. . . . . . A place to contribute, exchange tips and ideas and find further info on the LDC group on Meetup.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Sewing Aches and Pains

Having suffered some aches and pains in the past, I thought it might be useful to share some tips that I have found helpful, or have had recommended*.

*This is not medical advice, just some helpful tips. If experience a lot of pain it's always good to be checked out by a professional. 

1. Posture

I cannot stress this enough. A soon as you can establish a good sewing posture, the better you will feel. There are lots of tips online about this, but the most consistent information I have found, and I try to practise this when at my machine. 

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For those of you that have to lean down to see the presser foot and needle of your sewing machine, you can bring your sewing maching closer to towards you (I have done this) or some people add a wedge underneath the back of the sewing machine so it tilts towards you. It is worth giving it a try and seeing if it makes things easier :-)

2. Sewing chairs

I have to admit, I am not lucky enough to have an ergonomic sewing chair. If you have the space and the option to have this, I would definitely recommend this. Ensure that you sit in your chair correctly, ideally you should have some back support. 

The image above demostrates the important posture points. If you don't have an erganomic chair for sewing, it can be adapted with a lumbar support cushion. 

When I am not at my sewing machine - for example I have alot of hand basting to do, I move to a more supportive chair in my living room. We have one of the famous Ikea armchairs which supports my back and neck. 

3. Lighting

I only got daylight bulb in my lamp 6 years ago, and it changed my life! Daylight bulbs come in alot of different bulb types, so it is usually not necessary to buy a new lamp. 

If you are looking to invest in a new craft lamp there are lots of reviews online about the best ones. Here is one for example:
And sometimes you can find deals at the various craft fairs (such s the knitting and stitching show).

4. Massage cushions

This is my lifesaver! I tuck this behind my neck and shoulders and have a massage as I stitch. I use this for hand stitching in front of the TV, and when I am doing embroidery. I have this model shown below. It was really affordable (compared to the cost of a massage)! However, there are lots to choose from, for example a small cushion to a full seat. 

5. Heat creams

I tend to use these when I am moving around, and can't use my massage cushion. For example, when I am moving to and from my sewing machine, or am out and about at a stitching meetup. I have quite a few in my stash, and I do really like those that do not have a strong smell. This Deep Heat Muscle Rescue travels with me on work trips too, and I tend to apply it before getting on a long flight to relieve muscle tension.

Another famous muscle rub is Tiger Balm. It works really well, although tends to have quite a strong smell. If you know that you are going to be stitching for a while, I sometimes use the 12 hour heat pads that you can stick to clothing. Again, they are also great for travelling. 

These are just some of the items that I have found useful. It would be great to know what products, tips or techniques you use to minimise aches and pains whilst stitching.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Hi there, found some pictures of a Dynasty styled, Joan Collins sewing pattern I had purchased on Ebay

Thursday, 14 March 2019

All's Well that Ends Well.

It started in Devon where I was looking for some denim to make some trousers and visited Malbers Fabrics.  I came across exactly the fabric I wanted but, woe, there was only 80 cm left on the roll.  However the retailer offered me a good price to take that remaining fabric so how could I resist?  I did not intend to make anything with it immediately but an attempt to draft a skirt for use with a particular fabric did not work out so I was wanting a quick make as a form of solace and set about thinking how I could use that denim.
I had a pattern that I had hacked many times, very simple - just 2 pieces- back and front and 2 darts to each piece.  I also had a splendid open-ended zip, silver with flashes of pink, green and yellow, just begging to be show-cased somehow.  That's why I thought of making a slim skirt with a zip front.  Easy! easy!- just add a grown-on facing to the centre front of the skirt and insert the zip down the front, instead of a short zip at the left side as I usually did.  So I just squeezed the adapted pattern on to the available fabric and cut it out.
When I had sewn the darts I realised that I had adapted the back instead of the front- the pieces look so similar and my writing in pencil on the pattern pieces had faded from age and use (as had my eyesight).  I thought "Why not have the zip at the Back?"  Because it is not comfortable to sit on and might break under stress from my fidgety backside, that's why.  Why not have a centre back seam and cut out another front piece? Because I only had scraps left, that's why.
However, from the waist down, again due to fading with age, my front and back are not too dissimilar in shape.  I thought I could get away with wearing the skirt back to front, the only problem being that the back darts  were not quite right at their tip if worn as the front of the skirt.  If only I could disguise the dart tips in some way....

Pockets!  Jiggling around with the remaining scraps I managed to cut out 2 small pockets, just big enough to get my hand into.  However plain pockets seemed to be rather boring and I wanted a quick, simple embellishment.  Recently Ana of Coco Wawa Crafts generously had given me a lovely enamel pin as a present for the tiny bit of help I gave her with a knitting project. I love it and it made me think that a pink heart would be a ideal motif, especially because the zip has hints of pink in it.

Doesn't the pin look good?  I love the idea of proclaiming your allegiance to a craft via a pin.

I had some Gutterman thread in varying shades of pink so I used this to decorate the pockets and to top stitch along the zip sides and at the hem line.  However I do fear that the skirt may run in future washes, though I did pre-wash it, and the pink stitching may be obscured by blue dye then.  Time, and the washing machine, will tell.

Instead of a separate waistband or a facing I simply applied curved petersham to the top of the skirt.  This meant that, before I sewed up the side seams, I could gauge the diameter of my waist simply by looping the petersham around myself, marking where the waist band should begin and end.  I could  see then if I needed to take in or let out the side seam allowances for the skirt to fit at the waist before I sewed up the side seams.  The zip comes up to the top of the waist and to make the fastening doubly secure I extended the petersham on the left hand side and placed a snap fastener to prevent the zip opening accidentally if it came under stress.

 I am so pleased with this skirt, especially when I realised how well it went with the cowl-necked Freya top that I made last year from Tilly and the Buttons book "Stretch".  I may look grim in the photo below but really I am very satisfied.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Wealth of Experience: Sewing Tips

A post of tips - anything you wish someone had told you when you started to sew, that you figured out yourself since!
Machine stitching
If you're new to sewing with a machine and you find that your seams are wobbly: keep your eyes on the edge of the fabric as it goes through under the sewing foot. I remember that when I first started I stared at the machine needle - but looking at the fabric edge gives you a more even result.

Take it slow
It is so tempting to race through stitching something together but puckers and slipped layers are very frustrating. Take it slow when sitting at your sewing machine: check that all your layers are lying flat and that no fold of fabric got in the way. Particularly when sewing in sleeves...

Sew shortest seams first
When you have a narrow collar or buttonband, or any similar pattern piece, that you need to sew to something at its narrow end - sew those seams first. If you leave this until after you sewed the longer side, it is incredibly difficult to get the angle right. The narrow end is likely to slope in one direction or other and will be too long or too tight. As a result, the garment will look less well sewn.

Sew onto flat pieces first
I did a blog post about this one. It is easier to attach pieces like a patch pocket, a pocket flap, collars, etc... to a pattern piece when it is still flat and hasn't been sewn to many, if any, other pieces. The sewing instructions that come with your pattern may have you do these kinds of pieces last but that makes it more difficult.
After all haute couture does a lot of construction in flat pieces and only pulls it all together right at the end.

Zipper length
If your sewing pattern specifies a zip of say seven inches but you can only find one of eight inches or longer, don't despair: get the longer one.  If the difference is only one inch, you can let that dangle inside (easier to sew in as well!) and if longer than that then stitch the zip teeth together tightly on the inside and cut zipper off below. Worse like a charm.

Pinning a concave and a convex piece together
Put pins in perpendicular to the fabric edge but don't align the edges of the fabric pieces. The longer outside curved edge will need to pucker a little at that edge to make sure that the stitching line (the seam allowance's distance away from the edge) of both pieces gets pinned together smoothly. You can get the fabric pieces to come together flat at the stitching line when you hold the layers between a finger and thumb (at the stitching line) and make sure they are smooth and flat to the previous pin. It takes a bit of trial and error but you'll get there!

Double-folded hems
These are really tricky. Mine often produce these slight diagonally dragging lines from the folded edge to the stitching line - because one of the fabric layers shifted away from the other layer. Basting the hem may help; you can try a walking foot; or at the very least using lots of pins! Set thepins into the fabric perpendicularly. If you still have problems: do baby hems instead!

Baby hems
Try these instead of double folded hems. You need to serge/overlock the edge of your fabric to be hemmed. Then machine baste along the line where you want to fold the fabric up (before folding it) - this is using the longest straight sttich on your machine. Then fold up and press the hem with your iron: the fabric will fold easily at the machine basted/stitched line. It works beautifully!  Once you have your hem pressed, stitch at a suitable distance from the folded edge from the right side. Experiment with how deep you want your hem to be or if you literally only want to fold up the serged/overlocked edge and top stitch very close to the edge (which is then called edge stitching)

Use a tailor's awl
When it is tricky to sew over the bit where one fabric layer has a seam (you get loads of those when sewing patchwork!), then use a tailor's awl to hold the seam allowance down so you can sew smoothly over this bit. A tailor's awl is a straight spike with a handle at the end. It saves your fingers from going too close to the machine's needle. Don't use your fingers too close to the needle, it's not worth it.

Pulling pins before stitching
It is tempting to sew over the pins where they hold the fabric layers together. It is safer to pull each pin as you approach it. You can either stop stitching to remove each pin, or if it is a long straight seam and you're going slow, you may be able to remove pins before you get too close to sewing over them (and before the screw at the side of the machine foot comes plunging down onto your poor fingers). If your needle ever hits a pin straight on, the machine needle can break at the neede's eye and the pointed end will fly off at a high velocity. You really don't want it ending up in your eye, take time to pull the pins instead. Much safer.

What tip would you give yourself if you could go back in time?  Please post in the comments!

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Sewing inspiration - Sewing for a Capsule Wardrobe

We were going to post more links to sources of sewing inspiration, as mentioned in the previous blog post. This post suddenly focussed on capsule wardrobes. I like going with the flow, so here goes!

Samantha recommended a Facebook group: Capsule Wardrobe Sew Along. You have to join before you can see posts by members:

"I never manage to follow a blog but I do Facebook. One of the groups on there 'Capsule Wardrobe Sew Along' I really recommend - loads of inspirational people planning simple capsule wardrobes entirely self sewn.  A strict no nastiness policy lends to a really supportive and positive group and people's work ranges from amazing to nearly as basic as me.
I like the idea of working on key pieces per season that you can mix and match, updated a few pieces per season. For an erratic and not very confident sewer like me it seems almost attainable!
People post all kinds of problems or fit issues and loads of lovely people offer great advice and suggestions. People also ask for recommendations and opinions on patterns and fabrics and there is loads of inspiration.
So good to see the work of other home sewers not quite up to the professional standard of a blogger but enjoying their sewing like me."

Here's a Google search result that takes you straight there: Capsule Wardrobe Sew Along on FB.

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This is the page that the above group links to:

Here are some interesting thoughts on how to sew a capsule wardrobe:
Link to

The most recent blog post on this blog is from 2017 but the ideas are still great. Pick and chose what makes sense to you.

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Sewing with Sarah also has a fantastic post on capsule sewing. There are lots of photos (love a blog post with lots of photos!) so this is very visually inspiring.

Sarah came to sew for a capsule wardrobe after she noticed having many fabrics in colours that went well together. If that's not a good reason, I don't know what is!

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In conclusion:

When I think about sewing for a capsule wardrobe, I don't think of sewing all the various items. I look at what clothes I have in order to decide what the gaps are. Do I have enough work skirts, could I do with a mid length cardigan (because my most beloved one has gone to cardie heaven! Sneeef...), or could something like a waistcoat in a fantastic print pull outfits together...?

I very much want to focus on just one item at a time, trying to do lots just piles on way too much pressure, and that in turn makes me stop sewing altogether. An outcome strictly to be avoided! So I focus on one thing (though I admit that I don't finish that one item before another project catches my attention. Bad habit that. But I'm sewing!).

What is your experience with a capsule wardrobe?  Any insights, thoughts and comments - what are your recommendations?  Please leave Samantha and me comments, we appreciate it very much.