewing journey.  Newbies often have access to a machine that belongs to a family member or friend. I started sewing Barbie clothes when I was six. Naturally, I used whatever machine was available to me.  Most machines were flatbeds in those days. My grandmother had a Singer treadle. Wow, that was so much fun!

My first machine was the Singer 500A Slant-O-Matic  a.k.a. 'Rocketeer' (flatbed) that my Mom purchased as my Christmas and graduation present.  I can still hear my father's voice asking my mother why she didn't just buy me a new one instead of this gently used trade-in. This machine was probably about 7 years old at the time.  She convincingly told him this metal gear-driven machine was far more substantial, had more features and accessories making it a much smarter purchase.This machine also had a 'drop in bobbin' which is easier for a beginner to thread. This machine offered multiple needle positions which is a MUST !   I still have this machine and still use it for sewing upholstery because it can handle heavy duty fabric. I used this machine for nearly 15 years.  There are a ton of previously loved machines out there that will give you an opportunity to evaluate features you may want depending on what you like to sew.  A brand new machine will be more costly and may not offer user-friendly features.  Ironically, entry level machines tend to be somewhat harder to navigate functions like buttonholes and stitch variations.  It's so much easier to push a single button than to go through a series of steps.

My Second machine:
As my sewing skills improved and my pockets became a little deeper I was able to purchase another machine that offered more advanced features coupled with user-friendly performance. I bought a Bernina 930 in 1986.  This machine has a 'free arm' which makes it super easy to sew cuffs when you are sewing in a smaller area. On this machine the free arm measures 9 5/8" circumference.  On my newest Bernina it is 10 7/8 !  Some free arms may measure more than 11 inches which is quite large making it more challenging to sew a sleeve or leg.  (Yes, I measure the circumference of all free-arm machines!)  Once you have sewn with a 'free arm' you wont be interested in a flatbed unless you are a quilter. Quilters aren't sewing around the circumference of a cuff or pant leg.  I just love a Bernina buttonhole. Both sides come out balanced.  Love, love, love Bernina latch on feet.  This machine has a bobbin case instead of a drop in bobbin.  I still use this machine almost every day!  What a work horse. Gorgeous stitch quality.  Runs like a solid V-8 engine!  If you come across one of these in good condition I would grab it !  They are out there.

What kind of sewing do you do ?
 I primarily sew garments which means I need a great buttonhole and a great straight stitch.  Stitches will show on the surface of the garment so they need to look great.  It is important to evaluate what you want to create and then match up a machine to your skills and interests.   Example: I like to use a screw in type seam gauge near the throat plate for nice straight seams.  There needs to be a screw hole near the throat plate.  I had to figure this out on my own because no one told me.  I know I do NOT want a screw down throat plate.  I constantly change out the plates from straight stitch to the wider mm openings. A straight stitch throat plate and a straight stitch foot will give you a straighter stitch with less 'play'.  The 'pop off plates' make this task super fast. Taking out a screw driver to change a throat plate is way too tedious for me.
Feet:  Well, there are screw-on feet, snap -on feet, and 'latch-style' feet.   The Bernina 'latch-on' style fit are clearly substantial and super easy to get on and off quickly.  They are my favorite.

My Singer Featherweights:  My first Singer dates back to 1935.  These solid metal machines are just wonderful. Loads of accessories. They are very portable.  Light weight.  Great stitch quality.  This is easy to carry on an airplane if you must travel with your machine. Love it!  During the hurricane I ran a power cord from my den into the garage and plugged it into my car.  ( older blog- posted on 5/22/17 )

My first Serger:  What is it ? Why do I need it? 
It is a machine that trims the seams allowances and finishes the edge in one step.  The stitches on the seam finish look like ready-to-wear.  Incidentally, I no longer feel the need to compare my garments with ready-to-wear.  I still prefer the clean, polished look of a simple straight stitch  of a French seam.
Why did I buy it ? All sewing addicts feed their habit with new toys whether they need it or not.  I suppose I wanted to broaden my horizon and finish my seams like commercial clothing.  It definitely is faster.  I like it for sewing knits.  It's great on bulky fabrics that ravel.

Computer Embroidery Machines:   These machines have built in cameras, laser beams, scanners, wi-fi,  etc. etc.  They do everything but cook dinner.  Technology is a wonderful thing! 

If you have any questions you would like to ask...  please post them and I will give you my thoughts.