Tuesday, 7 August 2012

I'm going to try a series - Tips, Tools, Techniques Tuesday

There are a lot of self taught sewers and quilters out there. I'm sort of one of them - my grandmother taught me to sew when I was somewhere between 5 and 7. She sewed everything, including all our clothes when we were kids and a lot of her own clothes. She taught me a lot of things. Then I got disinterested in sewing for a while - my projects wouldn't work out and I couldn't find help - Grandma didn't live very close. By the time I was interested again, I realized I'd maxed out Grandma's knowledge and she didn't have much eyesight left either. When I started quilting, it was not as popular as it is today. Classes were hard to find and I work during the day so weekend classes were sometimes even harder. I taught myself a lot before the internet too.
I thought I'd create a little series to share some of the things I've learned along the way on my sewing journey. I sew a lot of different things - quilts, custom bras, drapes, pillows, gifts, and I do some alterations. My clothing knowledge has largely fallen by the way-side, except for my nieces - for myself, I can't fit myself and I don't know any other clothing sewers to help me out.

What I'll do for the series is document some of the tools I own and share some tips and techniques I've picked up along the way. I'm not getting paid for this, just so you know. And I already have a few things in mind that I'm not happy with and I'll tell you about those too. I'm not an expert, but I'm  experienced - this series will show you how I do things, which doesn't mean it's the only way. Use what works for you.

I have to recommend a book called Heirloom Machine Quilting by Harriet Hargrave - you can find it here. This book revolutionized my accuracy in cutting, pinning, and sewing.

Let's start with pins.

There are lots of different types of pins - one for every sewing job. I'm going to deal with what I own and how I use them.

For piecing quilts, I use my Clover super fine pins. I also use them for sewing fabric that is prone to pulling, like knits.

These little guys are fine - which  means kind of delicate. And they have blue or yellow glass heads so they can withstand the heat of the iron if needed.
Pros: the are fine and don't damage fabric; you get better accuracy in pinning; they are sharp, heat resistant
Cons: they are expensive and sometimes hard to find; they can only be used in more delicate fabrics like quilters cotton (they won't go through more than 1 layer of denim); they can break/bend easily if you sew over them:

I use them bent until they are too bent to be useful. If you want to buy them try a specialty sewing store, not a chain. I got mine at Triangle Sewing. Be careful if you sew over them - if you hit them in the sweet spot they will bend right in half and get lodged in your bobbin casing, which can damage your bobbin or throw off the timing in your machine.

Other types of pins that work well for piecing are ones that are more narrow/fine - silk pins work too.

For heavier material, like twills or denim or other heavier weaves, I use my flower head pins or my straight pins. I use the flower head pins for large pieces, like drapes, or if I really need to be able to see the pins. I often trace out quilting designs on tracing paper and sew over them, rather than mark the quilt, and I use these pins to pin on the quilting design.

Flower head pins:
Pros: fairly cheap, easy to find, long, medium thickness
Cons: they can get burrs on them, the heads are plastic so don't withstand heat, they are not always sharp
Straight pins:
these could be lace pins - I don't remember
Pros: you can find them almost anywhere; they can be too thick for delicate fabrics
Cons: they are a bit short, not always sharp enough

My last set of pins are for hand applique. I don't do much hand applique but I've found these little guys to be useful.
sorry it's blurry - the camera (or me) can't focus on them
Pros: small for small applique; usually sharp enough
Cons: you can catch the thread on them; sometimes the applique will shift if you don't pin well.

How to pin

Basically, you pin where you are sewing. How far apart the pins are depends on the size of the fabric - little pieces = pins close together; big pieces = pins farther apart; I also pin at intersections and thick, multi-layered bulky intersections; you should put the pins where you feel most comfortable - if they are too close together you'll figure it out because you might warp your fabric in the seam. Also, the longer pins I pin farther from the edge.

I don't double pin like this on a straight piece of fabric - it's for photographic effect. Notice that both sets of pins are about equal distance apart and that the flower head pins are farther away from the fabric edge. Both sets are far enough to the right so that they will fit under my presser foot (I usually sew over the pins - more on that in another post). Notice that the pins are perpendicular to the edge of my fabric - not on an angle. Being crooked gives you wonky seams = less accuracy.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer you.
Next week: pinning for matching points