Sewing: March 2011 Archives
My April Blog theme is Spring Wardrobe and I am prepping for a few knit pieces. As I have been preparing, I thought it might be a good idea to post my progress and some of my short cuts as well as tools that I have found handy for successful knit sewing on a conventional machine. If you could have seen some of my first knit projects, you would only laugh. You would probably pull out something similar from your project archives- filed under "Never to see the light of day again/Failure". My first knit projects were copies of t shirts that I loved and my instructions were a few tutorials here and there from blogland. Like a teenager with out of context instructions I was sure I knew it all and jumped in with both feet. I was aghast at my outcome. A few years, a few more tutorials and a few knit sewing books (read from cover to cover several times) under my belt, my projects are looking good and I feel confident. I am not the teenager -in sewing terms-- anymore but nor am I the wise old wizard, with a "been there, done that" attitude knowing that I have faced all situations. I am just a girl with a regular sewing machine sewing knits pretty well. Here's how I do it.
I prep. HARD. I wash all my knit fabric and wash it exactly after I wear the garment. This is SO important. As much as I want to give my fabric special treatment- I treat it like any other piece of knit clothing. Next, I press all the wrinkles out and then lay it out as though to cut it on my cutting table and let it rest for an hour or more (I sometimes get distracted). The pressing can stretch and distort the knit and letting it rest will give you a truer cut than cutting into it right away.
I stay away from light weight jersey and use medium weight knits. This is my preference. I like more weight to my fabric because of the drape and how it falls on my shape. I also prefer it to sew. Light weight jersey curls like Shirley Temple's hair and it is NOT fun to sew. I also find that it is harder to rip with a seam ripper but I really think that is all me. I am probably just projecting now. I love interlock and medium weight jersey; stable knits like Ponte are also really fun.
Knits have a smaller seam allowance so if you are not comfortable with that you can cut a bigger size.
Recently I made a muslin of a knit dress for one of my upcoming projects. I had a problem with the fit. The pattern had me pegged at exactly a size 14 but it ended up being too big. I receive a great comment from Michelle Louise suggesting that I not go by the size on the envelope but measure the pattern pieces themselves. This was a great tip and it has worked really well in helping me avoid the wrong size.
I use a walking foot and it has turned my knitting life around. A regular foot would always leave me with mismatched fabric not just lengthwise but it would shift widthwise as well. I would spend so much time pinning and shifting while sewing that sewing knits was not enjoyable. With my walking foot, I use just a few pins and my fabric stays straight, inline and matches all the way to the end of the seam. Sewing knits is not stressful anymore.
I use freezer paper instead of cutting my patterns. Since I can never be sure that I am cutting the right size the first time, I just trace my pieces onto freeze paper, cut them out and iron them onto the fabric. I don't have to pin and they are reusable. This works so well with my rotary cutter. There is very little fabric distortion due to pinning and weights.
Duvets are the perfect way to change up your room for spring, to disguise your winter linens and brighten up your room if you are running on a tight budget which doesn't allow for a new comforter. Plus, you can Mix n' Match your favorite designer fabrics to work with your bedroom that no other store can offer. If you have a duvet that you are coveting but it's out of your range, challenge yourself to recreate it with your own fabric. Making a duvet is easy but a time invest is involved. The payout is worth it.
I choose to make my duvet from contrasting fabrics so I can totally change the look of my room with just a flip of my covers. I have been a big fan of Amy Butler's and Anna Maria Horner's fabric for a long time but could not find the right project to use my favorite prints. I said to myself "why match- take a chance!" and it really worked out. The assembly was almost as much fun as the fabric shopping. Here's how I made my king-sized duvet.
6 yds of Fabric A (Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit) 60in. wide Home Dec
6.5 yds of Fabric B (Amy Butler for Rowan) 60 in. wide Home Dec
Duvet-Measure out 2 lengths of 3yds each from Fabric A and B. You will have 4 sections of 3yds each. With right sides together stitch the 2 sections of Fabric A together along the selvedges. Repeat with Fabric B. Press seams open. Double turn a 1 in. hem along the top of Fabric A and stitch. Set aside.
Button band- Measure and cut 2 pieces of Fabric B 8 in. by 60 in. Stitch these 2 pieces together along the selvedges and press seams open. With right side facing out, fold this piece in half and press. Pin this to the right side top of Fabric B duvet and stitch in place. Press seam to the wrong side of the duvet. With Right sides facing stitch duvet A to duvet B at the sides and along the bottom. Clip corners and turn right side out.
Buttons- Measure 2 in. in from each edge and then at 10 in. increments for your buttons and button holes. Double check to determine that your buttons and button holes match up. Place your button holes on the button band and your buttons on the inside of your top hem on duvet A. Your buttons will be tucked inside your duvet cover, not seen and will not poke you in your sleep.
Place your quilt or comforter inside your new, styling duvet and enjoy your new room! You can see how well both sides blend with my pillow covers (for instructions click here)
Challenges are like rainy days; you enjoy the first one but after 2 or three it just gets old. This can also describe my take on binding; I like it but often not enough to mess with it. Arm holes sure but a whole dress like this Butterick wrap dress pattern that has been sitting in my pile for a while. I see binding as a challenge and a foe but not one worth engaging. It is not the making of binding I mind but first you must match it up on one side and sew it and then fold it over and sew it again on the other side, making sure to sew over your previous seam and catch it on the other side. UGH. Well, that is no longer a problem with the Janome Binder Foot. Now, there is a disclaimer: the packaging gives no indication what size binding can fit but our product description dictates 10 to 14 mm will fit. This not so modern, but very informative Janome video tells us to use ½ in. binding which is what I eventually tested and found successful.
I started off with ¾ in. binding that I had remaining from the Weekend Sewing Kimono Dress. After discovering the size problem I went with some premade bias tape that fit perfectly. It took a few tries to get acquainted with loading the foot. I suggest giving yourself some quiet time for this as it can get frustrating feeding a small piece of fabric through a tiny tube with holes in it. But once you get it, you're good! I loaded my binding with the foot off the machine, installed it and then loaded the fabric. The package does give some good recommendations for tension, stitch length and needle position but I found it worked best on my Brother machine to have the needle in the center position. Yes, this foot does fit Brothers. I do recommend sewing slowly so you can get used to the guiding of both the binding and the fabric. It is a lot like the ruffler in this aspect. There is a fabric guide at the front of the foot but you should ignore this. I am not sure why it looks like a fabric guide but it is not in a position to be of any help. This is a very helpful foot to use on big projects like the retro dress pattern above or small project like baby bibs. It will really save some time and hassle. I would not recommend it for bulky projects like the bias tape recommendation I gave on the Heather Bailey Marlo Bloom Bag with different handles. That would best be left to the old fashioned way. I am going to try it out this weekend by adding from binding to a plain tan trench I have. I envision it with from great navy with white pin dot binding. Follow me on Twitter to see how it goes.
I have long been in love with Heather Bailey's Marlo Bloom Bag pattern and have been itching to make it for some time. However, I really had no excuse to make it for the blog since my 'thing' is to review patterns but also to make them in a slightly different way so as to give new ideas and inspiration. The Marlo Bag did not look like it could be modified at all so that left it out of contention. However, I soon discovered these awesome Turquoise Bag Handles and the light bulb went off. Not every bag shape can accommodate this pair of U shaped handles but the Marlo's wide body and delicate gathers look great with the rigid shape of the handles. The color is slightly variegated, like real turquoise and is a very soft color. The Turquoise Handles worked really well with my dark blue canvas and turquoise/aqua quilting cotton print. Let me get off my chest now before I continue my love tirade for this bag: This project was not the piece of cake I had envisioned.
I followed Heather's instructions and read the pattern before commencing. It looked pretty easy. I had a game plan. I would alter the pattern assembly just a little by leaving a turning gap in the bottom of the lining and then assemble the top as instructed but with wrong sides out. Then I would turn the bag right side out and hand sew up the lining. Next, I would simply rip 4 small holes in the top for the handle straps. Topstitching around the top would seal these holes closed and DONE!
I don't recommend this assembly. The gathers make it difficult to press seams open, turn and press again, and topstitch over these gathers, phew! Ripping into the gathers also is not a good idea but I tried it anyway because at that point I was committed. I was able to save the gathers and keep them in place but it was all shooting from the hip and I don't think I could adequately put it into words. It just goes to show that you can read ahead, plan ahead but seeing all the contingencies ahead is another story. However, once finished the bag looked so good with the handles that I was determined to come up with a new idea. From where I sat the problems were 2: turning the gathers (it was just easier to leave the instructions as is, as though you were going to use the pattern handles) and ripping into the gathers. Bias tape is the solution. You can make it to match the exterior of your bag. Follow the pattern instructions as written but instead of sewing the pattern handles in place, sew bias tape on instead. Then you can slip the handle straps under the bias tape and DONE (but much easier).
To attach the handles I cut a 12 in. long by 3 in. wide piece from my dark blue Canvas. I then folded it in half and pressed. I opened the strap and then pressed the long sides over to meet at the center press line (this is a common Amy Butler technique). Then I folded the strap in half again and pressed a final time and stitched up the strap with 2 lines of stitching. I cut this piece into 4 pieces 3 in. long. I would recommend altering these instructions to cut a strap 16 in. long to give an extra 1 in. for each of the 4 pieces for tucking under the bias tape.
This is a great and fun modification for taking chic hand bag pattern to a stylish shoulder bag. The size of the bag lends it well to carrying knitting, crochet, embroidery, as well as a transitional diaper bag (when you don't need to haul the entire nursery just a diaper or 2).
I remember few years ago I was watching a quilting show in which they demonstrated a Fons and Porter pressing sheet. I had never beheld a tool such as that before and my eyes lighted up! When I discovered that Fabric.com carried them...well, needless to say there was much jumping and clapping. I am not much of a quilter. I have aspirations but very little opportunity. But I do love to appliqué and any tool that can help me to be more creative and at the same time keep my iron gunk free is for me! I decided to start with something simple to start with and get comfortable with the pressing sheet.
I am making another kid tent for some boys who are big hunting fans. Since every hunter needs a few deer head trophies, deer head appliqués were on the cutting table. I found a free coloring sheet with a shape that I liked and printed it out to use as a pattern. I started by tracing the pattern pieces onto the back of my fusible and basically cutting it out. Then I fused the pieces onto the wrong side of my quilting cotton and cut out the appliqués. Then using my pressing sheet (and removing the fusible backing) I was able to perfectly line up and combine my appliqué. Once my appliqué was complete, I could fuse it to my background and stitch around it. It was so easy and there were no mistakes. I felt a rush of excitement and a surge of ideas flooded into my brain.
*Edited- You use the pressing sheet as a base to build your appliqués. After you have cut out all your appliqués pieces and added fusible (Like Steam a Seam) then you peel the backing off all your appliqué pieces (I have 2 pieces: antlers and the head but I could have added more like the round nose you see below and the ears could have been separate as well). Then using your pressing sheet as a base you place your appliqués pattern underneath the pressing sheet. The sheet is transparent so you can see where to place your appliqué pieces and make sure you are assembling correctly. You can place your appliqué pieces on the pressing sheet and fuse them in layers. Once the appliqués is cool, carefully peel it off the pressing sheet and you can then place your completed appliqué in its finished location whether that be a hoody or a quilt. The pressing sheet allows you to assemble and reassemble your appliqué while checking placement. Then you can assemble without attaching it your finished article. Using the pressing sheet lets you see your finished appliqué before placing it so you can determine where it will fit and look best.You can see right through the pressing sheet (it's a tan color) to the pattern sheet below)
The pressing sheet can be used to solve another of my dilemmas. Whenever a pattern calls for you to cut pieces from fusible interfacing as well as fabric pieces to match, inevitably my fusible pieces and fabric pieces never match as much as I would like. Sometime the discrepancy is as much as ½ in. So usually I cut the fabric piece first and then fuse it and then cut the whole deal out of the fusible interfacing. However, this leads to gunk on my ironing board or iron. With my pressing sheet, I can pull off this feat without the mess. I am super pumped about this. The pressing sheet also comes with a color coded, tulip quilt block appliqué pattern for free! It would also be really great on the front of a messenger bag or backpack.
Let us know what you do with your pressing sheet on our Facebook page or twitter. You can follow Fabric.com to find out the latest deals and you can follow me(@tdangermiller) and get the inside dish on my projects.
This first installment is not exactly going to register high on the glamor meter. It's muslin time!
Carole and I met and discussed the style of dress she wanted. She is a modern girl and didn't want to go with a traditional long gown, and the first and most important feature that she wants is (drum roll please): POCKETS! She was very clear on this issue.
That's my kind of girl. She knows what she wants!
Carole also brought me several photos of dresses she liked, and once we narrowed down our choices, we were off to the races. So I put together a muslin using some basic bodice and skirt slopers I have in my library, and we had our first fitting.
The muslin, in case you are not familiar with the term, is a first version of the garment made in an inexpensive fabric (usually muslin -- surprise! -- which is where the name comes from). This is used to test the fit of the base pattern and make adjustments as needed. Once you have your muslin assembled and adjusted, you can take it apart to use as your final pattern.
Here a few snaps from our initial fitting:
First, the lovely bride. Say "hello" to the people, Carole!
The first place that needed to be adjusted was the shoulders. They need to fit her frame a little more snugly.
Then, the back of the bodice needed to be marked for shortening.
Here you can see a full view of the back, including the lazy zipper insertion. Since this is a garment made to be taken apart, it makes more sense to drop in a zipper without any finishing than to set it in beautifully. The final garment will have an invisible zipper.
Now the lovely bride waits while I prep the first test in her real fabric, a beautiful dupioni. Stay tuned to see things develop!
I sat down to my sewing machine recently only to be plagued with one problem after another. With increasing frustration, I was closing in on going "office space" on the bugger when it suddenly occurred to me 1) it's Spring 2) it has been quite some time since I have given my sewing space much needed attention. I decided a good spring cleaning was in order and should be written about as well to share my spring cleaning secrets in hopes that you will follow suits without being prompted by problems.
I prefer to start with a general ordering of my sewing room. This means gather piles of fabric from everywhere and finding its home. I usually take this time to prewash fabric that hasn't yet had the pleasure and folding it and ordering it by weight, fiber and color. That way when the mood for a certain project strikes I can just pull the fabric I need and get to work. Washing is done, wrinkles are kept to a minimum and I know that the weight, fiber and color are just right. I do the same for my yarn as well. I keep it in big, clear, plastic bins, out of direct sunlight but so I can still see the pretty colors. I don't prewash it but I do air it out, and reorganize it by fiber, weight and color. This way I can see at a glance whether or not I have enough yarn for any given project.
Next, I like to organize my sewing desk. I start by cleaning my machine. I take the needle and bobbin/bobbin case out and give it all a good swab with various sized paint brushes. I love the paint brush set because you get a good mix of sizes, the brushes are soft and the long handle allows you to get into tight spaces. If the machine needs oil, I add that as well. I check all my bobbins to make sure they are the right size and free of defects. I also take this time to pre wind some bobbins with some of my favorite thread colors (grey, white, black, tan, red and blue). I also go through all my pins, throwing out the old, bent and dull pins and purchasing new if needed. This is also a good time to go through your needles (hand and machine) inventory and fill out any low stock. I like to go through my notions drawer and discard old fluids and purchase depleted fluids like Fray Check and machine oil.
I finish off with filling out my sewing notions draw with essentials that are used with most projects like zippers in various sizes, ric rac, bias tape, ribbons in my favorite colors and anything that catches my eye knowing I will use it somehow.
I get such a feeling of accomplishment once my spring cleaning is done. I usually jump right into a project and am surprised how easily I finish up patterns with most of my work already done.