Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Tack-It: A Forgotten Sewing Tool That Deserves a Revival

Once nice thing about sewing (among so many!) is that your non-sewing friends like to support you by gifting you with odds and ends from their parents' or grandparents' sewing rooms. "I don't know if you can use this, but …" What a great way to show love!

I recently received an item this way. It's called the Tack-It, and while a quick Internet search revealed that many sewists out there already know about this wonderful marking tool, it's new to me. As we join our garment pieces together, we rely on marks to make sure we are sewing the correct pieces together, or setting in a sleeve in the right place in an armhole, oh, just so many times we must mark our pieces well or we'll get lost and forget what we were supposed to be doing.

Begin by cutting out all the pieces of your garment from the fabric. To use the Tack-It, first slip a double layer of dressmaker's carbon on the wrong side of your fabric. (Your paper pattern piece is still pinned on.) Then slip all the layers — paper pattern, fabric, carbon — into the Tack-It. It's shaped a bit like a stapler, don't you think? Line up the punch right over the paper pattern's markings. (I was marking some "circles" on this waistband.) Give the Tack-It a slap, as though you were stapling all these layers together.

You get pattern markings that are neat and symmetrical. This tool seems to have first been on the market in the 1950s and was manufactured under several different labels. They are widely available from eBay, and Etsy sellers, but I sure think it's time to revive the Tack-It for mass production again!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Moving a Bust Dart

If your bust is larger than a B cup, you might want to move the bust dart down a little as part of your bust adjustment. This T-shirt pattern has a bust dart, which I like for helping with fit, but after I made the top once, I decided I would move the dart down a little. This method is based on a tip in Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing book.

First, I drew a line (in green) that represents the foldline of the dart. Next, I drew a "box" around my dart. Then, I drew two, parallel lines that are perpendicular to the grainline. The top line intersects with the dart foldline. The bottom line is the point to which I'm going to move the dart. You'll see in a second.

I cut out the "box" around the dart. The tip, or apex, of the dart has been moved down to the lower line.

I keep a lot of larger scraps of pattern paper on hand for things like this. Can you see the gap along the side seam line, between the lower point of the armhole and the top of the dart? Now I need to draw in a new line and blend it in. I use a design curve for this, or else get out the original pattern tissue and some carbon paper and trace over the style lines printed on the pattern tissue.

Now it's time to true up the dart. Fold your dart along the foldline you drew in, and make sure the dart legs are matching up to each other. Fold it down (after all, that is how we press our darts in our garments). You'll have a little pucker in the paper. Use some tape or a pin to hold it there.

Then, cut a new side seam. I admit I just eyeballed this one, but if you're new at this, get a design curve and draw in a cutting line to follow.

Unpin the paper dart. Looks pretty good! Now, I have to admit, I moved my dart down too much. So when I made this pattern again, I moved the dart back up a little bit, using the same method when I moved it down. It's good to have some low-tack, removable tape for this, in case you need to go back and change your work. Like I said, I learned this from both watching Sandra Betzina do it and reading her book, Power Sewing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sewing Lace, Open Weave, Difficult, and Thin Fabrics — How to Begin??

There was a time when I would have just stuck this little piece of lace in my sewing machine and sort of hoped for the best, but I recently learned a technique for sewing on open weave fabrics that is really pretty genius!

So you're decided to move away from sewing on firm and easy-to-use fabrics, and try out a fine or open weave fabric, such as lace. One of the challenges of using these fabrics is, how do you even start sewing the seam? I think there is a tendency to want to grab the thread tails and hold them taut and just pull the work through your machine for the first several starting stitches, and hope for the best. Fortunately, there is a better way.

You're using a difficult fabric that will very likely get pulled down under the feed dogs and jam your machine. So, start off by using a nice, firm, woven fabric. This is a little square of muslin. I'm using a zig zag stitch.

Sew to the very end of the strip. Leave the needle down and lift the presser foot.

I'm zigzagging over the tiny seam in this lace. If I'd just put this in the sewing machine and prayed I'd get it out of there again nicely sewn, I would have been very disappointed. I butted the beginning of my difficult fabric at the end of my easy fabric, lowered the presser foot again, and continued to sew.

I sewed to the end of my lace, gently pulled it from my machine, and knotted the threads (no backstitching).

Here's how it looks. Carefully snip the threads joining your starter strip to the fussy fabric. You can use this method anytime you're starting a seam in a fabric that's going to give you trouble -- lace, fine silks, and any knits. Never backstitch! Your seam will suffer. You may want to start and end the seam with a shorter stitch length. Take a moment to experiment on some scraps before you sew your garment.