Thursday, 28 November 2013

Sewing Techniques - Making Pointy Points!

Today's post is a follow on from the bunting post. I'm going to show a few quick tips to make neat points - relevant to bunting but just as relevant to making smart, neat collar points.

First - the sewing. I'm sewing down one side of the bunting flag, turning and sewing back up the other side.
 Sewing along one edge.

 Stop at the end, with the needle down in the fabric.

 Lift the presser foot.
 Spin the fabric around the needle.
 Align with the new edge,
 And drop the foot back down again.

Then continue sewing as before.
This should make a really neat corner.


So the stitching is in place, now we want to turn it inside out and make a neat point.
The trick is to press and clip before turning.

I zigzagged the edges here, which was completely unnecessary for bunting. So feel free to ignore that detail.

Starting with the stitched flag.
 I want to clip this, not straight across the bottom, but on an angle each side of the point. Get close to the stitches, but not too close!

 I want to reduce the bulk without weakening the point too much. When they fold over, I want the edges to overlap, but not bunch up.
I press it before turning.
Sorry - forgot to take a photo of the red one!
 And then it will sit flat in a point.

Then I turn it inside out, and the point already wants to sit that way.


It pretty much pops into place. I used a large knitting needle to guide some through. In doing that, it's really important that the point is handled gently.Because it has been clipped, it is very weak. This isn't a huge problem, because it is not going to be subjected to any strain once it is finished. With this method I find I have much more control than trying to turn it inside out and ram all that extra fabric into a tiny point. There shouldn't be any need to push it too hard.

Once I'm at this stage I press it.
 And clip the extra seam allowance at the top for a neat edge.


So there you have it. Super smart points. Two flags done, thirty-eight to go...

Monday, 25 November 2013

Bunting - Costing a Project.


Sometimes I look at patterns for things in magazines or books and they'll say something like -  
         
TIP: Make these cushions in any colour you like!

And I'll put it down straight away, because quite honestly, if they think I'm that much of an idiot that I need that suggestion, their instructions are just going to make me feel crankypants. 

I sincerely hope you don't feel that way when you saw that today's post is about bunting. Bunting has got to be one of the easiest things to make, and I would hate for anyone to have that sinking feeling like I've lost my groove and now I'm dishing up so-so stuff. It's cool, I promise I will not talk down to you.

I thought it would be useful to talk about how to plan a project and estimate how much fabric to buy, in part because I made a couple of 'rookie mistakes' when ordering for this one. 

Suffice to say, I didn't use a pattern. I've not ever bought one because hey, it's a bunch of triangles. I'll show you how I measured mine up in a moment, but if anyone has come here looking to find something to download in PDF form, I suggest they go and buy their bunting. If the effort of drawing a triangle is too much, they are not going to have the patience to make it, because bunting is simple, but super, super repetitive. 

I'm making this for Jon's sister, Sally. She has requested some bunting and picked out 4 fabrics that she likes. She wants an 8 meter length. All my working out is in metric.  

The first thing I wanted to figure out was what size to make the flags. Since I don't want to make my life any more difficult than I need to (I like maths, but not so much I want to use multiples of 7 or anything like that) I went for a triangular flag, 20cm wide by 20cm long. Which works well because 5 x 20cm = 1m. So I can work in lots of 5. 

I joined the points, and added 1cm on all sides. 
Only looks twisty in the photo. It's square in real life. :)
Told you it was easy. 

This gives me a triangle which is 22cm wide, and just over 22cm long. Most patchworking cotton is sold in widths of 112cm. So I can cut 5 flags across a piece of fabric. I am also buying from a website which sells in 25cm lengths. Its worth checking this out, because different places have different minimum cuts, and that can alter your expenses a bit. But as it happens, 25cm is pretty ideal for a 22cm flag and a bit of wiggle room.
Placement of flags on strip of fabric.
So I can cut 5 flags across the top. Here's where directional prints become important.

If I have a fabric with a print which can be cut in any direction, I can cut 9 pieces out of this strip, because I can fit another 4 in below the first.
Exhibit A
However, if I have a directional print, I can only cut 5 flags from the fabric, because the other 4 will go in the wrong direction.



Exhibit B. Stupid trees. Why must you grow upwards?
Directional prints are relevant in dressmaking too - it's worth checking the cutting layout because you might need a bit extra. Generally you can gauge how much extra by taking into account the length of the piece(s) which you will need to turn around. Using a directional print can considerably increase your fabric requirement.

Once you've got an idea of the size of the flag, you'll need to figure out how many to make. Its worth spending some time on this - I drew a few little sketches because I am very much a visual thinker.
Obviously this isn't a necessary step - because 8 meters with 5 flags per meter is just 8 x 5 = 40.
But then I need to think about the fabric I want to use.





You can see here that if I were to use just 4 colours, I would need 10 of each colour flag. I would need to buy 50cm of each colour because I can only get 9 flags out of a 25cm strip, so there would be a fair bit of waste. I also tried 5 prints, which would be a much more efficient use of the strip. I ultimately decided to go with 6 different flags, so that I could mix in a couple of solid colours. I found the prints a bit busy all together. Solid colours are cheaper too.

So at this point I can see that I require:
25cm of fabric 1 (non-directional print)
25cm of fabric 2 (non-directional print)
25cm of fabric 3 (non-directional print)
50cm of fabric 4 (directional print)
25cm of fabric 5 (block colour)
25cm of fabric 6 (block colour)

This doesn't include the backing fabric. If you want your bunting to have two good sides, you would just double the above. But if you want a more cost effective approach and plan to hang it against a wall, you want backing fabric. I have 80 flags, so I need 9 lots of 9, or 9 x 25cm which is: 225cm of backing fabric
I chose a few different colours. The store had a minimum of 50cm cuts on plain cottons. Which means fabric 5 and 6 had matching backs, but no extra cost.

Now, don't forget the binding! I didn't factor in the bias binding in the first instance, and then was a bit surprised at how much it cost. I need 8m PLUS a bit on each end. So I figured 10m. I found it was available in packets of 1.5m, which is a bit unfortunate but close enough.
7 x 1.5m of bunting

I found they didn't have the colour I wanted (or even any colour I was willing to work with) so I bought 1.5m of plain fabric and made my own. More economical, but certainly more time consuming. Further explanation about that in a future post.

And of course:
Thread

To find out what the project is going to cost, it is worth doing the maths beforehand. Count everything!

I've drawn up a table below to show how I've worked this out. The table is in GBP because that's what I'm using. But obviously, the same concept applies to whatever you're doing in whatever currency you're working.

25cm of fabric 1 (non-directional print)
25cm @ £12.80p/m
£3.20
25cm of fabric 2 (non-directional print)
25cm @ £12.80p/m
£3.20
25cm of fabric 3 (non-directional print)
25cm @ £12.80p/m
£3.20
50cm of fabric 4 (directional print)
50cm @ £12.80p/m
£6.40
25cm of fabric 5 (block colour)
25cm @ £6.00p/m
£1.50
25cm of fabric 6 (block colour)
25cm @ £6.00p/m
£1.50
225cm of backing fabric
225cm @ £6.00p/m
£13.50
Binding
7 @ £1.15
£8.05
Thread
1 @ £3.15
£3.15
Total

£43.70

I saved £4.50 making my own bias binding. If I hadn't used a directional print, I could have saved a further £3.20.

If I had decided to use 4 colours, that would have changed my cost like this:

50cm of fabric 1 (directional print)
50cm @ £12.80p/m
£6.40
50cm of fabric 2 (directional print)
50cm @ £12.80p/m
£6.40
50cm of fabric 3 (directional print)
50cm @ £12.80p/m
£6.40
50cm of fabric 4 (directional print)
100cm @ £12.80p/m
£12.80
225cm of backing fabric
225cm @ £6.00p/m
£13.50
Binding
7 @ £1.15
£8.05
Thread
1 @ £3.15
£3.15
Total

£56.60

 And if I had used 4 colours and had the same fabric to back them, it would look like this:


50cm of fabric 1 (directional print)
75cm @ £12.80p/m
£9.60
50cm of fabric 2 (directional print)
75cm @ £12.80p/m
£9.60
50cm of fabric 3 (directional print)
75cm @ £12.80p/m
£9.60
50cm of fabric 4 (directional print)
200cm @ £12.80p/m
£25.60
Binding
7 @ £1.15
£8.05
Thread
1 @ £3.15
£3.15
Total
£65.60

I don't do this for every project. There are a lot of variables I haven't altered here - like changing the size of flags, or considering fabrics in different price brackets. But it's definitely worth looking at if you're considering selling your work, or if its close to Christmas and you've already spent all your pocket money on fabric. I haven't included costs for things like replacement sewing needles or postage of the fabric to me. 

Best bit? You can do all this, and still make it in a colour of your choice. ;)

Next couple of posts I will be continuing the bunting - looking at the easy way to make awesome neat points (also good on collars!), and bias binding.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Working With Stretch Fabric - Sleeve Construction - Set In Method

So, today I'm following on from the previous post. If you aren't going to use the flat method, you use the set in method to attach sleeves. If you've sewn with wovens, this will already be familiar.

Generally, the flat method is the way to go for stretch tops. But there will be occasions where set in is preferable. I might use set in if:
a) I am designing something and I'm not sure if I want a sleeve included. 
b) I am adjusting fit and want to get the bodice sorted before I put sleeves in (in case I need to change the shoulder line, for example).
c) I am making a dress and I think the bulk of the dress might make it easier to handle as a set in, or it includes a fold or construction trick that requires different handling.
d) I am making a more detailed sleeve and want to finish it separately.

I should say you can use either method with gathers at the sleeve head, as long as you match your notches it will work. 

Picking up where we left off before, I had a finished bodice sans sleeve.

I finished the sleeve too - including seams and hem. 

So now I have sleeve and bodice in separate pieces. It's worth taking a moment to lay the pieces out and check which sleeve goes in which arm goes in which side. In this case it's a no brainer because one sleeve, one hole!

To attach the sleeve, I turn the bodice inside out, but keep the sleeve the right way in.

Here we are looking at the back of the bodice as I have turned it inside out, and want to keep track of which side I am working on.

I turn the sleeve over, and slip it into the armhole, keeping the seam down towards the sideseam.



When it is all the way in, I match the points, starting with the top of the shoulder (should be notched) and shoulder seam, the seams for under the arm, and then the front and back notches.





I have put in a few more pins between these points for stability.

Once I have all of these points pinned, I sew around the opening and finish my seam.


Ta Da!

Yay! Symmetry!



Sunday, 17 November 2013

Working With Stretch Fabric - Sleeve Construction, Flat Method.

Hullo all! I've been making stuff. Remember I said I needed to talk about sleeves? I'm finally getting around to it. Here we go!

Today I'm showing one of two different ways to insert a sleeve in stretch clothing. In woven fabric, you pretty much have one option - make the bodice and then add the sleeve. But stretch has some flexibility. You can join the side seams and then add the sleeve, or you can join the sleeve first, and then do the side seam and sleeve seam all in one go.

The latter is the flat method, and the one I will be demonstrating in this post. This is the way commercial t-shirts are made, and its a bit faster than the other approach.

I did my best to get good photos of this, but it was a bit of a struggle to get everything in the frame.So I made some little diagrams too. If there's anything unclear, pop a note in the comments and I will make sure I get back to it.

First things first, I am starting by joining the shoulder seams and finishing the neck edge.
So I have a front and back. In this case I'm working with a cowl neck shirt, but for the sake of simplicity, my diagrams are for a regular crew neck.
Join shoulder seams
Finish neckline.
You can also do one shoulder, then the neck, then the other shoulder. But we can talk about that another time.  

Once front and back are joined, you line up the sleeve.



Match the sleeve notches and centre of the sleeve seam with the shoulder seam, right sides together.

 

A quick word on notches. I clip into my seam, which is generally how commercial clothing is made. I try and keep those clips small.

You may see patterns with outward facing notches.
Outward notch.
Commercial pattern with inward notch markings.
Some people will tell you it's important not to clip into the seam because it damages the structural integrity of the fabric. That's true - it does weaken the fabric a bit. But it is way faster than cutting a notch out on the fabric. If you're worried about clipping, consider that commercial seams tend to be around 1cm wide, and home sewing patterns tend to have seams which are 1.5cm wide. So if you put a 3mm clip in your seam, you still have a sufficient seam allowance. There are occasions where I might consider making an outward notch - like if I am working with a suiting fabric which frays and doesn't really allow a small notch because of the weave.
Notching outwards. This can be difficult to cut out because you're going in and out, rather than straight along the seam line.
Clips straight into the notch markings. 
In this case, I've clipped inwards.

I match the clips front and back. Convention says that the further towards the back of the garment, the more notches in the pattern. So here, there is a single notch at the front of both sleeve and bodice pieces, and double notches on the back of both sleeve and bodice. This is how you get the sleeves facing the correct way!

Once those points are joined, pin the rest of the sleeve and join.




Now I have the front, back and sleeve joined. Naturally, this process should be repeated on the other side. (Although I'm just doing the one here for demonstration purposes).

When you have the sleeves joined at the shoulder, fold right sides together, and match side seams and sleeve seams.

I'm including an additional layer here, hence the contrasting colour.
Sew along the sleeve and side of the shirt in one seam.

The end of the sleeve is finished after joining.

And that's it!

It's probably fairly obvious why this method is favoured by commercial construction as it is fairly quick.

But since I have a one-sleeved shirt at the moment, I will show you the other method next time.
:)