Tuesday, September 4, 2012

lapped zipper

Most beginner sewers learn how to put in a zipper by basting up the seam, pinning the zipper in and sewing a rectangle around the zipper. This type of zipper is called the center zipper. It sounds so simple, but is it? NO! It is so hard to get the two lines on each side of the zipper to be parallel. This type of zipper also doesn't look super awesome on your finished product because the zipper shows, and because of the "parallel" lines, everyone will know you made your skirt. ("SCREAMS homemade!" as my old professor used to say.) The ultimate compliment someone can give on something you've made is "Where did you get it?" That means it looks professional. Of course, if everyone knows you sew and you've made something semi unique, you'll get the other question too even if you've done a good job.

I guess I'll get off my soapbox now. The point of this post is to show you how to install a zipper using the lapped method. Although invisible zippers are the best ever, lapped zippers are far superior to center zippers. They may seem a bit more tricky, but practice a few and you'll get the hang of it.

Step 1
Stitch seam leaving top open for zipper. Press left side seam allowance (when wrong side is facing up) back to 5/8" wide. Press right side seam allowance back to 1/2" wide. Make sure the 1/2" pressing goes all the way down past the point where the seam ends. This step is key to making this look right!

Step 2
Turn piece so the right side of the fabric is facing up. Pin zipper right along the edge of opening that has been folded back 1/2". Match the pinked top of the zipper to the top of the fabric.

Info piece: All zippers are made to have about 3/4" extra tape at the top of the zipper. This makes it perfectly easy to install as most seam allowances are 5/8". It allows 1/8" give or take near the seam when the waistband is sewn in.

Step 3
Pin all the way down past the point where the seam ends. Again-- this part is key.

Step 4
Using a zipper foot, stitch very close to the edge of the zipper. Stitch past the point where the seam ends.

Note: This fabric is a knit, so that is why the stitching looks/is a not quite perfect. This part will end up being covered, so it doesn't exactly need to be perfect... unless you're doing it for a grade. :)

Step 5
Fold the other side of the seam over the zipper. Cover the stitching.

Step 6
Pin in place. Be sure to keep the pins on one side of the zipper as you may want to open the zipper while stitching.

Step 7
Beginning at the place where the seam ends, stitch across the bottom of the zipper.

Step 8
At about 3/8" from the folded edge, pivot and stitch along the zipper at 3/8". After stitching a couple inches, you may want to open the zipper so you can use the edge of the fabric as your guide in making a straight line.

Note: Now you only have to worry about one side being parallel instead of trying match everything perfectly!



Now you're ready for a waistband!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bias tape

double fold bias tape
single fold bias tape

Bias tape: A long strip of fabric, cut on the bias to provide more stretch and flexibility for whatever purpose it will be used. It is folded along the edges for a clean finished edge.

Double Fold Bias Tape is used to bind quilts, hems, and other edges.
Single Fold Bias Tape is used for some facings, and casings as well as accent trims.

make your own bias tape

Yes, you can go to the store and get simple basic bias tape for all your bias tape needs, but you also could make your own beautiful unique tape!

step 1

Cut 1 1/2" to 2" strips diagonally across a piece of your favorite fabric.

step 2

Sew the ends of each strip together. Remember-- right sides together! Lay the fabric as shown in picture.

(Note: For steps 1 and 2 you could make a parallelogram, sew it into a tube and then cut the strips. I prefer this way though because I can anchor the seams. If you're going to need a lot of tape for a big project though, the tube way would definitely save time.)

step 3

Press the seams open.

step 4

Trim the corner tips to line up with the rest of the strip.

step 5

Press each side of the strip in about 3/8" to 1/2".

step 6 (do not do this step if you are making single-fold bias tape)

Match up the two sides to form a long strip of double-fold bias tape!

Monday, January 10, 2011

binding a quilt. video tutorial

I'm finishing a quilt for my baby and thought I'd make a video of finishing quilt binding because I get questions about it every once in a while. Here it is:


Rob's comment was: What's that on your fingers? Typical. It was paint, just to let you know.

EDIT: I called the bias tape single-fold. It is really double-fold bias tape.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

fabric terms and grain

Selvage: tightly woven edge of fabric that is parallel to the warp and doesn't fray.
Weft: crosswise grain
Warp: lengthwise grain
          finding warp
Bias: diagonal across fabric

Putting fabric on grain

Putting fabric on grain: Laying out and/or manipulating fabric to return to it's true form- making the warp and weft yarns lie perpendicular to each other.

This is an important step in preparing your fabric. If you do not put your fabric on grain, the yarns will relax as you wash the item, and the seams can twist, and the fit can become weird.

Steps to putting fabric on grain:
  1. Pre-shrink fabric.
  2. Lay fabric out matching the selvages.
  3. Find the weft and cut or tear along the weft threads on each side of fabric piece (you can do this by either making a snip perpendicular to the selvage and tearing, or following directions below)
  4. Line up selvages. If the corners don't match, you know the fabric is off-grain.
  5. Stretch the fabric the opposite way (so the corners will match up) and repeat step until the corners do match up.
  6. Make sure all edges are perpendicular to each other and you are ready to cut!
          note: if fabric is being stubborn, you can steam it with your iron.

Finding weft:

Non-woven interfacing

Non-woven interfacing: interfacing that is made by pressing fibers together. Generally should only be used in craft-making as it is very stiff in nature. There are some non-woven interfacings with a directional comb on the fibers. This makes it more drape-able, but is still stiff and not the best option when sewing clothing.

Knit Weft-Insertion Interfacing

Weft-insertion interfacing: interfacing that is knitted, but stabilized with an extra thread woven through the loops. This interfacing is good for use on knitted clothing items. ie: peter pan collar on a knitted shirt. Can either be sew-in or fusible.


Pre-shrink: wash and dry fabric with normal/future heat settings.

Pre-shrinking is a term used to remind you that fabric made with natural fibers can shrink when washed and dried. Because of the way many natural fibers work, it is important to remember to pre-shrink your fabric before you start a project. If you do not preshrink your fabric, your project will most likely shrink and become too small.

Pre-shrinking also relaxes the weave or knit of fabric which makes it easier to put on grain.

Sew-in interfacing

Sew-in interfacing: interfacing that is simply fabric (no glue dots). It is applied by basting it to the fabric.

 Interfacing is trimmed to 1/8" from seam

General method for insertion:
  1. Cut interfacing to the size of the pattern piece
  2. Baste to wrong side of surface fabric 
  3. Sew fabric to lining/facing
  4. Trim 1/8" from seam

Monday, September 6, 2010

woven interfacing

Woven interfacing: Interfacing has a plain weave and is structurally more stiff, but still drapes well. Can be either sew-in or fusible. Ranges from very lightweight (organza) to heavy (hair canvas).

fusible interfacing

fusible interfacing: interfacing that has small dots of glue on one side. Can be woven, knitted or non-woven.

method of insertion:
  1. Use pattern piece to cut interfacing
  2. Trim off 5/8" around edges of interfacing
  3. Attach to fabric piece using a combination of heat and steam (instructions come with interfacing)
To pre-shrink fusible interfacing, hand-wash in warm water and hang to dry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pressing Mitt

Pressing Mitt: a mitten like tool that helps in pressing very tight curves and hard to reach places. You can use your hand to help make the shape you need, but you are protected from the heat and steam of the iron.

An oven mitt works well too as long as there isn't grease all over it.


Clapper: a pressing tool made of wood specifically helpful in tailoring techniques. A clapper is used to press things flat.

With a hot iron, shoot a bunch of steam onto an area of the item to be pressed (usually a seam, collar or other sort of edge). Immediately place the clapper on top of the area just steamed and hold there for 20-30 seconds or so. The clapper holds in the heat and moisture and helps the fabric to stay flat.

Sleeve Board

Sleeve Board: a convenient pressing tool that makes pressing sleeves and other smaller items easier. It's like a mini-skinny ironing board.

Tool Tips

If you're new to sewing, or you've sewn before and given up because it has become too frustrating, let me let you in on a little secret. Your tools will make a huge difference in your experience.

Think about it. What is something you do every day? Cook? Well, if you have the wrong size bowl or pan, you may find yourself spending a little extra time to make things work. Then, if you tack on dull knifes, a messy kitchen, lack of some ingredients and dingy lighting, does cooking sound fun anymore? No. If you know me, you may think this is my excuse for not liking to cook... and yes, I sincerely believe that's part of it. Of course, nausea and increased sense of smell while I'm pregnant not only doesn't make cooking fun, but unbearable.

Anyway, my suggestion to you is to set yourself up to give sewing the best chance you can. Don't feel bad if despite your best efforts, you still are not passionately in love. I can cook in a nice kitchen and like it, but I still can't honestly say I love it. Everyone has their own passions and interests.

Here are some essential things I wouldn't skip in beginning to sew:
  • Use sharp scissors that cut through fabric easily. 
  • Use long thin pins that make the process nicer. (I use quilting pins that are longer than 1 3/4")
  • Have pretty fabric on hand that makes you happy when you look at it. 
  • Do your research on which sewing machine needles work best for the type of fabric so you're not breaking your needles all the time. 
  • Have your machine tuned up so the tension is right and it sews smoothly. 
  • Do NOT use the thread in little sewing kits they sell. It is extremely weak and will not work in your machine.
  • Read a few basic instructions in the manual before you begin. This will help you get to know your machine better.
  • Make sure you have the tools for a basic beginner sewer.(for a complete sewing kit list, click here)
    You don't have to go crazy... especially if you're just starting (although, I would say that a Bosch mixer, nice knives, a ventilator, a gas stove and more storage would probably motivate me to cook more). Nice used machines can work just as well as the new ones with all the bells and whistles (AKA: crazy embroidery options). $8 scissors can cut fabric pretty much as well as $40 scissors. You get the point.

    Your Sewing Kit

    To begin sewing, you need some tools. Here is a list of the tools you would need based on how involved with sewing you plan on getting. For some tool tips, click here.

    For the beginner
    • One pair of sharp shears. Get a new pair, label them and guard them how your grandma guards hers.

    • Quilting pins 1 3/4" or longer

    • Pin cushion

    • A few safety pins

    • One flexible measuring tape

    • Hand sewing needles in various sizes (make sure they're Sharps)

    • One seam ripper (as much as I wish we didn't have to use this, it is essential) 

    • Black and white thread

    • Something to mark your fabric with (I usually use pins, but I also like the chalk wheels.)
    •  Press cloth (this is just a white piece of cotton about 18"x18")

    For the intermediate sewer add:
    • One pair of small shears with sharp points (great for clipping threads, and making snips)

    • A few extra bobbin spools (Make sure they fit your machine specifically.)

    For the advanced sewer add:
    • One pair of five inch dressmaker shears

    • One gridded clear ruler (This is helpful when you get into pattern making.)