Hi, my name is Nancy and I am a senior at Brooks School. I play varsity ice hockey and crew but love to paint and sew in my free time. I plan to pursue STEM in college and I am so excited to be a part of this project.
A Guide to Sewing Machine Stitches and Settings
When getting started sewing, it can be frustrating to deal with a machine that won’t work correctly or understanding the different knobs and their meanings. In this short guide, I will show you the basic components to your sewing machine and how to troubleshoot issues involving them.
The length knob will adjust the length of your stitches. This will make any stitch either closer together or far apart. Longer stitches are easier to undo compared to short stitches. The stitch length is rated 1 to 4, 4 being the longest, and 1 being the shortest. Before stitch length 1, there will be a blue or red S1/S2 setting, this will correspond to the blue or red pictures on the stitch dial. On average stitch length should be between 2 and 3 for most materials.
The width dial adjusts the height of your stitch, this only applies to stitches that move along the x and y-axis. For example, this would make a zigzag stitch taller but would not change the distance between each stitch.
The tension dial adjusts the tension of the upper thread. Before starting to sew always test out on a scrap piece of fabric to ensure that the tension is correct. If the upper thread is too tight then loops from the bottom bobbin thread will show through the top, if the upper thread is too loose, loops will show on the opposite side of the fabric. Low numbers decrease the tension while high numbers increase the tension.
The reverse button or lever on your machine will sew backwards. Sewing in reverse locks the stitch in place at the start and end of sewing. It is very important to backstitch when you start sewing and when you stop in order to prevent your seams from coming undone.
The balance wheel is on the opposite end as the needle and bobbin. The balance wheel allows you to crank the needle manually by turning it. This is used on thick areas of fabric and when lining up a new seam to a previous seam. You can easily control where the needle enters the fabric by using the balance wheel.
The largest knob on your sewing machine will normally be the stitch dial. This knob or touchpad will have several different pictures of stitches, one in black and one in blue or red. The black stitches are the automatic stitch type when the length dial is between 1 and 4. When the length dial is on the red or blue dot, the red or blue stitches will be used. Decorative stitches need a special foot that is larger than the one that will come with your machine. You can buy one of these at any sewing supply store.
A Beginner’s Guide to Hand Sewing:
Hand sewing is a fun and easy way to get started on your sewing hobby. Hand sewing helps you learn the basic concepts of embroidery, tailoring, quilting, and much more. I will explain how to do 3 simple stitches and when to use them and soon you will be able to sew clothing, plushies, pillows or anything your heart desires.
The running stitch is the fastest and simplest hand sewing stitch. This stitch is used to close holes, loosely hold fabric together, and for gathering.
Step 1: Knot the thread at the end
Step 2: Run the needle through the fabric several times
Step 3: Pull the needle through and repeat step 2 until you reach the end
To use the running stitch for closing holes along the seam of clothing, fold the edges of the hole in line with the rest of the seam, then sew the stitch only catching the inside flap of fabric with the needle. It is important to make sure that the stitches are not far apart or the fabric might show the stitches.
To gather using a running stitch, sew along where you want the gathered fabric to be. Then hold the threat and push the fabric along the thread to gather it.
The backstitch is sturdier than the running stitch and is best used for sewing quilts, clothing, and embroidery. This stitch will create a solid straight line with thicker thread.
Step 1: sew one stitch forward on the back of the fabric
Step 2: from the front of the fabric, sew at the end of the previous stitch
Step 3: repeat going the stitch sewing forward and back
Tip: insert the needle at the start of the next stitch then poke it through the middle of the end of the last stitch and where the needle was inserted
The invisible stitch is used to hem clothing which you do not want to see a stitch line on the outside, this includes dress pants, blazers, skirts or anything that you would like to hem by hand.
Step 1: fold the fabric towards the inside of the garment to be your desired length
Step 2: sew through the top edge of the inside flap
Step 3: grab only a few threads from the outside piece of fabric but keeping the needle on the inside of the garment
Step 4: Repeat until back at the starting point of the hem
Here is the comparison of the bach and the front showing that the threat is not being seen on the outside of the fabric.
2 Easy Ways to Upcycle a T-Shirt
Here are two simple ways to upcycle an oversized t-shirt. Find oversized shirts from thrift stores or hand-me-downs from family or friends, these techniques will help recycle old clothing and make it wearable. The first way is a tube top and the second way is to make a tank top. These two garments are simple to make and can be adjusted to your taste. Sewing straps, sleeves, and gathering can make these simple designs unique with practice.
Tube tops are very popular and easy to make. I would recommend any stretchy fabric, like from t-shirts to make one. This is very easy to make and beginner-friendly. If you are working with light and/or transparent fabrics, add a second layer for the top by doing step 2 twice and sewing the 4 layers together in step 3.
Step 1: roughly measure the length you want your tube top or tank top to be. Then cut your chosen length plus a ¼ inch for the hem.
Step 2: Fit the rectangle of fabric to your body by either pinning it around yourself along the seams or measuring the top edge to be half the width of your upper bust and the bottom edge the width of your waist. Sew along the diagonal lines and this will create a trapezoid that will be fitted to your body. Make sure that the hemmed edge is the widest part of the garment. When finished sewing cut the excess fabric off.
Step 3: hem the bottom edge of the tube or tank top by rolling ⅛ of an inch to the inside of the top and sewing 1/16 of an inch from the edge. This will make the hem of your top discreet. Another way is to allow the fabric to roll up onto itself after washing the top.
Once you have made a tube top, making a tank top is simple. A tank top is easily made from the same shirt that the tube top was made from
Step 1: to continue and make a tank top, cut a strip of fabric from the bottom of the t-shirt between ½ to 2½ inches thick depending on how thick you want your straps to be.
Step 2: cut the shirt along the seams to create 2 strips of fabric. Then fold the pieces right sides together to make 2 tubes. Sew along the edge with ¼ inch seam allowance. Once sewn, turn the tubes inside out.
Step 3: repeat steps 1-3 for a tube top on the other half of the t-shirt
Step 4: put on the tube top and pin the straps into their desired place on the front and back. You can do the straps straight across or cross them in the back.
Step 4: sew down the straps along the top hemline and ⅛ of an inch from the top of the shirt. Cut off excess straps from the inside.
The simplicity of these patterns allow for them to be easily customizable. These two garments can also be made from any stretchy fabric, not just t-shirts. Remember to be creative and have fun when creating clothing
How to Sew Zippers and Elastic
Sewing elastic into clothing is easy, to fit old clothing to your body or designing new clothing.
First, measure the elastic to your desired length, do this by either wrapping it around your body or halfway around depending on where you want the elastic to be.
Once you have your elastic fitted to yourself, there are several ways to add elastic to skirts, dresses and tops. The first way is folding the elastic into the top of your waistband, this method is best for skirts and tops.
Step 1: evenly distribute the elastic around the wrong side of the top edge of the waist.
Step 2: sew along the top edge of the elastic with a zig zag stitch.
Step 3: fold the waistband inward.
This second method is best for dresses, pants, and sweaters. This method creates a tube for the elastic.
Step 1: either fold the top of your garment inward by the width of your elastic plus ½ of an inch or create a tube by folding a rectangle as long as the waist of your garment and as wide as double the width of your elastic plus an inch.
Step 2: Sew down the tube with ¼ inch seam allowance with an opening at the top for the folded waist. For the tube sew it to the garnet with ¼ inch seam allowance.
Step 3: Insert the elastic and sew together the two ends for tube waist. For the folded waistband, sew the hole closed
Sewing down a zipper is a bit more complicated than elastic but with the right materials, it is easy. Before sewing down your zipper make sure you own a zipper foot, this can be bought at any sewing supply store. A zipper foot helps you stay close to the zipper teeth without breaking your needle.
Step 1: Insert the zipper foot
Step 2: measure where you want the zipper to end and sew from there to the end of the seam
Step 3: unzip and pin one side of the zipper right sides together lined up with the seam line and sew (the picture shown does not have a foot on)
Step 4: zip up the zipper and line up the top edges and repeat step 3
Embroidery is a fun way to spice up your clothing. Either by directly hand embroidering onto clothing or creating patches. The two ways to embroider are by hand and with a sewing machine. Some sewing machines are made to do both regular sewing and embroidery if you have one of these machines you can easily create complicated designs. A more accessible way to embroider is by hand. You can create individual patches that can be stuck onto clothing or embroider directly onto clothing. To get started embroidering all you need is an embroidery hoop and colored thread. Embroidery Hoop on Amazon and Colored Thread on Amazon.
First, find or create a simple design. Then copy that design onto your fabric with chalk, pencil or washable ink. If you are embroidering onto thin material add transfer paper or tissue paper to the back of the fabric. Lay the paper and the fabric with the design in the center of smaller and hoop, then place the larger adjustable hoop on top and tighten it down. To use colored thread for all you need to do is split apart the smaller threads. These threads will be small enough to fit through the eye of your needle. Start off using a backstitch for outlines and a simple back and forth stitch to fill in color. Here is some inspiration to get you started.
How to Draft Your Own Pattern
In this article, I will show you how to create patterns from clothing and with a pattern block. Using clothing to create patterns is an easy way to duplicate things that you already own in a new color, length, or pattern. Bust blocks on the other hand are more complicated to create but are more precise in its fit to your body.
First I will show you how to duplicate your clothing. You will need to find whatever you want to make in your wardrobe ie. shirt, pants, shorts that fit you well. Next, grab yourself lots of construction paper.
Step 1: choose what you want to replicate, you want to find a t-shirt, skirt or shorts which are not stretchy and fit you well. For bottoms, find something that is high waisted and the shortest you feel comfortable wearing, this will allow customizability with length and waist height. Plus dresses are just a shirt and a skirt attached together.
Step 2: fold your construction paper in half and make sure that half of your garment will fit on the paper.
Step 3: Lay the front half of your garment on the paper and outline with ½ an inch for seam allowance. For sleeve holes, dot the curve of the sleeve before drawing the full line. For dart seams, estimate how big the darts are and add that to the width of your garment, then mark the placement of the dart and measure your estimated size with the mark being in the center.
Step 4: Repeat step 2 for the back half
Now you will have a front and back half for your garment. You will want to keep these so that you can repeatedly copy them for different projects. Along with that, you will be able to customize the garment starting from the basic pattern. For example, adding a v-neck, drop shoulder, shorter/longer etc.
Step 5: fold your fabric in half and lay the pattern pieces along the fold]
Step 6: cut and sew the front and back together with a ½ inch seam allowance and any zippers or elastic you plan on adding.
This is an incredibly simple way to create new clothing from your wardrobe. When going on to change this pattern into something else, make sure that the original pattern piece already fits you. With one standard pattern, you can make any top, bottom, or dress that you want with a little practice and planning.
Next, I will show you how to step by step make a bust block that will be perfectly fitted to your body. First you need to measure your front and back measurements as shown in the pictures. Then grab some construction paper, a marker and scissors. Red will be for the front and blue for the back.
Step 1: draw a straight line for the Full Front
Step 2: draw half of the chest plus ¼ inch perpendicular to the full front
Step 3: draw ½ an inch down from C, then draw a diagonal line the length of your shoulder
Step 4: mark the center front length from B. Draw a line bisecting A that is about AF plus ¼ inch
Step 5: connect F, G and E with a curve
Step 6: measure ½ AB then from H draw ½ the front bust plus ½ an inch
Step 7: mark half way between F and H, then draw from J ½ the chest length
Step 8: mark the ½ the chest length on HI, then make a 1 inch line, 45° to HI
Step 9: draw the arm hole connecting I, K and D
Step 10: mark 2 inches down from H and mesure half the bust plus 1 inch
Step 11: measure your side length starting at I going through N
Step 12: measure 3 inches perpendicular to B, then connect to O
Step 13: mark ½ your front waist minus 2¾ inches along PO, from the mark measure halfway between P
Step 14: from your mark, at a 90° angle along PQ, draw to NO
Step 15: connect R to Q and R to P
Step 16: cut out the outline and the front piece of your bust block is complete! Now onto the back half.
Step 17: draw and measure the full-back.
Step 18: Perpendicular to A measure ½ back plus ¼ inch
Step 19: measure 2 inches from C then draw ½ your shoulder length plus ½ an inch
Step 20: mark and measure your center back length starting from B, draw a 1-inch line perpendicular to AB then connect E to the line with a curve
Step 21: measure and mark ½ BF plus 1¼ inch fr, from G measure ½ back bust plus 1/2
Step 22: measure and mark ½ FG, from I measure ½ of your back
Step 23: measure ½ of back on GH, then draw a 1inch line from K at a 45° angle from GH
Step 24: connect, D, J and H with a curve
Step 25: from B measure ½ your back waist plus 1¾ inches, and measure ½ GK
Step 26: measure GM minus ¾ of an inch from B, add 1½ inch to N
Step 27: use your side length to attach H to L, if the side length is too long, gently curve the edge of BL to meet it. Connect MO and MN
Step 28: mark half way between ED and connect P to M. Mark down 3 inches from P
Step 29: mark ¼ inch on both sides of P, then ⅛ inch above those marks, connect the top marks to DE and Q
Now you know how to create your own pattern draft to create whatever you want. This s where you can be creative in what you want to make. Any of these patterns can be altered to create new and unique garments. Good luck and have fun!