Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sewing Supplies

When I give sewing lessons to beginners I often get the question, 'What do I need to buy for my sewing box?'. And so I thought I would put a quick list together of the best, and most used items in my sewing supply inventory.

I have a cupboard full of very varied fabric, so that when the mood takes me, I can dig through this and generally complete any project that takes my fancy, without hitting the shops. This is not a necessary item, and it has more to do with my love of pretty fabrics - and my inability to walk by them without buying them - than real need.

Others will prefer to shop for the perfect fabric to suit the project they wish to undertake at the start of said project - I am impulsive and when the mood takes me I sew... it can be at 3am - as my very accepting, supportive, tolerant husband will testify to.

The basics:

A pair of extra-long-blade scissors purchased in the hardware store - I do LOVE hardware stores, once I am in there it is rather hard to get me out until I have been up and down each isle and worked out what each tool etc is used for. The up side of this is that I have discovered many items that are sold at a fraction of the price (compared to at sewing shops) that perform the same function! The tool for cutting little circles where you wish to add eyelets; thicker piping cord; poppers; gorgeous meter long metal ruler - being amongst some of those.
NEVER cut anything BUT fabric with these scissors.  Not even pattern pieces or interfacing.  Keep a separate pair for these tasks, mark them clearly!

If you have a great, reliable, experienced scissor sharpener, then buy good quality sewing scissors. I was put off this by my (very expensive) sewing scissors being completely ruined by the man who was supposed to sharpen them. They no longer meet at the tip perfectly! So these days I buy good (cheap) sharp scissors at the hardware or in craft stores and discard them when they are blunt - or move them to the tool cupboard to be used for wire stripping etc.

Then you have to have small thread snippers - tiny, sharp scissors that are perfect for trimming stray threads very close to the fabric.

Quick unpick / Seam Ripper
Essential, even for experienced sewers.  But this one is head and shoulders above the rest:
Available here

It's so good because of the rubber head that erases out the broken stitches after you've broken them, no need to sit & manually pull out all the little threads any more.  WHAT a time saver!

Machine feet:  zipper foot, invisible zipper foot, button hole foot, FME foot, adjustable zip foot, button sewing foot, walking foot.  These are the ones I use a lot, aside from the default foot with the little button on the side for going over thicker seams (that is usually on your machine when you buy it).  Almost everything else can be done with your regular foot, but if you feel like splashing out on fancy feet, they can be fun.

A good selection of thread is useful, as you don't have to go buy a matching roll every time you start a new project.  Buy some staples:  black, white, dark blue, off white, linen, grey, mid green, pink, red.  This will cover more than you imagine!  I use various thread for various projects, I have my Aurifil cotton for anything I want to dye after, or fine work.  I have my synthetics for FME, as well as my embroidery threads.

Hand sewing needles

Elastic a selection of widths and 'stretchiness'.

Buy LOADS of bobbins that are made for your machine. DO NOT BUY generic ones - this is the best way to ruin your machine tension. I have over 100 bobbins pre-wound with thread of all colours. This is a time saver when I want to get going, and means I do not need to undo my top thread to wind a new bobbin when one runs out. In Berlin I had them all in colour sequence on tiny nails directly on the wall of my sewing room, the walls there are basically dry walling and you can do things like this. When you move out of a place, you always paint it all white again, so no sweat!
In the UK, this would be impossible, so my bobbins are now neatly packed in bobbin boxes (which I would recommend as it saves them from dust too).

A tape measure in inches is useful as many websites (USA) use this

A tape measure in cms that starts from zero at opposite ends each side is great as you never have to find you only have the 150cm mark on the end you are holding!

Good, sharp pins! And lots of them! Do not pin into glue etc with these - keep separate ones for that, glue will ruin your good pins.  If you're sewing lingerie, nothing beats the Clover flower head pins (blue).  They are long, super sharp, and never cause any pulls on lingerie fabric.

In handbag making I use clips often instead of pins, they are useful in so many situations, and you don't need too many.

Prym spray adhesive.  I cannot tell you how often I have used this.  To hold together the two lower cup pieces of a bra until I can sew up the seam with the top cup, much easier.  Appliqué.  FME...
I use it a lot.  I have to shut my kitten out of the room, as he seems to think it's catnip.  It is an amazing product.  It leaves no residue at all, no marks on fabric, even very fine, pure white lingerie fabric!  

A selection of Pilot Frixion pens - you can read my post as to why

Prym makes a great marking pen that can be transferred onto fabric with an iron and is still water erasable. Read this on how to and not to use this marking pen.

Chalk roller for fabric that the pen won't write on.  I like this one best

Machine needles of various types for every project I may conceivably want to do

Here is a great chart on how and when to use each needle. I still refer to this often - not something I always know automatically.  Your needle is the cheapest component of your sewing machine, but the most overlooked.  A bent or worn needle can cause all kinds of issues including tension problems, fabric damage, poor stitch formation... They say one needle can do a maximum of 5-8 hours of sewing, so put a new needle in your machine with each new project.  This way you can be certain you've used the correct needle for your work, and get the best performance from your machine.

Two pencils taped together with an eraser dividing them so that they draw your seam allowance on to pattern pieces.  You cut the eraser to the right size so that the gap forms the seam allowance given on your pattern.

Pattern paper this can be regular pattern paper, Swedish pattern paper, or good old brown craft paper.

Sewing a bit more

A selection of stabilisers or interfacing - sew in and iron in

Some volume interfacing for bags, placemats, FME, .... I use a lot of this stuff!  I like to try all kinds for different projects, but one of my all time favourites is a felt interfacing from CeKa.  I find this one is suitable for most projects, either in a single layer, or a double layer.  They have English speaking people on staff to help.

My rotary cutter with board and ruler is something I cannot imagine not having! I use it almost daily, and it makes straight seams easy to achieve. You can cut napkins 6 in one pile without a single seam being a mm off! Very useful for handbag cutting out as well.  I basically cut out everything except lingerie with mine.   It was a very worthwhile purchase. I would recommend going for the biggest board possible - once your fabric is laid out for cutting you hardly want to move it about to get each seam on the mat!

To go with that I found an amazing knee saver at Birkenstock - yes, home of the famous German shoe, made for comfort and foot support instead of aesthetics and (in Germany) worn with socks when the day is cooler ;)  As our Berlin floor was laminate, which is hard on the knees without said support, it was a necessary purchase then.  Now that I have a big cutting table, I no longer use it much.

A selection of continuous zips in various colours.  If I want to make a cosmetic bag as a quick gift, I'm ready to go.  As they are continuous, I simply cut off what I need for each project, no waste, no need for buying many different lengths of zips.

Bias binding makers.  I could not live without these now!  I have all the sizes, but the most used one is my 25mm one.

I love my metal ones, but you need the machine to use them.
Magnetic poppers - every bag sewer needs these in their sewing room
And then, I LOVE my Kam Snaps!  Easy to use, hold well, so many pretty colours!  MUCH cheaper than the Prym ones, but work exactly as well.

Piping cord of various thicknesses, for clothing and cushions

Rigilene for bags, clothing, and various sundry projects.

Freezer Paper you'll see why when you hit this link!

Ribbons & Lace.  When I'm in a craft store, the grocery store, the florist, I keep an eye out for fabric ribbon.  I use it in so many projects, and having a nice selection on hand is great, and not a huge monetary investment.  Same goes for buttons.  I hardly ever specially go buy buttons for a project, I have quite a few in my sewing room, saved up over many years.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Advanced Handbag Sewing Class

I'm getting ready to teach the Advanced Handbag Class at Stitched By You in Alton on Thursday.
A friend is taking the class too, and guess who will be gracing the front of her handbag...
Do you remember the Coo?


Well, he had some FME stitching over him, some organza appliquéd and some leather piping added, and he's all ready now!

Brother sewing UK, you ROCK!!!

I did a massive happy dance around my house today, and am still smiling broadly, all due to Richard Connolly in the Brother UK sewing machine department in Manchester. He was on the phone for 40 minutes with me, talking me through a solution for my jammed Innovis 4000.   He was kind, and patient, and had my machine up and running again by the end of that phone call.   I had been quoted Labour £395, Parts £190+ vat @20% to fix this problem by Peter at Hampshire Sewing Machines.   Brother UK, through Richard, has really provided customer satisfaction and WONDERFUL customer service!   I knew I loved the Brother machines, but now I am rather enamoured with the team behind the machines too! Thank-you so much Richard Connolly, you made my week! Yet another reason for me to recommend Brother machines in my sewing classes!!!!

My baby is back!!!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Basic Handbag Tutorial

In your MadeByDi box, you will find:

Inside the 'Bag of Things'...

All seams are the width of your machine's presser foot unless otherwise mentioned

You will need to cut:
2 x pattern pieces (full) for lining
2 x A for Lower Bag
2 x( B + 2cm) for Upper Bag
2 x Volume interfacing (full pattern piece)
a strip of fabric as long as your Rigilene, 6cm wide.  If you need to join fabric strips to get one strip long enough, join the fabric on the bias
Click here if you need help with this

Before you start sewing, replace your sewing machine's needle with a Universal 80.

Now, we will wrap the fabric strip we have created around the Rigilene, making sure the Rigilene is secure within the fabric, and the fold of the fabric lines up with one side of the Rigilene.

Wrap at one end, and place under your machine's presser foot.  Put the foot & needle down, and then wrap as you stitch, keeping your line of stitching close to the long edge

This is easier to do than trying to get it wrapped the entire length and trying to pin in place

If you wish to, stitch a line of top stitching on the other long edge of the Rigilene handle you have made, so that you have two lines of matching stitching on either long edge, please do so now.

Two rows of matching stitching:

Trim away the scruffy ends (not too much!) WITH PAPER SCISSORS!!!  Cutting Rigilene will result in blunt sewing scissors!
Find the middle, and cut in half, creating two equal handles

Well done, you have completed the hardest part of making this bag!

We will now join Bag outer A to B
Place them right sides together, lining up top edges, and sew with straight stitch, using your foot width as a seam guide.

Press seams towards A

Iron your iron on interfacing (large piece from your box) to wrong side of each

Tips for ironing on interfacing:
Make certain the sticky side (shiny side) is on the wrong side of your fabric 
Trim away any overlapping interfacing where it doesn't lie on fabric.  If you iron over uncovered interfacing, either your iron, or your ironing board will be a sticky mess!
If you are doing this for the first time, cover your ironing board with baking paper and place your work fabric side down so that any excess interfacing will stick to the baking paper instead of sticking to your ironing board
Don't move your iron back & forward.  Place in one spot, leave for 3 seconds, lift, move along, repeat until all attached
Topstitch a NEAT row of longer length stitches along the top edge of A

I have used a long stitch length, and a triple stitch for my topstitching.

Place your volume interfacing behind each of your two bag pieces
Place the pattern over this and mark where the bag feet will go (holes on pattern piece)

I use a Pilot Frixion pen (from the stationery store) as it can iron off - see here when I discovered this!

 Open the 'legs' of the bag feet so that they are parallel
Mark 2mm lines either side of the parallel legs
Use your quick unpick to make SAFE holes - like I taught you in class
Pop the legs of the bag feet through the fabric from right side to wrong side
Bend them outwards
Cover with small piece of iron on interfacing from pack

Place these bag outer pieces right sides together
Line up sides of Bag - ignore volume interfacing - you can cut away any excess
Sew side seams together - ENSURING you have lined up the line where the Bag Base fabric meets the Bag Upper fabric
(where fabric A met fabric B should line up perfectly)
If you have a tag, this is where you will want to add it into the seam
Want to make your own tags?  Look at this Pin
Sew the base edges together

Unclear?  In pic below, you sew where the red dotted lines and the red arrow are
But do nothing on the corners yet 
(where it says 'leave these')

Then, working where the green arrows point to:
Push out the corners and stitch down to form the depth of the bag
MAKING sure you line up the seams!

Not sure?  Watch this video from Deby Coles - So Sew Easy on how to join the corners
Watch from 6:30 just for the corners.  Lovely video!

Test all the seams to ensure you have caught all the fabric well
If you find a bit you have missed, go over that seam again

Use your paper pattern to mark the placement for the bag handles
Stitch them in place, ensuring you don't twist them, using the line you have marked as the middle of the strap end

See the two notches at the top of the paper pattern (above) - those are the bag placement notches

I sew back and forward quite a few times, this is where your bag will take the most strain!

Put your bag outer aside, we will now work on the lining!

Using the hole on your paper pattern, mark the magnetic popper's placement (pen is through this mark in photo below)
Mark this on WRONG side of both pieces of lining fabric

Iron on a piece of the thicker small pieces of interfacing in your pack over these marks
I have cut mine into little circles, just big enough to fit under the popper

 Use the paper pattern to again mark the spots

Use the popper backing (washer) as a template to mark where you need to make the slits for the popper's legs.  Use the circle in the middle of the piece to line up with the spot you drew from the paper pattern
Mark the two lines either side
It doesn't matter for this project which side of the popper goes onto each lining piece, as long as the right side of the popper shows on the right side of the fabric

Use your quick unpick to make SAFE holes again
Put the popper part through the holes you have made from right side of fabric

ENSURE the two parts line up!

If you have made a mistake, remove the popper part, cover the holes you have made with a piece of interfacing from your pack (you can also stitch over the holes if need be, but normally a piece of interfacing will suffice) and reposition your popper correctly

Place the 'washer' over the popper's legs

Bend the legs inwards so that they are safely tucked away and cannot rub the fabric

Cover with a small piece of iron on interfacing from your pack

 Place the two lining pieces right sides together 

Sew as you did for the bag outer BUT leave the seam between the pins in the picture below free - don't sew this bit up - as you will use this gap to turn the bag the right way through.
You need at least a 10cm opening to be able to turn your bag through.  Be sure to secure both ends of your stitching so that it doesn't pull out when turning bag through

Do the corners as you did for bag outer

Place the bag outer (right side out) inside the bag lining (right side in) 
so that the right sides of the fabric are together

Make sure they are exactly the same size.
If they are not, take the bigger one in on both sides so that the top seams match 100%

Matching the side seam of bag lining to side seam of bag outer, work your way around the top seam of your bag (with a straight stitch), using the first line on the metal plate of your machine as your seam allowance guide.

And now for the magic....
Use the opening you left to turn the bag right way out

Press the seam flat

Roll the seam so that it lies perfectly and iron in place

Top stitch around top edge as close to top edge as you can, making sure you sew a nice straight line

Close the gap in the lining by hand / with your machine

You are done!!!