Monday, June 27, 2011

Knitting Pretty in 1935 and 2011

I chose the lower left sweater

2011 version made with soft cotton

There are so many things in this world that seem to be so old and dated at first glance but really are timeless.  Knitting is one of those things.  The stitches are the same, much of the shapes are the same and even the materials themselves are similar.  We still knit with needles and use yarn.  Yarns change with style, patterns reflect fashion and tools come and go but the basics remain.  Knit and purl anyone?
People who sew and knit are fortunate in that there are many patterns available from earlier times just waiting to be rediscovered.  I have been quietly collecting them for many years.  It's a nice little adventure to make up a vintage pattern and see it come to life.   If you have never done this, I suggest giving yourself an excuse to do it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Washing a Big Cut of Fabic

My gosh, I got this helpful hint recently and had to share it.  Forgive me I do not know the name of the person who wrote this but they are a member of Treadle On.  For those who do not know, that is a group of people who use treadle and hand crank sewing machines.  I went to them years ago for help when I could find it no where else.  Usually if I sought help with such a machine I got a a horrified look and a comment such as "You actually use that old thing?  Get a new one!"  I recommend this group.  Here is a link to the main website:
Treadle On's Website
Often there is very helpful advice on the email group about topics related to sewing techniques in general.  
Sometimes we sew for years by ourselves and so never hear the great solutions to common problems we all have. 

Here is such a problem:  How can I wash a big or heavy piece of fabric without it tangling up in the washer and dryer?

This is a common problem for me as I use upholstery fabrics often for uses other than furniture.  They can be coats or bags but it's nice to pre-wash them for any future cleaning.  What a mess they can become in the process.  Here's a solution.

Sew the ends and pin the corners before washing.  It works, here is how to do it in pictures.  The fabric is a heavy cotton 60" width and 5 yards in length.
Zigzag cut edges.
Fold and pin.  You can have several layers like this if needed.
Wash and dry with pins in place.
 Comes out great, no raveling no tangled fabric in the dryer!  That means less, or in this case, no ironing the fabric for use.  Yay!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Embroidery with a Willcox & Gibbs

Just a quick post about the Willcox and Gibbs I wrote about here:
Willcox and Gibbs Chainstitch Sewing Machine
I mentioned before that these machines can do really nice embroidery if the underside is used.  Mostly this has been done with tea towel and cotton muslin.  Recently I gave it a try for decorating a back pocket on a pair of jeans I was making.  Sometimes you just want to try something out of your comfort zone, right?  Jeans was one of those times.  I have never made a pair and so thought why not?  I used Wild Ginger Boutique pattern making software to draft and create a design.  I have had a version of this since 1992 and recently upgraded so gave this a shot.
Jeans Pattern Print Assembly Jeans Pattern Print - Putting it Together.
The pants came out OK, but the interesting part is how well the Willcox Gibbs did with denim.  The machine is quite strong, no problem or hesitation whatsoever for this.  It was one layer but still quite heavy.  The thread is regular Guitermann rather than "Jeans" top stitching thread.
Embroidery on the Willcox Gibbs is done on the wrong side of the fabric.  It is the bottom chain that is so pretty.  This can be a little tricky - designing in reverse.  What is shown in this picture is the design drawn on the wrong side of the fabric then stitched.  The actual stitching part is pretty easy.  These electric versions are very fast so try hard to slow it all down for accuracy.
When done, on the right side, thread the loose ends through a needle and pull to the underside.
On the underside, knot the loose ends.
Here is one of the finished pockets.  I know, it's weird but at the time seemed Ok to have an octopus on my jeans.  The octopus is a favorite animal of mine and I have some great stories of their incredible intelligence but possibly another venue for my admiration next time. 
The chain stitch machine does this type of job very well and would be a good project suggestion for anyone who has one.  I could also see technique used to make a tote bag design on heavy cotton.   So much to do!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Singer Blind Stitch Attachment

This little thing has been an attachment I have avoided using for a long time.  It came in a case with a sewing machine so it was a stow away.  I'll be honest,  I simply do not like to hem at all...anything.  Being a "petite", hemming has been the bane of my fashion existence.  Nearly every garment I have bought or made needs a hem adjustment.  Ugh.  Anyhoo........maybe this can make it easier?  I'll discuss that and how to use it here.

Background Information:
This is a low shank attachment.  I am showing this on a Singer 221 (Featherweight).  It should work the same on any strait stitch low shank such as the Singer 201, 15-91, 27,28, 127, 128 or 66 (except the back clampers). 

You will find it easier to use if you have a manual.  You can find one here:
Singer Blind Stitch Attachment Manual

Attaching the Blind Hemmer
 *raise the presser bar.  Attach the blind hemmer by setting it on the presser bar at the same time hooking the fork through the needle clamp.  Screw in place.

Helpful Hint:
It is a very good idea to test this out before you sew on your garment.  There may be an adjustment needed to the width of the "bite" of the stitch.  That is made by moving the black metal part on the top of the presser foot of the hemmer.  For lighter fabrics (smaller stitch) it goes left, for bigger (heavier fabrics) it goes right.  I keep it in the middle for cottons, to the right for denim.

Preparing the Hem:
Turn Up Top Hem Allowance (apprx 3/8")
Fold Again in Place.

* Turn up the hem to where you want it and press in place.  If it is a difficult to handle material, baste in place.
Turn to Underside
 *Turn the hem to the underside - wrong side up.  There should be a 1/4" extension for sewing on face up.

Fabric Placement for Hemming
* Place the fabric just like this under the blind hemmer.  Be sure to pay attention to where the little metal guide thumb is.  Your top fold should be next to this.
*Start sewing slowly.  You'll notice the line of strait stitching and then the hemmer will jump over.  That's why I recommend you take it easy - to keep it lined up.  If you are not careful, you'll be doing this....
Bad Blind Hemming
It is very easy to sew over the fold. 

Good Blind Hemming
It should look like the photo above.  Note how close the stitches are to the fold but are not on it.
*Sew entire hem in place.
Opened Hem
 *Open out hem.  This is what the hem looks like from the inside of the garment.  Note the basting line of stitching and the blind hem line of stitching.
Finished Hem
*Turn garment to the right side out and press it smooth.

Final Opinion:
It looks almost invisible, even with problem areas.   That part is good , but this can be frustrating to use at first.  I put it away several times on different projects in disgust.  Possibly there is a learning curve with this attachment.  It will be used more now as I have gotten a little more practice.  The results are great.  This can be a real time saver for projects like full skirted dresses and curtains.
If I had to choose, I'd use a zig zag machine with a built in blind hem for most projects.  It is easier to be accurate.   There are those times that a small and light machine is what I travel with and most of those times that means an Elna Grasshopper or the Singer 221.  Once in a while even a non electric is needed (long story) and so a hand crank 28 comes out with me.   That is when I'd use this and so it's worth keeping in a well stocked sewing tool kit.
This do-hickey is recommended.

The Greist Decorative Zigzagger

Greist Zigzagger

Here I go with yet another zigzagger attachment.  This one goes up against my little Chadwicke's that I reviewed earlier.  I found this one and thought it deserved a bit of a test as they are fairly common and Greist makes very good accessories for many models of machines.  The one drawback to older strait stitch only machines is, well, they are strait stitch only.  There are times a zig zag stitch is handy to have such as with edge finishes on exposed inner seams.  Because of this I like to have a zig zag attachmentclose at hand even for this limited use.  Here's another one I've found. How does it work?  Does it work?
Background Information
These are made for strait stitch machines, I used a low shank Singer 221 (Featherweight) but this would be good for any low shank strait stitcher.  Some examples would be the Singer models 201, 15-91, 27, 28,127, 128, 66 (not the back clampers), Pfaff 131.
Greist Zigzagger with Templates

The Zigzagger comes with a permanent template for making a basic zig zag stitch and has some additional ones for embroidery type designs to add if you want to change the look.  There is a thumb screw for hooking it up to your machine.   The red colored part is a removable snap to hold the extra templates in place.

Attaching the Zigzagger

How to Use:
*Remove presser foot, keep presser bar up.
*Hook the Zig Zagger to the presser bar and at the same time make sure the "arm" hook is on the needle scew.  This is just like a buttonholer.

Note: I was having some trouble with adjustments on this at first, only to find my machine's thread cutter was in the way of the zigzagger's movement.  You can simply turn the needle threader to the back by pushing it .

Adjust Width of Zigzag with This
* Adjust the width of the Zig Zag stitch by making loosening the screw then moving the metal bar.  The #1 is the most narrow zig zag stitch.  Adjustment of the spacing of the zig zag stitch is done by your machine's stitch length lever.

Template Snap

 If you want to change a template, remove this snap.
It comes off just like this....
Adding the little template.
Changing the template is easy, I do it right on the machine.  The snap is just like a clothing snap, works great for this.  The template goes on right over the permanent one.

*When ready, lower presser bar and start slowly with stitches.  That's all!  It moves all over, don't worry.

Here is what the zig zag looks like on fabric:
Zigzagger Samples
 Does it work?  Yes, but the quality is not that great with the simple zig zag but it is OK.  The patterned decorative stitches are better.  I find it difficult to get a significant change in the width of the stitch in the simple zigzag setting.  Strangely, I have the same problem with my other one, the Chadwicks Zizagger.  The extra templates make some good stitches like the ones shown above.  They might be handy if using knits or you want to hem with a simple blind stitch.  Because it can do both, it might be  a nice addition to a traveling sewing tool kit.
As a final note, I suggest making up a sample with the number of the template written in ink for each setting.  They all look alike and this will save you a lot of testing later.  Do the same for the zig zag  and it's settings.