Sewing Basics # 11 – Machine Buttonhole

I spent a long time avoiding sewing button holes. For some reason I’d built them up in my head to be really scary. I have since discovered they are easy as pie. I was required to sample some of the buttonhole stitches from my sewing machine for my college portfolio. So thought I’d share some photos for anyone else who may be a bit of a scaredy cat like I was….

Here’s my buttonhole machine foot….probably much like yours..

Slide open the bit on the left….

Pop the button in…

Slide it closed again…

Remove usual presser foot….(no time to paint my nails, sorry!)

Attach buttonhole foot like so….

Pull down buttonhole guide so it sits behind the first buttonhole spacer on the foot…

Hold top thread tail out to side, and sew…just hold the foot pedal down and the machine will do the rest and will stop automatically when the buttonhole is complete….

These are samples of the buttonholes on my machine. Using the one on the right as the example,stick a pin through JUST below the group of stitches at the top of the buttonhole. This is to protect these stitches from being cut when you cut the buttonhole open in the next step…(just ignore the bottom pin in the picture)

Inserting a seam ripper in the base of the button hole, gently and carefully cut the button hole open up to the pin you inserted in the top…

And there you have it. Snip the scruffy bits and finish the thread ends, and you have a functional basic buttonhole…

I hope to try my hand at some variations and hand sewn styles too at some point soon, so I’ll be sure to record my efforts stage by stage on here….

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Babies, everywhere!

I am in danger of getting broody. My cousin has just had a little boy, and so has a college friend of mine. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at a little patchwork quilt for some time, so why not two?!  I’m keeping it simple and not getting ahead of myself. Simple squares and then I’m planning on quilting along the seamlines once the patchwork portion is sewn up…..

Basically, both quilts will be in the same colourway, lightweight, and crib sized so they can be used as coverlets or play/changing mats on the floor.  I think the colours work nicely for a boy. I’m never very confident about my ability so choose colour combos, but I’m quite happy with this. I think it looks cute. Nice simple layout too. Although I might yet add a little applique motif and/or embroidery detail either to the front or the backing to personalise each one….

For my college friend, each of us in the class is going to sew a piece of the patchwork section, so that we’ve all put a little something personal into our gift to her. So I’ve bagged them all up in order and labelled them. (That’s a bit obsessive, right?!)

I get asked the “are you going to have any more” question alot with regard to babies. My answer is pretty much the same every time. “Never say never, but I doubt it very much”.  Elliott is enough for me to handle! Having said that, there’s a weird thing going on at the moment. I remember all the midwives when I had Elliott, and I swore I would NEVER go through that again. They all said the same thing with a knowing smile “OK, see you in a couple of years then” followed by a nudge and a wink to their colleague. It’s like some weird internal timer. Elliott is 2 1/2 now, and yes, I can feel myself getting broody! Those midwives have some spooky insight thing going on.
All these beautiful babies popping out all over the place (please excuse the unfortunate turn of phrase), just isn’t helping! Please stop it ladies!

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Sewing Basics # 11 – The Hong Kong Seam

Another seam finish we tried at college this week was the Hong Kong seam. This is slightly different to the bias bound seams over on the Colette Patterns blog recently. I really like this one, but it is a little trickier than other seam finishes I’ve tried. I had to slow my machine right down for this and really concentrate on the sewing part. But well worth it as it’s a truly classy finish. As ever(!), press the stitching line

then press seams open…

Cut a strip of very lightweight silky fabric on the bias. This is a lining type fabric. Opaque but floaty like silk (not very technical that, ha ha! Sorry. I just nabbed it out of the remnants bin at college so don’t know the exact fabric content)….

Lay one edge of this bias strip along the raw edge of your seam allowance. If your bias strip has a definite RS  (mine doesn’t) then lay it RS down…..

Straight stitch along the edge a few mm in from the edge…

“Roll” the bias strip to the back creating a kind of narrow tube around the raw edge. Do not press….

Stitch “in the ditch” gently pulling the bias to one side as you go so you don’t catch it with the needle (this is where I had to slow my machine right down as I still find stitching in the ditch really tricky!)….

This is where the stitching should end up, without catching any of the bias strip….

Trim the excess bias strip close to the stitching on the WS….

So you now have this narrow little silky tube around the raw edge of your seam allowance…

which when you press it flat, totally covers the row of “in the ditch” stitching…

This shows the RS and WS of the seam allowance. The WS would ultimately be tacked down so you wouldn’t see it anyway. But still pretty neat, huh?

Not sure why this is called a Hong Kong seam. (It may in fact have other names) but I’m guessing it either originated there or was very widely used on tailoring in that area. Anyone know?

I’m very much enjoying “playing” with different seam finishes. Do you have a favourite? Is it ease and speed that dictates this or is it the aesthetic? Or maybe durability?
Would love to hear your views!

NB: For anyone not familiar with the term “stitch in the ditch” it’s used alot in quilting. But it basically means stitching in the crease of a seam. In this case the seam crease created by the bias strip and the raw edge of the seam allowance, once the bias had been rolled back on itself.

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Sewing Basics # 10 – The Strap Seam

Here’s a nifty little seam finish I learnt at college this week. Press the stitching line….

Press seam allowances open…

Trim seam allowances to within about 5mm of seam ….

Repeat on both sides and press open again…

Lay hemming/cotton tape or similar along the seam, covering the seam and the allowances. Make sure it’s central over the seam line by folding the tape in half lengthwise, placing the fold line of the tape along the seam line of the garment. Allow the tape to fall open and pin in place….

Sew a straight stitch close to the edge of the tape along both sides….

This is the finish on the inside….

and on the right side…

I really like this seam finish. It seems to me to have alot of scope for variation. In terms of colour you could have everything matching for a subtle finish. You could have contrasting tape (as in this example) or contrasting thread so the double row of stitching on the outside becomes a design detail. I like the idea of using velvet or satin ribbon. A friend of mine has scarring on her hips that is often aggravated by seams rubbing on them. This would remedy that for her! My tutor tells me that ribbon is not designed for lots of wear though so worth bearing in mind. Perhaps I could use it on a more special occasion garment. The whole finish could also be flipped to the outside by sewing the garment seams WS together and having the ribbon/tape as a design feature on the outside.(As seen on my tutor in class the other week)
Oops, sorry, I’m rambling. I keep thinking of the design possibilities of this one, so just thought I’d share!


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