Sewing With Cotton

I grew up sewing with cotton. When knit fabrics became available to me, it was in the late 1960s. I made a mess of most of my projects. Neither myself nor my sewing machine knew how to handle the new knit fabric. Today, I think the industry has done a better job supplying us with more user-friendly fabric and thread. I still prefer sewing with cotton. And wearing cotton. But 100% cotton has been fading away. A lot of the modern fabrics feel like plastic. I love to sew though so I do the best I can with what I find. Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

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The Pattern Says Zipper… Can I Skip It?

Take a look at the dress on the front of this pattern. See how low cut it is? I made it out of a stretchy knit. There was no reason for me to bother putting in a zipper. It fits right over my head. Another option I could have used, would be to leave a five-inch opening in the back where the zipper should go and add a button and a loop. The same goes for bothering with buttonholes. If a blouse pattern is low-cut, the neck opening is huge. You can sew buttons onto the front, skipping the buttonholes and just slip it over your head. If the neckline opening is huge AND the fabric is stretchy, it lends itself well to being a slip-on. If you’re making a skirt and the pattern says zipper, you can instead, stitch a long sash along the waistline, leaving two long ties and tie it. If you’ve ever bought clothes from third-world countries, you will see that they improvise ways to avoid installing zippers. Sarongs wrap around the neck or tie around the waist. These short cuts are especially easy to accept when we’re making casual clothes. Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Too Little Fabric? Here’s a Sewing Tip

The bias of the fabric is important. Study which way the fabric “gives.” Pull and stretch on it and remember which way it stretches the most. That’s the bias. Once you understand what the bias is, you can make your own bias tape by cutting fabric into strips. Cut the strips diagonally (with the bias) so that the bias tape stretches and gives. You can also substitute bias tape for facings. That’s kinda easy. Facings can take a lot of extra fabric. If you have a small piece of fabric that you’re anxious to use but it’s short for the pattern you have in mind, you can use bias tape in place of the facings. It won’t have quite the thickness and support as facings but in many cases, it works just fine. You can also save two or three inches of fabric by using bias tape on the bottom of pants, instead of folding the fabric and having a typical hem.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Sewing: It’s OK, Make Your Buttonholes by Hand

The reason I do so many things by hand is because I trust that I can do it right. I don’t always trust my sewing machine, or my ability to operate it perfectly, so sometimes, I make button holes by hand. I have an old Singer from the 1970’s that does zig zag so I use that most of the time, but I am not opposed to doing them by hand. It’s relaxing to sit and watch a movie while making handmade buttonholes. The feeling is a lot like doing embroidery.

Don’t slice your fabric until AFTER you’ve made the buttonholes. Hold the button up to the fabric, so you can tell how long to make the buttonhole. Make it just a tad longer than the button. Check which side of the blouse is the correct side. Although it’s silly, for some reason, it’s different for men than it is for women. Basically, your reinforcing the fabric so that it won’t rip when you button and unbutton repeatedly. Look at a ready-made blouse as a guide.

Use what’s called a buttonhole stitch. Look at your computer keyboard. Strike the key for zero. See what that looks like? Don’t make your stitches any further apart than that. An even smaller hole is preferable. After you’ve made the buttonhole, use a seam ripper to splice it open. After you’ve slit it, slide your button in and out of the hole a few times to loosen it up. You’re good to go. Don’t forget to tie your knots so the thread doesn’t come loose.

When she’s not sewing, she’s writing. Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era romance, Rose Thorn. Available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Sewing Can Be Funky and Fun and Look Nice Too

I’m not afraid to take short cuts that some would think are funky. Why spend hours doing something that’s not necessary? The women of my mother and grandmother’s era were fussy, fussy, fussy about everything being right. When I came of age, the Grunge era was taking off. Enjoy yourself, don’t worry about the past and how they did it. It’s not the Victorian era. Make something!

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CNWG6QU

Book Two, Blue Violet: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Sewing… Hemming Pants by Hand While You Watch TV

If you can figure out how to do a backward stitch, by hand, they’re great for hemming pants. First, using your machine, run a zig-zag along the bottom of the pants. Next, fold and press where you want the hem. Next, start your hand stitching about a quarter inch below the zig zag. (Starting a quarter-inch down keeps shoes from getting caught and pulling the hem out.) You’ll be doing a backward stitch with your needle and thread. (Think of it like how Michael Jackson used to dance backward.)

I learned this backward stitch from an expert dressmaker in Reno, named Audrey. She hemmed men’s dress trousers like this. It makes a nice, flat hem.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Fashion and Sewing… Shopping for Fabric

One of the nicest things about sewing is shopping for fabric and notions. If you’ve got the sewing bug, you get really excited in a fabric store. Maybe even hyper-active. You’ll look at a bolt of fabric and know exactly what it would be good for. A dress, a pair of pants, a nightie. Something for your niece. Or you don’t know what you could possibly make out of it, but you want it, now.

Because seamstresses (dressmakers/tailors) like to have fabric on hand, we’re free to shop fabrics for any season. Spring fabrics to work with during the winter, heavier fabrics during the late summer for wearing in the cold weather. Sometimes our projects take several seasons to complete, sometimes they take years. It doesn’t matter what season it is. It will be a custom-made garment, fit to order. By us and for us. We get elated working on it and we may even get sick of working on it. But it’s a good idea to make a rule of finishing it before we start another sewing project. Starting a new project is our reward for finishing the current work-in-progress. That’s how I do it.

On Saturday, I’ll be exploring a new-to-me fabric store. I hope it has colorful cottons for blouses and colorful corduroy and stretch denims for pants. I hope they have big spools of strong thread and buttons so attractive they make my head spin with creativity. And most importantly, I hope they have good prices. The only thing better than getting a bargain on clothes, is getting a bargain on fabric to make clothes. As my grandmother used to say, “I’m not happier than when I’m sewing.”

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

There’s Nothing Wrong with Taking Shortcuts When Sewing

There’s nothing wrong with taking shortcuts in a sewing project. After all, sewing is a creative endeavor, so changing things up a bit, is where true creativity lies. Yes, you can buy a pattern and fabric and follow the directions exactly and still be creative. But everyone’s bodies are not the same and every person has different patience levels and variable hours to sew. If you lack patience and time and just want to whip something up, by all means do. Fabric stores are loaded with super simple patterns that make nice garments. (Retail stores are filled with clothes made from these patterns for the same reason. They are quick and easy.)

One thing that I do to speed things along is to forego the facings. Facings are used to give the garment shape, thickness and to finish the seams. If you’re inexperienced, sometimes the wide facings bubble up after they’re sewn down, making a beginner discouraged. That is a point where some people give up, thinking they do not have the talent to sew. Don’t give up. Not all garments need facings, especially, light summer clothing.

Using bias tape is fine. Follow the directions for sewing down the facings but substitute the bias tape. After sewing the bias tape to the dress body (right side of bias tape to right side of fabric) use a slip stitch to anchor the bias tape down. Iron it. Pressing makes things look much better. You can also make your own bias tape by cutting strips of fabric on the bias (the bias is the stretch of the fabric). Occasionally, you have enough fabric for the main pieces of the garment but not enough for facings. That’s when bias tape comes in handy. The thicker the bias tape, the more it supports the garment like a facing is intended. I do though, have many articles of clothing where I used thin bias tape. It turned out well.

In the photograph of the pink flowered blouse, you’ll see that I used bias tape instead of facings. I even got creative with it and allowed it to be exposed in the front. If you look closely, you’ll see that I also did not finish off the back seam. I left the raw edges. I figured that no one would see that part of my blouse. And the sleeves on this blouse are made from the flouncy cuffs off of a ready-made blouse. The sleeves on that blouse were too long. After I cut them off, I saved them, thinking that I could one day use them for something, and I did.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Sewing Tips For Beginners

An old-fashioned tip for sewing is to do some hand stitching. When you use the sewing machine, your garment can get kinda hacked up, especially if you’re new to it. Hand stitching the facings down that go along a neckline and hand stitching the hems on the sleeves can give the garment a beautiful look. And believe it or not, hand stitching a zipper in place can be wonderful thing. I do that all the time because I think the machine doesn’t look so great. If you are experienced and/or have a fabulous machine, you may be successful but zippers can be problematic. If so, just get yourself some matching thread and needle and put your feet up and relax and enjoy while you secure the zipper in by hand. Go over and over it. Overkill actually, because you don’t want it popping out on you.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Why Don’t Women Sew Anymore? Tips From a Long-Time Seamstress

When I see that people come to my blog because they want to know why women don’t sew anymore, I wish I could flag them down and that we could sit and have tea and discuss this. I would tell them how much I enjoy sewing and that if I didn’t have such a compulsion to write romance novels, I would be spending even more time in my little sewing room.

My favorite thing about sewing is that I can get my clothes to fit perfectly. My next favorite thing is that I can make clothes out of real fabric, like cotton. The next favorite is that I can keep making clothes in the styles that I like. Let’s face it, the designers keep changing styles on us so that we’ll buy new clothes. The clothes I make last forever and they are my favorites. My son teases me because I still like bell-bottoms. (Flair? Boot cut? What’s not to like? I find them slimming.) I have a box of old patterns from the sixties and seventies and I use them again and again.

What I don’t like is that there are not fabric stores any more. Not like there used to be. There are quilt making stores and there are a few fabric stores but much of the fabric is synthetic and I much prefer working with cotton. And I don’t like paying high prices for fabric that I don’t like anyway. I live in rural America so it’s harder for me. You should see the look on my face when I walk into a “real” fabric store. Wow. You too?

If you are new to sewing, let me give you one tip. If you work with cotton it “gives.” You have to pull it a little bit and kinda stretch it to fit. You have to make it work for you. For example, if you are sewing a sleeve to the main front and back of a blouse, you need to manipulate the sleeve to fit correctly with the notches. Even if it requires you to “gather” it a little, it still needs to be manipulated in place and that is done by kinda stretching. If you don’t feel like you’re cheating a little, you’re not doing it right. LOL. Cotton will let you do that. And last but not least, don’t be so hard on yourself and start simple.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Mississippi Wild Blue, a Civil War Era Romance. Available here: Mississippi Wild Blue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072L2WWMR