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How to sew with a twin needle | The Somerset T-shirt

HEMMING JERSEY | TWIN NEEDLE

The Somerset T-shirt has a flattering Bateaux neckline, and on a minimalist style garment such as this, it’s important to understand that any stitching will a very visible detail. One of the ways to make your clothes look less home-made and more handmade is by paying attention to the finishing of your garments. And for jersey and knit fabrics, a twin-needled hem gives a very professional look.  Most factory-finished ‘Ready To Wear’ t-shirts will have been hemmed with an industrial coverstitch machine, which creates that unmistakeable double row of topstitching that has an inbuilt stretch to it. You can buy domestic coverstitch machines and if you’ve got one, happy stitching! But, if you have got one, I’m going to assume you’ve stopped reading this because it will all be a bit irrelevant!

Now, I don’t own a coverstitch machine and if you don’t either, don’t worry, as it can be easily replicated on an ordinary domestic sewing machine. You just need to use either a ballpoint twin or stretch twin needle for your machine. They come in different widths, which is the size of the gap between the needles and this is how far apart your 2 rows of topstitching will be. I use a 4mm needle, just make sure the one you choose will fit inside your presser foot.

THREADING YOUR MACHINE |

You will need to refer to your sewing machine instruction manual to get the exact information for your machine. Use your usual thread in the bobbin and then use 2 reels of thread for the top threading of your machine. Thread your machine as usual with the first reel of thread. Your machine may have a second spool to attach to hold the second reel. Not all machines do have a second spool holder and if like my machine yours doesn’t you can to use a separate spool stand. Thread the second reel of thread as the first, but when you get to the last thread guide above the needle leave it free to help prevent tangling (but again defer to your manual) and thread the eye of the other needle.

PRESS |

Press the hem or facing allowance 2.5cm to the wrong side of the garment (the actual amount may vary depending on your pattern).

WENDY’S TOP TIP! | Machine baste the facing

I can’t take credit for this tip! Wendy, one of my lovely testers, passed on this to me as she always does this before twin needling, stitching a facing or hem from the right side of a garment. It’s much quicker and gives an accurate guideline to follow. It’s also quicker than tacking by hand.

  • Use a contrast colour on your bobbin, it will give you and an easy-to-see and an easy-to-remove colourful basting stitch on the right side.
  • Set your stitch to the longest length.
  • With the wrong side of the garment up, stitch a row 2cm from the folded edge. (Adjust the measurement for your particular need!)
  • This will give you a stitch line to act as a guide for your twin needle row.
  • After twin needling, you can remove the basting stitches.

TWIN NEEDLE |

You want both needles to catch the hem allowance. I have a 2.5cm allowance but I line up the folded edge with the 2cm mark on my machine throat plate – 2cm will actually be the midpoint between the 2 rows of stitching, so I can make sure that I catch the allowance easily (that should also allow enough allowance if you are using a twin needle bigger than 4mm). I’ll trim any excess allowance away later if it needs it, but usually, it is quite a minimal amount so I don’t worry too much. The twin needle creates a zig-zag on the back so there is no need to pre-neaten your hems, but jersey doesn’t really fray anyway.

  • Use a stretch or ballpoint twin needle to create a faux coverstitch.
  • Stitch from the right side of the garment.
  • Test the tension and stitch length on a folded piece of fabric so you are stitching through 2 layers.
  • Check there is enough elasticity in the seam so the stitches don’t crack and snap when pulled.
  • Remember to make a note of your stitch settings so you can switch between settings on your machine with ease during the construction phase.
  • Use a good quality thread to help prevent it snapping.
  • Leave long ends and don’t backstitch, just stitch the ends in by hand later.
  • Increase your stitch length for neater looking stitches.
  • Don’t stretch as you sew.
  • A good press with steam often improves the look of the twin needling.
  • I found a higher tension and slightly longer stitch length worked for my machine.
  • On the wrong side, trim away any excess hem allowance after you’ve finished.
  • OPTIONAL | A walking foot (great if you’ve got one, but they can be expensive if you haven’t) will help feed both layers of fabric through your machine evenly.
  • Alternatively, you could use a zig-zag stitch set to a medium width/length.

OOPS! WHAT WENT WRONG?! 

First of all, did you give it a good press? Never underestimate how much pressing your seams and hems will improve the look of your finished garment. And do remember that pressing is just that, lift your iron and use it in an up and down motion, not a dragging side to side motion. And be gentle, you don’t want to stretch anything.

TIME TO TROUBLESHOOT THOSE STITCHES |

Sometimes, no matter how much fiddling around with pressing, tension and stitch length settings, you may find using a twin needle creates a ridge or ‘tunnel’ effect. Before you get upset by it, go off and have a coffee or something, come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Would it have bothered you if you bought it from a shop or are you chasing unobtainable perfection? Because you know what, that picture above, it’s not that bad! But if it is bothering you…

Stabilising the area may help. Try these ideas;

  • try using spray starch to stabilise the area
  • place a tear-away stabilizer underneath before sewing and gently remove after.
  • You could try using wash away wonder tape on the hems. This is a double-sided tape that washes away. When I tested it I found due to the curved shape of the neckline and the tape is straight and not cut on the bias, it caused more problems than it solved, but you may find it useful for hems. And as all fabrics respond differently, it might be worth a little test sample of the neck area to see if it works for you.
  • Stabilise with strips of tricot interfacing.
  • Don’t forget, it’s not worth getting hot and bothered over! You can always use a different stitch, just select a zig-zag or other decorative stretch stitch to finish the hems and neckline.

STABILISE WITH INTERFACING|

To improve the look of tunnelling try applying a strip of fusible interfacing to the hem allowance before stitching. Use a tricot (knitted) interfacing, this is a stretch lightweight polyester iron-on interfacing and is available in black or white.

 

Cut the interfacing into 2.5cm (1”) wide straight strips (or whatever the width of your hem allowance is) with the most stretch running in direction of their longest length, so it will stretch with your knit fabric and finished garment. As we are using knitted interfacing you will be able to curve the strips into shape as you press in place on your t-shirt. And then test your stitches again!

Other Somerset T-shirt tutorials | Sewing with Knits

 

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| Sewing with knits |

| SEWING JERSEY TIPS |

Sewing a knit garment can sometimes seem a bit daunting. Many makers think you need specialised machinery, but really good results can be achieved on an ordinary domestic machine. The trick is to test your machine stitch and tension settings before you start and make sure you use the correct needle to avoid skipped stitches.

UNDERPRESSING |

My one major piece of advice I would like to offer, and this applies to ALL of your makes, is to take your time and underpress at each stage of construction. Underpressing just means that you will press as you go and press each seam after sewing it. I tend to sew everything I can in one hit and then move on to press everything I can while I’m at the ironing board. I apply the same principle to neatening my seams at the overlocker. I was taught by the sample machinists I worked with to first press the seam flat so the stitches are set into the fabric, and then either press the seam allowance open or to one side. This does give a more professional finish and even though you are effectively pressing each seam twice, pressing the seam allowance flat and together first makes it much easier and quicker to press open or to one side. And do remember that pressing is just that, lift your iron and use it in an up and down motion, not a dragging side to side motion. And be gentle!

  • Always use a ballpoint, jersey or stretch (usually recommended for Lycra) needle so you don’t get skipped stitches.
  • Use a stretch or ballpoint twin needle to create a faux coverstitch for the hem.
  • Use ordinary polyester thread as it has more ‘give’ than cotton thread so will stretch with the garment and is less likely to snap.
  • Don’t pull and stretch your fabric as you sew, though I find holding it firmly to create a bit of tension as it is stitched can be helpful.
  • If your seam goes a bit wavy after stitching, very gently steam and press flat.
  • I have used a walking foot in the past, which helped but I don’t think it was essential. It would be worth trying if you have one, but they can be expensive to buy.
  • My machine tried to swallow the garment into the footplate at the beginning of a seam, so I placed a piece of paper under the garment before stitching. I had some heavy tissue paper handy but the off-cuts from printed Indie sewing patterns would be perfect!
  • Not sure which needle to use – here’s a link to a handy chart.

| STITCHES |

The Somerset T-shirt Stitch Chart | Maven Patterns
| The Stitch Chart |

 

Create a Stitch Library | Test your stitches on a scrap bit of fabric first. Stitch in both directions, along the selvedge and across the width of the knit, to make sure your stitches don’t crack when you pull them. Record your machine settings on the Stitch Chart included in the Somerset T-shirt pattern, or in a notebook, to create your own Stitch Library so you can refer back to them easily during the construction of this (and future!) garments.

Tension and stitch settings will vary and be dependant on your machine and your fabric. The best method, tension and stitch length settings will vary depending on your sewing machine, the fabric you are using and the finish you prefer.

There are a couple of different options (listed below) for stitching your seams. You really need to get friendly with your sewing machine manual and you may find further guidance there on selecting a suitable stretch stitch as your machine may have different stitch options available than those we have listed.

Zig-zag stitch | lightning stitch | straight stitch | 4 thread overlocker

 

  • zig zag on a narrow width and 2.5-3mm length (I used this as was quicker than the lightning stitch, and set my stitch width to 0.5 and stitch length to 2).
  • Stretch stitch (sometimes called lightning stitch)
  • This one may be controversial but I actually stitched mine with a straight stitch, and just pulled the fabric very slightly in front of the needle so it was under tension as it was stitched but I was very careful not to stretch my seams. My t-shirt has been heavily worn and washed and the seams haven’t cracked to date. Keep in mind what type of garment you are making and what type of knit you are using. Do not use this if you are sewing a very stretchy jersey or making activewear or swimwear though, I haven’t tried it but I’m pretty sure your seams will crack under those circumstances.
  • Overlocker – you can cut, sew and neaten your seams all in one go. 3 threads are usually just used for neatening seams, 4 (or 5) threads are used for all in one seam stitching as it makes for a stronger seam. The stitches have a built-in stretch to them.
  • To neaten your seams either use a zig-zag or overlock together. You could in theory just stitch and leave the edges raw and unfinished or trim them with pinking shears as knit fabric don’t really fray.

| CUTTING |

  • Prewash and press
  • Lay the fabric flat on the table, do not stretch it but let it relax.
  • It’s preferable to cut knit fabrics in a single layer for accuracy.
  • If folded make sure the underneath layer is flat too as it has a tendency to ‘ripple’ as it grabs the top layer.
  • Do not let it hang off the edge of the table as it will stretch the cloth out of shape or pull it off-grain.
  • Pin in the seam allowances to prevent marking the body of your garment.
  • Or use weights and cut with a rotary cutter.
  • INDUSTRY TIP | mark the wrong side of the fabric with a chalk cross it if isn’t easy to spot the right and wrong side. Black jersey – I’m looking at you!

Other Somerset T-shirt tutorials | How to Twin Needle | The Somerset t-shirt

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A Most Delightful Pattern Hack

The French Dart Shift | Button Back Tutorial

The French Dart Shift is possibly the most versatile pattern you will ever sew with and I have another little pattern hack to share with you today!

 

I originally made the Indigo Moon spot sample for The Festival of Quilts as I wanted to showcase the Corozo buttons that Mr.M had sourced. Corozo is a natural, sustainable product that works in harmony with the rainforests of Equador, and as it is an excellent alternative to plastic buttons so we felt it was an important message to share.

The sample and the buttons proved to be very popular and there were lots of requests for a tutorial on adding a button placket. The buttons and buttonholes are functional, but you don’t need to undo them to get the top on and off. I’ve added the buttons down the back of the garment, you could just as easily use these instructions and have them down the front instead. I’ve made this French Dart as a top but you could make a button through dress version, just be aware of how much ease you have in the hips and bum area – too little and your buttons and buttonholes may strain or pop open when you sit down! I made the top sleeveless – it was the height of summer here in England – you know that 3-day window where the sun shines consistently before normal British weather resumes when dressing involves sunglasses, factor 50, a cardigan and canoe, because who knows, but best be prepared?!  I made no alterations to the pattern to make it sleeveless, just left the sleeves off and bound the armholes.

| HABERDASHERY for a top|

For all sizes | 1.5m of 150cm wide fabric (you will have enough fabric to cut out short sleeves if you don’t want a sleeveless top).

Indigo sample | Indigo Moon Fabric, 7 Corozo buttons – 24 ligne (15mm) || white linen sample | the linen was found in Ikea bargain corner, 7 Agoya shell buttons in natural – 24 ligne (15mm)

TOOLS | French Dart pattern, paper, scissors, tape, buttons, lightweight interfacing, buttonhole foot, and the usual sewing stuff!

ABBREVIATIONS | CB: centre back | CF: centre front | WS: wrong side | WST: wrong side together | RST: right side together | RS: right side | SA: seam allowance

| THE PATTERN |

First, you’ll need to alter the pattern. As always when altering a pattern trace off a copy so your original stays intact (if you have the PDF version you can always print another). Copy the collar, back and front but don’t cut them out yet.

I left out the back darts to make it a slightly boxier shape.

Decide on your length. I made the CB finished length (the length when it’s all sewn up and not including any seam or hem allowance) 60 cm and added a hem allowance of 4cm (pattern length including hem and neck SA – 64.6cm). No need to overcomplicate this bit, I just measure up from the hem in several places and draw a new line before chopping off the length. The only things to be aware of are;

  1. make sure the new line intersects the CF and CB lines at right angles to stop weird pointy angles.
  2. make sure your side seams are the same length and run smoothly around the body, again to avoid weird pointy angles.

| ADDING THE BUTTON PLACKET |

 

Working on the BACK BODY of your copy pattern, mark the CB line in a red to make it clear (the original ‘cut to the fold line’ is the CB).

Draw a line 1.5cm away and parallel to the CB line, creating a button placket. This will be the folded edge.

Draw another line 4.5cm away and parallel to the fold line, this makes the back facing.

*I used 15mm buttons. If you are using bigger/smaller buttons you can adjust the width of the placket and facing to accommodate your buttons and buttonholes.

When the facing folds back into place it should be the same shape at the neck and the hem as the main body. Fold the facing along the fold line so it sits in place, pin to hold and cut through both layers of paper. Make sure the neck and hem intersect the fold and CB at right angles. When you unfold the facing it will be exactly the same shape as the body. Make a notch in your pattern on the fold line at the neck and hem.

Fold up the hem in the same way before cutting out to make sure it is the same shape as the body when folded into place.

| COLLAR | 

As we have extended the CB by adding 1.5cm for the placket, we need to add the same amount to EACH end of the collar so it still fits. (Don’t worry about the seam allowances as they are already on the pattern, just add the 1.5cm.) Remark your notches.

| INTERFACING | 

Cut a strip 5cm wide and the length of your CB pattern and press onto the WS of the facing. By making the interfacing slightly wider than the facing and you’ll be able to press a nice sharp fold in your fabric.

| CUT AND MAKE |

Make your French dart according to the instructions.

  • Stay tape the neck – for the back neck use half the given measurement and add 1.5cm, or finish the tape at CB if you forget as I did 😉
  • Close and neaten French darts, shoulder and side seams. Leave out the back darts for a boxier shape top.

| COLLAR |

Press 1cm SA on the long edge to WS (STEP 14 in the instruction booklet) and pin in place.

Mark the midpoint between the SA notches.

Keep the 1cm SA pinned in place and fold collar RST in half at the midpoint, align the SA notches.

Close CB collar seam with 1cm SA, keeping 1cm SA folded in place and 6mm SA hanging free below.

Trim top corner to reduce bulk.

Turn through to RS and press seam so as not to roll to either front or back but to sit right on the edge.

| FACING |

If you haven’t already, apply your interfacing to the facing.

Neaten (overlock or zigzag) the edge of the facing. Press facing to WS and pin to hold at the neck edge.

| ATTACH COLLAR |

Place collar RST with body aligning the 6mm SA edge with neck edge. We are just attaching a single layer so keep the other side of collar free. Align notches and place the back seam of collar flush with the folded edge of the facing (you don’t want a step!). Stitch collar to the neckline with 6mm SA.

Trim corner of SA to prevent bulk.

On the WS of garment bring the free edge of the collar to the neckline to cover the stitching by 3mm and enclosing all the SA. Tack and then stitch in the ditch from the RS to finish. This is the same as our usual method of attaching the collar – we are just enclosing an end.

| HEM |

I allowed a 4cm hem allowance. I pressed it to WS by 4cm and then pressed the top raw edge under by 1cm and topstitching it at just under 3cm making it a clean-finished hem.

TOP TIP – Make sure your backs are EXACTLY the same length now before you start buttonholing.

| BUTTONS & BUTTONHOLES | 

I’ll only briefly explain how I mark my buttons and buttonholes because that could be a whole post by itself!

I always mark my button positions first (on the side of the garment to be buttonholed) and then mark my buttonholes around them to get the correct spacing. My first button was 1cm below the neck seam (my buttonhole foot wouldn’t sit any closer to the seam) and I had an 8cm spacing between each button.

I did my top buttonhole horizontally and started it 3mm to the right of the CB seam to allow the button enough space to sit on the CB.

The other buttons were all vertical and positioned centrally to the button positions on the CB line.

Once the buttonholes are made and cut, I pin the back bodies WST and push a pin through each buttonhole…

… and mark a dot on the other side to show where to sew each button.

And there you have it…yet another garment from the French Dart Pattern!

 

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A tip from Mrs M!

I posted this on Instagram the other day and was genuinely surprised how popular it was.

So here is another of my random little tips. I do hope you find it helpful!

Ever get confused which line to follow when chopping out a pattern in your size? You do too?

There is a simple solution – mark it with a highlighter first. No cutting the wrong line here!

And while you’re at it – circle those dots so you mark the right one for your size and don’t forget any of them!

Then use your screw punch hole and notchers to finish the job. Ta-Dah!

✂️✂️✂️