Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nuts & Washers as Pattern Weights

Wednesday Tip of the Week

Look what I found at the Tractor Supply store! Who knew this would be a great place for sewing supplies? It's funny how the most unlikely places can sometimes be the best and cheapest place to buy sewing supplies. 

I have been on the lookout for these super large metal nuts and washers to use as pattern weights for a long time now. I simply refuse to pay the $15 Joann charges for 4 measly weights. It would cost me a fortune to buy enough weights to make the practice of using them worthwhile. I'd rather spend that money on a couple of yards of beautiful silk.

After seeing so many bloggers using these I was determined to as well. But, finding them proved more difficult than I had imagined.  The really big ones I was looking for weren't available at my local Home Depot, Lowes or Ace Hardware stores. And, the biggest ones they did stock were anywhere from $1.50 to more than $2.00 a nut or washer. Still way too expensive for me! So the search continued.

Then a few weeks back while at our summer lake house my husband needed a few bolts. The nearest Home Depot was a good 20 minute drive away, but there is a Tractor Supply store that we can sometimes use in its place that's only 8 miles away. Lo and behold, the nuts and washers I was looking for ere right in front of me. Not only were they big and heavy, they were sold by the pound, $1.67 a pound to be exact. For roughly $6.00 I was able to purchase a dozen weights, 3 times as many weights for almost an eighth of the Joann's price.

I would say that was a good buy indeed! I no longer have to use the tuna cans I was using before. So far, they have come in handy on a number of projects.  They are particularly great for keeping shifty, silky fabrics stable on my worktable. I use them instead of pinning to limit their shifting about. With the weights holding the fabric both stable and flat I can then easily cut out my pattern pieces with my rotary cutter which produces a much more accurate cut. 

Weights are great for temporarily holding pattern pieces in place as layouts are arranged on your fabric. It saves a lot of time from pinning and unpinning during this process. Now that I have them, I find I use them all the time. My next task is to spruce them up a bit. You know, make them pretty.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oops! I did it Again & Again

The copied shirts

More knockoffs that is. This time it's a simple everyday type shirt I like, and frankly, wear quite a lot. I replicated it into two almost exact copies, both in a lightweight linen like fabric I purchased at Joann Fabrics on sale -- of course. 

The original shirt
I have come to like doing these knockoffs. It's just so darn simple to copy something that already fits. The pattern pieces you create with this method are similar to creating slopers but with all the ease and fit already factored in. In fact, I almost prefer them to using commercial patterns which I usually have to alter quite a bit. These only required just a bit of tweaking. In this case, I made the copies fit me even better than the original. I needed to take up the shoulder a bit and trimmed the armscye in the back, but that was it. 

I used the same method I used for my Karen Kane shirt. First, laid down a big fluffy towel onto my worktable. Then I covered the towel with a large sheet of craft paper that I buy by the roll at IKEA for $4.00. Then I spread out a section of the shirt, pinning it to the towel (or you cab use weights) to secure it in place. I ccarefully smoothed out any wrinkles and made every effort to position it straight onto the paper, noting the grainline. 

Next, using a straight pin trace the seam lines all around the garment section poking holes into and through to the towel. Once a section has been pin traced, remove the garment. Move the traced paper to a hard surface and then take a pencil or marking pen and I traced the pin holes to create the lines that form the pattern piece. I did this for all of the various sections the garment requires. In the case of this shirt I made a pattern piece for the front and back sections, one for the collar, the collar band and the sleeve - 5 pattern pieces in all. 

While the overall process is easy, its important to pay very close attention to all the details when tracing each section. It's also best to copy something with simple lines and a minimal amount of style or fitting details.  Make sure grainlines are properly identified. Measure and fine tune any details. Check to make sure side seams line up in length and shape.  In my case, I needed to pay closer attention to the collar. I noticed after I made both copies the collar band was too long which suggested I didn't measure as precisely as I should have. A double check would have resolved this easily. 
Make sure each pattern piece is properly labeled - grainline, body part/section, notch notations, shoulder location, or any other important details. Also note that the pieces don't contain any seam allowances, so they will have to be added when the patterns for the copies are cut. 

Yes, I do indeed like doing these and plan to do many more. It is important to note that these don't come with instructions, so you have to have a solid understanding of how to construct the garment with the various pattern pieces that are created. I knew how to construct the collar with the band and how to create the notched hem treatment on the sleeves and the general assemble of the shirt itself. 

The next knockoff is a suit I plan to make for an upcoming wedding. I love the original, but it no longer fits me - so painful to admit. I will have to enlarge the copy which will take more time but I think it will be worth it. I'll let you know. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fabric Stash Organization

Wednesday Tip of the Week

If you are anything like me you take advantage of fabric sales. I'm a sucker for them and like to stock up when fabric goes on sale at 50% off. As a sewing instructor I get an additional 15% so when fabric is on sale it's an extremely good buy indeed.

As a consequence, I now have a pretty hefty supply of fabric waiting in bins - that's bins in the plural sense. Yes, I have a lot of fabric. And, clearly I am not alone. Having a stash of fabric is a sewing kind of thing. 

Whenever I buy a piece of fabric, or in this case, pieces of fabric, I make a point of labeling them before I stuff them into there proper bins. I usually mark what kind of fabric it is noting fiber content and care (well, that is if I have remembered to write it done while at the store), when I purchased it, how large a piece it is and the fabric width. To make the task simple, I created a form that I fill out and simply pin to the piece. 

Now when I am perusing through my stash I know immediately what I have to work with. I now longer have to pull out the piece and measure it to see if it will be adequate for the project I have in mind. So simple.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sewing Lightweight Fabrics

Wednesday Tip of the Week

Tops, dresses, jackets and even skirts made of very lightweight to sheer fabrics are so pretty and popular these days. They're comfortable and they come in so many beautiful and intriguing prints. In fact, they have become one of my favorite fabrics to use in the many tops I like to make. But working with these thin, flowy and sometimes slippery fabrics can be a challenge. 

Aside from just dealing with the slippery nature of the fabric, the sewing machines requires some simple adjustments to ensure clean seams. The needle should be nice and sharp, so its best to always use a new one. And, it should be an appropriate size, such as a 70-80. A sharp, new needle will prevent any snagging or pulling. 

Reducing the tension also helps to prevent any puckering which can be difficult to impossible to iron out on these fabrics. And, I like to use French seams to contain the fraying seam edges that are a common characteristics of these types of fabrics. All of these, of course, are fairly easy adjustments that can make sewing with these special fabrics a bit more manageable. 

My tip for the week has to do with how I stitch seams using these fabrics. Its just good sewing to lock the stitching at the beginning and end of any seams, but how many times have you tried to backstitch at the beginning of a seam to find the fabric bunch up or get pushed into the throat plate causing an unsightly and frustrating knot just when you are just getting started to sew. You want the seam to be locked but no matter how many times you try you end up with a knotty, lumpy mess at the beginning and end of a seam.  The thread is almost too bulky for the delicate fabric and when doubled up with the backstitching a smooth, clean seam is hard to achieve.

So, I no longer backstitch when sewing with these types of fabrics. Instead, I begin each seam by adjusting my stitch length to a tiny 1.0 cm stitch for the first 1/4" of the seam. A gentle pull of the thread tails as you begin to stitch also helps to keep the fabric from pushing into the throat plate. Once past the first quarter inch, I increase the stitch to the usual length. When I get to the end of my seam, instead of backtacking, I repeat the process and stitch the last 1/4" or so with the tiny stitch.  

This provides just enough hold at the ends of the seam to prevent it from opening while working on the garment. So easy and you end up with a seam that is smooth and clean at beginning and end. No more messy knots or repeated do overs which usually cause the fabric to fray even more.