Making a Woven-Ribbon Top

September 11, 2008 at 2:37 pm (Uncategorized) ()

A pillow top made by weaving ribbons together makes an interesting accent pillow. Make it from ribbon scraps, or choose identical satin ribbon in different widths for a more elegant pillow

To make a small pillow that will appear to be about 10” square when it is stuffed, you will need the following materials:

13” by 13” piece of fabric for the back

13” by 13” piece of fusible interfacing

Pillow stuffing

4’/2’ of ruffle, if desired

13” lengths of ribbon

The number of lengths of ribbon you will need will depend on the width of the ribbons. You would need approximately 10 yards of 1” ribbon.

Cut your interfacing and determine the horizontal and vertical center. You can do this by folding and finger pressing a crease along the center lines. Place the interfacing, fusible side up, on a padded surface such as an ironing board or folded blanket.

Begin at the vertical center with one length of ribbon. Pin the ends in place. If you are using satin ribbons, be sure to keep the pins within the seam allowances, or the hole might show later. Pin a ribbon across the horizontal center. Add two more ribbons, one on either side of the vertical ribbon. These will go over the horizontal center ribbon.

Add more ribbons, weaving them in with the ribbons that are already in place. You can thread the new ribbons over and under, or remove the pins on alternate ribbons and fold them out of the way Continue weaving until the interfacing is covered. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the ribbons are lying flat. Press the ribbons to fuse them with the interfacing. If you are using satin ribbons, a pressing cloth would be a good idea. Stitch around the outside edge of your pillow top to be sure that the ends of your ribbons stay in place. Complete your pillow as usual.

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Making Pillows

September 11, 2008 at 2:36 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Learning the Basics
Pillows can be made from nearly any fabric. Consider what use the pillow will get when you are choosing between washable and nonwashable fabrics and stuffing. Allow extra seam allowance for fabrics that tend to fray.

Stuffing Material
For best results, use polyester pillow stuffing or ready-made forms. If you want to use a form, purchase it before you cut your pillow fabric, because they are available only in a limited number of sizes. Foam rubber can be cut to order if you can find it available. Cut it about 1” larger than your finished pillow’s dimensions. You’ll want the edges and corners to compress, or your pillow will have a boxy look with empty seams.

Other possibilities for stuffing include shredded foam rubber, which will look fine for decorative pillows but will be uncomfortably lumpy for a pillow for sleeping or sitting on. You can get fair results by recycling women’s hose. Be sure to cut away all elastic and seams, including reinforced toes. Stuff the pillow tightly so the individual hose don’t separate into lumps.

Cut and Stitch
When your pillow is stuffed, it is going to appear smaller than the seam-to-seam measurements. For a pillow to look 12” square, you will need to cut your fabric about 16” by 16”, allowing for ½” seams and about 3” total for thickness. Cut your pillow on the grain of your fabric to assure that it will keep its shape.

If you’ve chosen a stretchy fabric or one with a very loose weave, or if you need to cut your fabric off-grain in order to get the desired effect, make a casing or lining out of muslin or other firm fabric that won’t show through your pillow fabric. Make the casing the same size as your pillow, stuff it, and use it to stuff your pillow once it is together, or use the fabric as lining, stitch the muslin pieces to the back of your pillow fabric pieces, then treat them as one fabric. The back of your pillow can be identical to the front, or it can coordinate. If your front is odd-shaped, pin it to the back fabric—right sides together—and trim the back to fit after they are sewn together.

Stitch ½” from the cut edge all around, leaving a gap of a few inches. If possible, leave your gap in a straight line for easier blind stitching. If you’ve chosen foam rubber or a pillow form, leave nearly all of one side unstitched to make it easier to insert the stuffing Turn and Stuff

Turn your pillow right side out through the gap. Poke out the corners with something blunt and press. Be as accurate as possible when pressing the seam allowance under at the gap so it won’t look different from the rest of the pillow edge.

If you want to have a tiny lip around your pillow, a sort of mock piping, topstitch 1/8 ” from the edge after you’ve turned your pillow all the way around except at the gap. Topstitching is stitching done on the outside that is expected to show. Finish the topstitching after you’ve stuffed the pillow.

Stuff your pillow thoroughly. If you are using bagged stuffing, a wooden spoon can be helpful to get the corners and the rest well packed. Don’t skimp on the stuffing. It will compress a little with use, and you don’t want your pillows getting that floppy, sunken look.

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Making A Tablecloth

September 11, 2008 at 2:35 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Measuring and Shopping
It’s easy to measure square and rectangular tables—add twice the drop or overhang and 2” for the hems to the dimensions of your table. For round tables, measure the diameter, add twice the drop and 1” for the hems. For oval tables you will need to measure the diameter at the widest point as well as the narrowest width. When buying fabric, you will treat these diameters as if they were the lengths and widths of rectangular tables.

If the measurement for the narrow side is wider than the width of your fabric, which is generally 42” to 45”, the tablecloth will need to be pieced. Since bulky seams can make your table surface uneven, it is preferable to avoid them or at least place them in the overhang, if possible. One possible solution is to buy extra-wide fabric, generally sold for quilt backing. Unfortunately, extra-wide fabric doesn’t come in a very wide variety of colors. Another more expensive possibility is to buy a bed sheet and remake it into a tablecloth. If you decide to piece your tablecloth, plan on making two seams, one on either side, rather than one down the middle, and allow ~/8” on each side for each seam.

Another thing to keep in mind while shopping for your fabric is the care of your finished cloth. A dining room tablecloth will need to be washable. Cotton blends are more resistant to stains than pure cotton. Print fabrics will hide minor stains better than solids. Accent tables that are in direct sunlight shouldn’t be covered with pure cotton because it will fade.

Cutting an Oval Cloth
To avoid having corners of your tablecloth resting in your guests’ laps, you will need to cut your tablecloth into an oval the exact shape of your table.

Piece the cloth if necessary. Place the cloth wrong side up on the table and center it exactly. Pay particular attention to where the piecing seams are in relation to the edge. Weight the tablecloth down around the edge of the table to keep it from shifting. Using chalk or other washable marker, outline the edge of the table.

Remove the cloth from the table and fold the cloth in half with right sides together. Use pins to be sure your marked outlines on the two layers are lining up exactly. Do this by running a pin in and out on the line then checking to see if the visible center portion of the pin is on the line on the bottom layer.

Fold the cloth again, being sure this time that the marked diameter lines up on all four layers. Pin the layers together and lay it out flat. Mark the distance of the drop plus hem allowance from the first mark. Cut through all four layers along this second mark.

Cutting a Circle
A round tablecloth can be marked and cut the same way as an oval one. If you are making a cloth for a dining room table and planning on a drop of only a few inches, this is probably the easiest way to measure. However, if you are making a cloth for an accent table with a drop to the floor, it will be difficult to measure this distance from your chalked curve with any accuracy.

Begin instead by folding your square cloth in fourths, as you did for the oval. Match the pieced seams, if you have any. Calculate the radius (half the diameter) of your table plus one drop and hem allowance. Make a loop on one end of a length of string that measures a couple of inches more than your calculation. Be sure your string won’t stretch. Tighten your loop around a pin and insert the pin close to the folded point that is the center of your tablecloth. Putting a small pad of paper or a sponge under the corner for the tip of the pin to penetrate will help keep the string and cloth anchored.
Using a measuring tape, trim the string so it equals the calculated radius of your tablecloth. Holding the string taut, use the end of the string to help you mark your cutting line. Cut through all four layers.

Reversible Tablecloths
Another way to eliminate the need to hem a tablecloth is to make it reversible. To do this, you will need to cut two tablecloths the same size out of coordinating fabrics. Test your fabric choices before you buy them to check that when they are placed wrong sides together, neither fabric shows through the other.

Piece your tablecloths if needed and cut them to the proper shape. You will only need to allow ‘/2” for the lower seam, which will replace the hem. Carefully arrange the two tablecloths together with the right sides together. Be sure the piecing seams match, if there are any, and that both layers are smooth Stitch around the tablecloth ½” from the edge, leaving 6” to 12” open for turning. The larger the tablecloth, the wider this gap should be. Backstitching at the beginning and the end of your stitches will keep them from pulling out with the stress of turning. If you are making a square or rectangular tablecloth, take a diagonal stitch or two across the corners to make the points sharper.

Grade the seam allowances by trimming one to half the depth of the other. Clip the corners and cut Vs close to the stitching along curves, including the allowance of the gap. If your fabric has a tendency to fray stitch along the seam lines inside the gap before you clip. Turn the tablecloth right side out. Use the blunt end of a seam ripper or something similar to poke the corners out of the points. Don’t use anything sharp like scissor points, or you might poke a hole in your fabric.

Press the tablecloth flat. Blind-stitch the gap closed. Topstitching around the edge might keep the edges sharp. Topstitching is a row or sometimes two rows of straight stitches taken on the top of the fabric close to a finished edge. It is sometimes done with contrasting thread.

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Sewing Tools and Notions

September 11, 2008 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Cutting Fabric
Dressmakers’ shears have long blades and angled handles. The handle allows the fabric to remain flat on the cutting table while you are cutting. These are a necessity and should be used only for cutting fabric— and nothing else—to keep them from becoming dulled.

Sewing scissors are similar to the shears except they are a little shorter and the blades themselves are a little thinner. This makes them ideal for trimming seams and interfacing and other close work. The shears and the sewing scissors can double for each other if your budget won’t allow for both.

Rotary cutters can be very helpful when you are cutting out geometric shapes by measure rather than with a pattern. They are always used with a special cutting mat and often with acrylic rulers.

Choosing Measuring Tapes and Gauges
Accurate measurements are important to assure a good fit in garment construction and a successful completion of craft sewing projects. Discard wooden or plastic rulers with nicks or faded markings, metal gauges that are bent, and cloth tape measurers that have frayed or stretched. (In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid cloth tapes entirely because if and when they do stretch, you might not even realize it.)

A plastic tape measurer is a necessity. You will use it to take body measurements as well as during several other steps in the sewing process.

A rigid ruler or yardstick will be useful for altering patterns and for drawing straight lines. An 18” by 6” acrylic ruler is highly recommended. It will serve all the functions of a conventional ruler, but, because of its width and because you can see through it, it will help you measure more quickly and accurately It also serves as a straight edge if you are cutting with a rotary cutter.

A measuring gauge is so useful that if you’ve ever used one, you probably consider it a necessity. They are 6” metal measurers with a sliding tab. They are particularly helpful when you are pressing under seam allowances or hems. A new version of this gauge has a short sliding ruler in place of the tab. They are intended for spacing and marking buttonholes.

Learning about Interfacing
Interfacing is used between layers of fabric to add a small amount of stiffness. Nearly every collar and cuff pattern is going to call for interfacing.

Interfacing comes in a few different weights. It is generally white, off-white, black, or gray Occasionally you can find it in other colors. It doesn’t need to color coordinate with your fabric—it just needs to be invisible on the finished product, and so you don’t want it to show through the fabric.

Interfacing is generally sold by the yard, but occasionally you can find it packaged. Since you will be using only small amounts of it for most projects, keeping some medium-weight white interfacing on hand will probably take care of most of your needs.

Fusible interfacing, which adheres to fabric when it is ironed, can save some time and is indispensable for some projects. It is usually more expensive than the nonfusible, sew-in kind.

Decorative Trims
Decorative lace, ruffles, and fringes come in a wide array of styles and colors. They are generally sold by the inch off oblong spools. Some of these, especially the cotton fringes, will shrink. Buy a few inches extra and wash it by hand before you sew it to anything you intend to machine wash and dry.

Decorative lace comes either flat or ruffled. Notice the bound edge of the ruffled lace. Sometimes it is finished appropriately to sew externally on a garment. Other times it’s designed to be hidden inside a seam. Consider your purpose when making your choice.

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Sewing Machine Needles

September 11, 2008 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Sewing machine needles have an interesting shape. Look closely at one, and you will see it has a groove down the back. This is where the thread is tucked as the needle takes its stitch. One side of the top is flat. This is to make sure you don’t put your needle in backward. It also assures your needle is held tightly by the needle clamp.

Needles come in a variety of sizes and styles. The most common is the size 14 sharp-pointed needle. This is used for nearly all woven fabrics. The size 16 sharp-point is thicker and better for use on denim and other heavy fabrics. Size 11 needles are extra fine and will leave smaller holes in some delicate fabrics. In knit fabrics, a ballpoint needle works better than a sharp-pointed needle. That’s because the rounded needle point will slide past the individual threads instead of catching them and dragging them through the hole in the needle plate.

There are also special twin needles designed for topstitching or for double stitching on stretch fabrics. Be sure your machine is designed to accommodate twin needles before you try these.

The needle is the first thing you should check when your machine doesn’t seem to be working properly. If your needle is dull, it can poke your fabric through the hole instead of penetrating the fabric. This will cause your machine to skip stitches because the bobbin hook is prevented from catching the thread. If your needle is bent, it may be missing the exact spot where it needs to pass the bobbin hook. Needles can become dull after use on heavy fabric, especially when thick seams cross one another, from hitting pins, or because the needle clamp is loose.

Threading the Bobbin
The bobbin will need to be wound with your sewing thread before you can sew A few machines with drop-in bobbins are designed to wind the bobbin directly in the bobbin case after the machine is threaded. Most, however, require winding at some other point on the machine before the machine is threaded. The most common place for this is on the top, where the spool of thread can be in its usual place on the spool pin. Another common location is on the right side of the machine, where the spool sits in a secondary spool pin at the base and the bobbin is wound somewhere up the side. The thread is then brought around a thread guide that serves as a tension for the thread.

The end of the thread is poked through a hole in the bobbin from the inside out, and the bobbin is mounted on a bobbin pin or spindle. Often, the spindle either slides toward a stop or a stop slides toward the spindle, engaging the spindle so it will turn. The stop prevents the bobbin from being overwound by popping back to the former position when the thread in the bobbin applies pressure, thus disengaging the spindle.
Cut the thread near the bobbin and drop the bobbin into the bobbin case. Threading the bobbin into the case is usually little more than pulling the thread into a slot and under the tension spring.

Threading the Machine
Begin by raising the presser foot. This releases the tension discs. Slide your spool onto the spool pin. If your machine has a horizontal pin, slide the spool holder on after it. Lead the thread around the upper thread guide. This puts the thread in line with the tension discs. Lead the thread firmly between the discs. You will need to hold the thread above the discs as you bring it through to be sure the thread is all the way between them.

From the discs, the thread needs to be led straight down, held by either a thread guide or a check spring, and led straight up again. The purpose of this is to give the take-up lever something to pull against. Slide the thread through the slot in the take-up lever and all the way to the eye at the end.

Next, the thread goes down to the lower thread guide, which is just above the needle bar. After one last thread guide, which is on the needle clamp itself, you can thread the needle. Most modern machines are designed with slotted guides so the only place you actually have to poke the thread through a hole is at the needle. Some machines even make that easier with built-in needle threaders. When you pull the threader down to engage it, a tiny hook goes through the eye of the needle from the back. Thread guides on the threader will help you get the thread under the hook. Release the threader slowly, and it pulls a loop of thread through the eye. Disconnect the thread from the threader and pull the loose end through.

Sewing a Seam
Engage the reverse-stitch control, and backstitch to the edge of the fabric. Release the reverse stitch control, and allow the machine to stitch forward.

With your hands resting lightly on the fabric, guide it under the presser foot. Do not pull the fabric. Watch that the edge continues to line up with the 1/8” mark or the seam guide. Work at creating an even pressure on the foot pedal. If your pins are in straight, your machine should stitch right over them with no problem.

When your stitching reaches the end of the fabric, backstitch for four or five stitches. Stop and raise the needle. Raise the presser foot, gently pull the fabric out from under it, and cut the threads.

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Know Your Sewing Machine

September 11, 2008 at 2:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Identifying Basic Parts
• Thread take-up lever: Controls the thread as it is fed to the needle.
• Tension discs: Keep the thread at just the right tautness for perfect stitches.
• Presser foot: Holds the fabric against the fabric feeds.
• Fabric feeds: Move the fabric.
• Presser-foot lifter: Allows you to raise and lower the presser foot.
• Needle clamp and screw: Hold the needle in place. Loosen the screw to change needles.
• Needle plate: Surrounds the fabric feeds and has a hole, which the needle goes through to carry the thread to the bobbin thread.

Somewhere on the top of your machine you’ll find the spool pin. There may be a bobbin pin or spindle on top or at the base of the trunk for winding thread onto your bobbin. The balance wheel, which is used to raise or lower the needle, will be on the right side of the machine.

Your machine should also have a light under the body of the machine. Generally this light comes on automatically when the machine is switched on. Like all light bulbs, this one can burn out. Check your manual for replacement instructions.

You will also have a foot pedal, which plugs into the machine and operates much like a gas pedal on a car. A few machines have knee press levers instead.

Machine Presser Feet
The most common attachments available are alternate presser feet. There are dozens available. Some will make a task easier, while others will make it possible to do things with your machine you couldn’t do otherwise. The one most likely to be included with your machine is the zipper foot. A zipper foot is narrow with a groove on either side for the needle, instead of a hole or slot in the middle. This allows you to stitch close to a zipper without having the zipper’s teeth under the presser foot.

Another common foot is the straight stitch foot. The all-purpose foot, which is generally on the machine when you buy it, is used for either straight or zigzag stitching. The straight stitch foot is only necessary when close control is needed, such as topstitching or stitching delicate fabrics.

A buttonhole foot is included with most machines. This might be a special clear plastic foot with markings that help you stitch on either side of a buttonhole line you’ve marked on your fabric, or it might be a onestep buttonhole foot that sews the buttonhole almost automatically. A button fits in a sliding slot; the machine uses that to determine the size of the buttonhole that’s needed for it.

Your machine attachments may also include a satin stitch foot. This foot has a groove on the bottom, behind the needle hole, to keep it from getting hung up on the bulky zigzag stitches.

Needle Plates
Most of the time the needle plate on a machine is actually a zigzag plate. Leaving it on allows you to switch from straight stitching to zigzag without switching plates. However, occasionally it is preferable to use the straight-stitch plate. The only difference is a round or narrow needle hole instead of an oblong one designed to accommodate the needle during zigzag stitching. Use the straight-stitch plate along with the straight-stitch foot when special control is needed. For instance, if you are sewing with delicate fabrics that tend to follow the needle down the hole, using a smaller hole decreases the problem.

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Sewing Machine Basics

September 11, 2008 at 2:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Choosing a Machine
There are a wide variety of machines available, in an even wider range of prices. In general, the more your machine does, the more it will cost. But how much do you really need your machine to do? Having your sewing plans well in mind before you shop can save you from paying for features you never use.

Basic Sewing Machines
The bare essentials you’ll need for construction sewing are straight and zigzag stitching in a variety of lengths and widths. Most, if not all, modern machines will also do a hemstitch and make buttonholes, possibly with an attachment. Most machines will offer a few other stitches as well that are more or less combinations of straight, reverse, and zigzag stitches.
If you’re planning on doing a small or moderate amount of sewing, this may be as much as you’ll ever need. This type of machine starts around $100 at a discount store and can go up to the neighborhood of $1,000, depending on the brand of the machine. The more expensive machines may be less prone to failures and last longer than the cheaper models. Consider, too, whether you are buying from a dealer who offers service as well as sales.

Computerized Machines
The next step up from the basic machine is the computerized machine. These offer a lot more versatility—from fancy edging and appliqué stitches to computerized embroidery patterns. Most computerized machines make any kind of stitch adjustment as easy as touching a button. They offer features that can be real time-savers if you are doing a great deal of sewing, like the option to set the needle to stop in the up position when you are doing regular stitching or to stop in the down position if you are pivoting around an odd-shaped piece.

Manufacturers have been putting computers in sewing machines for around thirty years. These have gotten better and, relative to other machines, less expensive. The discount-store price for a computerized machine is around $250. For machines from higher-end makers, you can expect the price to take a $400 or $500 leap above their noncomputerized models. You can easily spend well over $1,000 for one of these sewing machines. When shopping, consider whether the machine is limited to the patterns in its memory or if you can buy discs of additional stitching and embroidery designs to add to its versatility.

Specialty Machines
There are some sewing machines with very specialized uses. Rather than replacing them, these are meant to complement regular sewing machines in one particular area. The most common of these is the serger. A serger will clean-finish the seam allowance edge as it sews a seam. Some specialty machines have attachments to allow them to do additional things like gathering or rolled hems. Extremely stretchy fabrics can be sewn on a serger without stretching them out of shape. The serger is also faster than a regular machine and saves the additional step of finishing the seam allowance. If you will be doing a great deal of construction sewing, you may find a serger to be worth the extra expense. They tend to cost more than regular machines, starting at $200 in discount stores to upwards of $2,200 for the top of the line.

Used Machines
Parts are still available for some surprisingly old machines. In fact, some older machines—from the 1960s or earlier—may have fewer plastic parts in them, and it’s the plastic parts that need replacing the most. Because of these facts, it’s not as big a risk as it might seem to buy a used machine.

Old machines sometimes go at garage sales for under $30. Add to that a $30 to $50 fee to have the machine cleaned and serviced, and your investment isn’t very great. Chances are the machine can give you years of service.

Be a little cautious of buying a used machine that contains computer chips unless you’re buying from a dealer who resells trade-ins and who will stand behind the machine if there is any problem with it. Computerized machines can be expensive to fix, so you want to be sure it works before you buy it.

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Preparing Your Fabric

September 11, 2008 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

That lovely fabric you’ve just brought home from the store isn’t quite ready to cut yet. There are a few things you need to do first before you begin your sewing project.

Preshrink Your Fabric
Any machine-washable fabric with natural fibers ought to be washed. Cotton and linen both might shrink slightly the first time they are washed. Wash the fabric in the way you plan to wash the project when it is finished. Clipping the corners of the fabric through the selvage seems to keep new fabric from fraying quite as much. After it’s washed, cut away the worst of the tangled threads and shake the fabric out before putting it in the dryer, so it won’t wrinkle as badly. To prevent fraying entirely, zigzag-stitch along the cut ends of your fabric.

Hand wash-only and dry clean-only fabrics don’t need to be laundered before sewing. You will be taking special care throughout the life of the finished product to see that they don’t shrink.

Synthetic fabric will not shrink anyway, so washing is optional. Some have a crisp finish when they are new, which makes them slightly easier to work with if you don’t wash it out. However, if the fabric is slightly offgrain, that finish is going to make it impossible to straighten. In this case, you’ll have to go ahead and wash it before working

Iron Your Fabric
If your fabric is heat tolerant, you may need to iron it before you lay out your pattern or measure to cut patternless crafts. Wrinkles will make your cutting inaccurate. Choose the iron setting appropriate for your particular fabric. Some extremely wrinkled fabrics may be difficult to even test for straightness until they’ve been ironed. In that case, iron it again after you’ve straightened it to help set the new position.

Some permanent press fabrics and knits will not need to be ironed. As soon as they are straightened, they are ready to go.

And now you are ready to sew!

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Fabric Basics

September 11, 2008 at 2:30 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

There are many different elements to consider when selecting fabrics for your new project. Below is a description of the pros and cons on choosing certain fabrics over others.

Selecting Synthetics
Technically speaking, synthetics such as polyester and nylon are produced chemically, while rayon is made from plant material regenerated into fibers. They are often grouped together because they are all man-made fibers and because they share many of the same characteristics.

Rayon has been available since 1910. It has improved a great deal since then and is nearly as comfortable as cotton, only more flowing. It can be hand washed and ironed with a warm iron. Never use a hot iron on it or it will burn and pucker up.

Though they are usually easy to care for, washable, and permanent press, pure synthetics do not breathe. Because of this, they are not as comfortable to wear as natural fabrics. They also fray more than natural fabrics, making them unsuitable for some projects.

When they are mixed with linen, cotton, or wool, however, synthetics add many of their desirable qualities to the natural fibers. These blends, especially cotton/polyester, are often the best choices for garment construction, being both easy to sew and easy to care for afterward. They keep their crisp, like-new appearance longer than the natural fabrics do

Cotton’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Either as pure cotton or mixed with synthetic fibers, cotton is often the best choice because it is soft, washable, generally colorfast, and easy to work with. Most cotton is plain weave, which means the fabric has a flat even texture. Cotton can range in weight from sheer gauze to heavy canvas. It comes in a seemingly limitless array of solids and prints.

Cotton will fade eventually with repeated washing but is actually more vulnerable to the sun. In spite of this, it is a very popular cloth for outdoor wear because it breathes; that is, it allows air to pass through it. It is also absorbent and wicks sweat away from your body.

A Look at Linen
Linen is similar to cotton and is made from the fibers in the stems of the flax plant. It has been around for more than 7,000 years. Ancient Egyptians grew flax along the Nile River and wrapped their mummies in it before placing them in their tombs. Through Roman times, the Middle Ages, and colonization of the Americas, it remained the most popular fabric. It wasn’t until the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, which made cotton cheaper to produce, that linen slipped in popularity Flax isn’t grown commercially in the United States, and all linen is imported.

Linen fabric is tougher than cotton and wears longer. It is even more absorbent than cotton, making it particularly popular in hot climates. It tends to wrinkle worse than cotton and is often mixed with other fibers to make it more crease-resistant. Linsey-woolsey is a mixture of linen and wool and has been around since the fifteenth century A silk-and-linen mix is shiny and softer than pure linen.

Choosing Wisely
Besides a little background into the types of fabric available, there are a few general things to consider as you shop for fabric. To make this easier, let’s begin with some fabric and fabric store terms.

Fabric is generally sold by the yard or fraction of a yard and is sometimes referred to as yard goods. It is usually displayed at the store in large rolls called bolts. The tightly woven edges of the fabric are called selvages. The threads that run parallel to them are called lengthwise or warp threads. The cut edge is called the raw edge, and the threads running along that direction are called crosswise or weft threads. The bias is an imaginary line running diagonally across these two threads at a 45-degree angle. This line has the most stretch.

What Does It Look Like?
Once you’ve found the type of fabric you need for your project, you will probably be attracted to certain colors or prints. If you are buying fabric to coordinate with something else, be sure to bring it (or a swatch of the material you’re trying to match, if it’s difficult to carry around) with you so you can see them together. Take the bolt of fabric near a window if you can, so you can see how the fabric looks in natural light. It may look very different than it does under artificial lights in the store.

Often fabric is folded right sides together when it is wound on the bolt. Be sure you unroll it enough that you can see both sides. In fact, you ought to unroll enough of the fabric that you can play with it a little. Let some fall over your hand.

Knowing Your Knits
Nearly any of the fibers already mentioned can be knitted instead of woven. The most common knit fabrics, however, are cotton jersey and polyester knits.

Jersey is lightweight, stretchy, and a bit tricky to work with. Special care needs to be taken to ensure the pieces keep their shape while you are stitching. If the fabric stretches and the seam does not, the thread in the seam is going to break. To avoid this, you must stitch with a narrow zigzag stitch or a special stretch stitch, which is usually two stitches forward and one back.

The heavier polyester knits, especially double knits, were very popular in the 1970s. They are less stretchy than jersey, so they are easier to work with and make extremely easy-care garments. They are mostly out of style now, but a few polyester knits might be found. They are great for some craft projects because they do not ravel, and the interlocking double-knit process keeps them from being prone to runs like regular knits.

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Buttons and Buttonholes

September 11, 2008 at 2:29 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

There are several problems that can arise with buttons or buttonholes. Most of them are easily solved, if you simply take the time to do it. Here’s what you need to know to handle these minor problems with ease.

The only tricks are to match the button if the original is lost. Then match the thread used to sew the other buttons, and sew it on with approximately the same amount of thread.

First, check the lower seam allowances. Sometimes manufacturers will sew on extra buttons there. Other clothes come with one button in a tiny plastic bag with the label. If you saved it and can find it, you’re in luck. A good place to keep them is in your sewing kit or in one of your jewellery box drawers. If your button was lost and you can’t quite match it, see if you can’t move a button from the least conspicuous place and put your almost-match in its place. Avoid the problem of matching buttons as often as possible by noticing loose buttons and restitching them before they come off.

If the button has torn the fabric beneath it, mend the hole with an iron-on patch or by darning, then replace the button. If you have darned it, reinforce the area by holding a small square of twill tape behind the mend and sewing the button through it as well as the fabric.

Cut any loose threads. Line the exposed raw edges of the buttonhole with tiny buttonhole stitches, using thread that matches the other buttonholes as closely as possible. Also, use the other buttonholes or the needle holes from the lost stitches to determine the depth of your stitches.

1. Hide a small knot on the underside of the garment, or take three stitches on top of each other to anchor your thread.

2. Bring the needle and thread to the outside through the buttonhole to begin.

3. Insert the needle back through the buttonhole and out at the end of the stitching line.

4. Loop the thread around the needle going behind the eye end and under the point.

5. Pull the needle through, adjusting the thread so the “knot” you’ve just made is at the raw edge.

6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 very close to the last stitch.

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