Friday, February 10, 2012

Sewing Techniques Sew Along

I'm heading up a Sew Along on Pattern Review where participants will build practice samples of all sorts of sewing techniques. I'll try to take as many pictures as I can to document each process step by step. There are many ways to do the same thing in sewing, I'll be sharing what works for me.

First up... 


If the ends of my stitches aren't going to be bound within another seam, I like to back stitch the ends to prevent unraveling seams. I like to begin with needle down on my fabric (right sides together). I find this gives me better control of my fabric versus setting the presser feet down before the needle onto the fabric. The distance between where my needle goes in and the edge of the fabric to the right will be your seam allowance. In this sample, I am using a 1/2" seam allowance. There is room between the top edge of the fabric and my needle to run a couple of back stitches before I start forward stitching. Most machines have a manual back stitch lever or even an automatic stitch function, you'll have to read your machine manual to determine the steps for your specific machine.

Continue to keep the right edge of your fabric lined with the markings on the throat plate. I rarely use pins when I sew, I use my entire left hand to guide the top of the fabric and my right fingers are sandwiched between the two layers of fabric. My right thumb is facing upwards (placed under the bottom layer of fabric), my right index finger is right between the two layers, and the rest of the right fingers also face down on top of the first layer of fabric on the machine bed. (This is difficult to capture an image when you're alone, will have DH take a picture when he's around.)

When you reach the bottom edge of the fabric, take a couple more back stitches to secure the end.

Press your stitches with an iron to "set" them. There's some debate as to whether this step is necessary, I do it out of habit.

Open your seam to press it open. This pressing step is vital for professional looking results! Remember pressing is different from ironing. When you press seams, you want to set your hot iron down for a few seconds on an area and then continue that vertical up down movement throughout process. Ironing is continuously moving the iron back and forth over fabric/seam, which could stretch your fabric. Always press. And always know the heat tolerance of your textile. I am using quilting cotton for my samples so the iron is set to "high".

This is a very sturdy seam that's often found on jeans and sportswear. Men's dress shirts also use this technique. This seam is also called a lap seam. There are sewing machine feet specially made to make these seams, I'll have to show those techniques another time.

With wrong sides together, sew a straight seam. My sample seam allowance is 1/2".

Trim one seam allowance between 1/8" to 1/4" from the seam. This width will depend on your original seam allowance, I took cut mine down to about 1/8". 

Fold and press the edge of larger seam allowance up by at least an 1/8". You'll see in the next step you will be top stitching this edge down and the larger the fold the easier it will be to keep it flat. How much you fold up will also determine the width of the final flat fell seam, play around with your samples to determine what you visually like. Open up the seam with the right side facing up and iron down the seam allowance to make it as flat as possible before you take it to the machine.

When you open up the fabric to the right side, you will notice the first line of stitching you made (show on the right). Use your machine feet to help guide your top stitching, keeping as close to the folded edge as possible. I didn't bother switching my machine feet with a smaller left edge one so I am simply using the inner edge of the all purpose foot. Don't forget to back stitch the top and bottom.

Here are some pictures of the flat fell seam from some different perspectives. I have chosen to leave the top stitch open for my sample to see the insides of the seam.

The innards of a flat fell seam

Top view

From the inside
Here are some pictures of two other seams I'll cover next time, the French seam and mock-French seam.

French seam

Mock French seam

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