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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Another busy week but Mom's skirts nearly done

I think I said a while back that I was making my 81 year old mother some skirts for Christmas, because fashion and fit for seniors really is hard to come by and my mom gets around and needs clothes for her many church activities, teaching Sunday school, tutoring reading at my niece's elementary school, taking care of my young nieces and nephew, doing the swimming competition rounds, and all the other crazy things she does like pick up a friend every Saturday morning and go to an equally crazy hairdresser who sets both their hair at 6:30 a.m. My mother claims this is the only time the three of them can fit this in.

So my mom needs to look nice. 

I knew she would want elastic waist skirts in neutral colours, so I made her a black and grey one and one in purple too because apparently when you are 81 purple is a neutral. I used a simple four gore pattern that I thought would appeal to her, Simplicity 4044 and used a washable rayon/poly crepe. 

After much consideration I decided that I needed to hem these skirts with a machine blind hem. With my mother's running around with winter boots to go on and off and knees that don't always bend I was concerned that she would tear out a hand stitched hem and I didn't want her to have to worry about that. A plain old straight stitched hem I decided would look tacky with the crepe, I mean these skirts are for my mom, and I knew that a well-stitched blind hem would both be invisible and also strong, and even if she caught it the lock stitch would keep it from unraveling.

The problem with this of course is that machine blind hems are usually a disappointment. How many of us have had those terrible old sewing machine dealers tell us "Dear this machine does a blind hem you won't ever have to do one by hand again." Yeah right. These guys have never seen a decent hand stitched hem.

But committed to new adventures I tried again and I have to say that it worked. This is what I did and this is what I learned:

1. For those of you who have never used a blind hem attachment there is an excellent video on YouTube on How to sew a blind hem that is very helpful. Basically the process is to press up the hem, pin it and fold the hem allowance back onto the right side of the skirt so the raw edge of the hem allowance is single layer next to the folded hem allowance (OK this is totally confusing you had better have a look at that video). The usual method is to pin the hem allowance up, this is in fact what they do in the video. I didn't do that but instead machine basted the hem allowance 1/4" from the finished edge with a very long stitch - the 9 mm. on my machine. I found this much easier to butt my blind edge foot against than just a fold held together with pins. I used a contrasting thread so it was easy to take out afterwards. I found the simple act of machine basting gave me a better edge and vastly improved the quality of my blind hem.
2. I lengthened my stitch length in my blind hem stitch to the max (6 mm.) and used a fairly wide zig zag 4.5 m,.
3. OK this is the trick has nothing to do with skill but with the conditions. I found that by using a nubby fabric like a crepe, and just as important one with spongy body and depth, that the stitches just disappeared in a way that was just not possible in the flatter, smoother wovens I have tried this on before.

I am posting some pictures here of the hem that resulted from the outside and the stitches on the inside once the hem had been smoothed down and pressed. Really you can see almost nothing of the stitches on the right side at all, and we all know I am not a very careful sewer.

So what have I learned?

Well something pretty obvious that is true of all other sewing - the fabric you choose makes all the difference. So from now on rather than deciding a particular technique, or in this case an accessory foot, doesn't work for me, I will try it in another context and another type of fabric before I make that judgement

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