Sewing Basics - Sewing Machines

Discussion in 'Replica Costumes' started by MaulWalker, Nov 22, 2011.

  1. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    I’ve sewn on about seven different brands of machines. I am not going to recommend a particular brand of sewing machine, but rather give you some ideas of what to look for if you are in the market for a machine and where you might find one.

    In the bad old days, sewing machines were often integrated into a piece of furniture –such as a credenza or table. Then manufacturers started making “portable” machines. That meant they were no longer integrated into furniture and you only needed two people to move them instead of three. Now, you can find extremely light-weight machines.

    But that light weight comes at a price. Sewing machines are just that – machines. They have motors, gears, levers, etc. When one stops sewing, it may be because the timing is off' like your car. To save weight, most low-end sewing machines contain lighter motors and plastic parts.

    New machines range from $99 to low four figures. Metal parts and heavier motors of course cost more. Even the most basic new machine has stitch width selection, stitch length selection, reverse, a handful of presser feet for designed for different applications, and a selection of different stitches. More expensive machines have heavier motors, more metal working parts, more feet, and many more stitches. I know several years ago Consumer Reports magazine reviewed sewing machines. You might want to look that article up.

    Older machines are perfectly serviceable and will save you a considerable amount of money. You get the benefits of all those metal innards and heavy motors. Old Singers and Kenmores are excellent machines. You can find these machines on eBay, at yard sales, and flea markets. Another place to look for old machines is at a free-standing sewing machine store (not the sewing machine section at your local fabric store.) Many of these stores accept trade-ins and then resell the trade-ins.

    Note: if you find a machine advertised as a zigzag machine, don’t worry. On these machines you set the stitch width to zero to get a straight stitch.

    Now there are a number of machines that look like sewing machines and may sew but are primarily designed to do something else. These are quilting machines and embroidery machines. These special-purpose machines are much more expensive.

    You may notice that some serious sewers have more than one machine. For instance, I know one costumer who has an old cast-iron Singer machine that only sews straight stitches, but it sews through leather like it was light-weight cotton. So it is reserved for leather work. Another costumer I know has an expensive machine that she uses for everyday and an inexpensive machine that travels with her to conventions.
     
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  2. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines: Care

    You know that lint that forms in your dryer? Sewing machines gather the same lint, particularly in the bobbin area. Your machine may come with a set of tools, including a brush. This is used to clean the lint out of your machine.

    I recommend you do this before you start a new project. If you are sewing a fabric that has nap, like velvet or corduroy, you will want to clean the machine during the project. If you don’t have a brush with your machine, an old toothbrush will work.

    Why should you care about the lint? Well, sewing machines parts are also oiled. That lint can get some oil on it. And a little piece of that oily lint can get caught in the thread and sewn into a seam and stain your fabric.

    Sewing machines also need regular tune-ups. I use my machine heavily and have it tuned up once a year. During the tune-up, the machine will be thoroughly cleaned, adjusted, and oiled. If there is a free-standing sewing machine store in your area, they can do this. Otherwise, contact your local fabric store and ask about repair services. They may have a contact or have a repair person who makes a circuit through the area.
     
  3. Temperance

    Temperance Active Member

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    I used canned air to clean my machine. It works really well to blow out all the fuzz, lint, and small pieces of thread that gather in it. Open the top and sides, blow all the mess out, then oil the joints.
    My machine is 60 years old and runs like a dream. My hubby bought me a new machine for my birthday and it broke within a week. If you can get an old metal one I highly recommend it.
     
  4. Daktari

    Daktari New Member

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    Can't wait to here more from the Guru!
    Thanks for tackling this important project/topic!
     
  5. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Basics - Sewing Machines Part - Handwheel

    The hand wheel is found on the side of the machine. The hand wheel allows you to move the needle up or down. If you turn it far enough, you can get the machine to complete an entire stitch.

    There will be times when sewing a seam that you need to stop to adjust the fabric, remove pins, answer a phone call, etc. Get into the habit of immediately using the hand wheel to lower the needle into the fabric. This “holds your place” in the seam so you don’t end up with a crooked seam or a loose stitch. (Some newer machines have an option that automatically lowers the needle when you stop stitching.)

    When turning a corner, like on a collar, stop sewing just before you reach the point and use the hand wheel to complete the last few stiches, and then ensure the needle is positioned in the fabric by using the hand wheel. Release the presser foot, turn the fabric, lower the presser foot and resume stitching. This ensures you have a nice crisp point.
     
  6. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Stitch Length Adjustment

    Stitch length is measured in “stitches per inch.” (In areas that use the metric system, I suppose this would be stitches per cm.) This is exactly what it sounds like – for every inch of seam there will be some number of stitches.

    Some of the newer machines have “automatic stitch length adjustment” where the machine automagically determines the correct number of stitches per inch required. You will be able to override this and set your stitch length manually.

    Older machines may require you to use a lever or wheel and have a numbered scale so you can set the number of stitches per inch. Very old machines may not have the numbered scale and require you to stitch some samples and adjust you stitches per inch that way.

    The number of stitches you need per inch depends on the type of fabric you are sewing. The weight, thickness, and type of fabric you are sewing will determine the stitch length you use.
    • Light-weight fabric: 12 – 14 stitches per inch
    • Medium-weight: 10 -12 stitches per inch
    • Heavy-weight: 8 – 10 stitches per inch
    Basting Stitches
    Basting uses your very longest stitch length – typically six stitches per inch. Basting is used to temporarily hold fabric together. The long stitches are easier to remove than shorter stitches.

    Sometimes the pattern directions will tell you to do something to your garment, such as set in a sleeve, and then baste it in place. You will then be directed to stitch the seam.

    Basting stitches are also very useful when you are making a sample garment for fitting before you cut out your fashion fabric.

    Examples of Stitch Length Adjusters
    View attachment 75805

    View attachment 75806
     
  7. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Stitch Width Adjustment

    When you are sewing with a straight stitch, stitch width is not a concern. You can think of it as a stitch width of zero. But when you get into zigzag or other complex stitches, you will need to adjust the stitch width.

    Note: the widest setting is typically only about ¼”.

    You may have a lever, a knob or a button.

    Examples of Stitch Length Adjusters
    View attachment 75807

    View attachment 75808
     
  8. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Putting Stitch Length and Stitch Width Together

    You can combine stitch length and stitch width to get something other than straight seams or zigzags.

    Take a look at this garment.
    http://www.rookscastle.com/props/3musketeers/tunic1.jpg

    You may recognize this as a garment from the Three Musketeers. The silver design is a fabric embellishment technique called applique in which a decorative peice of fabric is applied to a base fabric.

    What I want you to pay attention to is the outer edge of the silver design. See the solid, slightly humped outline? That can be accomplished via satin stitching. In satin stitching, you set your machine to make a zigzag stitch with a wide stitch length, but an extremely short stitch length.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2011
  9. Guri

    Guri Sr Member

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    Great basic info. I'm so bad at getting my machines tuned - I do clean them myself, though.

    I actually have 3 machines... My fancy one, one heavy duty and easy to thread that I bought for my kids learn on but I end up using it for almost everything. My youngest son begged to learn at 9 when he saw his 12 year old brother making things... they both have been sewing for a while and make some cool stuffed toy characters from their video games. They use the embellishment technique above for eyes and do the tight zig-zag embroidery stitch for mouths and noses.

    And I have a really old New Home Light Running machine that my Great Grandmother passed down to me. I haven't tried to use it in 20 years, and it's one of those furniture pieces. The date on one of the stickers says 1889 but I think that's when they started making them, not this machines age.

    It looks something like this:

    [​IMG]

    I've thought about what to do with it several times, but I can't get rid of it... too special.
     
  10. tictoc

    tictoc Well-Known Member

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    Are we allowed to ask stupid sewing questions here or would you prefer a pm so the thread isn't clogged up like the garbage disposal after Thanksgiving?
     
  11. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Ask away! If you have a question about something already posted, either quote the relevant portion of the post, or use the same post title. If the question is about something that hasn't been posted, try to make the title of your post descriptive so others can follow the "thread within the thread."

    You can PM me, but if the question is relevant to others, don't be surprised if your question ends up in the thread.

    Lynn
     
  12. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Needles

    You will need an assortment of machine needles. There are specific needles for specific applications.

    Woven or Knit Fabrics
    • Needles for woven fabrics have sharp points, designed to pierce through the fabric.
    • Needles for knits, typically called ball-point needles, are designed to push the fabric threads aside rather than pierce them so you don’t end up with runs in the fabric.
    Fabric Weight
    You will find the needle packages marked with the suggested fabric weight.
    Light-weight fabric will use a needle with a smaller diameter while heavier weight fabric will use a thicker needle. The needle manufacturer you prefer may even make a needle specifically for denim.

    In a pinch, you can use a needle designed for the weight of the fabric you are sewing, but you can expect some issues. Needles designed for light-weight fabric may break more easily sewing heavy fabric while needles designed for heavy fabric are going to leave larger holes in light-weight fabrics.

    Specialty Needles
    Needle manufacturers make needles for special applications such as:
    • Leather
    • Top stitching on demin
    • Metallic threads, etc.
    Buy extras – Needles can get bent or break. One of the most common ways needles break is by the needle hitting a straight pin while stitching.

    There is a right way and a wrong way to install a sewing needle. The top of the needle typically has a flat side. The flat side should face away from you when you put the needle in the machine’s needle holder.

    Lynn
     
  13. KristinaLeigh

    KristinaLeigh Active Member

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    I use a lot of different types of machines, but I personally prefer Bernina. I second the advice for buying an older used machine. The heavier the better. The economy machines that you buy at Walmart aren't good for much more than learning to sew basic garments. They can't handle anything much thicker than cotton broadcloth and have poorly designed bobbin systems. Ebay is a great resource for buying high quality used machines as well as local sewing machine dealers. Some people like to promote certain brands over others and they all have pros and cons, but the truth is that all sewing machine manufacturers have low quality machines as their basic entry-level lineup. This includes makers like Singer, Janome, Baby Lock, Pfaff...even famous Bernina. The trick is to make sure to get a machine that is mid to upper level. For Bernina (because I'm familiar with it) the Bernina Mechancial 1008 is a wonderful basic workhorse machine that is used in costume shops everywhere. It's a staple. Other great Bernina machines are the Activa line, they are all metal machines with some computerized functions. But stay away from Bernina Bernettes...that is Bernina's entry level line that they do not even make. Real Bernina's are always made in Switzerland...Bernette's are made in Thailand. Singer, Janome, and Baby Lock, and Pfaff all have similar line ups and really all are great machines...if you stay away from their economy machines. Most dealerships will usually resell machines too...but ebay is usually cheaper way to get one.

    Now, if money is no option...laughable for most people I know...Bernina (as well as the other guys) have amazing top of the line machines that have some really awesome features like sewing and machine embroidery combos...and Bernina will finance. These machines can range from a grand to 10 grand easily.

    However if you are an experienced sewer and looking to upgrade...You might want to look at Bernina, Juki, Singer for their industrial lines. You can also get industrial sergers. They aren't as expensive as you might think either...most are under 3 grand. They will sew through anything (including you if you aren't careful) and last eons. There are several good brands and industrials can be bought used as well. It's important to know that industrials are bought in pieces: the machine, the motor, and the table. Sometimes you can get them all together. They are very bulky, very heavy, and pretty much stay where they are put.

    Hope this helps!
     
  14. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Free Arm

    Some machines have what is called a free arm. This is a way to make the sewing surface smaller so that you can more easily sew cuffs, pant hems, etc.

    Some garment parts may be too narrow for even the free arm. These you just have to do the best you can be spreading the fabric out, making a few stitches, and then readjusting the fabric.

    Example of Free Arm and Free Arm in Use
    View attachment 76194

    View attachment 76195
     
  15. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Basics - Tension Adjustment

    Someone contacted me via PM with a sewing question. "About 50% of the time when I try to sew ...the thread bunches up in the back ( or underneath) the fabric/strap /whatever. OR- the thread separates and gets tangled up like gum in a girls hair. I hold onto the thread(s) as I start and roll the wheel for the first few stitches. Sometimes it works but I am never sure until I flip it over. "

    In almost every sewing machines, there are two threads - the upper thread and the bobbin thread. The machine puts both threads under some amount of tension in order to create a stitch. If the tension on either thread is not set properly, you can end up the loopy stitches on either the top of the fabric, or underneath. In the worst cases, you can end up with "thread that gets tangled like gum in a girl's hair" and can even break your thread. Thread tension can be affected by many things - the needle size, the thread, the thickness of the fabric, even the direction the thread comes out of the bobbin.

    When you cut out a garment, save some of your scraps including your interfacing. First, ensure that you have the correct size needle and the correct thread on your machine. Also ensure that your bobbin thread is coming out the right side. (My workhorse machine has bobbins that are the same size on the top and bottom and I have inadvertantly loaded the bobbin so the thread is exiting from the wrong side.)

    To start adjusting the tension, lay two pieces of fabric on top of each other and sew a sample seam. I typically use a basting stitch as I find it easier to see if the upper or lower thread is looping on the face of either fabric. If you can see the bobbin thread being pulled to (so that it shows on) the top fabric, then the upper tension is too tight. If the top thread shows on the bottom face, the upper tension is too loose. Ideally, the stitches should look the same on both sides of the fabric. Check your sewing machine manual on how to adjust the tension.

    Now add a scrap of interfacing to your fabric and test stitch again. You may find you will need to adjust your thread tension again. In this case, I will stitch all or almost all of the seams that just require two layers of fabric first. Then I will determine what thread tension I need for seams where interface is involved and stitch those. You will also want to test your thread tension before you stitch button holes.

    If you are sewing Velcro on your garment, you may want to sacrifice a piece of Velcro to test the tension.

    Most newer machines have self-adjusting bobbin tension, so all you will have to worry about is the upper tension. Machines that require you to manually adjust the bobbin tension typically have a screw on the bobbin case that adjusts the tension.

    Keep an eye on you stitching as you progress through your project. If you notice that the stitches are not being formed properly, you may need to readjust your tension. I also recheck mine after I change thread.

    Lynn
     
  16. Daktari

    Daktari New Member

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    Thanks for all the good info... Keep it coming!

    I am a sewing neophyte myself, but have found having a couple of machines is handy. My workhorse is a Pfaff 332 and my extra is a Brother 1217.
     
  17. 11B30B4

    11B30B4 Well-Known Member

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    I thought I would through in my two cents on this.
    I build nylon tactical gear on the side and have been working on stuff for about 7 years.
    [​IMG]
    I started with a brother machine from walmart and it did not work out well with thicker nylon like 1000D. After some serious research I found that I needed a serious machine. I picked up a government surplus Singer 211U???? all metal machine for 0.00 dollars. I downloaded the owner manual and had it running in a day. Here is a Pic
    [​IMG]
    For what I do (leather and Nylon) it is a perfect machine. I have seen these things go for about 200.00 on ebay without the motor and table. The motor and table can be acquired elsewhere and you should be able to get setup for under 500.00. the biggest issues I have run into are threads and materials. Since I build tactical gear I work with 750D and 1000D nylon I also use lost of webbing Velcro and side release buckles. I get most of this stuff from Military, Medical, Softgoods Fabric, Trim, Hardware - Gerald Schwartz . I know the owners and they can get almost anything I need. For leather supplies (for holsters and belts) I buy stock cow hide from my local Tandy Leather Supply. I also work with pull dot snaps and grommets, I get most of this stuff from the internet.
    What took me longest to learn was what thread to use. For Nylon I use a #69 bonded Nylon. This thread can also be used on leather.
    I still use the brother to sew uniforms and patches etc. but most of what I do is on the singer. Other machines I would consider are sergers to sew inseams etc… there are a lot of tactical gear forums on the internet and even if you are not interested in tactical gear there are lots of tutorials on sewing and the basics like box stitching etc…
    Well I hope this helps somewhat.
     
  18. BPod

    BPod New Member

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    Thanks for the thread! It's been a long time since I did any sewing and I've recently started again due to a friend getting me to help with costumes. It's great to have someone go over the basics.
     
  19. tictoc

    tictoc Well-Known Member

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    A great tip 11B30B4! I use local Seattle Fabrics.

    Got a forum name to recommend? I've been to AR15.com.

    Sorry for the hijack. Maybe a PM? Thanks.

    Sew on!
     
  20. Icey

    Icey Active Member

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    Craigslist is also another excellent place to look for older machines. I got a 1950 Singer 66 cast iron beast with table for $30 that sews wonderfully. The person I bought it from took very good care of it so there was minimal work for me to do, but it's possible to rescue even a seized machine with the right products and a little elbow grease. Yes, most of them only do straight stitches, but seeing as how that's the stitch sewers use probably 90% of the time, they're worth looking into. I've heard of people having luck with machines on freecycle too, so that's another resource to consider.
     
  21. PotionMistress

    PotionMistress Sr Member

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    Wow, this is a plethora of sewing machine info...thanks so much MaulWalker and others!
     
  22. 11B30B4

    11B30B4 Well-Known Member

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    Tictoc, I highly recommend Lightfighter.net
    Join the forum (It’s members only) and once you are in, go to the Roll Your Own (RYO) thread in the tactical equipment section. Also I recommend Poynter's Parachute Manual, Vol I (para-gear.com).
     
  23. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Foot Controller

    Many years ago there was a perhaps apocryphal story of a woman who contacted Dell's PC support because she couldn't get her PC to work. She was pressing on the foot pedal but nothing was happening. Those of us who sew "got" what was going on immediately - she had placed her mouse on the floor and pressing on it like the foot controller on a sewing machine.

    The foot controller works just like the accelerator on your car. The harder you press on the controller, the faster the machine runs. Your machine may have a switch that allows you to further control the speed.

    I learned to sew on a machine with a knee lever. I was quite dissappointed to discover that the foot controller fit into a retaining device on the side of the cabinet and the lever pressed on the controller.

    No matter what machine I have sewn on, I find that the foot controller tends to move around on the floor over time and you have to readjust its location. Has anyone used one of those mats sold in the fabric stores that are supposed to stop this?

    Lynn
     
  24. 11B30B4

    11B30B4 Well-Known Member

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    Maulwalker, on my brother machine I placed non-slip tape on the bottom of the foot control. My singer has the foot control hard mounted to the table so its not an issue on that machine.
     
  25. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Thread

    I am including thread in the sewing machine post as a machine isn’t much good unless it has thread in it. To put it in terms you prop builders may be more familiar with, the thread is your glue and the machine is your glue gun.

    When you go to the fabric store, you are confronted with all sorts of thread. Much of the thread is for specialized applications such as machine embroidery or quilting.

    What you want for general sewing is Dual Duty or All Purpose thread. This is polyester covered polyester or cotton covered polyester. Coats & Clark is probably the most widely known brand.

    How Much Thread Do You Need?
    You will need more thread than you think; there is nothing worse than running out of thread after the fabric store is closed and you have to meet a deadline. Typically, there are three different sized spools – small (135 yards), large (250 yards), and “giant” (500 yards.) Most projects are going to require at least a couple of the large spools. I don’t know why manufacturers sell the small size; they are really only good for tiny projects or mending clothes.

    What Color Thread?
    Most times, you want your thread to match your fabric as closely as possible. In order to achieve this, you need to find a thread color that is one shade darker than your fabric. (If your fabric is multicolor, use the dominant color.) Once the thread is stitched into the material, it will blend in.

    You will find the widest color selection in the large spool size. The small spools tend to have a subset of the large spool colors. The giant spools tend to be the basic colors – black, white, navy, red, etc. If you are going to do much sewing, you will find you can always use black and white and it is worth buying the large spools.

    Anytime you want your thread to contrast with the fabric, such as that orange-gold top stitching on a pair of jeans, just find your desired thread color.


    Other Thread Considerations
    Thread has gotten expensive! Watch the fabric store fliers for 50% off sales on thread and stock up. However, stay far away from that bin of “3 spools for $X.XX.” Cheap thread is not worth the money – it breaks frequently and you will spend more time re-threading your machine and rebalancing the thread tension than it is worth.

    Another way to save is to hit up yard sales and estate sales. Buy up old thread and use it to make mock-ups of garments or baste things together. My dad hit the jackpot and found a home decorator shop that was going out of business and they gave him their thread. He passed it on to me. I could now make an entire chorus of Kermit the Frogs because most of it is strange shades of green, but the price was right!

    If you do buy thread on old spools, you need to load the spool correctly on your machine. Old spools of thread have a gash cut into the spool itself to hold the end of the thread. If your thread runs over the gash when you are sewing, it can break the thread. So, if your thread holder is vertical, you need to position your spool so the gash is at the bottom. If your thread holder is horizontal, you need to position the gash to the right.

    Your machine may have spool caps. These are plastic disks with a center hole that hold the spool of thread on the thread holder. You need to match your spool cap to the size of your spool. A spool cap that is too large can affect the thread tension.

    Serger thread typically comes on cones. I noticed that there doesn’t seem to be the same wide color range for serger thread. However, you should still try to match the thread closely to the color of your material. I never will forget my first time at Dragon*Con and seeing a Jedi in a dark brown robe that had been serged with white thread. Probably not the statement he wanted to make.

    Lynn
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2018
  26. Watson

    Watson Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I have to say I do not sew at all, but I am fascinated by this thread. This is great information.
     
  27. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Machines - Thread

    I remembered something else about thread. The colors available tend to reflect seasonal trends, meaning that the thread colors tend to match fabric colors in the store at that time.

    So if you shop at a fabric store that has last season's fabrics or you are using fabric from your stash*, you may not be able to find a good color match. In that case, you have to do the best you can.

    Lynn

    *stash - the fabric that you purchased because you plan to do something with it "someday", because it was a particularly good deal, or leftovers from other projects that are big enough to do something with. Quilters have a saying that sewers understand - "whoever dies with the most fabric wins."

    Stashes are wonderful things. You can "shop your stash" to get costume ideas or find a group of like-minded individuals and have a "stash swap".
     
  28. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Jades Dark Heart - maybe this thread will inspire you to start sewing! Or at the very least give you more insight into what it takes to make soft costume parts.

    Thanks for reading.
     
  29. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Basics - Bobbins

    Bobbins come in multiple sizes and types, however your machine will require a specific type. They may either be sold on a card with multiple bobbins or they may be sold individually. Find out what type your machine uses and buy several.

    Why several? Well, many machines require that you unthread the sewing machine and rethread it to wind a bobbin. Wind several bobbins ahead of your project and save yourself some time.

    Plastic bobbins can also get nicked and will affect stitching - toss it in this case.

    Many times bobbins are made of clear plastic and if you drop one on the floor, you may not always be able to find it immediately. Cats also find them fascinating.
     
  30. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Basics - Sewing Guides

    The needle plate is marked with guides to assist you in sewing seams.

    American machines will be marked in 1/8" increments. The typical seam allowance on sewing patterns is 5/8". American made machines will have that clearly marked.

    View attachment 77569


    Machines manufactured where the metric system is used will have the guides in millimeters.

    View attachment 77570

    On this machine, if you align the raw edges of your fabric with the inner edge of the hole in the needle plate, that is a 5/8" seam.

    Lynn
     
  31. tictoc

    tictoc Well-Known Member

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    Okay. I'll bite.

    Clear plastic feet. I assume they are clear so you can see through them. I have about 5 of them. All different shapes. A few I can see the use, but others baffle me. I have already broken needles that say 80, 90...now I am up to 110....the plastic feet seem fragile.

    If you say they are cheap knock offs for real feet, I'm deleting this post....
     
  32. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Presser Feet

    Let's see if I can answer tic toc's question.

    Your sewing machine comes with a handful of feet. Typically one is for all purpose sewing and the others are for specialized functions. You can also buy others that are even more specialized.

    All Purpose or Zigzag Foot
    This foot is typically installed on the machine when you purchase it. If you notice, the hole the needle goes through is wide, wide enough to allow the needle not to hit the foot on the widest zigzag stitch setting.

    In this picture, the foot on the left and in the center are zigzag feet from two different machine manufacturers.

    View attachment 77628

    Zipper Foot
    In the above picture, the zipper foot is on the right.
    This foot is typically narrower than the all purpose foot. It is designed to run next to the teeth on a zipper. The foot can be attached to the presser foot holder so that you can stitch on both sides of the zipper.

    Your foot may look slightly different in that the foot slides along bar. This is an adjustable zipper foot. This type of foot is also used to sew on piping. (Piping is a type of fabric trim where a piece of fabric is folded around a narrow cord and typically inserted in a seam. The black trim on the back of a Star Trek: WoK jacket is piping.)

    View attachment 77627

    Overcasting Foot
    This is the foot on the left in the above picture. This foot is used to overcast the raw edge of fabric to prevent the fabric from raveling. You put the raw edge of the fabric against the guide on the bottom of the foot.

    Monogramming Foot
    This is the foot in the center. This foot is used for machine embroidery, scallop or other decorative stitching, and eyelets

    Blind Stitch Foot
    The foot on the right is used for blind stitch hemming (like on a pair of dress pants) Plan on making a number of test runs to ensure that the stitch is small on the right side of the fabric yet catches the hem on the wrong side.

    View attachment 77629

    Button Foot
    The foot on top is used to sew on two or four hole buttons. I've never been successful using this foot. I still sew my buttons on by hand.

    Buttonhole Foot
    To "automatically" make button holes the correct length. You will need to make a lot of test button holes to ensure the length is correct, the width is correct, and the stitching is even on both sides of the button hole.

    Other Specialty Feet You May Want to Investigate
    Top Stitching Foot
    Typically clear plastic; the foot allows you to see the edges of your garment. (Top stitching is that line of stitching next to a folded edge like on a collar or cuff.)

    Walking Foot
    Used to sew slippery fabrics or plaids. In typical sewing, the feed dogs move the bottom layer of fabric and the top layer of fabric goes along for the ride. The walking foot adds another set of feed dogs that work in concert with the lower feed dogs so that both layers of fabric are pulled through the machine.

    Non-Stick Foot; a.k.a., Teflon Foot
    Used to sew vinyl and pleather

    NOTE:
    When you change feet, use the hand wheel to carefully lower the needle to ensure it does not hit the foot. Otherwise you run the risk of breaking the needle or the foot.

    Lynn
     
  33. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Starting and Stopping Stitching

    There are a few ways to secure the threads when you start/stop stitching.

    Reverse Stitching
    Many sewing machines provide a reverse sewing function. This allows you to sew three or four stitches, then reverse (carefully stitching over the original stitches), then start stitching forward again. Trim the loose thread ends close to the fabric when you finish stitching the seam.

    Tying the Threads
    Leave about four inches of thread at the start and the end of the seam. Tie the upper and bobbin threads together using a square knot. Trim the loose thread ends close to the fabric.

    Another Way to Tie the Threads
    Leave about four inches of thread at the start and the end of the seam. Pull the upper thread at a 90 degree angle from the fabric until a loop of the bobbin thread is pulled to the surface. Using a pin or the point of your seam ripper, insert the point into the loop of bobbin thread and pull the thread to the same side of the fabric as the upper thread. Tie the upper and bobbin threads together using a square knot. Trim the loose thread ends close to the fabric. You should always use this technique when you are stitching a dart to prevent a dimple at the end of the dart on the right side of the fabric.
     
  34. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Sewing Machines - Homework

    At this point, you know enough to start practicing using a machine.

    Print out some copies of the attached PDFs.

    You do not have to thread your sewing machine; the needle holes will show you how well you are doing. Start with a normal stitch length, such as 10 -12 stitches per inch. As you work through the exercises, try using different stitch lengths - basting stitches (6 stitches per inch) can be more difficult to control than you think.

    Lines

    Straight lines are the most common seams you will sew. This exercise gives you practice positioning under the needle, using the foot controller at various speeds, and different stitch lengths.
    1. Eyeball where you think the needle will enter the paper on the first line.
    2. Lower the presser foot.
    3. Using the hand wheel, lower the needle to see if the needle will pierce the line. If not, use the hand wheel to raise the needle back up, raise the presser foot, and adjust the position of the paper.
    4. Once you have the paper positioned properly, slowly start stitching and try to stay on the line.
    5. Get in the habit of ensuring the needle is in the down position whenever you stop to reposition your hands.
    6. Repeat on the next lines, increasing your speed.
    Squares

    There are times when you will need to sew a seam that turns 90 degrees, such as on a waistband or sleeve cuff.
    1. Starting at one corner, position the paper under your needle.
    2. Lower the presser foot.
    3. Stitch following the lines
    4. At the corner, ensure that the needle is in the down position.
    5. Raise the presser foot and turn the paper 90 degrees.
    6. Lower the presser foot and start stitching again.
    7. Repeat for the rest of the squares, until you are comfortable making the 90 degree turns.
    Triangles

    Sometimes you will need to sew more acute angles, such as on a collar.
    1. Starting at one corner, position the paper under your needle.
    2. Lower the presser foot.
    3. Stitch following the lines
    4. At the corner, ensure that the needle is in the down position.
    5. Raise the presser foot and turn the paper so that the needle will stitch down the next leg of the triangle.
    6. Lower the presser foot and start stitching again.
    7. Repeat for the rest of the triangles, until you are comfortable making the turns.
    Curves

    Frequently you will sew inside and outside (concave and convex) curves. This exercise will give you practice in doing that.
    1. Starting at one end, position the paper under your needle.
    2. Lower the presser foot.
    3. Stitch following the lines
    4. On particularly tight curves, you may find it necessary to use the hand wheel to make two or three stitches, then raise the presser foot and reposition the fabric (paper), then lower the presser foot and continue stitching. Once again, ensure that the needle is in the down position before you lift the presser foot.
    5. Lower the presser foot and start stitching again.
    6. Repeat for the rest of the curves, until you are comfortable making the turns.
    View attachment 78642

    View attachment 78643

    View attachment 78644

    View attachment 78645
     
  35. Rikarus

    Rikarus Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    awesome! keep it coming!
     
  36. brulafu

    brulafu Active Member

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    Re: Sewing Machines - Presser Feet

    Would I be right in saying that this foot would be used for sewing the likes of lycra ?
     
  37. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Machines - Presser Feet

    You are correct - the walking foot is good for sewing lycra. Use a zig zag stitch and a ball point needle as well.
     
  38. NormanF

    NormanF Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Arise from the dead, dear thread.

    There is a costume I am interested in and it looks like the only way I am going to get it is by sewing it. I will probably only use the machine once or twice a year so I do not want to spend a lot of money, but I do not want a piece of plastic junk either. I am going to go the a local sewing store and look around. They are a Bernina (way out of my budget) and Janome dealer. They have the Janome 2212 that I am thinking about. The reviews are all good. The only cons are that it does not have as many features as other machines. Does that sound like a reasonable machine for someone who will do very occasional sewing and has not used a machine since the 70's? I am also going to check to see if they have trade ins and maybe hit the Goodwill store too.
     
  39. madmikeee

    madmikeee Sr Member

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    Is there a good all around machine that can handle standard fabrics as well as leather/vinyl/heavy duty fabric? Where I work I have access to scrap vinyl, nose cover (Car bra material) and convertible top material which I have used for many projects around the house and would like to be able hem them or possible make some curtains for the garage etc.
     
  40. rockeagle2001

    rockeagle2001 Well-Known Member

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    What is the method used to sew all those full body suits like spider man etc?
     
  41. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    The Janome 2212 has all the basic features you need and looks like a good entry level machine. You may also want to check Ebay or Craigslist for used machines. An old Singer or Kenmore from the 70s or 80s are typically good machines as well.
     
  42. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    What I can suggest is take some of the fabric you want to sew, such as nose cover, and go to a sewing machine shop. Show them what you want to sew and try the fabrics on the machines. A medium range machine can sew a couple of layers of marine vinyl - I've done it. However, once I got beyond about three layers, my home machine could not drive the needle though the layers.

    I know some people who have those old-fashioned cast iron sewing machines (Singers) and they keep them around just for sewing leather and vinyl. They sew through those materials like butter.
     
  43. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Most every machine (except old ones) have a stretch stitch that is designed for spandex/lycra/etc. You can fake it on the old machines by using a very narrow zig-zag.
     
  44. NormanF

    NormanF Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I think I might pull the trigger on the 2212. Not as cheap as Amazon, but they include some free lessons and I know they can handle any warranty claims right there. I did like where they were suggesting the $400 machine before I asked about the 2212.

    Sent from my Etch-A-Sketch
     
  45. NormanF

    NormanF Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I think they had a Janome HD1000 there for $299. Now I think I will get that if they do. Maybe even for $399. The thing is actually made out of, wait for it: metal. And earlier today I saw a video of one sewing through 12 layers of denim.

    Now I need to find a girlfriend who is also a little interested in costuming. Not that I am that into it.

    Sent from my Etch-A-Sketch
     
  46. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Metal is good; along with a strong motor. Many of the cheapie machines have plastic parts and undersized motors.
     
  47. NormanF

    NormanF Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Ended up with the DC1050. I did some playing around with it when I got it home. It has a lot of stitches I will probably never use, but so far I really like it. I also like that I saw a video of a guy sewing 9 layers of denim and then a very thin piece of plastic film with one.
     
  48. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Congratulations! It looks like a nice machine.
     
  49. Wallabe

    Wallabe Member

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    11B30B4, what needle/thread would you recommend for sewing 2-3 layers of nylon webbing together?
     
  50. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    You will need a large needle: 90/14 - 100/16. You may also find a needle designated for jeans or denim. You will also need a thick thread. Look for polyester thread designed for top stitching.

    Lynn
     

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