There still seems some kind of mystique about sewing so much so, that people will say they can’t do it. However, an unexpected trend has revived its fortunes and it has become cool to be creative.
Noreen Wainwright and Margaret Priestley, in their blog, A Homespun Year, take a look at handicrafts.
EVERYTHING we have included can be made on the most basic of machines. Of course it’s possible to purchase all singing and dancing electronic machines with which you can blind hem or create embroidery, but everything suggested here can be made without these accoutrements.
It’s a good idea to stock up on a few spares of machine needles in different sizes; breakages in the middle of sewing something are really annoying. A large table is useful to lay out material for cutting out, or failing that, the floor. You can use either, depending on what you’re making. It is a good idea to cut out curtains on the floor.
Other basic kit includes: a good tape measure, a pack of pins and a pin cushion (you could make one), assorted sewing needles, including those for embroidery, a couple of pairs of scissors; one large for cutting out and a small sharp pair for any fine work are essential. (Best if you don’t use these for anything else, especially not wallpapering). Some tailor’s chalk or dressmaking pencils are really useful for marking fabric. The iron is also required.
So you see this is not a massive list, and the equipment lasts.We would recommend you to use the advice of people working in haberdashers as they have so much experience and can point you in the right direction. Choosing an easy fabric to sew is the key. Good quality, close woven cotton is ideal as it sews like a dream and luckily is widely available as furnishing fabrics.
There’s nothing worse than struggling with some delicate or slippery surfaced material that puckers or slides as you sew.
While in the haberdashers, take the time to investigate all the many beautiful trimmings, beads and ribbons available.
Indulge yourself in rainbow coloured embroidery silks, buttons, and tassels and let your mind start to fashion ideas about what you could create.
These shops are wonderful. The most important advice we can give is — have a go.
Some basic sewing terms and tips
‘Right side of fabric’ means the outer-side, the side you want showing when the item is completed.
‘Selvedges’ are the outside, finished edges of lengths of material,often printed with details of the pattern and type of fabric. As they don’t fray they can be just turned over and sewn but may need a double hem if they don’t match the main fabric or have printing on them.
Straight grain of fabric – most household items are cut out from the straight grain of fabric. That is, the piece of fabric is folded in half with the selvedges together and the pieces required are cut out along the fabric, parallel to the selvedge.
Raw edges are the cut edges of fabric that will fray if not turned over and hemmed.
Hems can be single ( just one turn of fabric) or double. Hems are usually made double, for example the bottom of curtains.
A small amount of material is turned over onto the wrong side of the fabric and pressed in place. Then it is turned over again by a larger amount, enclosing the raw edge, and pressed. Although machining a hem is a lot quicker, a disadvantage is that the stitching will show on the right side of the fabric.
Hemming by hand means picking up only a few strands of fabric with each stitch so that it hardly shows on the right side of the fabric. Hems can be done on the machine if you have a blind hemming function with the benefit that the stitches will not show on the right side.
Casings are double hems through which you can thread elastic, cord or ribbon, in order to gather up the fabric. Use a large safety pin at one end of the elastic and push this into the open end of the casing. Feeling the safety pin through the fabric, work it along the casing to the other end and stitch the two ends of elastic and casing as required.
Seams are the main way of joining two pieces of fabric together. Usually, the right sides of the fabric are placed together and the seam is sewn with the wrong side of the fabric facing you.
Seam allowances mean the distance from the raw edges of fabric to the line of stitching. They are usually about 1.5cm/½in. When sewing curves or corners, it helps the fabric to lie flat if little nicks are made with small, sharp scissors into the seam allowance towards the stitching, being careful not to actually cut through the stitching. Bulky seam allowances can be trimmed across any corner. Seam allowances are most often pressed open on the wrong side of the fabric.
Zips are a useful way of dealing with openings on cushions and are easier to sew in place if you have a narrow zipper foot on your machine as this enables you to get closer to the teeth of the zip. They are inserted into a gap in a seam that is the same length as the zip. The seam allowance is pressed flat to the wrong side. Pin and tack the zip in place down each side so that the crease in the fabric nearly covers the zip. Sew in place down each side.