It’s a year since I started sewing and set myself the task of fashioning a handmade wardrobe from scratch. I was armed with some basic skills I’d picked up from a community course in Fashion and Dressmaking. It was there one evening, that I met @twiinkalink – already prolific in the blogosphere and no stranger to the Readers’ Makes page of Love Sewing magazine. After this fortuitous encounter, I cycled home with my head in a social media spin, determined to start a blog of my own and make an item worthy of a sewing magazine’s pages.
Fast forward a few stitches in time and here I am – the blogger behind ‘wrong doll’ with a star make credit to boot. Through joining Instagram, I’m now in contact with an extremely supportive community of makers – two of whom I arranged to meet in real life last Saturday. The initial plan was to go scavenging for threads at Manchester’s Abakhan, until Shauni found out about The Big Simplicity Blog Meet and the die was cast. Could there be a better place for three sewing bloggers to meet up.
The jewel in the event’s cake encrusted crown, was a masterclass from none other than May Martin. For two hours, she shared the tips of her trade in such an approachable fashion, it felt like catching up with an old friend – albeit one who is extremely adept in the art of sewing. May is incredibly knowledgeable and clearly derives so much pleasure from passing on her skills to others. Every craft has it’s own language and terminology and as a relative newbie, I was heartened to feel at home amongst references to facings, differential feeds and bias bound finishes. However, I’m certain this has more to do with May’s skill as a presenter, than my fledgling experience as a sewer.
Recently I made the determination to step out of my comfort zone and embark on a new challenge – sewing with knitted fabrics. So I was overjoyed when May launched into the morning with her top tips for knits. I’m not going to attempt to document the day in detail, as I know it will fall dismally short of the real thing. However, I did manage to scribble down a few words of wisdom and here are some cherry picked gems.
On overlocking knits
Thread your overlocker with large cones of shades of grey. It’s the colour that goes with everything – fact.
Threading – order of service: upper looper, lower looper, right needle and left needle.
If a thread breaks, always unthread both needles and rethread them after threading the loopers.
Differential feed – notch up that dial and say goodbye to stretched out seams.
Minimise stretch from overuse by stabilising shoulder seams and necklines before stitching.
On machining knits
No overlocker, no cry – a narrow zig zag finished with the overcast stitch does the job. In fact, around tricky areas such as armholes, this could be your option of choice.
Invest in a walking foot and you won’t be sorry. This piece of kit grips the fabric from above and below, enabling an even feed.
Give your hems a professional finish with a twin needle – two rows of straight stitching on the front encased in a zig zag on the back.
General tips & tricks
For a perfect curve – use a shortened stitch length on contours and don’t clip! Grade or use pinking sheers for an even reduction of bulk.
Achieve symmetry on a shaped collar by attaching interfacing without a seam allowance and using its edge as a stitching line.
Notch out rather than in, to preserve seam allowances for garment adjustments.
Self made over shop bought binding? A bias tape maker, with a plastic insert is your new best friend.
Like for like – if you’re stitching two pieces of material together, practise on two pieces of material together. It sounds elementary but I’ll warrant I’m not alone in testing on single scraps.
New project, new needle and NEVER mix old with new. Store used needles on a piece of cloth, labelled by size and type.
Nothing was an ask too far and May finished the Q&A session with a demonstration of setting in shoulders using her bubble technique and the quickest invisible zip insertion I reckon I’ll ever witness. I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to ask her for a sewing machine recommendation. Whilst emotionally tied to the vintage steeds gifted to me, I’ve been hampered by the limits of my equipment of late.
May pointed me in the direction of the lovely Russell at Sewing Machines Direct and as of this afternoon I’m the excited owner of a Janome SMD3000. It’s my propensity to name the inanimate objects which bring joy into my life, so without further ado, let me introduce you to my brand new sewing machine – meet ‘May’.
So, that’s my day in may in a nutshell and what a momentous day it was too. All that remains is to thank Simplicity New Look for organising such a fantastic event. We were showered with free sewing-related bounty and the gauntlet was thrown in the shape of The Simplicity Sewing Challenge 2016. I left with renewed enthusiasm for my chosen craft, itching to get back to my sewing table and launch into another year’s adventures in stitch.