Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to the Basics

Years have gone by since I took my one and only sewing course. It was part of Mrs. Crabtree’s Jr High School Home Economics class. We also learned how to bake a cake and set a table. The basic living essentials, right? For extra credit I figured out how to trade chores with my classmates; I’d cook, they’d clean. Of course poor Mrs. Crabtree was mostly deaf and needed help picking out decorative pillows for her own home, but she made me her friend when trying to introduce the class to something “new”, brie. (Not new to my home at all. LOVE.)

Now that I’m making an attempt to sew or create or design almost every day, some of those basic fundamentals of sewing are fresh in my mind. For practical sewing purposes the list has been tweaked a bit for the purpose of sewing in my dining room vs. a public school setting. Luckily I haven’t had to re-learn any of these simple things, but reviewing a mental checklist regularly, to ensure these behaviors become habit, is a must.

Prep work is so important. From making sure you have all of your notions and fabrics matched up to pattern/fabric layout, the more you put into prepping your sewing creation the easier it’ll be to assemble. My soapboxes include:

 ~  Iron everything out. Washed, not washed, just iron before you cut. Please! If it’s a big piece of fabric, say 3+ yards of 60” wide stuff, you can get away with just ironing a little more than the portion you need. After cutting from a big piece, do consider giving the fabric a touch-up so that everything lies flat when you go to assemble. And when a pattern suggests that you iron a seam, just do it. Things look so much more professional and well made when pressed.

Because I work with lots of remnants and vintage pieces I’m often guessing what the fabric is made of. I really want those wrinkles out, but I don’t want to scorch (or worse, melt) anything. As long as you’re paying close attention to how your fabric is behaving with your iron you’ll be able to adjust your settings and get the results you need.

 ~ When in doubt, pin. Then pin some more. You really can’t pin too much. The fabric is going to shift. It will. Then you’ll be sorry. Especially pay attention to curves and special areas that need to be matched. Armholes and collars are so important. And pins are cheap! If you hate to pin, go ahead and splurge and buy yourself some fancy pins with colored and/or decorative heads. Make it fun. Those bright colors will help keep you from sewing over the top of them too.

~Then there’s organization. The “O” word is a big one, particularly for those who do not have a designated crafting, sewing, special place to leave their goodies in permanently. My work zone ends up occupying the entire dining room. Unless you have the funds to go out and spend money on cute, matching organizational sets, feel free to get creative. Some cosmetic supplies come in sturdy containers with lids. Plastic strawberry and/or mushroom containers make good drawer organizers (plus it’s a very Green option.) Decorate old shoe boxes if it’ll make you more likely to use them. Carts with wheels are great for moving your stash from room to room or closet.

 ~ If you’re unfamiliar with something, take the time to read about it, understand it. Whether it’s a new sewing machine or pattern you’ve never attempted before, understanding how it works will both ease any worries you may have and help correct any snafus that may (and often do) pop up. Who wants to continue to work on a project that frustrates them? That’s not fun, that’s a chore!

Don’t forget to give your sewing machine some TLC
… or at least remember the three C’s:
Clean the gunk out of the bobbin area under the plate regularly, especially during and after projects with fleece, fur, felt, and burlap.
Change the sewing needle regularly, especially when done with upholstery fabrics or before silks and chiffons. Some suggest changing the needle after every project. (I’m not that good.)
Cover your machine when not in use. If you have a storage cabinet to put it away in, great, but still use a cover to deter dust, hair, small children’s messes, animals, etc. from dirtying up your baby. It’ll save you precious prep time later.

With just a little bit of thought and planning the hassles of maintaining your creative environment become minimal. Well, that’s assuming you don’t have a toddler pulling items off of your table or a cat who likes to make a nest of your fabrics. Perhaps we can deal with live roadblocks in another blog.

I’d love to hear about your own basic Do’s and Don’ts. Maybe it’ll remind me of something I’m forgetting to do, or doing wrong.

~ Carey
Head Gypsy