Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sew Basic Session One: Fabric, Thread and Cutting

When starting to sew, it is important to get to know various types of fabric.  Let’s get the textbook stuff out of the way first, shall we?  I promise there won’t be a pop quiz!

Fabric can be made from natural fibers, synthetic (manmade), or a combination of both.  Natural fabrics include cotton, silk, wool and linen.  Synthetics include things like polyester, nylon and rayon. 
The way that fabric is manufactured falls into one of two categories – woven and knit.  Woven fabrics are made by weaving the threads together horizontally and vertically and don’t have much stretch.  Denim, linen, corduroy and tweed are wovens.  Knit fabrics have lots of stretch to them.  (Think: t-shirts and sweatshirts.)  These fabrics are made using the same stitches that are used when knitting a scarf.  Sewing knit fabrics can be challenging because of their propensity to stretch, so it’s important to know exactly how to work with these fabrics.

Ya still with me?  Here are some basic terms to keep in mind.

Selvage Edge: The finished edge of the fabric that runs the length of the grain.  This edge is usually white with the manufacturer’s name on it.  It is woven tightly and won’t unravel.
Grain: Threads that run parallel to the selvage edge.
Crossgrain: Threads that run across the width of the fabric.
Bias: Threads that run at a 45 degree angle to the grain. If you pull on the bias, you will get the most stretch.


Let’s talk about thread.  Selecting your thread for sewing is much more than simply making sure that the colors match or coordinate.  Choosing the right thread can make or break your project.  There are lots of resources out there to educate you on the gazillion types of threads, but for the purpose of this project, I’ll suggest that using a cotton or a cotton wrapped polyester thread in a size 50.  Both are good for general sewing of light to medium weight fabric.

Now! On to the fun part!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your pillow case:

3/4 yard of cotton fabric
1/2 yard of coordinating cotton fabric
Sewing machine
Straight pins
Rotary Cutter and Mat (optional but recommended)
Seam Ripper (a sewing girl’s BFF)
Ruler or tape measure

Ok, here we go.  Are you ready?
The first step is easy.

Wash, dry and iron your fabric.  It’s best to get any shrinking out of the way before you start sewing.  Save yourself the disappointment of creating something you are proud of only to have it get all wonky after it comes out of the wash.

Now we’re going to cut into that lovely fabric.  You’ve heard the saying, “Measure twice, cut once,” no?  Let’s make sure that we do just that.  Especially when working with expensive fabric.
There’s nothing more frustrating than doing a hack job to your fabric because you didn’t measure correctly. 

I recommend laying your fabric out onto a large table and marking your measurements with chalk or a fabric pencil.  You can erase mistakes with a damp cloth if you need to start over.

We are going to cut two pieces of 19”x27” out of your large piece of fabric and two pieces of 6”x20” out of your small piece.

Lay your 3/4 yard piece of fabric out and fold in half, so that the selvage edges match up.  If you’re using a rotary cutter and mat, here’s a great tutorial for getting started.  If you are a beginner, you may want to practice using some old t-shirts before you cut into your pretty fabric. 


Using your ruler and chalk, mark your fabric and cut.  Open up the fold and cut so that you have two pieces measuring 19”x27”.


Now let’s get our other piece of fabric and cut out two 6”x20” pieces, just like we did above.

But, let’s stop here for just one second.  I matched my selvage edges up, but do you see how the top is uneven?  That is because the fabric was not placed evenly onto the bolt by the manufacturer.  Just make sure that you keep those selvage edges matched up and trim off the uneven.


There.  That’s better.


Here are all my pieces.


That’s it!  That wasn’t so bad, was it? 
In the next session, we’ll learn how to set up your
machine and start constructing our pillow case. 
Make sure that you visit Meg to see her progress!

1 comment:

  1. I understood none of that, but that is some awesome fabric! Does this count?!