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.