Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Decanting cones into spools

Occasionally you find an amazing tip on another blog that's to good to ignore. The Makery have come up with this amazing tip on what to do when you have one big spool and want to turn it into 4 spools for overlocking. I'll talk more about thread another day but in the meantime check out this
top tip to transfer thread from large cones to small spools

how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (1)

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

TECHNIQUE: Quilting, Wadding, Batting (or whatever it's called)

I have a confession, I have no idea what the correct name for this technique is (if you know, please tell me!), but it's what I use to join a layer of wadding or batting to one or more pieces of fabric and this is one technique where the overlocker is far superior to your sewing machine. It strikes me as odd but this is a technique that's almost never shown in normal overlocker books. I've used it for a gazzilion costuming techniques, particularly character costuming and props, but it's also absolutely ideal for crafts.

Overlockers make sewing oven mitts and absolute breeze! I whipped these Christmas presents up in a couple of hours

Threads: 4 threads is best
Tension: Normal
Stitch Length: 3 ish. If your stitch is too low it will struggle with the fabric
Differential Feed: my machine preferred a slightly higher than average differential feed, about 1.5, which helped keep the different layers together
Knife: ENGAGED!!!
Foot Pressure: 1
Cutting width: theres a lot of bulk there so you may want lower than normal

Stitch Length 3, Diff Feed 1.5
Foot Pressure 1

Tension is in it's happy place

When to Use:

This is a great costuming technique, especially making character costumes or cosplay where you want to make fabric backed in a light foam or wadding, but it's perfect for bonding pretty fabrics to wadding. I made up some over mitts today using it, but it's great for bags and a bunch of craft projects.

What I love about this is that you cut and bind at the same time so you can easily sandwich wadding between two layers of fabric in one easy step, you don't need to worry about carefully measuring each piece, and because you can see each layer of fabric you prevent the bottom layer having a mind of it's own and getting lost or skewy underneath.


Step 1: cut out fabric to finished pattern. 

Step 2: lay fabric on wadding and pin it. Cut around loosely so that you have around 3-5mm of wadding visible all the way around. Don't be a perfectionist and don't measure, it's all going to be cut off so as long as you can see the wadding it's fine.

Step 3: lay two layers on top of backing fabric and pin through all 3 layers(I've used calico as it's inside my oven mitt and won't be seen), and cut loosely around the wadding so you can see around 3-5mm of calico around the edge of the wadding

You'll end up with something that looks approx like this, pinned loosely together through all layers of the fabric. If you keep your pins in the centre, you don't have to worry about running over them with your machine.

As you can see my cutting isn't perfect, an approx shape is fine

Step 4: Overlock your fabric. Line up the knife of your overlocker with the edge of your fabric, so that it basically cuts of the wadding and calico layers to be flush with the top fabric. The wadding and calico will be trimmed off to make exactly the same size pieces as the top fabric, and will join and bind them in one simple step.

This photo also shows you how I turn corners using this technique. The best thing is to run right off the edge, lift the foot up and reset your fabric so that the chain will be cut off with the new stitch. In this case you end up with a little loop at the end that you can leave, which I do because it's very secure, or trim and finish if you need.

The eagle eyed among you will also see that in this piece didn't quite get my curve perfectly lined up with the edge of the fabric, but it's enclosed in a seam and the stitch lines are through all layers so I can afford to be a little bit forgiving

Once I've gone all the way around each piece, I can then use them as single pieces of fabric and make up my project.

In this case, I used my sewing machine to join my pieces. Much easier than trying to sandwhich difficult curves and 6 layers of fabric in your overlocker. Here's the finished product!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Taking your needle out and NOT losing it!

If you're anything like me, when you change from 4 thread to 3 thread you take the needle out and promptly lose it. This means every time you change from 3 thread to 4 thread you have to get out a new needle. 

My Frister and Rossman machine has its own handy in built needle storage place,  but most machines don't.
In the front fold down section of my F&R

If your machine does not come with its own anti-needle-losing device, try this simple trick. Cut a small approx 2-3" square of thick fabric like a fleece that will be difficult for your needle to slip out of. Put a tiny hole in the middle and slip it over your rightmost / lower looper spool. 

When you take a needle out pop it into your needle holder and voila!  When you go back to 4 thread you'll know exactly where to find your needle.

And the best thing about this, you can pop your spool on top and it won't affect the functionality of your machine at all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

TECHNIQUE: Gathering

Threads: Can be done with 3 threads with either needle, or 4 if you want a really strong gather
Tension: Normal
Stitch Length: 4-5 or as high as possible
Differential Feed: 2 or as high as possible.
Knife: Usually engaged but can be disengaged if needed

My thread length dial at the front on 5 and differential feed at the back on 2

When to Use: 

Any item that you want to overedge and give a strong gather to at the same time. Especially useful for long straight seams such as gathered skirt waistband and any sort of frill on a dress or cushion.


I don't understand why this technique isn't more widely known. I much prefer it to a sewing machine gathering when even the most experienced sewer can run into issues with lining up the gathering stitch perfectly between a raw edge and the seam line. We've all had that moment where gathers run out below the seam allowance to the finished edge of the fabric and you have to unpick it. Or worse the gathering stitch snaps or comes loose at the edges because its designed to be a loose, impermanent stitch.

In the right situation this trims, overedges, keeps your gathering stitch away from the stitching line and gives a much smoother, easier to manage gather

Eureka Moment:

This technique does 2 very important things. 
  1. It shows in a very practical way just what a differential feed does. Yep, this is entire purpose of a high differential feed, to gather the fabric up. Knowing this tecnhique will help you understand how to adjust your differential feed to get a perfect tension when sewing those pesky jersey fabrics
  2. The other thing this tecnhique does it help to understand the difference between a needle and a looper thread. This shows you that the needle threads on your overlocker really aren't all that different than the needle threads on your sewing machine


Adjust your settings as above and stitch as normal, cuttting off whatever you require.

The fabric is starting to gather on its own already

Separate your needle thread/s (Mine are the green and yellow ones) at the start of the seam. 

My big fingers find this easier with the help of a needle or pin.

Pull on the needle thread/s as you would a normal sewing machine thread to gather the fabric to the required amount

That's it. Done. Wasn't that easy!!!!

Real World Example:

Here's a pink skirt that I gathered up in a 3 thread gather. I chose to do 3 thread because it's a fully lined dress so I didn't want as much bulk on the seam.  It's exactly the same but you need to be careful identifying the needle thread

This is a duchess satin so quite thick but it sill works
Always identify from the needle thread from the right / top side of the fabric.Its the one that forms the straight seam line

You man lose a couple of stitches at the start. Don't panic, that's ok

My fully gathered skirt

And the fully gathered lining
And the skirt attached.

Tips for Advanced Players:

  • If you are not bagging out your lining you can join and gather the top and bottom layers together in one move.
  • There is a gathering foot that deserves it's own post, but suffice to say it exists and it is wonderful because it can join the gather and join the skirt to the flat bodice in one step. The downside is that I am yet to work out how to control the amount of gather when using the foot. This way has much more finesse.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Why does this blog exist?

I teach overlocker (that's serger to our American friends) classes to the ladies of the Women's Institute. I've been sewing for years, and it's occured to me that in spite of the revival in sewing and the long term existence of overlockers, people are still, on the whole, terrified of them.

You buy an overlocker because everyone tells you it's the next step in sewing, you use it once or twice until you have to change the thread colour, and then it sits on your sewing table for months, if not years, gathering dust and taunting you. If you're really lucky you can put it back in its box in the back of the cupboard where it's tiny cries, craftily calculated to make you feel guilt towards your expensive and unloved purchase, can be ignored.

I use my overlocker regularly, but strictly in a change the thread colour to finish off the seams, kind of basic way.  It was only I was asked to be a last minute substitute teacher for an overlocking class that I really started to think of it in a different way. There is so much unharnessed potential in this little machine.

I know serger crafts are not a totally new idea, but they often involve some horribly ugly swing coat with "decorative" detail aimed a woman of a certain age and questionable taste. With the revival of sewing I want to take that a step further and encourage a new revival of the overlocker.

So here's my plan: To go where no woman has gone before and see how far I can push my overlocker to be useful. I freely admit now that some attempts would be better not to see the light of day, and some will be complicated, But I'm aiming to make projects that use a minimum of 80% sewing done on the overlocker, and see what I can discover. And if this blog inspires one or two of you to use your overlocker in a new way, then I'm happy.