Category Archives: Sewing techniques

Another use for your blind hemmer foot

You know how sometimes you meet someone, and there is an instant “click”, and you can talk and laugh together as if you have known each other forever? I often have that experience with my sewing students, and sometimes we squeeze the sewing in between our conversations about life.

Enter Michelle. She contacted me about learning to sew, we set up a few lessons, and she was off and running. Like many of my students, she made “pajama” pants. Which means of course any pant that is kind of loose around the legs, with an elastic or elastic/tie waist,  and appropriate for both sleepwear and other uses depending on the fabric. We did actually manage to get the pants constructed, in between solving many life problems. Think about it people—sewing is WAY cheaper than therapy and more fun too! (So far no one has cried in my sewing studio. Fingers crossed! 🙂 )

At her final lesson, I showed Michelle how to do a “double turned” hem and stitch it using the blind hem foot. I love this technique, and it almost always produces flawless, straight stitching on your hem allowance. Turn the hem allowance twice and press. Insert blind hem foot on sewing machine, move needle one position to the right, place hem edge against blind hem foot guide,  and stitch with a straight stitch of any stitch length you prefer. Simple enough, right? I have done this same technique on various parts of garments with plenty-o students.

After I got her started by demoing the technique, Michelle took over and stitched away. Did I mention that Michelle was using cotton lawn fabric? When I checked her stitching, she had a few spots where the stitching was only on the “garment” side and not on the hem. Decorative, maybe, but not functional at holding the hem in place. So I had her stitch again. And again. And pretty soon we could not stop laughing. Channel stitching, Michelle—that is what you are doing on your pant leg hem! I am not sure how many times she went around her pant leg before I stepped in to help, but the laughter quotient was very high. Always a great way to end a lesson. Thanks for the fun, Michelle! I hope you enjoy wearing your pants. (Yes, we did move the needle 2 positions to the right for the second pant leg. More effective, but not nearly as fun-filled. 😉 )

Stiching pajama pant hems using blind hem foot

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Ready for spring!

White eyelet skirt

My white eyelet skirt for spring and summer is ready for wearing! Now all we need is warmer weather here in the great Pacific Northwest. I love, love, love this fabric, and also how quick this skirt was to make. Two pieces plus a waistband – easy peasy. Of course it needed a lining, but a two rectangles is about as simple as it gets.

I made French seams so the finish was totally clean on the inside, and also so the seam allowance looked minimal from the right side.

White EYelet Skirt Seam

And of course then I had to also do it on the lining. Just cuz.

White Eyelet Skirt Lining

I think I am going to enjoy this skirt. I probably ought to get going on a few new tops to go with it, right?

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Make a trendy fur vest

I hardly ever get “the” current fashion trend actually made at its height of hipness, so I am pretty jazzed that I actually ordered some beautiful Tissavel fake fur from emmaonesock.com, bought a pattern designed for fur, AND actually constructed the vest all in the same season. Shocking!!

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Other than applying the fur trim to Anna’s purple fleece coat, sewing an entire fake fur garment was a new experience for me.  I did a little research on recommended techniques, and basically followed Donna Salyer’s advice.  In short, cut the fur from the back side,  use 1/4 inch seams, zig-zag all seams, line with Bemberg or similar lining fabric, vacuum as you go, etc.  The pattern I chose was Kwik Sew 3731, since I wanted very simple design lines so the fur itself would be the focus. I may even be able to squeeze the hat out of the scraps if I do a little piecing!

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I traced my size onto tissue, and converted the back from an “on the fold” to a full size pattern piece. I did not trace off a left and right front, but I did remember to flip the pattern after chalking around the first front! 😉 I chalked around the pattern pieces onto the backing – but you could probably also just pin and snip around the pattern piece. The placement of each pattern piece on the fur was challenging. My fur has pelt lines and wavy white striped running thru it. I tried to make the layout as symmetrical as possible, but because the white “stripey” lines were irregular I had a really hard time. Maybe a more experienced furrier would have made a different layout choice, but I am pretty happy with the way it turned out. The only pattern alteration I made was to lengthen the vest by 1.5 inches, which you can see on the tracing of the vest back.

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Pinning and sewing the seams was WAY easier than I thought it would be. Maybe because I was using such expensive fur? I don’t know, but my normal pins went thru the fabric easily, and I just used my normal zig-zag foot rather than a roller foot or a walking foot. I did not have any issues with the fabric slipping as I sewed. I did not try to smooth the fur away from the seam until I had the fabric under the presser foot, because unless you pin it every 1/2 inch the fur would not stay in place anyway. For me, it was just easier to use my point turner and keep smoothing the fur as I stitched.

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Here’s a close-up of how I stitched – you can see I am bagging the lining and using a zig-zag stitch – I think the width was about 3.5 and the length 2.5.

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Donna Salyer does not recommend using interfacing, but suggested that staying seams might be necessary. I chose not to do this, because my fabric backing was really quite firm and it just seemed unnecessary to me on a simple vest. After I finished the machine stitching and turned the vest, I did need to pull some fibers out of the seam allowance. Again, not nearly as much seam cleanup work to do as I had thought might be required.  All in all, this was an easy, quick project, and I have already had fun wearing it!

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Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Love the coat, no love for double cloth

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Thank goodness. All done except hemming the sleeves. All I can say is it is a good thing I love the coat, because I truly hated working with this fabric. Seriously hated it. Enough to consider pitching it a couple of times during construction. Separating the fleece from the nylon was no darn fun at all. My DH was able to rip it apart pretty easily, but I just don’t have the hand strength for that. And there was just too much bulk to retain the fleece in the front facings and hem edges — it had to go.  I used a razor blade to help set the fold line, and ripped the balance after my DH got it started. See how weird the naked front facing looks? Gotta love that perfectly straight edge, huh?

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Did I mention how easy it is to cut thru the nylon when using a razor blade? Umm, yeah.

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I tried mending the holes (yes, holes — I definitely made more than 1!) with fusible interfacing and fusible stay tape. No love from either of these products. Luckily, the 007 Bonding Agent did the trick. It is one big pain to apply neatly, but I repaired my damage and didn’t make it look worse. Always a plus.

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For the hem edge, I cut off the bulk of the fleece I wanted to remove with my curved blade Kai scissors, and then scraped a little more off with the razor blade.  Not a bad result, but definitely tedious.At least I managed to not add any more holes.

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Sooo glad this project is almost done. I think if it ages in the closet for a while I will enjoy wearing it…hopefully!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

 

Double trouble

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I am not sure what I got myself into. <More than> a year ago I bought some fabric at SewExpo because I thought it was super cool, AND because I thought it would make such a distinctive coat for our rainy PNW days. The fabric is double cloth – one side is a slightly heathered, black sherpa fleece, and the other side is a water repellent <probably> nylon.  

Have you ever sewn with double cloth? I thought it would be really easy to whip up a coat with simple design lines, but evidently I know how to make any project more complicated.  The pattern is simple enough — Vogue 8539 —and I am making View A so no buttonholes or hood.  Simple, right?

Vogue 8539

Let me just say this is my first double cloth experience. One way to work with this kind of fabric (and my choice for the garment)  is to create a lapped seam so there are no exposed seam allowances. The theory is that you stitch a seam wrong sides together, trim one seam allowance very close, and then pull the fleece away from the nylon on the other SA and wrap it around the trimmed seam and topstitch it down.  Sounds simple, right? Basically a felled seam. Except…..the glue used to adhere these 2 fabrics is FREAKIN’ strong. And I have arthritis in my right hand! So after for about 1 minute of pulling my hand was killing me and the 2 fabrics hadn’t budged an inch. Enter the scissor solution. I decided to trim the fleece very close with small, sharp scissors instead of pulling apart. Almost as good. Problem solved. Then I started to topstitch the lapped seam. Problem number two surfaced. I had lengthened my stitch to almost 5mm, and the stitches were uniform and consistent on the inital seam join. At this point the wrong sides (fleece) were together, and the presser foot and feed dogs were both against the nylon side of the fabric. But when I was topstitching the wrapped seam allowance, the fleece was against the feed dogs and the presser foot was against the nylon. Ruh roh. Those stitches were no longer as consistent….ugh. I ripped. I tried pulling from the back as I stitched. Maybe I should have tried a walking foot? All I can say is, this garment is not going to be an example of my best stitching. I am hoping no one driving down Aurora at 60 miles an hour will notice the wonkiness. Oh, and please notice I thought 2 rows of topstitching would be better than one. 🙂 

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Here is the coat so far – shoulder seams stitched, back darts done, and sleeves attached. Next up are side seam pockets and then the collar. I plan on making the collar fleece side out so it feels warm and soft against my neck. And I am going to have a AWESOME time cutting all that fleece off the front facing turnback. Why did I think this was going to be a fun project? Oye!!

Black double cloth raincoat

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

 

Increasing my sewing “Master-y”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was very quiet on the blog last week, because I was attending the first ever sewing “Masters class” at Lake Washington Technical College. Swoon! Seriously, how many people do you know that get excited about learning that thread should take up no more than 50% of the eye of a needle? When you reach that level of sewing knowedge, you are most assuredly totally geeked out. 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We learned about needles. Metallic, titanium, microtex, jersey, stretch, and more. We examined thread samples. We ran stitch samples using a variety of threads and needles on a range of fabrics. We measured our bodies. We learned where on our bodies to hold the measuring tapes. (Try using the metric system when measuring – there is less value judgement about the number. 🙂 )We discussed dart options. We threw darts. Not at the wall, but on pattern samples. And when we were threw with the throwing, we swung some, too. And we laughed at how totally geek-y we were about things that almost no one in the universe cares about. But we care, because we were all interested in stretching our skills and knowledge about sewing. And it was a treat to spend 3 days together talking and learning about very technical details that matter, at least to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Jacque. The intensive sewing Master’s class was a real treat!

 

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Try block fusing your interfacing

I think my current interest in interfacing fusing techniques is probably a whole new level of sewing-nerdiness. But just in case you might have a smidge of interest in this too, let me elaborate. 🙂

There are 3 ways I know of to apply fusible interfacing:

  1. Cut out the fashion fabric, cut out the interfacing, and fuse the two pieces together. Try not to get interfacing glued on your iron or ironing board cover.
  2. “Block” fuse interfacing to a section of your fabric, and then cut out the pattern pieces requiring interfacing from this stabilized fabric.
  3. Spot fuse a section of interfacing to your fabric, and then cut out all the pattern pieces requiring interfacing. Complete the final fusing after the cutting is complete. Check out Pam Erny’s tutorial about this method.

I decided I would give the block fusing method a try on a pair of pants I am making for my youngest DD. Here is a rough idea of how it goes, I will try to post a “real” tutorial on this later this week. 

Start by “rough cutting” a piece of fabric big enough for all the pattern pieces that require interfacing. The squiggly line is chalk because I needed to allow enough space for another set of the back waistband. It would be so like me to eyeball the amount and come up 1/2 inch too short!

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Next I cut some tricot fusible interfacing to fit just a bit inside the fabric edges. I took this over to my ironing board, and smoothed all the wrinkles out so both layers were as smooth as possible. The potential danger with this method is getting the interfacing off grain, and introducing wrinkles/bubbles in the fabric, so be careful. Notice there is tissue sandwiched under the fabric/interfacing, as well as on top. Call it insurance. 🙂 Remember that you need heat (iron), steam (iron),and pressure (you!) to properly fuse interfacing.  This is not exactly a cardio workout, but it’s not for sissies either. PRESS your iron down on the fabric/interfacing and hold it in place, steaming the whole time, for 10-12 seconds. Then LIFT and repeat the same process again in a new spot. Do not play reggae music and start dancing! Pay attention to your task or you will have a hot mess when you launder your garment. Bubbles, wrinkles, limp fabric, etc.   

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Here it is – a nicely fused piece of fabric ready for cutting. It even has an “bonus” scrap of interfacing adhered to the  right side of the fabric! Luckily I can cut around this one, but it is really easy to get those pesky bits of interfacing glued somewhere you don’t want them. 

 

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To my mind, this method is less “fiddly” than cutting each pattern piece and interfacing piece separately and then fusing individually. It is definitely suggested when you are working with a slippery or very loosely woven fabric, which makes perfect sense to help control the fabric so the pattern pieces can be cut accurately. 

I think I just may try this method again on the next set of shirts for my DH with the Pro-woven Shirt Crisp interfacing I bought from Fashion Sewing Supply a while back.

What about you? Have you ever tried stabilizing your fabric using the block fusing method? Tell me how it worked out, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Staystitch: a definition

Staystitch: A regular machine stitch (usually 1/8″ parallel to the stitch line) applied while the garment is being assembled in order to support garment edges and to preserve the shape.

source: BurdaStyle

I mostly like this definition. It is very descriptive and clear, but I also think it leaves out one critical piece of information. The stitch length should be shorter than normal. I looked at other definitions too. So much variation! I tell all my students there are many ways to do things in sewing – my way is not the only way – and they will learn tips and techniques that work best for their sewing style. (My way IS the right way of course (lol!!), but certainly not the only way. 🙂 )

What fun things are you working on in your studio these days? I’d love to hear from you! I may even get a few pictures up next week of some of my projects.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Get better

“You practice and you get better. It’s very simple.”

Philip Glass, musician

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are words to live by, especially when it comes to sewing. The more you sew the better you will sew. The faster you will sew. The fewer mistakes you will make (at least ones that cannot be salvaged! 🙂 )

So go sew. Practice sewing today. And then tell me about it. Send me a picture. Write a comment on my blog. And then go practice some more.

 

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen