Archive for the ‘Sewing’ Category

Working With Bra Patterns

Every woman can attest to one fact: it’s hard to find the perfect bra. When you come to think of it, it makes sense—we’re all built differently, so buying off the rack will always be hit and miss. Those with money to spare can be professionally fitted and have custom-made innerwear, but for the rest, there’s another alternative: making your own.

Most people think it’s complicated, and it’s partly true—for one thing, you have to be more precise with your sizes than with pants or tops. But besides that, the steps are pretty simple. Most bra patterns are more or less alike, and you can safely change them up to accommodate your size. If you know your way around a sewing machine and a pair of scissors, you can make your own bra—the best you’ll ever own—in no time.

It starts with the right sizing. Measuring yourself for a bra is harder than it sounds, but certainly doable. First, measure under your bust and add four inches to the number. Some experts recommend rounding odd numbers up to the nearest even to make for easier measuring down the road. Next, you’ll need to measure your cup size. Take measurements around the biggest part of the bust and the part just above it, then use the difference as an indicator. A difference of one inch is an A cup, 2 inches is a B cup, and so on.

You can get to work with just these numbers, but if you want, you can take other measurements such as the distance between your breasts and your preferred strap length. Make sure to write everything down; you’d be surprised at how hard it is to remember when you start stitching away. Even so, you can adjust the distance between cups by just subtracting or adding from the middle of the pattern. Straps are usually added at the end, so there’s no use measuring beforehand—although you may want to mark off where the strap holders will be attached.

Don’t forget to stock up on materials besides the fabric, needle and thread. Use fiberfill to line the cups—one layer for a soft, light look and two to give it more shape. If you need a lot of support, double the outer fabric as well. Try it on once it’s usable; if you want, you can replace the nylon lace with a wide-stretch elastic—this usually fixes the problem.

Learn How to Sew

Starting out in sewing can be tough. A lot of beginners get discouraged when they see lovely patchwork or a well-made dress, and think they’ve got too much to learn. But like any other hobby, it’s really about pacing yourself. Many of those who give up are simply trying to do too much too soon. If you want to learn how to sew, the first rule is to start small.

Think of something small you’d like to make for yourself or someone else—even if it’s an old pair of pants that’s torn at the seams. Starting with the easy stuff helps because you master skills, like straight stitching, that will come in handy when you start making bigger projects. It also keeps you motivated because there’s “instant gratification,” meaning you can see and use your finished product right away.

You’ll also want to work with materials you personally like. Don’t think that just because it’s your first sewing project, it’s no use wasting good fabric on it. On the contrary, working with cheap fabric with an unattractive pattern will make the job boring and kill your motivation to see it through. Even experts agree to this. Invest in good materials that make the job easy and enjoyable.

This also applies to your tools, from your needles and thread to your first sewing machine. You don’t have to splurge, but don’t go for the cheapest brands either. You can save on high-quality gear by renting or buying second-hand. You don’t need all the accessories just yet, but some may come in handy when you’re starting out, such as a seam ripper (since even professionals have to pick out stitches once in a while) and extra bobbins for your working thread.

If you’ve never picked up a needle before, consider taking a sewing class. It doesn’t have to be anything advanced; even one-day sessions can be a lot of help. The point of taking classes is that you learn from the bottom up, often doing things by the book. This will give you some direction in your first few projects and the confidence to experiment later on.

Finally, don’t expect too much—perfectionism has its place, but it’s not in sewing. Remember, you’re starting small, so it’s not that big a loss if you make a lopsided pillowcase. As you go along, you’ll notice that most of the flaws aren’t really that noticeable, and if they are, they often look more quirky than unattractive.

How to Sew Pants

People starting out in DIY fashion tend to be intimidated by pants, thinking they’re best left to the experts. But they’re actually pretty simple and make an excellent first project. Of course, if you’re working with denim or leather, that’s another matter—most people start with simple lounge pants or pajamas. Because they’re looser, you don’t have to be as precise, and you’re working with light, manageable textiles. Learn how to sew pants with this step-by-step guide.

Start by making your pattern. Lay out your fabric and fold it in half, with the wrong side up. Take a pair of jeans or jammies in a comfortable size, then lay them out flat over your fabric with the back seam along the fold. Pull the crotch back so it doesn’t bunch up. You should be able to see the seam from the waist to the ankle on either side. Trace around the pants with some chalk, staying two inches away from the top and bottom edges and half an inch from all other edges. Repeat to create the other leg, then cut around the line, making sure not to cut the fold.

On both legs, straight-stitch the edges from the crotch to the ankles. Remember, your fabric should be inside out. Do a zigzag stitch on the raw edges—it may seem unnecessary, but it reinforces the straight stitch and keeps them from getting undone in the wash. Next, straight-stitch the two legs together, starting at the bottom front side of the crotch up to the waist. Do the same at the back, then zigzag stitch the edges as you did with the legs.

For drawstrings, mark a point about two inches from the top to the middle seam, then mark another point an inch and a half to wither side. Mark a vertical line about one inch long on these points—they should be three inches apart and the same distance from the middle. Use a buttonhole stitch to finish these holes, or use your machine’s buttonhole setting. Again, zigzag-stitch along the raw edge of the waist.

Fold the waist at the two-inch mark, then straight-stitch across it. If you have buttonholes, make sure they are above the stitch. Slide in your drawstring—sticking a safety pin on one end should make this easier.

Finally, turn the pants inside out and try them on so you can decide on the length. Mark where you want them to end, then cut two inches below that point (if it needs cutting). Zigzag-stitch the raw edges, fold them up to the two-inch line, then turn them wrong-side out again. Straight-stitch about half an inch above the raw edge on both ankles, making sure the stitches are even. You can stop there, or add embellishments such as patches, side panels, and ruffles.

How to Sew Leather

Do-it-yourself enthusiasts have a love-hate relationship with leather. There’s little doubt that it’s a great material—it’s warm, sturdy, and goes with pretty much anything. But working with it can be a hassle, whether you use your hands or a state-of-the-art sewing machine. It’s also more expensive than most textiles, so most people can’t afford to make a mistake and won’t even try. But there are ways to make the job easier. Here are some tips to help you out.

First, you want to check the material for imperfections. Not all leather will be smooth and perfect, and that certainly adds to its character, but you don’t want to find out after eight hours of work that your new leather pouch is riddled with scars and rips. Make sure the texture is something you’ll want to see on your final product.

Use cardboard patterns and weights to keep the material flat—leather is too heavy for textile pins. Trace the pattern with a color you’re sure to see against the material. Metallic pens are good for this purpose. Avoid using knives or cutters to score the leather, as this can make it fray faster and weaken the seams.

Most commercial sewing machines can handle garment-weight leather, the kind used for hats and light clothing. Fold the material over and decide if your machine can handle the thickness for sewing seams. You may also want to use specialized needles; these are thicker and heavier, and will pierce through the leather more easily. Heavy nylon or polyester threads work best, especially since you can melt them onto the seam for better durability. Avoid any cotton content if possible.

If you’re working on a structured piece such as a handbag, use interfacing cloth to line the insides. You can iron it to the leather—just make sure not to apply the heat directly. Most people find it easier to flat-stitch their seams from the outside, then cut away any excess. When ironing, hold the seams down flat with some double-sided tape.

In many ways, it comes down to how well your machine can work with leather. You don’t have to get a separate heavy-duty model for leatherwork, but you can expect to change your needles more often, work the presser foot harder, and generally spend more time on the project. But ask any leatherworker and they’ll agree—the outcome is usually well worth the effort.

How to Thread A Sewing Machine

A sewing machine can make your job ten times easier, but as many owners have found, sometimes maintaining it can take about as much work. One of the particularly difficult tasks is threading, a seemingly quick process where you load on a new spool of thread. Learning how to thread a sewing machine is one thing, learning to do it fast is another. But with the right trick, you can get it over with in a few seconds.

The first step is to set up the machine so that the thread passes through the threading points as smoothly as it can. Start by turning the handwheel inwards (towards you), bringing the needle up to the highest position. Next, raise the presser foot—this will clear the way for the thread as described above and keep the needle from getting unthreaded while you’re stitching—a pet peeve for every dressmaker!

Add in the thread by placing the spool on the pin, which is usually found on top of the machine. Some machines have a horizontal spool pin; in this case it should come with a cap to keep the spool from flying off. Once it’s secure, take the end of the thread and start passing it through the threading points. This should lead downwards underneath the tension mechanism, the part where you control the thread, where you can run the thread through the tension discs and, in some models, a hook on the tension dial.

From here, work your way back up to the threading point on the top left. If there’s a lever in the same area, push the end of the thread through and then down to a couple more threading points, usually at the bottom left and just over the needle. When you reach the needle, you can thread it either from the front or back, depending on the machine you have.

Next, pull the thread to the left, making sure it’s made it through the needle. If you need to, insert a wound bobbin and fit in the throat plate cover—some of the bobbin thread should be sticking out from under it. Grab some of the thread that’s pulled through the needle, then turn the hand wheel inward again until the needle goes into the bobbin case. Keep turning until the needle is back at the top—it should pull some of the bobbin thread up with it. Let go of the top thread and pull on the bobbin thread until it’s entirely out, then pull both threads under the presser foot towards the back.

Many of these steps will require good aim and eyesight, so have your glasses on hand if you wear them. Having someone else to help is also a good idea, especially when you get to pulling both threads.