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Feb 19, 2014

FIT Class #4 -- Do Not Make This Mistake!

Confession: I left last week's homework for the last minute.

I had a cold last week, the weather was atrocious, and I figured I could do the sewing that needed to be done if I arrived an hour and a half early for class (the classroom is available to us).  I had already cut my fabric and interfacing at home; I just had to produce four "beautiful" cuffs (two sets).

I literally finished my cuffs with 30 seconds to spare and it was not fun -- lots of cursing and a few finger scalds.  I think I did an OK job despite this, but I was very stressed throughout.  I wasn't the only person doing his homework right before class, mind you, but still, it's not a good idea (if you can avoid it).  Not entirely coincidentally I'm sure, Professor B. made a point of saying yesterday that FIT expects you to do 2-3 hours of homework for every hour of class.  So in our case, that would mean 6-9 hours of homework.  That's a lot, but remember, some people are learning to sew for the very first time.

NOTE: Professor B. never did ask to see our cuffs.  Grrr....

I'm not going to wait till the last minute again (I hope).  I already feel pretty comfortable with the industrials we use in class, but I still have to remind myself not to press the foot pedal (and run the machine) when I'm raising the presser foot with my knee.  The knee pedal is a convenience but it requires coordination and if I'm under pressure, I find myself forgetting which leg is doing what (the knee pedal is activated by pressing it with your right knee toward the right).  Just like on a home machine, stitching with the presser foot up is a big no-no.

A few times I also forgot that the needle threads from left to right; thread it wrong and you end up with a mess.

Yesterday's class was focused primarily on attaching the back of our men's dickey (the garment we're starting with) to the inside and outside yokes, and then the two yoke layers to the two fronts (left and right) using what's commonly known as the burrito method (which I describe in detail here).  None of this was new to me but I did learn a few new techniques.  First, I must admit that I NEVER edgestitch the top of my yoke either in back or in front, primarily because it's not necessary.  We were instructed to do so and I guess I will from now on.  It's especially nice on a solid shirting when using a contrasting thread color. 

Here's my yoke edgestitching in back.  This is stitched only through the outside yoke and the seam allowance (of all the layers) but not the inside yoke itself.

And here it is in front (this goes through all layers).

You'll notice I changed my shirting choice from tiny red and blue gingham to a solid gray.  On the gingham I couldn't easily see my topstitching.  On the solid gray, it's obvious and more decorative.  It allows me to evaluate my work at a glance.

Rather than an applied placket, the two fronts will have a "simple turnback" placket and we learned how to do that.  We were instructed to cut our interfacing 3" wide (in most commercial patterns I've used, the interfacing is cut no wider than the first fold of the placket).  We rule two vertical lines, the first 1 3/8" from the raw edge and the second 1 3/8" from the first line.  The two folds will create the placket (and this will be the same for both front sides).  The buttonholes will hold one side in place and the buttons will hold the other; no need to topstitch.

I haven't folded mine yet; I'll do so for next class.  I think our pattern is sized for a 40" chest, btw.

As I've said before, we're not using 5/8" seam allowances.  We're either stitching at 1/4" or 1/2".

Here's something I never knew: on men's shirts, you never notch.  This is because seam allowances can be very narrow and the notch can cut too deep.  Any marks must be drawn on with chalk or pencil. 

I think that's about it.  Next time we'll work on our collar stands and collars.  We'll submit a finished dickey as our midterm assignment.  We're already approaching the halfway point!  I should say that the class felt a little smaller yesterday.  Either people are sick or a few of my classmates have fallen by the wayside.

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Sigh.... wish I could take that class! However, coming from the west coast would be a bit of a commute. LOL!

  2. Thanks for all the tips you share; I sorta feel like I'm in your class (well, minus the homework, of course!).

  3. Love seeing your progress! It's a good wakeup call of what professional standards really mean...

  4. The topstitching looks great on the grey fabric.

  5. I'm learning how to sew on an industrial machine in my shoemaking class and I'm having the exact same foot/knee pedal mishaps you described! I think it's especially tricky since the basics of the machine are the same as a home sewing machine, but the details are different. I also broke loads of needles at first, but I guess that has to do with the leather!

  6. Oh, do enjoy yourself! I am absolutely green with envy. Your homework is gorgeous.

  7. I have a slightly different problem with my machines, in that I have a knee lift on my industrial and so keep trying to use a knee lift that doesn't exist on my regular machine!

    1. It's also confusing for me because I used to have a Pfaff and an Elna that POWERED using a right knee pedal!

  8. Like a classic sitcom moment, waiting til the last minute to do something, and then it doesn't matter!
    Interesting about topstitching the back yoke through the back and seam allowances but not the interior of the yoke....except in the front.

  9. I'm pretty sure the 2-3 hour expectation is the norm for college classes; the general rule of thumb is 3 hours per credit per week, so a 3 credit class that meets for 3 one-hour sessions would require an additional 6 of homework for a total of 9.

    Those certainly look a lot nicer than my typical last-minute-homework efforts produce, though!

  10. Oh my, high anxiety. As a notorious procrastinator, I know too well that feeling of last minute panic before a deadline. Interesting about not sticking the front packet. I usually fold and stitch. I only have a couple of commercial shirts that were folded but not stitched, or stitched only on the button side, and they were from low-end brands. I don't have any super expensive shirts to compare. Well, except the ones I have spent countless man-hours to make myself. Ahhhhh.

  11. I noticed that the stitch length on your cuffs appears to be longer than the top stitching on your yoke. Is this an optical illusion? If not, is it intentional?

  12. Looking great! Really enjoying these updates and the opportunity to learn via you! Thanks.

  13. I like that blue on gray combination. Regarding the cuffs, I wonder if Professor B knows who did them and how much time they took by seeing how much trouble the edge stitching and the machines gave people while working on the yoke.

  14. I'm just really enjoying these! Thank you so much x

  15. Your post always make me think thank you. Different machines different disaplins but we know that one machine is good at that and one machine is good with this. And let's not start on sergers.

  16. I am a professional seamstress and have been using industrials for years. I used to have the foot pedal / knee lift problem too. I ended up training myself by tucking my foot by the edge of the chair whenever I stopped sewing, before I used the knee lift. At first it was hard, but after awhile it becomes habit to move your foot back as you move your knee to the side.
    My other tip is to look at where the foot pedal is on the bottom of the machines. I have long legs and my pedal is adjusted to the slot in the table farthest away from me. That leaves room for my foot not to rest on the pedal all the time, or get a crick in my knee.
    I enjoy reading your blog. I am glad that you seem to take joy in the learning process and find something good from projects that don't turn out as planned.


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