Tag Archives: dressmaking tips

Do I Really Need to Tack?

dressmaking and sewing tips

You’d think I get my sewing students to do this for my own amusement sometimes if you came to one of my classes!! If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked this question…..

Now, my stock reply is this: wouldn’t you rather spend a bit of time tacking, than unpicking machine sewing that’s gone wrong? And isn’t tacking more enjoyable than unpicking machine sewing?!

tacking-hem

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t tack everything, but honestly, there are some things that I will always tack, mainly set-in sleeves, zips, collars, cuffs, pleats and usually hems get tacked. I just don’t see how it would be possible to get the kind of results I expect without tacking. When it comes to my students, I get beginners to tack most things and my more confident and experienced students will only tack more fiddly things such as sleeves, zips and awkward shaped seams.

tacking-pleats

I think tacking can also take away a lot of stress for beginners; if seams are held securely in the right place with tacking, newbies can just focus on the machining and being accurate without needing to worry about also removing pins as they go and making sure they don’t sew over them. (That’s right – don’t ever sew over pins, even if they’re placed at right angles to your seam, your needle can still catch the pin and get a slight nick in the needle and I’ve even heard accounts of needles breaking and flying off when people have done this and that’s not a scare story!)

Here are some more uses for hand tacking, that I think can’t be beaten with any other methods:

  • marking buttonhole positions so they’re visible on the right side of your garment and won’t permanently mark the fabric
  • marking fly front topstitching for the same reasons
  • accurate stripe and pattern matching – your machine will often push the layers out of alignment if the seam is just pinned.

I have recently become a convert to machine tacking in certain circumstances; a machine tacked seam is stronger than a hand tacked one and so can be useful when fitting and if you machine tack your seam closed before inserting a centred or slot zip you can get really neat results. To set your machine up to machine tack, choose the longest stitch length and a tension setting a bit lower than you would normally chose for the fabric.

At the end of the day, tacking is also a good exercise in reminding us what makers had to do before the days of sewing machines and then look at traditional bespoke tailoring; tacking and sewing is an integral part of how they create such beautiful garments. Come on, what’s good for Savile Row tailors has got to be good for us dressmakers too hasn’t it?!

needlesindenim

This post is part of my Q&A column for Love Sewing magazine, issue number 26. Get your copy now to read the other questions I tackle this month on ease and when is the right time to start pattern cutting.

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.

April Dressmaking Q&A in Love Sewing Magazine

Love Sewing April dressmaking q&a dressmaking sos

In this month’s (April) Dressmaking Q&A for Love Sewing magazine I’m answering questions on some of the most common problems encountered by every newbie / beginner sewist I’ve ever met:

  • how to choose your first sewing machine
  • how to make your seam allowances really neat
  • the best ways to start and stop sewing on your sewing machine.

Remember, if you would like to see your question answered, send it to me on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #dressmakingSOS or send me an email and I might use it in a future issue!

My Dressmaking Q&A in March’s Love Sewing Magazine

Love Sewing Q&A March15

This month in Love Sewing (issue 11), I’m answering questions on pre-washing your fabric, cutting on the grain line and pattern sizing.

Even better, across the page from me is the lovely Claire-Louise Hardie, aka the Thrifty Stitcher who is the behind-the-scenes sewing producer of the Sewing Bee with an in-depth piece about one of my favourite subjects…..sizing!

Remember, if you would like to see your question answered, send it to me on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #dressmakingSOS or fill in the form below.

February’s Dressmaking Q&A for Love Sewing Magazine

Love Sewing Dressmaking Q&A

In this month’s (issue 10) Q&A I’m talking about:

  • what garment to make for your first dressmaking project
  • how to sew in a straight line (not as easy as it sounds, especially for newbie sewers!)
  • the mystical tension setting on your sewing machine which always seems to bamboozle sewers new and experienced.

Remember, if you would like to see your question answered, send it to me on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #dressmakingSOS or fill in the form below.

Understitching – What is it & Why is it Important?

Understitching is a term which seems to confuse lots of new dressmakers and I’m often asked by students if it really is an essential stage in making their garment or if can be left out.

I’m a guest expert in the “Ask the Experts” section of the February issue of Sew magazine (out now) and I’m explaining why understitching is so important.

what is understitching

My New Q&A Series for Love Sewing

Q&A Love Sewing Magazine

I now have my own Q&A column in Love Sewing magazine!  The first one is in the January issue (number 9).

If you would like to see your question answered, send it to me on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #dressmakingSOS or fill in the form below.

Remember though……I only get 100 words per question so the more focussed your question, the more likely it is to be answered!!