Staystitching – A Traditional Technique to Keep Fabrics Smooth While Sewing

Staystitching is a sewing technique that new generations of hobby dressmakers haven’t heard of before; or not aware of its importance in keeping fabrics smooth.

Why is Staystitching Important?

First off, know that staystitching is simply a straight stitch sewn near the edge and along the curve of a single layer of fabric that has been cut. Staystitching is a technique applied to the curves of necklines, sleeve holes and even along the shoulder portion of cut fabric, as a way to prevent each layer of fabric from becoming distorted.

Distortions occur during the sewing process, as the pulling and stretching actions on the fabric can change the curves. The reason for this is that curved cuts slash across the bias, which refers to any grain in which the vertical and horizontal threads of a fabric meet.

A bias cut tends to increase the stretchability of a woven fabric, which denotes that as we pull and stretch when sewing, the curve cut will distort. Since the shoulder portions are cut with a slight slant or slight bias, it’s important to staystitch them as well.

How to Staystitch Properly

Staystitch should be done immediately after cutting a fabric using stitches that are 1.5 in length because smaller stitches tend to create a stronger hold.

Determine the seam allowance at the curved or biased areas so you can space the stay stitch away from the seam line.
When staystitching the curves of necklines and sleeve holes, start stitching from one end going to the center, which means restarting from the other end toward the center. The purpose of which is to keep the width of the staystiches even from end to end.

Hand-Sewing: Outmoded but Not Forsaken as a Sewing Method

Despite the many technological advancements incorporated in sewing machines, hand-sewing is a traditional method that will never be forsaken by expert sewers.

Industrial sewing machines are best used for mass produced garments, because the faster rate of turning raw materials into finished product is of the essence. Yet if in terms of achieving results for a single piece of garment, expert sewers can pretty much achieve the same results; or even better. Mainly because some designs or patterns require meticulous attention and precision that can be achieved only by way of hand-sewing.

Take note of the excellent beadwork on formal evening wears created by topnotch designers. Each crystal bead must be hand-sewn carefully and correctly so as not to ruin the delicate and expensive fabric. Even for sewing on buttons or hemlines, most designers prefer them to be hand-sewn to ensure their integrity.

There are still dressmakers in our midst who are into hand-sewing not as a profession but as a hobby. Some others hand-sew for economic reasons but can produce garments that they proudly wear as their hand-sewn creations. Actually, if one is to ask these dressmakers why they still prefer hand-sewing to using sewing machines, they can cite several benefits of this traditional method that many consider as tedious and time-consuming.

Benefits of Hand-Sewing

Sewing by hand allows stitching with greater precision, especially when adding embroidery or decorative stitches. Here, the sewer can accomplish her work while taking a relaxed and comfortable seating position. When using a sewing machine, a sewer needs to stay seated next to the equipment to be able to keep the fabric in place when carrying on with the sewing process.

Hand-stitching allows sewers to bring their sewing projects anywhere, in case they need something to do to pass the time away.

While there are small portable sewing machines that are small enough to lug along, users still need to set them up properly. Although there are small hand-held sewing contraptions, they still require batteries to be operational.

The most important benefit of hand stitching for many sewing hobbyists, is its contemplative and calming effect. While the act of stitching is repetitive, hand-sewers can let their mind wander off and think of other things for the time being and still be in control of the sewing process.

(more…)

Modern Sewing Machines : Improvements in Machine Performance and Productivity

While sewing machines and stitch generation principles haven’t changed much since their invention, significant improvements have enhanced machine performance. Through the years, advancements in machine technology made sewing machines a primary equipment not only in the clothing industry but in other manufacturing processes as well.

Innovations in construction materials and electronic systems have significantly improved the speed, stitch-regulation, needle-timing and looping systems of modern-day sewing machines. Moreover, high-tech sewing machines nowadays are lightweight, highly efficient, and comfortable to use, especially if they are computer controlled.

Some Examples of Latest Advancements in Sewing Machine Technology

Automation is now staple as a modern feature, which is also common in the latest models of high-tech sewing machines.

Automated Sewing Machines

Smart sewing machines can accurately stitch trace the details of a pattern or pictures for embroidery, as stitches run with the aid of a camera-computer interface that captures 1,000 frames per second. Automation functions include identifying the individual threads to be used and counting the number of stitches needed to accurately embroider a particular image.

Automatic Hemming Units

Designed to improve consistency of lap seams and increase productivity, automatic hemming machines lessen the sewing workload. An operator needs only to load the fabric on the machine guide, and the unit will automatically hem the edges where hemming is needed.

Automatic Buttonholing Machine

Buttonholing is one of the tedious processes of sewing as it requires meticulous attention. Now there are machines that can create buttonholes up to a maximum length of 68mm, with options to creating buttonholes with a cross tack, with or without an eye, or without a round tack.

Sewing Machines with Dry Oil Pan System

Where externally lubricating the machine parts with oil could result to staining the fabric being worked on, there are now sewing machines that need less lubrication. Sewing contraptions with dry oil feature, typically have anti-friction bearings, while the oil pan is integrated with the sewing machine bed, as opposed to external application of oil machines. That way, any excess oil stays in the pan to keep the machine surface oil-free; eliminating the possibility of the fabric getting stained by oil leaks.

Purpose of Finished Garment Measurements in Sewing

Finished Garment Measurements are often found at the back of pattern envelopes; but not a few understand the purpose of these measurements in creating garments. While it is often explained as a way to achieve a perfect fit when sewing a garment, the FGM concept is still not widely understood.

As a standard sewing practice, body measurements of the bust, waist and hips are taken to determine the size of the person who will wear the finished garment.

The Finished Garment Measurements (FGM) that are usually provided as info of a commercially-produced pattern, indicate the actual size of a garment after undergoing sewing processes. FGM also comprise bust, waist and hip measurements to which allowances are added when applied in creating different sizes for a single commercial dress pattern.

Why are Body Measurements and FGMs Different?

The differences between FGMs and body measurements (BMs) are largely dependent on the type of garment to be sewn or the kind of fabric that will be used to sew the garment. When sewing a fitted dress, the FGM and BM measurements will more or less be the same. Yet if a body-contouring garment, let’s say for a pair of leggings that makes use of a stretchable fabric, the FGM will likely have smaller waist and hip measurements when compared to the BM.

In the same way, if the commercially made pattern is for a voluminous dress, the FGM indicated at the back of the pattern envelope will be larger than actual body measurements. Mainly because there will be a dramatic measure of ease added to the pattern size, usually on the waist and hip measurements but only slightly different for bust measurements. .

Such examples illustrate the application of Finished Garment Measurements when creating one’s own pattern. In having a finished garment measurement guideline for a specific type of apparel, measuring the sewn garment and comparing it to the FMG will indicate where necessary adjustments will be made to ensure that the finished or sewn garment achieves a perfect fit.

Pressing Seams : Making Home-Sewn Dresses Look Professionally Crafted

Expert seamstresses agree that one important step to making a home-sewn garment look professionally constructed is to press a seam after sewing the fabric.

The rationale behind pressing the seam, especially for garments that involve complicated sewing processes, is to make certain that seams are laid flat; especially at points where seams meet or cross. A seam that is laid flat when oversewn reduces bulkiness or will not pucker.

Traditional 2-Step Process of Pressing Seams

Traditional sewing involves a two-way process of pressing a seam. The first is to press the seam flat with a flatiron, as a means of setting or blending the stitches with the fabric. The steaming and flattening will allow the thread to meld with the textile to make the stitches disappear.

The second step is to carefully open the seam by “finger pressing” or by running the tip of the flatiron to open the seam. Pressing will be on both sides, with the wrong side first before tackling the right side. However, when iron pressing the seam, take care not to pull hard or stretch the fabric. Iron with up and down movements instead of vigorous back and forth strokes.

Some contend that sewing experts can avoid puckering without having to press seams. That may be okay with ordinary textile but not with expensive fabrics like silk or finely woven cotton. Still, with most commercial dress patterns, instructions for sewing include certain seam-pressing instructions such as: press as sewn, press seam open or press darts.

Special Pressing Tools to Use for Complicated Sewing Steps

In some cases, when the garment involves complicated sewing steps, or if the fabric is a delicate material, a special pressing equipment can make the process easier while achieving the best results. Some examples of special pressing tools include but are not limited to the following:

Pressing Cloth – The use of a pressing cloth will ensure that the fabric is protected from high heat or will not develop a shine or scales after heat has been applied.

Pressing Ham – A pressing ham can create a smooth finish when needing to press curved seams of any shape or size; e.g. sleeve caps, necklines, armholes or hip seams.

Sleeve Roll This device works best not only on sleeves but also on skinny jeans, or for small curved seams, especially on delicate fabrics.

COVID-19 Lockdown : A Crisis that Brought Back the “Maker Movement”

The COVID-19 lockdown imposed on many households had brought back the “maker movement” at the height of the novel coronavirus health-crisis. Aside from being a great diversion in whiling away the day-long hours spent at home, reviving a forgotten sewing hobby or learning how to sew, had proved useful in addressing the face mask shortage.

When clinically-prescribed face masks became an important protective gear against infection, there was lack of their availability to the general public. Mainly because the frontline medical responders and workers had greater need for them as personal protective equipment.

Nonetheless, sewing skills and sewing machines came in handy, allowing even non-professional seamstresses to create cloth face masks for themselves, for family members and even for neighbors.

In other countries where sewing is a popular cottage industry, families were able to earn the much needed income by producing and supplying affordable face masks to local governments, who in turn, distributed them to their respective community residents.

The “Maker Movement” is Bound to Stay as Countries are About to Enter a Period of Recession

The fashion industry is making adjustments in light of the indefinite suspension of fashion shows; coming out with designer masks either with matching lounge wear, or accessories like bandanas, scarves, sashes and even slip-ons.

Yet in a country that is about to enter, or is already in a period of recession, many cannot afford to be extravagant when it comes to wearables. Most especially when there is uncertainty on how long it will take for economies to recover.

The lockdown trend that brought back the sew-it-yourself or the “maker movement” is expected to continue. Mainly because people are still afraid to go out and shop in boutiques and department stores.

Besides, buying at online stores is the new norm and there is an abundance of affordably-priced fashionable face masks and work-at-home wearables being supplied by home-based enterprising and creative sewists.

The return of sewing as a basic skill is expected to last for an indefinite time, with social media platforms providing not only useful resources but also great encouragement and support during these trying times.

Home Sewing and Dressmaking : The Motivation Behind the Resurgence of the Maker Movement

Home sewing, particularly dressmaking had seen a resurgence among American women in as early as 1997. Based on a report issued in that year by the American Home Sewing and Craft Association, almost a third of adult women comprising the U.S. population ( then estimated at around 30 million), were already into sewing their own garments.

 

The resurgence came about, despite the removal of home economics as part of school curriculum. Economic reason was initially the main driving factor, because back in those days, only those with less money to spend took to home-sewing. Only the rich can afford to buy clothes off the rack. According to the trade organization’s survey, many of the home sewers had some college education and/or were taught how to sew by their mother or grandmother.

Yet it came to a point when sewing one’s own clothes was not only practical, but also fulfilling, as it gave women control over the style, color and fit of the garments they wore. Years later, making one’s own clothes became the “in” thing even among celebrities.

Researchers Define the Motivation Behind DIY Dressmaking

 

A new research paper published in August 2019 by Addie Martindale, an Assistant Professor of Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design, at Georgia Southern University’s School of Human Ecology and Ellen McKinney, Associate Professor of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management Department of Iowa State University, gave focus on why women are motivated to sew clothes for themselves.

The two researchers developed a model of sewing motivations to illustrate the connection between the emergence of home sewing and its contribution to personal fulfillment among women. It demonstrated that

“Self-fulfillment is a recurring cycle that takes place each time the women created a new garment for themselves.”

UK Women Today Have Started Taking Up Home-Sewing as a Hobby

A 2017 research paper published by the Craft & Hobby Trade Association of UK (CHA-UK), reported that about 7.7 million Britons, mostly women, are now making their own clothes as their hobby. The number is growing since the study showed millios more have taken to home sewing, ever since the BBC launched “The Great British Sewing Bee.” Apparently, the competition, helped rekindle interest in becoming part of the maker movement.

Katharine Poulter, the commercial director of UK’s largest arts and crafts superstore Hobbycraft, said that just as the “Great British Bake-off” boosted the sales of home baking merchandise, retailers of sewing machines, bobbins, dressmaking patterns, shears, tailor’s chalk and threads are now reporting leaps in sales. According to Ms. Poulter, Hobbycraft’s 2016 sales of sewing and knitting patterns soared by 60%, and by almost 30% for sewing machines.

Patrick Grant, the Creative Director of Savile Row who sits as one of the judges in “The Great British Sewing Bee,” remarked that making something with your hands is a very therapeutic experience. Although home sewing and crafting in general went off the radar in the UK for 20 years, Mr. Grant says it is now “cool“ to make your own clothes.

He shared that when he was a kid, there was some kind of stigma to wearing homemade garments. That however, has completely changed because the status quo has been completely reversed.

Craig De Souza, the Executive Director of CHA-UK says “Learning how to do things is different now.

“If a person does not know how to sew and knit, he or she can simply learn from Youtube videos.”

.

Choosing the Right Kind of Dressmaking Scissors and Shears

Dressmaking shears or scissors are the second most important must-have tools, next to the sewing machine. Professional dressmakers and serious sewing hobbyists give careful thought before investing in a pair of shears or scissors. After all, the best ones tend to be more expensive but can serve them for a lifetime.

Difference between Shears or Scissors

By the way, you may be wondering about the difference between a pair of shears and a pair of scissors. Be in the know that dressmaking shears are those with blades measuring six (6) inches or longer, while their handles come with one finger hole that is much smaller than the other. Moreover, the longer blade is rounded to prevent snagging the large fabric, while the other blade is pointed to ascertain precise snipping.

A pair of scissors on the other hand, have equally sized finger holes in its handles, while the blades measure less than six (6) inches in length. Still, a good pair of scissors is one that can cut cleanly, despite the shorter blades.

Deciding When to Use a Pair of Shears or Scissors

Dressmaker shears are more efficient for cutting larger-sized fabrics, usually when sewing a dress. The longer blades can cut at an angle, with one of the blades having rounded ends to prevent snagging, while the other end is pointed to ensure accurate and clean snipping.

Dressmaker shears are a must have when you need to cut sewing pieces out of larger fabrics. The long, sharp blades can cut at an angle, which makes them much more efficient than the ordinary scissors. Also, the blades’ side bend enables dressmakers to cut a fabric without lifting the material away from the surface of the table, ensuring accuracy; whilst preventing jagged lines.

Most professional dressmakers and sewing hobbyists prefer 8 or 9-inched sized shears because the blades are long enough to give them full control over the entire size of the shears.

The smaller scissors that offer lighter and shorter blades are ideal for less demanding cutting tasks, like quilting projects. In addition, their portability makes them ideal for sewing craft projects.

Buying the Best Dressmaking Shears and/or Scissors

When contemplating options on the kind of dressmaking shears or scissors to buy, is it also important to try them on for size and comfort.

All-metal shears or scissors tend be heavier, so if you are looking for one that is much lighter, there are shears and scissors that come with plastic handles. They are specifically designed as such to put less strain on the wrist and hand.

Another choice to consider are those made from titanium, because this type of metal is much lighter than steel. Shears or scissors with titanium blades are of course, more expensive than the conventional steel-bladed types.

Still, whether your deciding on the plastic-handled or titanium kind, make sure the handles are ergonomically shaped. Make sure that it allows you to cut without the handle pinching or rubbing against the skin of your hand. You may even consider the models that come with padded handles, since the cushioning effect offers additional comfort for larger or more frequent sewing tasks.

Now if you are left-handed, modern technology also took this into consideration. This means buying options for shears and scissors include those specifically designed for left-handed dressmakers, tailors and hobbyists.