Category Archives: Sewing Machines, Tools & Equipment

How to Transfer Pattern Markings

transferring-pattern-markings-web

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DIY Bobbin Holder

diy bobbin holder

Do you have to fight your way through a tangled nest of threads at the bottom of a box or drawer every time you need a bobbin?

Life’s too short, find some toe dividers and make your own bobbin holders! Keeps your bobbins neat, tidy, you can see what colour thread is on them and they then fit easily into your portable sewing kit. Lots of my MIY Workshop students have started bringing bobbins to class like this.

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How Many Pairs Of Scissors Do You Need For Dressmaking?

scissors for dressmaking

My column for this month’s Love Sewing magazine is all about scissors. Not like me to be going on about scissors is it?!

Here’s a little edited version of the column:

Anatomy of a pair of scissors.

anatomy of a pair of scissors

Scissors or shears?

What is the difference between scissors and shears? A good question as fabric cutting scissors often appear to be interchangeably called dressmaking, fabric or tailor’s shears or scissors. Well, apparently when scissor blades are longer than 15cm or 6 inches, they become shears.

Commonly used scissors and shears for dressmaking:

FABRIC SHEARS

dressmaking shears

Have handles set at an angle to make it easier to ensure the fabric is lifted as little as possible from the cutting surface. The lower handle is larger to accommodate your fingers and handles are often molded to be a more comfortable fit. They come in different sizes, which refers to the length of blades. I like to work with 10” shears, but 8” are also useful and probably easier for beginner dressmakers.

PAPER SCISSORS

paper scissors

Make sure you have a reasonable sized pair of scissors for cutting paper patterns. I prefer to use a similar style of scissors to my fabric ones, ie. angled handles and long blades. Cheap poor quality fabric shears actually make great paper scissors!

THREAD SNIPS

thread snips

For snipping thread ends when working on your machine, these specially shaped thread snips fit onto just your 2nd or 3rd finger and sit inside your hand to give you more control. They can take a bit of getting used to if you haven’t used them before, but many sewers love them and won’t use anything else.

SMALL SCISSORS

embroidery scissors

An alternative to snips which I tend to prefer. Choose a pair with large bows (handles) for comfort and make sure they have super sharp points. Keep them for snipping threads when working on your machine, for unpicking and for removing tacking.

BUTTONHOLE SCISSORS

buttonhole scissors

Unusual shaped scissors, with short blades and often with an adjustable screw between the handles. The screw is adjusted so that the scissors can only cut the length of your buttonhole! Much more accurate and tidier than cutting buttonholes with a seam ripper.

APPLIQUÉ SCISSORS

duckbilled scissors napping scissors

Another pair of unusually shaped scissors, I honestly don’t know what I did before I got my pair they are just so useful. Interchangeably also referred to as duck-billed or napping scissors. In dressmaking I use them most for layering seams. That wide blade on the bottom and the angled up handles allows you to layer seams with no danger of accidentally cutting through the fabric underneath. They are also useful for cutting into reverse appliqué.

Which ones you really need and which ones are “nice to haves”:

As a bare minimum aim to have a pair of each of the following in your sewing tool kit. Save up and buy quality and you will only need to buy them once.

  • Fabric shears (at least 8 inch / 20cm)
  • Small scissors OR snips
  • Paper sicssors (a cheap pair of fabric shears are best, not a 50p pair of tiny craft scissors!)

As you start to do more sewing, you will find these useful so invest in them as and when you can (or stick them on your Christmas list!), but again, quality only and they’ll last you a lifetime of sewing…..

  • Appliqué scissors
  • Buttonhole scissors

A big thanks to Nick Wright of Ernest Wright & Son (one of the remaining Sheffield scissor makers) who is responsible for a lot of my scissor knowledge!

What is a Pressing Cloth and Why You Should Use One

LS22-feb-cover-web LS22-feb-Q&A-web

This month in Love Sewing magazine I’m writing all about pressing. It’s issue 22 and is available now for just £6.99. One of the questions I answer is about pressing cloths and as it’s a much under-rated bit of pressing kit I’m including it here too!

A pressing cloth will be one of the cheapest and most used items in your pressing tool kit. It protects your fabric by preventing sheen, protecting against scorching and melting and protects your iron against fabric melting and sticking to the sole plate or poor quality printing transferring to your iron.

using a pressing cloth

Place the pressing cloth between your fabric and the iron, then press as normal.

When to use a pressing cloth?

Always use a pressing cloth on:

  • coating weight wools – so you can use a really high heat
  • silks and delicate, fine fabrics to prevent marking
  • synthetic fabrics – if you’re unsure about how they’ll press
  • scuba – it’s a synthetic fabric, prone to melting at high temperatures, but thick and seams need to be pressed
  • PVC, pleather, oilcloth – these fabrics are all difficult to press, but you need to be able to flatten seams to get a nice finish.

Always use a pressing cloth when ironing on fusible interfacing; your interfacing will stick much faster, more evenly, is less likely to start coming off during sewing and most importantly, you won’t ever have a molten mess of interfacing stuck to the sole place of your iron!

Using a pressing cloth is pretty old technology.

A damp pressing cloth used with a dry iron was the only way to generate steam before steam irons were available. In fact many tailors still choose a damp pressing cloth and dry iron over a steam iron to minimise any marking of the cloth.

You can buy pressing cloths, but why would you?!

A simple piece of unbleached or white cotton muslin is the most basic and most used pressing cloth, but you can go to town and have a whole pressing cloth collection:

  • Cotton (NOT poly/cotton – the polyester content will melt) muslin makes a good general use pressing cloth.
  • Plain woven cotton canvas is good for very delicate fabrics that can’t withstand much heat but need a lot of pressing, using these damp can also help with pressing delicate fabrics.
  • Silk organza sounds like a rather extravagant pressing cloth but will be really useful and you don’t need masses; its transparency is the main advantage – you can get a much clearer view of what’s happening underneath a silk organza pressing cloth! It can also withstand a high heat and has a nice smooth surface meaning no textured imprint will be transferred to your fabric.

Finally, don’t get lazy and use the pressing cloth to avoid changing the settings on your iron! They’re best used in conjunction with the correct settings on your iron for the fabric you’re pressing.

Read my recommendations for what other accessories will improve your pressing here.

Last Posting Date for MIY Collection Orders

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Chop chop! If you’ve had your eye on some MIY Collection goodies this Christmas,  the last posting date in the UK is Monday 21st December…..

If you have a crafter, maker, stitcher to buy for, have a look at my kits, tools and accessories and give them a gift they’ll treasure and keep on using way beyond Christmas!

What To Use As Pattern Weights

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What do you use as pattern weights?

I’ve got some nice fancy examples in the image above; a lovely traditional old hot iron and a professional pattern weight, but so many things will work just as well.

Here are a few ideas:

* old hot irons
* purpose made professional pattern weights
* paper weights
* traditional weighing scale weights
* big washers from any hardware store
* cans of food
* even bean bags!

Basically anything with a flat surface to keep your pattern and fabric nice and flat…….ie. not pebbles.

What do you use?

MIY Collection Scissors by Ernest Wright & Son!

OK, so it’s no secret round here that I’m EW’s number 1 scissor fan (read why here)! I tentatively ran an idea past Nick this summer about making some custom MIY Collection scissors, I didn’t even know if this was something that was possible or that he would ever consider doing, but joy of joys he said yes and here’s the result!!

MIYcollectionEWdressmakingshears1

MIYcollectionEWembroideryscissors1

Ernest Wright’s 8″ dressmaking shears and large bow embroidery scissors with custom white handles and the MIY Collection logo etched on the blade, right beside EW’s own esteemed logo. What a super happy bunny I was when these arrived.

You can buy them now in the MIY Collection shop and in person at MIY Workshop classes. The shears are £40, the small scissors are £25. A snip when you think about the price per use of scissors that are going to last you a lifetime…..