Friday, May 20, 2011

Fearless Serger Sewing

With a few simple lessons, you can "fear serging less!" You don’t have to give up creativity. With a serger, you can become more creative.

When I began my serger experience in 1988, I was determined to learn the machine. I was fascinated with how the loopers worked in tandem with each other and how the needle(s) interacted with the loopers. I was somewhat intimidated by this new machine, but with a few classes, I became fearless, and so can you! It would be money well spent. Allow yourself to expand your abilities and skill beyond your present level.

The serger was so much fun that I made almost everything on it for the next couple of years, from lingerie and swimsuits to blue jeans. My sewing machine rarely got used – it was so neglected! I had already been using a zig-zag stitch with an overcast foot on my sewing machine to finish seams on woven fabrics – so many that I wore out three feet. So, when I learned how to use my first serger, I was in "sewing-heaven!"

Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that delicate-looking heirloom techniques could be done on the serger. Since discovering heirloom serger sewing, another world has opened up to me. I’ve found that French seams, pin tucks, joining flat or gathered lace to fabric, lace to entredeux, and lace to puffing can be a very fast way to produce a beautiful heirloom project in a fraction of the time it takes on a sewing machine. This allows a multiple-step sewing machine process to be substituted by a one-step serger process. 

With the capability of today’s sergers to gather, to stitch on beading, to make chain stitching and multiple-needle cover stitching, to add bias binding and to do shadow work, our options seem to be unlimited. Some of these stitches can be used in multiple ways as decorative stitch embellishment. And, let’s not forget the flatlock stitch - another way to embellish our projects. Crazy patch made with any combination of these stitches is yet another creative way to use our serger.

Serger crochet can add another dimension when finishing the edges on a project. I’ve used this technique on edges of unlined jackets, both with rayon and 12 weight cotton threads. Serger crochet can also be used to add a pretty and feminine edge to handkerchiefs, scarves and baby bonnets. I even saw a demonstration on doing serger smocking on a recent Martha Pullen Sewing Room program. Where will it all end?!

If you are having difficulty threading your serger, my recommendation is to take a class that teaches how to thread your particular serger, or get with a sewing buddy who may have a similar serger for help. Or, simply cut the threads above the tension dials and tie on new threads, then pull them through. Be sure to not pull the thread knot through your tension dials/discs to prevent damaging them.

One thing I did, once I learned how to thread my serger, was to practice over and over until I could almost thread it with my eyes closed. Be sure to test repeatedly anytime you re-thread your serger, or even tie on new threads, just as you would on your sewing machine. Another option is to join the Serger Club at Austin's Sewing Center or your local dealership, where you’ll be exposed to techniques that will expand your skill level. 

Of course, we will always need our wonderful sewing machines to accomplish most of our sewing tasks, but our serger can really help us make a more professional-looking project, no matter what it is. So, now that you "fear serging less," go ahead, venture into the creative serging world and explore the various possibilities. Play with your serger, experiment with its different functions, and have fun! 

Sandy Davis ©2010

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Denim Re-Make, Upcycling Old Denim

As an afterthought, I wanted to post another project I made from some denim yardage I found in my resource center.  I needed a cover-up for the end of my work table/pressing surface, which is two identical chests of drawers that are backed up to each other.  They are sitting on bricks to bring them up to an ergonomical work height.  Since the ends of the chests were not attractive-looking as one walks into the studio, and the bricks were really unsightly, I needed something to cover the whole area; but, I wanted something that was functional.

So, I cut a length of the yardage to drape all the way to the floor and to be long enough to slide under the work top, which can anchor it into place.  The width of the denim was just a little too wide, so I serged it off to match the width of the chests.  To turn the drape into a sewing studio organizer, I used some pockets and belt loops from old jeans and one pocket from a denim shirt, and used a jeans leg to make some ruler holders.

In this photo, you can see how I sewed some fun fur onto the belt loops for the rotary cutters.  I sewed some decorative sewing-themed buttons onto two of the pockets.  The shirt pocket had a pencil section already stitched into it, so I utilized it for a marker.

In this shot, you can barely see the work top.  It's made from a piece of plywood cut to fit the two chests.  I  covered it with two old army blankets, then placed a layer of duck on top which I wrapped around the edges of the board and stapled it to the back.  It's heavy enough to hold the drape in place, even with all the loops and pockets filled!

The longer loops on the left are spaced far enough apart for my quilting rulers.  The loops on the right accommodate my straight rotary rulers.  Again, I decorated them with some fancy yarn from my resource center.  Just before I snapped this picture, I decided to pin on another belt loop near the top for my tape measure.  It worked!  The tape falls just above the floor - how handy!  (I did sew the loop on later.)

This organizer is very useful.  I have my rulers at my fingertips and can locate my rotary cutters easier, as long as I put them back where they belong!  It's not only useful, it looks good when I walk into the studio, which makes me smile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Denim Makeovers-Turn old Jeans into Something New - Tutorial

At our April Sew What! class, which met on April 28, we took old, worn out jeans and made them into something new and useable.  The following is a tutorial and photos of an across-the-body bag/pouch (not sure what the correct name is for these little bags) that I made from a pair of old rust-colored jeans that have bleach spots all over them.

These jeans are the cargo style that have a pocket on each leg. 
I cut one pocket off a jeans leg, leaving 1/2" to 1" around all four edges for seam allowance.  I chose this pocket because it has a second pocket on the outside with snap closures.  It will give me added storage in my bag.  I plan to use the upper part of the jeans for a bag as a future project.

Here, I placed the pocket on top of the fabric I used for the back of the bag, cutting it the same size as the pocket, including seam allowances.
Next, I have sewn the two layers together, around the sides and the bottom, with a straight stitch first, then with a zig-zag stitch to clean-finish the edges.  The excess fabric is trimmed away from the zig-zag stitching.  I could have used my serger, here, but I needed to use this project as a teaching tool for my Sew What! class, and most of the students don't have a serger.

The corners are clipped at the bottom two corners.

Turn and press as flat as possible.

This is a strip of coordinating fabric I used for a binding across the top of the bag, simply to cover the raw edges on both the pocket side and the back side.  I wasn't sure it would work out, but it did!

Using a pressing guide, I pressed the edge of the binding strip up 1/2" on both edges.  One edge is sewn, right sides together, to the top edge of the pocket unit.  I used the press mark as a stitching guide.
The binding strip is pinned to the top edge, right sides together.  Leave the strip open about two inches from the end so the strip can be sewn together to a size that matches the top edge of the pocket unit.  If that doesn't make sense, I think the pictures will show how it was done.  (Please forgive my explanation!)

Next, the strip ends are stitched.

Here, I'm checking to see if the strip will fit the top edge of the pocket unit.  You could actually measure the pocket unit edge in order to get the strip length measurement, but I don't always have success with that method.  Use whatever works for you!

Finger-press the seam you just stitched open.  
The next step is to stitch the binding strip to the pocket unit.

Fold the binding strip down over the raw edge of the unit, folding under the raw edge of the binding strip evenly all around and pin.

I used a decorative stitch to top-stitch the binding down.  I chose #27 from the list below.  It gave good coverage for the binding edge and added some interest to the top of the pocket unit.

I cut a third coordinating strip of fabric about 3" wide.  The length was determined by draping a tape measure across my body, from one shoulder to the opposite side of my body.  I wanted the finished bag to hit right below my waistline, so use this as your guide.  Fold and press both sides so they meet at the center of the strip.

Then, I folded the strip so the fold edges match.  I top-stitched the strip on both sides about 1/4" away from the edges, with a little longer straight stitch.  I like to use a longer (about 3.0) stitch length when top-stitching because it looks more professional.
The length of my strip happened to be the entire width of the fabric.  Because of that, I was able to have the selvedge edges at each end of the strip, therefore not needing any clean finishing for the ends.  One step eliminated!  Whoo-hoo!!!  Notice in this picture, as well as the one below, the ends are tied in a knot to give an added design element.  (This was actually in the original directions I used.  I liked it, so I used it.)

I stitched the (now) strap to the bag sides with a row of straight stitching, stitching across it twice for stability.  

You could stitch in a box formation, if you like.

The finished bag!
Now, I have a small bag that I can throw over my shoulder for quick trips out and I won't have to be challenged with a large purse or bag!