Monthly Archives: May 2013

For the beginner #1, a plain seam

If you are new to sewing, and some or all of what I’ve been talking about is confusing to you or you just have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a bit of help:  Here is the anatomy of a plain seam.  The dark thread is a seam sewn with a straight stitch AKA a running stitch.  For the purposes of this illustration, we’re pretending that we want some item that is x inches tall (the height of the photo) by y inches wide (the left edge of the fabric over to the seam) times 2 because our fabric was too narrow to make the y inches wide.  So we add the seam allowance so our item will still end up y inches wide and not narrower.  (If you want a 4 inch by 4 inch bean bag, you don’t cut a 4 inch square, you cut a square that is 4 inches PLUS the seam allowance on all sides.  If it’s a 1/4″ seam allowance, your squares will be 4 1/2 inches.)  Also, a plain seam is one that does not have the edges of the seam allowances finished in some way (with overlock, zigzag, bias tape, etc.).


Here, the plain seam in the first photo has been pressed open AKA butterflied.

Here, the plain seam in the first photo has been pressed open AKA butterflied.

Here is the plain seam from the right side.  You can see that it's there because the pattern of the print is not continuous.

Here is the plain seam from the right side. You can see that it’s there because the pattern of the print is not continuous in the center of the photo.

Seam allowances can be different widths.  Most commercial patterns have EVERY seam at 5/8 inch.  In the industry, most seams are 3/8 inch with things like facings on necklines and the two sides of a cuff at 1/4 inch.  I use 3/8″ and 1/4″ for the most part, but I’ve used 5/8″ for French seams and the part of the seam where a zipper is inserted.  Coming up sooner or later 🙂 will be other types of seams.  Please practice getting used to sewing on scraps of fabric.  Start with woven fabric.  Printed cotton is best because it’s easy to sew, doesn’t fray a lot, and you can easily tell which is the right side and which is the wrong side.  Practice keeping your seam straight and the same width.



Filed under Parts

Sewing Supply List

While by no means exhaustive, this is a list of sewing and pattern making supplies you should have, preferably before you start your project.

*sewing machine

*bobbins (the right type for your machine, as there are at least 3 types)

*presser feet for your machine (usually they come with the standard sewing one, the zipper one, and the buttonhole one…these are pretty much all you need)

*thread (not the super cheap 3/$1 spools)–the cheaper the thread, the fuzzier it is–the fuzz can mess up the tension on your machine.

*sewing machine needles in at least sizes 10/70 (for light to medium fabrics) and 12/80 (for medium fabrics) and labeled “universal.”  Ball point needles are for knits that aren’t super stretchy and stretch needles are for super stretchy knits.

*various small sizes of screwdrivers

*hand sewing needles–look for sharps…the other ones are labeled embroidery or quilting or some other thing.

*hand sewing needle threader

*fabric scissors, better quality, don’t let anyone use them for anything but fabric…longer, heavier ones make cutting the fabric easier, as the weight of the scissor helps you cut

*thread snips AKA thread nippers

*measuring tape

*seam ripper

*pins (if you’re going to plan to use mostly thicker fabrics, like denim or coat fabrics, you can use pretty much any thickness of pin.  If you’re going to use finer fabrics, you may want to get a box of pins labeled super fine.  You will be able to see the difference in the thickness of the wire.)

*6” ruler

*seam gauge or measuring gauge

*lights and lamps, more than you think you need in your sewing area

*steam iron

*ironing board or at least a table where you can fold a towel and press on that

*table long enough to cut out the longest piece of whatever you’re making (a cutting table is preferred, but if your dining room table is fairly long, use that instead of the floor)

*things like buttons, zippers, elastic, snaps, hooks and eyes; ribbon or other trim; bias tape, etc., depending on what your project is.

*18” C-Thru ruler

*yard stick

*marking pencil, pen, or chalk, or Chakoner chalk wheel

*pattern weights (there are little ones in a 4 pack, but you can use whatever is heavy enough to hold down the pattern)

*paper scissors, can be cheaper than the fabric ones

*tissue paper for making any alterations to tissue patterns if you’re going to use them (standard commercial patterns are printed on tissue paper)

*optional, other paper for transferring an adjusted pattern that you want to keep and make more than one of, just not newsprint

*screw punch

*ball point pens in black (for all shell [the main, outer fabric] pieces), blue (for any contrasting shell pieces), green (for lining), and red (for interfacing)

*French curve

*hip curve

*and you might want a pattern-making textbook

If you can’t find this stuff at the fabric store, you can check art supply stores and notions websites.

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