Thursday, 17 January 2013

dress project all done

Yes, I finished it. A while ago, actually (4th Jan), but forgot to write about it.

Here it is:
The mannequin was something I didn't really know much about so the creases are there because I didn't know how to adjust the waist.
It looks better than this when worn, of course, but not as good as the drawing (do they ever look that good?). The neckline was supposed to be the hardest thing to get right but I had no trouble with this. Just followed the lines of the pattern piece and the instructions.
Since it was a few weeks ago now, I can't recall if I had many problems, but nothing springs to mind. It REALLY helps to have a sewing person as a resource, though. Doing a skirt for eldest daughter now (13½ Y.O.) and have had problems with puckering of the seams (there are 18 vertical seams) and have to undo all of these now (my resource wasn't there to tell me to stop)

Threading a Pinnock

It's easy to make it "Threading a Sewing Machine" but my daughter's Singer is not the same as any of my machines. Hers has a built in bobbin holder, where you just drop a bobbin in. Mine is different, and it's the only other one I've had experience on: It has a removable bobbin holder which is very common I've noticed. Also very expensive. A couple of months ago I went to a sewing shop in Thornbury and she charges $20 for a new one!! I didn't get it and a week or so later I'd bought another machine from the tip shop and it had some spares.
The bobbin tension is a real pain in the proverbial if you don't get it right, but it's really quite simple once you've seen it. There are a great many videos made that are on youtube and instructions just about everywhere, but rather than recommend one of these (you can Google for yourself I'm sure) here is my brief guide, using my partner's new (?) machine ($2 at a garage sale - yes really, but I had to clean it, oil it, grease it, give it a base and test it).
Before threading your new old machine, give it a really good clean. Thread carries and creates a lot of dust which gets stuck everywhere thread goes. The thread path plus the feed dogs and the bobbin case. All the Pinnocks I've had so far have an easily removable bobbin case, so remove it and remove all the dust and bits of thread.
1. Foot tension. I only mention this since it's a major cause of puckering. If you're getting puckering, release this a little.
2. Thread goes through this hole
3. Tensioner. Just wind it around
4. ... then back over the spring then down so it
5. ...goes around the arm.Thread through the take up arm at the top then down.
Thread through everything that looks like it will guide the thread, then through your needle.
Thread goes through the needle from left to right or front to back, depending on your model.
same, but from the side
My rusty bobbin holder. The thread must do a U-turn to enter the bobbin holder's thread slot.
pull thread back toward the protruding arm. Note the tension screw in this photo
and through the hole.

And that's how to do it. Not hard but trial and error is a harsh teacher, so I hope I've saved someone some time.
EDIT (thanks Greg Livingston): Download the manual here

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Making a Dress

When it comes to making clothes, I can't see why men are different to women. Luckily I live with two of them, so here is the classic black dress I wanted to make:
simplicity 5707 (1966)
It's the one on the right.
Like I said, since the pattern is second hand, there's usually no need to cut out the pattern pieces. I'm making dress #2.


Firstly, grab your tape and measure your subject's vital statistics. Obviously you should do this before choosing the pattern, but if the subject thinks she's a certain size just ignore this. Size 18 is huge these days, but this dress size was not the same in the 1960s. The most important part is the bust size, but there is more information on the back:
back of packet contains valuable information

Choose a fabric

Reading the back of the pattern envelope, look at the type and amount of fabric required. We're using polyester/linen, so for #2, look at the right: "nap is the raised (fuzzy) surface on certain kinds of cloth, such as velvet" (from wikipedia). The size on the left of the table refers to the fabric width. If you have, say, 42" fabric without nap, you'll need 2 7/8 yards. OK, a yard is 90cm, so 180 (2 yd) + 78.75 (7/8 yd) = 258.75cm. I'd just get 3m.

Check the contents, read instructions

Inside the envelope you find the instructions. Take these out (you should definitely check that this is there as well as all the pattern pieces before you buy second hand patterns). If anything is missing, you probably won't be able to make the garment.
Instructions tell you how to lay the pattern pieces on the fabric to minimise fabric waste. If there's one piece of advice to give other learners it's to read all of the instructions, and don't ignore something if you don't understand it.

The right side

The fabric must be folded right sides together. Right sides together is an expression you'll get to know well. The right side is the one that will be on the exterior of the garment, and the wrong side will be on the inside, possibly hidden by lining but not seen when the garment is worn. Right sides are always sewn together.

Cut it out!

Lay the paper pattern pieces on the fabric as per instructions and pin them on. Using loads of pins means you will get much better cut fabric. The pattern pieces will have lots of markings too. These must nearly all be marked onto the fabric before you start using that piece. My daughter's dress pattern (and this one) both suggested tailor's tacks for this. This means you have a long piece of contrasted cotton (e.g. you have black fabric, so use white cotton), double it over then poke the fold loop through a needle so you have four threads coming from the needle's eye. On simplicity patterns, the three big circles signify a side that is on the fold and the two big circles must be on connecting threads so you don't have to mark these. On all other circles, put the needle through like you're sewing a four hole button. Leave a large loop and cut about an inch above the pattern/fabric. When all of these are done on all the pieces (this takes a long time) move on to the cut out v shapes. Snip the fabric (it doesn't have to be a v - just a single snip is enough). If you think this is a massive pain, so did I. The Simplicity book gives you two alternatives, one of which being to mark these holes with tailor's chalk. To make sure the side that's on the table gets marked correctly, you should put a pin through the centre of each hole in turn, lift the fabric and mark the other side: I found it easiest to change the angle of the pin three times and mark each one (so there's chalk pointing to the centre).
pinned pieces. Marking is nextpin through to mark the other side

Read the instructions and test your machine

Now you can start reading the instructions again.
Before you start sewing, you must test what you're going to sew with a fabric off cut. Fold it in two and sew together. I find that I'll have to modify various settings before it sews nicely. Here's what to look for: puckering (foot pressure is too much or thread tension too high), missed stitches (bent needle or thread too loose), one side of the thread is straight and the other is OK (too much thread tension on the side with the straight thread) and thread looping (not enough thread tension on the loopy side). Fix the problems and you should have a nice even stitch.

Mark your seam

Old patterns usually have a 5/8" seam allowance (seam allowance is the overhanging bit after you stitch two pieces together), so it's really helpful to have 5/8" to the right of the needle marked somehow. Some machines have markings on the plate: Singers usually do, my Pinnock doesn't, so I have a small sewing magnet that will attach to the plate. This has a straight edge. Alternatively, you can keep measuring every time, but this is annoying and really unnecessary.
OK, follow the instructions one at a time. Don't skip any.

Start to sew

Patterns will usually ask you to sew the bodice first (it's the hardest part), starting with a row of "stay stitching" around the neck line and shoulders. This is to prevent the fabric from stretching or changing shape in any way. You do this on front and back sections, just inside the 5/8" seam allowance (you don't want it to show, or you'll have to un-pick it later) then usually sew the darts (bust and back) then sew the front to the back at the shoulders then the sides.