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

Advertisements

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

Why Don’t Women Sew Any More?

It’s a sexist question to ask, “Why don’t women sew anymore?” Men sew too. I met a man who had a sewing machine and made sports clothes and I know men who are bikers and pull out needle and thread to stitch their leathers when they need repair. Men have been sewing probably as long as women have, tailors are evidence of that. However… many more women throughout history have enjoyed sewing their own clothes. Not so much anymore and why is that? One reason might be because third world countries did it so much cheaper and the industrial age sent women to work, right alongside men. Nevertheless, I think the main reason women don’t sew much anymore is because the sewing machines made it a pain in the &%$#. The first day of sewing class, I ran the sewing machine needle right through my finger. For years, I have persevered through bundled, knotted thread that stops the machine and God forbid… uneven tension. Then there are the broken needles and the year that stretch knits came out and we had to learn to sew on that fabric for the first time. The “new” sewing machines were fine when they were simple but the more advanced they got, fewer women wanted to torture themselves with it. Forget it already! “I am a lousy seamstress,” they told everyone. The sad part of that is that they weren’t lousy; the machines were just NOT user friendly.

ButterflySewingMachine

I have been sewing for decades. How do I do it and still enjoy it? It happened quite by accident. I lived in the mountains and we had no electricity so I had to sew on a treadle machine. All it does is sew, forward and backwards. That’s it! And guess what? I have no problems with it. I never mess with the tension, I know better than to touch it. My treadle machine was manufactured in the 1980’s in China and is called a “Butterfly.” What happened was, communist China bought out an old Singer sewing machine factory and continued making the machines but made them to run as treadles without electricity. I have had my treadle for about twenty-eight years. I love it and I love to sew! Just thought some of you might like to know.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78