December 17, 2010

New Years’ Resolution: Keep the Sewing Machine Humming and Camera Rolling

Posted in Assemble Your Sewing Notebook, Sewing 101, Videos and Step-by-Step Tutorials at 4:23 pm by kdthreads

Dear Faithful Readers,

I am so excited to announce that Santa Claus is bringing me a new digital video camera and tripod in his sleigh!  If you have not treated yourself to a fun notebook and binder, make them a Christmas present to yourself.  Finally, I will be able to film the sewing machine in action and you will actually be able to see the needle!  If you can steal away some “me” time, be frivolous, make some tea, put on some music (or a based-on Jane Austen DVD) and assemble your sewing binder.  Remember, this could end up being an heirloom, so enjoy making it pretty and a little over-the-top.  Do not get all tied up in using acid-free paper and ink.  My great-aunt’s notebook from 1915 is more precious to me with its tattered pages, faded cover and rusty zipper.

photo credit

Your other assignment: request tutorials.  Are you working on a project and stuck on a step?  Is your sewing basket collecting dust because you are still convinced you cannot sew a straight line?  Are you experienced but need some new techniques to inspire you to get back to work?  Ask me!

As your Christmas present to me, request a video, or submit a question/scenario  using the “comments box.”  If you would rather remain anonymous, either e-mail me, or choose that option when entering a comment.  If you don’t send me any requests, I will either ramble or purposefully spoon-feed you boring information in protest 🙂 Remember to click on this page for free printouts and projects you may include in your binder.

Peace,

Katie

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December 11, 2010

Need a Sewing Machine? I Have Good News.

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , at 3:20 pm by kdthreads

Buy Me

Just in time for Christmas, I have glad tidings for anyone wishing for a new sewing machine.  Until now, it was impossible for me to recommend a sewing machine less than $600.  Why?  They are all rickety pieces of junk that will hold back anyone’s skills and production.  As much as I loved my little Kenmore ($120 in 1996,) it did not stop sewing when I lifted my foot off of the pedal.  It boasted 21 stitches and variable widths, lengths and a line of accessory feet, but these things are useless when the machine is flimsy and mechanically poor.  It is a common misconception that multiple stitches is an indicator for quality on a sewing machine.  A seamstress needs very few stitches and the essential ones: straight stitch and zig-zag are on any machine.

So what is this blessed, new machine?  I am shocked to say, it is a Singer.  Even though Singer started the machine-sewing world, in recent years their machines have been everything I described above, and worse.  Just when I had written this brand off completely, they released the Singer Talent 3323S.  On Amazon, it sells for $182 and has free shipping.  At Joann Fabrics, I believe it is $190 in sale.

In case you did not know, my mother is a sewing machine dealer/instructor for Husqvarna Viking.  She used to work in an independent store, but since Viking partnered with Joann’s, she is in a Viking Sewing Center inside a Joann’s location.  Even though it is a Viking store, they handle all of the machines that Joann’s sells.  So mixed in with the HuskyStars and Diamonds are Brother, Singer and White machines and sergers.  My mom and her colleagues have expressed frustration over the last ten years about the lack of good quality, basic, budget-friendly machines.  It seemed with the advent of Machine Embroidery and machines using software and USB ports, the machines that will “just sew” were forgotten.  Even Viking’s lower-priced models (which used to be amazing) began coming from China instead of Europe and no one in good conscience could push to sell one.  I guess Singer smelled an opportunity, because I can’t say enough good things about the Talent.

Not only is the Talent cute as a button with periwinkle dots and paisley decals, Singer added features that make it an incredible deal.

It includes:

  • A needle threader that works!
  • A one-step buttonhole function and appropriate foot.
  • A drop-in bobbin instead of front-loading (this is better.)
  • A thread cutter on the presser foot (why didn’t someone think of that years ago?)
  • Snap on, snap off presser feet that require no screwdriver to change.
  • A plate to cover feed dogs if you are doing bar tacks, etc.
  • A dual-feed/walking foot (a second set of feed dogs located in the presser foot giving you more control and the ability to sew thick fabrics with ease or machine quilt beautifully.)
  • Knobs to change stitch width and length in increments of half-millimeters, not just millimeters for a customized stitch.
  • A port for using a metal quilting guide (also included.)
  • A Gathering Foot is included making ruffles and eased seams less frustrating
  • A Darning/Embroidery foot allowing you motion control of dense stitching.
  • A Button foot that makes sewing flat buttons a one-minute affair.
  • An auxiliary thread spool.
  • Basic machine tools, needles, screwdriver, etc.
  • The manual is user-friendly.
  • And if you are interested…23 stitches.

In addition to the great design, Singer’s accessory line is cheap.  There are many other feet available for various tasks and they each run around $1.00.  With the top-loading bobbin, you can enjoy the lazy luxury of buying pre-wound bobbins if you do a lot of sewing.  This machine has a nice solid feel and does not rattle when you are operating.  The sensitivity of the pedal is proportionate to the motor speed allowing even beginner seamstresses maximum control.  In case you are wondering, my mom bought one of these machines for my 10 year-old niece and has full confidence that this will be a machine to not only hone her skills, but last her into adulthood.

If anyone has other questions about machines or is interested in purchasing a Singer Talent, please comment or email me.  I am happy to help.  Merry Christmas and happy sewing!

Included Accessories

November 25, 2010

Where Did Katie Go?

Posted in Sewing 101 at 8:48 pm by kdthreads

Dear Friends,

I am sorry if it appears I’ve abandoned this little blog before we even got going.   I fully intend to continue expanding articles, resources and tutorials and I am looking forward to it.  My short sabbatical is due to an issue of plagiarism.  No one is accusing me of plagiarism, but one of my articles appeared reworked in a sewing magazine a few months after I posted it.  I feel slightly flattered but  mostly annoyed, and frustrated that this is causing a pause in my blog’s development.  I know that none of my lovely friends or subscribers were involved, and I can’t wait to get things up and running again!

 

Kindest Regards,

Katie

 

August 4, 2010

Updated Pages!

Posted in Assemble Your Sewing Notebook, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:06 pm by kdthreads

Check out the “Meet Me” and “Online Printables” pages for new information, photos and files for your sewing notebook!

August 3, 2010

Sewing Vocabulary:Bias Tape or Bias Binding

Posted in Q & A from You!, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:39 pm by kdthreads

Simplicity Creative Group

For everyone who read the last post and either emailed me or thought about emailing me to ask: “What on earth is bias tape and what do you mean by quilting?”  I am here with answers!

Q: What is bias tape?

A: To understand the concept of “bias” we need to back up and establish how fabric is created.  The method used to transform the threads into material is just as important for a seamstress to know as the source of the fibers themselves.  Almost all fabric is created in one of two ways: woven or knit*.  There can be endless variations of weaving and knitting giving us things like: twill, terry cloth loop, loose weave, double-knit, cable knit, stretch knit and the list goes on.  When we are talking about bias, we are working with woven fabric, not knit.

Woven fabric is made on looms.  Small, hand operated looms are generally made of wood and each project is unique.  The size of the loom limits the size of the creation.  This is why most commercial fabrics we purchase are made in factories on mechanical looms that are wide enough to accommodate 45″-60″ inches of width (or more) and endless yardage.  The first threads on the loom are referred to as the warp.  These are the foundation threads that run vertically.  The horizontal threads that interlock with the warp are called weft. Sewers (in the US) generally refer to the warp as the grain and the weft the cross-grain. The grain(warp) generally has little or no “give” or stretch.  This means if you attempt to stretch the warp threads they won’t.  The weft is the opposite, it does have some “give” to it.

So what is the bias?  Bias refers to the diagonal direction of the weave.  I am not implying there is a third set of threads that run corner-to-corner in the warp and weft (though there can be, but that is a different issue!) If you have a square piece of woven fabric and you take opposite corners and pull, your fabric will suddenly stretch and curl around the tension.

Photo Credit

Q: So how is the bias used?

Understanding weave, grain and bias are essential to manipulating fabrics and for garment construction.  Commercial patterns will include an arrow on every piece indicating how to orient this piece onto the weave before cutting.  (Generally, the arrow is meant to run parallel with the grain.) Perfecting lining up your pattern cuts with the grain takes patience, but it is the difference between your work looking sloppy and “home sewn” instead of thoughtful and polished.  A video tutorial explaining how to do this is in the making.

Stretching fabric on the bias creates fluidity and the garment (or other item)  is enhanced by movement and will follow  curves with less need for adjusting.  The art of cutting dress pieces using the bias instead of grain for the center-front became popular in the 1930’s.  All of those slinky satin dresses worn by Hollywood starlet’s began the acceptance of bias-cut in the fashion world.  Using pieces in

photo credit

which raw edges are on the bias require extra steps to prevent loss of shape due to the stress on the warp and weft. When piecing quilt blocks incorporating triangles, inevitably, a raw edge cut on the bias is involved.  Consult a quilting book, website or blog to find out which seams can be made with bias edges, and which seams MUST be grain.  a quilt with bias cut raw edges (particularly along the quilt or block perimeter) will result in an uneven, wonkified mess.

Q: What is bias tape and bias binding?

I think it makes more sense to refer to bias tape as bias strips.  Bias tape and binding can be purchased ready-made in either the packaged notions section or the by-the-yard section.  Strips of fabric cut on the bias are infinitely useful in finishing techniques on garments, home dec items, and quilting.  These strips are made using the diagonal of the grain as a guide.  These strips can be cut in any width and are generally folded twice lengthwise: once in half, and then opened and folding so that outer edges of the strip meet in the center fold creating a thick “tape” with no raw edges visible.  These strips are extremely flexible and easy to manipulate.  If your original fabric was a stripe or plaid, your bias tape will add more visual interest.  I prefer to cut my own bias strips.  For small amounts of tape, I may lay out my fabric and use a rotary cutter and ruler to make several cuts across the fabric giving me many short strips that need to be sewn together to make one longer piece.  For a big project (like making 50 yards of cording for an upholstery project) I would follow instructions for what is called “continuous bias tape.”  In other words, a method that is time-consuming, but results in one, endless strip with no pieces to sew together.  The instructions to do this should be in every person’s sewing room.

Rosalie Quinlan Designs

Bias tape and binding are basically the same thing, the difference between them is how they are used.  Bias binding is made of bias tape.  Bias binding means using the tape in its folded state  to wrap around other fabric in order to conceal raw edges, or hold multiple layers of fabric together (or both.)  At times, bias binding is applied merely to add stability: satin binding on a baby blanket.   Any clothing that has interior seams covered in fabric is most likely bias binding (and a sign of good quality.)  The cording, piping or welting you see along the edges of pillows and sofa cushions is comprised of standard poly/cotton cord covered in bias tape.   Some pattern instructions may call for bias tape to be sewn on as a casing for elastic, or to hide a hem on the inside of a garment.  When a project calls for bias tape as an embellishment or trim, opt to make your own out of fabric of your choice.  Commercially made bias trims are not made of highest quality fabrics and will take away from the appearance.

Understanding grain, bias, and how to make and use bias tape are not topics to be skimmed as your sewing skills advance.  Working with a fabric’s weave will make all the difference in every project and you will be thankful to have  bias tape handy in your sewing room to resolve many situations.  Plotting and cutting large quantities of bias strips is time consuming and tedious work with nowhere near the satisfaction of assembling a pair of shorts.  But that’s sewing and it’s worth it.

For more information, MaCall’s Quilting has a simple but thorough page on binding and preparing a quilt for binding.  Resources for quilt blocks and information on piecing bias edges are available as well.

Photo Credit

July 29, 2010

Four Videos to Expand Your Sewing Expertise

Posted in Sewing 101, Videos and Step-by-Step Tutorials tagged , , , , , , at 12:52 am by kdthreads

Photo: Husqvarna Viking USA

Even if you do not own a Husqvarna Viking sewing machine or serger, I recommend clicking here to view their four accessory demos.  These tutorials cover the Quilter’s Hoop, Adjustable Bias Binder Foot, Clear-view S-Foot and Chenille Foot.  These pieces may be far outside your skill, desire or financial realm, but watching these videos will further introduce new sewers to terms, techniques and equipment while experienced sewers can add to their repertoire.  Many other brands of machine offer accessories that perform the same functions, but I find HV the most user- friendly.

By the way, if you are thinking these tools are of no use to you, think again!  Whether you are using a $5,000 machine with magic feet or your own two hands, a seamstress should be as confident with quilting and bias binding as a carpenter with nails and glue.  Quilting is not just for bedspreads, but is a beautiful way to create purses, jackets, baby clothes, kitchen linens and energy-efficient draperies.  Bias binding is an easy way to professionally finish interior apparel seams, blanket and quilt edges, diaper covers, and just about anything else that requires a stable, polished edge.  FYI, it is easy to sew bias binding and end up with a sloppy result.  Sewing binding by hand is the most accurate, but that is time consuming on a Queen-sized quilt and impractical on reusable diaper wraps.  This accessory foot makes neatness and quality attainable in half the time.

Chenille technically refers to several strips of fabric stacked and sewn through the layers with edges frayed for a soft effect.  Chenille may make you think of fuzzy slippers, but this is one easy way to create your own textile.  Layering cotton homespun (or any loose weave) of different colors and patterns will make your chenille variegated, while identical layers create a solid color.  Homemade chenille makes cozy Christmas stockings, baby toys and even your own bathmats!

The Clear View S-Foot is great for those times you need to line up markings or fabric detail in the center of the foot instead of the side of the foot or seam allowance guides.  The foot’s name is just a different way of saying “a clear plastic foot you can see through” as opposed to a solid metal one where you can’t.  I am on the fence as to the need for this accessory, but this tutorial does expose you to “Omni Motion” or decorative stitches.  Notice the cuffs on the instructor’s sleeves; she embroidered three rows of different white on white OM stitches.

If you own a machine, and you need to break out a screwdriver every time you want to change feet, you will be amazed at the “snap-on” foot feature on these machines!

July 24, 2010

Killing Two Birds

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , at 11:57 am by kdthreads


One of the best ways to learn and master new sewing skills and techniques is following directions on commercial patterns.   Sew and Stow by Betty Oppenheimer has some great visual explanations and the text does a good job of communicating instructions to beginning sewers. What I like about this book is the number of projects that create organizational devices for sewing! As you are collecting tools and learning, you can make some storage solutions at the same time and “kill two birds with one stone.”

If you buy the book and sew one of the items, post a photo (or several photos of your creative process) and post it in the comments section!

July 23, 2010

Filling the Dressmaker’s Tool Chest

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , at 12:09 am by kdthreads

It will not take you long (or cost much money) to gather the basic tools needed for sewing. (If you did not view the videos on sewing tools, do so now!) As your skill set and confidence level grows, your tool kit will probably grow too. The notions wall in the fabric store can seem like a disorganized, intimidating mess tucked away so no one has to help you! If you do not have an experienced sewer to bring along or a quilt shop in your area that sells supplies, read on and familiarize yourself with these products.

A Word About Sewing Baskets

If you are like me, part of your sewing dreams included a sewing basket, tastefully adorned, and practically a time machine transporting you to an era of simplicity and elegance. Unfortunately, these darling icons of homemaking are not practical. They are generally too small and are not configured to house the tools for the job. Even if you are only doing some hand sewing and want to keep a minimal amount of tools, the basket won’t be big enough to hold your project, or secure enough to keep pets or children out. If you are taking sewing out with you, a storage device that keeps your tools locked up and protected from any weather are both a must. I had a lovely sewing basket (a grandmother’s) carefully placed on the floor the the foot well of my car, but after a winding road and slamming on the brakes, I had 250 glass-head pins strewn around the car. I spent my day searching for pins with a flashlight and a magnet instead of sewing.

At the same time you create a budget and plan for purchasing/acquiring your supplies, also decide on your organizing. If you do not have a sewing machine and plan on hand sewing, maybe you could designate a sewing “chair” under a good lamp next to an endtable with storage space. If you have a machine and a place for it to stay out permanently, store your supplies there in drawer unit (either clear plastic type, or a desk or dresser.) If your sewing supplies need to be portable, try a large toolbox or bag from the hardware store. A plastic container with clip-on lids with a handle makes it easy to see inside and come in multiple sizes. A favorite place of mine for drawer dividers and tiny baskets (made for things like cosmetics) is the Dollar Tree. My main sewing toolbox is actually a miniature cleaning caddy on a table, and I have wooden racks for storing thread. Most of these items are plain, functional, “Made in China” boxes and no where near as sweet as a basket, but with your new skills and wealth of knowledge your creations will be so beautiful you will forget about the lure of the sewing basket.

Shopping List :

July 16, 2010

Irons: Tips, tricks and what NOT to buy.

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , at 4:59 pm by kdthreads

Every seamstress needs an iron that has the ability to steam or successfully NOT steam when you only want heat.  When my mother bought her first Rowenta iron back in 1997, I suddenly fell in love with ironing.  The generous weight pressed down on the garments with less effort, the steam shot was so powerful (it scared our Cocker Spaniel) that is could set stitches or remove wrinkles in just one pass with the iron.  It felt good to use and seemed to make ironing easier and anything that makes ironing at all enjoyable is worth every penny! 

That is the other element of Rowenta irons: pricey.  Imagine my delight when my mom made a gift basket out of a laundry basket with starch, lingerie bag, sizing, and hangers for my bridal shower, and tucked in the center was a Rowenta box!  I was thrilled to begin keeping house (or apartment) with my Mercedes-Benz of household appliances at my side. 

Well…not too long after my wedding, the Rowenta stopped working.  Around the same time, my mom’s Rowenta began spitting hot water any time it was plugged in (3 years after purchase.)  We both thought these irons would be the last we ever bought.  Somewhere in the last decade, my sister also bought and lost a Rowenta.  My mother purchased a replacement Rowenta, and it did not last long either.  You may be wondering if we are running some sort of pressing service that we are exhausting our irons so quickly, but I promise we are not! 

The iron my mother gave me was $99.99.  In our early marriage years, we did not have $100 to spend on anything, much less an iron.  When no irons showed up at the thrift store, I headed to Target where I figured I would by a Black and Decker or even some off-brand iron for $14 or so.  The cheapest iron only had one heat setting which is only useful if you are ironing nothing but linen.  Most people have a variety of fibers in their clothes, and a seamstress certainly needs a few options on her iron.  I found a Hamilton Beach for $19.99 that fit the bill; however, it was out of stock.  The next iron up was $44.99 and out of my budget.  I took a chance and asked an associate if there were any more in the stock room, but the answer was “no” since the iron was discontinued.  Aha!  I quickly haggled for a bargain on the shelf model and came out with a new iron for $10. 

The Hamilton Beach is no where near as heavy as a Rowenta, nor does it have the “power shot” steam feature, BUT I bought it 7 years ago and it is still working fine.  The moral of the story:

  • Look for an iron with at least 6 heat settings to ensure an actual variation in temperature.
  • In addition to steaming, make certain there is a way to turn this feature “off” as well.
  • A spray nozzle is a bonus, but a spray bottle can do the job.
  • If you can’t decide between two irons, choose the heavier one as it puts more weight on the fabric with less effort.
  • If you must own a Rowenta or other expensive brand, buy from QVC or any other company that backs up a product indefinitely.
  • Even if your cord swivels, buy an extension cord ($1.00) that will forever cleave to your iron.
  • Slowly invest in accessories like a tailor’s ham, sleeve board, Magic Sizing, and Steam-A-Seam to make the most use of your iron.  Buy a pressing cloth, or designate a piece of muslin. 
  • The key to efficient ironing is your ironing surface; do not settle for a wimpy little cover from Wal-Mart.  Seamlessly cover your board with as many old sheets, big towels, tablecloths, and curtains as you can manage.  Secure the layers under the board with rubber bands, safety pins or clothes pins.  The top layer can be attractive fabric of your choice!
  • Under all that padding, wrap the metal frame that makes the board in a smooth layer of tinfoil.  The foil will reflect the heat and moisture back up through the garment making the iron more powerful.
  • Keep a jug of Distilled Water or a recycled juice bottle with tap water near your iron.  No one wants to leave their iron unattended to run to the sink for water!  Keep your water in a cabinet or other dark area to prevent algae growth! 
  • Every few weeks, run white vinegar through your iron to clean any residue (of course be certain not to breathe in fumes or use your iron until all vinegar is rinsed through.)
  • Keep an old rag handy to frequently clean the iron’s surface.  You would be amazed at what happens to a white shirt when you were previously ironing black corduroy!

Do you have an iron you love?  Tell us about it in the comments section!

 


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Free Online Printables for Sewing

Posted in Assemble Your Sewing Notebook, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , at 3:56 pm by kdthreads

Prym Consumer USA is the parent company for popular brands like Dritz, Omnigrid and Fons & Porter.  Their website contains a summary of useful tools for any seamstress, and these free sheets with tips and concepts are a great way to start your reference library.  If you are like me, any chance to turn a three-ring binder into some kind of organizer provides an odd sense of accomplishment.  Sewing will be no different.  If you haven’t grabbed an old binder, page protectors, three-hole punch and some tabs for labeling, get to work and start printing the first pages of your own sewing manual.

http://www.dritz.com/tips/index.php

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