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Tips from Clotilde

Tips from Clotilde

Old 07-28-2008, 07:57 PM
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Product Picks

Serge Smart Pattern Book

Karyn Clark asks:

I love my serger, so far, and wonder if you have some projects that can be done on it other than just finishing seams.

Look for a new book called Serge Smart available at Clotilde.com. It has 17 serger and sewing patterns, plus some general serger information on how to turn corners, set your tension and use different types of stitches.

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Replacing a Zipper

Lorrie asks:

My purse's zipper came off, and I am going crazy trying to get it back on! Can you advise me on how to fix it? Thanks in advance!

Hi, I've just seen a sample of a new product that is hot off the press. It is really a quick and easy way to repair a zipper. The old zipper pull is removed, and a new one slides on. Stay tuned, hopefully you'll be able to get it from Clotilde.com in a few months. I'll keep you updated.

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Organic Fabric Finds

Jeanne Radtke asks:

I would like to sew using organic cotton, hemp and bamboo fabric. The sources on the Internet are very expensive. Can we get supplies from you, or do you know of a reliable source for these materials?

There are many suppliers of organic fabrics. Among some of the ones that I've used include Fairfield Processing at
poly-fil.com, Kunin Fabric at kuninfelt.com, Michael Miller fabrics at MichaelMillerfabrics.com, Robert Kaufmann at robertkaufmannfabrics.com, among others.

Expect to pay more because these are newer types of fabric. If you're into recycling fabric, remember to check thrift stores and vintage shops for items like men's jackets, jeans and old linens.

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I love experimenting with new sewing notions. If you see or hear of a great new notion, let me know by clicking here.

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Julie's Fitting Tips

Broad Shoulder Alterations

Sandra Miller says:

I am a female, but have wider shoulders and longer arms than most women. I find that buying mens' suit jackets fit me fine through the shoulders and arms, but the torso area is square and too large. I shop at thrift stores for these jackets and embellish them to my tastes. Can I do any tailoring to help fit the entire jacket to my body?

Hi Sandy, yes, tailoring these jackets will help you achieve a better fit. Part of the solution depends on the jacket's construction, but in general, if you open the back seam, you'll be able to remove fabric and curve the jacket to your waist. You can also add long darts in the back (beneath the shoulder blades to just above the hips).

Finally, you may be able to shape the seams under the armsyce in a similar manner. To access the seams or to add darts, open up a small portion of the jacket lining and hand- tack after your alterations.

Altering ready-to-wear clothing is a huge trend right now, and you've captured both aspects. One is to redo men's clothing to give it a softer feminine look. Also, anything recycled is very trendy. Have fun!

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Dowager Hump Alterations

Delores C. Jones says:

My friend has a dowager hump that pulls the center back of her jacket up. It is her favorite jacket, so she asked me if I could fix it. I opened the side seams under the sleeves and raised the back side seams up to make the jacket hang evenly. I fitted it to her and pinned where I needed to sew the new sleeve and side seams. It worked beautifully. The jacket now hangs evenly in the back and the shoulder seams are fine.
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Fast Pant Adjustment

Patsy Kolb says:

I have lost a little weight and still wear some of my old pants that are now a bit too large in the legs and the rise. What worked for me is very simple: just take them in an inch or two in the inseam. This might not work for all of you, but I wear elastic-waist jeans, so perfect fit is not the goal, just comfort and reasonable appearance. I raised a large family on very little, so I have been recycling and making do for as long as I can remember -- long before it became popular.

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Small Waist Adjustment

Mary Beth Pazdemik says:

I am one of many women whose waist is one or more sizes smaller than her hips. Usually for me, just taking in the center back seam a reasonable amount is not enough. I try to avoid taking in the side seams because of the topstitching. While examining a pair of pants that fit well I noticed the darts on either side of the center seam.

So now, I open up the waistband seam almost to the side seams, and make 3-inch darts about 4 inches from the side seams, as this seems to be the standard for sizes 6 to 8. The darts are 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide at the top, so I take the waist in 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Then the small amount I may still take in from the center back seam will not throw off the grain line as noticeably. Once I've tried them on to be sure they fit well, I reattach the waistband. A fair amount of work, but a great fit!

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Got No Waist Adjustment

Suz says:

Regarding your request for info on fitting purchased pants -- my waist is almost the same as my hips. If I buy to fit the waist, I get the huge bubble-butt syndrome. So I buy to fit the hips, and, don't gasp in horror now, I just make several cuts along the waist. Whether it's elastic or a waistband, it doesn't matter. I wear all my tops outside the pants. I don't tuck them in, so it doesn't show. This is a desperate measure for people who need something to wear and don't have time and/or skills for alterations, but it works
What are your fitting challenges? Do you purchase ready-to-wear and try to alter it to your unique size, or do you prefer to alter your pattern first? Are your clothes a perfect fit or are you struggling to make do? Let me know by clicking here. Your solution is only a click away.

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Readers' Questions

Cutting Crinkle Fabric

Connie Berg asks:

I absolutely love your Web site (www.SewingSavvy.com) because it's so easy to navigate. I recently bought a ready-made top that is made out of crinkly material. I liked it so much that I bought some gorgeous fabric and want to make my own. I am stumped. When laying out the pattern, do I stretch the material flat or set my pattern on top of the crinkles?
Hi Connie, don't stretch it flat, you'll lose all of the beautiful crinkles. Just lay your pattern on top of the fabric and cut. You'll love the ease and shape of the finished garment; the crinkles help to hide some fitting problems.

And be sure to visit the new Sewing Savvy Web site by going to www.SewingSavvy.com.

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Fat Quarters

Anita Campbell asks:

Several things have been written about "fat quarters;" what are they? I was at Hancock Fabrics today, and they had a big sale on "fat quarters."

A fat quarter is a rectangle of fabric that is 1/4 of a yard. They are 18 x 22 inches. Usually made from cotton or a poly-cotton blend, they're used for quilting. However, I put some fabulous designers to work on a book, called Sew Special Fat Quarter Gifts, and they made all kinds of sewn items: aprons, totes, baby blankets and so much more. I can hardly wait to see the finished book. It's scheduled for release next January.

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Finishing Silk Edges

Susan asks:

How do I finish the edges of silk?

If you have a serger, try using the narrow rolled hem as it makes a beautiful edge finish. On your sewing machine, try a narrow zigzag stitch over fish line or pearl cotton. You may need to zigzag over a lightweight stabilizer to prevent stitch buildup.

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Organizing Fabric Stash

Dinah Adams asks:

I would love to have my sewing room organized, but I don't know the best way to store the fabric so I can find what I want. I have tried plastic containers, but it is way too hard to find the fabric at the bottom. I have a ton of fabric and still buy more.

Ask for the bolts that the fabric comes on when you're in the fabric store. You can wrap yardage around the bolts and store it right on your shelves. You can also make a cardboard center from old boxes that you can roll the fabric around.

To keep the fabric dust-free, slip a clear plastic bag from the dry cleaners over the bolted fabric. Hope this helps.

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Finding a Serger Manual

Sheilia asks:

After my mom's recent death, I inherited her serger. Trouble is, I've never owned one or used one. I can't find mom's instruction booklet that came with her machine. Is there a source for instruction booklets?

Try visiting your local sewing-machine dealer. The dealer (or fabric store) may be able to contact the company and get one for you.

Do you have any serger or sewing questions? What new techniques are you interested in learning? Send your serger or sewing-machine questions, difficulties with fabric questions, or ask me for some alteration tips by clicking here. Your solution is only a click away.

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Readers' Tips

Garden Gloves & Free-Motion Sewing

Christine Stampfl says:

If you wear a pair of gardening gloves (the kind that have the small rubber dots on them) while free-motion sewing, it will help to hold and guide the fabric.

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Sewing on Vinyl

Annie Thirsk says:

I keep seeing different ideas for sewing vinyl; the best tip I ever got was to use a stick-type lip balm on the top and bottom of the pressure foot as well as on the bottom of the feeddogs. If you put a thin line of it on the vinyl (where you want to stitch it), and run your finger over it to spread it around the area/s that run through the machine, it will glide very smoothly.

It is also very easy to clean off of your machine with a soft cloth when you are finished. The fact that the lip balm is petroleum-based, seems to keep my feeddogs lubricated as well. I just brush them off with a good stiff paintbrush after I have finished sewing the vinyl.

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Simple Sewing Tips

Maxine Clayton says:

In the course of teaching my students and customers, I have found that the one consistent reason people hate to sew is they don't know how to use their machines. So, I've come up with a few simple tips that I'd like to share with your readers.

When you thread the machine, be sure to pay attention to the four main points for thread:

The spool pin (where the thread spool fits)
The tension dial
The take-up lever (moves up and down)
And the needle
Everything else is just a guide to get the thread into position for the next point to thread.

To start a seam, always make sure the take-up lever is at its highest point, so you won't jam the threads on the underside of the seam and the needle won't come unthreaded. Try laying the thread tails to the side instead of behind the foot. The foot will hold the thread tails down.

To illustrate, try this. With the take-up lever in the lowest position, turn the wheel by-hand and watch how the thread moves. Now there is no tension, and even if the needle does stay threaded, it will jam when you start to sew. Repeat the exercise with the lever at the highest position, and you will see why the tip works.

We're always interested in your tips! Keep them coming.

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Removing Fusible Interfacing

Charlotte Miller says:

I use to work in alterations in several department stores. When we came across fusible used in ready-to-wear, we used Static Guard to remove it. Spray the area and scrape off the fusible as it sort of melts. It takes a while, but this was the only solution we could find to release the area in order to change it. Good luck.

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Make Your Own Looper Threader

Josephine Hall says:

I got tired of looper threaders jumping from my hand and disappearing forever onto the floor! So I have found a way to make my own. You need a piece of electrical wire about 7 x 9-inches long. Peel back the outer covering to expose the fine copper wire inside. Carefully pull one fine wire out, fold it in half then twist the two ends together quite tightly for about 1 1/2-inches, leaving a nice clear loop to hold the thread. Make a few to keep as spares and may you never lose any again!!

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Stop Sticking Fingers

Nancy Crofoot says:

I was always poking myself with my small sharp scissors or seam ripper. I put a needle point protectors (one of the rubber tips used to keep yarn on needles) on each one. Now, I have no more "stuck" fingers.

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Stabilize Fabric Before You Sew

Faith says:

When sewing quilt blocks together, especially on the bias, I often spray heavy starch a couple of times, pressing the material carefully so as not to distort the fabric or pattern on the fabric. Cutting becomes much easier and more precise. Then, sew the garment together and serge the seam allowance while the starch is still in the fabric. Finally, wash the fabric to remove the starch.

If the fabric is not machine-washable, press freezer paper to the fabric before putting the pattern down. You can cut the fabric with the freezer paper still attached and remove it before or after garment construction, depending on the stitch used. Tearing can be quite easy.

Finally, if you can't find freezer paper, try temporary spray adhesives. You can either spray the pattern to the material or spray paper (even tissue paper) to the material; then, put the pattern down and cut it out from there.

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Stabilize With Newsprint

Connie says:

In the most recent Sewing Savvy, Judea asked about methods to keep slippery fabrics in place when cutting. I keep end rolls of blank newsprint on hand. These may be purchased from your local newspaper printer, often for less than one dollar each, and they come in different widths.

Roll out a layer of the newsprint; then lay out your fabric; then cover it with another layer of newsprint. Pin through all of it; then lay out your pattern pieces. Sandwiching slippery fabric between the layers of newsprint gives your scissors something to grab when cutting, and the newsprint is soft enough to not ruin the scissors.

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How to Drape Satin

Elaine Brown says:

I took a class many years ago from a dress designer from California. She made gowns for celebrities, so her dresses had to be perfect. She said to notice the dresses worn by the stars at the Academy Awards and then look at the knock-offs, which were pretty, but just didn't hang as nicely.

The solution to a perfectly hanging dress was to iron-on (at least as far as the hip line) a product called Whisper Weft to the satin before cutting it out. It adds body and makes the satin drape so pretty. It is almost like cutting out cotton fabric. I don't know if you can still get whisper weft, but it is a really soft woven interfacing with evenly distributed glue so it irons–on. You don't see the little dots like with the Pellon brand. It is also very soft and feels good against your body.

She also told us to cut long sleeves out on the bias to avoid putting in the dart at the elbows, which always makes a little "pokey" thing on satins.

Try using a lightweight knit interfacing on delicate fabric, if you can't find Whisper Weft. Do a sample first, to make sure it is light enough.

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Dental Floss Uses

Lee Main says:

Try zigzagging over dental floss instead of fishing line to gather. I use it for sleeves, waistbands and other areas that I need gathered.

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Tracing Historic Patterns

Charlotte Parker says:

During our nation's Bicentennial, I made costumes for our children and again a few years later for their costume classes in 4-H Horse and Pony (including a sidesaddle outfit). I found a book in our library that showed a man and woman's outfit for different time periods. Patterns that we printed even included bustles, petticoats and hoop skirts.

I used our church's projector to project the pattern onto tissue paper that I taped to the wall. Getting the correct size was a matter of pushing the projector the correct distance from the wall. To get the right size, I just measured the shoulder width I needed. You may have to copy the pattern to a transparency and use an overhead projector, if you can't find the old style projector.

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Fix Bleeding Fabrics

Judi Rozelle says:

I have a suggestion for "bleeding" fabrics. In addition to the Rit dye fixative, there is a product called Color Catcher™ by Shout® (I think) that you can use in your washer. I use it on all my mixed color loads, and it keeps the dye from transferring to other fabrics. I wear brightly colored scrubs to work every day and have had no problem with darker colors "contaminating" lighter ones. It keeps the colors from getting dull, too!

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New Uses for Dryer Sheets

Betty Pincock says:

I like to do patchwork with scraps. I use used dryer sheets as a backing for my squares. I iron them to be sure they are the same size.

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Water Soluble Mesh

Darlene Moore says:

I use a water-soluble mesh stabilizer that actually works better than tear-away. Tear-away can cause some stretching in spite of a person's best efforts. With water-soluble, you can wash it out with no extra stretching. Because of the mesh, you have the stability of tear-away, but it's still water-soluble and easy to remove. I've used this technique with very stretchy knits as well as slinky fabrics with excellent results. Once washed out, I toss the garment in the dryer to remove most of the moisture; then while it is slightly damp, I press the stitched area to bind the stitches to the fabric.

Do you have any great sewing tips that you're willing to share? Please send your best tip, a difficult question or your great ideas by clicking here. Who knows, maybe you'll see it published here? And a special thank you to readers who shared all of these great tips and the readers that write to tell me how much they loved all of your great tips!

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Responses to "Uncool" Sewing

Nina Cirilo says:

This comment is in regards to the teenager's comment that sewing is "uncool." I feel that school systems are to blame. Our local high school removed the sewing program years ago. My oldest daughter loved the sewing class; there were fashion shows where students would model what they had created. It was one of the most important classes that she had. But, the year she graduated, the sewing teacher retired and the school dismantled the room. When I inquired about the class, I was told by the administrator that the school had "more academics to fulfill." The applied arts are forgotten skills, and it's a shame.
Loretta Gangi says:

"Uncool" or poor? How sad that some think this way. My twin daughters, ages 10 1/2, are currently taking sewing lessons from my sewing studio. Santa bought them sewing machines two Christmases ago when they first started lessons. They are so proud of their creations, and their friends envy their talent. Not only have they done craft-type things -- the latest a mesh beach bag -- but they also do clothing. They just finished beach cover-ups and now want to make some for their friends with matching beach bags. Their next projects are a beautiful floppy beach hat followed by the cutest tunic top for back to school. Uncool? I don't think so; they don't think so. Poor? They attend private school.

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Sources for Stretch Woven Fabric

Marla Senter Morris says:

My local store has stretch wovens all the time, including a stretch wool or two in the winter. I shop at Grapevine Collection, in Hurst, Texas. Their Web site is sewitup.com. I've made the most fabulous skirts from the cotton-lycra stretch wovens. They travel well, never bind, never wrinkle, and they have great fabric choices. Occasionally, I have found stretch denim at spandexworld.com, too. I haven't tried it out, but they will send samples to anyone.

Jan Matrone says:

I wanted to respond to a reader's question regarding a good source for stretch suiting fabrics. I am a frequent buyer on fashionfabricsclub.com. I have purchased stretch wool, twill, linen, moleskin and much more from this site. You can even get swatches before you purchase. I am sure you will find many fabrics suitable (no pun intended) and lots of inspiration.

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Who We Are

Marilyn says:

Can we stand one more contribution to what we call ourselves? I have a young male friend who sews -- we settled on "seamster."

Judy Bigelow says:

Through the Internet, I've found kindred spirits. I love to sit in bed and look at my books or patterns and dream about what treasures I could create. All my projects are a family chuckle. That is why my Internet name is "ufpcreater." Which means "unfinished projects creator!" Projects in sewing, in quilting, in soft-construction doll making, in home decorating -- all unfinished. I'll always have something in the works!

LeAnna says:

When I sew, I'm a seamstress. When I crochet, I'm a crocheter. When I knit, I'm a knitter. To pull it all together, I'm a fiber artist; but to make it more fun, like my cat, I'm a fiber shark. That's what I call her because she loves fabric, thread, yarn, crochet thread -- you name it! So, I'm a fiber shark! And I love it.

Nancy says:

What ever happened to the good old-fashioned term "seamstress"?

Karen Clarkson says:

Words with double meanings and double pronunciations can be confusing as well. In regards to calling a person who sews a "sewer," when I see that word in writing, I always read it as "Soower," and it makes me laugh.

Helen Wickwire says:

I like to call myself a project manager. Sounds like today-talk! Thanks for all you do!

Stephanie Kauffman says:

I had two grandmothers who were artists in their own right -- although I didn't know it when I was young. They both took the time to teach me that all projects need the small steps to make a finished look. I am so grateful to them for instilling in me a love of creation. I even call myself an artist now. I paint with thread and design a lot of my own needlework. There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a project and taking pride in what you have completed. Just like grandma used to do.

Barbara Johnson says:

I have to give my opinion on what I prefer to be called. Not a "sewer," or a "sewist," but if anything, some would say I am a "seamstress." At any rate, give me a needle and thread, and I'll do something, even if it is wrong!

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Sources for Period Costumes

Patricia Anderson says:

There is an organization called Smoke and Fire, which sells historical materials, books, and other necessities for reenactments. They sell historically accurate patterns for various time periods and activities, including riding habits for side saddlers.

Rhonda says:

She can find some period items at smoke-fire.com. They have some medieval and early American wear as well. In response to the reader who asked about historical costuming, here are some more sites with patterns:


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Do you have a comment about sewing that you want to get off your chest? Are you inspired to sew from watching your favorite TV personality, or do you like to try out new techniques from reading books and magazines? Or, perhaps you've taken an interesting class from a great teacher. Let me know, so I can pass it on to our other readers by clicking here.

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Garden Delight

I hope your summertime sewing is as bountiful as mine. Along with my sewn creations that have blossomed before my eyes, I'm attending so many fabulous trade shows and sewing conventions that my head is spinning with ideas. I can hardly wait to get to my magazine and future e-letters to share them all with you.

Or maybe, I should just relax in my garden. Better yet, why don't I stitch up this pretty garden banner before I relax? Thank goodness, the sun is shining longer at night so I can get so much more gardening, sewing, conventions and classes done.

Upcoming Seminars & Events

Aug. 1, 2008-Aug. 3, 2008
Sew-Quilt Embroidery Festival
Honolulu, HI

Aug 14, 2008-Aug. 16, 2008
Sew-Quilt Embroidery Festival
Reno, NV

Aug. 20, 2008-Aug. 23, 2008
AQS Quilt Show & Contest
Nashville, TN

Sep. 3, 2008-Sep. 6, 2008
Round Bobbin
St. Charles, MO

Sep. 4, 2008-Sep. 7, 2008
Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XV
Harrisburg, PA

Sep. 18, 2008 - Sep. 21, 2008
World Quilt & Textile: On Tour XIII
Manchester, NH

Send in your events!
If you have a sewing question, comment or tip, please write and let me know what it is. I love your input when putting together Sewing Savvy magazine.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, be sure to forward it to your sewing friends. And, if you'd like to see Sewing Savvy magazine, please click here and receive a free issue just for giving the magazine a try.

Until next time, sew on and sew forth,

Julie Johnson
Editor, Sewing Savvy magazine

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