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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Challenge of Today...Master the settings on my New Machine

As you will see in the photos for some of the upcoming blog posts, I have a new sewing machine. I finally broke down and got an industrial. I really love the way it sews, though I'm still getting used to the settings and features. I've been working on a project using very thin monofilament thread and my installer has set the machine to handle this. Today, however, I need to alter some slacks that are a white denim type fabric. I changed my needle and adjusted the tension. I practiced on scraps and the stitch looked beautiful. But I forgot to look at the back side . Sigh...

Well, the photo isn't great because the waistband is not lying flat, but you can see that the stitches look good. I used a normal weight thread and a heavier thread together, both going through the same needle. I've done this a lot with my old machine, using regular single strand thread in the bobbin, as explained in this post.
fraying bra strap
But as you can see, the under side looks like a bird's nest! Yikes. This machine is not happy having the bobbin thread weight not matching the needle thread.
After lots of trial and error, I have rethreaded with the monofilament thread, so I can finish that project and I will straighten this mess out later.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What You're Altering...Which Suit Pants are Easiest to Alter?

John has an interesting question for us today. See if you agree with my response.
He writes:
Which would be easier to alter for a proper fit: a pair of mens suit pants that fit slightly tight in the waist and definitely too tight in the crotch, or a pair of suit pants that fit too loose in the waist, slightly too loose in the crotch, and too loose in the thigh?

I would always go with pants that are too big. You never know how much the manufacturer is going to leave in a seam allowance. Sometimes, there is just nothing there to let out.

You can alter the crotch/thigh area at the same time, basically. The waist is not difficult. You should use these directions if you need to split the waistband. Otherwise, use the directions for letting out the waistband here. Just make your seamline to the left of the original seam, not the right, as shown. If the pants are facing the way they are in Step Four, the left will take them in, the right will let them out.

I am currently working on a page for altering the thigh. It is on women's pants, but the instructions are the same. Let us know how things go.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What You're Altering...How to Start Altering for Others

Hi Angela
First let me thank you for your kind words about my website.

I'd say experience gives you the most confidence. When I first started this business, I was given a pair of jeans that needed a new zipper. I let those things hang there for 2 WEEKS! I didn't know how to start and was petrified of making a mistake. Finally I dove in. Looking back, I should have practiced on an old pair first. But I finally put in the new zipper. It only took me about 2 hours, because I made so many mistakes that I had to rip out!!! Now it takes 20-25 minutes.

So practice on some old clothes first. It will give you a pat on the back to know you've done it. Then the next thing that will improve will be your speed. The more times you do things, the quicker you will finish them. Then your hourly wage will go up because you can do more in one hour than you did last week. I still work at this, even today.

I am putting up the "Shorten Suit Sleeves" page this week, so you may feel more comfortable waiting for that. When you work on something like that, you have 2 sleeves, so look at one while you work on the other. I try not to rip out both at the same time.

Also, use a digital camera. Snap shots of things you do, step by step so you have a record of how to put things back the way you found them.

Good luck and let me know when you get stuck. I'll walk you through it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What You're Altering...Removing Beads to take in a Formal

Our question today comes from Carolyn. She writes:

I began alterating formal gowns this year. There were two dresses with beads on the bodice. These dresses needed to be let in, and of course the beads were in the area. Could you give some pointers on altering dresses with beads around the bodice. Sometimes I would be so afraid of losing lots of beads when cutting out the beads around the seam area. Thanks

I am a big fan of digital cameras. I take pictures of everything I work on. That way you have a reference to the way the garment looked originally.
If you have a digital macro setting on your camera, learn to use it. You can see that my photos are up close and clear. This is the setting I use most often and it will be great for your beadwork. You can also photograph from a distance, in your case, if you need to remember the pattern of the beads.

I use a seam ripper when removing beads. It is tough to see the nylon thread sometimes, but a good light will help point out where to insert the seam ripper tip. When working on a dress with lots of beads, I put a sheet underneath the dress, to catch the beads that I don't see falling. As you know, they are often strung together and many come off at the same time. I put loose ones in a bowl.

Remember, you don't have to stress about replacing the beads as perfect as the original design. The client will not notice. You have a much keener eye, since you are doing the work. All she is looking for is the sparkle and the fact that there are no gaps where beads used to be.

Don't leave out the sequins, though. They are surprisingly effective at reflecting the light. They look tiny and useless, but they really do the job to add sparkle.

One last thing. Be sure you charge enough when altering these kind of gowns. They are time consuming. Inform your client up front as to how much work is involved, telling her that each bead must be sewn back on by hand. If you aren't getting paid enough, you will quickly resent your job and maybe your client. Wanna guess how I know this?? Yep, been there done that.

Anyone else have any tips for Carolyn?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What You're Altering...Invisible zipper questions

I've been getting so many questions about things that you guys are altering, that I've decided we can all benefit from the answers. Please feel free to offer your own comments that may help our readers.
Our first question comes from My. She writes:

I've been stressing out on my dress with an invisible zipper attached. The dress is loose on me, so I wanted to know if it's okay to carefully remove the zipper and sew it back on in a new position, or if the zipper would be too damaged to be reused? Also, is it okay if the zipper if shorter than the center back? Maybe I can use buttons at the edge of the neck instead? Thank you so much!

You can certainly remove the zipper and replace it. If you are careful, you can easily reuse the same one. Just remove the old threads. Sometimes a shot of steam from the iron will perk it up, if it is wrinkled.

With the dress on, pinch out the amount of fabric you need to take in. Measure that amount and create a new seam line for the center back. You will need to taper it into the existing seam line down below the zipper, or take in the entire center back seam.
You have three options if the zipper is too short.
1. Buy a longer zipper. It is actually the best if an invisible zipper is 2 or more inches longer than you need.
2. Close up part of the center back seam. Be sure you have enough room to get into the dress with a smaller opening.
3. As you've said, attach a couple of buttons at the neck edge. I always look for way to introduce new design features!
Good luck with the project. Let me know how it turns out.