Looking forward to the New Year and a look back
As Christmas turns to New Year, we start to think of starting again, of resolutions and making a difference. I am no exception, but this year I have got to thinking about what I have learnt over the years. Most of my sewing misconceptions I have seen my students have and I’d like to share some of them with you here:
The machine needles that come with your sewing machine are all that you are ever going to need.
It took me many years to figure this one out. I now use so many needles that I have a tin to collect the broken and dull ones. In the drawer in my sewing machine table I have over a dozen types and sizes of needle. I have adopted a pincushion to take the “not quite blunt” needles for future use. This has sections drawn on it with the size and type written in the sections, so I can easily pick one out that I need.
If the tension on my machine is out, or it’s skipping stitches I change my needle. This surprisingly helps. I service my machine once a month and the needle gets thrown then. When I go from one project to another the needle will get changed then. The list goes on, but the next time someone says that my sewing is very neat – I know it is mainly due to the needle.
All threads are the same.
My husband and anyone coming into my sewing room look in wonder at the amount of thread I have. Gütermann and Superior are the ones I use. But I have also tried YLI and Metler and I need to study these in more depth. I use Gütermann, as they don’t shed as many fibres when you are sewing, this is turn leads to the shuttle case in your machine not clogging up as much. I love working with the very fine Superior thread. It is a long staple Egyptian cotton and very strong. YLI have plenty of specialist thread, the invisible thread is great for applique and Metler have the same range as Gütermann, so maybe I won’t be changing over to them just yet.
I once used over locking thread in my sewing machine to make garments and did so for quite some time. I thought this would save money, but in the long run it cost me. The garments didn’t hang right and the overall finish wasn’t great and my machine needed some urgent repairs.
I want a sewing machine with lots of stitches
We’ve all been there. We’ve sat in awe at the array of stitches and dream of the things we will make. My present machine has over 300, but actually I only use 6 stitches and sometimes the alphabet.
My favourite stitch on my machine is the button sewing on stitch. I hate sewing on buttons with a passion, but love to do it with my machine. The other stitches that are used are obviously the straight and zigzag, and the buttonhole. The other two are a bit out there. I use the blind hemstitch for applique. I’ve never mastered the art of doing blind hemming with a machine, I do try now and again, but I’ve not been able to do it. But for applique, the blind hemstitch is almost invisible (especially when using the invisible thread from YLI). Then lastly the stepped zigzag gets lots of use. Some of you know I make my own lingerie and this stitch is invaluable for sewing on elastic.
Making a toile is a waste of time
Why make the same thing twice, and one of them you are going to throw away? My mannequin has just as many clothes as me now that I have learnt a very expensive lesson. Ok, I confess I don’t make a toile for everything I make; simple skirts and dresses are ok. But complicated dresses, trousers and even skirts need a toile. What is a toile you may be asking? Basically it is a mock up of the finished garment in a cheap fabric of the same weight. Almost anything will do. One of the cheapest ways is to buy bedding sets from Asda or Primark etc. Have you ever calculated how much it would cost to buy the amount of fabric in these sets? A duvet has over 4m of fabric in it, plenty for a couple of toiles. When a toile is made, you can decide what to change, or in my case, whether to make it or not. Saving your expensive material for another project.
What to do when someone asks you about your garment
Most people know I make my own clothes, so I nearly always tell them that I have made it. But occasionally you meet someone you don’t know very well and they ask you where you got your dress/skirt/top. It will depend on who they are. I go with either, “Oh, I’ve had it some time, can’t remember” or my favourite, “I have a special little lady who makes things for me”.
I have lost count on how many times a bride has said to me, “You make clothes don’t you? I have my wedding dress and now need 6 bridesmaid dresses.” How I cringe inward at that one. Usually I ask how much they have paid for their wedding dress and how much they want to pay for their bridesmaid dresses. Their answer is usually something like £300 and £50 each. Wow, It would cost about £40 for the fabric for each dress!!! I usually politely tell them that there is just the same amount of work goes into a bridesmaid dress and I couldn’t make one for under £500 each. Usually puts them off, and then I recommend a decent dress shop that I know have occasion outfits.
It is now coming up to the New Year. I’ve decided not to have a resolution, but intend to complete all the projects in my sewing room! Notice I haven’t put a time scale on that!