Monday, February 22, 2010

EZ Spaghetti Straps

Just a little tip today.

To make spaghetti straps that are sturdy but yet CUTE - here is an easy way to do it.

Take about a 2" strip of fabric by whatever length you want, fold the long side right sides together.
Use the left hand side of the presser foot as a guide. Fold on the left, raw edges to the right.
Serge down the long strip cutting away the excess fabric (raw edges).
Use a safety pin or tube turner and turn the fabric right side out. The seam inside gives the strap body and durability.


This technique can also be used to make belt loops, button loops and Celtic frogs. Give it a try and let me know how much you love this quick and ez technique!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Serger Techniques

Advanced Serger Techniques

1. Inside Corner – Four thread sergers work best when serging in a straight line. It is suggested that when you want to serger an inside corner you cut a ¼” nip in the center of the corner so that you can more easily manipulate the fabric. Some books suggest that you make a small fold in the corner and then relax it once it has been serged. It is best if you try both techniques and see which one you find more comfortable.
2. Outside Corner – It is possible to turn the corner without sergering off. This technique takes a lot of practice but can be done. Serge to the end of the fabric, lift the presser foot, pivot the fabric, retract the thread, place the needles in the fabric by hand turning and then continue serging to the next corner. Problem – if you do not get it just right there will be loose stitches and/or dog ear corners. It is easier to serge off and hide thread tails whenever possible.

(Graphic came in at the top)

3. For SHARP outside corners rotate the fabric CLOCKWISE after each side has been serged. That way you will start with a clean raw edge until the last raw edge. Note – at times when starting to serge over a previously serged seam the thread will stack (form stitches without advancing the fabric).
4. Sergin a circle or oval* - Notch to start is the best way to perform this technique. Notch to start means cut a section out of the fabric so it can easily be placed under the presser foot and beyond the upper knife. The section is usually about ¼” deep by 1” in length give or take. To stop you must stitch right on top of the beginning stitches for about 1” and then remove your foot from the foot pedal. Next you lift the presser foot, gently pull the fabric away from the needle, lower the presser foot and then serge a thread tail. Hide thread tails and dab with seam sealant. Tip – when the fabric starts to bunch up as you are turning, stop the serger with the needles in the fabric, gently lift the presser foot but not to its highest position, and the fabric will relax. This technique also works well with outside and inside curves.

(Graphic came in at the top.)

5. Pokies – to prevent pokies it is suggested that you move the upper knife a little to the right to bite more fabric. Always test on scrap fabric first. Another way to prevent pokies is to place water soluble stabilizer on top of the fabric. This acts like a sausage casing and encloses the fabric. Note – pokies are fine fibers of fabric poking out from the segerd edge.
6. Fixing skipped stitches – Use a hand sewing needle and clear nylon thread unknotted. Start from the back and go to the front and secure the skipped stitches. Once the threads are secure pass the needle to the back again and then hand tie a double knot. If possible hide the ends of the clear nylon thread under some stitches or under the fabric. Cut away excess clear nylon thread.
7. Serger Tucking – With wrong sides together you make an outside seam. This is a great way to encourage using embroidery thread to make a custom thread color. Make several rows on a long piece of fabric. On the sewing machine, stitch vertical lines so that the seams alternate direction. The threads used on the back will be featured when you change direction.
8. Serger Pintucks – Pintucks can easily be achieved by using either the rolled hem or picot edge. The Picot edge with 100% cotton Robison Anton thread makes a beautiful serger pintuck.

Serging in the Round

This is actually not as difficult as one would imagine. Let's say you are attaching a sleeve. You would align the two pieces together first with pins. But remember to remove the pins BEFORE they approach the blade. It is a costly repair if you chip the blade or damage one of your loopers.

Just like sewing in a circle - you knotch to start. That means cut a section about 1/8" - 1/4" in by about 1" long. Lift the presser foot, advance the fabric so that the end of the cut is at the neck of the blade. Serge all the way around and then finally serge on top of some of the previous stitches and then serge off. If you are serging in a circle - you serge a little on top of previous stitches, then lift the presser foot and move the fabric away from the needles and serge off. Secure the overlap with seam sealant and then trim excess thread carefully.

Most sergers are not free arm - so that means you approach serging in the round a little differently. It is sort of like if you placed a can on it's side with the open side facing the machine and the excess above the machine. Not a good mental picture but I hope you understand. Please don't try to sew a can!


In the future I will place a graphic and more detailed instructions on serging in a circle. As well as serging inside and outside corners. Coming soon!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Serger Backstitching

In regard to gathering - in order to lock the stitches so they don't come out - you need to backstitch or lock the stitching. (Another way is to tie the thread tail in a knot.)

1. Serge for about 1" and then bring the thread tail around in front of the needles and knife and serge on top - over it.
2. When you get to the end - serge off about 1", then flip the fabric upside, bring around to the front and stitch on top of the previous stitches about 1" and then serge off.

This will lock the stitches at the beginning and the end.

Sometimes I don't do this because I want to ease the gathering or modify the amount of gathering.

It is suggested that if you are putting in a cap sleeve or any sleeve you can gather between the dots to ease the sleeve into the armhole.

SPECIAL NOTE - IF YOU ARE ATTACHING A GATHERED SECTION TO A FLAT PIECE OF FABRIC - THE GATHERED FABRIC MUST BE ON THE BOTTOM! Otherwise the gathers will flatten out. I know because I have made that mistake once or twice. It was just as painful as stubbing you toe.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gathering with a Serger

In the old days we gathered fabric on our sewing machines by pulling bobbin thread, zigzaging over floss and a whole host of other stand on your head tricks. But with sergers today you can easily gather fabric either on the edge (with a 4 thread) or down the center (with a 5 thread). How U do dat?
First of all adjust the needle thread tensions to a higher number. For example if 3 is normal for your serger - set both needle tensions at 6 or 7, adjust the stitch length to as high a number as you can. Lastly adjust the differential feed to the highest number you can. For some sergers that means adjusting the stitch length to 4 or 5. The differential feed settings differ from model to model. So if 2 is the highest number on the dial - than that's the number for U.

Of course several sewing machine companies that carry sergers offer a "gathering foot" or "gathering attachment" for sergers. I can tell you from experience - THEY WORK GREAT!!!! The gathering is uniform and neat. (Don't worry about the stitches on the edge looking loopy - they are supposed to.)

How do you know how much the fabric will gather? Well - here is one way to judge. Take a 10" scrap of the fabric you will be using for the project (garment) and gather it. Then run to the yardstick or cutting table if you have one and measure and see what you have left. Let's say you have 5". Well you know how to calculate now. One teacher I had said start with 12" - yeah that would work if I had paid more attention in math class. Did not. I was too busy flirting with all the boys. I was a teenager in the 60's - enough said.

Everyday I am grateful to the person that invented the calculator. Thanks!
If you scroll down you will see a little girl's dress I made with a ruffle at the hem That is exactly how I did it. Go take a look.

Happy Velentine's Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Questions 4 me

I would love to get some questions to answer. I am sure that everyone would benefit from even the simplest questions or suggestions. Let's here from U!
Maybe you want to know what pokies are and how to prevent them????

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rolled Hem (Wooly - no wooly????)

Most think that you can only do a rolled hem with wooly nylon in the upper looper. Not so. I often use regular serger thread in the upper looper especially if I need a perfect color match. But there is a trick - isn't there always.

The upper looper thread tension needs to be adjusted to just a little tighter (higher number tension). Sometimes you need to tighten the needle thread tension just a wee bit too.
My sister Karen drives me crazy - she rolled hems everything because she is too lazy to hem on her conventional sewing machine. AND she refuses to use any of the decorative thread I have given her. SO - she uses regular serger thread to do rolled hems on robes, blouses, vests, shirts and so on. But of course she always calls me and asks - what should I set the tensions at for a rolled hem?

OH - and there is a wooly nylon that is a heavier weight. I have used it to edge tapestry pillows. When all four sides are complete - it looks like piping. I think it is called wolly Extra. Not sure. I have a couple of spools in my sewing room, but I am too tired to go downstairs and look.

You can also use Jeansstich thread by YLI - but you will have to lengthen the stitch a little. That thread is heavier weight than the others I mentioned above.

Have a great weekend everyone. We are expecting snow??? SO I will SEW!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Serger Projects

I know that Christmas is over - but it is never too early to get started on next year. Christmas stockings are so easy to make using the serger. Pattern shapes of the stocking are available in most books in your personal library. If it is not big enough then enlarge on a copier.

Making a quilt using fleece or double layer cotton fabric is quick and fun using the flatlock stitch (see earlier posts).

Table toppers, table cloths for occasional table (small round tables), bath mats. Speaking of bath mats - take a couple of old towels and serge them together. For a border you can add cotton strips.

I love making pencil holders out of cans (green bean size). Just measure and make a tube of fabric (double the height of the can)- of course serge the long side to form the tube. Then slip the can inside the tube (fabric right side out) and tuck the extra fabric inside. Then make a circle out of cardboard - bigger than the base of the can. Cover the cardboard with fabric and glue it to the bottom of the can. If you need more detailed instructions - just let me know.

Covers for the toilet tank - this time you can use elastic so it stays on. Sure - you can make a toilet seat cover too.

These are just some ideas. Not just for Christmas but for any occasion, birthdays, Easter, Mothers Day etc.

Have a question - just let me know.

Down to the basement to sew! Life is good.....

Monday, February 1, 2010

Moments of Misery

Stacking - that is when the thread is wrapping around the needle plate and the fabric is not moving. Yipes. If you notice it right away you can gently tug on the fabric and help it move past the stacking. Or at least avoid the thread knot. But if you have a lump or birds nest - then get the sharp scissors and snip the threads to remove them from the needle plate. If it is a mountain of thread you may have to remove the needle plate and the needles to clear the way. Sometimes this happens because the fabric is not advanced far enough under the foot for the feed dogs to grab it. Of course check the thread path to see that the lower looper thread is not wrapped around something and catching. Another reason is that the presser foot is not down. (been there done that too, so I know.)

Skipped stitches (I may have addressed this before, but it is worth repeating). First check to see that the needle(s) are inserted as high as they will go. Check the thread path to see that you have passed through all the thread guides. Change the needles. Another reason is that the needle thread tensions are too loose or too tight, This you will have to test to determine if this is the culprit. Old thread that has passed it's expiration date. It is dried out and needs to be replaced.

Rolled hem peels off the edge of the fabric - yes it is your fault. :-)
When serging we have a tendency to pull the fabric to the left away from the needles. Try, TRY to push the fabric toward the knife as you pass under the needles. If you are sure you are doing that then move the blade (upper knife) a little to the right to take a bigger bite of fabric. Especially when you are serging a curve it is important to watch the knife and not the needles. Whether it is an inside or outside curve keep your eyes on the curb (knife). The needles know their job but the fabric has a mind of its own and will drift away from the needles and the knife if you are not careful.

Thread keeps breaking and it is the lower looper. Most sergers have an order in which they are threaded. Some upper looper first, some lower looper first, check the manual. If you tie off and pull the thread through sometimes you may miss a thread guide for the lower looper. But let's say that the lower looper thread broke and you just re-thread the lower looper. Ain't gonna work. As you turn the hand wheel the needle threads are wrapping around the lower looper and a knot forms and the thread breaks again. If you want to just re-thread the lower looper then remove the thread from the eyes of the needles and then re-thread the lower looper. Trust me those needle threds love to form knots underneath where you can't see what's happening.

The knife is cutting the fabric but it is catching between the knife and the serged edge forming a sort of ragged knot of fabric. (Not sure how to describe it but hopefully you know what I mean.) Most likely the knife is too far to the right (too much space - a gap) and it may need to be moved further to the left. If that doen't work, then I will grab the tail of the fabric cut and guide it down into the waste receptacle. More often this happens with high loft fabrics like fleece. AND I go slow so I can maintain control of the fabric. Rarely, but sometimes the knife needs to be replaced or sharpened. If you serged over a pin then there may be a nick on the cutting side of the knife. Rub an old pair of pantyhose across the blade and see if it catches - that will be a sure sign of trouble in paradise.

I will give you some more info another time- my brain is tired.