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Category Archives: Sewing Machines, Tools & Equipment
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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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.
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.
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…..
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?
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!!
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…..
How to Look After Your Scissors – an interview with scissor-maker Nick Wright of Ernest Wright & Son
Remember my visit to the fabulous Ernest Wright & Son scissor factory in my hometown of Sheffield at the end of last year? And my promise that an interview with owner Nick Wright all about how to look after your scissors would follow soon? Well at long last, here it is. Better late than never. Are you sitting comfortably……
Me: What’s the best way to look after your scissors Nick?
Nick: I would always say store scissors dry, and maybe wrapped in some clean dry absorbent material. We use carbon steel (not stainless) for most of our cloth-cutting products as we find carbon steel holds its sharp edge better and for longer; however it doesn’t always mix too well with moisture.
Frequently open your scissors really wide, and firmly wipe all the insides with a dry cloth (take care with your fingers!) including behind the screw area around where the two scissor halves meet. This can remove any collected lint and dust. A tiny drop of household oil can help too, right in behind the screw and worked in really well – but only very occasionally or when they really need it. Finally – I know it is sometimes tempting but please try not to ever move the screw! That’s fixed for a reason.
Me: Can you get fabric scissors and thread snips sharpened?
Nick: Yes of course – but only providing the sharpener knows what they are doing. The scissors may need re-adjusting and re-curving once they have been re-edged, and the screw may need re-setting. We do offer this service by post – unless you can get in to watch us doing them for you in Sheffield!
Good scissors have lots of re-sharpenings and many years of faithful service in them, as long as they are properly looked after.
Me: What are your top tips for keeping your scissors nice and sharp?
Nick: The usual tip I hear from the shows I visit is “keep them hidden from the family!”. But seriously, different materials (e.g. from hair to silk, tweeds, even paper) have different ‘blunting’ powers, so it can sometimes be good to keep one pair of scissors or shears specifically for one type of important job. By the way, we do make a great pair of kitchen scissors for general purpose cutting!
Me: How can you tell a good quality pair of scissors?
Nick: I always look for a distinct gap between the blades when closed – scissor blades should be slightly curved and sprung against each other, and always ‘biting’ across each other at the cut-point. The more inferior flat machined scissors have a habit of simply wrapping around things. Also I often tend to find the ‘weightier’ the scissors the better – it does usually mean they will be stronger and more robust in the long run.
So there you have it. From the man who knows what he’s talking about! That last tip about the gap between the blades is so true. I’m sure you’ve all used a pair of machine made scissors that meet beautifully all along the blades, that cut like a dream when you first use them, but then after a while don’t cut at the tips and just seem to sort of slip around fabric rather than cut it? You’ll never have that with a hand-made pair. You can find out more about Ernest Wright & Son on their website and I have a limited range of their scissors available to buy at MIY Workshop:
- 8″ right handed tailor’s shears £40
- 10″ right handed tailor’s shears £60
- large bow (handle) embroidery scissors £24
- duck billed appliqué scissors £29
- and now antique stork embroidery scissors £26.