July 22, 2008

Meet Sergei!

There's a new baby in the house! Meet Sergei....my new Bernina serger! We got together last Thursday and have been working as a team for the last several days. I just love sergers! This comes from a person who spent years not understanding why people would ask if I had one of these things because of all the sewing I do. You see, I was a late convert to the serger world. I didn't see what all the hype was about. I owned my first serger only 8 years ago after spending many years making clothes and finishing my seams by trimming and then zigzagging the edges like a good responsible seamstress, so that the inside of my finished clothes would look as neat as the outside. What I wasn't realizing was how much time I was spending to do that! Imagine my dismay as I began sewing the majority of the seams in a garment with a serger....wow! I was fast before, but now I am like greased lightning! I came to understand why people had asked me all those years if I owned one of these things....and I could kick myself for not buying one sooner!

Here's the deal. I think most of us look at 4 spools of thread hooked up to ONE machine, see all those moving parts cleverly hidden behind the lower compartments and begin to break a sweat! It is intimidating to see that thread going through all sorts of gizmos and feeding somehow through to the presser foot....I know I thought to myself, "How will I ever learn to thread this thing?". Once you understand that there is an order to the threading chaos (quite literally...they NUMBER the steps!), and that every dealer is more than happy to set up time to help you get the gist of this, it becomes much easier to think that you CAN use this machine for sewing with professional results.

The next thing to realize is how much faster you will become with your sewing. Think about it. If you sew a seam with a 1/2" to 5/8" seam, you need to trim down the seam allowance. Then you are staring at all those raw edges...oh dear! Those will fray the first time I wash this if I don't finish them! Then you finish your seams with a zigzag or some other stitch on your machine and move on. That is 3 steps on each seam: sewing, trimming, and sewing again. Serging is ONE step, because it sews, trims, and finishes the edges all at once...and it is fabulous! Take a look below at the finished edges on the scrap. The left side is serged, the right side is stitched, trimmed, and finished. Now, both are structurally sound and will wash well...but which one looks the most professional? Wow! It is the one that you only make one pass to finish! (At least in my humble opinion....)

I know there are those of you out there that bought a serger or had one given to you X number of years ago and it has just been sitting there collecting dust....if you are making clothes, get that thing out and start using it!

Even if you are a quilter that doesn't really make clothes, there are a lot of ways you can use a serger. Lots of folks use them to give a finished edge to their quilt tops before having them professionally quilted. This assures that your edges stay nice and neat through the quilting process. It is also a great way to keep fabric from fraying along the cut edges if you like to wash your pieces before sewing with them. If you ever alter denim because they make all jeans too long (for me, anyway), it is a great way to finish those cut edges before turning up for a new hem, and it eliminates your having to turn up that thick fabric twice because now you have a finished edge!

There are still some seams that I don't serge. One good example is a set-in sleeve. You are usually easing in extra fabric along the sleeve edge to fit the armhole. This is to give you extra room to move around once the garment is finished. I initially sew this type of seam with a straight stitch and then move over to the serger to finish it out. Also, I usually just do a plain seam on an edge that will need to be clipped because of curves before turning, like on a facing at the top of a skirt. These seams are hidden when the garment is finished anyway, and clipping along the seam on a serged edge is not good, as you can clip through the threads holding it together.

Sergers range in price from very economical to crazy expensive, depending on what they are able to do for you. If you are looking for a machine that will do the basic stuff for internal seams without a lot of bulk, you can be set up for around $200-$300....not a huge investment. That is what I did when I started out with a serger. I had to try it out to be sure it would work for what I did and that I would be able to get along with this new creature! My old machine was a Janome 204D and still works great. I just decided that I wanted a few more bells and whistles that it didn't have, but I would recommend that little Janome to anyone who is interested in getting their feet wet with the world of serging.

So, what are you waiting for?

July 15, 2008

New stuff that I have been working on

Sorry for the delay in getting this next post up! As you can see, I have been busy creating the first of several new designs that will be out for Fall Market in October. This first little dress is called Juliet, and will be featured as a hip length tunic in addition to the above and below knee lengths pictured here. My Sabrina Tunic has been such a hit that it inspired me to design another of these versatile articles of clothing. They are so easy to sew and fun to wear. It never fails that I get compliments whenever I wear one of them! These are great to wear, especially where the weather stays moderate (if not pretty darn warm) most of the year. I find that they look equally nice with a cropped jacket or shrug.

As a follow-up from the last post, once you have made a few skirts as a first venture into the world of garment sewing, the tunic/dress is the next step. They do involve a couple more facings (for the armholes) and the addition of a zipper, but overall they sew up quickly and make excellent use of large scale prints. I personally prefer the look of an invisible zipper, but you can choose to add a conventional one if you like. There are many websites that offer illustrated instructions on how to put in an invisible zipper and once you have done it a few times, they are a snap!
I have really enjoyed designing this type of clothing because it lends itself so well to different types of embellishments....add a ruffle here or there or a tie at the waist and it totally changes the look. The green dress pictured here features a great silk rose pin from Artemis Silk. You can also change the look by the number of fabrics used. It is fun to see how many different fabrics can be used here and there and it certainly justifies falling in love with a fabric line that offers several coordinates! The fabrics picture here are Westminster's Amy Butler line, "Midwest Modern" (pink floral), Free Spirit's Robyn Pandolf line, "Flirt" (lime green floral), and Moda's Deb Strain line, "Daydreams" (black and white).
Next is the Francesca skirt. It features a yoke with a gathered multi-panel skirt. Again, these are just the first two variations that I have come up with....there will be several more offered in the pattern when it comes out for fall. This great skirt is of the A-line persuasion and is pattered after the Emily skirt in my Boutique Chic line. I have made several modifications to this pattern and feel that it takes on a brand new look with the changes. I am excited about this design and know it will be a big hit as well! **Notice the great fabric rose featured at the yoke's seam line....the pattern will include instructions for this baby!
The fabrics featured here are Moda's Urban Chiks line "Summer in the City" (Bright prints...sorry, it is no longer available. I had some left in my stash!) and Benartex's "City Girl" (pink & brown florals) line.
So.....that is a sneak peek into the trouble I have been into (not to mention other things) for the past couple of weeks or so. I hope you are finding plenty of sewing trouble to get into as well!