Quick to make T-Shirt tunic

In a flurry of energy today I made a T-shirt tunic out of some of my fabric stash. My stash is a pile of fabric that hunkers down in the corner, offering me enticing glimpses of exotic colours, textures and exciting new projects before my guilt makes me go and do the hoovering.

So today I said ‘hang the Hoover, dump the dishes, it’s time to SEW!’. And I did!

This is my variation of The Makers Atelier ‘Boxy T-Shirt’ pattern. I’ve lengthened the whole T-Shirt into a tunic, and made the back a little longer than the front. They advise using stretch interfacing to stabilise the shoulder seams, neck, cuffs and hem, and luckily I had some to hands – that’s the beauty of being a fabric hoarder.

The Makers Atelier patterns are easy sized and they encourage you to be inventive when using their patterns. I cut between the medium and large to get the fit I wanted. I considered altering the pattern by adding bust darts but am now pleased I didn’t bother. In a fabric with less drape that might still be a good idea for the future.

This cotton print Jersey fabric has been tantalising me from the depths of my stash for a few years. It was a remnant, so only just over a metre long and never quite enough for most things I considered. It had been expensive as it’s really good quality fabric so I didn’t want to waste it on something I wasn’t going to be happy with. All of which meant that it’s lain there waiting for its moment.

Now it is finally made-up into this tunic I am very pleased with it; this will be going on holiday with me. The Jersey won’t crease too adult and I can dress it up and ring the changes with linen trousers, Capri pants, leggings and even skirts I think. Plus it will work on the beach. Win-win I think!

It took me about 4 hours to make including cutting out the main fabric and interfacing, (oh and finding the interfacing which I had put somewhere totally illogical). The making was interrupted by the ‘incident of the bloody overlocker’ – when there was a ‘bang’ and the machine light went out. Well yes, I did panic, but it turned out that the bulb had gone ‘pop’ and blown the fuse of the overlocker at the same time. So it was easily repaired thank heavens. I hate it when my machines break.

Finishing off called for the coversew machine. I could have topstitched with a double needle on the sewing machine, but why have a coversew machine if you don’t use it? Threading it up is a bit of a pain but it sews a lovely hem, especially when the fabric is interfaced, so it was worth the bother.

I have a glow of achievement as I sit here blogging.

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Using Clover Wonder Clips when dressmaking

Today I’ve been sewing a jersey dress, and the fabric is a double-sided tubular jacquard which has very fine yarn loops that are easy to pull. When I was cutting it out I found that the pins points were catching the fine knit threads, even breaking one and making a hole so I had to move the whole pattern around – not much fun! I usually weight the pattern pieces and don’t pin, but this fabric is over stretchy for this, hence the pins.

So now I’m sewing-up the dress, I’m testing out using Clover Wonder Clips rather than pins to hold the seams together. These clips have made joining the seams very easy and seem to be a really good addition to my equipment. They have a flat back and a curved jaw with a ridge at the point that grips the fabric securely. The flat side makes it very easy to slide the clip under the fabric without disturbing it. On this flat side they also have measurement lines marked out to help keep a straight seam.

I’ve already used them to hold knitted pieces together when hand sewing them and they work extremely well for this, there are no pins drop out onto the floor for the dog to tread on!

I also used the little ones to clip long yarn tails (I keep them long to use for sewing-up), to both hand and machine knitting whilst I work. Yes I could use binder clips or bulldog clips or clothes pegs for this, and I still do, but I find the Wonder Clips grip more firmly and they look a lot nicer. They’re also not as heavy as the binder clip so don’t drag the knitting down.

Overall I’m really pleased with the way they work, and now have three sizes to work with. Their bright ‘jelly’ colours cheer me up on a grey day!

Sewing towards the Wonder Clips – I’m using a walking foot in my Bernina 1030 in this photo.

Tailor tacking becomes such fun with this gadget

I found this little gadget in a market in Stoke-on-Trent. I guess it’s probably 50 years old or so it still has its instructions and even had a spool of thread in it.

It’s called the ‘Instant Tailor Marker’ and it has a hollow needle. The thread is wound onto a normal sewing machine bobbin (which sits in the round housing at the end of the tool), and is threaded through the hollow needle. To make the tailors tacks you poke the needle through the layers of fabric. The instructions say to use a piece of foam behind the fabric. You push the needle in and out of the fabric and the thread catches in the foam. When you pull the fabric away from the foam it releases the thread, and then when you open the layers of fabric you can snip the tacks between the fabric, et voila tailor tacks all done!

I don’t necessarily use a piece of foam because I don’t always have one to hand and I find if I put my hand behind the fabric and pinch the thread each time, it works just as well.

This afternoon I cut out a dress which needed quite a lot of tailor tacks, (its got a princess seamline and I find tailor tacks help get this sewn smoothly). So I used my Instant Tailor Marker – and I thought I’d share this little gadget with other sewers.

Where I would otherwise have had to hand tailor tack or use my sewing machine – which is of course another option- I could use my Instant Tailor Marker instead.

Using snap on presser feet with a Bernina 1030 – take care with some types of adaptors

I have been using snap-on feet on my Bernina 730 and 1030 machines for years with the aid of a clip-on adaptor screwed onto a low-shank Bernina adaptor. This combination allows me take the adaptor apart and use the low shank adaptor to attach low shank feet, such as a ruffler.

Bernina feet, whilst clearly the best option, are exorbitantly expensive and I can’t justify this cost for some of the more exotic feet that I may only use for part of one project.

Through the years I have also acquired a Bernina clip -on adaptor with a metal lever at the back with which to ‘clip’ the clip-on feet to it, which is also brilliant at the job but obviously lacks versatility as it doesn’t allow for low shank feet to be used.

Recently I bought a set of 48 (? I think), clip-on feet to expand my collection at a reasonable price, and another ‘Bernina style’ clip-on adaptor which has a red plastic lever at the back rather than a metal one. Now for the weird bit.

I used the knit foot and then the cording foot from the new set, both with the combination adaptor, and all was well. Then the next time I sewed, I attached the rolled hemming foot to the machine using the adaptor with the red lever, and the needle smashed into the foot. Not having used this foot before, I thought the foot was a fault, and so, being in a hurry I sewed the hem with the standard foot instead.

Today I attached the knit foot to the machine, and picked up the adaptor with the red lever as it was at the top of the box in which I keep the clip-on feet. Lo and behold, when I started to sew (with a straight stitch), the needle collided with the centre plate of the foot and smashed! I was confused, this foot had worked last time, what was the problem! Having forgotten which adaptor I had used last time I spent some time fiddling around checking what could be wrong with the machine. Then I thought about it a bit more, and realised I’d most likely used the combination adaptor as this is always stored in the actual machine’s own accessory box. I swapped the adaptors, and sure enough, no collision and no broken needle.

A little analysis and test-driving was needed, and after re-checking it seems that the red-lever adaptor positions some clip-on feet too far forward, so that the machine needle hits the centre plate of the foot. I haven’t tested all the clip-on feet with both adaptors yet, but have written big notices one the storage box, machine and accessory box to remind myself to use the combination adaptor with the knit foot and roller hem foot, and to check any others carefully before starting to sew.

A lesson learned!

Point to point linking.mp4

What is a linker?

Making up knitwear can be quite a chore, and using a linker makes it a lot quicker.  Linkers make a chain stitch, which is extensible so will not burst the seam when the fabric is stretched.

Domestic linkers can be operated by hand or have a motor. The most common make in the UK is the Hague linker, which is blue, and made in the UK by Hague. It can used on a table, or mounted on its own stand. When joining large pieces whilst working a table you have to be careful that the pieces don’t drag as the dial revolves as this is likely to effect the stitch formation and make the machine heavy to use. Using a stand means that larger pieces can hang down and revolve with the dial.

Hague type linkers make the stitch on the outside of the dial where the needle is positioned, and the chain on the inside where the looper is situated. A linker is a usually circular, and has a dial of spikes radiating outwards. These are called ‘points’ and as with a knitting machine, the number of points per inch is used to describe the gauge of the linker.

Linkers have large eyed, usually curved, needles and are designed to be used with a similar weight yarn to that in which the garment has been knitted, e.g. a linker with 5 points to the inch will take yarn of similar diameter/count to that used on a domestic knitting machine. The linker in this video has more points per inch than one intended for use with domestic machines; it is probably a 10-12 point model.

Linking different gauges of knitting

Obviously its not possible to have a linker for each of your different machines, or for hand knits, but the good news is that you can use a linker for different gauges of knitting. If the stitches are wider spaced than the points, spread them out so that not every point has a stitch; the chain will carry over the odd empty point. If the stitches are closer together than the points, it is a little more difficult as you have to double them up on the points, and to frequent doubling can lead to a gathered seam, so I wouldn’t recommend using a domestic linker for finer than 8gge knitting.

Before starting, hold the knitting up to the dial (remember that the circumference of the dial is smaller at the inner end of the points, where the stitches are made), and estimate how often you need to add a space, or double-up on a point. Make a note of this, and put the stitches up onto the points with evenly spaced gaps or double stitches.

Linking tips and troubleshooting

If the garment is knitted in a fancy of fluffy yarn, I recommend linking with a smooth, strong yarn of a suitably matching colour instead.

The tension of the chain stitch can be adjusted with a thumb screw, and it is important to use this adjustment to achieve successful linking. Put broadly, over-large and/or missing loops indicate loose tension, and skipping, dragging and stiff operation indicates too tight, but the only way to get it right is to practise on scraps of knitting prior to sewing the garment.

In very rare circumstances the timing of needle and looper can become disrupted, and it is impossible to get the linker to make stitches; the needle may break or bang into the looper, or the looper may be totally out of synch with the needle thrust. Although it is possible to adjust this yourself, unless you are very experienced with the machine and understand how the stitches are formed, I recommend sending the linker to Hague for repair.

Preparing your knitting

When preparing knitting for point-to-point linking the last row of main yarn knitting is not bound off; the stitches are left ‘live’. Before removing the knitting from the machine, 10-20 rows of ‘waste’ yarn are knitted, then the piece is knocked off the machine without binding off. When choosing ‘waste’ yarn, aim for a strong colour contrast in a yarn that is slightly thicker than the main yarn. A thicker yarn will open the last row of stitches, making it easier to insert the points, and a contrast colour helps the operator pick the correct row of stitches to catch onto the points. Try to choose smooth waste yarns; fluffy ones may leave contrast colour fibres when the waste is removed.

More detail about the video example shown above

The video above shows how to point-to-point link a double thickness, folded collar around the neckline of a garment. The collar in this example has been knitted across the needle bed of the knitting machine, with ‘live’ stitches left at both start and finish as follows:

  1. cast on with waste
  2. work 10-20 rows waste
  3. change to main yarn and knit the number of rows required for the collar outer depth e.g. 20 rows
  4. knit a loose tension fold row if you want one
  5. knit a second series of rows equal to the inner depth of the collar, e.g. 20 rows
  6. change to waste yarn
  7. knit 10-20 rows
  8. remove the knitting from the machine

See ‘Preparing your knitting’ for how to work the joining rows between main and waste yarn to facilitate easy linking.

Putting the knitting onto the linker

Before starting to put the collar and garment on the linker, check whether your linker makes the stitches inside or outside the dial, and position the piecs accordingly. In my example, the stitches are on the outside, the loops inside.

Put the open stitches of the inner edge of the collar onto the points as described in the video, (wrong side facing in this example), and then put the garment neck onto the points (right side facing the operator in this example). Finally fold the collar over the top of the garment neck edge, and catch the open stitches onto the points – make sure to align the inner and outer stitches so that the collar is not twisted.

Sew through the three layers, and pull the end back through the last chain to secure the linking. Remove the garment and unravel the waste yarn back to the main stitches. Take care on the last row, and if any stitches have been missed, catch them with a pin or a strand of waste yarn. I find those little safety-pin stitch markers very useful for this on domestic- machine knits.

Hague direct’s website