Tag: costume sewing

An Easy Introduction to the Beginner’s Sewing Machine

An Easy Introduction to the Beginner’s Sewing Machine

Thursday, May 10, 2018 | By | Add a Comment

An Easy Introduction to the Beginner’s Sewing Machine

Sewing with a sewing machine is one of those things that looks complicated and some of the terminology makes it sound complicated, but with many sewing machines it really isn’t all that hard to actually do. With that in mind, I’ve put together a tutorial for how to use a sewing machine using a simplified Singer model sewing machine.

The first thing you have to do is learn how to thread your bobbin. The top of your sewing machine should look something like this.

  1. Slide the thread onto the thread spindle.
  2. Slide the piece that keeps the thread on the spindle on next to the thread.
  3. Pull out a piece of thread and push it through the thread holder.
  4. Put one end of the thread through the bobbin.  Wrap the thread around the little circle.
  5. Slide the bobbin on the bobbin spindle.
  6. Flip the switch that allows the foot pedal to put thread on the bobbin.
  7. Press the foot pedal until the desired amount of thread is on the bobbin.
  8. Cut the thread and your bobbin is ready.

Next you need to thread your machine.  This model has a diagram on the front that shows the direction the thread should go.  Follow those instructions or the one that came with the manual for your sewing machine.

  1. Slide the threaded bobbin into the bobbin holder.
  2. Close the cover.
  3. Drop your needle by closing the cover (be sure you flipped the switch back after threading the bobbin).  When the needle comes back up it will have the bobbin thread with it.
  4. Pull the bobbin thread through and you are ready to sew.

To start sewing place your material underneath the foot, using the seam guide lines for the proper seam width. Lower the foot, drop your needle into the fabric, and press the pedal to start sewing.

Pretty simple?  Yes the right beginner’s sewing machine can be that easy.  With enough practice on these simpler machines, one can master the fundamentals of sewing and move on to better machines.

Straight Line Sewing Skills

Straight Line Sewing Skills

Sunday, August 7, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

Straight Line Sewing Skills

Hello everybody, I hope you have all read my previous post on purchasing a sewing machine for your cosplaying needs.  Today, we are going to learn our first fundamental lesson in sewing:  Sewing Straight Lines, and how to sew our first straight line!  So, let’s begin, shall we?

First, we need to get a piece of fabric ready to practice with…just a scrap of something will do. Preferably just a basic cotton piece of fabric, not anything knit or stretchy. It’s going to be easiest if you fold it so that you are sewing through 2 layers of fabric while you practice.

Next, you need to thread your machine (including the bobbin of course). Make sure you have your machine set to sew at an average stitch length (your manual will probably tell you what that is). You can take some time to play around with this-testing shorter stitches and longer stitches.

Now, take your piece of fabric and place it under the presser foot. For starters I want you to line your fabric up so that the right edge of your fabric matches up with the right edge of your presser foot as you look at it like I have done in this picture below. Lower the presser foot so that it is holding your fabric in place.

Before you start to sew, use your hand wheel (or up/down button if you have a computerized machine) to lower the needle so that it is all the way down into your fabric (always do this when you begin to sew).

Now, slowly press your foot pedal down to begin to sew. Stitch forward for 1 inch.

Then push the reverse button or lever to back stitch for 1 inch (sew backwards over what you just sewed).

After you have back stitched over that 1 inch, proceed with a forward stitch again. You have just created a knot so that your stitches won’t come loose. You will do this whenever you sew unless otherwise specified.

Continue to sew forward. As you do, try to keep the edge of the fabric lined up with the edge of your presser foot. This will help you maintain a straight line. Also, try to keep a nice steady pace. You can also put a piece of tape on your fabric to use as a guide to practice getting a straight line.

Once you reach the end of your fabric, knot it again. (Sew to the end, back stitch for about 1 inch, then sew forward again).

Raise your presser foot and gently remove your fabric. Snip the threads that are attached to your fabric. Guess what? You just sewed your first straight line!

But wait, there’s more to learn.

What if you are sewing a straight line and you come to a corner (like if you are sewing a rectangle or square) that you need to turn to continue sewing. What do you do?

Sew almost all the way to the corner, but leave yourself about 1/4″-1/2″ of space between your needle and the very edge of the fabric. Making sure to lower your needle all the way into the fabric (this is very important), then lift your presser foot. Your fabric will stay in place because the needle is holding it, but you can now pivot it so that it is positioned to keep sewing, now in the new direction. Lower your presser foot and continue to sew.

Sometimes you will be asked to baste. A baste is a long stitch that is much looser than a typical stitch. When you baste you do not knot at the beginning and the end. This is because you will probably be picking the baste stitch out (if it is just there to hold your fabric in place for the time being) or you will be using it to gather. I will teach you what that is later in another post.

A hem is when you fold under the fabric twice and sew it in place to create a nice finished edge (like at the bottom of your pants). To hem you will first fold the fabric under about 1/2″ and press or iron it into place. Then fold it the same amount again, press it again and then do a straight stitch along it.

Here’s an important thing to know when sewing a hem or at other times. If you are sewing a small area, like a pant leg, guess what? You can take off part of your machine to make it easier. See how I can sew that complete loop so easily because the fabric fits all the way around? Give it a try-that part of your machine will come right off and then go back on when you need it back on.

I told you to use the presser foot edge and match it up with your fabric edge to sew a straight line. This is what I do at least 90% of the time when I am sewing, because it creates such an easy guide. But occasionally you will be asked to sew a certain seam allowance. When that happens you need to use your seam guides to guide you instead of the presser foot. In that case you will line up the edge of your fabric with the seam guide you need and try to keep it steady with that line as you sew.

So, there you have it! Now, go and sew, sew, sew away! This is just your first step into an exciting world of creating your own cosplay costumes and so practice makes perfect! Of course, your friends may think of you as an old granny that sits in the corner of her house and never leaves, but hey, that never hurt anybody, right? And you are learning something fun, and will make you wonderful, unique costumes and maybe even pay off in the future. So, my fellow cosplayers, stop reading and get at it!

Sewing Machine Shopping

Sewing Machine Shopping

Sunday, June 26, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

Sewing Machine Shopping

The fundamental tool for any dedicated cosplayer, is the sewing machine.  When you are looking to purchase your first machine, you will come to realize that there are many makes and models on the market, so it becomes difficult to decide on which machine you should purchase as your starter machine based on your sewing needs.  Finding the right sewing machine really depends on how you intend to use it, but before you give yourself a headache with all the possibilities out there, it’s worth asking some basic questions.  Here are 10 things to consider when purchasing a sewing machine:

  1. What can you afford? – Everyone has a budget and recognizing whether or not you can actually afford the machine that you want is the first step to choosing the one that’s right for you.  There is simply no point in looking at high-end machines if you have a limited budget.  Of course, there will always be a machine that offers much more if you spend more.  If you can only afford a $50 machine, then look around and see what quality second-hand machines are available, either at a dedicated retailer or on an auction site (but make sure any second-hand machine you buy has a warranty).  Remember that the cheaper the machine, the less likely it is going to last, so always but the best you can afford.
  2. How many stitches do you need? – Once you know your budget, you need to start thinking about what you really need.  What you need and what looks appealing are two very different things!  To sew successfully you only really need a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch.  These two stitches will allow you to do just about everything you want to do on a sewing machine.  Everything else depends on how you intend to use the machine.  Will you use other stitches on a regular basis?
  3. Can you adjust the stitch length? – While you may just use straight stitch and zigzag stitch, being able to adjust both the width and the length of these stitches can be invaluable.  Do you set your machine to the longest length and machine baste any new designs that you work on.  Do you set the stitch to its shortest length when you sew up wearable designs, to ensure small, tight stitches.  Do you constantly adjust the zigzag length and width for appliqué and finishing off edges.  While most machines offer variable stitch widths and lengths, some of the lower priced machines don’t, so it’s always worth checking.
  4. What attachments come with the machine? – Having a selection of presser feet can make all the difference to your sewing day, so it’s important to find out which attachments come as standard and which attachments are available to buy separately.  If you want to make clothing, then you should look for a machine that has a buttonhole foot, a zipper foot and a blind hem foot as standard attachments.  However, if you intend to make quilts, you will need a walking foot, a ¼” foot (the seam allowance for patchwork) and if you intend to freehand quilt then you’ll want a freehand embroidery foot.  For basic sewing, a selection of different width feet can be invaluable when switching between seam allowance widths, as well as for the zigzag stitch.  If the machine you’re thinking of buying doesn’t come with the feet you’d like, make sure they are available to purchase separately and that they don’t cost a fortune.  It’s also very useful to check how easily the feet can be changed.  A lot of machines just have feet that clip on and off, which really does save a lot of time if you find yourself switching back and forth between feet.
  5. How big is the motor? –  As a rule of thumb, the heavier the motor and the heavier the machine, the stronger the machine will be.  A strong, heavy motor will make it easier to cope with frequent use and heavier fabrics, such as upholstery-weight fabrics and denims.  A machine that is predominantly plastic will not withstand the kind of use that a machine with metal parts can.  Of course, if you know you’re going to need to transport your machine frequently, even if it’s just in and out of a cupboard, you need to decide if a heavy machine is impractical and whether you want to compromise with a machine that has a plastic body, but metal parts.  But the lighter the machine, the less it will be able to handle.
  6. What make is the machine and where is it being sold?  Brand really does make a difference with sewing machines.  All machines are not made equal and they don’t all have the same parts inside.  Back in the day, Singer made fantastic machines that lasted forever, but unfortunately these days, their machines are mainly made out of plastic, with smaller motors that just aren’t built to last.  So it’s not just about buying the name you recognize.  Always look at where the machine is being sold.  In a department store, you will be most likely to find brands like Singer, Brother and Janome.  These are all very successful brands, but they are more likely to be lightweight, hobby machines (Janome is the exception to this rule, as they’ve managed to produce both low-end hobby machines and high-end professional machines).  On the other hand, if you’re looking in a dedicated retailer, you’re much more likely to find brands such as Bernina, Pfaff, Huqsvarna and Juki.  These are all high-end machines that start off much pricier, but are aimed at and used by frequent stitchers.  These machines tend to be the ones mentioned by professional makers.  And they don’t tend to be available in the big department stores.  It’s always better to buy at the low-end of a good brand rather than the high-end of an average hobby brand.  And you should never buy anything with cartoon characters on it, because chances are it is not a good machine!
  7. How noisy is the machine? – This is something that very few people think about when looking at machines, but once you’re actually sewing it can really affect how and when you use it.  If you’re like most people and only have time to sew in the evening, (after work or when the kids are in bed), it can be a shock to get your lovely new machine home and discover that it sounds like a pneumatic drill and is keeping everyone in your household, including the neighbors, awake.  If you’re worried about the amount of noise you’re making when you sew, you are far less likely to use the machine.  So it pays to take your time when you’re choosing your machine, and research quieter machines.  Just keep in mind that if you’re testing the machine in a sewing shop, the ambient nose levels are likely to be quite high, so it can be really hard to judge just how quiet your machine really is.
  8. Mechanical vs. computerized? – Most of the high-end machines on the market are now fully computerized, with touch screens and programmable stitch sequences.  But they come at a price, and if budget is an issue then the question of whether to buy a mechanical machine or a computerized machine needs to be asked.  Modern mechanical machines tend to be lighter (even if they have a strong motor) because they have less parts, which makes them easier to carry around.  They are also easier to maintain, with covers that can be removed so that the motor can be oiled. Servicing is often cheaper as a result.  However, most of the good new machines are computerized or electronic, meaning that the machines have stronger motors and extra power, so they don’t struggle with heavyweight fabrics and constant use. Computerized machines also tend to have superior stitch lines, with more evenly spaced and therefore stronger, stitches.  They also have a lot more sewing options.  Computerized machines can be programmed, so that specific stitch sequences can be remembered, and they offer huge selections of decorative and embroidery stitches as well as automatic tie-offs, and thread cutting.  Which you buy really does depend on your budget, but if you’re going for a mechanical machine, it’s best to buy an older, high-end model, rather than a cheap, plastic model. It will last longer and even if it only offers the basics, it will withstand a lot more use.
  9. How often will you use your machine? – Everyone that sews wishes they had more time for it than they do.  If you recognize that you’re the sort of sewer that will probably only get the machine out every few months, to hem clothes or make some new cushions, then a high-end, all-singing, all-dancing machine may not be the best investment.  But a good quality electronic machine may enhance your sewing experience and encourage you to start sewing more often.  If you know that you’ve been bitten by the sewing bug and that the only thing standing between you and daily sewing is the lack of a good machine, then buying the best you can afford gives you plenty of scope for growth.  If money is an issue, recognizing your own sewing expectations is essential. If you rarely sew now, a new, expensive machine that requires a lot of learning is not necessarily going to make you sew more. But a solid mechanical machine that covers all the basics and only requires threading and plugging in will seem less daunting.
  10. What are your sewing expectations? – This is another question that will help you to recognize if your desire for that amazing, expensive machine is based on wishful thinking or a genuine need.  It’s also designed to find out whether you’re holding yourself back due to lack of confidence in learning something new.  If the thought of learning how to use a new machine fills you with excitement, then a machine with lots of options and exciting possibilities is the one for you.  But if the thought of all those buttons and programs makes you break out in a cold sweat,then there’s a chance that the huge instruction manual and all those symbols and patterns may put you off using your new machine.  Equally, if your ambition is to make heirloom quality quilts, then buying a machine that only has basic attachments will hinder you from achieving your goal and will most likely leave you feeling frustrated.  And if you want to get to the point where you can make your own clothes, then spending money on a machine that has variable stitch lengths, over-locking stitches and the ability to switch to a twin needle will be a good investment.