Friday, August 19, 2011

Sewing Lessons 101~ How To Repair A Blind Hem

If you aren't familiar with the term 'blind hem' it is also known as an invisible hem or hand hem.  These days most of our clothing is factory made and hems that are made this way are typically done using a blind hemmer.  I have used these when I was working in a tailor shop and they are a dream.  A pant hem can be completed in under a minute.  That's FAST!  The stitches are made using a single thread and the completed process creates a chain stitch that is secure but invisible on the right side of the fabric.  If you possess a blind hemmer you don't need this tutorial, but for the rest of us here is how to repair a blind hem that has come out OR stitch an entire hem by hand if you don't want to topstitch your hem on a sewing machine.  

For the sake of practicality I will treat this as a repair.  *please note that the photos will follow the instructions.

To start, select the color of thread that is closest to the color of your garment.  That way should you make a stitch a bit bigger and it shows through to the right side it will be camouflaged in the fabric.  Select a sewing needle that is on the smaller side.  A smaller needle will make it easier for you to make a smaller stitch.  And lastly always, ALWAYS sew your hand hems using a single thread.  Most of us were taught to thread the needle and pull the tails even and make a knot.  If that is how you were taught to hem I want you to unlearn that system.  Why?  First, 2 threads, especially when knotted tend to twist as you are stitching and they can bunch up and knot.  Second, 2 threads are bulky and you want the stitch to be invisible.  Thread these days is very strong and yes, one thread will adequately hold your hem together.  Trust me on this.  I had a tailoring business for decades and have done hundreds of hems this way.  So thread up your needle and pull the thread through but leave one tail longer than the other.  And do NOT make a knot.  Why?  A knot can show through on the right side especially if the fabric is sheer or silky.

Here is how to secure your thread to your hem.  (If you are repairing a hem that is only partially open, make sure to secure your thread an inch or so into the area that is still hemmed so as to secure any stitching 'ends' of the original hem.  Once you sew the loose part, continue to stitch another 1" into the other side of the original hem.  Make sense?  If not, contact me.)  
Insert the needle into the hem from the underside of the hem allowance no more than a quarter of an inch down from the top.  Leave a tail of about 1".  Re-insert the needle into the same hole and pull ALMOST all the way through.  Before you tighten that stitch down, feed the needle into the loop you have created and THEN pull all the way through.  Repeat this once more and your thread will be secured to the hem allowance without a bulky knot.  You can trim the tail off or tuck it into the hem.  

After securing your thread, insert the needle about 1/2" to the right of the knot right below the serging.  *Most garments these days have serged edges but some skirts will have hem tape or some other kind of finishing edge.  If your hem has nothing or a wide hem tape etc, make your stitches no deeper than 1/2".  Insert your needle from right to left making a stitch no bigger than 1/4" and ONLY going through the hem allowance.  You don't want this stitch to go through to the front of the fabric. 

Next pull the thread all the way through so it lays flat on the hem.  To make the next stitch, insert the needle about 1/2" to the right immediately ABOVE the serging being careful to only pick up a couple of the threads of the fabric.  This is what will make the hem blind.  If you 'dig' too deep with the needle the thread will show through.  Picking up 2 or 3 threads on the back of the fabric Will secure the hem.  Pull the thread all the way through so the thread lays nice and flat on the hem.  Don't pull too tight or the hem will bunch.  Then repeat these stitches all the way across.  

Once you complete the stitching reinsert the needle into the last stitch to make a loop, without picking up the front of the fabric.  Insert your needle into the loop and pull tight to make a knot.  Do this a second time to secure and clip off the thread.  

Here is what your hem should look like.  Note that I used heavy weight black thread on my fabric and by just picking up 2 threads on the underside the hem barely shows.  Had I used the same color as the fabric it would have been totally undetectable.

This is a fast and easy repair.  It is secure and by using the "X stitch" configuration it allows the hem to have an 'ease' to it making it look smooth and professional.  

Hope this helps you out the next time one of your hems lets loose.  With just a few neatly made, well placed stitches you can be up and running.

I am thinking for my next tutorial I will show you a few different ways to repair tears and split seams.  There are so many things that can cause us to have 'wardrobe malfunctions' and I have repaired just about everything that can go wrong from T-shirt seam allowances, to corner tears in shirts, to snags/holes in knits.  I will compile some of the most common problems and let you know how I have repaired these things through the years. 

Til next time~  :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Sewing Lesson~ How To sew A Jean Hem

If you have a sewing machine and a few basic tools it is very easy to hem those jeans that are too long and residing in your closet waiting to be worn.  You can save yourself time and cash doing this yourself and you won't even need someone to pin them for you if you follow these instructions.  BUT before diving into your newly acquired skill, go NOW and pre-wash/dry those pants IF you haven't yet done so.  New jeans will shrink as will most clothing made from cotton.  I advise ALWAYS pre-washing ANYTHING new (or as yet un-laundered)  that is going to be altered in any way, but especially pants.  Why?  Because how bad will you feel if you hem those pants and THEN wash them to find they have shrunk so much that now they are no longer too long, but too short?!?!  Pre-washing.  Veeerrrrrry Important!  

Now that we have the laundering issue covered, here is what you will need to hem your pants;

Sewing machine
Ironing board and iron
Straight pins (2)
Seam ripper
Marking chalk 

As with all my tutorials, I will write the descriptions immediately ABOVE the corresponding photos. 

Put your pants on and the shoes (or height of shoe) that you intend to wear with them.  *Why would this matter?  Because if you plan to wear the pants with a flip flop but pin the pants while wearing a high heel or bulky boot, the length WILL be different once you slip into the flip flops.  Wearing the right shoe makes for a more accurate fitting.  IF you plan to wear the pants with lots of different shoes then try on different types and figure out the best length.

Also, check to make sure that the pants are located at the waist where you want them.  Usually with jeans the fit is natural but some other types of pants can settle higher or lower at the waist.  Just make sure they are positioned where you will actually be wearing them.  

Stand facing a mirror so you can see your feet easily.  Turn UNDER (to the inside) the excess length that you want hemmed and pin it with a straight pin.  Stand up and recheck to make sure it is the length you want.  This usually takes a couple tries to get it right as the length will shift as you bend over.  Keep at it until you are pleased with the length.  All you need is ONE pin at the center front.  

To pin the back, do the same as above.  You only need ONE pin on the back too.  Do not worry about the sides.  They will take care of themselves at the ironing board.

Generally the back of the hem should be a bit longer than the front.  Not a lot.  Maybe 1/4" to 3/8".  A general rule of thumb is that the back hem should hit the top of the heel but if your shoes are very flat such as a sandal OR if you are wearing heels you may have different ideas about what is right for you.  If wearing sandals or ballet flats you probably won't want your pants to drag.  If wearing heels you might want to consider going longer as it creates the look of a longer leg and who doesn't want that?  Bottom line-  Do Whatever You Want.  You will be the one to wear the pants so pin them where you want them.  :)

Here I have one hem pinned and one still the original length.  At 5'3" I hem a lotta pants!

You only need to pin ONE leg UNLESS your legs are two different lengths.  If that is the case then you will have to pin both legs.  Don't pin them both unless you have to as it is HARD to get them perfectly even.  Especially when pinning them yourself.  It is much easier to line them up on the ironing board and mark them than to try to pin them the same.  *years and years of experience talking here...

(Before continuing I want to insert here that after I pin the one leg, I almost always rip out the existing hem stitching before heading to the ironing board.  I use a seam ripper to remove the original stitching.  The exception to this is when the pants are extra long and the existing hem doesn't interfere with the area of the new hem allowance. )


Once you are satisfied with your pinning and have removed the original hem if need be, lay your pants on the ironing board and line the inseam up with the outseam at the hem so they lay nice and neat.  You can gently tug where the pins are at the front and back to pull the sides of the hem straight. 

Next, remove the pins and press the hem in place.  Flip it over and press the other side.  You want the fold line to be very defined as this is your finished length and you will be using it to measure off the hem allowance.

Next, lay the unpressed leg on the ironing board (outseam-side DOWN on the board) and line the inseam up on top of the outseam.  This helps to smooth the leg so that it lays flat as well as helping to line up the seams at the hem.

Lay the other pant leg on top of the leg on the board and line up all the seams so that the top leg is laying neatly on the bottom leg.  *Also make sure to line up the 2 "layers" of the waistband so that it is even at the top of the pants.  This is important since you will be marking the length of the unpressed leg by using the pressed one, and you want the waistband edges to be aligned with each other so nothing is 'off'.*     

Once you have the legs laid neatly together with all the seams lined up, use the newly pressed-in hem as a guide and mark the unpressed leg.  The newly drawn hemline below is the one closest to the chalk.  The other 'white' line is the old hemline which is lighter due to the manufacturing process.  Ignore it.

Once you have marked the hem, fold the excess under to the inside.  As with the first leg, tugging at the front and back will straighten the sides of the hem at the seams.  Press both sides well.  

Once you have both hems pressed, pull the excess hem allowance out from the inside and press well to flatten the creases from the original hem.  Using a ruler, measure FROM THE PRESSED HEM DOWN INTO THE HEM EXTENSION and mark at 1 1/4" all the way around the pant leg.  Do this for both legs.    *  Yup.  I know my ruler is upside down.  It's how I roll.   ;)

Next, cut on the line you just drew.  Do Not cut on the fold line or you will have a raw edge where you want your finished hem to be.  Cut off the excess material following the cutting line you just created.  This is how it will look.  *this is a good photo to point out that the lines you see in the hem extensions are the original stitching lines.  Note how uneven the bottom leg is.  This is WHY we always mark the unpinned leg using the pinned leg.  Pant legs are often uneven or different lengths, even on the same pair.  Experience speaking again.

Next, fold the cut edge to the inside to meet the hem crease and press.  Do this all the way around on both legs.

Then, fold again so the raw edge is neatly tucked into the hem crease and press the hem.  

Once you have pressed the hem all the way around you are ready to sew.  But before doing that there are some considerations to this I would like to shed some light on.  The pants in my example here are lightweight fabric.  Most jeans are heavier and require some extra attention.  When stitching through regular denim or other heavyweight fabric set your stitch length to the longest length on your machine and use a large needle.  I like #16 or #18 needles for heavy fabrics.  This will help accommodate the extra bulk.  Another tip when sewing jeans is to take a hammer and pound the thick parts of the seams.  The flat felled seams are especially thick and pounding them with a hammer will break down the fibers so the needle can sew through it easier.  I also suggest using the handwheel on your machine to 'walk' the needle through these thick areas.  It will save replacing broken needles.  Start stitching at the inseam side of the pants so that the overlapping stitches of where you begin and end will be hidden at the inside of the hem.  It will also help you to start and end, off to one side of the inseam as opposed to on top of it because of the bulkiness. 

The last step is to press your newly finished hems.  

I hope this helps you hem those pants you aren't wearing due to the long length.  It is easy to do and doesn't take much time.  One of the nice things about being able to do your own alterations is that you can consider buying clothing that doesn't quite fit and make it fit perfectly without extra expense.  Think of all those marked down pants on sales racks you passed up because they were 6 inches too long.  Now you can buy them up and hem them for free.  Just make sure you pre-wash/dry them first.  :)  


Thursday, June 9, 2011

How To Replace A Broken/Missing Jacket Zipper Pull

In my last post I let you know that I would be posting a how-to for replacing a broken or missing zipper pull.  This is the perfect time of year to do this and it will save us from the 'reward' of our procrastination in November when we pull out the winter coats.  The last thing we want to discover is that the zipper pull that fell off last winter is STILL off.  Of course, this tutorial will apply to hoodies, zip up sweaters, blazers, etc.  Any separating zipper such as this can be repaired this way.  For NON-separating zips such as used in pants, skirts, dresses, jeans etc, that is a different system which I will share with you in future lessons.  

For replacing your zipper pull you will need to have some items on hand.  As far as tools you will need a pair of scissors and a wire cutter/nipper.  You will also need a replacement pull that is the same size as the one on your jacket and in most cases, a new zipper top-stop.  Of course you are asking "Where in the world do I find all this stuff????"  Most fabric stores/sewing centers will offer a zipper repair kit that will have a few different sizes of pulls as well as an assortment of zipper top/bottom stops.  If you aren't near a fabric store you will easily be able to find something online.  Keywords that will work-  zipper repair kits, zipper pulls, zipper top/bottom stop.  

To determine the correct size of the pull look on the back side. (of the pull itself)   MOST of the time there will be a number imprinted on it.  Standard fall/winter weight jackets are typically #5 but some are bigger and some are smaller.  The bigger the number, the bigger the pull because the teeth on the zip are bigger.  Another thing to know is that there are 3 types of zipper teeth and that will come into play in regard to the pull.  Some zipper teeth are plastic, some are metal and some are a plastic 'coil'.  Coil teeth are usually on lighter weight jackets and sweaters.  

For this tutorial I am replacing a pull on my husbands work jacket.  Sorry that the photos are so light-flooded!  I wanted to get close up shots so you can see detail.

***The written directions are above the corresponding photos.  

To remove the broken pull OR to replace a missing one you must first remove the zipper top-stop at the top of the zipper tape.  (The tape is the fabric strip the teeth are attached to.)  You only need to remove the top stop from the side of the zipper that the pull is on.  Top stops are made from either plastic or metal.  In this case it is plastic and using the wire cutters, I simply pulled it off.  Plastic top stops cannot be reused as they are molded on in production.  Some metal stops can be reused if you can remove them without destroying them.  Try it and see.  For the metal ones, the stops will come off easier if you can get the edge of the wire cutter under the edge of the stop and wedge it open.  If you Can do that you will likely be able to use the stop again.  If the stop is stubborn and refuses to let loose, then get it off any way you can and use a new one.  You absolutely have to replace the top stop or you will risk the loss of your puller if you pull it up too far. 

Once you have removed the top stop, take a sharp scissors and as close to the JACKET as possible (right near where the zipper tape meets the fabric of the jacket, in this case near that wear spot above) make a small crosswise clip through the front edge, or the 'roll' of the zip tape.  You don't need to cut deeply into the tape as you just want to make it easier to feed the old zip off and the new one one.  Don't worry about destroying anything.  Once the new top stop is applied, all will be well.  

Next, pull off the old pull.  (Unless a pull is hopelessly broken, I always save them.  Through the years I have collected a large stash of pulls from jackets, tops, dresses, jeans, purses, etc.  * No, I don't collect them for fun.  I ran an alterations/custom sewing biz for lots of years.  :)

Next, apply the new pull onto the zipper tape.  *Take note; if you are replacing a MISSING pull, MAKE SURE to apply the new pull to the side of the zipper that has the 'box' at the bottom of it.  Both side of jacket zips have distinctive bottoms.  On one side is the tab.  The other side is the box.  When we zip our jackets we slip the tab side into the zipper pull which is pushed all the way down on the box side.  In order for the zip to work, the pull MUST be applied to the box side.  *How do I know to tell you these things????  Because I have done it the wrong way enough times to want to spare you my mistakes.  :)

Now that the new puller is in place you need to test it to make sure it will work.  Do not apply the zipper stop before testing the fit.  Sometimes, especially when a jacket is old and the teeth are worn down, a particular pull- even of the same size-  may not fit.  Check it NOW before you squeeze on the new top stop.  To check the fit of the new pull simply close up the zipper and run it up and down a few times.  If the fit it tight you will need a bigger puller OR if when you are zipping it closed you find one side of the teeth separating from the other, then the puller is too big.  Try different pulls til you find one that fits.  Once you know the new pull is working then you can apply the new top stop.  Here is what a large one looks like:

The metal ones come in both silver and brass as well in different sizes.  Use whichever is appropriate for the jacket.  
Next place the top stop on the zipper tape, right above the top tooth.  Using the wire cutters or a pair of pliers, squeeze the stop tightly so that it is grabbing the tape securely.  


Take note that I have replaced the bad pull with a grey one but that is just to make it easy for you to see.  As often as possible you will want to replace the bad one with the same color but for a work or play jacket even if the puller isn't exactly the same color, it is sometimes enough just to be able to have the zipper work.  I have saved a lot of money through the years for my family and my customers by replacing a zipper pull.  It is much cheaper than buying a whole new jacket.  

There ARE times though that a new puller won't help.  Here is how to determine if you zipper is beyond help.  Certain elements MUST be present and in good working order in order for a new puller to be the answer.

1.  ALL the teeth must be intact and tight fitting to the zipper tape.  Even one missing tooth will require an entire new zipper to be put in.  
2.  The box and the tab at the bottom of the two sides of the zipper must be intact and secure.  If EITHER of these is broken, missing or compromised the zipper will need to be replaced.

3.  If there is a tear/cut into the zipper tape between the teeth the zipper will have to be replaced.  

If upon inspection none of the above problems exist then a new puller will likely solve the problem.  But I have found on occasion that if the jacket has been worn a lot that the the teeth get worn down and no puller will work.  Again, that would require a complete zipper replacement.  But usually by the time that happens you will be ready for a new jacket anyway.  

Hope this helps you in your quest to restore that beloved jacket.  Zipper pull repair is an easy and inexpensive way to prolong the life of a jacket or other garment.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I will be happy to help.  :)


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fabric Cleaning Guide

As I posted yesterday in my "how to determine a fabric" guide, I am following up today with how to properly clean different fabrics.  But before stepping into that I want to add to yesterday's post by stating that it can sometimes be difficult to determine a fabric if it is a blend.  There are LOTS of blends on the market and something that looks like one thing can be a completely different kind.  And even attempting to figure it out via the Burn Test (see previous post) can leave us with very ambiguous results.  Now that you are confused by all that uncertainty I will simply say to go with your best guess.  After all, aren't most of us going to just wash the item anyway?  It IS nice to figure out whether to wash warm or cold and if we should use the dryer or line dry, but it has been my experience that if something requires a lot of fuss I will usually just take a chance and machine wash/line dry.  Of course there are exceptions;  Wool being the main one.  But more on that in a minute.  

Here are the cleaning suggestions for common fabrics:

Acetate-  Dry Clean Only.  *I have experience with this.  If you want it to shrink a lot and have a real weird appearance, feel free to wash and dry.  Otherwise DC Only!

Acrylic-  Machine wash warm or cold, and either use fabric softener or a dryer sheet in the dryer.  Dry on low.  And that thing about using softener or a dryer sheet---  yeah, do that, or you will have nothing but a ball of static when it comes out of the dryer.  I know this from experience too.  Another thing, remove from the dryer as SOON as it is done as it will wrinkle wrinkle wrinkle.  And it isn't fun to iron.  But if you have to, us a 'cool' iron as it doesn't like too much heat.  Or use a press cloth.  

Cotton-  What a fabric huh?  What would we do without the most commonly worn fabric on the planet?  One of the best things about it is that it is so easy to take care of.  Machine wash/ dry.  I do occasionally hand wash something that is embellished or somehow fancied up, but for the most part, cotton is best cleaned using our laundry equipment. 

Linen-  I break every linen rule that was ever made.  And with great results per my preference.  BUT if you want linen to keep its crisp appearance, dry clean only.  For the rest of us, machine wash either cold or warm (I wash on warm) and line dry.  Then I iron which sometimes requires misting the fabric with water to get the wrinkles to relax.  Once I put on a linen garment I WELCOME the created-from-wearing wrinkles as I love that about linen.  It is casual and relaxed but still classic.  It is comfortable and one of my favorite fabrics.  FYI, if you purchase a linen item from my website, I will have prewashed the fabric prior to creating the garment.  No worries about shrinkage.  Another nice thing about linen is the more you wash it, the drapier and softer it becomes.  Again, want it crisp?  DC Only.

Polyester-  Polys tend to be cast iron when it comes to cleaning.  All polyesters can be DC'd but why would you since they are easy to launder in most cases.  Typically if a poly SHOULD be DC'd it will tell you on the label.  If there isn't one you can be fairly certain it will be fine to launder it but you will want to use fabric softener or a dryer sheet as it tends towards static.  This is especially true of
Poly Fleece-  Soft.  Warm.  Easy to work with.  Makes divine warm weather wear and blankets.  But YIKES!  If you wash and dry without softener or dryer sheet you will generate enough electricity to impress Ben Franklin!   We are talking serious zappage!  *enter lightning and thunder crack >HERE

Rayon-  This is a really great fabric as it drapes beautifully and wears really well.  BUT.  My experience with rayon in regard to cleaning has been challenging.  DC-ing is usually recommended but I don't like doing that to anything but wool.  What I have found with rayon is that it will USUALLY do fine being washed in cold, and drying by either laying it flat OR on a hanger.  I have done both.  I have also had a real bad rayon failure by choosing to wash it.  I had a dress shrink very badly one time.  I bet it reduced by almost 1/3 of the original size.  And that was by hand washing in cold.  I could feel the fabric of the dress 'densify' as I moved it around in the water.  The dress was ruined.  Don't be scared.  That happened a long time ago and I have never had that experience with rayon again, but I still recommend (if you don't want to DC) hand washing and line drying.  But read your labels and use common sense.

Silk-  I break all the rules about silk too.  I always prewash my silk yardage when I get it.  Once silk is washed it shrinks all it's going to shrink.  This allows for my buyers to wash the garments they buy from me and not fuss with DC-ing.  BUT most garments off the rack will not have been prewashed.  If they have been, the labeling with reflect that;  "Washable Silk" or some such verbiage.  I typically hand wash any silk items I have purchased and have had great results.  Read the labels and use common sense.

Triacetates-  I have read that these can be laundered but I have never had success doing that.  Although it HAS been a lot of years, so they might be better now than they used to be....  My suggestion is to do EXACTLY what your label tells you to do.  If you don't have a label and are wondering which way to go I need to be straight with you and tell you...  I have NO idea.  I don't buy them as either fabric or garments and my 25-year-ago attempt to launder was disastrous.  Sorry.  I am guessing not too many of you are buying triacetate garments anyway, but they do use it for coat and jacket linings so you could run into it there.

Wool-  Dry Clean Only.  Period.  Unless your label says you CAN wash it.  Often times, wool blends CAN be laundered as the percentage of wool is so slight it won't make a difference.  But for anything where the majority of the fabric content is wool then be wise and DC.  One nice thing about wool is that it releases odors easily.  If you have worn your wool item somewhere that it has picked up odors, then hang it in an open area for a few days to let it air out.  Also, if you have spilled something on it you may be able to spot clean it without paying to DC the whole thing.  Check with your cleaner to see if he can remove the spot.  Or be brave and try it at home.  I have done this with a damp cloth and have had success.  Again, common sense rules. 

Hope this helps to clarify as to how to clean some of those items in your closet.  I like to keep things simple so if a fabric is too fussy I will USUALLY try to wash the thing and if it survives, great, it will live to see another wearing.  If not, oh well.  Simplicity is the rule at my house.  I would rather save the DC-ing for my wools and keep the chemicals out of my house.  
ON THAT NOTE:  when you do DC it is always wise to remove the bag and let the item air out several days before wearing, if possible.  

Cheers!  :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Another Sewing Tip

There is lots of stuff happening in my work room this week with a focus on more bridal accessories for the website as well as some simple summer top designs.  Eventually full blown summer WILL arrive her in SE Wisconsin and I want to be prepared with some cool comfortable tank tops.  Watch for all this new stuff to arrive soon to my site.  
While I work on all that other stuff I thought I would add another sewing tip.  I got to thinking about what a nuisance it is when we have clothing without laundering labels.  In most cases it is pretty easy to figure out how to clean an article of clothing but once in a while we can get tripped up as some fabrics are really hard to figure out.  Is it cotton or a blend?  Is this item silk or a polyester version?  Is this wool or a good fake?  It's pretty easy to destroy a favorite garment if we guess the wrong answer to these questions.  

Here is a way to figure this out.  It's called the Burn Test.
***This involves matches and fire so have a bowl of water available just in case you have to quickly dowse a flame!!!! 
Clip a small piece of the fabric from an inconspicuous area such as the hem or seam allowance if it is large enough.
Using tweezers or tongs or any fireproof item that keeps the flame away from your hand and anything else, hold a lighted match or lighter to the edge of the clipped fabric and watch how it burns.

Different fabrics burn a bit differently.  

Natural plant fabrics: 
Cotton and Linen burn easily and are easy to extinguish.  The ash crumbles easily like paper.

Natural animal fabrics:
Silk burns easily.  Wool is reluctant to burn and will usually go out on its own.  Both smell like burning hair and the ash is crumbly.

Manmade fabrics:

Polyester, Nylon and Acrylics (made from petro chemicals) burn easily and leave a black melted glob when extinguished and cooled.  Think melted plastic and they smell like it too.

Rayon and Acetate (made from the soft parts of plants) burns easily but are hard to blow out.  Rayon smells a bit like burning wood.  Neither create much ash.  

Now that you know how to distinguish between different unknown fabric types you will know better how to clean them.  Just make sure not to clip too big an area out of your garment or your next lesson will have to be about repairing them.  Use common sense here and have that bowl of water handy and all will be well. 

Next time I will list the proper care for your different kinds of fabrics.  Proper laundering/cleaning will extend the life of your garment.  Till then~

Cheers!!  :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sewing Lessons 101~ How To Sew A Button

While sewing a button may seem like a no brainer, there are different ways of doing it.  Some methods bring better results than others so I thought I would share the way I do it.  I tend to fine tune any process down to the bare bones that will get the best results with the most efficient effort.  Hope this helps you if you have been wondering about the How-To of button sewing.  

*As you can see below, I shot the images using a large thread, needle and button for clarity.  
 *The written descriptions coincide with the image below it.

 From the spool, pull off more thread than you need as it makes it easier to work with.  BUT don't pull off so much that you create problems for yourself.  In this case I cut off about 2 feet.  Once cut, thread the needle and pull the ends of the threads even.  DO NOT MAKE A KNOT.  I know that is the usual thing to do but by NOT knotting the threads it reduces the bump created by the knot.  The end result lays more flat and has a more professional look.  And NO.  The button will not come loose.  I will show you why later.  

Next, position the button in the correct location and insert the needle from behind into one of the holes in the button leaving a tail thread of at least 2".  

Once the thread is through to the front it is helpful to pin a straight pin directly under the holes in the button in a crosswise fashion.  Why?  This creates space for a shank which raises the button away from the fabric making room for the buttonhole to 'settle' in around it.  If the button is too tight against the fabric the buttonhole tends to spread apart and not lay flat.  

Next, making sure the button is positioned correctly on the front side, insert needle into the 2nd hole (from the top) and push through to the back.  Be sure to hold the button in place and pull the threads taut without pulling the tail through to the front.
Insert the needle into the same hole as the first stitch and bring up into the first hole in the button.  Pull the thread in the back all the way through to the front, checking to make sure it is laying flat on the back side.  Insert the needle (from the front) in the 2nd hole again and repeat, again pulling the thread all the way through and checking for neatness.  Repeat these steps several times until button is secured.  I like to sew through at least 8 to 10 times, however the thickness of the fabric, the thread type and different buttons will dictate what process is best.  Use your best judgment to determine this.

Once the button has been sewn, remove the straight pin and bring the needle from the back side into the stitching UNDER the button but on top of the front of the fabric.  Pull all the way through to the front.

Once the needle is pulled through and the thread is smoothed out on the back and pulled taut to the front, wrap the shank 3 or 4 times. Then insert the needle into the shank.

Pull the needle through the shank and once a loop has been created put the needle through the loop and pull very tightly.  Reinsert the needle into the shank and repeat this process, again, pulling very tightly.  These knots will lock everything down and which is why you didn't need a knot on the backside.  Once you have made 2 tight knots and are sure they are tight, Carefully using the tips of your scissors, clip off the threads under the button leaving a short tail.

Next, clip the threads on the back leaving a short tail.  Smooth out the back of the fabric to lay flat.  When super-tightening the knots on the shank, the back tends to get a bit bunchy. 

And there you have it!  A beautifully and professionally sewn button.  

This is the basic lesson on a two-hole button but buttons come in many forms.  While the techniques for button-sewing are similar for all of them, different types will dictate different ways of applying them. Probably the most common variation to the 2-hole is the 4-hole which is frequently found on shirts and jackets.  Four-hole buttons can be sewn like the 2-hole as a straight stitch in each set of holes, or in an X pattern.  Some buttons come with built in shanks such as on suit jackets or bridal gowns.  These are sewn in a straight stitch with the sewn stitches 'biting' enough of the fabric under the button as to hold it securely without being so wide as to be seen.  When sewing shanked buttons I tend to knot at the back of the fabric so as to hide them from view.  Shanked buttons can 'tip' and it looks neater to have no visible knots showing.  

Sewing buttons neatly and well takes a bit of practice but by being careful with each step you will succeed every time and save yourself having to bug your mom to do it for you.  ;D

Happy sewing everyone!  Cheers!!