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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and I write a monthly humour/sewing column for the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=barbara+emodi&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Abarbara+emodi

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hold the phone! Late breaking hemming knits news

In all the discussion about how to hem knits I neglected to mention another solution, and a new one, which is a stretchy sewing thread - a new one from Coats called Eloflex.

I didn't include mention in this in my hemming series because, until today, news of this new product slipped right past me.

Sometimes events happen in the world I miss, I don't know how it happens, but it does.

I had one of my lovely all day sewing days with my friends from the sewing guild today and my friend Pat brought this thread to me and let me feel it. It certainly was stretchy if you pulled on it, strong and didn't break.

If in fact it will allow us to sew a good simple seam or hem in knits on our standard machines with a standard straight stitch (which being a minimally active stitch by definition is the least likely to cause a hem to wave) this in fact will be a game changer.

Right now, as in this very minute, I am at my daughter's babysitting as opposed to at the fabric store. However it is my intention is to run down and pick some of this stuff up tomorrow and do full on research type lab test on it.

Expect that report to be released soon afterwards.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Flypaper thoughts should be in bed version

  • My ham fisted attempts to class up this blog continue
  • See I added my name to the blog title on this page
  • Won't affect searching or finding me
  • So actually why did I do it?
  • Good question
  • Probably because there are sewing schools, workshops, and other places
  • Called sewing on the edge
  • And I thought it was my idea
  • Figured if I added my name I would distinguish myself
  • Name like Emodi you can be pretty sure the field won't be crowded
  • Names that were once made up are good that way
  • Baby steps in the user friendly department
  • Bear with me
  • Being sewing instead
  • Made 11 somethings for Christmas gifts
  • Blog goes a little dark in terms of pictures this time of year
  • The relatives all read in case I talk about them
  • Not much of a production sewer
  • Over and over, how do quilters do it?
  • Got a big Tilley hat in the mail today
  • Had a chunk of skin cancer removed from the side of my nose a few weeks go
  • All good
  • Anyway figured from now on I would go big or stay home
  • Hat-wise
  • Comes with a lifetime guarantee told my spouse as a way of deflecting the how much did it cost question
  • Of course it does he said
  • They only sell hats like that to old people
  • You don't see them offering lifetime guarantees to two-year-olds
  • Time that man called it a day I think
  • Pretty sure my niece is now dating my son-in-law's nephew
  • Welcome to Nova Scotia
  • Which we will be leaving some time after Christmas
  • Going to Austin Texas and then California I think
  • Got to do some site visits to make sure the kids don't need buttons sewn on or dish cloths crocheted
  • Pretty sure they aren't taking care of this themselves
  • Any fabric stores I shouldn't miss west of say Tennessee?
  • Tons of flannelette to cut out in the next two days
  • Now there's a fabric
  • Dream to sew and gets stiffer with wear
  • However if it's for gifts that won't be my problem
  • Think about it
  • All other fabrics soften over time
  • Not flannelette
  • Good old prairie material, much like myself
  • Probably would go nicely with the hat
  • Little Billy is with me tomorrow 
  • He'll help me cut
  • Working together on new Batman jammies to replace the ones he trimmed up himself
  • By the way
  • Did you ever notice that all kids can tell you right away what their favourite colour is
  • And want to know yours
  • Why don't adults talk about things like that?
  • What would cocktail parties be like if we replaced what do you do?
  • With what is your favourite colour?
  • Or we introduced ourselves, I was 64 at my birthday party
  • Might be more interesting
  • Best wishes to those of you doing holiday sewing
  • May it not be in velvet
  • May you not scorch it at 11 p.m.
  • May you not have to sew multiples
  • May the easy-to-sew pattern actually be easy
  • And may you get it done early enough to still have time to sew for yourself too

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sewing and hemming knits Exhbit H

Well folks it appears this is my final hemming knits series posts.

I have to say I have really enjoyed doing these.

I sew all the time and sew more than I can sometimes get organized to post. Yes I know item by item pictures is how sewing bogs work, but I too often go onto making the next thing before I get proper shots taken.

Writing is not hard but having someone home to take pictures, without their thumb over the lens, can be hard. My husband has been working late this last few weeks and that's why I put these recent sews on my dress form who definitely is going to get signed up for Weight Watchers real soon.

I know pictures on me are what I should do but would you rather see a garment on a dress form than not at all?

Anyway back to knits.

Exhibit H.1

An another project I made last week was in this angora like knit and the fabulous Jalie Marie-Claude pullover pattern. I like this pattern because it skims not clings the body, and is not too loose to be sloppy. The drafting of the turtle neck is brilliant, soft at the front but with a centre piece at the back neck that means the back of the neck is smooth and close to the neck - so much more sophisticated a draft that the usual turtle neck tube:

Because this sweater knit had far more body than say the green I used in the last twin set,  I used the wider cover  hem for this project. I think you can see below here how nice that looks, again to scale, and how much nicer the wider rows of stitching look than if I had used say the narrower cover hem:

The next, and final project, I have to show is a knit version I did of Stylearc's famous Adeline dress. This project was totally inspired by the cool fabric, a sort of a double knit with the stripes in opposite colours on each side. I used my own technique for a knit V neck on this one, here's the post on how to do it,

Again because this was a beefy knit, I used a wide cover hem for the bottom of the dress, but on the patch pockets, and because I liked the wrong side of the fabric so much, I just folded the hem to the right side and working from the wrong side of the pocket and with some jeans top stitching thread in the looper (I have tons of that thread once having had a finger slip on an online order and ordering 14 not 4 spools of the stuff) finished the raw edge of the pocket hem on the right side that way.

The cool thing about the loopers, and this is true of serger loopers too, is that the eye of the looper is so much larger than the eye of a needle and so you can easily use thicker thread there:

And here is the hem cover hemmed from the right and the wrong side:

Well that's it, a pause maybe more than a conclusion, on the subject of hemming knits.

I don't know about you but this topic focused way of sharing garments has worked for me this week. There is a good chance that I will be doing more with this in the future.

In the meantime what do you have to share now?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sewing and hemming knits Exhibit G

Well folks this started out as seven posts on hemming knits and so that makes this one the last of this series and, as a summarizing post, one that will be more illustrated than previous posts.

I have thought about this all day and decided that if there are a few points I wanted to make in this last post it is that there:

1. Is no best way, no universal solution, to hemming all knits.

As a genre, if you can call them that, of fabrics knits cover a lot of territory. What fiber they are made of, how they are made - single knit, interlock, and double knits like ponte for instance, all produce fabrics of different hands and different degrees of stretchability, and will require different tactics to get the result you want. Even if you own a cover hem for example there will be times when a twin needle, a zig zag, or a hand hem might be a better strategy.

2. With this in mind it seems to me that the best approach is to build up sort of a vocabulary of techniques and pull them out as the occasion calls for - even using several different strategies in the same garment.

So to sum up here are a few of the things I have made recently with some explanations of how I hemmed them with comments.

Time for some show not tell I think.

Exhibit G.1

Here is a sort of twin set I made from two weird but matching knits I picked up by the side of the road in some Joann's somewhere. They are both fairly see through and loose but I like them, the nubbly sweater knit and the smoother jersey.

The patterns I used where Sewaholic's Renfrew top made without sleeves as a shell and lengthened with the pattern rotated out a bit from the bottom of the armhole to make it a bit more A line. For the cardigan I used Jalie's Drop Pocket cardigan.

It is hard to see all the hemming techniques I used here, and this garment looks better on than drooping on the back of a door (too much ground to cover tonight for me to organize a photos shoot I am afraid), but here is the list:


The fronts are doubled as per pattern so there are not any hems there. Due to the fineness of the fabric I doubled the hem at the sleeves and top stitched them down because I wanted the hem there to be durable.

For the back of the cardigan, the only area that needed a proper hem, I turned and topstitched to finish the edge (this fabric unravelled too much for serging to look neat I thought) and I hand hemmed it with a catch stitch, that lovely crisscross herringbone stitch that is the only common hand hemming stitch that is also stretchy.

Here is that hem from the wrong side:

And the right side:


This was a bit of a problem as the fabric turned out to be far more sheer than I expected. To cope with this I cut the back single and lettuce edge stitched the raw edge (setting the serger up for a 3 thread rolled hem and stretching the fabric as I serged.

The front I cut double (I really wanted more coverage there) and lettuce hemmed each piece before joining them at the side seams. You can see the front and back hems here:

Exhibit G.2

 Using the same dropped hem cardigan and shell pattern I made another twin set in green:

The green was a supposed rayon knit from an online seller but I have my doubts- seemed very ITY when I worked with it, high thread count and tight. I do love the colour though. However for some reason my brain took a stroll when I cut out and after cutting out what I thought were all the cardigan pieces I had so much left over I thought that I made the shell.

The trouble with this bit of luck of course is that the only reason I had that amount left over is that I forgot the fronts in this cardigan are cut double (four front pieces in all) which left me scrambling for a "design solution." That solution ended up being two of front pieces cut out in navy.

I actually really like how this looks ( I would be that creative only because of necessity not intent) and with a navy straight skirt I have I figure I look beyond sharp in this.

Anyway back to technique.

Because in this case I was dealing with a tight smooth knit I used a band for the neckline of the shell:

And I turned and topstitched the armholes:

 And cover hemmed the bottom of the shell and back of cardigan with a narrow cover hem:

When I turned and cover stitched the armholes, again with the narrow cover hem like the bottom hem I felt I was matching scale of the parallel rows of stitching to the scale of the fabric. You can see I think above how little tunnelling there is here with this narrow cover hem. I turned and hand basted the hem allowance up before stitching.

*** Editorial note: I had intended tonight to show you a few more garments but it appears that I have reached my photo limit for Blogger for one post. so this last one will have to be continued tomorrow.

That can be our bonus post I guess, and will focus on a few garments with the wider cover hems.

Talk again tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sewing and hemming knits Exhibit F

Sorry about that folks. 

Up to midnight last night but in the end I was able to set that tension just perfectly. Sewed about 10 miles of test seams, but I did it.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that this is all working with the tension dial cover, the part with the numbers and all that stuff you need so you know where you are and what you are doing, still on the table. My spring assembly is set, but exposed.

My current plan is to flatter my husband sufficiently so he figures out how to get those parts on for me. 

Yup, it is right next time I take something apart against everyone else's better judgement I will take pictures and a video (great idea). I just jumped in of course, like a sometimes do when I sew sometimes, hoping for the best.

Enough on my tales of my life as a mechanic and let's move on to wise words of a real mechanic and the next chapter in our series on hemming knits.

Let's talk cover hems.

Now I hope I have established that you can do a wonderful job hemming knits on a conventional machine. And we haven't even talked about doing a great knit hem by hand, remind me to do that.

As a sewer, or sewist,  I am very wary of any approach to sewing that suggests you need to have a mega machine to do it. No new sewer thrilled with a second hand machine she has inherited, or working on an inexpensive machine from a big box store, should feel that real sewing can only be done on $10,000 worth of equipment. 

That's just not true.

I have had amazing machines, top of the line machines, in this house but I have myself passed over them for the hum of my vintage Berninas and now the infamous, partially disabled but tension balanced, Rocketeer.

So now having made clear I hope that what we have to talk about here is not something you must have to hem knits, but something you can have, let's move on.

Cover hems are dedicated machines that sew two parallel line of top-stitching (or with a triple needle three rows of topstitching) with a serged/flatlock looking stitch on the wrong side.

If you are really savvy, or more likely if you are really lucky, you can even situate the serge-like finish on the wrong side to cover the raw hem edge (hence the name cover hem - I just right now put that together).

Here is a picture of the new Juki cover hem I bought while I was in Winnipeg, a Juki MCS 1500:

You will notice that there are only three tension dials on this machine, the lower looper actually goes down the back and underneath the machine and that thread has a tension in the left side, and then goes into the bottom of the machine sort of like a bobbin thread. 

OK not relevant, and not like a lot of other cover hem machines, so this is sort of interesting.

What is worth talking about here is why go to all the trouble of investing in a separate machine just to hem knits (which is essentially the primary function of these machines).

I mean if you factored it out in the number of T shirts you could buy for that money (someone in your household might bring it upon himself to do this) you might think those must be some pretty damn good hems if that's all these machines do.

So what are the reasons for having a dedicated cover hem machine, at least the way I see it?:

  1. A cover hem looks just like the hems in knit garments in the stores. This is like the reason most of us bought sergers to finish seams - looks like the real thing.
  2. A dedicated cover hem all set up is so easy to use. Before I had a cover hem machine I had a 2-3-4-5 thread serger that could be set up to do a cover hem but it was quite a major production. Getting to that stage, the hemming stage, in a garment and then thinking I had to go to all the rethreading and putting on converter parts etc. before I could cover hem one little hem always made me feel the exact same way I do when it is 11:00 at night and I want to go to bed but I have dishes in the sink and I open the dishwasher to put them in and find the dishes are all clean and the whole thing has to be emptied first. Big sigh.
  3. Back to the great technician I know, one who had worked on many factory machines. The best machines, sergers in particular, are those that have to do only one job, he told me. Every time a new function or stitch is added to a serger, this fellow said, it has to be squeezed into essentially the same area, and performance, and more frequently reliability, is compromised. If you want a machine to keep running with the least amount of trouble he argued, have a different machine for different tasks. I have certainly found this to be completely true with my cover hem machines - by far the least fussy and more reliable of all my equipment - once I got comfortable with threading and using them I should say. BTW I sold my multi-purpose serger and moved down to a plain old 3/4 serger, which does a beautiful stitch and my new cover hem.
  4. In addition to sewing the hem you can also finish the raw edge at the same time. The reverse side of the cover hem also makes a decent but different top stitch too - I will show you a sample of that on a dress in a later post.
  5. Cover hems are by nature stretchy and if you put a wooly nylon in the bottom looper, the stitches won't break easily which makes for a nice reliable knit hem. ( I have found if you use only sewing thread in the looper the stitches can break, say in a the pyjamas of a 3 year-old who is jumping over the couch onto his sisters).
  6. Like sergers, but unlike say conventional sewing machines, most cover hems have differential feed that can be set by increasing the rate of the front feed dogs (move you differential dial up to a higher number) which counteracts the tendency of really stretchy knits to wave out as they are stitched (waving being a topic of high interest in most of this series of posts).
Additionally, if you have the option of a three thread cover hem, like I do now, you also have the option of both a wide and narrow cover stitch. This is kind of nice as I have found the narrower cover hem works better, without tunnelling, on finer fabrics. A wider set cover hem seems to work best on heavier knits and also seems to be in keeping with the scale of those fabrics too.

The disadvantages of a cover hem machine, apart from the fact you have to buy one, are similar to sergers:

1. There is no reverse, this means you have to do some fairly archaic things like tie off the threads somehow instead of backstitching the seams.
2. I was going to write a number 2 but can't think of any thing to say. If you have anything to add here let me know.

Time for some pictures. 

Here is the short sleeved version of the Jalie Dolman T shirt done in cotton single knit. Primarily because this was a single knit and sort of unreliable, stability wise, I ironed strips of fusible knit interfacing cut cross grain so as to preserve the stretch, within the hem allowances. This worked really well to give a nice, non-ripply hem.

I also used wooly nylon (sorry had to use grey - no available colour match at the time) in the looper and used the narrower option of my two possible cover hem widths:

Sorry about the stretched fit on the dress form here. It appears my body double has been snacking away down in the basement lately- I swear she has put on weight - could hardly get this on her
 Here is a better shot of the hem itself shot closer:

And here is a shot showing both sides of the cover hem- the wrong side, the one with the grey wooly nylon in it, shows how narrow this hem actually is, and I think how nice the loopers look in wooly nylon:

Finally I put on a plain band around the neckline of this T shirt and got the idea in my head to top stitch around the band (something I never, ever do with a conventional machine as the lock stitches are likely to break when you stretch that neck over your head).

I also thought I would try a 10 out of 10 as they say in Olympic diving difficulty rating and sew along the well of the seam situating one row of stitching on either side.

Since this was already a narrow cover stitch this attempt was way beyond my skill level - just when I had a section this worked then I had a section where it did not- so I ended up having to take the seam ripper to that little effort.

However by then I was all into cover hemming, and being the sort of optimist who takes apart a sewing machine tension without keeping track of what order the parts came off in, I tried again below  the band.

This is how that turned out, maybe it looks weird, but I did what I had come to do, which was cover hem everything and then it was time to go to bed, which I will do again now:

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pause in tonight's posting

Sorry folks but tonight's hemming post will go up tomorrow. After supper I decided to adjust the tension on the Rocketeer myself and did a great job of taking in apart.

However every time I go to put it back together I have a part left over. Every time in fact it is a different part.

The evening has got away from me.

FYI sewing machine service is not something you can eyeball or do by intuition.

Back on track with the posts tomorrow, right now I figure it might be a good idea if I call it a day tonight.

Tell me you do things like this ....