Tuesday, March 16, 2010

First Attack On The Body Suit

With my experience making darts behind me, I wanted to check out my new sewing machines ability to sew stretch fabrics. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research lately, and have come to the following conclusions. The stitch that you want to use on stretch fabric is called an overlock stitch. You can also use a zig-zag switch in some circumstances. Regular sewing machines, mine included, do both of these stitches.

The machine that is called a serger ALSO does these stitches, but it has a cutter attached that slices off excess material as you go. From what I understand, a serger is loads faster at doing this stitch than a traditional machine, and it is also a little bit better at it. However, and here’s the punch line, I am no longer convinced that you NEED a serger in order to sew stretch fabrics, and putting together things like the body suit. It’s nice to have, but I don’t think it’s mandatory. And that’s a good thing.

I pulled out a few samples of milliskin and cotton lycra that I had acquired lately, and put the machine through its paces. Different fabrics respond differently. I also need to load in a special needle designed for overlock. I picked up a few the other day, just forgot to load them in. It is indeed a slow stitch, but my machine does a decent job of it. Again, I think there are some tricks out there that I do not know yet, but will pick up over time that will make the process go more smoothly.

With a few successful stitches under my belt, I decided a good way to learn more was to give myself a project, so I decided to tackle the body suit pattern that I picked up the other day. It is not exactly what I need as far as patterns go, but I think it will be a good starting point, and will give me some good experience not only in pattern reading, but also in overall assembly.

I did not want to cut the paper pattern that I purchased, as I may want to re-use it, or alter it later. While at Jo Ann’s, one of the employees recommended some translucent fabric to me that I believe is used in quilting. I think it’s a quilting guide. I put that over the pattern, then traced out the different parts. There were three sheets of patterns, so it wasn’t quick. Then I cut out the patterns from the quilting paper.

This is where I also had to learn some new terminology. I would have just called it “mirrored”, but there’s a different term for it. I can’t think of it off the top of my head, but basically you cut a pattern once, but you want two of them, one of which is the mirror of the pattern. There’s also a term that means you mirror the pattern, but leave the fabric attached along one edge. This is all new to me, so it took me some time to figure this out as I went, and resulted in me cutting a couple of the pieces twice. This proved that I was on the right track when I did NOT cut my original paper pattern.

The key problems with the pattern I have are the zipper in the front, and a band of decorative fabric across the chest. I want the zipper in the back, and I don’t want that band across the chest. I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle the zipper, but the band was an easy fix. The way it’s laid out on the pattern is simple enough, and I just had to tape three different parts of the pattern together to eliminate it. Easy enough.

With one panel of the front side assembled, I was ready to cut some fabric. I went out to my living room and put some fabric on the floor, folded over once. I put my pattern on top of it. Had to make sure all the wrinkles were straightened out! I used a sharpie to trace my pattern, which I recognize is the wrong tool for this. I guess I need some tailors chalk or something. I will have to look into this. But the sharpie worked well enough. Oh, I forgot to mention, this was test fabric. I ordered a bunch of fabrics from one place before it occurred to me that I should be ordering swatches. This was a lightweight cotton lycra. After tracing out the pattern, I cut it out using my super sharp scissors. There was only one seam that needed to be sewn, so I took it to my machine and gave it a shot.

This was a very light fabric, and the machine kind of chewed it up. It put the seam in, but it’s a little rough. Once I got the seam in, I took another look at the instructions and realized that I had cut the fabric wrong! I neglected to add on the lower part of the leg. I did not realize how the pattern all fit together. But now I do! I guess this is another good tale of learning from experience, and that you should always use a test bed first, before going to the final product. Or attempting to go to the final product, I should say. Still, even though it’s wasted test fabric, there were many good lessons learned from this experience.

I think I have a much better idea of how the tracings from the pattern are supposed to all be attached together prior to cutting, and I know a little more about cutting now. All good stuff.

By the time I got to that point, I was pretty well tired out for the night, and packed it in.

No comments: