Readers, I can't explain it but there's something about a snow forecast that sends me fabric shopping. Yesterday we were expecting about a foot though I think we got considerably less, about 6-8" inches. But I just had to go to the fabric store.
This was one of my stops, H&M Fabrics on West 35th St. -- the diviest of the fabric dives -- which has been going out of business at least since I started sewing in June 2009.
Are they closing their doors? It's anybody's guess. I also checked out their sister store on 39th St. (which shares a street address with both AK Fabrics and Beckensteins -- 257 West 39th).
I bought a solid gray cotton and a rather summery blue/gray/white plaid. All $2/yd.
I'll use some combination to make this, when it arrives.
Meanwhile, I received my 1939 DuBarry shirt pattern yesterday and have begun prepping it.
This is one of those patterns with no printed markings, just perforations and various "V" cuts. I've used these before and to the uninitiated they can be a little bewildering. But they're precut, which saves time.
And like many of these old patterns, the instructions are dense: they assume you know what you're doing.
And now on to the Men's Shirt Sew-Along...
I have created a Flickr group called, predictably, MBP Men's Shirt Sew-Along. This is a public group (anyone can view the photos) but participation is by invitation. If you wish to join please send me an email (peterlappinnyc at gmail dot com) with your name and the email address where you wish to receive the invite (which will come via Flickr). If you already have a Flickr account, you can contact me directly through Flickr. Every member of the group can upload photos of their projects as well as participate in discussions.
We won't be starting for a few weeks but if you wish to upload a photo of yourself (or your pet or favorite teen celebrity) that would be great!
And now a brief discussion of needles and thread.
I often read comments from people who say things like, My machine will only use Gutermann thread and I'm thinking, what kind of crazy machine is that?
Early on I realized that the cost of thread really adds up so I started buying my thread on big spools -- we're talking mainly serger quality thread -- and using that. I have never had a problem with it, either in the way it looks, sews, or wears.
Sometimes I buy thicker topstitching thread, but I'm more likely to do that for jeans or a jacket than a shirt. Sometimes topstitching thread requires a bobbin case adjustment; I keep a separate one that's already adjusted for just this purpose.
Only when I was making a shirt for Michael out of Liberty of London fabric did I find that I needed something finer -- it was a lawn-like cotton -- so I bought a spool of Gutermann cotton thread, which was the finest I could find easily.
Gutermann cotton is on the right, Coats & Clark on the left. See the difference?
Obviously you have to use what works for you. If you're using a high-end fabric you may want to spring for the best. I will buy something special if the fabric seems to warrant it or I want a special color. (David Coffin purchases cotton embroidery thread.) I will not buy off-brand or thrift store thread -- that's where I draw the line.
When I wind my bobbins I wind a few extra and use them for my top thread too. You've probably seen photos of my machines that look like this:
One nice thing about feeding thread from a bobbin is that I have a sense by how much thread is left in the top bobbin approximately how much thread is left in the bottom bobbin. Some of you using drop-in bobbins probably can see this more easily.
The only needles I have ever purchased are Organ brand -- I get mine at Steinlauf & Stoller -- and they are great. These are 15x1 Flat Shank Home Sewing Needles. I pretty much use only #9, #11, and #14. Occasionally for very thick fabric I'll go for a #18. For shirts I use #9 or #11. I change my needle when I can't remember the last time I changed it or when I'm starting an important new project.
You can generally tell if the thread is too thick for a #9 or if a #18 needle is punching too big a hole in your fabric.
My final word of advice, guys: Please don't be afraid to experiment. There are so many people out there saying Don't do this, or Well, I never do that. Figure out what works for you. Find out why something doesn't work. That way you'll learn something you can share with others based on solid experience.
Everything I'm sharing with you is what works for me on the machines I use and on the projects I've undertaken. If your experience is different and you wish to share it here, I encourage you to do so. There's so much to know!
Later this week I'll be sharing the titles of some recommended books and videos, too. It's always fun to hear from the professionals. I'll also touch on the subject of interfacing.
Does anybody else have similar thread habits to mine? Any nightmare thread or needle stories you wish to share?
Please don't forget to join the Flickr group -- email me!
Stay warm, everybody -- or cool, as the weather dictates.
I'm a native New Yorker and self-taught sewing fanatic! I've been sewing obsessively since 2009 and today make all my own clothes using mostly vintage patterns and vintage sewing machines. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!