Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sewing notions: cutting tools

My cutting tools from left to right: paper scissors, dressmaker's shears, 45 mm rotary cutter

Cutting tools are one of the most important sewing notions. First, you need a pair of scissors for cutting paper or cardboard patterns. They can be regular sharp paper scissors or special pattern shears, which are heavy duty and make cutting oak tag paper much easier.

Heavy duty pattern shears

The second ones are dressmaker's shears. Use them for fabrics only, since paper makes them blunt. I recommend investing in a more expensive pair which can be sharpened and generally lasts much longer. However, some people prefer lighter shears with plastic handles. Those usually can't be sharpened and therefore need to be replaced more frequently. The ones that I have are actually my mum's and are more than 25 years old, but still cutting almost like new. If I'd be buying a new pair, I'd definitely go for Ginghers.

An alternative (or addition) to dressmaker's shears is a rotary cutter - my favourite. There are more blade sizes available. The biggest (60 mm) is used mostly for cutting long, narrow lines (fabric pieces for quilts). The medium size (45 mm) is the most versatile and can be used for cutting fabric for clothes. It's amazing for cutting slippery fabrics such as charmeuse or chiffon. No problems with the curves, as long as they aren't too fine. This is what the smallest (28 and 18 mm) are for - lots of details, curves, inward pointed corners etc. Some people recommend having separate blades for cutting natural and artificial fibres, since the latter tend to blunt the blade much faster. Also, for cutting with a rotary cutter, you will need a cutting mat or a plate of linoleum. 

There are also the so-called pinking (zig-zag) shears, which are used to prevent unravelling of the unfinished edges of the fabric. They come in handy when sewing jackets or coats. The seam allowances (of both garment and lining) don't have to be finished with an overlock or zig-zag stitch, because they aren't visible after you stitch the lining to the garment. You can just trim them with pinking shears. I don't have them yet, but a pair of Ginghers is already on my wishlist.

Pinking shears

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Now that I completed my studies I have so much time, but still - time goes by so fast when you search for jobs and write applications. But there's still enough time for sewing. When I started sewing I used my mum's ironing board. After a while I bought my own in Ikea - a mini tabletop ironing board.

So, after using it a two years or so it became pretty dirty. The main reason for this is fusible interfacing (note to self: protect the board every time you use it). The glue didn't go out even after washing. Then I decided to make a new cover. Ok, I admit, the old cover got a bit boring, too. I traced the old cover onto the paper and cut it in fabric. I used bias tape for the edges. I left 2.5 cm/1" opening left on the wrong side of the fabric so I could insert a string into the tunnel. Then I just put the felt and the cover over the board, pulled the string tight and tied a knot.

I still have to buy some cotton felt, because the felt that came with the board became very thin and therefore leaves marks on the fabric when you iron it. Not good. Anyway, I love the new cover and I'm already planning to make a few more to stock when this one needs washing.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Sewing notions: tailor's ham & seam roll

I had a wonderful vacation and a few lovely weeks of procrastination after it. But I'm back now, with a regular posting schedule.

When I was away, I came up with a list of more or less necessary sewing tools. Because pressing is as important as sewing itself, the first two are pressing aids - tailor's hem and seam roll. You should press each seam after you stitch it or you'll end up with a garment that looks sloppy.

The side edges of my ham and roll wrinkle - that means that they aren't filled/firm enough.
Tailor's ham (or pressing ham) is used for pressing curved areas, e.g. princess seams, darts, collars, sleeve caps etc. Just shape it into a desired shape and use it wherever you need to. One side is covered in cotton (for pressing cotton with higher temperatures) and the other one in wool (for pressing wool with lower temperatures). 

Seam roll is used for pressing long narrow seams and is an alternative to a sleeve board. It helps you with pressing sleeves and areas of a garment that are difficult to reach. It's especially convenient for pressing seams open, because of it's shape which prevents marks of seam allowances showing on the right side of the fabric.

I made the shape for the ham by the help of this tutorial and filled it with sawdust. I should fill it with finer sawdust (almost like powder, which would make the ham firmer), but I didn't have any at hand. It works fine for now, but I'm probably going to open it once the sawdust subsides, empty it, and fill it with the powder. For the seam roll I cut rectangles 32 x 12 cm or 12-5/8 x 4-3/4 in. The measurements include 1 cm or 3/8 in. seam allowance. You can make the corners round, just as I did, or even rounder.

1. Cut three in cotton (white+pink stripes fabric is for lining) and one in wool. 
2. Stitch right sides together - including the lining which is facing the wrong side of each of the outside fabrics. Leave a gap open - I recommend you leave it on the narrower side of the ham/roll.
3. Make notches halfway into the seam allowances on all curved areas. 
4. Turn inside out.
5. Fill with sawdust powder (I helped myself with a cut plastic bottle with larger opening). When you think it's full - it's not. Use a handle of a kitchen ladle to stuff the ham a little more. It must be firm.
6. When you're done with filling, stitch the opening with hand stitches.