With such a variety of materials that can be sewn on a home sewing machine, it’s always wise to have the right tools for the job. Everyone has a stitch plate that comes with their machine, which usually has what is called a zig-zag opening. This wide opening allows the machine to stitch out all the widest stitches without letting the needle hit the stitch plate. This is a good thing unless you are sewing on a fabric that is very thin, has a very soft hand or tends to get sucked into the plate every time you start a seam. In these instances, the zig-zag opening becomes a source of frustration that no one needs. If you do a lot of work in the center needle position or if you often work on fabrics that get sucked into the plate, you may want to consider getting an optional straight stitch plate. Most machines have this accessory available, but if you’re not sure, check the Husqvarna Viking (page 94) or Pfaff (page 64) online accessory catalog or give Bonny and Frank a call. If you own an embroidery machine, you may want to consider purchasing the straight stitch plate (if your machine did not come with one) for stitching out your designs. Using the straight stitch plate doesn’t allow the material to move up and down as much during stitching, giving the material support which allows the stitches to seat themselves without distorting the fabric. If you do use the straight stitch plate for your next project, remember to choose the Stitch Width Safety option that is found in your machine’s Settings Menu. This lets your machine know it cannot stitch out anything but a straight stitch in center needle position.
At some point, almost every sewer will need to add some top stitching to a project. As a garment sewer, I use top stitching all the time, but I also use top stitching in my quilting and home décor projects. Even though I use the technique often, I cannot top stitch in a perfectly straight line without the help of some terrific presser feet for my machines. Since I am a “just in case” buyer, I have all these feet. If you do not have any of these feet, you may want to start out with just one or two, choosing the foot that best suits the needs of your current project. With a combination of the correct presser foot and your adjustable needle position, you will be top stitching, maybe even in a contrast color, straight as an arrow and right along the edge of your seam, to your delight. You also may want to give the blind hem foot that came with your machine a try as a top stitching foot. It does a great job of allowing you to stitch in a perfectly straight line with a simple adjustment of your needle position! Happy Sewing!
Just for fun, you may want to check out this video on a new piecing technique. It’s always fun to learn something new!
Have you ever tried to sew a patch on a garment or straps onto a tote bag and struggled with positioning the fabric? Sometimes, especially if you are trying to sew something to an existing garment, it is almost impossible to sew in any direction but one without opening up at least one seam. We’ve talked before about 4-way stitches, but does your machine have 8-way stitch capability? My Viking Husqvarna Designer Diamond Royale does and I love it! If your machine has this stitch capability, I encourage you to practice with it so you are comfortable using it next time the perfect project presents itself. Here are some tips and observations to help with your success using this great feature.
One of the things that may be hardest to remember as you are sewing is that, if you make a change in stitch length to any of your stitches, that change disappears each time a new direction is chosen. It is not a “one and done” adjustment. I have personally noticed that changing the stitch length does not really look much different to me with this feature. I tend to leave the stitch length alone rather than have to remember to change it with each new direction.
I hope these observations and tips prove helpful with this feature. Have a great week and Happy Sewing!
Have you ever stitched out a beautiful decorative stitch or embroidery design on a project only to have it pucker the fabric? Just about every stitch that is complex needs some type of stabilizing, be it spray sizing, starch, Best Press or a separate cut of stabilizer. This applies to decorative sewing stitches, complex stitches on sheer fabrics, machine embroidery or free motion embroidery. There are many stabilizers on the market for a large variety of applications, but a little information will help you navigate this sea of options and get you the product that is best for your project. There are several broad categories of stabilizers, each containing several products of differing weights and types from which to choose. These stabilizer categories include: paint on, fusible, tacky, tear away, cut away, heat soluble and water soluble. Regardless of who sells the stabilizer, these categories are universal. Once you find the products you like to use, you will gain confidence in expanding your stabilizer stash. Take a moment to view these videos from the John Deer Embroidery Legacy Series and from Heirloom Creations Sara Snuggerud. I think you might be surprised at some of their information which I hope, might be helpful to you in making the best choice for your next project. Happy Sewing!
Rolled hems on the sewing machine are something I just don’t do all that often and there is a learning curve for these terrific hemmer feet. As I have said in earlier posts, I tend to make quite a few items for my family by request. This time a request has come to me from my nephew’s four year old daughter. She is requesting a t-shirt dress with a ruffle that matches a ruffled t-shirt dress for her 18” doll. The request is so cute and sincere, who could say no? Anyway, after getting the preferred colors nailed down and her current size, I thought I should spend some time practicing with my rolled hemmer foot so I can hem those all-important ruffles that will make the plain t-shirt into a frilly dress. Did I already mention that rolled hems are something I just don’t do all that often and that there is a learning curve for these terrific feet? Before using any of my project material, I wanted to practice on some scrap material I had in my stash box. There are several sizes of hemmer feet both from Pfaff and from Husqvarna Viking, but I tend to do best with the larger hemmer feet, so I use the 4mm or 5mm. If you give this technique a try, I would suggest you start out sewing at a slower speed, but as you gain confidence, you will be able to sew at a normal speed and do quite well. I also suggest you use the method that starts your hem on a piece of water soluble stabilizer since getting the hem started, at least for me, is the trickiest part. I have included three video links at the end of this blog entry that show you, in detail, how to use the hemmer foot; each video shows a bit of unique material from the other videos. Also, at the end of this entry, I have included four more video links just for fun. I didn’t know that quilting while camping was such a thing. I thought with summer here, if you didn’t know about this either; you might want to check it out! Happy Sewing!
Whenever I have a project that involves quilting, my least favorite part of the process is pinning the layers together before quilting and then removing the pins after I have finished. It usually takes me upwards of 45 minutes to pin a quilt and my back is not very happy with the continuous bending over the table. Whether I am channel quilting, using stitch in the ditch, free motion or quilting with embroidery I still have to pin the layers so they don’t shift. When I have larger projects, I do pin using safety pins made for quilts, but when I have smaller projects, I like to use the basting stitch on my machine. You may have this special wonder on your machine too. It is a special stitch that only makes one stitch or tack down and then stops and waits for you to manually move the material to the another spot for the next tack down stitch. My machine automatically drops the feed teeth as soon as the stitch is selected and automatically lifts the presser foot after each stitch so I can move the fabric. It’s very easy to get into a rhythm using this technique and you might find the basting stitches and rows become very uniform. I still turn my quilt with each row of basting, but for small projects, it is so fast and easy. I am currently using left over material to make hammocks for the wildlife rescue center. They are 21”x21” before quilting. I used regular sewing straight pins to pin only around the first row of basting in the middle and after that I just used the basting stitch itself while holding the fabric and batting layers together. I was able to baste the square in less than 2 minutes. After you finish your quilting, the basting stitches are easily removed just by pulling on them with your fingers: no seam rippers needed! Check your owner’s manual to see if, you too, have this time saving stitch on your machine. Remember, it’s for basting anything, not just quilts! Happy Sewing!
Just like many of you, I have sewn for charity for a number of years. I have sewn for all types of charities, but all of them have been people-oriented charities. About a week or two ago, while I was sewing walker bags for the local rehab center, my husband went outside to sweep away the cicada shells from the front steps when he ran across a baby bird on the ground. The bird seemed glued to its spot in the lawn and was so mournfully calling that my husband came in to tell me about it. We have had birds for years nesting under our deck and we have put more babies back in their nest than I can count, but this was different. This wasn’t a helpless little bald bird: it looked older. After listening to it calling for about an hour, I gave in and called the non-emergency animal police number. I talked to them and they said it was probably a fledgling and to keep an eye on it and call back if I was still concerned; which I did three more times that day. If this bird was learning to fly, I wanted it to learn a little faster! After 8 hours of calling for its mom, I was so worried I could barely stand it. That was when I was directed to the Wildlife Rescue League for Fairfax County, an all-volunteer group that looks after our wildlife year round. They were so kind and were so informative that, even though the bird continued to call for its mother for the next two days, I did not go to help. I found out that would be the worst thing I could do. Who knew? When the next two fledglings showed up in our yard, I knew exactly what to do and all three birds are now happily flying over our heads when we are outside. I decided if I could do something to support this group, I wanted to help. I went to the website and, what do you know? They have a need for people who know how to sew, knit and crochet. I’m in! I thought you too, might like to help in an area where we usually may not think of to help. If you already help this type of group, thank you so much! If you think you might like to add your talents to their list of needs, here are the links. I see this as a way to help this important group of volunteers and our local wildlife while using up some of my fabrics that have long ago gone out of style or just need to be used instead of sitting in a bin or in my closet. It’s a win-win and I’ll be starting my projects tomorrow! Good luck on all your projects this week and Happy Sewing!
Last week I thought I would have my niece’s top done and in her hands by now, but the rehab center for whom I sew walker bags called and needed some bags ASAP. At about an hour a bag, it took about 20 hours, so, with those now done, I am back on track with my own sewing. I thought I would share with you some tips on working with silky materials. My niece’s top happens to be a polyester silky print, but these tips are useful on all kinds of slippery fabrics such as satin, silk dupioni, silk, flannel back satin, crepe back satin and anything else that has a silky quality.
First of all, you need to make sure to save a piece of scrap material from whatever you cut out. You really need to do a test on any machines you plan to use; sewing machine, serger, iron, etc. Test what stitch lengths, needle size (I used a 75/11 embroidery needle. I liked the thin needle, sharp point and large eye) and presser foot pressures are best as well as what temperatures your fabric can tolerate. Next, look at your pattern to understand the order of construction. I must admit, I rarely follow the steps in the order given in a garment pattern. I tend to do all the fussy stuff, such as applying interfacings, serging raw edges and pressing in all hems first. This leaves easy construction and pre-pressed hems when all the pieces are being assembled plus I get to stay away from trying to manipulate larger pieces of fabric in awkward ways. Lastly, pinning will be essential. The fabric will move against itself and against the machine in unpredictable ways. Some fabrics will even catch on your hands as you manipulate the fabric! When going around curves, (like this top’s neckline) make sure to pin any facings or cut pieces starting in the middle and work your way around each side.
Let’s take a closer look at some points along this slippery journey!
I hope these tips help you should you choose to sew on one of these great fabrics. Happy Sewing!
More than once I have come away from a fabric store with a beautiful print fabric only to find that, when I’ve gotten it home and spread it out, it contained hidden secondary patterns I didn’t see at the store. No matter the type of sewing you do: garments, home décor, quilts, accessories: this scenario may play out for you, too. I started cutting out a new top for my oldest niece and found just this situation on the cutting table before me. I thought I was dealing with a fabric that had a repeating pattern of circles in a type of horizontal stripe. Once the fabric was laid out I found I was not only dealing with the circles in horizontal stripes but also a portion of fabric area with no circles that formed a vertical stripe. This meant I was dealing with….you guessed it…. a horizontal stripe + a vertical stripe… known as a plaid. Yikes! To top things off, the patterns created an uneven plaid, meaning the pattern was not identical with every repeat.
My father taught me how to match fabric patterns; stripes, fabric repeats, plaids, many years ago. He was an amazing upholsterer and was a magician when it came to matching fabric patterns. He taught me that the secret to matching patterns was patience and concentration. I now have the top cut and will begin sewing tomorrow. Only the finished product will let me know if I was paying close enough attention to my father’s lessons! I will include some pictures next week. I hope these tips help you with your next pattern matching adventure!
This type of pattern matching is not something to attempt when you are tired! Make sure you are ready to concentrate, then enjoy the puzzle! Happy Sewing!
Our fast approaching summer is a great time to dip your toes in the waters of garment construction if you have never tried it. Garments associated with summer are usually simple in their construction techniques and looser in fit so the learning curve doesn’t have to be so steep. There are usually no linings necessary and summer fabrics rarely have a nap that needs to be considered. An easy pair of elastic waist shorts or a skirt might be just the thing to expand your wardrobe and your sewing confidence.
If you decide to take it a step further, you may want to try sewing on a knit fabric. Making your own summer tops can not only be fun and satisfying, but can also be very budget friendly. Since most folks are not as comfortable sewing on knits as on wovens, I thought I would provide a bit of information to make navigating working with knits a bit easier. Patterns for knit garments are specially sized, usually much smaller than your actual measurements, so don’t be surprised if the pattern tissue is smaller than you are. If they were not sized this way, the fabric would not hang nor fit properly. Buy a pattern in your size (according to the measurements on the pattern envelope) specifically sized for knits. Next, all knits have a percentage of stretch and patterns will either tell you how much stretch is needed for their pattern or they will provide a “pick a knit” ruler on the back of the pattern envelope. It’s very important to follow these given guidelines for the proper fit. Generally, a 10” piece of knit, folded crosswise about 12” away from the cut edge of the fabric, should be able to stretch to 12” for 25% stretch, to 15” for 50% stretch, to 17.5” for 75% stretch and to 20” for 100% stretch. Remember to check the pattern envelope for the yardage you will need. Knits are most commonly found as 58” to 60” wide fabric, so you will usually need a bit less than you would if the yardage was for a woven material, which is generally 45” to 54” wide.
Finally, make sure you have a stretch needle (sometimes called a ball point or jersey needle) for your machine and some quality polyester thread. This is also a great time to make use of those terrific stretch stitches on your machine. Most important of all…Have fun! Happy Sewing!