Monday, 20 January 2014

If I Knew Then......sewing tips!


I have been crafting for too many years than I really want to recollect now. Needless to say I have improved in that time and learnt the error of my youthful ways. I used to run at projects like a bull in a china shop or a Nicolette in a haberdashery, I convinced myself I could just skip steps in order to get a project finished just that little bit quicker. I plan to start a whole series of step by step lessons on the blog this year it is one of the new things you will see happening. A skills bank that you can then use in other projects, such as different types of seams, stitches etc. What better way to kick this off than with a general tips guide for new sewers or those who have been wondering why projects have lacked a professional finish. Lets face it there is nothing more disappointing than looking at your finished article and that photographed in the example and knowing they are not in the same league.

1. Don't Forget The Pre-wash:
If your fabric is new as opposed to an old skirt you are re-purposing you cannot skip the pre-wash phase. I even pre-wash if it is sold as pre-shrunk as I have been caught out like that before. Although the shrinkage you get on most fabrics is minimal and in some cases not occur at all is it worth the risk? Imagine spending all of that time and effort carefully measuring and fitting a dress only to wash it and forever be left with a puckered bodice. Wash, dry and press!
2. Keep It Running:
No matter how hi-tech or low tech your sewing machine is it likes to be used. Think of it as a car if you will. If you only drive your car twice a year the mechanics cease up and it will start to develop problems and perform badly. The same too goes for your sewing machine.If you are not an avid stitcher with little time for more than a couple of sewing projects a year. there are still ways that you can take care of your machine. Get it serviced, keep it oiled and free from loose threads and take it for a spin. It may sound silly but if you have not got time for sewing projects get a fabric scrap out and run the machine through its stitch selection, a few lines of each. Doing these things could save you a pricey repair and help the machine run smoothly, which mean good tension fewer pulled stitches and better looking stitch projects.

3. Measure Up:
This is a tip that is told by all but it is so important it is always worth repeating. So much fabric can be saved by measuring twice and cutting once, heck, it is so important measure it three times.
4. Getting To Know You:
Just as every car regardless of age or cost has its own particular quirks so to does your machine. I know I keep comparing my machine to a car but the fact remains it is a great analogy. For example on my 707 cast iron Bernina I discovered that it runs best when you don't completely fill the bobbin.. On the 1008 Bernina I have to run the machine slowly on shorter stitch length. These are quirks that are personal to my machines and not universal model rules. When you next use your machine look out for patterns of behaviour and adjust to them.

5. Press your seems:
When I was 18 I got given my own machine, I was so excited to complete projects that I was forever taking shortcuts and paying the price. It is so easy to to think well I have pressed my fabric now I can plough through and iron it at the end. This is a big mistake. You need to be working an a space where you can have your iron close by so you can press your seams as you go. This is especially important if you want a professional finish to garments and quilts. In fact back when I was still skipping this step I found it was a false economy of time as without pressed seams it was harder to fit pieces together, or they would fit together badly and have to be unpicked and re-sewn. Taking the extra time to press as you go really will make a significant difference to your finished projects immediately. The devil is in the details.
6.Keep It Steady:
Okay this is the very last tip, it is also my very last driving/car analogy, I promise. If you want a smooth journey free from back pain and whiplash you don't jump on and off your pedals in increase and decrease speed smoothly and keep you foot steady once you have reached your desired speed. Keep the changes in your machine speed smooth will make for less thread breakages, a smoother stitch line, flawless machine embroidery. It is not just essential that you keep your foot steady when sewing but also when loading the bobbin. If you change speed erratically when you are loading the bobbin the thread will not load evenly and will give you problems with your bottom tension.

Those are the main lessons I wish I had learnt right from the start I hope they serve you well and please feel free to email me or leave a comment in the box below if you have any questions and I will try and troubleshoot for you. Keep an eye out for skill bank posts coming up soon.


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