a day in may

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’.

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.

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18 thoughts on “a day in may

  1. Ahhh I’m so impressed at how many tips you got down – definitely saving this post for future reference! I’ll never make as much sense out of my scribbles. Great post about a fantastic day 🙂 And welcome to the fold May! Can’t believe how quickly she arrived – I’m sure she’ll be very well used xx

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    1. Thanks Shauni – it’s ALL down to you – that I met May and bought a May. I was surprised how much sense I was able to make of my scribbles. I’ve put the new machine away … I need a few days to calm down from all the excitement and then I’ll start road testing her. I think it’s the start of a long and fruitful relationship. xx

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    1. Thank you – it was such fun! To be honest I’m not sure I will get involved in the challenge. I fully intended too but when I saw the pattens there were none that really spoke to me. And it’s such a time investment that I think you need to feel passionate or you just run out of steam. I would have been keen to do a vintage pattern but the one chosen wouldn’t suit me. What about you?

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    1. I’m sorry to hear that Sarah. It’s swings and roundabouts though… I have every empathy as it can feel like the whole world is moving whilst you’rr standing still. Take care and hopefully better days will come x

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  2. Thank you for sharing your fantastic day – sounds like much was enjoyed and achieved! A new machine and great sewing tips, very inspiring. I too wish there was something similar going on nearby – although I’m probably even further away – downunder!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and reading Nicola – it means a lot to me to interact with other people 🙂 My day in may was not usual – most of the time it’s just me in my flat – sewing is quite a solitary activity which I really love. But when I’m lacking in inspiration (which I have been of late) it’s so good to connect with others who share your passion. Do you use instagram? I’ve found that a brilliant way of being social and yet solitary in stitch! x

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    1. The moniker of ‘May’ felt inevitable 🙂 So glad I took the plunge. Whilst I love my vintage steeds, I am excited to have something a little more reliable as tension adjustments have always been tricksy with them. A walking foot was thrown in for free so really looking forward to experimenting with that. I haven’t had time to play yet – roll on the bank holiday weekend and some game changing activity! x

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  3. I am going to have to check my bloglovin feed…. I have just noticed I have missed a few of your posts!!!! and have to read the Jean Muir next…. cannot believe you got an extra machine!!! looks lovely, I know I am using my electronic, but also started using my Singer again more as it has nicer tailoring (but those automatic buttonholes are a treat in the electronic!)

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    1. I get email updates when you post… You can sign up for those on my page of its easier – you need to click on the link you get emailed. The new machine was unanticipated. I’ve been having a few problems with the singer (which is currently in for a service) and just not the bullet on May’s advice. I’m fixing my vintage steed too though as II like the way it handles.

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      1. ya – signed up for the email updates last night to be sure to get them! . best of luck with the new machine….. I diid a zoom in on the machine photo….. great selection of button-holes! I know the other bit I like in my electronic machine is being able to ease the needle position in bit by bit (only way I can do an invisible zip) and yours looks similar.

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  4. I must admit – the prospect of meltdown free buttonholes was very alluring Eimear! And being able to adjust the tension for tricker fabrics which I’ve always struggled with on my vintage models. But after all this investment it’s time to take a leaf or two out of your book and tighten my belt. I’m pretty much done with RTW – apart from underwear (which I can’t get excited or enthused about making). From here on in it’s handmade all the way with hopefully a tad more re purposing in the mix than last year.

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