Monday, 20 April 2015

How to Shorten Curtains, or "How to Take Curtains Up"

Your first thought may well be "What a weird title, surely shortening Curtains and Taking Curtains up is the same thing?" In fact they are but here is how a tailor my think differently from a curtain maker.
  This distinction hit me when a friend of mine had a problem with his curtains. They were simply far too long. These curtains were of a very heavy high quality  fabric with a thick bonded interlining/lining. Due to the cost and quality of the curtains we decided to just alter these instead of sourcing new ones and that's when it hit me. He asked me to "take the curtains up". Now I'm used to taking up a skirt, or trousers or a dress so my first thought was to cut off the excess at the bottom with the curtains and re-hem them just like trousers or a skirt! These were nice curtains and would need to be "Blind Hemmed" with care and precision. I really wasn't looking forward to this job, then a curtain maker made me realise my stupid mistake. Don't redo the bottom, requiring to lots of intricate hemming, just take off the curtain header tape, cut off the excess fabric, fold the top of the curtain over to the lining side and sew on NEW header tape. Header tape is very inexpensive  and this was a MUCH easier quicker way of doing the job!  And so here we have it, the quick easy and more accurate way to make your curtains fit.

You will need:
Curtain Header Tape
Tape measure

Step one.
Lay out your curtain lining side facing up. Try and have it fully laid out either on a huge table or on the floor, avoid having half of it crumpled up or tucked away. By having it all out and visible you reduce the risk of cutting the curtains at an angle.

Step Two.

Remove the curtain header tape. If you're removing LOADS of hight then just pull away all of the cords that are used to gather the curtains, but if in doubt unpick the tape. This way your curtains will be laying nice and straight and not pulling t the middle when you try to adjust them.

Step Three.

Measure your curtains from the hem up to the desired length. Fold the curtain over at this point. Pin this fold in place both just below the fold and along the length of the curtains, and along the bottom of the fold,  We want to minimise the curtains shifting. Check this folded section is the same length all along the width of the curtain.

Step Four.

Very carefully and only after you've double checked the length  on BOTH sides of the curtain begin to cut away the excess curtain. MAKE SURE YOU ARE ONLY CUTTING ONE LAYER OF CURTAIN!
As the picture shows by leaving the pins in at the fold we are holding everything in place ready for the curtain header tape.

Step Five.

Pin on the new curtain header tape and sew in place.  By keeping the pins in on the fold of the curtains we help keep the shape stabilised so attaching the header tape is simple. Make sure to tuck the ends of the tape under itself to keep the ends nice and neat.
Step Six

Pull the cords on the header tape  carefully to gather the curtains and hang your new curtains up!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Teaching kids how to sew.

Last time I wrote about how we  now run  sewing classes in Colchester, Essex and how that has helped both our customers and us. Teaching grown ups is one thing, but teaching kids teaches YOU even more.

When you start teaching children you will find they are a lot smarter than you may think and very engaging. Try to keep the feeling of the lessons light and bouncy and let them make mistakes. They will learn far more from a mistake than by doing things perfectly.

There are some practical considerations. The main issue is one of safety. Whilst we may all have had a needle or pin through our fingers at some point, day to day most regular dressmakers never worry about injuring themselves. Whilst no kids in our classes have ever decided to do something overtly stupid such as sticking pins in each other or waving scissors around their heads they do need some supervision. To help with supervision we only teach children when they have a parent or other responsible adult with them to help  out. The adult is made aware that THEY are responsible for the  safety of their child when our tutor has to give some individual attention to another child.

The main points we have found through our lessons are:-

Picking fabrics for a project:-

There can be many reasons why a fabric isn't suitable for a project. The fabric may have the wrong amount of stretch, it may be too thick for some delicate points. If a child wants to use a fabric that is technically suitable but will look a little strange  we suggest you let them. We are trying to teach them that sewing is about expressing yourself and being creative and  yet we often see people try to stifle that creativity at the very first step! One girl wanted to make a scarf of white velvet,with gold ribbons and day-glow yellow fringe trim. A few of the grown ups tried suggesting other fabrics but she stuck by her guns and the actual scarf looked REALLY cool, original, one of a kind and she was thrilled with it!

Pining pattern to fabric and cutting out :-

Make sure you actually explain and demonstrate how to put the pin through the paper and fabric. It's something grown ups take for granted but some of our kids have never used pins before!

On the subject of patterns. We tend to make our own projects (such as making a draw string pouch). At home I use brown paper but young fingers can REALLY struggle to punch a hole through that stuff. Try using thinner tracing paper of your not using a commercial pattern.

Have a selection of scissor sizes on hand. This may sound obvious but I actually forgot to get some when we first started teaching kids as well as grown ups. some of my younger students can't even lift my personal shears (giant man sized ones). And a sharper blade is much  safer than a blunt on which will slip and slide!

Don't be afraid to spend a few minutes letting the kids cut through some scrap fabric (under intense supervision) before cutting out the pattern pieces. Again when you cut out fabric you may actually be holding the blades at a certain angle, or holding the fabric in a certain way. Many times I've been told scissors are blunt and seen people just mash the fabric with the blade, but when I cut I tend to apply some sideways pressure between the blades and with the same scissors I can cut perfectly. These are the little quirks we all develop.

If working with a very young child use the big scissors BUT have your hand through the handles as well as theirs, so they get the feel of how we cut out the fabric without the risk of injury.

So there you have it, a few simple ideas for when you want to introduce  kids to the world of sewing.
The biggest most important things to remember is to let them have fun and experiment and let them know it is ultimately only fabric. They are allowed to make mistakes.
Take care :)