March 8, 2016 by New Capel Street: Fabric Division
I promise, I’m getting to putting that tunic together. But first of all, in order to sew something together, it helps to know how to sew. My shitty phone camera won’t do this justice, so here’s a quick guide to how to find People What Tutorialled This Better Than I Can. What? I’m out of practice with snappy capitalisation.
Hand sewing is the most fundamental skill you need – even if you have a machine, chances are you will need to do at least a little hand sewing once in a while. Whether that’s to put a button on, or because the machine has decided to throw a shit-fit a day before you urgently need a thing to be finished not that I’m at all bitter, Bernie! it’s an unskippable skill. Now, I might be a filthy masochist but I like a bit of futzing around with a needle and thread. Sure, you shank your hand once in a while, and sure, you might get a little blood on your project, but it’s worth it. Honestly. At least for hems. Gawd, I love a hand finished hem. Anyhoodles, here is a link to the four most useful hand stitches, in blog form, with nice pretty clear pictures: and to a gang of my sewing idols. Natch.
It’s worth practicing your hand stitches before trying it out on your garment. If you want to practice getting your stitch length consistent, take a ruler and pen/pencil/tailor’s chalk and mark out regularly spaced intervals. Practice making your stitches into each mark. Now, back in the golden days of toffs not paying their tailors, a well made shirt or gown might have eighteen stitches per inch of stitching. EIGHTEEN. That’s by hand, and usually in shitty lighting too. You don’t have to go nearly that tiny – just small enough that you can do it consistently, and that the stitches are firm but not rumpling up or gathering the cloth unevenly as you sew.
Honestly? Too many to mention for the basics. But my advice is this: If you have a sewing machine, and you don’t know how to use it, get your arse to Youtube. I can’t recommend this highly enough. There are literally hundreds of videos, in different instruction styles and varying quality, explaining how to use the machine. Look up “Sewing a seam sewing machine” or something similar, and just watching videos until you find one that makes sense to your way of understanding. Then try the thing for yourself and see how you go!
The biggest things to remember with machine sewing are to backstitch for a stitch or two at the start of each seam, and to take your time. It’s not a race. Unless it’s a race. Most seam allowances are 5/8 of an inch – it might help to measure in 5/8 of an inch from where your needle enters the metal plate of your machine, and mark it with a sharpie as a guide.
Grab a test piece of fabric, and dick around with it using the method you intend to sew with. Then, PRESS YOUR SEAMS. Take your iron, and an ironing board (or a clean towel on a table if you don’t have an ironing board) and heat it up. Maybe a bit of steam. I’d make a smutty joke right now, but I don’t think I really need to.
Place the sewn thing down on your surface, then lay the iron down on the stitching and press down lightly. Lift up the iron, move it to an area just overlapping and onto an un-pressed area, and repeat. DON’T slide the iron around the stitching, it will cause the top layer of fabric to sit funny. Why do we do this? It pushes the stitching down into the holes in the fabric, and makes them sit right. Also relaxing fabric into the position it is supposed to be in after sewing.
You can achieve different effects by moving the seam allowance of your fabric (the narrow part between the cut edge and the stitching) in different directions. If you open it up like a book, and press both sides open and flat, the outside of the project will look smooth and flat. If you open up your project fabric, and push both seam allowances to the left or right, it will change how the fabric hangs. This is a commonly used technique in clothing, and an instruction you see especially in patterns for skirts or fitted dresses.Once your seam is pressed in the direction it needs to be pressed, you can move on to the next step.
Next time, we’ll cover sewing the tunic seams, and how to make it all sit right!