Tag Archives: sewing

Quick fixes on a huge pile of alterations

Just taking liberties with my sewing machine this week to do some minor alterations. I do not claim to be an expert in any sense but I can show you a couple of ways to fix things based on my good and bad experiences.

1. Unraveling sweater at cuff

What I’ve done wrong before: Uhhh wear it despite the fact that it’s falling apart – news flash … it just keeps unraveling.

How I fixed it: This is not a perfect fix – it’s a quick 15-minute fix and I think 99% of people would not notice you fixed it yourself. To fix an unraveling sweater at the cuff simply turn the sleeve inside out and pin to match the rest of the sleeve. Make sure the two pieces at the end of the sleeve match up – otherwise it will look janky (sorry I don’t know the technical term).

Get a stretch or other ball point needle – otherwise you risk cutting through the fibers rather than separating them. Match thread (a trick is to use light grey with most light fabrics), placement (most likely near the edge) and stitch length (typically shorter than default setting) with the existing stitches on the sweater. Notice my needle is moved all the way to the right – this allows me to use the right side of the presser foot as an edge guide. Also my presser foot is clear so you can easily see where your stitches are going.

Start at point of unraveling, back-stitch up the sleeve a couple of stitches, regular stitch to the end of the cuff, knot or back-stitch to finish. I have a Janome that does a knot at the end and I love it. [Insert rant on why “vintage sewing machines” are not necessarily all that]. Voila. No more angry cuff.

2.Tips on hemming up a skirt

What I’ve done wrong before: Cut the bottom of the skirt before sewing. My first instinct to hem a skirt is to cut off all that excess that I don’t want. Well I learned that if you do this it is very hard and time consuming to get the bottom of the skirt to be even all the way around – particularly if you are anal retentive like me.

How I fixed it: My mom sent me one of her cute vintage dresses and it fit perfectly it was just too long. I wanted to take off 5-6 inches. The absolute easiest thing to do is to use the existing hem as a guide.

Turn dress/skirt inside out. Do not cut anything. Pin edge of skirt up to the desired length – use the same length all the way around – in my case 5 inches. Iron the bottom of the skirt so there is a new bottom edge to work with. Remeasure and adjust as needed to make sure it is 5 inches pinned up all the way around. The ironing flattens the fabric and may change some of the measurements.

Baste – in other words – do a long fake stitch about an inch from the bottom so you can see what the new length will look like. If it looks good proceed to cutting and hemming – a rolled hem is nice. Now at least you have a good straight line to work with. Voila. Happy hem.


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Filed under Experiment, Sewing

And away we sew … wait not so fast!

I thought it would be simple. I imagined I would buy my first sewing machine and hem all of the dresses and pants piling up in my “fix it” rubbermaid, sew a collection of clothing for a local fashion show (and then almost immediately be selected as a contestant on Project Runway) and sew multiple Halloween costumes and crafty monster pillows for my unborn children.

My sewing machine

Please don't ask me why I'm sewing a piece of paper.

The first project I attempted out of sheer (literally) necessity was an emergency projection screen made out of a silky, synthetic white fabric. Yes I was asked 2 hours before a music event to produce a screen for visuals. Having little sewing experience, a million other things to do and two cups of coffee of course I responded – “Oh yeah, let me whip that right up for you!” Two hours later, I had created something like a screen. The edges were pretty puckered and uneven but somehow it did the trick. Task completed. Grade D+.

Some months later after becoming very bored with any fashion that was remotely affordable but completely obsessed with many things I could never afford – I decided to take some sewing classes. I had unsuccessfully attempted this previously at SacCity and while a comprehensive class and low price would have been a plus, the months of lost Saturdays and the lack of any available spaces in the class or wait list was a big minus.

Now let me get to the point after several paragraphs of rambling. I decided to sign up for two classes at Meissner (machine basics and an introduction to sewing). This month I attended the machine basics class and WOAH what an eye opener. It becomes very apparent I am a beginner sewer (see definition below). A couple of topics that were covered.

Thread and Needle Types – Particle physicists couldn’t memorize the lengthy list of combinations of needles and threads that should go with different fabrics. The fabric type and weight affects both the needle and thread choice. For example, a knit fabric often requires a ballpoint tip which is rounded and separates the fabric threads rather then trying to punch through it. You can’t see the difference between a ballpoint tip and a regular point needle and so naturally the conspiracy theorist in me suspects that someone at Singer just wants me to buy lots of needles. The know-it-all sewer (see definition below) swears she can tell the difference between the two.

Threading machine and winding bobbin – Well this is the one thing I knew how to do. It was not as easy for the completely forlorn sewer (see definition below).

Adjusting Tension – My machine is pretty new so I’m really glad that the tension on it was okay. They checked all of the machines which was nice and gave us little diagrams about what to do if it becomes too tight or too loose. Before that class I was pretty sure I knew what tension was – the feeling that you get when you see your best friend’s scumbag ex at a supermarket/bar/anywhere and he tries to spark up a conversation with you. Well I guess tension has multiple definitions and one of them has something to do with thread.

Cleaning and Oiling the Bobbin Area – Apparently lots of little bits of fabric and thread accumulate in the bobbin area so you have to clean it out which usually requires a screw. There is also a wick down in there somewhere. Basically after cleaning out the bobbin area find something that you would want to pick at – that’s the wick and don’t touch it! Oiling the wick is tricky business so refer to a manual/expert on the matter. While my house, closet and life are a complete disaster I would like to report that my bobbin area is immaculate.


Hey this thing comes off??

But now if you are still reading and not tired of me, the most fun part of any sewing class will likely be the number of personalities which make up the class.

The beginner (AKA me) – This person is almost completely inept but has a desire to learn (and listen!) and is a pretty quick study.

The know-it-all – This person has been sewing for DECADES. Their outfit? Yeah THEY MADE IT. This is their 15th machine and it is BIGGER AND MORE AWESOME than any sewing machine you’ll ever own. In fact, it’s bigger than a desktop computer (because THERE IS LITERALLY a desktop computer inside the machine). The only reason this person is at the class is too inform you of how they do everything differently from the instructor. This person generally lacks the ability to listen and will completely annoy you for most of the class. HOWEVER, at some point near the end of the class, when you realize your instructor has pretty much spent the whole time holding the hand of a completely forlorn sewer (see below), the know-it-all will help you unjam your machine and you will develop some level of respect for them. You end up joining their sewing listserv/facebookgroup/meet-up so that someday you can be a know-it-all too.

The man – The man is the token male member of the sewing class. He makes you feel better about yourself because otherwise you would feel like the youngest member at a meeting of the Red Hat Society.

The completely forlorn – You aren’t sure how this person actually got up in the morning, dressed themselves and made it to the class. They require reassurance for everything. They ask dumb questions like Is this my sewing machine? It’s hard not to spend the entire class in your own sarcastic monologue with this person. In your head you are thinking “YES – that’s your sewing machine. I literally know nothing about sewing but I know that is your sewing machine and that’s your thread – oh yep and that’s your needle.” This person couldn’t thread a machine if their life depended on it and so we hope for their sake that situation never arises.

Well hope you enjoyed! More adventures and beginner knowledge to come in a week and a half when my intro to sewing class starts.


Filed under Sewing