Monday, 17 August 2015

Everything you wanted to know about our closing down but were afraid to ask.

Our closing down sale is still on-going and I have  been answering a lot of questions of late regarding our shop closing down.  I thought it may be useful for our Facebook and Twitter followers to have a bunch of the answers in one place. If your questions isn't answered here feel free to ask one in the comments below.

Is there a sale on in your shop and website?

Yes there is, ALL fabrics have been reduced by 30%! This discount is applied at the till in the shop and at the checkout in the web shop. So when at our web-shop and buying fabric the final amount for all fabrics is 30% less than shown.

Where are the quilting cottons?

The sale was just too much for some. We've actually sold out!

I ordered curtains to be made, are they safe?

We have now stopped accepting orders for new curtains. However if you have ordered curtains then they are still being made and will be ready for collection as advertised. Don't Worry :)

Is the trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show to Ally Pally still going on?

Yes it is! the coach is booked and we're looking forward to a fantastic day out and hope you will come along with us on Sunday the 11th of October.

I hope this helps cover any concerns you may have. Feel free to add any questions to the comments below.

Monday, 3 August 2015

All good things...

I've been writing these blogs on behalf of the shop I work in for 4 years or so now. During that time I've had so much lovely feedback from people saying we helped them get into sewing. We've covered many topics and had great fun but one post felt dreadful to write. Last November we had to announce our Felixstowe branch was closing down. Telling people about the loss of a local service and the lose of jobs was thoroughly heartbreaking. Now only a few months later we have to announce that our Colchester branch is now closing as well.

I'll leave the fine details to the press release written by a smarter man than I. Read below.

Colchester Shop to close after 20 years of trading in the town

A well known family business that has been serving the people of Colchester 

since 1995 is to close its doors for the last time at the end of September.

Fabric8, originally opened its doors as “The Remnant Shop” and sold fabrics 

and haberdashery of all kinds. In recent years they added a curtain making 

service as well as sewing classes and even threw Children’s activity parties.

Owner Robert Bamberger is deeply saddened by the need to close as the 

business has been in the family for three generations, originally opening its 

doors in Felixstowe in 1944. He has put the need to close down to a number of 

reasons but there are two that stand out. Perhaps the most significant factor 

has been the change in shopping habits caused by the rise of the internet. “As 

a result” he said, “The High St as we know it is changing rapidly. More and 

more people use the town centre for social reasons rather than to buy the 

things they need at home. The growth in the number of coffee shops, bars and 

restaurants reflects this”

The second factor has been the lack of support they received from the Bank, 

who, recognising that the business was in difficulty, rather than trying to help 

and support them in a time of transition as directed by the government chose 

instead to actively make trade harder and harder in effect forcing the closure 

of a business that was just beginning to turn the corner. 

“We were seeing the seeds of tangible growth but it was all too slow for them” 

said Mr Bamberger and “the decision had to be made”

“The Business has been open a long time” he added, “but times change and 

nothing lasts forever” He thanked his customers, staff and suppliers for the 

overwhelming support he received over the years.

That basically covers it. We will be having a Sale of course and I'll still  do a few more blogs as we say goodbye to each other.  On a personal note I really do need to thank the company for 7 years of happy employment. They took a disabled guy and gave him a chance when  no one else would. This little shop has turned the lives around for so many people, we even have one happily married couple who met working here!
So for now that is all, We will of course keep you all up to date with final closing times and let you know of any special offers in the sale.
Warmest regards
Fabric8's web bloke.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

How to make Bunting.

About four years ago we noticed more and more people getting into bunting. This traditional decoration can add a beautiful yet comforting homely touch to any occasion. However more and more people have been using bunting to decorate their homes all year round.

Bunting is very simple and cost effective to make. However some people have asked us to run a course in making bunting in our Colchester shop. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to visit us in our little outpost of sewing and crafting in Essex. To help everyone out we decided to make a quick Bunting Tutorial here.

How much Fabric do I need?
No where near as much as you think. Of course the size of your triangles and the space between your triangles will effect the amount of fabric, as will the width of the fabric, In this example our triangles sides were 20cm long and the space between each triangle was about a hands width. 20cm of polycotton that was 112cm wide gave us over 2.5 metres of bunting! so 1 metre of fabric should give you around 12 metres of bunting!

What fabric is suitable for bunting?
Just about any fabric is suitable, however it's best to avoid fabrics that fray and crease.

Hessian fabric can give a lovely rustic and natural feel.

Quilting Cotton and Dressmaking Cotton are both suitable for bunting and come in vibrant colours.

Polycotton is light and cheap and fray resistant.

How do I finish the edges of the triangles (or pendants) off?

There are three main ways of making sure your pendants do not fray.

1) Cut them out with Pinking Sheers. This gives a pleasing zig zag finish and is VERY quick and easy.

2) Bias bind the edges. This can look stunning if you use a contrasting bias but needs a steady hand and LOTS of patience.

3) Line the Pendants. Simply cut out twice the number of triangles and sew them right sides together before turning them out. This literally doubles the cost of the bunting and more than doubles the time needed. However the bunting will look stunning from both sides.

How to I cut out the triangles?

To begin with you will need to make a pattern or template. Using a protractor and a ruler draw a lin 20 cm long. At each end use the protractor to make an angle of 60 degrees. Then use the ruler to draw in the final two lines which should meet in the middle.

We use an equilateral triangle (one where all the angles are 60 degrees and all the sides the same length) to give us more options about which way up the triangle will go.

If you're using the pinking shears to stop the fabric from fraying trim along the one side of the fabric.
Now lay your template on the corner of the fabric with one of the sides of the triangle on the side of the fabric. Using a ruler to give a sharp edge draw around the triangle in chalk.

Flip the pattern over and draw another triangle upside down and next to your first. Repeat this process. This is called tessellating by the way.

Now simply cut out along the chalk line. A 20cm strip of fabric that is 112cm wide should give you around 8 triangles.

What do I sew the triangles onto?

You can sew the triangles onto ribbon or cotton tape. However We have used Bias Binding. This has the advantage of wrapping around the top edge of the triangles to make them look neater.

Simply place the triangle along the middle of the bias and fold it over, pinning it in place before running it through the sewing machine.

I left a gap about as wide as my hand between the triangles, but you can choose to have a smaller gap or no gap at all. This piece of bunting was for a very set colour scheme. However you could always buy a metre or two of different fabrics and mix the triangles up.

And there you have it, easy to make bunting to adorn garden parties, wedding and very tall workmates.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

What do all these sewing pattern terms mean?

One of  the most rewarding parts of my job has to be teaching. I teach "How to use a sewing machine" and "How to follow a sewing pattern" whilst my friend Michelle teaches "Patchwork and Quilting for Beginners" as well as an excellent "Machine Applique" class. Our little sewing room in Colchester is always a fun and friendly environment.

Many people show up not knowing a thing about sewing, after all they are at a beginners course. So here are a few terms you may have  heard or seen on a sewing pattern that you may not know yet;

Selvedge - This is the finished (neatened) edge of the fabric. If a fabric is sold on the roll then the selvedge is at either end of the tube. Sewing patterns will often say "fold fabric in half, right sides together selvedge to selvedge. If they said to fold in half along the length or width things could get mixed up, after all not everyone things of the length as the longer measurement and the width the shorter. Also what if you are using 1 meter of fabric that is 1.5 meters wide? By saying Selvedge to selvedge or "So the selvedges meet" they are removing that area of doubt.

Grain - The grain line TENDS to be an imaginary line that runs along your fabric parallel to the selvedges (see  how the selvedge makes an awesome reference point). When placing pattern pieces on your fabric you need to keep all of the grain lines in the same direction (imagine a striped fabric, if you put one side of the dress at a different angle on the fabric then the stripes will run in a different direction. EVEN if you're using a plain fabric try to follow the grain line. All fabrics have a little "Give" which is different at different angles, so you may find  some of your panels stretching slightly. 

Nap - Some fabrics have a texture, such as velvet or fun fur. When this texture only runs in one direction we call this the nap. Run your hand over some velvet, then run it the other way, see how different it feels and how it makes the fabric look different. The back of a sewing pattern will tell you if you need extra fabric to accommodate a nap. You will need this as sometimes the pattern will lay out a pattern piece "upside down" in normal fabrics this makes no different, but in a velvet for example it will make your garment look very odd if one side runs one way and their side has the velvet brushed the other way.

The Bias - When the pattern pieces are laid out on a fabric at 45 degrees to the grain line we call it Bias Cut. This will often give the garment a little stretch. Many people seem afraid of sewing on the bias but it's just like regular sewing, you just have to take it easy and take your time.

If you have trouble with "Interfacing and facing" or" Lining and interlining" just check out our blog.
Happy Sewing all.  

Friday, 19 June 2015

Getting the most of your Sewing Shop.

Whilst trying to think about  what to blog about today I received a lovely tweet.

we've got a lot of fun & out of the materials we bought ...

It really is heart warming when  we see people use our stock for their projects. However we can do more than just sell you fabric, needles and threads. Many of our staff are skilled in all areas of sewing, knitting and crafting. From our curtain making department upstairs to our quilting and bridal wear on the landing right through the dressmaking and knitting sections of the ground floor.  We can often give you tips and tricks, however for those not lucky enough to be able to pop in to the shop we present some tips here.

If you can't find it, ask.

This is something that's true for our on-line fabric shop and the bricks and mortar store in Colchester. We go through great pains to make things easy to find but sometimes we may know where to find a fabric or bit of habby in seconds. If we can't find what you need we can always offer alternatives or order in what ever you need.

Feel free to say what you are trying to make or fix.

Many of the staff have years of experience in the fields of sewing and crafting. As a result they can help you choose what fabrics suit your project best.

You can use quilting fabric and curtain fabric in dressmaking.

Our quilting fabric section has all manner of beautiful cotton fabrics with amazing patterns. The same is true of our curtain department and you can actually use these fabrics for dresses, jackets, waistcoats and anything your imagination can think of.

If your sewing machine stops working try re-threading and changing the needle.

Last week we gave you some tips on using your sewing machine. Trust us all too often people tell us their machine is skipping stitches, or damaging fabric. Most of the time these issues can be fixed with changing the sewing needle.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Understanding Sewing Machine Tension and Stopping a Big Ball of Thread on the Underside of Your Sewing.

Our sewing classes here in Colchester in Essex are as popular as ever. We cover such diverse topics as Patchwork, Machine Applique kids sewing project and how to set up a sewing machine. Okay that last one may seem pretty basic, you're reading a sewing blog so you know how to  set up your sewing machine. Well I'm not going to argue with you, however many people worry about tension without understanding it. To many people the tension dial is a piece of arcane technology who's method of operation has been lost in the dark winding passage of time. However I believe if you have even a rough guide of how this works you will become  a far more adept sewer.

A sewing machine works by sandwiching two layers of fabric between two threads which loop together in between the two layers of fabric. To achieve this all other cleverness has to happen, the teeth pull the fabric under the foot (which in turns hold's the fabric in place) and the teeth drop down to stop moving the fabric when the needle is down. As a tech nerd I love the ballet of mechanical cams that make all this happen in perfect time. So where does the tension come in? The tension controls how much of the top thread goes down with the needle. Different fabrics require different amounts of thread (due to how tight the weave is or how thick the fabric is). Sewing a simple test peice helps you work out how right or wrong your tension is.

In these examples the green thread is the top thread the red is the bobbin or bottom thread.

Normal Tension
  Here you can see the top thread on the top, and the bottom thread on the bottom, the threads over lapping in the middle of the fabric sandwich.  A good strong neat seam.

 Tension Too Low
As you can see from the underside view here the green top thread is forming loops on the under side of the fabric with the bottom thread just laying on the fabric. A terrible seam that will fall apart in moments

 Tension Too High
On this top view you can see the red lower thread showing on the top. Whilst not as severe as having the tension too low this does cause problems. The fabric can become puckered around the seam and even damaged.

 It's All About Balance
 The bobbin thread's tension does not get adjusted, it's constant. We adjust the top thread's tension to change the balance point where the fabrics loop together. However what if the bobbin tension was not constant, behold the shoddily wound bobbin on the right.

 The bobbin's tension is going "tight, lose, tight lose"  And so suddenly we get upper thread tying it self into a knot on the underside of the fabric as it's tension is relatively too high all of a sudden for a few stitches. Ever sewn and suddenly have a big ball of thread on the underside of your fabric fowling up your machine. This is what happens' the bobbin thread's tension is suddenly too high for the upper thread to cope with and too much upper thread appears on the underside, this get's caught in the guts of the machine and we get our dreaded thread ball!

How do we stop the dreaded thread ball?
Look at the pic on the right, look at all the technology being used to keep the upper tension even.   The lower bobbin tension is set as we wind the bobbin.
Now look at how we wind the bobbin, just a little circle of metal, that's all we get to even out the tension. IF you wind the bobbin at lightening speed or be going "fast, slow Fast Slow" you get an uneven bobbin. An uneven bobbin WILL give you a threadball on the underside of the fabric. And thus we come to the important point i make in EVERY lesson. Wind the bobbin slowly and evenly, it's an important job, not an afterthought. Pay more attention to your bobbin winding and I think you will find your sewing experience  improves no end.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Easy Ribbon Embroidery for Kids.

A few weeks ago someone asked me about running a workshop about ribbon embroidery for kids.  I'll be honest I hadn't done much in this particular aspect of our craft and was keen to explore it. Ribbon embroidery is a way of adding details such as leaves or flowers to a garment or other sewing project. The flowers can also be mounted onto a safety pin or broach clasp or used on a fascinater.
There were many techniques out there, in fact it seamed as though no two people made flowers from ribbon the same way. Each method had it's pros and cons, some required intricate sewing before hand to place a wire in one side of the ribbon, other methods included making your own ribbon.

Most techniques had the following draw backs.
Expensive materials
Specialist tools
Fiddly advanced sewing techniques
Lots of sharp things for kids to hurt themselves on.

To make this project more child friendly we will be using aida (the fabric with a lose weave used for cross stitch) and wool needles which are rather blunt to make things safer for kids. This method is designed to reduce the equipment and advanced skills that you will need. Once you have your bits you're about 10 minutes away from your first ribbon embroidered flower!

You will need:
Aida (a metre will be enough to make LOADS of flowers, probably hundreds)
Wool Needles
A regular hand sewing needle
A little sewing thread
Satin ribbon (either 10mm or 15mm wide)

Step 1

Draw a circle on your aida. I This one is just under 5cm in diameter and seems to be a good size for a first go. Draw out 5 lined from the centre to the edge of the circle.

Step 2

With the reguler sewing needle and thread going from the underside of the aida to the top make a stitch from the center to the edge of the circle along one of the lines. Repeat for the other four lines. We have used a contrasting thread to help you see what is going on. When you make your flower use a thread that is a close match to your ribbon.

Step 3

Thread the wool needl with a 40cm length of ribbon. Tie a small knot in the end of the ribbon and push the needle from the underside of the aida to the  top at the centre of the circle. This is one step that MIGHT be too tough for little hands and so they may need a little help.

Step 4

Slide the needle UNDER the first thread and then over the next going around the circle going under
and over alternate threads.

Step 5

Keep going around in a spiral, going over and under the threads.

   Step 6
The shape of the flower can be determined by how much tension you put on the ribbon, to help the shape form waggle your finger in the centre of the forming flower now and then. When you get to the edge of the circle you can stop and push the ribbon through to the underside.However  if you keep weaving the thread through the string at this point your flower head becomes denser and more three dimensional.

All that remains is to pop the ribbon to the underside and either tie it off or tack it in place. You can then trim away the excess aida (making sure not to cut the 5 threads) or cut a rough circle around the flower and then fold the aida back and taking it in place. Your flower is then ready to be turned into a broach or added to a sewing project such as a prom or wedding dress.