Monday, 26 December 2011

Merry Christmas (well, Boxing Day anyway)!

I hope you're all having a great time. I thought I'd show you what I got for Christmas. Well, I say show, my camera ran out of power just as I was about to take the first photo so I will just add links to pictures on the web. : )

Present No. 1
The main thing is the Janome Rotary Even Feed Foot Set. As you know, I have a Brother sewing machine, but the Janome website said that it is made to fit all sewing machines.

Anyway, it has three hemmer attachments, an adjustable binder attachment, and an adjustable bind hem attachment. It is good for sewing awkward fabrics. It would have done a better job on my plaid if the fabric had been on grain.

The hemmer takes a little practise, but I'm getting the hang of it. I find that if you hand baste the beginning, wrap the hem around the curl of the attachment, bring it towards you and then arrange it so that the start is under the needle, it is a lot easier and so gives better results. When you get to the end you have to leave long thread trails and then hand sew the last 4cm or so with a backstitch, otherwise the bit you are sewing uncurls and you end up with a rather uneven hem.

The binder takes a bit of practise too. It helps if you press (even finger press) the tape in half lengthways first, because it has a tendency to slide out of position.

You can't sew satin stitches with this foot because there isn't the room underneath. There are white bits on the underside which I think could be Teflon to help go over vinyls etc. but I can't be sure.

The screw that you use to attach the attachments is very tough. In fact I had to get my pliers to turn it all the way at first. Now I sometimes have to use a cloth or something to help me to grip it and not hurt my fingers. The kit comes with a nice clear plastic box. It's good quality and nice a smooth.

Presents No.s 2,3 and 4
I also got three pressing cushions: a tailors ham, a seam roll, and a pressing mitt. I was going to buy them myself but now thankfully I don't have to and I can save that money. : ) I haven't had cause to use them yet, since I only got them yesterday, but I shall be using them in the future.

Present No. 5
 My brother kindly bought me a diary that fits in my handbag. Again, I was going to buy one, but now I don't have to. : )

Present No. 6
This one hasn't arrived yet. Mum has bought me a ruffler attachment for my sewing machine. To save money, I picked one from America to take advantage of the currency rate. The last we know of it at the moment, the courier picked it up in Wichita on the (I think)8th December.
I've yet to find out if it's really that golden colour, or if that was just the light in the photography studio.

Now, I didn't just receive presents, I gave them as well. I gave Mum some André Rieu DVDs and I gave my brother Rayman Origins for the PS3.

On another subject...
Having saved up for years and having been thinking of starting a children's dressmaking business, I was thinking of upgrading my sewing machine to a top of the line model that does embroidery and alphabets. But before I decided I thought I would have a go with my Brother XR6600 and see just how much it can do.

I have begun doing more free-motion embroidery. I don't have the foot for it but you don't really need one. I think their main purpose is free-motion quilting, i.e. on layers of fabric. On regular fabric you don't need one. Sometimes you don't even need to use a hoop. It depends how stable the fabric is. Anyway, yesterday I made myself a personalised coaster with a butterfly on it and my name above the butterfly. It helps if you draw the picture or letters onto the fabric first and then sort of trace them with your needle and thread. Mine isn't perfect, but it isn't bad either.

Something else I had a go at was appliqué. My sewing machine has an appliqué stitch, which some may call a buttonhole stitch. Doesn't it look lovely?

I also tried it with a satin stitch pearl scallop. It isn't quite as good, but I only had one go.

You can also see that I free-motioned my initials, and my name, the latter being only about 1/4" tall. I wrote onto the fabric first for the smaller lettering that says "Sabrina" but I winged it on the "WB".

Along the top are some scallops from the in-built stitch, and an early attempt at binding the edge using my new attachment.

Using a stitch that looks like a buttonhole stitch mirrored, and having the upper tension set at 8, you can make a picot edge. I did this on some very drapey viscose knit (it only works on soft or thin fabrics). I tried to scan it in but the image never looked right. The fabric is grey. Maybe that has something to do with it?

Here is a sample of my hemming using the 1/2" hemmer attachment that I got for Christmas. In the photo above, you can just see where I stitched a wavy stitch along a hemmed edge. It's a nice touch and you could easily whip up some napkins or place-mats etc. like this. Think what a great gift that would make if you have a wedding coming up! Why! You could even monogram them or add a picture. Don't you just love sewing?! : )

I am so pleased with the buttonholes on this sewing machine. They are so much easier and more professional looking than the 4-step buttonholes on the Toyota 21-DES. I stitched some two of the buttonholes, decreasing the stitch length to 0.2.. and the width to 4mm (which refers to the width of the buttonhole, not the stitches along the sides of it). The buttonholes look better in real life than they do on the photo. The top one is a round-ended buttonhole and the other is a regular buttonhole. The bottom one is a regular buttonhole without any buttons pace in the back of the foot. It's only 1/4" long from start to end. You could even use it as a squarish eyelet! The little thing near it is a bar tack that my sewing machine makes automatically.

You know, I think some people think that the Brother XR6600 and it's twins-in-different-casings (like the CSi6000) do less than perfect topstitching. That is largely down to the needle they use and the fabric they are sewing on. Linen is determined to have wobbly top-stitching, but just look at the lovely zigzag stitching on this bias binding! I defy anyone to find a better-looking stitch quality! The same for the straight-stitch. Please ignore the less-than-perfect binding. I haven't quite got the hang of the attachment yet.

So that is what I have been doing this Christmas, that and watching television with Mum and Joe, and cooking Christmas dinner. What have you been doing? I heard that Italian-Americans eat fish at Christmas time. Do you have any unusual traditions (eating more than is sensible aside?).

What about your new year's resolutions? One of mine is to keep accounts of my money and be more economically-minded. I shall put a certain amount aside for each expense and also save a certain amount. For example, £8 or so per month will go to my sewing funds. If I don't use it, it gets carried over to the next month and so on. And I don't borrow anything from my other "accounts" either! I may however dip into my savings to buy Mum a Kindle for her birthday in January.

Until the new year (2012 -- where did 2011 go?), happy sewing and festivities. : )
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, 41 Market Place, Hornsea, HU18 1AP, United Kingdom.

P.S. We watched the Queen's message yesterday and while our National Anthem was playing, I found myself singing The Star Spangled Banner! Well, the tunes are the same, and I don't know our lyrics. I only heard the American ones on the cartoons I grew up watching. I believe the words "God save the Queen" are somewhere in ours, but they are all I know. Shameful, I know.

Monday, 12 December 2011

How to Make a Dress Part 11: Attaching the Collar and the Bow

This week we will attach the collar and bow.

How to Attach the Collar and Neck-line Facing

Get your collar halves that you made earlier and place them on the RS out dress. Pin and baste along the seam line, or maybe a little inside the seam allowance if you prefer
Then get your neckline facing and place it RS down on top of the collar. Pin and baste. Then sew along the neckline taking the stated seam allowance (in most cases 1.5mm or 5/8").

Grade and notch the seam allowance. Trim the corner near the zip to reduce bulk. Turn the facing to the WS and pin and baste. Press.

With the back seam lines even (along the zip), hand-stitch the facing to the zip tape.

Pin the facing to the dress inside as shown (the sticky-up thing is the collar).

Now hand under-stitch the facing to the seam allowance. A hand under-stitch is basically a backstitch that has a tiny stitch on top and a long stitch underneath. It helps keep the facing in place. Do this all along the neck-line. Press.

Match up the shoulder seams on the facing and the dress. Pin, keeping the facing smooth against the dress.

Now invisibly hem the facing to the dress, with fairly loose stitches, taking up only one thread of the dress fabric at a time.

Turn the dress RS out. As you can see, it is not very neat at the CF of the neckline. That is because of the way I made the collar (see one of the previous posts). It's okay because we're going to cover that up with the bow.

Just overcast the edges by hand to keep them from fraying. You'll probably have to trim them down first.

How to Make and Attach the Bow

Get your two "bow" pieces which were cut on the bias. Place them RS together and sew around from dot to dot. Then trim and notch the edges. Turn RS out.

Tuck the opening's seam allowance in and hand stitch closed.

Top-stitch all around the edge of the bow-to-be.

Fold the bow in half. The fold the long edges over again so that it's kind of like a fan. Then with your sewing machine on a 0 length zigzag stitch, sew in the centre to secure it.

To make the tie get a rectangle of fabric, your pattern will either include the paper pattern or tell the size. I made the paper pattern to go with this pattern (which I made, in case you just found this blog). Stitch along one short end and along the long end.

Now, using a pencil, turn the tie RS out.

Put it in the dress, so that the raw edge is against the point of the neckline and sew it by hand to the facing.

Now place the bow on the dress and wrap the tie around it, tucking it under at the front. Hand stitch securely all around the tie, as invisibly as you can.

I'd have included the photo but the Blogger software decided to hide those buttons. : )

I think that will have to do this week, because I have run out of time. Next week we'll make and sew the inset, and hem the dress. Then we're done!

Hope that helps!

Until next time, happy sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, Hornsea, HU18 1AP, UK

Monday, 5 December 2011

How to Make A Dress Part 10: Sewing the Front to the Back and Setting the Sleeves

Now that you have the back half of the dress made you can attach it to the front.

How to Sew the Shoulder Seams
First we'll start with the shoulder seams. Sometimes the back shoulder seam allowance is longer than the front one. It is so that the fabric shapes better to the curve of the upper back. The extra is taken up with a dart or with easing. In this example we shall use easing; it is less noticeable than a dart.

On the back shoulder seam allowance, right next to the stitching line, sew some hand running stitches. Make sure that you don't sew gathering stitches in the armscye and neckline seam allowances.

Pin the Back to the Front at the start and end of the running stitches, keeping the raw edges even. Then pull up the running stitches so that the back shoulder is flat against the front shoulder. Wrap the thread end in a figure 8 around the nearest pin to hold it drawn.

Even out the easing and pin. It is a good idea to baste as well. Now sew the seam with the eased fabric against the feed dogs. Press flat, then press open and neaten the raw edges with a zigzag stitch or with your serger/overlocker if you have one. If you neaten the seam allowances together, press them towards the front of the garment so that the seam will be less conspicuous when the garment is worn. Repeat for the other shoulder.

How to Sew the Side Seams
This bit is easy. Just match the raw edges and sew from the bottom to the armscye. Press flat, press open, and neaten. If you neaten the seam allowances together, press them towards the front of the dress so that the seam won't show as much when the dress is worn.

How to Ease the Sleeve Caps the Easy Way
When I was doing my first course in dressmaking I had to set a sleeve. I had printed the pattern out and it had no notches which didn't help. I passed, but I would have preferred to get a Distinction rather than a Merit. If I had known the technique I'm going to show you now, easing in the sleeve caps evenly (i.e. without puckers) would have been a lot easier and a lot quicker. : ) (BTW. I got this from Sandra Betzina's book POWER SEWING, available in my Amazon Store.)

It is easier if you do it before sewing up the sleeve seams, i.e. work with the sleeve flat. I didn't, as you can see in the video of machine ease-stitching, or as Sandra Betzina calls it, super-staystitching:


Starting at the first notch, put the sleeve under the presser foot. Backstitch to secure. Put your finger behind the presser foot and push it towards you as you sew.When there is to much fabric (and you will know when) bunched up behind it, let that fabric go and start pushing again. Do this until you get to the other notch. Then backstitch and remove your fabric. As you can see at the end of the video this shapes the sleeve somewhat.

Now you can sew the sleeve seam, keeping the raw edges even. Press and neaten as for the rest of the dress (see above). Repeat for the other sleeve.

How to Hem the Sleeves
The sleeve in this pattern has a 1 1/4" (3cm) hem allowance. First fold up the hem allowance the full amount (3cm) and pin. Then turn under the raw edge 1/4" (6mm), leaving 1" visible. Check as you go with your sewing gauge or ruler. Pin.

On the seam allowance, secure your thread with a few backstitches on top of each other, as in the top photo. Then take a stitch in the hem allowance about 1/4" long. Bring the needle through, then take a stitch of only one thread in the sleeve. Repeat until you have gone full circle. Then secure your thread as you did at the beginning. Repeat for the other sleeve. Now you can set the sleeves.

How to Set (insert) the Sleeves
With the dress inside-out and the sleeve RS-out, put one sleeve into it's armhole, matching the notches and matching the top of the sleeve which is also indicated by a notch with the top of the armhole, which is usually the shoulder seam, but sometimes a notch. (This is why the front has one notch, and the back has two notches: so that you get the sleeve in the right armhole.)

If the armhole is quite small, you will have to sew it in without using the free-arm because you won't fit the sleeve over the free-arm (unless perhaps you're using a Bernina which look to have nice narrow free-arms). If you are sewing baby clothes you will have to insert the sleeve in the flat (like they do with T-shirts) or by hand because the armhole is just too small.

The photo shows what it will look like when it is pinned in. It is a good idea to baste as well as this saves your pricking yourself too much. When you have done that, starting at the underarm seam (which you can see I have trimmed at an angle to reduce bulk) put the armscye under the presser foot with the bodice fabric against the feed-dogs (if you can use the free-arm, do - then you can have the sleeve fabric against the feed-dogs). Sew the seam, then sew again about 2mm or less away from the seam and in the seam allowance to strengthen the seam. Press. Do not press open. Trim the seam allowances to roughly 1/8" from the second line of stitching. Neaten the raw edge. I haven't done so yet in this photo, but used hand overcasting to neaten the edges.

Now turn the dress RS out with the sleeve sticking out of the armhole as it will look when you have finished. Press the seam with the seam allowance towards the sleeve. Repeat for the other sleeve and you are done!

Next week we'll apply the collar and the neckline facing. If there is time we may even add the bow as well.

I hope that helps!

Until next time, Happy Sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, 41 Market Place, Hornsea, East Yorkshire, HU18 1AP, UK