Twin needle pintucks

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As promised, this is how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.

The skirt didn’t really need any pintucks I just thought it would be a nice added detail to make it more unique.  In days gone by if you wanted pintucks you would have had to mark where each pintuck was to go, fold it, press it and then sew a row of stitches very close to the fold of each pintuck and then press them all to face the same way. Obviously, you could still do it this way and you will get a very lovely effect.  But if your sewing machine has a twin needle capability then it’s much better use of time to do your pintucks with a twin needle.  If your machine has this facility you will have a second spindle that slots into the top of your machine to hold a second reel of thread.  My old one stuck straight up out the top so the second spool was vertical and my new one lies on its side like this:

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Then all you need is a twin needle and a pintuck presser foot.  Mine has lots of grooves on it so I can produce much finer pintucks.

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Attach these to your machine and thread it as usual.  Then thread the second reel of thread and thread it into the second hole on your needle.  You have to make sure the threads don’t get tangled which is why I only thread one at a time and my machine does have a little hook above the needle to help separate the two threads.

Experiment with your machine’s tension.  I found that a tighter tension produced a more raised pintuck which I preferred.

For twin needle pintucks you only have to mark where you want the first one to go.  Use this as a guide and just sew straight stitches along the line with your twin needle.  When you complete the double line of stitching go back to the start and use the grooves on your presser foot to line up the next pintuck.  I’ve used alternate grooves on this skirt.

I think they’re a really effective way of achieving a very traditional sewing technique with far less effort.

I also put them on the hem of my new yellow/green seed head skirt, but I did a few more of them!  This time I did a group of three twin needle pintucks, left a gap and then sewed another group of three.

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Next week I shall show you how I did the decorative hem technique that I used on the pale duck egg blue fabric on my reversible skirt.

Rouleau Loops

In my previous tutorial for a reversible skirt I used rouleau button loops.  I had originally planned on making ordinary button holes but changed my mind.  As that tutorial was quite involved (to say the least) I thought I would leave the bit about how to make rouleau loops until today.

Most of my clothes have rouleau loops instead of button holes.  My sewing machine has a choice of about ten different button holes which it cleverly does automatically, but I just really like the look of the rouleau loop.  You can make them in the same or contrasting fabric to your garment and can match or contrast them to covered buttons. Most shop bought clothes use button holes so the rouleau loop makes your garment look handmade and special. They can be a bit fiddly, and you need a rouleau loop turner but I think it’s worth the effort.

I had worked out my own way of making rouleau loops which I will share with you.  The difficulty I always had was deciding how long to make them.  Luckily last year when I was looking for a book on using luxury fabrics I stumbled across a fabulous new book by a bridal gown designer called Becky Drinan,  Wedding Dress, The who solved this dilemma.  I very nearly overlooked this book as I wasn’t wanting to make a wedding dress. I’m so glad I didn’t.

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This book is really very good.  It has plenty of hand sewing and machine sewing techniques that I’ve not seen anywhere else.  She has found much simpler ways to achieve really professional looking results.  I particularly like her lockstitch which she uses for hemming, so similar to many others but I think she has perfected it.

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This book has lots of lovely photographs and patterns for gorgeous fashionable wedding dresses.  But the best thing about this book is the template for the corset which forms the basis of all the dresses.  I’m not sure you can see it very well in the picture, but it is a map that you plot your own measurements on (quite a lot of them) so that you get a completely customized, fitted bodice.  I’ve tried it and it works.  It gives a perfect fit.  I made a white floral top which you can see on my tailor’s dummy in the background of my post about my new sewing room.

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So, anyway, back to the rouleau loops.

You need to cut strips of fabric on the bias (diagonally across the grain) so it is stretchy.  If you’ve not done this before, fold a square of fabric into a triangle and cut along the sloped edge.  I cut mine approximately 2 cm from the folded edge giving me a strip of fabric about 4 cm wide.  This makes a nice fat rouleau loop.  I then shortened my sewing machine stitch and sewed a line of stitches 6 mm from the fold with right sides together.  At one end I moved the stitching further away from the folded edge to form a wider trumpet shape.  Then I stitched a second row next to the first for added strength.

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To turn it the right way round, I pushed my rouleau loop turner into the narrow end and secured it at the funnel shaped end and just pulled it back out.  That sounds far simpler than it is.  Not that it’s difficult, it’s just fiddly to get it started.  But once it’s going, it turns really easily.

Now to decide how long to make them.  I won’t tell you how I did this before I discovered Becky Drinan’s book.  I’m just grateful I did find her book of common sense.  She says that each rouleau loop needs to be the circumference of your button plus 3 cm (twice your seam allowance).  Common sense, really.  I don’t know why I didn’t work that out myself.  I have amended this slightly to suit my own preferences and it depends on the shape of buttons I’m using.  I like my buttons to fit the rouleau loops very snuggly (so they don’t decide to open at an inopportune moment) and I like to make sure there is no gap in the opening of my skirt or dress, so my formula based on Becky Drinan’s is:

2 x the diameter of my button + 2 x my seam allowance.

For me this makes the perfect rouleau loop.

Next week I will be showing you how I made the pintucks on my reversible skirt.

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Reversible Skirt Tutorial

This week I came up with an idea to make a reversible skirt.  I wanted a reversible skirt that didn’t look like a reversible skirt.  My aim was to have a normal looking skirt which just happened to be reversible.  After buying the fabric I wanted, I thought I would check other reversible skirt tutorials before starting to sew.  There aren’t that many and I noticed a lot of people are asking questions about how to make one.  So, this is my version and how I made it.

The first thing is to take some measurements.  You will need your upper hip measurement (a) (this is where the top of your skirt will be) , your hip measurement (b), the distance between where your upper hip measurement was taken and where your hip measurement was taken (c) and the length of your finished skirt (d).  Then you need to transfer these measurements to a piece of paper with seam allowances to make your pattern. This is actually really easy to do and not something to panic about.  The front and back skirt are the same so you need just one pattern piece for both.  As the skirt is symmetrical, each piece will be cut on the fold, so the pattern piece you draw is for half the front/back (a quarter of your hip and upper hip measurements).

Hopefully, nobody actually has a figure like this one, sadly my drawing skills are lacking.

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Fill in your measurements, remembering to divide your hip and upper hip measurements by 4 as shown and add your seam and hem allowances on.  I don’t tend to put in much ease on my skirts but if you want yours a bit roomier around the hips just move the line slightly further out.  (Every 1 cm wider on the pattern will increase the width of your skirt by 4 cm!)

I have drawn this pattern as a slight A-line, wider at the bottom.  This is up to your personal preference as to whether you prefer a straight cut or A-line skirt.  However, do bear in mind that you will need enough room to walk but if you make it too wide you won’t be able to fit both pieces on one width of fabric, so will have to buy twice the amount.  I usually adjust my patterns so that both pattern pieces just squeeze onto my fabric.  I bought an 80 cm length in each fabric for this skirt which was plenty.

Cut out two pieces of fabric on the fold in one fabric and two pieces on the fold in a second fabric but make this one about 6 – 8 cm longer than the first. (You’ll see why later.)  You will also need a strip of fabric in each colour measuring about 7 cm wide and 25 cm long.  This will form a button placket or tab to fill the gap behind your buttons and loops.

Sew and finish the side seams of both skirts leaving a gap at the top of one side measuring ‘c’ + 1.5 cm.   (This will give you enough room to get the skirt on and off.)  Try both skirts on at this point to check the fit.  My skirts are always too wide at the waist at this point partly because my measuring is so bad and partly because I’m worried I might make it too tight and then I would have to start again.  Last time I used this pattern I altered the top to make it fit first time, but I still cut it larger this time just in case!  So I had to do my side seams twice.

Make four rouleau loops and attach them to the top opening of one skirt flush with the fabric edge.  I sewed about three lines of stitches across the rouleau loops to secure them.

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Sew the placket with right sides together across the top down the side, along the bottom and a little way up the other side.  I have interfaced mine.  Trim and clip the seam allowances and turn to right side and attach to side opening. Check that the raw edges match up with the opening on your skirts (leaving a 1.5 cm seam allowance at the top) and that the finished end of the placket extends below this edge by about 5 cm and attach it to one skirt opening.

Sew both skirts together along top seam allowance with right sides facing.  Turn right side out.  Top sew along placket, across rouleau loops and around top edge of skirt, sandwiching the placket and rouleau loops.  Sew four buttons on opposite the loops.  This can be on the seam allowances of the skirt or on the inner edge of the button placket, whichever you prefer.  Then reverse skirt and sew four more buttons in the same place onto the skirt now showing.

Hem shorter skirt to desired length.  Fold longer skirt, iron and hem so that about 2.5 cm is showing behind the shorter skirt and making sure that the hem is hidden from view.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful.  There will be follow on posts on how I made the rouleau loops and some of the other techniques I used to make this reversible skirt, such as the pintucks on the brown fabric and the decorative hem I used on the duck egg blue spotty fabric.

 

 

 

Harvest Moon Cardigan

I’ve finally finished my aran weight winter cardigan just as summer arrives in Cornwall.  It is a lovely pattern, Harvest Moon by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I had about a fifteen year break from knitting, then about eighteen months ago I discovered Ravelry online and was inspired to start again.  Things have moved on so much.  Circular needles (they were actually invented in the thirties, but I hadn’t heard of them), seamless, top down knitting – what a revelation!  And socks knitted two at a time from the toe up.  Who knew?  Actually, who knew you could knit socks at all? Obviously, thinking about it, at one time everyone would have had to knit their own socks or they wouldn’t have had any.

I just love that the internet has allowed so many independent designers to flourish.  When I ‘need’ a new pattern I just go on to Ravelry, type in what I’m looking for and there they are, hundreds to choose from.  The best thing is (apart from being able to download the pattern instantly) that you can see who else has already knitted the item, look at their photographs and read their comments so you know if it’s really the pattern for you.  I just wish I had discovered that earlier, it would have made me think twice about purchasing the yarn for a certain summer cardigan a while back!

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Anyway, I have been really inspired by knitting designers such as Melissa LaBarre, Carol Feller and Gudrun Johnston.  They all seem to favour the top down seamless method.  It is weird that although I absolutely love sewing and I sew practically every day, I hate sewing up a garment when I’ve finished knitting it and now I don’t have to, ever!

I’ve already started on my next cardigan, Peasy which is also written by Heidi Kirrmaier.  This time I am knitting in an ice blue cotton yarn.  I just need to make sure I finish it before autumn so I can wear it a few times before packing it away for the winter.  It’s so pretty.

My daughter’s make-up bag is finished.  Maybe I could have made it a tad smaller, but she did say she wanted it as big as possible.

 

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

 

 

 

Sewing Stretch Fabric

I have been working on some lingerie patterns that I would like to share with you.  My husband wanted me to call this post ‘Not around your ankles.’  Always something to bear in mind when making lingerie!

So, this is my first completed lingerie pattern:

I have called it ‘Tegan Lace Shorts Pattern’.  This is probably the easiest pair of lace knickers to make ever as the lace trim already has a nice edging on it and is quite elasticated, so no sewing on extra elastic or hemming!  It is available at Bramble Patch Designs in both PDF and paper format.

There are a few more in the pipeline:

Making my own lingerie hadn’t been something I had thought of doing until fairly recently as it involves sewing stretch fabrics and for years I had avoided sewing with stretch fabrics.  Once or twice I had repaired a T-shirt hem with my sewing machine only to have it tear apart again as soon as I put it on which is when I decided that maybe it just couldn’t be done by ordinary people with ordinary sewing machines.  Now I know how to deal with stretch fabrics and as long as you follow the basic rules it’s not that difficult or scary.

I’ve written this tutorial for anyone who’s found the perfect pattern they want to make only to discover that it needs a scary stretch fabric and, therefore, it was not for them!

You only need four main things to sew stretch fabric:

1. Some form of zigzag/stretch stitch on your machine.

You do not need a specialist machine to work with stretchy material.  A Serger does provide a really good finish if you have one but it’s not necessary.  Any sewing machine with a zigzag stitch can sew these fabrics.  Why a zigzag?  Because each stitch can stretch, so it won’t break, whereas a straight stitch is rigid so if the fabric around it stretches, the stitch will snap.

Some machines have a variety of zigzag stitches, overcasting stitches, stretch and knit stitches which are brilliant.  Mine has a really useful elongated zigzag knit stitch that looks like a lightning bolt which I use a lot and another knit stitch which seams and finishes all in one.  My old machine probably had these too but I haven’t read the manual for about twenty years.  OK, so I’ve just dug out my old manual and it does have several stretch stitches!  Check your sewing machine manual to see what your machine is capable of, you might be very pleasantly surprised.  Most sewing machines can do an awful lot more than most of us realize.  But, even if your machine can only do plain straight and zigzag stitches, you’ve got everything you need.  For example picot edged knicker elastic is first attached on the right side of a garment using a straight stitch, flipped back to the wrong side, then zigzagged in place:

A standard straight stitch and a twin needle creates a very professional and stretchy coverstitch for hemming. When sewn from the right side you have two neat rows of parallel stitches, with a zigzag on the reverse:

You can sew seams with a plain zigzag stitch, hem with a plain zigzag and neaten edges with a plain zigzag. (Although most knits do not fray so usually the cut edges can stay as they are.)

2. The correct needle.

If you are sewing stretch lace you will need a fine sharp needle and if you are sewing a knitted fabric such as cotton jersey, elastane, power mesh or tricot you will need a fine ballpoint or stretch needle as a sharp one could snag the fabric.  Remember that if you are using a man made material your needle will dull quicker, so change it frequently.

3. The correct thread.

Use an all purpose polyester thread as it is both strong and flexible.

4. Let the fabric feed itself.

This is important.  If you ‘help’ the fabric through, or pull it – even just to hold the threads so they don’t knot – it will stretch and stretch into a very odd shape:

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These two pieces of fabric were the same size and shape.  The one on the left stretched because I held onto the threads, whereas the one on the right was allowed to feed through by itself.

If your machine has a walking foot this is a good time to use it so that the fabric feeds evenly WALKING FOOT WILL FIT, BROTHER, JANOME, SINGER, TOYOTA DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES , and you might have to experiment with reducing the foot pressure a bit.  Oh, and it helps to have a really sharp pair of scissors for cutting stretchy fabrics.  I’ve just bought a new pair 240 mm Stainless Steel Tailoring Scissors, Superior Quality, Stainless Steel Scissor Blade  and have been both shocked and amazed at the difference they make.  I was looking at the (much) more expensive ones as I want them to perform well and to last.  But these had such good reviews and I decided for the really small cost it was worth taking the risk.  They really are very good.

That’s it really.  It’s not difficult, just different to sewing woven fabric.

This tutorial covers the basics which should be all you need to start sewing your own lingerie.

 

Happy sewing.