Monday, November 26, 2018

Resources to Use to Improve Your Sewing Skills                            

Sometimes we need to take a break from sewing to think about how we can improve our sewing skills.  Of course, every time you sew an article is an opportunity to improve, but sometimes you need to make a dedicated effort to improve your skills by learning to use new tools or trying different techniques.  One avenue to explore is to attend a sewing expo if one is offered near you.  For years I attended the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan every fall.  Unfortunately, that show went out of business after the expo in 2016. I enjoy attending sewing expos because it gives you a chance to see vendors from across the United States and sometimes Canada.  You can see new products as well as some other products you may not even know exist.   Sewing expos usually offer a variety of classes that may not normally be available where you live. 

We did not have a sewing expo in Novi in 2017, but we did have one this year.  It was the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo.  It was good to have another sewing expo in Novi, but it was definitely not as large as the other one.  Hopefully, they will return next year with more vendors.  I am thankful that Country Stitches of East Lansing supported the expo and provided machines for many of the classes. 

There was one vendor that really caught my attention.  It was DittoForm from Detroit, Michigan.  The company makes a computer scan of your body and then makes a dress form that is a “ditto” of you.  You can call the company to schedule an appointment for a scan.  The owner will also travel with the equipment to your location if you have a group of people who want a scan.  Our ASG chapter is considering asking her to do a presentation and/or scans for our group.   I would love to have one of these dress forms.  I think it would make fitting so much easier.  I will mention it on this blog if Carol Huls from DittoForm comes to Lansing to do a presentation/scans for us.

A second avenue to explore to improve your sewing skills is online resources.  You can get information and videos for almost any sewing technique by searching on line.  Some sources are better than others.  If I search for a “how to” for a technique, I will look at the information given by several different sources and then go with the one that has the clearest instructions and pictures or videos of the technique.  Several years ago, I searched for information on installing a fly front zipper.  I looked at several different sources and then went with the one that was easiest for me to understand.  I cut small samples for fly fronts and then practiced putting in zippers.  Practicing the technique works.  It gives you confidence that you know how to do it before you try the technique on a garment.

Another good source for online information about sewing is the American Sewing Guild’s website.  You can go to the website if you are not a member, but to get to the valuable sewing techniques information and videos, you must be a member.  Then you can go to the “Members Only” section of the website and get information.  I am guilty of forgetting about this great resource.  I need to make sure I am taking advantage of all the information available in the “Members Only” section of the ASG website.

Threads magazine also has videos and information that is available online only to members of its “Threads Insider” subscription service.  I am sure there are many others available to you if you take the time to do the research.

A third avenue to explore is classes either online or on site.  Local quilt shops and fabric shops offer classes.  Check their schedules for subjects you may want to pursue.  ASG chapters also offer classes occasionally and they usually offer presentations at their meetings that cover techniques and other sewing topics.  Websites such as and some individual instructors offer online classes.  Try searching online for the class of your choice if you can’t find one in your local area.

And a fourth avenue to explore is books and magazines.  Books are available on almost any sewing subject you can imagine.  There are books on learning the basics of sewing, patternmaking, making clothes, sewing crafts, fitting patterns, and many different sewing techniques.  If you can name it, there is probably a book that tells you how to sew it. 

There are several good sewing magazines.  The two I know best are Threads and Sew News.  Both are sold in bookstores and on the rack at JoAnn Fabrics.  Both also sell subscriptions.  I have had a subscription to Threads for many years and it is the one subscription that I will never let expire.   I look forward to each edition and read it from cover to cover.   There is always so much sewing information in that magazine!  I even read the ads.

So, I hope you will take a break from sewing and think about the areas of sewing you wish to improve.  Determine where the resources are you need to use.  Take the time to research the best resource and take advantage of it.  Review the information and practice on a sample. After that, you are ready to plan to sew a garment or other article and put your new skill to work.

I wish you success on whatever project you decide to tackle!


Monday, November 12, 2018

Dave's Shirt  

When I decided to sew a shirt for my husband, I remembered fitting one for him several years ago.  I got distracted and put everything away to sew a different project.  I found the pieces of the shirt already cut and draped over a hanger in the closet.  A plastic envelope with the small pieces and a little extra fabric was attached to the hanger.  I also found the pattern which was Kwik Sew 3883.  It took a while to look at the pattern and pieces to determine what I had done in 2014 when I began the shirt.  It looked like I added a little to the sides to make sure the shirt covered his middle as well as a little to the yoke for his rounded back.  Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of the alterations I made to the pattern. 

I did a trial fitting before going any further.  I basted one piece of the yoke to the back and then basted the fronts to the back at the shoulders and side seams.  The shirt fit fine around his body if I used a quarter inch seam allowance.  There was not enough seam allowance for a French seam.   I would have preferred a larger seam allowance, but could not do anything to rectify that after the fabric was cut.  The ¼ inch seams will be okay for this test shirt.  I can change the seam allowances for the next one.  Then I will make a copy of the pattern with tag board.    I finished the side seams using my serger. 

The shirt I cut had a 16 ½ inch neck.  I may increase the next shirt to a 17 ½ inch neck.  I will see how it feels and looks when he wears the shirt and then make that decision. 

The instructions in Kwik Sew #3883 were clear and easy to understand.  I sewed the shirt exactly as indicated in the instructions.  I have learned a few shirt techniques from classes over the years, but I could not use them for this shirt because the pieces were already cut and I did not have enough fabric to re-cut the pieces.  I can apply some of those techniques with the next shirt I sew.  A picture of the shirt is shown below.

If you haven’t sewn a shirt yet, I hope you will try one.  You may want to make one for yourself first and then try making one for someone else.  It is important to get the pattern to fit before you cut your material.  Check your measurements first and then measure the pattern to see what changes you may need to make.  Remember to leave room for ease of movement.  There are lots of good books to help with fitting.  I suggest any of the three listed below:

Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto
The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen
Threads Fitting for Every Figure by the editors of Threads magazine

I also recommend Shirtmaking by David Coffin.  This book shows lots of great techniques to use when sewing a shirt. 

If you are fortunate enough to live near someone who is a good teacher of shirtmaking, I suggest you take a class.  I know two people who are really good.  One is Steven Pauling in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The other is Bill Voetberg in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  He usually teaches at Lakeshore Sewing.

Good luck with whatever project you choose to sew.  Keep trying new techniques and improving your skills.