10:51 AM

Understitch: This technique is used to make a clean, crisp fold at a neckline or edge. To understitch, there must be a lining or facing piece. After seams are pressed open and clipped and/or notched, the seam allowances are pressed toward the lining or facing, and edgestitched together. No stitching shows on the outside of the piece.



10:39 AM

Tack(ing): This technique is used to hold something in place. It can be done by hand or machine.
Stitch together by making several stitches in the same place and secure with a knot.



10:16 AM

Armscye: the curved part of a bodice at the armhole where the sleeve is attached.



9:33 AM

Appliqué: A sewing technique used to attach a shape to a base fabric.

Your trip to the fabric store

9:17 PM

Have a project in mind? Let's go shopping!

To go to the store well prepared, take measurements of who you are sewing for. Of course, you'll have something in mind that will give you direction at the store.

When you get to the store, start by finding a pattern:

Next, find the size you need. FYI, women's sizes on patterns are not the same sizes of clothes you buy. Pattern sizes are bigger.

Nerdy Information: In the 50s, sizes on patterns and ready-made clothing matched! As time passed, companies found they sold more ready-made clothing if they put a smaller size on their pieces. This practice has continued over the past 60 years to the point where a size 6 in women's clothing is really a size 12 from the old days! Patterns have just kept the original measurements and sizes. :)

 Check the measurements on the pattern flap.

Now you can read the back of the pattern for a list of your supplies.

Start by looking for fabric. Follow the chart- ie: if you are making something in size 12, you will need at least 2 7/8 yards of fabric. The pattern gives suggestions of which fabrics will work well with the dress.

Now how much fabric? Follow the chart- ie: If you are making size 12 of this dress and the fabric you've chosen is 45" wide, you'll need 2 7/8 yards of fabric. If the fabric you've chosen is 60" wide, you will only need 2 1/8 yards of fabric. Just a note- I ALWAYS buy 1/8 yard more than needed. Hey, sometimes you mess up! ;)

Any supplies needed? Look at the notions list on the pattern. Here it says you'll need a 14" Zipper and Hooks & Eyes.
Patterns only list basic notions. You will also need to find matching thread, and interfacing as well as any extra trims you would like. For a dress like the pattern posted, I would use a knit interfacing. If you don't have needles that match your fabric type, buy needles too.

Good luck! Have fun!
Favorite places to buy patterns and fabric/notions:
  • Joann- patterns, fabric and notions
  • Hancock Fabrics- patterns, fabric and notions
  • local fabric shops- fabric and notions
  • fabric.com- fabric and notions
  • denverfabrics.com- fabric
  • etsy.com- patterns, fabric and notions

Rules of Thumb When Sewing Garments

9:13 PM

There are many tips for sewing clothing. Everybody wants their project to turn out great!  Here are some Rules of Thumb I use when sewing for success:

1. Press, press, press!

  • Press your seams open as you go. This will help your garment look professional and not home-made. (Note: When quilting, don't press seams open. Press them to the side.)
  • Press collars and hems well. You want a crisp finish.

2. Be sure that all supplies and notions coincide with each other.
  • ie: If you are sewing with cotton quilt fabric, use a Universal Needle size 80/12, all purpose thread in a matching color and a lightweight interfacing (if using). Seam stitches will be at regulation length.
  • ie: If you are sewing with denim, use a Denim Needle 100/16, all purpose thread for seams, heavier contrasting thread for top-stitching and a heavier weight interfacing (like hair-canvas). Seam and top-stitching can be done at a slightly longer length than regulation stitching.

3. When looking for matching thread and it's nowhere to be found, go with thread that is a shade darker. The seam shadows will hide the fact that it's darker.

4. Don't underestimate trimming and grading. It takes away a lot of unneeded bulk.

5. Read through pattern/tutorial completely before beginning a project.

6. Use good fabric! If you're unsure about the fabric you're using (doesn't feel right/look right), then it would be better to ditch it and go with fabric you like.



8:33 PM

Button hole: a bound slit in a flap used to push a button through to close the flap. Buttonholes can be bound with fabric, but are most often bound with thread. Buttonholes can be parallel (vertical) or perpendicular (horizontal) to the direction of the flap. Buttonholes are parallel in places where there is not a lot of tug or pull. ie: down the front of a dress shirt of the length of a dress of skirt. Buttonholes are perpendicular in places that will have more tug or pull. ie: collars, cuffs, waistbands and on most children's-wear.

To make a buttonhole:

1. Measure the width and height of the button. This is how long you want the buttonhole to be.

2. Put in buttonhole presser foot and set machine to buttonhole stitch (if using a machine with an automatic buttonhole maker).

3. Practice a buttonhole on a scrap piece of fabric folded into three layers (this imitates the flap). Use the length measured and mark on buttonhole presser foot.

4. Adjust tension and length as needed and try again.

5. Sew the buttonholes!


My Sewing Machine

7:40 PM

If you're looking to really invest in a sewing machine, the two best brands are Bernina and Pfaff. Other machines will do alright, but it's my opinion that buying a used Bernina or Pfaff machine is better than a new machine of another brand.

Having used both brands, I like them both and they both pretty much let me do whatever I want. However, I occasionally sew with leather and have found that Pfaff machines to sew through leather better.

I bought my machine (Bernina Virtuosa 153) used and refurbished. These machines had been the machines used for my sewing classes in college. I was sure to buy a machine with an automatic buttonhole maker and presser foot because that makes my life so much easier :). Other than that, I didn't/don't really care about too many other bells and whistles.

I don't use most of my stitch options most of the time. The stitching options I use the most are zig zag (#2 on machine), blind hem (#7), serpentine (#4) and buttonhole (#9). I also like to be able to move my needle position over from one side to the other.



3:52 PM

Notions: items (aside from fabric) needed to complete construction of a clothing item or other sewing project.

Notions pictured above are thread, buttons, elastic, interfacing and ribbon trim.

Notions include-
bias tape
hem tape
hook and eye closures
seam binding
trim (ribbon, piping, lace)



3:51 PM

Thread: string/yarn used to stitch fabric together. It is usually a polyester or cotton-wrapped polyester string.

It is important to use good quality thread that fits the project you are doing (ie: heavier thread for denim topstitching, very fine thread for stitching with lightweight silk or lawn.) Also, match colors! If you cannot find an exact match, going with a shade darker will be more subtle because seam lines have shadows.

Never buy off-brand cheap thread (you know the kind- like $1 for a spool). Also, do not use vintage thread. Both are weak, will break and be frustrating to sew with. Don't sew seams with machine embroidery thread.

Brands I like? I stick to buying Gutermann (very nice) and Dual Duty threads.


chalk marker

1:53 PM

Chalk Marker (Chaco Liner Marker): a marking tool that uses chalk to draw on fabric. This is a very nice marking tool because it is removable and precise. It comes in different colors to contrast with fabrics.

Chalk Markers are great for marking pocket placement, buttonhole placement, darts, and hem length.

This tool is hard to find in local stores (around me at least :)) There are wider and flatter ones available at stores like Joann, but this narrow, pen-like one is much easier to use. You can find these markers on Amazon and online at Joann.


Serpentine Stitch

4:44 PM

Serpentine Stitch: a stitch that creates a curved snake-like pattern. Serpentine stitching is used for finishing seam edges, and decorative top stitching.

This picture demonstrates the finishing of a seam with a zig zag stitch. The stitching is right along the edge of the fabric, so the stitching catches the edge and keeps the fabric from fraying.

Note: You will need to change the settings on your machine to a slightly longer stitch length. Practice on a scrap first.


Pressing seams

3:36 PM

To ensure a professional finish, press all the seams in the garment!

First, trim the seams, then press the seam to set the stitches. This set almost acts like a glue. The fibers from the thread and the fabric meld together.

After setting the stitches, press the seams open. This ensures a crisp looking seam. This is good to do on every seam even if the seam allowance will be folded back together.


Shirtail Hem

9:30 PM

Shirttail Hem: a narrow hem that is usually placed along the bottom of dress shirts and some skirts or dresses. This is a good hem for subtle curves.

 How to:

Turn fabric under 1/4", then 1/4" again and edge stitch.


Staystitch 1/4" away from raw edge- this will help the fabric easily turn under. If a thread from the stitching is pulled slightly on outward curves, it will help the fabric compress or ever-so-slightly gather, for a smoothly turned hem. Note: do NOT staystitch on inward curves of hems.


Stay Stitch

9:21 PM

Stay Stitch: a line of stitching that is meant to stabilize a piece of clothing. It prevents fabric from stretching or distorting in the process of sewing the piece. Stay stitching is the first step after cutting and marking the fabric. It is usually done 1/2" away from the edge. Stay stitching is done on the shoulders, along the neckline and on pieces that are cut on the bias.

Note: Stay stitching must be done directionally so that the fabric is not distorted even more.


Directional Stitching

9:17 PM

Directional Stitching: the rule that all stitching must be stitched in a certain direction. The stitching must start from the widest point of the piece to the narrowest point.


Knit Elastic

10:22 PM

Knit elastic: a stretchy band of yarns (usually polyester and rubber) that is created by knitting the materials together. Knit elastic is not as durable as woven elastic, but is lightweight. Knit elastic can also roll, so it is not ideal for waistbands, but works well for underwear, sleeves and necklines.


Woven Elastic

10:27 PM

Woven elastic: a stretchy band of fiber (usually polyester) and rubber that is created by weaving the materials together. Woven elastic is the most durable elastic, although it can also be the most bulky. Woven elastic is an excellent choice in making stretchy/elastic waistbands in pants. It is also a great choice in jackets or coats.


Pinking Shears

11:19 PM

Pinking Shears: Scissors/shears that cut in a zig-zag pattern rather than a straight line. Pinking shears are perfect for trimming seams along outward curves like Peter Pan collars. They imitate cutting notches to reduce bulk on curved seams. Pinking shears are also great for finishing seams as it reduces fraying.


Sewing Kit additions for the intermediate sewer

8:15 PM


Once you get sewing more complex things, you may want more tools! Here are some things you may want to add to your sewing kit:
  • One pair of small shears with sharp points (great for clipping threads, and making snips)
  • Pinking shears

  •  Various sized and types start with  of machine sewing needles. Start with stretch, sharp and denim needles.

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

  •  A large self healing cutting mat

  • You may want to invest in an iron that steams well. I love mine from T-fal.

For a printable list, click here.



7:53 PM

Bobbin: A short metal or plastic spool that is placed under the sewing plate of a sewing machine. It holds the thread that is looped and caught from the bottom. A bobbin is placed in a bobbin case that can be either removable or not removable from the bobbin housing.



7:50 PM

Thimble: a metal or plastic cap that is usually placed on the middle finger. A thimble protects the finger when hand sewing. It is most often used when tailoring suits or hand quilting.

Thimbles come in different sizes, so it is essential to try them on to check for fit. You're looking for a fit that is not to tight and not too loose. You should be able to feel the thimble wrap around your finger, but it should not feel uncomfortable.

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