A wise owl takes care to wear eye protection while machine stitching. Fragments from a broken needle can fly in any direction, including into the eyeTENSION SWATCH
I find it useful to use a tension swatch when starting a new project or setting up a new stitch style. Stitch settings and upper tension can easily be adjusted by using a tension swatch. Combine two layers of calico or equivalent fabric with a layer of tulle for this. Pin the layers together. Use contrasting colour threads for the bobbin and upper machine to spot tension problems.
For stitches similar to straight stitch, such as
- three-step zig zag,
- zig zag,
- blind hem,
- scallop, and
- foundation elastic...
For satin stitch (which is simply closely spaced zig zag), and decorative stitches like spots and stars and similar small motifs, the upper machine thread should be visible underneath. To get this effect, reduce the upper tension.
Trial stitch width:
- Start with normal setting;
- If stitches are too wide, fabric may pucker and bubble;
- Find happiest setting by reducing width.
- Start with normal setting;
- If stitches bunch up, they are too close;
- Find happiest setting by gradually increasing stitch length, so that stitches and fabric move freely.
Good quality dressmaking sewing threads can be used for the upper machine and in the bobbin. There’s a very wide range of colours available. Other threads that can be used in the bobbin include Bobbinfil. This is a very lightweight thread.
Specialty threads such as metallic threads and machine embroidery threads require a metafil or embroidery needle. The larger eye helps to prevent the thread shredding. This needle type is available in size 80.
HOW TO CONSTRUCT A SAMPLER (10 cms x 14 cms)
You can use this as a reference, and as a ‘jumping off point’ for your own machine stitchery style.
- Scraps of fabric of various colours and different textures.
- Tulle, which is a fine net. There’s a range of colours available. Iron with care.
- Calico or similar firmly woven fabric (not stretch knit or stretch woven). This is used as a base fabric.
- Colour threads for upper machine.
- Thread for bobbin.
- Cut one piece of fabric 10 cms x 14 cms from calico or its equivalent, to be used as the base.
- Cut large random shapes from your favourite scraps (the coarsely woven fabrics fray more readily). Pin patches to base fabric, making sure the patches overlap, and that they also overlap the edges of the sampler.
- Cut tulle larger than the sampler. The tulle layer is placed on top of the patches and becomes the top layer.
- Pin all three layers together, so that the patches don’t slide around.
- Then, using your machine and a coloured thread, stitch the three layers together in a decorative fashion, and so that the patches and layers stay put. Some suggestions for stitches include straight, zig zag, and blind hem stitch. Other stitches that may be available on your machine and are worth exploring include three-step zig zag, foundation elastic, and scallop. Alter the length and width of stitch to find a look that is pleasing to you.
- Now stitch along the raw edges of the patches. When using satin stitch and other decorative stitches, align the centre of the stitch with the edge of the patch. With my machine, the appliqué presser foot and the embroidery presser foot have a mark that indicates the centre of the foot. I align this with the edge of the patch. Suggested stitches include straight, stars, spots and similar small motifs, or satin stitch, which is closely spaced zig zag.
STITCHES THAT I USE
From Top to Bottom
- Row 1: Straight Stitch
- Row 2: Three-Step Zig Zag Stitch
- Row 3: Zig Zag Stitch
- Row 4: Blind Hem Stitch
- Row 5: Scallop Stitch
- Row 6: Foundation Elastic Stitch
- Row 7: Satin Stitch
- Row 8: Spots, Stars, and Similar Small Motifs
- Row 9: Zig Zag and Straight Stitch Using Twin Needles
- Use two threads. For fun use two different colours.
- Use a large-eye needle, like a denim/jeans 90.
- Set stitch length a little longer than normal straight stitch.
- Treat the two threads as if one when threading the upper machine, and thread the two threads through the eye from the same side of the needle.
- Stitch one row of straight stitch just a fraction inside the patch edge.
- Then stitch zig zag using two threads on top of straight stitch.
- Should be used at slow speed, as the needles are mounted in a block.
- Consult your handbook for needle recommendation and for correct upper tension. Make sure twin needles are the correct way round and inserted to full depth. Use the recommended presser foot. Turn the handwheel to test that the twin needles pierce the fabrics easily. If they do, follow the instructions in your handbook for threading the upper machine and twin needles carefully. Make sure the threads don’t twist together.
- Adjust stitch settings and upper tension on tension swatch.
- For fun, use two different coloured threads.
- Stitch carefully, so that the edge of the patch lies between the twin needles. If the presser foot has a centre mark, use this to align with the raw edge of the patches. Straight and zig zag stitch are suitable.
- Consult your handbook for further recommended stitches.
Fasten off loose threads and trim thread ends. Using scissors, even up the edges of the sampler. For further decoration embellish with beads or buttons.
Puckering and ‘squashing up’ of fabric while stitching: This can be a problem when using satin stitch. If you are convinced the problem is not due to the upper tension being too tight, or an incorrect setting for length and width of stitch, add additional weight and ‘body’ by using an interfacing to stabilise the back of your project.
For the method of crazy patch described in this tutorial I find that the Armo and Whisper weft fusible interfacings work well. These are knit interfacings with weft insertions. They do not appear to ‘bubble’ fabrics. Before using familiarize yourself with the manufacturer's specific instructions on how to use this fusible interfacing product.
As a rule of thumb, if the combined layers of fabrics feel firm, I dispense with the interfacing.
For unravelling of stitches: Dab a tiny spot of clear fingernail polish on the back of the stitches.
Think of a project. Some suggestions if all else fails:
- Cushion covers;
- Picnic rugs; and
- Christmas stockings