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

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Work on flat pieces first

So you're faithfully following along the sewing instructions of your pattern and then it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to get your project under the machine's needle so you can work on a really tight area?  It's enough to give you grey hair!

Been there many times and I hate it.  Some commercial sewing pattern instructions seem determined to make things as difficult as possible.  Unfortunately these difficult to sew areas then make your garment look home-made rather than beautifully crafted.

Here's a principle that cuts down on some of those problem areas:  If in doubt work on the flat piece first.

Plackets, zips, pockets - what's the point of closing the long easy-to-do seams first and then do the fiddly bits?  I just don't get why some sewing instructions do this the difficult way around.

You don't need to stick to the order suggested.

Look at what features your garment has: double-ended darts, zip, plackets, pockets, pocket flaps, collar etc, etc? These are really nice sewing exercises (as long as you don't let the instruction sequence make your life more difficult).

Once you've cut out your pieces and overlocked what needs overlocking* - do all darts first before you sew anything else. No side seams, no nothing else. The sewing instructions usually start with this too, so no problem here. (The only exception I can think of is if a dart needs to meet another dart exactly: then it is much easier to close the seam first and sew the two darts as one across the seam. Anything to make life easier!)

*: But sew darts that end in a seam before you overlook the piece: less bulk when you take a single pass with your overlocker over the sewn up dart avoiding three layers of overlocking.

I used to hate having to do zips, now I like them more and more.  Sew them in first!

Don't even close the seam underneath yet (a lot of YouTube videos show it this way too so you're in good company), sew the zip onto both pieces and once you're happy with it close the seam underneath (make sure to off-set this line by a millimeter or so to avoid the pucker at the bottom of the zip).

Same thing for plackets on sleeves: sew them in before you attach the sleeve or close its side seam (a very good placket article on Threads shows it that way too).

Patch pockets: why go to the trouble of working on an almost assembled item when it is so much easier to sew a pocket onto flat fabric. In-seam pocket bags are also easier to do before you close the longer seams: a) attach a single pocket piece to one outer piece and b) the other pocket layer to the other piece - then c) sew the pocket layers to each other, and d) close the seam of the outer garment above and below the pocket opening.

I would attach a collar as soon as the shoulder seam is closed, before any other seam stitching.

Depending on the shape of a sleeve it can be easier to sew the sleevehead to the front and back of the garment before closing the side seams of body and sleeve - this is easier for wider, more relaxed styles. Sleeves that are quite tight and where the sleevehead needs to be eased into the armhole are better done after closing side seams.

Flat pieces are easier to manoeuvre and allow better accuracy. They are also easier to press (best sewing tip ever: press, press, and press again!).

Once you have these kinds of elements done, the rest of the garment is much easier to assemble: nice long seams that pull everything together. After that you are left with things like neckline bindings and hems that need to be done across all closed seams.  Couture houses work this way too: everything is done flat until only the long seams and hems are left over,

What do you think?  Is this useful?

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Christmas Fabric for Gifts and Garments

Are you thinking of Christmas gifts and outfits?  With this in mind I thought I would show you some of the fabrics available at a shop near my home.  It is the Sewing and Craft Superstore, 292-312 Balham High Rd, Wandsworth, London SW17 7AA, just 1 minute from Tooting Bec tube station.  This is part of the downstairs area and you can't see the little side sections, what's behind me and the upstairs section with silks and satins.  What follows is a quick browse first thing on Saturday before the shop filled with customers and some ideas, mainly stolen from other people, of simple items to sew..

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and wouldn't break the bank.
Items for the festive season don't have to shout CHRISTMAS.  A bit of subtle glitter makes things appropriate beyond Yuletide.  Here are two 100% cotton fabrics  140 cm wide at £6.99 a metre, one with a gold sheen and the other silvery, that would make nice skirts to be dressed up or down.

How about a  simple top or bustier in these star spangled fabrics below?  These come in white or grey with silver stars and red or green with gold stars at the same width and price per metre as the plain gold and silver above.

There is currently a Half price sale of patterns by McCalls (until 4 November) and Simplicity (until 28 November) at this store and in pattern shops elsewhere.  So it might be the opportunity to buy This peplum top   that I think would look striking made up in the sleeveless version using one of these star fabrics.  Another pattern that is tempting me is this knit top  with 3 different versions.  One version, version C, takes only half a metre and all versions are very quick to make.  There is a video by Brittany J Jones in which she demonstrates how to sew version C, plus how to match stripes if you are using striped fabric

I would use the fabric below to make version A or B but that is purely because I am beyond the age to get away with  a cropped top with Bardot neckline.  The fabric has much more of a golden look in reality, it is a polyamide mixture stretch 145 cm wide and priced at £7.50 a metre.

As for a skirt to go with it my fancy would be for this laser cut scuba, 150 cm wide and £7.50 a metre.  For modesty you could make a simple waist slip to wear underneath, just a tube of fabric cut to the width and length you want with the top folded over to form a tube through which to thread an appropriate length of narrow elastic.

You could use the same waist slip base to create a foundation for a fairy tale skirt of many layers from these gorgeous organzas or tulles.

And what about this floral corded lace, scalloped at both selvedges.  It comes in white,pink, grey and gold , 130 cm wide at £9.99 a metre.  I wish I had an excuse to use it, it would make a gorgeous overlay to any garment.

That's enough of selfish sewing and on to the many fabrics suitable for sewing easy to make Christmas gifts.  These two cotton prints below are my personal favourites for an apron because I'd hope the dark colour and busy print would disguise any cooking splashes (well, that's the reason for wearing an apron and not just to look super cute and a cooking ace).

Sturdy tote bags are always a popular gift and there are a selection of heavier weight fabrics.  Here are my two favourite winter themed ones that would still look good at any time of the year.  These are 150 cm wide and cost £7.99 per metre.

For lighter weight bags, again going with something Christmassy but which would not look out or place at other times, here are two that I favour.  They are 135 cm wide and cost £6.99 per metre.

There are plenty of tutorials and patterns on the Internet for making bags.  Have a look at these  10 free patterns from the Craftsy blog.  Of course, you may be making your bags from left over fabric you already have but if you need any haberdashery items such as clasps, ready-made handles then you can get them at this store.
I find it much more difficult to get ideas of things to make for men and boys but I have had success with drawstring knapsacks  Here is a tutorial to make a drawstring knapsack.  I made mine using a  lining made from shower curtain material as the recipient wanted a bag that was waterproof on the inside for carrying damp towels and swimming clothes from the gym.  This shop also has a selection of cords and tapes suitable for creating the drawstrings. 

Last Christmas I made a number of the zippered pouches shown above.  This one was intended for a female and the ones for males had rather boring stripes; I wish I had found some fabrics like those below that I could have used to reflect their interests.
There are lots of tutorials to make this type of pouch, there is one on Jessalli Handmade's channel   that is very quick to make.  I added a cord pull to my zip to aid zipping and unzipping and a top-stitched tab at one end, that you can just about see in the picture, to enable it to be hung up if wished.
And talking about relating fabrics to the recipient's interests, how about gifts for us sewists.  There are plenty of sewing themed materials in the store and these two below are my favourite.  These are 100% cotton, 112 cm wide and £5.99 a metre.

As for ideas as to what to make for Sewists, The Sewing Directory site has a special Sewing Accessory Projects section in their fabulous Free Projects.   This is full of gift making ideas and well worth browsing.
I am going to make this my last suggestion, though there is so much more I could add.  There are some faux furs, both of the fun and the realistic sort.  The most expensive (that's the realistic ones) are £16.99 a metre and would make a sumptuous scarf or stole, just sew a lining to the back of the "fur"and "Voila!", the look of luxury at a pittance.

Have you a fabric store near you that you would like to recommend?  Would you like to share any suggestions for Christmas gifts we could sew?  Please let us know in the comments below or comment on the  Club meetup site on the Christmas Gift Sewing event I have just put on.