Sewing Basics - Tools

Discussion in 'Replica Costumes' started by MaulWalker, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Like woodworking or metalworking, sewing has its own set of specialized tools. This thread is to identify those tools and how to use and care for them.

    This is one of a series of threads. The goals of these threads are to:
    demystify sewing
    educate the inexperienced
    share tips and tricks for the experienced
    and perhaps get those who think they can't sew to realize maybe they can.

    Anyone can contribute to this thread. I suggest that you change the subject line to the name of the tool you are describing.

    Lynn
     
    Bootlegger137 likes this.
  2. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Scissors/Dress Making Shears

    Scissors, or more correctly dressmaker shears, feature offset handles that allow you to run the bottom blade along the cutting surface. This keeps more of your hand above the fabric and disturbs the fabric less.

    View attachment 75224


    Scissors are sold in right and left hand models and by blade length. Long blades great for long straight cuts while shorter blades are good for curved lines and small cuts. A good overall size is 8".

    If money is no object, the best scissors you can buy are Gingher. These are heavy, solid metal scissors, beautifully shined with the Gingher name etched on outside of the blade. The blades hold their edge, however they must be professionally sharpened. I know of one instance where a pair of Ginghers were packed in checked luggage and “disappeared” between home and the final destination. A pair will cost you about the same as a Dremel.

    The most common sewing scissors now are the steel blade with plastic handle ones. Some brands include Fiskars and Dritz. These are much lighter than the solid metal ones; you will appreciate that if you are cutting out a large amount of fabric. These scissors don’t hold their edge as well, however you can sharpen them yourself. You can buy a sharpener or some scissors are sold as a set with a sharpener.

    Caring for Your Scissors
    In the old days, if you picked up someone’s sewing scissors and tried to use them for something other than fabric, the scissors’ owner probably emitted a shriek that rattled the glassware. Somewhere in the following tirade would be the line “Those are my GOOD scissors!” That was because all scissors had to be professionally sharpened. Finding someone who could sharpen scissors was a challenge; to some extent it still is. Some professional sharpeners will schedule visits at local sewing stores once every six months or so.

    Those of you who use other bladed tools know that the sharper the blade, the easier, faster, and safer it is to do the work. Same thing with scissors. Dull blades tend to gnaw on the fabric and will raise blisters on your hands.

    Save your sewing scissors for sewing only. The sharpeners will help keep the blades sharp but won’t work as well to bring a blade back from extreme dullness. Some people take this to the extreme and will cut paper patterns out with cheap scissors so their sewing scissors are truly only cutting fabric.

    You can do just about everything with your big scissors; however you may want a small pair for small jobs like trimming loose threads. These in the attached thumbnail are my favorites. They are actually medical scissors and you can find them at flea markets, swap meets, etc.


    One set of specialized scissors are pinking shears. These cut and leave a zigzag, or pinked edge. These must be professionally sharpened. Some people like to use pinking shears on fabrics that fray. Pinking shears are not an absolute necessity, unless you are doing a historical costume where pinked edges were a common seam finish.

    You may also see electric scissors in the stores. They sound like a good idea, but I don’t know anyone who uses them regularly. I used a pair back in the 60s – they had one speed – fast – and lost their edge extremely quickly and gnawed, rather than cut, fabric.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2018
  3. Larry Young

    Larry Young Master Member

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    Thanks for doing this!
     
  4. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Seam Rippers

    If thread is the equivalent to glue in the propping world, then the seam ripper is the glue remover.

    There is an old saying in sewing, "As you sew, so shall you rip." There are times when the pattern sewing directions will tell you to remove basting stitches. Or you are going to mess something up and need to take it apart. This is when you want to use a seam ripper.

    View attachment 75229

    Notice that the blade is shaped sort of like your index finger and thumb. The "index finger" has a sharp point. You slide the point under a stitch. Then push the "index finger" further under the stitch until it reaches the "web between the index finger and the thumb." This area is sharpened and will cut the thread.

    Then you can remove the rest of the stitches just by sliding the index finger under the next stitch and lifting it loose. Yes it takes some time, especially if it is a long seam.

    Note, seam rippers work best on simple stitches - straight and zigzag. You may not be able to remove complex stitches or serged seams.

    There is another use for the seam ripper. You can use the "web" to cut buttonholes. Use a straight pin at the end of the buttonhole to keep from cutting the stitching.

    View attachment 75230


    A note of caution - yes, you are going to end up stabbing yourself with this tool. Yes, you will probably bleed.

    There is another saying in costuming that "it's not yours until you bleed on it." The easiest way to remove blood is your own saliva. You have enzymes in your saliva that work on your own blood, but no one elses. Lick the blood spot or suck on it until it is removed. If that icks you out too much, hydrogen peroxide will work, but pretest it on your fabric first.
     
  5. James Kenobi 1138

    James Kenobi 1138 Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I'll be reading these Threads ! Thank you!!
     
  6. terryr

    terryr Sr Member

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    A Sewing Thread?

    Speaking of thread, use the good stuff. Cheap thread and cheap shoes are always a pain.
     
  7. Jessica

    Jessica Well-Known Member

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    Wow. Fabulous idea. I shall frequent this thread. And yes, Ginghers are the cream of the crop. Can't live without mine. I actually have two 8-inch ones and 2 smaller embroidery ginghers. They are worth every penny. If you keep a look-out, purchase them using 40% off coupons (like at JoAnne Fabrics) as they rarely go on sale. When they are fresh from being professionally sharpened, they are just absolutely wonderful to cut fabric with. And also, paper is the worst thing for ginghers.
     
  8. Indigogyre

    Indigogyre Well-Known Member

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    Yay! I've always wanted to learn how to sew but those ladies in the fabric store are so intimidating.

    Dean
     
  9. muscleman71

    muscleman71 New Member

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    sewing...

    for REAL men.
     
  10. Maelstrom

    Maelstrom Sr Member

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    Re: Seam Rippers

    I think I actually managed to stab myself with a thimble once.
     
  11. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Late last night I realized I should provide my qualifications to create this sort of resource.

    I learned to sew when I was eight. I've been sewing for 45 years. (You do the math!) The first Girl Scout badge I earned was the sewing badge; I made a sleeveless dress with neck and armhole facings, a zipper, and a hand-sewn hem.

    I mostly sewed my own clothes, sometimes I would make clothes for others. When I discovered Folkwear patterns, I started combining vintage looks with contemporary clothing. I have also done some home decoration sewing. (I never want to make curtains for an Airstream trailer again!)

    I suppose costuming was inevitable. I remember watching the non-special edition of ANH in the theater and my first thought on seeing Vader walk through that blast hole in the bulkhead was "Whoa! Is his cape cut on the bias?" However, I did not start costuming until after SW: TPM came out. Finally, female Jedi! I saw a guy on-line who made Jedi garb - $250 US for an undertunic, tunic, tabards, and obi (pants not included.) Another $150 for a cloak. And all the fabrics were incorrect. I knew I could do better.

    My second cosutme was Mon Mothma from ROTJ (I am Ms. May in the 2012 Ladies of the RPF calendar.) I have made costumes from other movies (POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl and Wizard of Oz), and Ringo's uniform from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club album cover. I also have gone back to my "vintage" roots and do a lot of historical costuming. So far, all my historic impressions/costumes have been from the 20th century. I thought that would prevent me from having to do any extensive handsewing. My last historic costume was a set of clothing that would have been worn by a lower-middle class Blackfoot Indian woman circa 1910. Her economic status was such that she would not have had access to a sewing machine, so all parts of the costume are hand-sewn and some parts are also hand-beaded.

    I also have presented panels on costuming at DragonCon, taught others to sew, and consulted extensively with other costumers. Ask Art Andrews about Boba Fett's cape! I have also made a few costumes or costume parts for others, however I prefer not to - there are too many costumes I want to make for myself. I also compete in CostumeCon masquerades. I entered Sgt. Pepper in a sci-fi/fantasy masquerade and walked away with Best in Class Novice. My first entry in the Historical masquerade was the Blackfoot. I ended up with Best in Show Workmanship, Best in Show Documentation, and Overall Best in Show.

    If you have questions, ask. My access to the RPF is limited during the day, but I will get back to you eventually.
     
  12. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Sewing Basics - Scissors

    If you noticed in Jessica's post, she has four pair of scissors. There is another truism - scissors grow legs and play hide and seek. And it is always they hide, you seek. They may be where you cut out the fabric, or you left them on the ironing board, or you laid some of your garment on top of them, etc. More than one pair will save you some time. I've seen some people who work in the fabric stores wear theirs on long cords around their neck. I may try that.

    In the States, the major fabric stores have mailing lists. Sign up for them. You will get regular fliers sent to your address with coupons, typically more than one. One coupon will be for up to 50% on one cut of fabric. Another coupon will typically be 40% off on notions. Sewing tools fall under notions.

    Lynn
     
  13. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Irons

    Perhaps the most overlooked sewing tool is the iron. Yes, I hear the groans. There are a few things that move your garments from looking "home made" to looking professionally made. The iron is one.

    Pattern instructions will tell you to "press seams open" or "press pleats", etc. Skipping this step will result in seams that don't lie flat or pucker or collars or cuffs that don't have nice sharp edges. Ironing also helps shrink in extra fullness when you ease in (we will cover ease later) fullness like on a sleeve.

    A cheap iron will do. Even the most basic iron will have adjustable heat settings appropriate for various fabrics. A steam iron is nice although you can fake it with a damp pressing cloth.

    An ironing board is not required. You can fake one by using a folded towel on your kitchen counter. I do not recommend using a wooden table, especially if you are using steam as you can damage the finish on table.

    A pressing cloth is a nice to have. Typically these are made of cotton organdy which is slightly see-through. Press clothes help prevent the iron leaving a shiney mark on your fabric. I have also used a clean dish towel - dampen it if you want steam.
     
  14. Bizarro Lois

    Bizarro Lois Sr Member

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    I had never used a pressing cloth until I had to use stitch witchery for a project. Now I use it all the time. We have very hard water and sometimes crust develops on my iron. The pressing cloth helps protect my fabric from that and anything else that might be on the surface. Helps protect the iron from any stray stitch witchery too.
    This is a great thread. My mom has taught me a lot of these things over the years, but you're doing a great job breaking it down.
     
  15. Guri

    Guri Sr Member

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    Great idea for a series of threads! Even those of us sewing for years could use some professional tips from an expert!!

    That is so true about the scissors! I have 3 other scissor users in my house and to keep them away from my 'good' scissors, I bought a pink pair of easy action sheers:

    [​IMG]

    Both the shape and the color reminds them those are 'FABRIC ONLY' scissors. I actually ended up preferring this style now for the way it feels in my hand.
     
  16. TeresaMRoberts

    TeresaMRoberts Well-Known Member

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    Re: Seam Rippers

    That reminds me of a painful story. Learn from my mistake. I have friends that race motorcycles professionally. They brought me their suites because the needed me to patch the knee with leather. They said it doesn't have to be pretty just patched so their knees don't scrape the ground. So I was using scrap leather and sewing the patches on by hand because there's no way to get the machine up to the knee with out taking stitching out on the leg creating more of a job. The eye of a BIG FAT leather needle went through my thimble into my thumb deep enough to hit the tip of my thumb bone. Talk about painful!!! also pieces of metal got into it from part of the thimble that broke and when the eye of the needle it the bone it cracked off piece of the eye....

    Moral of the story.. some times the fast short cut is not they way you should do things!!!
     
  17. TeresaMRoberts

    TeresaMRoberts Well-Known Member

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    I have a sewing work shop in my basement. Thread racks didn't work for me, I have too much thread. So I put up peg boards. I also hang up scissors and such on the peg broads although my back ups usually stay hung and my favorites find there way around my cutting table. But I have a husband and 3 children. I label all of my sewing scissors "Cloth Only!" I don't want them using my good scissors on PAPER!

    PS My favorite sewing scissors are Gingher!
    [​IMG]
     
  18. KristinaLeigh

    KristinaLeigh Active Member

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    Gingher Scissors

    Great thread idea! I sew professionally in the Theatre industry and there are several tools that I just couldn't do without...My Gingher scissors are definitely on that list! I have their 8” standard dressmaking shears, tailor points, and embroidery snips. They are near and dear to me and I don’t start a project without them. Dressmaking shears are only for cutting fabric and I’m even selective about what fabrics I cut with them. I don’t cut any specialty fabrics with sequins, beads, or anything like that with them. You can buy a cheaper pair of sewing shears for those fabrics. If the weight of the solid metal scissors is a problem for you, then you can get plastic handled Ginghers that have the same blades. Tailor Points are also known in the Gingher line as short 4-5” craft scissors. They are for trimming and grading seams, cutting buttonholes, notching, etc. They are sharper than dressmaking shears and have extremely sharp points on the end, hence the name tailor points. Embroidery snips are great for cutting threads at the sewing machine or an alternative to a seam ripper. The blades are very tiny and allow you snip the seams. There are also thread snips that you can buy for this.

    http://gingher.com/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2018
  19. Eveningarwen

    Eveningarwen Well-Known Member

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    machines and their parts

    Well I guess I will contribute the next big necessity when it comes to sewing lol, machines.

    Here are 3 machines that I use:

    [​IMG]

    The first is a sewing machine, the second is a serger (a very old serger lol but it does the job) and the last is my hand press for grommets and covered buttons.

    I didn't take another pic of my serger but for those just starting out a serger is not necessary. They're extremely expensive for one and very difficult at times to thread. (the serger I want is about $1500 but threads itself with a push button that shoots the thread through the machine with a jet of air)

    This is a basic serger, or overlock as it's sometimes called, stitch:

    [​IMG]

    It's very useful to keep seams from fraying or to use for the bottom of a garment when you don't have time to hem it.

    The sewing machine:

    [​IMG]

    I'm a firm believer that even if you're just beginning you should buy a good solid machine. Usually that means you're going to spend at least $200 on it. I say $200 because some may find a good machine on something like ebay or craigslist. My machine was about $700 and it was on sale due to it being a end of the year model. My machine has stitch settings for buttonholes, zig zag, invisible hem (with appropriate foot) some decorative stitches and some stitches that I never use because I think it's for quilting lol!!! On average it's always good to have a machine that can at least do straight stitch and zig zag. Some of the older industrials only do one or the other.

    One way to know if a machine will be sturdy enough is if it has mostly metal parts, especially in the bobbin area. Plastic parts will break and crack. When buying a machine that was the first thing my Prof told me:

    "Make sure it has all metal parts"

    Here's some examples:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    All machines have interchangeable feet for different stitches or for specialized stitches. Be careful because some machines, like my pfaff, have parts that only fit that brand.

    [​IMG]

    My fav machine is my hand press. It's how I cut grommet holes and press grommets into my corset and how I make covered buttons. Note that each size has it's own die and press. So these pictured are for a 00 grommets and a 5/8" button.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Hope that helps! I'll post more when I have time.
     
  20. KristinaLeigh

    KristinaLeigh Active Member

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    Seam Rippers and Razors

    Retractable blade seam rippers and razors: Seam ripping can take forever if you did not realize your mistake early or maybe put an entire skirt section together before realizing it was backwards. A Razor is great for getting seams out faster, but it’s obviously risky. You hold the seam taut with one hand and then use the razor to cut the thread on the right side of the fabric, without cutting the fabric. Sounds crazy I know, but once you figure it out then you can get seams out fast without harming the fabric. Another option that I like is my Ginger retractable blade seam ripper. It’s a razor edged claw like blade that works just like a traditional razor except it’s curved so you cannot harm the surrounding fabric.

    Retractable Blade Seam Ripper
     
  21. KristinaLeigh

    KristinaLeigh Active Member

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    Pressing Tools

    Pressing tools are quite amazing! They make your garment look professional because well...that’s how the professionals do it! There are several different types and all are great to have. They are basically special shapes stuffed with sawdust and covered with canvas and fabric. You can usually spot them by their trademark plaid tops. The great thing about pressing tools is that you do not have to buy them really...There are many patterns out there for making your own.

    Simplicity 9076 - Pressing Tools Pattern

    One of the main ones is the Tailor’s Ham…and it does have a ham shape. It’s for pressing curves, darts, sleeve caps, and armscyes. Dritz Tailor's Ham

    The seam roll is a long roll that you can stick inside of sleeves and pants in order to press open seams without pressing the other side of the garment. A sleeve board works the same way except gives you even more space and ease. Sleeve boards kind of look like mini ironing boards. When pressing small round tubes or casings, use wooden dowels to keep the shape.



    Dritz Seam Roll

    Dritz Sleeve Board


    Pressing cloths are also a great tool. Pressing cloths are large squares or rectangles that are usually serged around the edges and are used to protect the fabric being pressed. They are made of silk organza or muslin usually. The silk organza allows you to see through the cloth while pressing. Pressing cloths are also great for keeping adhesive off your iron when applying interfacings. Professional shops usually have at least two at each ironing station, one for general pressing and one for interfacing only. That keeps the fusible interfacing glues off other garments and the ironing board.



    Tailoring boards are a more specialized pressing tool but are great tools to buy down the road after learning more and more about sewing. It’s a tailor’s tool that is made from wood. It has several surfaces and points that allow you to press out collar and lapel points and other tailored garment features. But the best part about it is the largest surface on the tool that is called a Clapper. It is used to flatten bulky seams caused buy several layers of fashion fabric, interfacing, inter lining, linings, etc. It’s also great for fabrics like wool that can be thick. Basically the idea is that you load up the area to be pressed with steam from the iron (without touching the iron to the fabric), put the iron down, and quickly picking up the tailor’s board with the clapper face down and slamming (!) the clapper down onto the garment seam while making sure to hold for several seconds for it to set. It gives you a nice flat seam!



    Tailor's Board at Nancy's Notions...with Demo Video
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2018
  22. Daktari

    Daktari New Member

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    Hey Maul Walker
    Is it worth investing in a rotary cutter?
     
  23. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Rotary Cutters

    A rotary cutter is a sharp wheel in a plastic handle. They typically have a guard on them to keep you from cutting yourself. You also have to have a cutting board underneath your project to protect whatever surface you are cutting on.

    I have used a rotary cutter when cutting out strips of fabric for a quilt top, but I didn't like using one for cutting out patterns. The pressure I had to use to get it to cut the fabric made it hard to control the wheel on curves.

    YMMV

    Edited to add: the money you will spend on a good sized cutting board and rotary cutter is about the same amount you would spend on a pair of Gingher scissors.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011
  24. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Seam Rippers and Razors

    I don't think I have ever heard of a retractable blade seam ripper. I'm going to add that to my wish list.
     
  25. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: machines and their parts

    Eveningarwen - nice set up!

    I plan on having a thread devoted to machines - selecting them, using them, learning to control the speed, etc. I'll let you handle the serger side of it. I haven't found the need for one - yet.

    Folks - lint is like sanding dust from wood or resin. It is little fine fabric dust - if you work with fuzzy fabrics, you get tons of the stuff. Typically a sewing machine comes with a brush to help you clean out the lint.

    Lynn
     
  26. tictoc

    tictoc Well-Known Member

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    Holy milkshake Batman!

    I thought I could just skim through this for some tips...wrong.

    You guys had me up to scissors and Eveningarwen's photos of her machine and the go go grommet thing but my eyes started to glaze over and roll back into my head when we got to ham...

    I never realized there were so many sewing "tools." Need to go back and read this again...

    Thanks for your giving us the benefit of your knowledge/ experience.
     
  27. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Pins

    I started a thread in the OT to see why folks who make beautiful props thought they could never learn to sew. One person replied they were going to stick to props because wood and metal don’t move. If that was true, you wouldn’t need clamps. Pins are the clamps of the sewing world.

    Straight Pins
    What you will need most of are straight pins. These are thin pins about an inch to an inch ¼ long. The heads can be metal, plastic, or glass.

    You insert the point from the top of the fabric, slide the point under the bottom layer of fabric, and then push the point back through the top layer. If you really want a strong and secure pinning, push the point back down through the layers, slide the point under the lower layer, and back up to the top layer. So instead of having just one fabric “lump” over the pin, you will have two.

    Metal heads are cheapest but if you are pinning heavy fabric your fingers may hurt at the end of the day. You also shouldn’t iron over them as the head of the pin can scratch the soleplate of your iron (the working surface of the iron).

    Plastic head pins are small balls of plastic that encase to the metal head. They are usually multi-color and may even be pearlized. They are kinder to your fingertips if you are pinning heavy fabric. Whatever you do, do not iron over the plastic heads as they will melt.

    Glass headed pins are small glass balls that encase the metal head. Once again, these are kinder to your fingers and you can iron over them.

    Pins get lost and they have sharp points; expect to get stabbed.

    Storing Pins
    You have some options for storing pins. You are going to want something that makes it easy to get to the pins when you want them and can quickly accept pins when you remove them.

    Fabric stores sell pin cushions. These are stuffed with fiberfill and usually red and in the shape of a tomato. I haven’t used a pin cushion in 20 years. I found that every time I knocked the pincushion off my sewing table pins would go flying. Round shapes aren’t that stable.

    Some folks attach a magnet to their sewing machine to hold pins as they remove them when sewing.

    I store my pins in an Altoids tin. Easy to grab pins in the tin, easy to toss pins in as I am sewing, and the lid closes tightly when I travel or store the pins in my sewing box.

    Safety pins
    You will also need a handful of safety pins. The ones from a dry cleaner are a good size. These are useful for threading elastic or cording through a casing.
     
  28. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Needles

    At some point, you are going to have to do some hand sewing. Needles are sold in packages with multiple needles in them. A good general size are sharps.

    If you share your home with a cat or dog, keep close watch over threaded needles. Your pet can swallow them and do some serious gastrointestinal damage.

    I plan to cover machine needles when I discuss sewing machines.
     
  29. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Measuring Devices

    If you buy only one measuring device, make it a fabric measuring tape. These are usually made of flexible fiberglass and you will find them folded and attached to a blister card like the yellow one in this picture. These are typically 60 inches or 152 cm long.

    View attachment 75282

    You will need this to measure your body, or whoever’s body you are sewing for. In addition, you will need it when you layout your patterns.

    An additional measuring device you may already have in your prop workshop – a yardstick. This is useful when laying out patterns.

    You may find a small, 6” ruler handy.

    Finally, you may want to invest in a sewing and knitting gauge. This is one. The blue plastic piece moves along the center track. This tool is useful for turning up hems, laying out pleats, etc.

    View attachment 75283
     
  30. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Marking Devices

    You will need to transfer pattern markings to your fabric. The availability of these sorts of tools has exploded since I started sewing.

    Important:
    Prior to using any of these, you need to test them on scrap pieces of your fabric. While they are designed to be removed, they sometimes leave traces behind. I also recommend that you not iron over any of the marks – that may make them permanent.

    This picture is a selection of what is available now.

    View attachment 75284

    On the far right is tailor’s chalk. This is sold usually in a pack of several colors – pink, blue, yellow, and white. You draw on the fabric with the chalk. To remove, you brush it off.

    On the far left is a marking pencil. These come in several colors – you will want a light colored one for dark fabrics and a dark colored one for light colored fabrics. The brush on the end is supposed to remove the marks.

    The ones in the middle are designed to be easy to remove. The blue one is a felt time marker that can be removed with water. The remaining one is a roller ball pen with disappearing ink. With this one one need to be careful you don’t mark your fabric too far ahead as the marks may not be there when you get ready to sew.

    There is one marking device that I do not recommend. It is a tracing wheel and paper. Tracing paper has a waxy colored coating on it. You position it on your fabric so that the coating is in contact with the fabric. The tracing wheel itself is a toothed wheel. You roll the wheel over the pattern markings and it creates little dots of color on your fabric. It also perforates your pattern paper. I like to save patterns and reuse them. I find that the tracing wheel destroys the pattern.
     
  31. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    tictoc -

    Please don't freak out - that isn't my intent at all.

    Think of your own workshop - you don't run out and buy every tool you think you might ever need. You start with the basics and then add tools as you need them.

    As I see it, after your sewing machine the absolute basics are:
    • scissors
    • seam ripper
    • iron
    • pins (straight and a couple of safety pins)
    • needles
    • a fabric measuring tape and
    • someway to mark fabric
    When you decide you want to make covered buttons or set lots of grommets, then you need a grommet setter.

    When you have a tricky pressing areas, you can fake a ham out of a towel. I didn't buy a sleeve board until about six years ago, when I made the Wicked Witch of the West's costume. Those sleeves are a (&%($*%& to iron and I finally broke down and bought the sleeve board.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Lynn
     
  32. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Pricing the Basics

    I thought some of you might like an idea of how much it would cost to get you started with the basics. Luckily, most sewing tools aren't terribly expensive.

    I looked these prices up on Amazon. (Amazon has a section called 'Arts, Crafts, and Sewing')

    • Fiskars scissors 8" multipurpose - $10.65
    • Gingher scissors 8" knife edged dressmaker shears - $23.55 (much cheaper than the fabric store!)
    • Fiskars SoftTouch scissors 8" (like Eveningarwen's) - $11.50
    • Fiskars scissor sharpener - $8.61 for the top of the line one
    • Medical (iris) scissors (the little ones I like for trimming thread) - $1.95
    • Iron - $17.98 (Amazon only has one model. You might find one cheaper at a mass merchandise store)
    • Straight pins - $7.88 for a 1,000 (metal heads)
    • Seam ripper - $4.46
    • Fabric measuring tape - $4.64
    • Needles (for hand sewing) - $4.70 for an assortment of 25
    Lynn
     
  33. TeresaMRoberts

    TeresaMRoberts Well-Known Member

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    Re: Measuring Devices

    This my hem guide that I LOVE! I got it out the local sewing shop. :) You fold the item to the measurement you want and just iron over the guide and keep sliding it around the skirt or pant leg or what ever item your hemming Strongly suggest one!

    PS once I straiten up my work shop I'll post some pics :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  34. T2SF

    T2SF Well-Known Member

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    I have to add the grease pencil, for marking surfaces, it works on other surfaces like glass and other surfaces that pens and pencils may not work!
     
  35. Daktari

    Daktari New Member

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    Keep up the good work folks!

    Invaluable!
     
  36. Guri

    Guri Sr Member

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    Re: Pins

    :thumbsup I have one of those, the green stem pulls out as a measuring tape. Not crazy about it. I also have a pin pillow I made back in home economics 30 years ago! I don't store the pins this way, just next to my machine for when I'm removing them as I sew.

    That's a great idea! I may start doing that.

    Ha! I do that too! I have several tins for various storage including safety pins, straight pins, buttons, beads etc. All labeled.
     
  37. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Pins

    Either you have a lot of tins or not that many buttons. I finally had to break down and buy button storage boxes. I got tired of dumping out jar after jar of buttons to find the right ones. Part of the problem is no garment gets thrown out before I remove any reusable parts - buttons, zippers, hooks and eyes, etc.
     
  38. josh2112

    josh2112 New Member

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    Thanks for all this info! Huge Help!
     
  39. Jayn

    Jayn Sr Member

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    Great idea for a thread, Maulwalker!
    I personally like rotary cutters for a variety of things, but one of my favorite uses for them is making edge and middle of the piece cuts for distressing! Great fast way to get the destruction done on the fabric before the more refined art is done on the cuts.
    BTW, I work in a costume and scenery shop where I have to protect my good sewing tools all the time. I have to refer to my machine, tape measure & scissors etc as "My POWER tools".
     
  40. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Jayne - I hadn't thought of using a rotary cutter for distressing. I just use a box cutter. A rotary cutter certainly would be a more "civilized weapon." Glad I haven't thrown/given mine away!
     
  41. Jayn

    Jayn Sr Member

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    an elegant weapon for a more civilized "age" :lol
    (yeaahh, we're geeky ;) )
     
  42. Auryn

    Auryn Active Member

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    Brilliant thread.
    EveningArwen
    would you mind sharing make and model of your hand press and what your thoughts are on it??

    I've been looking for one for a while but there is so much variety out there its hard to choose.
    Don't know wether to go with something off of ebay or somewhere else
     
  43. Jaedena

    Jaedena Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I wish I had a nice sewing machine that can do zigzag and buttonholes, however the machine that was donated to me was built in the 50's, only goes forward and backwards. On the plus side, it does sew through the Sommers material required for the BSG flight suits.

    I have a Singer Overlock that I bought on ebay for a mere $200. I took it in to my local Singer store and had it overhauled. The proprietor said I lucked in to an amazing deal; the machine is worth around $1000 and I only had to pay $100 for him to polish/sharpen the cutting blades and tune up the machinery.

    One thing I have learned is it is important to keep your sewing machines well oiled and stored in the correct manner.
     
  44. Eveningarwen

    Eveningarwen Well-Known Member

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    I bought from this site here.

    Machines and Dies

    I called her up so I could ask questions about the press and she was awesome to talk to. So nice and super super helpful. My press is the osbourne and while she doesn't have the cutter and setter for grommets on her site she will order them for you when she orders everything else. Since I got the press, grommet setter and 5/8" button setter she gave me a bit of a discount on the button setter. She also told me how to save on shipping. I got priority shipping and everything fit in a large flat rate box at $15 because she took the press out of the box and took off the handle. So when I received it I just put it back on. It was really simple to do. So much better then having to pay like $35 or $40 because of how heavy the box is.

    Also I ended up realizing that my button setter had a defective part and it didn't really dawn on me until I had it for at least....6 months??....something like that. But it started to get worse and wouldn't set my buttons correctly anymore and I brought it to her attention and she replaced it straight away. I seriously could not recommend this place enough, they've been great.

    I believe the cost for the cutter and setter for the grommets was around $60? And the button die set was around $50-$60? I can't remember exactly, I just knew that the press and the grommet set were cheaper then anywhere else I had looked. Most places charged over $200 for the press and $40 for shipping.

    Oh also note that the sizing I got, the 00 grommet and the 5/8" button sets were both special order. But it only took 2 days or so for her to receive them before they got shipped to me. Super fast.
     
  45. Zaxmon

    Zaxmon Well-Known Member

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    What are some good starter projects for guys? I have a Brother sewing machine, and a serger, but haven't used them yet.
     
  46. Eveningarwen

    Eveningarwen Well-Known Member

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    If you're looking for just sample projects that you may never actually use then simple things like a circle skirt or tunic. It will only have a few seams and a very basic pattern to cut out but you will be able to practice sewing straight seams, attaching a waist band or elastic band on the skirt, possibly some kind of drawstring channel on the tunic, basic sleeves and both of them you can use your serger to finish the seams and you can hem both of them at the bottom if you want to practice some hand stich hems for an invisible hem.

    Those would be fast simple projects that you could see right away what you're putting together. And I know guys always want to laugh at the idea of creating a skirt but a circle skirt really is super super easy and tends to be a generic starter project in lots of beginning sewing classes. Each of these things you can also add things onto to practice. Such as:

    on the waistband of the skirt you could do a button hole and button instead of a channel for an elastic to go through.

    on the tunic you could attach a ruffle or cut a V down the front and do grommets and lacing.

    I would suggest looking at pattern companies such as Sewing Patterns | McCalls Corp

    They have all 3 basic pattern companies, mccall, vogue and butterick and mccall and butterick have "easy" sections in them and they also have the "costume" section which half the time any of those patterns are super easy and have pretty decent detailed instructions. I would say that for anyone just starting out with not much of an idea of where to begin that would be the way to go.
     
  47. TeresaMRoberts

    TeresaMRoberts Well-Known Member

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    My b/f has a pair of flannel boxers he made about 10-12 years ago in high school home economics class. He is beyond proud of them. He can't sew now but I think it would be a great starter project because you have straight stitches, curve stitches, and elastic.

    PS I prefer Simplicity patterns, more verity and they have some really easy ones as well but i do use butterick sometime.
     
  48. Guri

    Guri Sr Member

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    Re: Pins

    I hardly sew or wear much that requires buttons, so, I don't have that many - just replacement types.

    Velcro - now, that's another matter. I've accumulated SO much of that stuff.
     
  49. MaulWalker

    MaulWalker Sr Member

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    Re: Basic Project

    I checked the Big 3 "easy" patterns. Only McCalls has something that a guy might wear - hospital scrubs or pajamas. Same design, just more room in the pajamas. It is McCalls M5504. I would start with the pants.

    There were a number of dog costumes in the easy patterns. Maybe you could rival Art's and Star War Chick's Wampug? :)
     
  50. Eveningarwen

    Eveningarwen Well-Known Member

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    Re: Basic Project


    That's why I mentioned if he doesn't care about making something for him to use/wear. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of simple guy stuff to make. Most patterns out there are for women. But something like a scrub or pajama would definitely fit in the easy section. Simplicity.com: Patterns, tools and supplies for all things sewing, knitting, quilting, and crafting. as well does have some pretty good patterns that are quite easy. And again, don't look only in the "easy" sections but look in the "costume" section as well. There are some really simple patterns there that could be modified and turned into something you can use without becoming to overwhelming. Especially when you get used to the basics.

    Always be careful with patterns because half the time the sizing they say on the outside is not the finished size of the garment. Always check the actual paper pattern (if you end up using a bought paper pattern) for the final sizing. They tend to have a 6" "ease" difference where it is 6" larger then the measurements on the outside. Super annoying when you want a fitted pattern lol. When checking it will usually be on the pattern piece for the front and the back and the finished measurements when sewn will be at the chest area, waist area and hip area if you have a full piece garment.
     

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