26 August 2011

New classes for Autumn

Most of the Thrifty Stitcher students want to move on from sewing machine basics to altering their own clothes. A trip to the dry-cleaners for short ladies like me with 4 pairs of trousers and a skirt to shorten adds up to a hefty £50 bill! Being able to do your own simple alterations means shopping freedom, you will no longer have to mentally add in the cost of getting that bargain adjusted. You can safely bag the best bargains and tailor them at home for free!

Once you've stopped being scared of the sewing machine, most new stitchers are keen to use commercial patterns. These patterns are a great way to start dressmaking, but can seem like you need to learn a whole new language. This autumn we are running a short class on de-mystifying paper patterns. There will be a bit of sewing involved towards the end of the session, so this class isn't for absolute beginners. But it's a great way to start understanding the language of patterns. If you're itching to start on a specific pattern, bring it along and get it out of the packet and onto some fabric!

18 August 2011

Changing a sewing machine needle

Sewing machine needles are not a purchase for life!
They should be changed for every 8 hours of continuous sewing, and for each new project or different fabric.They need to be the right choice of needle for that fabric. If sewing denim, and you try and use the same needle for chiffon, you will very likely snag the chiffon.

Sewing machine needles are generally all universal for domestic machines, but it is worth checking your manual to ensure you get the right needle for your machine. In general the larger the needle number, the thicker and bigger the needle is.
The needle I use the most for dressmaking is a Schmetz universal  705H needle number 80/12. This is a great needle for fairly fine woven fabrics.
If sewing heavier cottons I use Schmetz universal  705H needle number 90/14

When sewing jersey I use a ball point needle. This type of needle seperates the fibres, rather than splitting them like a regular sharp needle does. The tip of this needle is rounded, and it is only useful for knitted fabrics, and won't work on woven fabrics.

There are lots of job specific needles for trickier fabrics available. These are the ones I commonly use-

  1. A denim needle. Some people just use a thick needle, but the point on regular needles may not pierce the denim as well as a denim needle. Denim needles are strong, but have extra sharp points, allowing the needle to pierce the densely woven fabric.
  2. A leather needle. The point of a leather needle is actually shaped more like a blade, this creates a triangular hole in the leather. Using a regular needle creates a small split which will over time tear and ruin the garment
  3. An extra sharp microtex needle. I use these for delicates like silk and satin.
  4. Stretch needles. These are great when stitching really stretch stuff like elastic and lycra, or any stretch fabric where your machine has been skipping stitches.
The choice of brand for machine needles, is to me a very important one. Some of the very cheap needles, just aren't good, and you'll pay twice! I use schmetz, or groz beckert needles. Both of these brands are German and they have proved to be the best needles I've used.

Changing your needle is a really simple operation.
- Hold the needle with your left hand and unscrew the screw at the top of the needle. Holding the needle ensures it doesn't drop inside your machine. I keep a sharps box to dispose of my needles.
- The flat side of the needle is the back
- With the flat side at the back, push the new needle up inside the sewing foot as high as it will go, and then tighten the screw.
- Just to double check that the needle is in the right way, run your thumbnail up the front of the needle, you should feel a groove if it's in correctly.
All done, and you're now ready to continue sewing...

15 August 2011

Clean your sewing machine and improve it's performance

It's important for sewing machines to be regularly cleaned, as the fibres and lint from fabric and thread will slow it down, and may well transfer onto your lovely fabric. A blob of grimey dust on that lovely "must have" fabric could seriously ruin your sewing pleasure!

Getting your machine serviced regularly is important, as the engineer does more than just cleaning the machine. However if you try and clean the bobbin case area yourself every month, you'll save on how regularly the machine needs a service.

This weekend I cleaned out my 6 janomes, and boy where they grimey underneath the bobbin case!

The instructions below are for cleaning out a top loading machine. First thing is to get out your manual, and see how they advise you to clean the machine. Most top loaders can be done in the same way as the instructions below. I lay my screws and removed parts in a mirror of how they came out of the machine, making it easier to put it all back in the right order. If you're worried about forgetting where something came from, then take pictures at each stage.

1 -To remove the bobbin case on a top loader, you need to start by removing the sole plate, which may be screwed on.

2- You now need to remove the bobbin case which is the black plastic holder in the centre.
3- Once the bobbin case is removed, you can now see how much hidden fluff, and dust there was beneath it! Use the brush that came with your machine to get it all out. A can of pressurised air is also a useful tool to blow the dust out of hard to reach areas
4- Using the sharp pointy end of the cleaning brush, hook out any other areas of fluff around edges of all the metal bits you can see
5- Fluff also likes to collect at the top of the needle, and on presser foot, so make sure you give those areas a once over too.

6- The underneath of your bobbin case should hopefully now look lovely and clean
7 - There are screws that allow you to get to areas further inside your machine. I generally don't go any further, as the more small bits I remove, the more likelihood there is that I won't be able to get them back in! I save that for when the machines are serviced.

8- You now need to put the bobbin case back in, there is a tiny split at the front which will give you a guideline. Then replace the sole plate. Your machine will thank you for giving it a little clear out!

14 August 2011

Threading a sewing machine

Here is the second of my mini video tutorials showing how to thread up your sewing machine, and pull up the pesky bobbin thread!

1 August 2011

My day job

I have 2 lives, one is as The Thrifty Stitcher teaching sewing, The other is as a Professional Wardrobe Mistress in London's West End. If you'd like to know a little more about what that actually is, then check out my interview with StageWon