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Topic: Beginners sewing questions  (Read 751 times)
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« on: January 18, 2008 06:01:22 AM »

Hello fellow craftsters,

a few months ago I decided that knitting wasn't keeping me busy enough so I bought a sewing machine :-)
Since I don't know anybody that sews and, because of work, I can't take lessons (they start at 6 pm I'm only home at 7pm, trs frustrating), I'm teaching myself through books. Unfortunately books can't talk back to you, so I'm hoping you guys can answer the following questions:

- Is it best to finish edges after you sewn the seams or before?

- I have an overlock stitch on my sewing machine (singer inspiration). In the manual it isn't quite clear if you have to sew it on the edge or if you have to leave a bit of space.

- I read somewhere that you have to use a new needle for every project you start. Is this really necessary? Can I just resharpen it with some steel wool?

-Okay, this might seem like a silly question, but I'm just curious :-) When stitching is it best not to press down the pedal/foot too much, in other words don't go too fast, or doesn't this really matter?

I hope somebody can help me with these!

Ramblings about life and design: http://carriecan.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2008 06:18:06 AM »

Welcome to sewing!

For me finishing seams is a case by case thing.  I do a lot of costume sewing and the inside doesn't matter much.  But I also have a serger so if I have some material that is going to fray a lot, I will serge the edges before construction.  Otherwise I will just pink the seams after sewing.

I don't know about your model but with a serger it has knives that cut the fabric before overcasting the edge.  I would think that a sewing machine would not have the knives so you should sew right on the edge of the material.

You are supposed to use a new needle for each new project or after 10-20 hours of sewing.  I don't do this.  I usually change needles when I change material (ie going from a knit to a sheer) or when I break one.  But when in doubt, change the needle. 

As far as the pedal goes, it is like driving a car.  Sometimes you need to go faster and sometimes you need to go slower.  It all comes down to control.  If you are doing a straight length of stitching, you can floor it.  But if you are doing curves or small lengths, you need to go slower.  Basically though it doesn't matter.  It is just what is comfortable for you and what you are doing.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2008 07:15:43 AM by marypoppins » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2008 07:19:48 AM »

These are really good questions---

-Finishing is usually done on a case by case basis. I.E., knits don't really ravel, so you just need to trim those a bit, I often zigzag ravel-prone cottons, I use an enclosed seam finish on shear fabrics (looks much nicer) and silks, and the list goes on. I actually rarely use my overcast stitch, because the zigzag works very well. However, it's a perfectly reasonable seam finish for most applications. The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing has a really nice illustrated section on all the different finishes. I do my finishing after I've sewn the seam and tested the fit, but it's really a personal preference thing.

-You sew on the edge with the overcast stitch. There's probably a little tabby do-dad (I think that's the technical name) on your foot and the edge of the fabric sits under that. You may need to adjust your tension so you don't get a tunnel effect.

-I was always really bad about changing my sewing machine needles. However, the last year I've been really disciplined about it (got a new machine) and it does make a difference. Especially on delicate fabrics and heavy fabrics. Normal weight cottons seem to not be affect much one way or the other. It also forces me to make sure I'm using the right needle for the project.

-Since you're a beginner, I would suggest not sewing "full speed ahead" as fast as you can. It's very hard to control your stitching when you're going that fast. In fact, I've been sewing for ages, and my new machine has a speed control setting and I have it set so I cannot sew fast than a sort of medium speed---the fastest I can really sew without my stitching going a bit wonky. So, don't go faster than you can control.

I would really suggest getting a couple of good reference books (I use mine all the time). You can get a Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (my favorite) for pretty cheap used (the old versions are actually more comprehensive than the newer---although the new ones have easier to read illustrations). There are also some other really good books---just go to the bookstore and see what ones really speak to your way of learning.



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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2008 08:51:35 AM »

-I prefer to finish seams after they're sewn, that way I can match the notches when I'm sewing, and I can check the fit and not need to rip out all the stitching if I have to let a seam out.

-As for sharpening needles with steel wool, I wouldn't.  The needle needs to be smooth so it doesn't catch on the fabric and tear it up. Steel wool seems like it would put more burs in the needle.  If you have one, you can try a manual (non-electric) knife sharpener, but I wouldn't try to sharpen ball point (knit) needles.  They also say you should change your needle every project OR every 4 hours of sewing, so when I do smaller projects, I usually leave the needle in for more than one thing.

« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2008 10:10:33 AM »

Just one thing about the overlock seam - my aunt, who is a sewing instructor, told me that when overcasting very stretchy fabrics, it's better to do half an inch or so from the edge and trim it down later. This helps keep the fabric from stretching too much.
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2008 02:23:34 PM »

Thanks everybody for your replies; it so nice to hear how other people work!

I'm  actually just taking a break from a new sewing project I started. For me, the main thing that is still giving me problems/headaches is the finishing of the seams. I tried the overlock stitch again, on the edge, but it just becomes a mess, th threads get tangled up. Midorian, I might take your advice and do the stich half an inch away from the edge. Otherwise I'll just zigzag my seams (a bit frustrating since I bought a more expensive sewing machine, because it had the overlock stitch). Since I'm using a rather raveling fabric, I can't just pink them, right?

Seschloss, what do you mean with a little tabby do-dad? Is that on a standard foot or do you need a special one for that?

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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2008 03:21:12 PM »

Did your machine come with an overcasting foot? You need one when you're overcasting, or else it'll be a mess.

Here's a picture:
« Last Edit: January 18, 2008 06:29:07 PM by seschloss - Reason: Added picture » THIS ROCKS   Logged


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