Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Copying a Pattern Using Dressmakers Carbon Paper

There are a few reasons you may want to copy a pattern without cutting it. You may want to make several different sizes off the one multi-size pattern – particularly useful for kids patterns. You may be working with a magazine or book insert pattern which requires tracing off. You may want to alter a pattern, (change a neckline for example) and keep the original as well.

There are a few different ways you can go about this. You can buy specific tracing paper, which is lovely to work with, or use interfacing. You can copy some patterns on a photocopier (if they're small enough).Today I’m going to share copying a pattern using carbon paper and a tracing wheel.

This method is my favourite for a very simple reason - I can use brown craft (wrapping) paper to make my patterns.

I like brown craft paper for a bunch of reasons. It’s comparatively durable, and it comes in a long roll. Most significantly though, it is inexpensive and easy to get hold of. And I go through tones of it, so that’s important. Sometimes the specialty pattern paper feels like it rivals the cost of a new pattern!

There are a couple of disadvantages to this method. Unlike tracing, you can’t see the piece you’re drawing onto the paper, so care must be taken to keep the alignment. It does use a tracing wheel, which puts little marks in your patterns, and can put little marks in your table too. I used to work straight on my Ikea table and embraced the marks on the grounds that it gave the table some much needed ‘character’. You can prevent that with a protective layer on your table. I now have a large cutting mat.  All said though, I still find this method super useful.

You will need:
1.      Your original pattern.
2.      Dressmakers carbon paper.
3.      Tracing wheel.
4.      Roll of craft paper.
5.      Pattern weights (of some sort, see below).
6.      Pen
7.      Ruler
8.      Iron / ironing board NO WATER IN IRON
9.      Highlighter (optional)
10.     Paper scissors
11.     Work surface – a cutting mat or a table that you’re not too precious about!

The tracing wheel and carbon paper are easily available through most sewing and haberdashery suppliers. The carbon paper has one side which is a wax/chalk surface. You can use it on paper or directly on fabric for transferring markings. It lasts for ages. I know when I was growing up mum had the same few sheets that we used over and over again, and I have no recollection of our ever needing to buy more. So it’s a good investment.

Pattern weights can be anything that’s relatively small, and heavy enough to keep your pattern in place while you’re working on it. I’ve seen people use specific weights, small beanbags, heavy washers, clean stones, and in a pinch, small tins of tuna. I don't much like tuna so I tend to use small tins of beans. Short stubby ones are best. You need whatever you’ve got to hand that’s heavy, clean and smooth. I generally walk around the room looking for suitable items, and thinking ‘maybe I should get some proper weights’. But I’ve come this far without them. 

Step 1.
Iron your pattern and craft paper with a dry iron. The dry is really important. If you use any steam you will wrinkle / damage your paper. The idea is to get the pattern as smooth as possible. I also find that since I use paper off a roll, running over it with an iron prevents it from curling up and running across the table. Sometimes just iron it
causes a bit of static on the pattern, which can be oddly helpful when you’re trying to line things up.

Also, don’t iron your carbon paper – the colour will transfer straight off. So do your best to keep it flat when you store it. 

Step 2.
If you are working with a magazine pattern, like this Burda pattern, you will often have zillions of lines crossing over each other. A good idea is to take a highlighter and go over the lines you want to follow for the pattern you are tracing. It will make the rest of the process much easier.

Step 3.
Lay out your craft paper, followed by your carbon paper with the waxy side down. Place your pattern on top of this. Place weights on the pattern around the table to secure it.

I’m using a teddy bear pattern in this case. Some of the pieces are really small, so I thought it would be best to keep the original together. I also figured I could fit all the details in the photos and it would be a nice clear example. You can’t see any pattern weights / tins of beans, because I didn’t feel they were necessary on such  a small scale.

Step 4.
Trace around the pattern pieces with the tracing wheel. Be sure to include all markings such as notches and grain lines. You can use a ruler or French curve over the top to speed up the process, as long as you take care not to shift the pattern when you move the ruler. Keep in mind any additional things you may need to include – so if your pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, make sure you leave room for them between the pieces when you trace them out.

Step 5.
Once you have traced all of the lines, take off the pattern and tracing paper. 

Fill in any details, and copy any labels etc. on to the new pattern piece. It’s a good idea to write the pattern number and make a note of any alterations you have made. You think you will remember, but trust me on this, you won’t. I find this stage fairly boring and gloss over the details frequently.  But I generally spend more time sorting out mysterious pieces, or trying to put in the marks I left out than I would have spent if I’d done right it in the first place.

When labelling your pattern pieces you might want to put in any additional details that might come in handy. I usually put the date – partly because bodies do change over time (even more so for kids!), and partly because if I improve a pattern later down the track, it helps me figure out which versions of a pattern are my best versions. I’m not going to put the date on this one because it’s a teddy bear, and it isn’t going to grow or gain weight.

Add any seam allowances / hems not included in the pattern at this stage. I’ve checked my instructions and the seam allowance is included in this pattern. When I do add seam allowances, my favourite French curve comes in handy. You can do this without, but a curve with a seam allowance can speed things up significantly once you get the hang of using it.

Step 6.

Cut your pattern out.

Check that you have all of the pieces you require.

That’s about it really. As I said before, this is only one approach. It’s worth trying a few different things to find a favourite method, or indeed favourite methods depending on what you’re doing. I hope you find this useful!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Upcycle Bear

Well hey there!

I have someone to introduce to you. This little bear is an 'upcycle.'

Upcycle is recycling. Although the thing you end up with should be in some way better than the thing(s) you started with.

Remember the lining in Jon's hoodie?

I couldn't look at without thinking 'There's a bear in there...' (and any Australian readers will realise there was a tune to go with that).

Well, I decided to make that bear.

The pattern is from Mrs L's collection.  Toy shapes change with fashion, so it's not surprising that this bear has a bit of a retro look. Modern toy silhouettes are often 'chubbier'. 

For sewing toys, I do think older patterns are (as a general rule) far superior to modern patterns. They were written when a certain amount of sewing skill was assumed, and are more detailed and complex in shape.

My bear does look a bit like it could be related to Big Ted and Little Ted from Playschool. And that makes me smile.

Upcycling goes very well with environmental awareness, and a desire not to over consume the world's resources. It has the nostalgic touch of 'make do and mend' and a mentality of thriftiness and innovation which was once every-day practice. Fabric was not always affordable, and the idea of making something into something new is not new. But there is a new appreciation.

It is a lot more difficult than making something from new materials, but that's the fun part. On thinking about the task, even the first step of finding something that could be made into something else was a challenge in itself. I've often taken an approach of 'what can make with that?', but this pushed me a bit more than usual. I wanted to make something radically different. Finding the hoodie and acquiring the patterns gave me some good resources to work with - rather serendipitous really. 

On choosing my project, I then had to think about what other resources I would need. The bear is stuffed with filling from a pillow. His nose is stitched with leftover yarn. The only thing I bought new for this project was the felt for his eyes, and of course the thread is new but from my stash. I left off the footpads because I didn't have anything appropriate, and I didn't think they needed them anyway. That makes him about 99% reclaimed materials, and I'm proud of that.

Preparing the material was another challenge. Ordinarily you would pre-wash your fabric (if you're being conscientious) and get started. For this, before I could do that, I needed to unpick the pieces, and check for wear and tear. It took ages, and the fluff was really messy! So I think vacuuming every room in the house should probably be factored into the time spent making this project. In cutting out, I needed to experiment with layout, considering all of the usual factors (in this case the nap of the fur was really important) as well as trying to get the most out of the limited quantities I had.

But those limitations promote problem solving, so it was a lot of fun.

Since it was an upcycle project, I included an upcycle tag on it’s (ahem) little bear behind.



I made a hedgehog with the scraps.

Friday, 18 April 2014

How to Clean Your Sewing Machine


For this post I'm going to have a look at a pretty important thing - cleaning your sewing machine.

Keeping in mind that a sewing machine is a 'power tool with thread' its hardly surprising that a little maintenance is important. And respect. Respect it because it punches a metal needle through stuff faster than you can even see. 

Disclaimer: I'm a blogger, this is my just my thoughts on stuff. If you hurt yourself or break something doing this, I'm not legally responsible. Because you're a grown up, and if you take random advice from the internet, you want to think about whether its a good idea first. Seriously, I have seen some stupid and dangerous things on Pinterest. If you're not a grown up, ask one.


Now that I've covered the idiot proofing part, it’s really not that difficult to clean a sewing machine, and it is absolutely necessary.

If you've noticed that your machine just hasn't been running as well as usual lately, or if you've noticed bits of lint coming up on your sewing, build-up of lint in the machine is a likely culprit. If that's the case, you can take it for an expensive service, where it is likely the people in the shop will look at you judgmentally as they exhibit all the fluff they found in your grubby machine (not that this ever happened to me I swear). Another option is to just get on with it and clear it out properly yourself.

If you're unsure, you can talk to the people in the shop / service centre about what you should do, and if there's anything that you shouldn't do to keep your warranty. (Again, their advice trumps mine). Who knows, they might even show you. Then you can sort it yourself, because this is the sewing equivalent of checking the oil in your car.

Speaking of, its also worth finding out whether your machine needs regular oil, and how to apply it. Some machines will even have a little indicator as to where you should put a drop of oil every so often.

The next thing you want to do is check out your manual. There may be instructions there.

And then before you start taking everything apart, UNPLUG YOUR MACHINE FROM THE POWER SOURCE. 

So here is my machine. And yes, I realise I have not unplugged it yet.

Each machine is different, but the basic principles are the same. Some are much easier to open than others. Take it slowly, and when you reach a point where you're no longer comfortable, stop and put it back together.

All of the action happens in the bobbin area. This is where the lint gathers. So I am going to take as many components out as practically possible and clean them all.

I would like to note, for the sake of my own pride, that the amount of fluff in there is pretty unusual. I have been sewing with fake fur! I would normally want to clean it more often than this, but for the purpose of photographing the procedure, this is ideal.

So the first thing I will do is remove the foot, the needle, the thread and the bobbin.

Now I’m looking at the plate which covers the inner workings of the machine. You’ll notice it has 2 handy screws, so that’s where I start. I have a weird but surprisingly effective screwdriver here.

You can probably already see what the problem is!

Once I remove the cover, I have a look to see which other parts can come out easily. I take each piece in turn. DO NOT drop the screws into the machine because getting them out again is a pain (not that I’ve ever done that either).

This exposes the bobbin case, which in this case is built into the machine. This is a really important area to keep clean because the pieces need to be able to spin freely.

I take that out as well.

A couple of quick hints for keeping track of things as you do this.
1)     Lay out the pieces in order as you remove them. Here I’ve worked from top to bottom. When I need to put them back in, I work from bottom to top. I’ve kept the screws I need next to the pieces. This helps enormously in terms of getting it back together smoothly.

2)     Snap photos as you go. Then if you aren't sure which way up something goes, you can go back to your photos and use them as a reference.

It’s not that the process is hugely complicated, but heck, why work harder than you need to?

Now all off the pieces are out, time to get the fluff!

My machine kit came with a little brush. You can buy ones for this purpose from sewing shops, and the ones you buy are much better, with a long brush end and a pipe cleaner end. A long pair of tweezers is also pretty useful.
Image from http://goldstartool.com/
 Grab out the fluff!

All of it!


If you turn the hand wheel a couple of times as well, it will throw out bits of lint that are otherwise inaccessible.

Use the brush, but don’t try and wipe or dry the moving parts, unless you are re-applying oil. They are machinery, and they need lubricant to run smoothly.

Give the brush a good clean afterwards too.

Once it’s back to being pretty, reassemble piece by piece. I wiped down each piece as I put it back in.

Couple more bits here (no photo but its like the ones above sans fluff).

 Then you can re-thread, and test to see that it’s working. Before you plug it in and run it at full speed, place a piece of fabric under the foot, and make 5-6 stitches using the hand wheel. That way if something is wrong, you’ll have the chance to figure it out before running the machine at full speed and risking damaging it. If it's running ok, try the pedal.

I also wiped down the outside of the machine, and I’m declaring it done.

If you do this fairly regularly, it should help keep your machine in good running order, and reduce wear and tear.