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Anyone here into making clothing..tailoring/sewing?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Relic, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    It's a skill that I'd love to have actually. I'm thinking from more of a utilitarian angle than from a fashion design aspect. Though I think it'd be cool as hell to be able to make a shirt or jacket for instance rather than shopping around for stuff that fits me right and that I like, etc.
    Not to mention that I'm involved in a lot of Living history/reenacting type stuff where the price of period-correct clothing can be murderous...
    It seems like it may be a really hard thing to master though given that I don't even know how to operate a sewing machine...(nor even own one!)

    Anyone here into clothing making..? If so, how would one go about learning the ins and outs?
  2. my ex wife makes all her own scrubs, beyond that I can not help you. I agree it'd be a wonderful skill to have.
  3. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    No. I have a wife for that.
  4. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    My wife has not one, but two aunts who are seamstresses in Costa Rica. You'd think that it might just run in the family right? Pfff..forget it
  5. bolophonic

    bolophonic SUSPENDED

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I have done it before. One of these days I am going to make myself a pair of custom boots. One of my best friends is a bespoke dressmaker who used to make hats and costumes for Broadway. I am trying to pick up as much knowledge from her as I can. I would eventually like to make a leather jacket.
  6. My wife, sister and mother-in-law all sew...my wife doesn't have much interest in it anymore. I've been thinking of picking up the skill myself
  7. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I have no skill at all with a needle and thread.

    However, I can repair dog toys like nobodies business.

    I can also reattach buttons (though not like they should be)

    I once had my favorite pair of deck shoes blow out and I managed to fix them well enough to last three or four more years.

    But yeah, I'm a regular Betsy Ross when it comes to dog toys........
  8. Tat2dHeart

    Tat2dHeart Only two strings away from an attitude problem.

    I sew. What can I help you with, Relic?
  9. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Intergalactic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon sofware
    I have a question, what would be a decent sewing machine to buy? Maybe that's like "what amp should I buy". Bang for the buck kinda thing?

  10. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Thanks! Well, I'm not sure where to even start to be honest... I can do minor stuff: buttons, maybe repair a seam (by hand stitching) so long as it's easy and obvious but I'd really like to be able to actually make something.
    I recently picked up a pattern or two and it looks easy in concept but I'm figuring that getting stuff to fit and lay right without wrinkles/ripples in the seams and such is where the challenge comes in. Oh yeah, that and the little problem of having no idea how to operate a sewing machine...:eyebrow:
    I guess the best question to ask really is where to start? How did you get started in this?

    EDIT - yes, Stumbo asks a GREAT question - what machine to buy? I'm on a tight budget and yet need something that can sew through normal (thin) fabrics as well as through thicker wools and such.
  11. Tat2dHeart

    Tat2dHeart Only two strings away from an attitude problem.

    It helps to know what you want to make. Not all sewing machines are made to handle all kinds of sewing projects. Tell me more about what you'd like to sew with the machine you get and I can give you better advice about getting the right machine for the job for the right price.

    I've been sewing since I was 6 by hand. I started by piecing quilt tops. I migrated to making Barbie clothes about a year later, and started with a sewing machine (the old fashioned treadle Singer machine) when I was 9 or 10 (my legs weren't long enough before that, LOL). I can help you out - but it's going to take some time to write details and I'm at work right now. If you can be patient with me - and make your big list of what you'd like to know (all the scary details), I'll answer you in detail and include some drawings and mockups.

    Sewing really isn't hard once you grasp the terminology and the important factors. Do you need/would you like a list of the really important tools and a lexicon of the most important terms, also?
  12. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    You're awesome, I really appreciate that!

    OK, I'll put together some questions/thoughts and toss them your way, thanks. I'm really primarily looking for a direction to take in getting started with this. I'm not even sure yet at this point what questions to even ask though, I'm a newbie :)
  13. Tat2dHeart

    Tat2dHeart Only two strings away from an attitude problem.

    No problem - you said you'd picked up a couple patterns. Can you give me the brand and pattern numbers so I can take a look at them, too?
  14. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Hmm....I don't see a pattern number on either. In this instance they're actually two patterns for historical reproduction stuff, so they may not be a standard thing.

    Here's one:

    I'm going to try the "Waistcoat 1750-1778" figuring it's a good beginnner's project - no sleeves :)
  15. Ah, but waistcoats usually had linings...grin. If there is a fabric store near you like JoAnns Fabrics, they sometimes have beginning sewing classes. I also teach some night school classes at a local high school, and they have several classes in 'clothing construction' that one of the Votech / home ec teachers teaches. I dunno about you, but I find it helps if someone at least shows me the basics first. Then after that I can read more advanced how to books and they start making sense.

    Like Tat, I have been sewing for many years. When I was in the SCA even had something of a side business in making medieval garb for thosemlocal SCAdians who were not so handy with needle, thread, and sewing machine.
  16. Tat2dHeart

    Tat2dHeart Only two strings away from an attitude problem.

    If you’re going to sew on normal fabrics, then you can do well with a decent mid-range machine. If you’re planning to sew large amounts of denim using flat-felled seams (the double stitched seam down the outside of Levi’s jeans) or leather, you’ll need a machine that’s a little more heavy-duty.

    I’m currently sewing on a Singer 6160 that I picked up from Wal-Mart for about $100 +/-$20. I repair the occasional pair of jeans on this machine (use the “humpjumper”), but I’d probably choose a different model if I was sewing a lot of denim or leather on a regular basis. You’d get a lot of bang for your buck with one of the mid-range Brother machines, as well. Key things to look for regardless of the make/model you choose – free arm (this is awesome for setting sleeves and cuffs) and a buttonhole foot and feature (for making nice neat rectangular button holes that aren’t cockeyed). As fun as they can be later on, you won’t need a machine that does 5,000 different stitches, although they are very affordable these days.

    When it comes to actually sewing – the pattern you’ve picked looks easy on the outside. It probably has a lining, and it has a welt pocket with a shaped flap. Those are more advanced techniques, but not entirely insurmountable. I wouldn’t normally recommend them for a first project, however.
    As a beginner, there are some key things you should know before you touch fabric. A good “how to” book is a huge amount of help. I really liked the Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp when I was teaching my daughters to sew.

    Tools you need:

    • Good shears (I like Gingher or Fiskars) and never use them for anything but cutting fabric
    • Extra bobbins (make sure you check the number and get the right ones, the metal ones look similar but behave differently in the machine)
    • Extra machine needles (sharps for woven, non-stretch fabrics like cotton broadcloth; ballpoint for knits; denim needles for denim) in the right gauges (the weave of the fabric is a determining factor here – your fabric store clerks can offer great advice on this)
    • Fabric tape measure – MEASURE MEASURE MEASURE – Buy patterns by body measurements. They are standardized and patterns are not sized the same as off the rack clothing. Pay attention to the measurements on your pattern envelope before you cut them out. Most patterns are not returnable. A good step-by-step for measuring is here: http://www.simplicity.com/t-sewing-how-to-take-body-measurements.aspx . Buy the pattern for your biggest body measurement. Patterns are easier to alter down in most cases than they are to alter up in size (but that’s a whole new lesson). Fit starts here.
    • Pins or weights to hold the pattern to the fabric (and sometimes hold things together depending on your school of instruction)
    • Tailor’s chalk to mark pattern markings on your fabric

    A really good interactive list of sewing terms is at this link: http://www.burdastyle.com/terms.

    On most patterns, the pattern pieces will give you an arrow or some notation that tells you if you should cut with the grain of the fabric, across the grain or on the bias. With the grain means that your arrow ends should point to the cut ends of the fabric. Across the grain means you lay out the pattern with the arrow ends toward the finished side of the fabric, or the selvage. If you’re cutting on the bias, then you’re laying out the pattern piece diagonally. Most pattern pieces are cut with the grain. Waistbands sometimes go across the grain. Lingerie and some dresses are cut on the bias. Some added info… http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/4968/pattern-layouts . A well-made garment starts before you cut it.

    Before you start trying to sew on the machine, you need to learn how the machine works. When I was a kid, my aunt made me “sew” with the machine (needle but no thread) into a paper with lines, square corners, and curves on it. This gives you an opportunity to get the feel of the machine, to learn how to control your needle speed, and to control your seam straightness/curves. The foot pedal of the machine controls the needle speed based on your foot pressure. It works like an accelerator pedal. You do not have to sew fast – it’s not a race. It’s more important to have straight seams with consistent stitch length and the right tension, smooth curves, and nice corners. If you don’t have those, it shows in the garment when you wear it. After you can get your seams straight, curves smooth, and corners square on paper, then you can practice the same techniques on scrap fabric with thread.

    Lots more to learn besides this, but these are your most important starting points. If you have more questions, don’t be shy about asking (although you can PM or email me if you like and I’ll expound till you’re bored).
  17. placedesjardins


    May 7, 2012
    I learned to use a sewing machine and I am able to hem my pants. I am a short person. I've also sewn a skirt. It was one of those Simplicity kits and I made it for my daughter. It was a beginner kit. It wasn't anything of high difficulty.
  18. bolophonic

    bolophonic SUSPENDED

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I have a classic Singer sewing machine that has to be 30-40 years old. My wife has a newer one. This thread has gotten me interested in digging it out. My buddy and I have a business idea that involves sewing, so we are looking for a Consew long-arm patcher. They are like, $2500 new.

  19. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Tat2dheart - thank you again for all of that info. There's a lot of good advice there. I've got some studying and homework to do!:) I actually did a practice run last night on the waistcoat. I cut the pattern out for my size, then I used the pattern to cut out the panels from an old wool blanket. I pinned them together and it actually doesn't look too bad. My cutting's not the greatest (crooked here and there) and I measured something wrong (the two front panels are somehow too short - I need to cut them wider the next time so that one lays over the other in order to add buttons and button-holes in the right places)
    Still, I may actually hand-sew the panels together today just to see what I come up with. I'll keep you posted. If it doesnt come out too disgusting I'll post pics!

    Lady K - yep, there's a Jo-Anne fabrics near me, I'll check that out - good idea. Some sort of class would make life a lot easier. You did SCA stuff? Cool! The waistcoat lining - during the colonial period, and especially during the Revolutionary war, corners were often cut to speed up fabrication of stuff. not adding a lining was one way that they used to cut corners, so that's sorta what I'm trying to do. (or the excuse I'm using!) but yes, once I actually know what I'm doing, I'm going to line things too.
  20. Tat2dHeart

    Tat2dHeart Only two strings away from an attitude problem.

    No problem, Relic, glad to help. I used to make all my kids clothes, then worked for a while for a lady who did high end wedding gowns, prom dresses, and other formal-wear in addition to alternations and repairs. I haven't sewed much lately with work and music going on, but I've done other stuff like costumes, corsets, lingerie, and nice stuff I wear to work.

    If you're open to the sewing classes, they can be really useful. Sewing is a practice makes perfect skill, so whatever you tackle, just keep at it. It's not really hard once you get the hang of the process.