Sewing Tips

Assuming that your pattern actually has marks that need to be transferred to your fabric – and most of these period patterns frustratingly do not – the easiest way to make them is with chalk.  You can purchase special sewing pencils and so forth but chalk is cheap, easy to find, and rubs out easily.  (I often just steal some from my kids.)  Stick with the white kind – some of the colored ones stain.  When marking your fabric on garments that have two identical sides, mark one side and then lay the other piece over top of it.  Line up all the edges and then pat on the marked place.  The chalk will transfer to the other piece.  You may need to mark the dots or lines a bit darker but they will be perfectly even.

This is also great for marking the buttonhole placements.  I sometimes need several attempts to get the placement right. You can mark them and if it doesn’t work our simply rub them out and start over.  Once the buttonholes are sewn in mark the button placement.  Overlap the fabric so that you can easily line up the buttons with the holes. When you sew the buttons on center them on your chalked dots.

I like to assembly line things.  It’s a great time saver.  Mr. Ford certainly knew what he was doing.  I like to think that he learned it from his mother.  Such a practical idea had to come from a woman!  If you are sewing a pair of trousers and a vest or several items in different fabrics that require the same colored thread it’s no problem.  But what if you need to make several identical items in the same fabric but in different sizes?  No problem.  Cut the first one as usual.  Cut the second one and place a safety pin in each piece.  Try to make sure that you place them so that they won’t be in the way when you sew the pieces together.  Also make sure that you have a lot of the pin showing on the “wrong” side so that you can easily see it from either side.  Sewing more than two items?  Try silver and gold pins, large or small…. You get the idea.  Now you can match up the proper pieces.  Just make sure your remove the pins before they get enclosed somewhere and become irretrievable!

Hand sewing buttons can take a long (long!) time.  If you are using buttons with holes you can do it on your sewing machine – assuming that it has a zig zag stitch.  You will need to drop the feed dogs.  (That is the part that feeds the fabric through under the foot.)  Place the fabric with the button lined up on your mark under the foot and test the size of the stitch by cranking it slowly by hand.  When everything is lined up you can go much faster.  If your machine has a locking stitch knot it that way.  Otherwise leave  “tails” when you cut the thread that are long enough to tie them by hand.  Unfortunately this only works for buttons with holes, not with shank ones.

One word – DON’T!  If you plan on using the pattern many times it’s going to have more holes then Swiss cheese and become difficult to use.  Instead take a journey to your local hardware store and purchase some large metal washers.  Size isn’t that important so long as they are big.  I have some that are 1 3/4″ and others that are 2″.   You will want at least six but, as a friend always says, “More is better!” and they are cheap.  Besides, they are air soluble and never seem to be where you expect them.  Lay your pattern out and weight it down with the washers.  You can even slide them across the pattern to smooth out the wrinkles as you place them.  Slide them out of the way (while leaving others in place) to transfer your markings.

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