Sunday, August 8, 2010

Simple Sewing Sundays: Volume Ten: Tricky Terms

Let's face it.  Sometimes the reason that we get stuck in sewing is the terminology used in patterns.  Then, once we look it up, we ofttimes are more confused than before.  Sometimes you just need a bit more detailed description in perhaps simpler terms.  Today on Simple Sewing Sat...Sundays (ah, the joyful distractions of summer!) we will seek to remedy those pesky vague Sewist Terms that can trick us up....
  • Basting Stitch:  No, you don't have to keep moistening your fabric!  But what you do is first set your sewing length to the longest stitch on your machine.  See?  I showed you on mine.  Big stitches are needed to be able to pull the threads so you get a nice gather for a myriad of applications; sleeves, fullness in yokes, etc etc.  Typically, you run two rows of long stitches (top photo) to get a full effect.  Once you have made the stitches, leave the threads a bit long to be able to pull them to get the puffy effect of gathering.  Pull gently; you don't want to break the threads!  Even out the gathers and when you see how much fullness you need for the application, tie off the ends( the two threads at each end) to make it stay at the desired length.  Ease the fullness into the sleeve, yoke etc etc...So now you know when a pattern tells you to make basting stitches, that is what you do!
  • Bias:  Again, so many puns could be made....But I will go forth onto business...Cutting on the bias is utilizing the stretchiness of your fabric for different apps, i.e. yokes, skirts with a certain fit, maternity panels..anything that you need a bit of a give to.  In the photo with the sweet little pink and white stripe, you see the straight fabric then the fabric folded on a 45 degree angle.  If you took the long points and pulled in the opposite direction, you'd see that the fabric stretches.  That is the proverbial 'going against the grain'.  While we're on the subject, I might as well address the word 'Selvage'.  The selvage is the edge of your fabric that runs along the length.  Usually, it is finished and sometimes, on good fabric, it will bear the name of the material, it's designer and manufacturer.  Knowing your true selvage will help you in laying out your pattern.  Know that arrow that runs the lengths of your patterns?  That arrow on one end should be the exactly the same at the way end of the other arrow from the arrow to the selvage, in order to be on a straight grain.  So you ask, Deb, aren't you being a bit picky and precise?  And I say, yes. Normally, I would say, oh have at it.  But things of grain can make the difference between a wonky dress,blouse or skirt or slacks and a swanky one.  In order for things to hang well, the grain really has to be respected.  Now back to the bias.  When you cut on the bias, you want your pattern arrows to go 45 degrees from the selvage.  On the diagonal, as it were.  You want the wonky (stretchy) in certain applications.  Bias is the pull of the fabric when you pull it 45 degrees from the selvage.  Bias tape strips are made this way: cutting inches wide strips on the diagonal from the selvage to do clean edge necklines, armholes, bindings. Any circular opening that needs some give.
  • And while we're on the subject of armholes and necklines, always remember this:  If a curve goes outward, you cut out little v's randomly, to give some ease.  If a curve goes inwardly, make little clips for the same ease.  Outward: V's; Inward: clips.

Well, that is about all my none technical, somewhat aloof sewing mind can handle for today.  Do you have other vague sewing terms that befuddle you and are afraid to ask others lest they point and giggle at you?  Have no fear in approaching the most lackadaisical sewist there is!  I probably don't even know the answer, but at my age, not much embarrasses me anymore, so I will ask some wizened supreme sewist poobah for you!
Happy sewing!

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