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Posts Tagged ‘Sewing’

Welcome Back

Have you been longing for a sewing machine? Perhaps you have a budget in mind or the family have started asking what you would like for Christmas or your birthday. Rather than individual presents, maybe they would be interested in going in together, to help towards the cost of your dream machine. Ohh the possibilities, so how do you choose which machine is right for you? Read on for helpful tips to narrow the search.

My First Sewing Machine

My First Sewing Machine; Brother BM2600

There are so many options, how do I choose which machine is right for me?

Here are some helpful questions to ask, to help you narrow the choice.

  • What do you want to make?
  • What comes with the machine?
  • What extra feet or accessories are available for your choice of machine and how much do they cost?
  • Budget, have a figure in mind that you are hoping to spend, then do some research as to what is available for that price.
  • Do you know anyone else who sews, who you could ask about the machine they use?
  • Look up the main manufacturers of machines [see links below] to see what is available

What would you like to use the sewing machine to make?

If this is your first machine, pretend for a moment that you can afford anything, and already know how to sew anything that comes into your mind. Now write a list of all the things you would like to create with your new machine. You now have this list it will help lead your choice as some machines are better for some jobs, than others.

For example if you mainly want to do a few clothing repairs and have the option of trying some craft style projects, then you don’t need huge numbers of stitches. Machines with fewer stitches are often cheaper and you could get a much better quality machine with fewer stitches than for the same budget if you wanted lots more stitch options.

If you are thinking more home furnishing, curtains etc then you will be using much heavier weights of fabric, so go for a sturdier machine whose motor can better cope with these things.

Feet & Accessories

Now that you have your dream list of things you would like to create with your machine, have a look at some of the main manufacturers of sewing machines and what is available. When you see a machine you like, download the manual to see how easy/difficult the machine looks like it will be to use.

Not all shops or online retailers have much information about individual machines so getting hold of the manual is a good way to compare machines and find out just what they are capable of. It will also let you discover what comes in the box and hopefully what other accessories and feet are available for that machine.

Feet

There will be a selection of feet that come with your machine, how many there are is likely to be driven by your budget and which machine you choose. With your dream list of projects, have a look to see what feet are needed for those kinds of project and check their pricing. The last thing you want is to discover  in a years time is that your great bargain can’t grow with you as there aren’t more feet available so now you can’t do half the projects you had planned, or the feet to make it do so, are prohibitively expensive.

Room to grow with your sewing machine

You have a choice, buy a basic machine with the full intention to learn the ropes on it and expect to trade up to a bigger better one as your skills improve or by doing some research that I’ve mentioned above, getting a little more expensive machine, that will give you the option of adding extra feet as your sewing horizons expand with your confidence.

One thing I can promise you, is that if you get bitten by the sewing bug, you will be astonished at how quickly you want to do more than you ever imagined when you first bought your machine. When I bought mine, I ‘just’ wanted to make bags, perhaps alter a few hems. Three years later and I’m now very keen to try dressmaking, nothing earth shattering but being short I find trousers almost impossible to buy to fit. I like cotton skirts but often their prices are painful, I’d like to try to make some of those too.

Now I’m not saying making your own clothes will be cheaper, sometimes it will, sometimes it will cost the same, and sometimes it will cost more BUT it does give you more options for colours, fabrics and styles that YOU choose, not what the shops say you should want.

Getting help

If you have friends or family that sew, see if you can use their machine and ask them what they love or hate about it. If this isn’t an option check out the many sewing forums online and see what machines people on there are using, ask questions and have a natter. Better to do this now, than to drop a load of hard-earned cash on a machine, that in three months you regret getting.

Storage

Now I know this sounds a bit daft, but do spare a thought for what you will do with your machine, when you aren’t using it.

The reason I say this, is because some machines are a lot heavier than others and if you are needing to store you machine away in the cupboard and haul it out when you want to use it, suddenly the weight of the machine could become a big issue. If the machine will be out on a desk, you want to protect it from dust, so check out what covers the machine comes with or if there are bags available for it.

If you have the space and funds there is a fantastic company called Horn who produce the most amazing cabinets for sewing machines. The have a gas lift to raise your machine to working height, and press again to store away again into the cabinet. There are many options at various price points depending on your budget and available space.

Links

Do have a look at the  Textiles Tab for links to;

It’s also a good idea to look through some catalogues for inspiration and options. I ordered one from Jaycotts last weekend, OK my wish list grew, but it was helpful to have items listed side by side to compare sizes and features.

Oh dear another LONG post, I really need to work on short n sweet rather than epic essays don’t I! Anyway I hope you find this post helpful, these are the tips I’ve picked up along the way and if they save you some time and money along the way, then its been worth the hard work looking up all these links.

Happy Sewing

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

Just wanted to share a picture of my first skirt. The fabric is royal blue polyester cotton. I went with an elastic waist as the style tends to fit me well. I was considering using the cord I made to thread through the casing but I wasn’t convinced by my current skill level with button holes with my machine, so went with elastic instead.

My First Skirt

My First Skirt

The instructions I used to draft the pattern were from Sew What skirts which I reviewed recently. I’ve had the book and the fabric for a few years now, but only recently discovered where to buy pattern paper.

I was very lucky to get a bargain of a nearly new roll of pattern paper on Ebay! So now I’m having a play designing different kinds of patterns. My MIL gave me Winnifred Aldrich book for my birthday, its one big step up from where I am right now but since I am in-between sizes of commercial patterns, I would have to learn how to make lots of alterations to them anyway. At which point if I was going to have to learn all that, I figured why not learn how to draft to my own measurements, at least the patterns I draft should be nearer to my size and then I have full freedom as to the length of things (being a shortie at 5 foot 3) most patterns are designed for people much taller any way.

Wish me luck with it, I’ve also been creating a pattern from an old pair of shorts, which from the test pair I’ve made, are going well. At last I’ll get designs I want to wear without the low slung waists (which I hate) in fabric I like. woo hoo. No more static fests with viscose which seems to be all you can get on the high street.

BIG learning curve and a million miles from the bags I originally wanted my sewing machine for. My late mother would be proud, she used to make all my clothes and spoilt me for expecting things to fit. After she passed away and I found shop clothes such poor fit and quality it was a bit of a shock, such a shame I didn’t have longer with her and the patience to learn when she tried to teach me.

Fingers crossed with some time and patience (who me?!) that I’ll be able to make designs I like, my way and that they will fit. If my Mum who didn’t go to university or study fashion for years could make wonderful clothes, maybe the genes are there and I’ll be able to too.

How about you, what do you like to make with your machines?

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

PS More art when my hands work better! Fine motor skills are beyond me at the moment.

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Welcome Back

When I joined a sewing forum, a popular topic was; ‘What books are good for beginners?’

The answer does of course will depend on what you would like to create, but for general sewing, things like home-wares, gifts and to get you started with sewing with a machine, here are several excellent books that I use a lot and are ideal for newbies. There are links at the end of the article for the full reviews that I wrote about the titles mentioned, in earlier posts.

Me and my sewing Machine by Kate Haxell.

Me and my Sewing Machine by Kate Haxell

Me and my Sewing Machine by Kate Haxell

Kate’s book is for those who know they want to sew using a sewing machine, but need a good guide to what a machine can help you do and how to do it. This book holds your hand and shows you round the machine, it tells you about the different feet and what they each do and is also a good no-nonsense guide to essential techniques, for basic sewing. How to create different seams, and how to finish them create a really professional look for your projects. Zip insertion is also covered well is this book.

Check out the link below for my earlier review. This is also a good book to look at, before you buy your first sewing machine.

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes

This one is perfect for newbies as it expects no prior knowledge. If you want to make a PE bag for the kids its in here, gifts suitable for friends family and little projects perfect for fetes are also included here. There are totes, tissue holders, little purses etc. Nice small achievable confidence building project for the new sewer.

Sew What Skirts by Denhartog & Camp

Sew What Skirts by Denhartog and Camp

Sew What Skirts by Denhartog and Camp

Another nice straight forward and inspiring book, also expecting little or no prior knowledge of sewing. As the intro to the book says ‘If you can thread your sewing machine and find the straight and zig zag stitches you can create the projects in this book.

Sew What Skirts shows you how to take your own body measurements, to create a range of different skirts. Classic styles to get you going but when you have more experience, you can mix n match ideas from the various styles for different waist bands and fastenings, add pockets and trims to your heart’s content so you can really personalise the designs to your own look.

If the thought of a commercial pattern confuses you and frightens you, (me too by the way!) This book is for you.

I have just made a trial skirt from this books instructions and it came out great. If you have to do a lot of altering on a commercial pattern, why not start with this book instead. Since YOUR measurements are used not that of some fictional ‘standard’ person ;)

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

THE must have sewing book. A wonderfully clear reference book of visual instructions for so many sewing techniques. Not the chatty style of the earlier books but definitely one to have on your bookshelf as it walks you through many techniques.

I did buy a commercial pattern and couldn’t follow what I was meant to be doing. When I looked the technique up in Alison’s book, there were photos of the technique which made it much easier to see what I was meant to be doing. Not overly wordy, but definitely a keeper and excellent for visual learners. If you are trying to fathom the markings on commercial patterns they are covered here as are some basic alterations for patterns too.

Home-made Vintage by Christina Strutt

Home Made Vintage

Home Made Vintage

If you are more into home-wares and would like to make something timeless and elegant try this book. Its kind of Anna Griffin meets Tilda ;) If you walk through John Lewis and the like and think ‘Ooh so nice’, but the prices are beyond your pocket try this book. From cushion covers to table decoration. You could take the ideas found in here in many different directions. For example there is an envelope shoe bag that with some alteration to the size and the addition of padding, would make a great e-reader/tablet cover/cozy.

Lots of things in here for all ages and some would also make great gifts. Take the ideas as a starting point and add your own imagination, with different style fabrics you could change the look and feel to any style you like. The picture in the photo was from a library book with hard cover, when I bought the book it was a paperback and had a different cover but essentially all the same content.

My other favorite sewing book is The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam. I love it but perhaps it doesn’t belong on books for beginners as although it covers many aspects of making bags, the techniques are for those with more experience. For complete newbies go with Sew what bags, if you have passed that stage and want to explore different fastenings, add pockets and zippers then Lisa’s book is a real must have.

Hope you will check out the links below for my full reviews of the books I’ve mentioned. These books have been so helpful in my sewing journey. I was scared of sewing for so long, but with the help and encouragement of these books, and some help from forum buddies, my sewing is improving with every project.

Links

The following links take you to my full reviews of these books and to where you can buy them.

My best advice is to grab some cheap fabric or old sheets that you can practice with before you try to make something in particular. Work out what stitches you like and how techniques work before making a finished project, that way you won’t have so much pressure and when you do make a project, have much better chance of making something you love and will use.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Altered Skirt

Welcome Back

Today I’d like to share some photos of my altered skirt. I had a favorite skirt;

Original skirt

Original skirt

This was my favorite skirt but sadly I’d outgrown the waist. Being a bit of a horder, I’d held on to the skirt, in case I’d get back into it one day, as you do ;) Many years later still doesn’t fit BUT now I have a sewing machine. I decided to try altering it and see if I could get it wearable again.

First I took out the zip and continued the back seam to the top. Next I took out all the darts, folded over the top section to create a casing for elastic instead.

Altered skirt, waistband removed, casing pinned ready to sew

Altered skirt, waistband removed, casing pinned ready to sew

Next I threaded elastic through the casing, this caused much bad language as at each seam the elastic got stuck! If you try this at home, sew down the edges of the seams before you sew down the casing, then the elastic can slip on by ;)

Altered skirt, elastic threaded in place

Altered skirt, elastic threaded in place

Here is the finished skirt. Since it was quite a generous size before and it was just the waist that was the issue, I’m pleased to say it now fits again :) YEY So pleased as this is a nice cotton skirt, I’m not a big fan of viscose that so many skirts on the high street seem to be.

Altered skirt, elastic threaded in place

Altered skirt, elastic threaded in place

How about you, have you got any altering stories you would like to share?

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Welcome Back

This is a post of two halves, first I’d like to share a picture of my first attempt with cable knitting, and then on to other news.

Rope cable

Rope Cable, my first attempt!

Earlier in the year I posted about New Years resolutions. One of the things I wanted to try this year was cable knitting. I checked out the instructions in my faithful Dummies Guide to Knitting and found the instructions for a Standard Rope cable on page 163. I repeated the cable and added a few rows of rib at the end, just in case I want to turn this in to some kind of bracelet/wrist warmer kind of hybrid ;)

Now on to the other stuff. Has anyone else been following the BBC series ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’? I’ve been hooked from the first episode but would have liked a longer series like with the baking version, it all seems a bit quick at only 4 episodes.

My favorite sewer on there is Lauren, but I love them all for different reasons. Although I don’t share her skills I could have been a ‘Lauren’ if I’d listened when my dear mother tried to teach me to sew. My Mum was ace at sewing, (and knitting and cooking) she made all my clothes till I was a stroppy teenager and rebelled. Mum tried to teach me but I got board and went off to draw or get muddy in the garden instead. If I’d listened to my Mum, I could have been like Lauren.

Thanks to my Mum always making clothes and my Dad’s excellent woodworking skills I have tended to be one of those people who thinks couldn’t we just make that, rather than buy it already made, its also spoilt me for expecting things custom built, which once my parents passed away and their skills with them of course was no longer possible.

I bought an excellent book Sew What skirts, which is full of skirt designs that I love and a nifty way of drafting your own patterns to fit you. This was very tempting as I’ve no idea how to read a proper pattern. I was very lucky a couple of years ago to receive a sewing machine for my birthday and although I’ve made some nice bags in an assortment of sizes, the one thing I’ve always wanted to make was a skirt. I’m only 5 foot 3 and a lot of skirts are way too long on me, I keep seeing styles I like but they are all in linen, what is it with linen? How about a nice cotton? After another trawl through online version of stores only to find options in linen or lary patterns I decided to take the plunge and try making my own.

Simplicity had an offer on their patterns and I ended up buying 4 so I hope at least one I can make seance of. This started out worse than clothes shopping, once again I felt like a freek! My hips are larger than my waist but by the pattern sizing charts they were a smaller size than my waist? I was worried that not only couldn’t I read a pattern if I had to alter it loads before I start it was even worse. I’m still clueless about how to lay out a pattern, how to cut fabric etc never mind getting to altering the pattern as well!

The reason I battled on trying to get a commercial pattern rather than trying to make my own is because I didn’t know what to search for to create a blank pattern onto. I need that tissue stuff, although preferably that nicer fibery kind that Tilly used. Anyone know what it is and where I can get it?

Wish me luck for this project, I fear I’m going to need it.

Billie :)

PS. Still no arty stuff at the mo, between low light and RSI its not been happening of late. I’m still into it, and will get back to it asap.

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Welcome Back

In today’s post I would like to share a picture of the Rice Heat therapy bag I made a couple of weeks ago.

Handwarmer

Handwarmer

As regular readers will know, I struggle with joint pain and find wheat bags really soothing. It’s almost impossible however to find them un-scented! The one I have is getting on a bit now and I was getting really worried what I would do if it wore out.

I found a great tutorial for how to make a rice heat therapy bag and modified it both inside and out and created this handwarmer. It’s great, for one minute in the microwave it stays hot for about 20 minutes. I’m working on designs and trialing different fillings. If you are Celiac then the option of filling your bag with rice is a safe option as the store-bought bags are often wheat filled.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

In today’s post I will be reviewing the following

Simplicity's Guide to Sewing DVD

Title

Simplicity’s Guide to Successful Sewing DVD

Price

Around £10-£12 (At time of writting 2010)

As a newbie to sewing I am looking for information to explain the new terms I come across and how to master the basic techniques. When I have seen this advertised it’s pitched at beginners or people looking to review techniques, so it sounded ideal, especially as I am a visual learner and struggles with long descriptions in books.

Contents

The DVD has eight chapters

  • Lay and cut out patterns with confidence
  • Successful seaming tips
  • Clipping, notching and grading explained
  • Understand darts and how to sew them perfectly
  • Enjoy sewing with stretch fabrics
  • Get confident with Zips
  • Trimmings

Pros

There are lots of great tips on here that really help when you are just getting started. If you are struggling to follow explanations in books then this DVD could really help. I’d buy this just for the section on zips

Cons

The biggest problem with this DVD is the production quality! Fine for You Tube, but disappointing for a commercial DVD from a main manufacturer like Simplicity!

  • Audio: On several occasions the presenters voice is drowned out by; emergency vehicle sirens, torrential rain and by music at the end.
  • Lighting; Camera gets between the set lighting and the presenter, often leaving her in shadow
  • Filming; Many key techniques from demonstrations happen off camera (see the You Tube comment!) You see the back of the person’s hand rather than what’s being sewn or the camera stays on the presenters face while she points to things on the project, so its out of sight.
  • Set; This is filmed in someones house rather than a studio and as a result there are a lot of distracting items in the background. A busy wall hanging and a Digital photo frame whose picture keeps changing which takes the eye.

Value for Money

At under £15, its worth it, there are some great tips on here and if you have prior knowledge of the subject or are using it for visual reference of individual elements then its worth having in your library. Especially if you have  that you have more detailed explanations elsewhere, perhaps in a book for example.

Summing Up

This seems like a good idea, let down by the production team. It feels rushed and sorry to say the end result doesn’t really hang together too well. I have watched it trough several times now and still have questions about what was covered. For a total novice with no prior experience its left me bewildered and confused on several things, especially the things that happened off-screen!

It would be ok as a refresher for someone who has sewn before but as a newbie the continual use of the phrase ‘Of course you will have done ‘X’ before you did this step’ was confusing and became annoying. Much like recipe books that say make a sauce without any information on how to make said sauce!

If you are looking for something that introduces you to the tools you need for sewing, how to get started with a sewing machine for the first time, in-depth techniques and something to get you started from the very beginning…then my recommendation would be Debbie Shaw’s DVD Sew What? Which I reviewed last month. It’s much more in-depth and approachable.

I’m still looking for tutorials for getting started and just hope Debbie Shaw extends her DVD series, she does understand the confusion and at times trepidation that new sewers have and her explanations are much clearer.

Links

Simplicity I bought my DVD direct from Simplicity, the postage was sensible and they delivered fast! This is the UK site but there are links to Simplicity sites around the world from the home page :)

I HATE to give negative reviews!!! I really do, this DVD has merits, it just wasn’t for me. I hope I’ve made helpful points that the manufacturers could solve on later projects and not just winged! Do you have this DVD? What do you think of it? Do leave a comment and let me know how you got on.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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