Thursday, 26 March 2015

Sewing School Scoop - Volume 1

Hi and welcome to my Sewing School Scoop blog post! If you hadn't seen I started my first ever sewing course here in Shanghai, through a gorgeous sewing & design collective called Couture Nomad, set up & run by a wonderful bunch of expat women living through Asia! I got to meet Catherine, the founder, this week as I've joined Teacher Muriel's Wednesday class as it's closer to my house. Only a 10 minute bike ride, instead of a 20 minute taxi ride! YAY!

So I thought with my sewing scoop posts, I'll highlight some 'A-ha moments'... because what I'm finding now after 3 classes, it's stuff like "OH THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE"... because for years I've been sewing and cutting and dreaming without techniques to help... so now I'm picking up those finer tuned ideas about sewing. I've found short cuts, neater & tidier ways to create things, already. PLUS, check out that smocking above... did you guys realise how easy as all hell that elastic is to sew with? I DID NOT KNOW THIS.

Ok, so onto my scoop notes:

Bias Binding is quite quick and exact if you use the ruler! I've NEVER used a ruler before with sewing (I did buy a curved one once, but didn't really use it - it's in storage somewhere)! Teacher Muriel has just a really basic and long sewing ruler, and I even used the pencil to mark the 'wrong side' of the fabric. I never use pencils or things. I just use my eyes. And that is why, my friends, my garments are off grain. And often uneven. So pencils, rulers... pin magnet collection thing. I have a very long Shopping List!

I learnt that you cut a square (very evenly measured!), fold in half to make a triangle, press... and then trace your lines and CUT the bias from the folded edge first. Oh and pin the shit out of it if you need to. That way the fabric won't lose it's shape or get off grain. WOW #learningshit to the max. I might have read this somewhere in a 'cut your own bias binding' tutorial, but learning these things from Muriel just helps understand it all!

Manual sewing machines are easy but hard and heaps diffo from the automatic ones. You actually re-learn how sewing works! I did the bobbin tension thing myself here:

My bindings have always been a bit rough, but I don't like facings. Yay for learning bias binding properly! I was also wrapped to see Coletterie's blog post this week (however they show you knit bindings ideas, not woven), because, in Sewing Class I was doing the same thing! For some sample collars, I finally worked out that cutting slits for the curve encourage the binding... and then some different topstitch or handstitch securing ways:

The hand stitching cross over thingie is perfect for when you don't want a topstitch to take away from your print I reckon! My test fabric is pretty funny, just some cheap cotton from my local fabric store (I am so happy to finally find a little shop front in my neighbourhood!) it says 'Frapbois'. I have no idea what that means, but we had to bring something with an obvious front and back.

So then onto yesterday's class, to try my first sewing pattern with the group... I wanted to make a girl's dress (a friend of ours turns 3 this weekend) with my red gingham... and first was to get that stretchy thin elastic to the bobbin & into the bobbin holder thingie!

It was weird at first threading the little bobbin, but I had to help it a lot ... what's that called... to "load the bobbin with elastic"? But once I got in all 'loaded' and then 'loaded' again into the bobbin holder, I was like. I AM AMAZING. Getting stuff right with the manual machine is just so rewarding. It works! And then I quickly did a test of the elastic/smocking thing and it was just so straightforward.

Of course, you have to leave the ends long (I snipped my first attempt) because you pull the thread through to the underside and then just tie thread & elastic together to secure it... but my other 'revelation/mind fuck' moment was when Muriel said you sew this smocking in a big spiral around the tube of the dress... I thought you had to do a row of elastic/thread on the flat fabric, then sew the side seams... and was worried about the overlocker cutting the elastic and it breaking... this may have happened to me a few times before!

But, you just sew the sides, and sew around and around (on the right side!) until you get the width of smocking you'd like! AMAZING

Oh and before I did the side seams, Catherine showed me the really LOVELY curved ruler, to get a nice hem, rather than just a boxy skirt:

Just a little curve on the hem (as it's curved, I turned it under just a little, then again just a little... like less that 1cm ... to get a nice flat top stitch)

And so, my first little dress from Sewing School And my first 'Inside Shot' as now I'm committed to making things look neat inside & out!

It will be just gorgeous on her... she's Australian Mexican, but her dad is European-Australian... they speak English (with an Australian drawl!), Chinese & Spanish. I think the red will be beautiful for summertime!

Have you tried smocking or sewing with elastic before? I'm now thinking I'll use this technique for the top of my boy's trousers for summer... it's so light and comfy rather than just one elastic band... I wonder what it'll look like for a beach dress for me? Maybe I'll try one too.

So my sewing school scoop is probably quite simple for some of you experienced sewing pals... but for me, even after so many years of sewing solo, it just really helps having guidance face to face. I love it! Now I have Mandarin Class & Sewing School, I think my week is pretty set! (And some cocktails planned for tomorrow! ADULT TIME FTW)

Now I have to stress about what to wear to cocktails, I have a red H&M dress up my sleeve, but hoping I can finish a new dress in time!

Hope you're having a great week! And totally appreciate all your comments on my 'Made in China' post!


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