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Feb 5, 2014

FIT Menswear Sewing Class #2 -- Look, Ma, I'm Sewing!



First, the new policy in class seems to be no cameras, so don't expect too many photos moving forward.  Sorry!  Before I knew that however...



We started sewing yesterday and I was going to qualify that with finally, but then remembered that this was only our second class.  We're moving along briskly which suits me just fine.  If I had never sewn before I might be reaching for the hemlock just about now.

The first thing we were taught yesterday was how to wind a bobbin on the industrials (mainly Jukis, but some of the machines in our classroom are Brothers too), how to thread the bobbin case, and how to load the bobbin case into the machine.  No surprises for me, but it was good to review.  We were reminded to always check to make sure the needle is secure in the machine, since running the bobbin winder does not disengage the needle and you don't want it flying off while you're winding.

Professor B. lifted the heavy machine head back to reveal the open pool of oil that sits just beneath it and allows the machine to lubricate itself, hence the machine needs very little maintenance (if used properly).  We learned vocabulary words pertaining to the bobbin case I was unfamiliar with like "window" and "latch" -- i.e., what I usually just call "thingy."

Next, we threaded our individual machines (you claim your own when you arrive in class) and sewed our first in-class seams (at 1").  We brought our own thread and fabric, btw.  We learned some techniques for removing our work without breaking the threads (this was a challenge for many people it seems: you must push the knee lever all the way to the right to release the tension disks, otherwise...snap.  Jiggling the hand wheel helps too.

We got to use the professional irons.  These irons -- which are always on -- are fantastic: heavy, hot, and resting face-down on a sole plate.  They're attached to one of those vacuum tables (I think that's what they're called) that suck the moisture out of fabric.  Very cool -- I mean hot.

One thing I didn't know: we were instructed to always iron first in the direction we stitched the seam.  (Did you know this?  Do you do this?)

We ironed both sides of the stitch line, then "busted" the seam open with our fingers and pressed it flat.  (I'm using iron and press here to mean the same thing as no distinction has been made yet.)  We were shown how to pin two pieces of fabric together (perpendicular to the selvage and roughly 5" apart or whatever works for you).  The reason they're perpendicular is that the machines are designed to be able to sew over them like that.  (Professor B chooses not to sew over pins; I don't either.)

Here's something interesting: the needle plates on the machines do not have a 5/8" mark.  It's either 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", etc.

We were shown how to sew -- and then sewed -- a clean-finished seam.  You fold down roughly 1/4" inch of each seam allowance edge (wrong side to wrong side) and edgestitch it down (just through the seam allowance, not the front of the fabric).  I never use this technique.

Now here's a tip that was new to me and maybe to you too:  Professor B. recommends we edgestitch with a zipper foot. I, for one, never use any kind of guide to topstitch or edgestitch other than the toes of my straight stitch foot.  Since I hadn't yet purchased my industrial zipper feet, I had to wait to try this at home; in class, I just did it by eye.  Basically, you line up the edge of your fabric with the edge of your zipper foot and stitch, being careful, of course, not to fall off the edge.





I'm probably too lazy to bother with this but if I were just starting out, I think it's a great technique to achieve a 1/16" edgestitch, or thereabouts.

I mentioned last week that our first project will be a men's dickey, i.e., a half-length shirt with no sleeves.  Nonetheless, for next week, we're going to sew our first cuff.  Last week we traced all the pattern pieces we'll need for a shirt onto white paper.  For next time, we're to cut two cuffs (two outside cuffs and two inside cuffs), along with fusible interfacing trimmed 1/8" all around.



Professor B recommends that, if you're cutting your cuffs together, i.e., an outside and inside cut with the fabric folded in two, you continue to keep them together (iow, they get stitched to each other and only to each other). This is the sort of thing that never occurred to me (especially if you're going to interface part of the cuff with a fusible, in which case the grain is no longer relevant).  Go figure.

We talked interfacing.  Professor B. said that in a high quality shirt you want to maintain a drape-y feel to your fabric, and therefore to avoid stiff interfacing.  He recommended a fusible weft knit -- the weight should be the same as the fabric or slightly lighter, never stiffer.  "An expensive shirt has movement to it," he explained.   A tricot weave interfacing is also fine.

The last thing we did was make a flat-felled seam.  We sewed our seam (at 1"), cut one ply by roughly half, folded the longer over the shorter to encase it, and then edgestitched the whole thing down.  Professor B just finger presses which, he says, allows for more ability to adjust than pressing it flat first.  Pins can help too.

And that's it!  It was a good class and I like the fast pace.  Oh, Professor B. looked at our swatches and told us which would work for the dickey and which wouldn't.  We'll need to purchase a yard of shirting.

Have a great day, everybody!

Learn anything new from this?



53 comments:

  1. Yes I did. I'm going to experiment with my zipper foot. I only just started using my edgestitch foot and really like it. But sometimes I want a closer-to-the-edge stitch. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  2. A shame about the no photos policy. I'd think the blog would be really good advertising to gain potential students there. That is a really wide seam allowance for flat felling? What was the reasoning for such a wide allowance? I am going to try this for sure. I also like the zipper foot edge stitching. I have edge stitching feet for the bernina but this would be great stitching on a vintage machine. I am interested in how you like the industrial machine as you progress. I have a friend who learned to sew on her late mother's factory machine and she uses only that one. She says the home machines are just too slow and weak. Please keep telling us about the class. It is so neat that you are getting to go to this.

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    1. I'm assuming the wide seam allowance was just to make it easier for people who were new to this technique.

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    2. I thought I read somewhere that couture seam allowances have always been wider than 5/8" to permit alterations for a custom fit. Of course, I could also be hallucinating.

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  3. Thank you, Peter! I find your review of the class very interesting and informative and I hope that it will be not prohibited to write about your experience :-) We will survive without pictures though I enjoyed them and a lot....

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  4. great info! i do hate 5/8" SA's, these days i almost always change them when i trace my patterns. i've used my adjustable blind hem foot as an edge stitch guide, but now i'm curious about the zipper foot. i'll have to give that one a try!

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  5. as a newbie sewer (seamer? seamster? sewing guy) the zipper foot tip is mind blowing to me. i must try this! bummer about the photos, but i can see why they did it (privacy issues, etc.).

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  6. If not 5/8", what seam allowance does the instructor prefer? If I make a pattern myself, I usually do 1/2".

    Also, I thought it was interesting about the "clean-finish". I am a huge Project Runway fan. One of the girls last season who was fresh out of design school always had these two parallel lines of stitching on her garments one on each side of the seam. These were particularly on princess seamed garments. I wonder if that was what that was.

    I love my edgestitch foot. I'm not sure I'm steady enough for the zipper foot technique. Interesting to hear about though.

    I love all the tips from your class!

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  7. Edge stitching with a zipper foot. Genius!

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  8. I am so friggin' jealous! I knew about pressing the seam flat first before pressing it open, but not pressing in the direction you've sewn it. All of these little tidbits are wonderful. Too bad about the lack of pictures, but your descriptions are wonderful..

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  9. Oh, I am taking the pattern drafting classes with Suzy Furrer and she uses 1/2" sas as per rtw. I keep using what the guidelines are on my machine, which is 5/8.

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  10. I've often heard to press the seam as you described, and I do this myself, but no one has ever explained why this is done, other than to "set" the seam/stitches. Now, I'm really curious to know WHY? Especially given the instructions to press the seam in the direction it was sewn. I dislike "rules" and "processes" without explanation or reasoning..... inquiring minds need to know why? Any idea?

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    1. I have read that the seam will pucker if you iron against the sewn direction.

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    2. If your seam is on any kind of off grain, which it often is due to curves, gores etc, then pressing against the direction of the grin can open it up more, which mostly you don't want to do, which is why you stitch only in one direction in those bits wherever possible, and press accordingly. I'm dying to hear how your cuffs and collars go - I want to know the secret of getting the collar stay nice and flat at the ends!

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    3. I've never heard about pressing in a certain direction, but I have heard that it is best to sew from wide to narrow. Gorgeous Things did a blog post about it a while back. http://gorgeousfabrics.com/blog/2011/12/06/there-are-no-hard-and-fast-rules-in-sewing/
      I wonder if the reasons that pressing in the direction sewn is a similar thing.

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    4. I have also been sewing skirts that way -- it makes a difference! On a straight hem, though, it may matter less. Interesting!

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  11. I look forward to reading more, wish there were pictures.

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  12. Ooh, thanks for the zipper-foot edgestitching tip, I always struggle with getting my edgestitching close enough to the edge! I just picked up a big box of vintage low-shank feet for $2 at a thrift store (score!) that includes a few of these more industrial-style zipper feet, and I recently bought a modern stitch-in-the-ditch foot, so I'll have to try both and see which gives me better results.

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  13. Did I learn something new? I didn't really understand the cuff tip "if you're cutting your cuffs together, i.e., an outside and inside cut with the fabric folded in two, you continue to keep them together." But when I do, it will be something new!

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    1. In other words, the cuff pieces that are cut together, get stitched together (and not to one of the cuff pieces you cut earlier/later).

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  14. I recently took a course where we were taught to "Press To Embed" the stitches, and then press the seam open from the wrong side, and then the right. Embedding the stitches melds them into the fabric and our instructor said this helps to avoid a 'homemade' look. However I don't recall being told to press in a particular direction. Good to know. Liz

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  15. I think we're all loving these FIT posts--thanks a million! Now I'm off to dig out my zipper foot for some recreational edgestitching. That's what snow days are for!

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  16. --I know you want to share your experiences with others, but your classmates may not want to be featured in a photo on someone's blog. I myself would not like it.

    --Yes, you always press the seam flat from the side it was sewn first. It melds the stitches.

    --5/8" is a home sewing measurement. I think you'll find that 1/2" and 1/4" and 1/8" are easier measurements with which to deal.

    --With the pattern pieces, it can also help to make a small "X" with chalk to indicate the wrong side if there's a danger of them being confused.

    --You may also want to trace your pieces onto oak tag or some firmer paper.

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  17. Great to hear that you're enjoying the class and learning (at least some) new things. Funny how some seemingly vital sewing techniques only become absolutely vital once you know they exist.

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  18. I am loving going to class with you - this is awesome - now by far my favorite "sewing/learning/fashion" blog

    Cynthia

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  19. I am really enjoying your FIT blogs. I wish I was sitting next to you, learning all of this. In particular, the high-end interfacing is not something I knew.

    I don't know about regular sewing, but in quilting, ironing means using pressure and moving the iron around. Pressing means lifting and setting down the iron without sliding it on the fabric.

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  20. Clearly we are all enjoying your FIT class posts, thanks a bunch Peter! As for the photos, were you told WHY it is not allowed to take any pictures? I assume because of the other students which is understandable. As for the sewing related pictures quite frankly I think FIT should be grateful you're reviewing their class in such great detail, as mentioned we're all thoroughly enjoying reading your posts you just may encourage someone else to take some classes there! Hope FIT reconsiders the no photo policy...

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    1. Apparently someone had recently filmed a class he taught and posted it on YouTube. Someone alluded to this in a comment last week.

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    2. Interesting. I just read that students use their phones to take pics of anything written on a black or white board. They also video any lecture or part of a lecture rather than take notes in a notebook with pen or pencil. Wonder how long FIT can keep the dam from bursting.
      The times they are achangin' again.
      Love your blog. Thanks

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  21. Super interesting post today and that flannel shirt still looks great!
    Hugs
    G

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  22. didn't learn any thing new, but it was very interesting, and re your to have or to have not an industrial machine, I would say if you really want something with that industrial weight that you will never regret buying, go for an industrial iron.

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  23. Edge-stitching with the zipper foot was new for me. But it makes so much sense once you think about it. I am really enjoying going to class with you. Thank you

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  24. Peter, I think we should all chip in for some James Bond spy gear. You need a sneaky little camera attached to your glasses. Shhh... ;-)

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  25. so that is why you find all those zipper feet in vintage machines. Perhaps they were really valued for that edge-stitching. The first seam finish you described, in the old days we called a fake/faux french seam.

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  26. I can't wait for the next class post! I've always done the cuff thing, but I think it's because I'm nuts about small details. The interfacing information was interesting and I'm going to start rethinking how I use interfacing on shirts and blouses.

    As to photos, I photograph the backs of my patterns with my phone so that I have the yardage information at hand when I happen upon that perfect piece of fabric. I was in an iconic west coast fabric store, perusing my pattern photo when an employee told me that I wasn't allowed to photograph the tags on the fabric bolts. I showed her the pattern photo on my phone, but she didn't seem convinced. Again she told me not to photograph the tags although I was welcome to photograph the fabric. I didn't ask why, but now I kind of wish I had.

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  27. I like the zipper foot edge stitching idea. I will have to try that. Keep up the commentary on the class, pls.

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  28. Industrial machines also have feet that articulate and let you run the fabric against the edge so that you always have a perfect topstitch. I love them.

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  29. Thanks to you I've been pressing in the direction of the stitching all morning.

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  30. Thank you for blogging your FIT experience. It's like auditing the class! Can you kindly tell me what brand of iron that you use in class?

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  31. As they say on Jermyn Street there is no collar and cuff interfacing that can be too heavy or stiff. For dress shirts I use a heavy woven nonfusible and sometimes I'll double it.

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  32. I use my zipper foot all the time. I got this tip from watching "Sew Easy" and from someone on YouTube. I like using it for many reasons.

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  33. I always forget about how useful zipper feet are! I like the tip about sewing and pressing a seam in the same direction.

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  34. I love the zipper foot idea! And the 1" to flat-felled technique!

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  35. Hi Peter! Love your blog and these posts. Hope you will consider posting some photos of your work at home so us newer sewers can see examples of some of these terms like clean finished seam and flat felled seam. Thanks again!!!

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  36. Being self taught I had the delusion that using a zipper foot for a sharp edge was my own little short-cut. Guess not, looks great!

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  37. Congrats on taking the class. It's great that you're sharing these tidbits with everyone!

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  38. Never even thought about using the zipper foot! I love edge stitching. That could be an anthem lol. I don't like using fusible interfacing or flat-felled seams on my shirts. I make a mock french seam with the seam allowences (on the wrong side). Love the over-your-shoulder insights.
    erwhelming-your-shoulder

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  39. Do you have access to the FIT garment library as a student who is not full time? They have some unbelievable pieces there, could be a great opportunity to do some research into different garment making and finishing techniques.

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  40. I may be late here but if you need a zipper foot let me know. I have a few feet and bobbins that I dont use anymore from when I took classes at FIT.

    Watch out for the merrow machine.. the threads break just by looking at them!!

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  41. My two cents from a free-lance pattern maker...
    The patterns I make for the local contractors typically uses three widths. If the garment is to be seamed with a four thread serger, I use a 3/8" seam allowance. For five thread seaming and heavier fabrics such as denim and Cordura (for pack and bags), I uses 1/2" allowance. For pattern pieces to be turned such as pocket flaps, I add 1/4". And yes they still clip corners before turning.

    Keep in mind, if you are producing thousands of garments, there is significant cost savings by minimizing every seam allowance.

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  42. I couldn't help but notice that your workroom uses Juki industrial machines. On Project Runway and all it's other iterations, they exclusively use Brother machines. Did Juki not get a contract from the producers to showcase their machines?

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