Perfect Pinning (+ a giveaway!!)

Pins. It’s just as simple as sticking them through the fabric right? Well, not quite. Firstly, there’s the type of pin you use. Right tools for the right job applies to pins as much as it applies to any other sewing tool. Some pins are longer/sharper/finer depending on the type of fabric and project you are undertaking. Some excellent info about pin types and their uses here, here, and here….pinning tips

Then there is the question of quality. As with many tools, not all pins are created equal. The best pins will slide smoothly through your fabric without snagging and without force; and they will last you many years without becoming blunt or rusting if used and stored correctly. My personal bug bear are cheap pins with plastic heads. Ack! I only ever use glass headed pins. They tend to be of better quality and most importantly, if you’re pressing around them, they don’t melt if you accidentally touch them with the iron! (I learnt that lesson early!)

But what about how to pin? It’s one of those things that, when I first started sewing, I assumed was a no brainer.  Stick it through the fabric. Job done. Right? Well no. There’re subtleties to pinning, as with any sewing technique. Little things. But things that collectively, can incrementally improve your sewing. So I thought I’d share a few of my “personal pinning protocols” (shameless opportunity for alliteration seized, ha!). Little things that I was taught when I first learnt to sew and stick to still…and the logic behind them…pinning tips

This is the way I pin the most. Always within the seam allowance. So if my pins do end up leaving holes (some fabrics render this likely) then they are not visible on the outside of the garment. It also means that I can leave my pins in place until the very last second as they pass to the side of the presser foot rather than the middle of it. So shifting of fabric is minimised. I will also always pin with the points facing towards the presser foot. It makes them easy to pull out as you go. (If they were facing the other way…well…cack handed!)

pinning tips

When sewing some seams, you’ll be required to stop at a given point and back stitch and/or switch to a different stitch length. (Think preparing a seam for zip insertion for instance). I always mark this point with a different coloured pin, pinned at right angles to my other pins. It just gives me a visual aid and a precise marker as to where I want that needle to stop.

pinning tips

When pattern matching is important I will pin at right angles to the seam that I am sewing. When sewing stripes for instance, I will pin stripe on top of stripe at regular and small intervals.  Pinning at right angles “locks” the fabric more effectively than pinning in a linear way. The difference on a plain and/or stable fabric is negligible. But even minimal shifting will be visually really obvious on stripes. I will also employ this method of pinning on more slippery fabrics. There is an argument for always pinning this way all the time. But I tend to employ it when I want to ramp up the accuracy and precision on seams where the slightest shift would be really obvious either visually or where accurate alignment is vital. (easing in collars, sleeves, necklines etc) If I can get away with just using a few pins, pinned vertically and spaced far apart then I will always default to that. Heck, I have been know to dispense with pins altogether. Some projects are more forgiving than others. But sometimes, when it absolutely has to be accurate, this is the method I go for.

pinning tips

Now I am right handed. And my pin dish sits to the right hand side of my machine. So actually the way that I have pinned in the previous photo is actually a bit illogical.  Because I end up pulling the pins out with my left hand, passing them across to my right hand (or worse, holding them in my mouth as I go!) so I can put them in the pin dish to the right hand side of me. It’s actually a tad cack handed for me. And I have no explanation for that. Used to bug my sewing teacher no end, lol! When pinning at right angles it would make more sense to have the heads facing to the right like this. Just saying. But the cack handed way in which I do it is now so ingrained in my muscle memory, it’s unlikely to change now!

How you pin isn’t just about the direction of pinning of course. It also has to do with how you hold the fabric when you pin. This is how I would automatically put my pins in when I first started sewing. I’d pick the fabric up and stick the pins in like so…pinning tips

That is until my sewing teacher walked up and slapped my hand! (Old school she was!) I will preface this next bit of advice by saying that, as with most rules, there are exceptions. There are times that you can get away with doing this and times you when it will affect the accuracy of your pinning. Depending on the fabric, as you pick it up like this, the layers can shift. On trickier, more slippery fabrics, the more you move them, the more they shift….

pinning tips

As a rule, if you can keep your fabric flat like so…

pinning tips

And pin on the flat, then there will be less chance of layers shifting and therefore, more accuracy across your project.

Talking of keeping things flat…pinning tips

Pins are not always the final step when you absolutely must have a completely flat and secure fabric sandwich before you pass it through the machine…zips are the most obvious example of a situation where it’s vital that everything lies flat and secure before you put a permanent line of stitching in there…

pinning tips

If you’ve ever questioned why you ought to baste a zip rather than just pin it…just look at the photo above and the effect that pinning can have on your seamline, compared to how flat the fabric edge is on the basted section! Now I’m not saying baste everything. Life (and sewing time) is too short for that! But when it absolutely has to be accurate, you’ll be pleased you added in the extra step. Promise!

So, if all of that has you wanting to up your pin game, then here’s a treat for you. The pins featured in this post (above and below) are Hiroshima pins. Japanese pins of superior quality. They come in the most gorgeous packaging (I’m such a sucker for packaging)…hiroshima pins
hiroshima pins

 

And they are like miniature works of art in their own right. In order below are tulip hiroshima glass headed patchwork pins, Akari pins and Shizuku pins…pinning tipshiroshima pinshiroshima pins

Aren’t they STUNNING! They are part of the newly expanded range of hiroshima pins now available at Beyond Measure. Grace has the most exquisite taste. And she is very generously offering one reader the chance to win 4 packs of luxury Hiroshima pins of their choice.

To be in with a chance of winning simply subscribe to Grace’s newsletter here. Additional entries for facebook and instagram follows. Then leave a comment here to let me know how many entries (ie what you’ve followed/subscribed to). Giveaway is open internationally and closes at midnight GMT on Sunday 26th February.

Good luck and happy pinning!!

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How to shorten metal open ended zipper….

Very specific and what you could call “niche” post today. But I cannot be the only one to hit this obstacle so I’m sharing.  On a recent project  I hit a bit of a snag with this metal open ended zipper. (Who am I kidding. I hit a snag on EVERY project. Occupational hazard for a refashioner!) It was about an inch longer than I needed it to be. I’ve marked with chalk where I wanted the stoppers to be…Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

 

Shortening a standard closed and plastic zipper is pretty straightforward.  With this zip though, I couldn’t shorten from the bottom. (Damn). That’s where the fittings are that make this an open ended zipper. It’s chunky and the design I had in mind called for the the zip stops (at the top of the zip) to still be visible on the finished garment.  So simply sewing thread stoppers wasn’t going to cut it.  (double damn).Shorten a metal open ended zipper

In some cases the fabric that encloses the end of the zipper at the top is sufficient to act as a stopper in itself. But in this instance that was not the case either….I couldn’t order another zip as the length I needed was not standard; and in any case, I much prefer to use what I have if I can. (Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn). So, in short (pun intended), I needed to shorten the zip from the top instead…

So if you ever find yourself in a similar position, here’s how to shorten an open ended metal zipper…Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

I needed to move this little sucker (above) down to where that chalk mark is. And this is one chunky metal zipper, so there was some serious brute force involved in this.

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Before doing anything,  unzip the zip about halfway down and create some makeshift stoppers with pins. If you’re anything like me you may inadvertently pull the zip pull straight off the top after you’ve removed the stoppers. Yes I have done that. After the zip was sewn into a garment. (Face palm).

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

You’ll need some jewellery pliers and side cutters for this…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Using the side cutters, and starting with the zipper tooth in front of your chalk mark, snip the end of the zip tooth off… then cut away as much of the rest of it as you can…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Then use the pliers to wiggle and remove what’s left…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Remove 5 or 6 teeth in this way, on both sides of the zip….

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Cut away the excess zipper tape…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

You’re left with these zipper stops on the parts you cut away. Now you CAN buy zipper repair kits like these. And there will be replacement zipper stops included in those. If those meet your needs you can skip the next couple of steps. But  I didn’t have time to order and wait for a kit to arrive (I was on a deadline and everything is right down to the wire right now). Plus, you know, that “working with what I have” thing in me!

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

This was by far the trickiest step. It’s on there pretty firmly so this is where the brute force part comes in. Use the pliers (A second pair comes in handy if you have them) to wiggle/lever/coax the zipper stop off the zipper tape. Not shown in this pic, but I found cutting away the zipper tape as close to the stopper as possible, and then fraying it, aided the process of loosening it’s grip a little. As did swearing.

shorten a metal zipper - makery.uk

Eventually you’ll get the little sucker off. Open it up slightly (2 sets of pliers again)…

shorten a metal zipper - makery.uk

Slide it onto the zipper tape in the position of the first tooth you removed and use the pliers to clamp it firmly in place. (Repeat for both sides of the zip)

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Ta dah!

So yeah! Random I know. But someone, someday, is going to find this useful. You’re welcome 😉

 

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Refashion: Vintage Jersey Dress to Tunic Shirt

Finding time to blog my makes (or indeed sew much for myself) has been a struggle for the latter part of 2016. Since The Refashioners in fact. Many things last year took their toll on my sewjo ( What a bloody awful year it was!) and as a result I’ve neglected this blog for the last few months.  I think I’ve been having some kind of  existential blogging crisis. For a while I questioned whether I was just falling out of love with blogging and had my head turned by Social Media. Recently I’ve been more inclined to share on IG. It’s quick. And writing a blog post is not. But I don’t think it’s that….VINTAGE JERSEY DRESS REFASHION (5)

It’s more to do with my sewing and me personally. Creatively I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Emotionally I’ve felt the need to go into my shell and hibernate for a while. I’m doing a gazillion things….but none of them “properly”.  (Which I hate). I have a gazillion ideas.  But precious little time or energy. And when presented with a time window I can use, I’m paralyzed by indecision and procrastination; or worse still, rushing and bodging! So none of them are reaching fruition. I think I just need to regroup.  Take a long deep breath.  How do you clear a creative log jam? Sometimes absorbing myself in simple, mindless tasks is enough for me. Things that occupy me just enough, but not too much. And as evidence of that, right after this little simple refashion, I sewed up something else, that I am really proud of and will share  with you, I promise. But in the meantime….here’s my little icebreaker…

VINTAGE JERSEY DRESS REFASHION (5)

Unmistakable vintage M&S label. Back when it was called St Michael! Oh yeah, and pre vanity sizing! This dress dates from the late 70’s I’d say. LOVE the geometric print and thick jersey fabric.  Love the button placket and mandarin collar. Not so keen on the frumpy bottom half. A younger sewist with better legs than I, may choose to modernise this little beauty by going down the mini dress route. On the right person that would look ace. I am not that person 😉

VINTAGE JERSEY DRESS REFASHION (5)

So I altered the bottom section to reflect one of my favourite details. A shirt tail hem. Very simple alteration. Lay the garment flat with side seams (in the centre of this pic) pinned on top of eachother.  (Doing this ensures any alteration cuts you make will be even & centred) Draw out your curves in chalk making sure the lines are at 90 degree angles at the folded edges that are the CF and CB (this prevents a peak or wedge in the centre of your curved line when you open the garment out after cutting). The curves meet at the side seam.

VINTAGE JERSEY DRESS REFASHION (5)

I pinned along my chalk lines to stop anything shifting as I cut. Cut just underneath the line of pins. I eyeballed an approximate hem allowance. I wasn’t feeling the need to be precise, but you could always mark one in. To finish the hem I simply serged the raw edge, turned under and stitched in place. (Where the curves meet at the side seams, it helps to unpick a little of the side seams to give you room to manoeuvre and turn under neatly).

VINTAGE JERSEY DRESS REFASHION (5)

This pic better shows the effect before and after cutting. Apologies for the poor quality. A) It’s winter. B) I totally neglected to take a proper before photo.

VINTAGE JERSEY DRESS REFASHION (5)

A simple alteration which makes this garment much more wearable for me. It’s super warm and cosy too! It’s bugging me a little that I didn’t swap to black thread to sew this hem. It didn’t seem as obvious in the gloomy light I was sewing in at the time.  I may go back and change that I think. I have a “sewlution” this year. I don’t normally do resolutions. But if I have one sewing related one this year it’s this: ” Sew less, just sew it better”.  If I’m going to fully break out of my rut, niggles like that are not going to help. Best I go back and sort that hem out then!

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Overlocker Tips: Sewing a Knit Neckline

OK, so another overlocker quickie today. If you’re not new to overlockers, then look away now, because you’ll already know this. But if you are sewing your first steps on an overlocker, after sewing side seams, this is the next thing you are going to want to know. Adding a neckline band…how to sew a knit neckline

(Actually this technique can be applied at the cuffs and hem too, as an alternative to straightforward hemming. Only difference there, is that the edges are straight and not curved and the band you are applying doesn’t necessarily need to be that much shorter than the edge you are applying it to. But that’s another post! )

And before anyone asks, because yes, this fabric is awesome, it’s from here 😉

Back to necklines. A neckline band is simply a long strip of fabric, sewn together (at the short ends with RS together) to form a loop, then folded in half (WS together with raw edges aligned)….how to sew a knit neckline

The total circumference of the neckband should generally be 2-3″ shorter than the circumference of the neckline you are applying it to. (This can be dependant on the amount of stretch in your fabric, but in most cases 2-3″ gets you there. I have an in depth post on that coming soonish). The band is cut shorter,then the stretch inherent in the knit fabric is used to ease it onto the neckline. Once attached, it will ping back to it’s original size and in the process it will pull the neckline inwards slightly; and this action is what allows the neckband to sit flat against the body. Make sense?

With the neckband sewn in a loop and folded over, mark the CB (the seam on your band), CF, and sides with pins. (Essentially 4 equally spaced pins dividing your neckband into quarters). On your neckline mark the CB and CF with pins…how to sew a knit neckline

 

With your garment right side out, we are pinning the band to the neckline with raw edges aligned. We are pinning at 4 points initially. Pin the CB and CF of your band to the CB and CF of your neckline. Then pin the sides of your band, to the shoulder seams points of your neckline…how to sew a knit neckline

 

Between those four points you have pinned,  the neckline will be longer than the band as pictured below. Obviously, because we cut the neckband shorter…how to sew a knit neckline

 

By stretching the neckband we can get it to “temporarily” be the same length as the neckline…how to sew a knit neckline

 

Work your way around each quarter section of the neckband, (the gaps between each of the original four pins) stretching it to fit the neckline and pinning in place as you go. Pin perpendicular to the raw edge (vertically) as pictured.how to sew a knit neckline

 

There it is all pinned in place. Don’t worry that the neckline looks longer and wavy still. We sort that out at the machine…how to sew a knit neckline

When you serge around this seam, you will need to stretch the neck band again. So you are holding the whole thing at tension, (so the neckband and neckline sit flat and flush against eachother) as it passes under the presser foot. (Remove the pins as you go! )

It helps to orientate the garment so that when you sew, the neckline (which is slightly longer) is facing the feed dogs, and the neckband is on top. In the same way as a sewing machine will feed the bottom layer of fabric ever so slightly quicker, so does a serger. Not massively. But it helps. ( You can also engage the differential feed on your serger to aid this process. But that’s another post.  Stretching the neckband manually like this works just fine!)how to sew a knit neckline

When serging “in the round” like this, just before your needles reach the point where you started, manouver the edge of your seam to the inside of the blade. So you continue sewing but are no longer cutting. (You don’t want to cut the overlock stitches you have already sewn). Continue sewing about 1″ past your starting point, so you have a double section of overlock stitch. (It’s a bit like the equivalent of a backstitch on a standard machine without the going backwards part! You’re securing the first part of your stitching by going over it again). At this point, stop sewing, lift your presser foot, then serge off a chain long enough to tie off.  (See previous post on finishing off your thread tails).

Et voila. A neckline to be proud of!how to sew a knit neckline

Thing with an overlocker is, it’s more noisy than it is actual scary. Just like your standard machine, it will only go as fast as you stamp on the foot pedal. Don’t stamp on the foot pedal is what I meant to say! Go gently, and you’ll be fine. And in no time at all you’ll be wondering what all the fuss (and fear) was about and you’ll be whizzing through necklines lighting fast. (Oh and at this stage above, you would press the seam to the inside and topstitch down using your standard machine. I’ve pressed but not topstitched here because my Janome HATES knits. So I’m on the hunt for an alternative to replace her. Any suggestions welcomed. If your standard machine sews knits like a dream, I wanna know!)

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