Thursday, 15 July 2010

Two very good things


In the absence of anything finished to show you, as I've been working on writing up another pattern all week (not the lined skirt...but that will be coming!), I thought I'd share two things that possibly give me far more delight than is healthy. But there's something intensely pleasing about making something simpler than it might otherwise be. The first is creating hems. When I first used to hem things I'd very carefully measure all the way around, marking the seam allowance at frequent intervals and then pinning it all up carefully...a process that seemed to take a long time and rarely gave completely perfect results. But about a year ago I discovered that by taking a piece of A4 card and ruling lines across it at 1/4" intervals, I could then simply turn the bottom of the fabric up to rest on the line, with the card resting neatly against the inside fold, and create a perfect, even turn up. This process is then repeated with another turn so that there's no raw edge. Perhaps I have arrived at this late and everyone else always has always done it this way (I feel fascinated by people's methods. I once watched someone else thread up a machine and was intrigued to see that she pulled her bobbin thread up with the presser foot down...it had never occurred to me to it that way, but now occasionally I do and think fondly of her), but I wanted to share the fabulousness of this method just in case there are a few who are yet to discover it.


The second thing that I only learnt of only this year is top-stitching thread. Whenever I shortened jeans in the past (which is often, being petite) I'd look at the lovely line of thick top-stitching at the hem that I was cutting off and feel traumatised by the insubstantial line of thin-threaded top stitching that I would replace it with. Sometimes I would use the triple stitch on my machine (where each stitch is sewed three times), but this didn't look quite right either. I imagined that jeans-making factories had large and wonderful industrial machines that produced this illusive Super-Stitch and longed to have one installed in my garage. So you can imagine how much self-restraint it took to not become completely jittery when I saw something called a 'top-stitching needle' in my local sewing shop. I studied it and saw that it had a much larger eye than usual and my heart began to flutter with the feeling of hope at the thought that this might mean that thicker stitches were a real possibility. (Yes, occasionally I have to admit to feeling akin to a Twitcher having seen a particularly rare bird in the distance, and am sure that I become temporarily bearded and macintoshed and breath thickly through the coarse hairs that curl around my lips).

I sidled around to the work station once I had recomposed myself (Mac and beard mostly out of sight) where the man was busily repairing sewing machines and tried to sound calm as I asked what exactly the needles might be for and what type of thread might be used in them. Jeans. Top-stitching thread. Spool of regular sewing machine. These were all terms that were uttered casually in reply, with no awareness as to the gravity of his words or the effect that they might be having on the listener (Don't worry. I did not kiss him).


So yes, there's this lovely thing called Top Stitching thread. It comes in a limited number of colours, and many of them are different shades of what I think of as jeans-stitching colours. You will need a top-stitching needle to use it. It will mean that you can shorten jeans and then walk around feeling like your jeans might actually have been intended to be just that length...as though it is perfectly normal to have legs that are only 2" long. Tall people can have fun too: you can top-stitch bags and other things and it will look good. Very good. Like you have a big industrial machine in your garage that does special thick stitching.

31 comments:

  1. Florence, I think your tip about hems may just have changed my life!!! Its genius and so simple!

    Thanks so much for sharing - I'm off to find something to hem now!

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  2. Sorry- me again! I hope you don't mind that I've posted about your hemming tip on my blog and have used the photo from your post- I've made sure it's clear that it's from your blog, but let me know if you'd prefer me not to use it.
    Thanks!
    Verity

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  3. Verity - I'm so delighted that you love it too! Yes, that's completely fine with the photo and link - thank you.

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  4. I am new to clothes making & your tip about hems is wonderful - its been taking me ages to do the hems on the few items I have made & this will certainly speed things up - thank you so much for sharing xxxx

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  5. Thanks Florence - both brilliant tips!

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  6. genius!
    great idea..i struggle to get a straight hem....
    will link at some point over at Patch too if ok...

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  7. Great tips- I rememeber finding out about top stitch thread, it's only for jeans tha tI use it but makes the difference

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  8. Oh, goodness. This is like a double bonus for the day. I saw a plastic - could be some other durable thingy - hemline guide similar to yours in a Japanese magazine and thougtht what a brilliant idea. It sure beats all the pins I use. I am off to find an index card. As to the top stitching, you just made my day. At 5 ft 2 inches, I am always altering my jeans. Thank you.
    p.s. I might, once I figure out how, do what Verity has done with a link to yours.

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  9. Goodness! Two life changing sewing tips in one post - thank-you soooooo much!
    Jenn (5'3"!)

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  10. I think the hem idea is brilliant Florence! Thank you for changing possibly the most boring task in sewing into something bearable. Top stitching thread is wonderful though I have yet to use it. x

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  11. I have another great tip for hemming jeans for you....I too found the joys of top stitching thread a few years ago, but was still disappointed with the end result as the jeans companies seem better than me (how weird) at distressing the hem edge so it doesn't look too 'neat'. In order to keep this distressed edge and the manufacturers stitching, from the wrong side I take up the excess jeans fabric from above the stitching line and press it flat on the inside of the jeans. Does this make sense? The finished result is brilliant!

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  12. The hemming tip is genius, simple and effective- Thank you.
    I use the same method as Little Black Duck to shorten jeans for my shorty legs, if only I were taller! It is described well in this tutorial for people without top stitching thread. www.red2white.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/shortening-jeans-while-keeping-the-original-hem/

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  13. I sound like everyone else here but thank you for hemming tip #1. Being a fellow shorty, I also have to shorten all my jeans and have used special top stitching thread in the past but was never quite happy with the look. Now I use the same method as littleblackduck dog which is ridiculously easy!

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  14. Did I say dog? I meant blog!

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  15. That 'twitcher' moment you described - I just had one. I too am short (5'2") with short legs. I will be hunting out he elusive top-stitching needle and thread myself. Thank You bringing it to my attention.

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  16. I have loved reading these responses - I have been delighted by the signing off with name and height (the latter revealed in a slightly confessional way)....I am still the shortest though.

    Thank you so much for the other wonderful hemming technique tips and the link.

    Florence (5 ft 1" and a half). x

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  17. I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to comment here as I'm 5'7"! BUT I have terribly short legs so do have to shorten jeans sometimes, honestly!
    Your tip for hemming is just fantastic. I'm not the most patient person and so I hate hemming (it doesn't help that I dislike ironing too). Your tip will be so useful and should really improve the neatness of my hems from now on. Thanks, Juliex

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  18. Fantastic tips! I'm so glad you've shared them. :)

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  19. My good nosee Florence I understood your greatness but that hemming tip is genius!

    I've half a mind to run down stairs at once and create my own hem sheet! In fact I might create it as a pdf then I can share with others

    Brilliant post, thank you.

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  20. That first line was supposed to read 'Oh my goodness.' I blame the last hour, goodnight!

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  21. I love that we're all singing from the same hemsheet. Ouch, sorry, couldn't resist!

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  22. This is brilliant! And may also solve my own little conundrum ...I've been adding appliques to all sorts of things, but I've been disappointed in the way the stitching looks. I like the heavier stitch line (similar to the appliques on stuff we get from Boden!) but had no idea how to achieve that look. Maybe topstitch thread is the answer! Thank you!!!

    and I'm 5'10", but always love a good sewing tip! Ya never know!! ;)

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  23. Ooh v. good tip about using card to do the hem, I hadn't thought of that.

    I'm also very small so that topstitching trick will be useful for me too!

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  24. Thanks for the tip about hemming I shall certainly be giving it a try.

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  25. Thank you for solving the mystery of topstitch thread. I was browsing through the threads in my local fabric shop recently when the owner pointed out that the few threads on the right were for top stitch only. I nodded sagely but didn't have a clue what she was talking about. Now I do thanks to you, and will definitely be buying some ( I too belong to the 5' 2" brigade!) xx

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  26. Wow, thank you! I've been sewing for 10 years or so, but it never occurred to me to do hems that way...! How could I not have thought of that??? Thank you! :)

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  27. ok that pressing board is brilliant. i can't believe no one has marketed such a thing yet. I will be making one pronto.

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  28. You may be interested in this method of hemming jeans - great for when there is fading or bleaching on the hem which you don't want to lose.
    http://www.daciaray.com/?p=38
    Take a look and see what you think

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  29. Ooh! This is good news! I am so going to get the needle and the cotton. Thanks for sharing.

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  30. thanks for explaining this, I always wondered why there would be a topstitching needle!

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  31. You are a star! I laughed to myself the other night whilst making a 40" handbag strap in a matter of minutes. Funny how something so obvious has escaped us all for so long. Must be because we are all exceptionally bright and unable to spot the simple things!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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