Tailored Shirt from a Pattern

September 11, 2008 at 2:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Begin the same as you did the dress. Use the chart on the back of the pattern envelope to determine your size and the amount of fabric you need. Don’t forget to check for interfacing. Also, check the notions list for the number of buttons and what other binding or fasteners you might need.

Preshrink and straighten your fabric. Cut your pattern pieces apart and collect together the pieces you need for your chosen style.

Alter the pattern if necessary using the same steps. Lay out your pattern, noting which pattern pieces must be cut on the fold and which need to be cut more than once. Remember to measure from the ends of the straight-with-the-grain arrows to the fold or selvage. Mark things like darts, pocket hems and locations, cuff openings and so on. Collect the pieces that will need interfacing and either cut them out all at once as directed in your guide or cut them from the fabric pieces. The rest of the order will depend on the particular style of the shirt you are making. Finishing the front edge is often the next step. Pockets may come either before or after that. If your pattern has front yokes, they will be sewn onto the front pieces before the front edge is finished and either before or after the pockets. Follow the order of steps as they are presented in the guide.

Finishing the Front Edges
Front edges of shirts are finished a number of different ways. Because there will be buttons and buttonholes added to the front, or in some cases snaps, interfacing is almost always included. You may add a front band to the buttonhole side. Often, the front is hemmed over a strip of interfacing, then folded over and topstitched to simulate a front band.

Other shirts are designed with an extension to the front pieces that serve as facings. You will turn the far outside edge under and stitch it, but you won’t fold over the facing until after you’ve attached the collar.

Finishing the Edges
Because you won’t want the bulk of two layers of fabric in your shirt pocket, these can’t be lined and turned. The edges need to be turned under neatly and accurately Misshapen pockets will detract from the appearance of the entire garment.

Begin by pressing the top edge under ¼”. If your fabric takes a crease well, you may not need to stitch this fold down. Fold the top of the pocket again, this time toward the front at the hemline. This will either be marked on the pattern piece or the distance will be noted in the guide. Stitch the ends of the hem. Clip the corners diagonally and trim the seam allowance of the folded portion to 1/4”.

Turn the hem to the back and press, making sure the top corners are good, sharp points. Press the rest of the edges of the pocket. If your pocket has angled corners, press the sides and bottom first. Press the corners over them, being careful that the overlaps in the seam allowance are smooth and flat.

If your pocket has a pointed bottom, fold the bottom and side corners up to the ~1/8” line, and then fold the sides over them. Make sure you are as accurate as possible. If you fold the corners up too far, the corners will have a rounded appearance; not far enough, and the side folds will overlap one another making the corner too thick.

Stitching the Pocket
Sometimes the guide will ask you to topstitch the pocket before it is sewn to the shirt. This may include a line of stitching at the bottom of the hem and ¼” from the outside edge of the rest of the pocket. It may ask for these outlining stitches after the pocket is sewn on the shirt as a way of reinforcing the application stitches. If your fabric doesn’t hold a crease well, consider doing it before in order to hold the edges under while you place your pocket.
Locate the marked dots on the shirt front piece or pieces. These dots will be on the underside of your fabric, and you will need to attach your pocket to the outside, of course. From the back, run a pin in and out of the fabric just at the dot. Use the pins to help you place the pocket. Remember to remove these pins before you begin stitching.

If you’ve altered your shirt pattern, it might be wise to check the placement of the pocket. In front of a mirror, hold the shirt with the front up, using the side seam and neck edge to place it as close as possible to how it will wear. Move the pocket if it looks like it is out of place.

Stitch close to the sides and lower edges of your pocket(s).

Pocket flaps are easy to add. Stitch the two pieces together at all but the top end. Clip, turn, and press. Topstitch the flap, and add a buttonhole. Place it above the pocket with the raw edge ½” above the top of the pocket. Stitch 1/411 from this edge. Press the flap down and stitch ½” from the fold. The raw edge is between these two rows of stitching.

Types of Collars
The collars on most tailored shirts are rolled collars, meaning the collar itself rolls or folds over. The base of the collar stands up at the neck edge. This base might be made from a separate piece called a stand—making it a two-piece collar—or it might be all one piece. The way to tell if your pattern has a rolled collar is to look at the shape of the seam line that will be attached to the shirt. This will be the notched edge of the collar piece. If it is straight or nearly so, you have a rolled collar.

Another possible shirt collar is a flat collar. It will lie flat against the neck edge.

A stand collar and a mandarin collar stand up after they are sewn on. They are made from a straight or only slightly curved narrow strip. Think of it as the collar stand of a rolled collar without the collar itself. The difference between the two is the stand collar opens in back, while the mandarin opens in front.

Basic Construction
Any of these collars is going to be constructed essentially the same way Cut the interfacing, and stitch or fuse it to one of the collar pieces. Trim the interfacing close to the stitching. This piece will probably be the bottom piece of the collar. Sew the two collar pieces together, leaving the notched edge open. Clip the corners and curves, grade the seam allowances, turn it right side out, and press it.

If you have a two-piece collar, the stand pieces will probably be sewn on either side of the collar at this point. One of these pieces will need interfacing as well.

To add collar stays, measure your stay at an angle from the corner seam allowance and place a tiny buttonhole 1/411 from the tip. Slide the collar stays through the buttonholes after the collar is together but before you topstitch. The topstitching will hold the stays in place.

Self-Facing Collars
Some shirt collars are self-facing. This actually makes a cleaner inside neck edge because there is no facing to tack to the seam allowances. To make a self-facing collar, fold the notched edge of upper collar or stand under ~/8” before you stitch it to the bottom collar or stand.

Line the notched edge of the bottom collar up with the neckline. The neckline’s seam allowance will need to be clipped to make it open enough to let the collar lie flat. Pull the folded edge of the upper collar out of the way and stitch the collar to the neckline.

Some pattern guides will tell you to sew your collar onto the right side of the shirt, while others tell you to sew it onto the wrong side. This depends on how the individual collars are intended to roll. A collar sewn onto the right side will fold midway or so on the collar. The inside is not expected to show; therefore, it is the side with the blind stitching. A collar that’s sewn to the wrong side will fold along the faced front, creating a sort of lapel effect. The inside of the collar seam will show more than the outside, which will always be covered by the collar itself. The inside, then, should have the neater, machine stitches.

Faced Collars
Faced collars are made in a very similar fashion, except neither edge of the collar is turned under. The collar is treated as one piece as it is sewn to the neck edge, and then the facing is sewn on to finish the edge.

They may be part of the facing that finishes the front edge. The facing pieces might also be a fold-over facing that is part of the shirt front itself.

The collar might even be finished with a combination of the two techniques. The collar is attached to the neck edge through one layer of the collar only as if it were self-facing. The front facing is folded over, and the part of the collar in front of the shoulder seam is treated like the usual faced collar. The seam allowance will need to be clipped to allow part of the allowance to fold down under the facing and the rest to fold up inside the collar. If your pattern calls for epaulettes, put them together just like the pocket flaps. Sew the raw edge at the armhole edge centered over the shoulder seam.

Making Cuff Openings
Sleeves with cuffs require an opening in the sleeve itself big enough to allow a hand to fit through. This slit is finished with either a hem, a binding strip, facing, or a placket. Your guide will direct you to finish this opening before you sew the sleeve seam because it is easier to do while the sleeve is still flat.

Hemmed Cuff Opening
For a hemmed cuff opening, the opening is generally a straight slit. Its exact position will be marked on the pattern. Make narrow hems on both sides. Fold the sleeve, right sides together, with these two narrow hems aligned. Sew a sort of tiny dart at the point of the slit to bring the bit of raw edge to the inside and to reinforce the end so the slit doesn’t tear farther.

Binding Strip Finish
The pattern piece designed to finish a cuff opening with this type of finish is often called a continuous lap. Press the edges of the long sides under as you would to make a single-fold binding strip.

The sleeve pattern will indicate where the slit should be. Often a staystitching line is indicated. Make the slit after the stay-stitching is completed. Open out the slit so it is as straight a line as possible. Sew the continuous lap over the slit much like other applications of seam binding.

Easing in the Sleeves
Occasionally dresses and frilly blouses will have gathered sleeves. These are gathered onto the armhole the way ruffles are. However, a tailored shirt is going to need to be eased on instead. What this means is the sleeve is almost gathered but not enough to make any actual puckers.

Begin by running a row of stitching between the notches on the sleeve. Your guide may have told you to do this before you sewed the arm seam. You will also need to sew the side seams on the shirt itself and press these allowances open.

Turn the shirt inside out. Put a sleeve, right side out, into the proper position at the armhole. Right and left sleeves are not interchangeable. Be sure that the notch groupings on the sleeves correspond to the same groupings on the shirt. Match and pin the pieces together at the notches, the underarm seams, and the center dot on the sleeve and the shoulder seam. Add pins every couple of inches. Use a pin to pull slightly on the easing stitches until the sleeve fits.

Stitch a seam around the armhole. Be careful not to let the needle go through more than one layer of the sleeve at once. The tiny “gathers” in the sleeve that ease it to fit need to be under the loops of thread that make the stitches not at the point where the needle enters— so they do not show as puckers.

Clip the seam allowance at the underarm curve and press the allowance toward the sleeve.

Finishing with Buttons and Hem
The next thing your guide will call for is probably the hem. This might be straight or curved. The front facing may fold over it before it is top-stitched down.

Buttonholes need to be marked and stitched. Your pattern will show their placement or the guide will recommend a certain distance between them. Don’t forget the buttonholes on the cuffs as well. Make buttonholes on both sides of the cuffs if you would rather use cuff links.

Sew the buttons across from the holes. A trick to make sure they align perfectly is to lay the buttonhole side over the button side, making sure they are even at the top. Pin the layers together at the top and bottom. Through the buttonholes, run a pin in and out of the button side. Unpin the layers, and carefully slip the buttonholes over the pins. Sew the buttons where the pins are.


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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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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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