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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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Friday, January 21, 2011

Straight stitch plates etc.

I stayed up late last night and installed a collar and band with the option three method - with great success, more on that later.

What I want to share with you now is what I have learned about straight stitch plates and feet.

Here is a picture of my standard plate and foot, and of my straight stitch plate and foot. You don't need to be a genius to see that having the action part of the stitch over top of that open space (wider the zig zag your machine does the wider the hole in the plate and foot - mine does 9 mm.) the more wobbly your stitch is going to be.

The effect on switching to a straight stitch plate and foot on my stitching has been dramatic.

For example when I stitched around my collar my machine marched right along without any hesitation, not a skipped stitch, and no "hump jumper" needed. 

What a relief. The only errors made were in the chair. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Field work

I know a sewing machine guy who used to service large machines in factories. 

He told me that many thing we see in RTW are hard to replicate at home because we don't have the equipment. High powered straight-stitch machines for example and special attachments. He told me that the machine that puts in a welt-pocket in men's pants takes up a whole room.

This got me thinking about RTW shirt making. I was intrigued by Lisa's observation when she did her great collar making tutorial that the topstitching she saw on the collar bands stopped short of the seam allowance on the curved edge of the band.

I found that too in several shirts. Doing the same would make topstitching that tricky area really a lot easier. So does a straight stitch plate and foot I discovered. The wide hole in the plate of a zig zag machine just creates an area of instability when you are doing this careful stitching. I have had better results with the smaller, single needle hole in my speciality plate. 

There are a few other things I have noticed in my RTW shirts:

1. The collar band buttonhole is not cut open. Looks neater and if you aren't going to wear the shirt buttoned to the neck why not?

2. Buttons and buttonholes are completely missing on the band and collar above the point where you would be buttoning the last button. My Lands End shirts are all like this (too bad though they don't fit and have linoleum tiles used as interfacing). This actually makes for a neater look.

OK off to work.

Choose your poison - three collar methods to choose from

Right now I am working on Hot Patterns' Boxy Blouse.

Yes, I know I announced recently that I don't look good in things without shape, but what can I do? You can see what I am up against here.

Someone asked me recently what the purpose was in sewing so many white shirts, particularly when some may not be hits, as in misses.

Well there are many reasons, prime being because I feel like it, but in a sense they can be viewed as a series of muslins. I mean if I can come out of this with a couple of excellent shirt or blouse patterns and have nailed some techniques through practice, trail and error and more error, well I am ahead.

I have lots of nice fabric that would make nice shirts if I just had a pattern ...

Now not everything I wear will be to work, in fact with my work going to go part-time as in 2 days a week come the spring (that doesn't count prep which will still be done at the dining room table) my life is going to be more home-based. So clothes I will wear everyday are going to be just as much in my mind as those I wear in the classroom.

The Boxy Blouse looked to me as a good casual blouse. It has a dart and if I keep it as short as the style I will avoid the pillow case look of Tom Jones version 1.

Also the only real detail of any effort in it is the collar and I want to concentrate on that.

As far as I can see there are three shirt collar methods out there, if you exclude the hand-sewn down method most patterns suggest. Each method has it's variations but basically each keeps to the same approach.

It seems to me that in deciding what method works for you, you need to come to terms with the kind of sewer you are and where your own personal points of tension are.

The truth is not every sewer likes, or succeeds, with the same approach.

There is no one best method for anything.

So what you have to do is zero in on which tricky area you are best dispositioned to deal with.

Here are the choices:

1. The roll-it-out-of-the-way, all the action is in the curved edge of the band seam a.k.a. Burrito method: this works best with thin shirting fabrics because you want a tiny roll not a sausage roll, and IMO good hand-eye coordination.  Gigi favours this method which speaks for itself. Here is Gigi's version. I have used this method on men's shirts in the past and it worked well.

2. The slot-it-on method, all the action is depends on that front bump where the band meets the front: Used by Pam from Off the Cuff, and beautifully described and detailed here for us by Lisa here. This is the easiest method to conceptualize and depends on real precision sewing. Good one if you have a strong  left side to your brain. I used this method on my first white shirt.

3. The drop-in-the-collar method, a la Debbie and Belinda: in some ways a relative of the Burrito method but you just push the front out of the way for the curve sewing which is just for the short seam of the band curve,rather than making a tight roll or sewing a bit on the neckline seam too as you do in method one.  What distinguishes this approach is that the last thing you do is drop the collar into the band which diverts some of the action there. Since this is a method I haven't tried I am going to try that one with the Boxy Shirt.

Results in later.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Belts for spring

For those of you who have not seen the spring RTW collections go to the NY Times and have a look.

After some discussion about the grey Vogue dress with the giant bow I was very intrigued to see the exact same belt in Caroline Herrera's spring collection- sort of an Obi with a cord tie. You can see the collection here.

Here is a close-up of the belts, part of this spring's obi revival and very make-it-yourself friendly.