SWEATER MAKING TIPS

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  • Hi there...I think I do know the answer already, but just want to make sure, 'cause it is pretty scary...I really DO want to heat wash/shrink ALL my wool etc sweaters prior? To get a nice fitting bodice, do you then just try to get a much larger size and hope that when it shrinks it shrinks to your proportions? I have a lovely tailored lightweight 100% wool short jacket I want to use, but am terrified to wreck it...(it all says handwash cold, lay flat to dry, etc.) (actually this one says "don't wash") EEK.

  • Hi Heather- I know the feeling! I've washed many sweaters the way Kat instructed and had a lot of different results depending on the wool. I bought "The Sweater Chop Shop" by Crispina FFrench and she gives great information and advice about working with all sorts of wool fabric. I'm pretty sure that Kat recommended this book, too. She has a whole section about felting and fulling wool.

    Is your jacket woven or knit wool? I've washed some beautiful boiled wool jackets and they did shrink big time. I'm not sure if they will continue to shrink if I try to use them as waistband sections. Maybe some of the other more experienced sweater makers can give you more information.

    I'm finishing up some prior projects and can't wait to get back to sewing. I look forward to seeing your coat. : ))

  • Thanks kayte! oh, i love crispina ffrench! she is the best...i actually bought a ton of her sweaters off her. wonderful lady! :-)

    heather, i like to wash things because it makes them feel more sturdy and limits the amount of unraveling that occurs. It is not a hard and fast rule though. If you are holding something in your hands, and you instinct tells you not to wash it - i would follow what you think, rather than a blanket bit of advice i gave. I process thousands of sweaters, so i do not get attached to them - thus when i ruin one i barely notice. i think my advice in the tutorial about ruthlessly washing things failed to take into account the specialness that some folks attach to their sweaters, and the disappointment it would cause them to see it emerge form the wash all wonky.

  • Woot!!! My coat is starting to look like a coat! Have to say, putting the seams on the outside does require thinking.... they do tend to end up on the inside after 25 years of 'normal' sewing, lol. It even happened on the button-pannel, so now i have to redo all the buttons...they're too close to the seam. But the cool thing is, completely by accident.... the bits with buttons and buttonholes are almost exactly as long as the front of the coat, so no gap!

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150393657034420.374439.761064419&type=1&l=d75e574815

  • @ Kayte...thank you so much for your response...I think I'm going to have to find that book...it sounds like a great resource...I think its just making the leap to doing to my sweaters what I've being so careful NOT to do in the past! And, I think, like most people here, I do love sweaters. I have been very lucky and today found 3 lambs wool sweaters, 3 100% wool, and 1 camel hair in exactly the colours I wanted to use....I think I was afraid my karma was going to have to come back and bite me in the butt somehow!! And Kat, thank you too...it does make sense, and I think as I get braver, it will get easier...being such a novice, I imagine I'll enter each step with some apprehension. I think I might also learn where I can forgo the washing on a sweater, and where I shouldnt...(you did mention "common sense" as one of the required ingredients...know where I can get some?) Thanks to all, again, and I can't wait for further developments!

  • 2 Heather, I too have the sweater chop shop book, and love it . Tons of great information. With Kats tutorial and Crispinas break down on wool and other

    great tips you are guaranteed success.

  • I know this has been discussed several times before, but I still don't "get" how to make thumb holes. When I make cuffs, I sew all the strips together, and then sew them into a tube, then attach to the arms of the sweater. If I leave a gap in a seam between strips, then the other side is too small to fit into the serger. I think I'm doing it wrong, lol.

  • sarah...all week i have been working on an arm warmers tutorial which describes the thumb hole process...and it is so simple and SO HARD to describe... it vexes me, even though i keep thinking about it.

    in a couple of days i will hopefully have photos/illustrations to explain, but for now, think of it like you are sewing a normal sleeve, without a thumbhole, but for a couple of inches between the top two pieces, the seam doesn't catch, so, a hole is formed.

    gawd,,that did not explain it well....anyone want to take a swing at this? I know that when it finally clicks you will be like, "oh, that is so simple!"

    you do not have to cut anything different in the fabric. and at some point you end up sewing over seams that are already there...

    oof...i just bungled this answer. i am going to drink cocoa...sorry!

  • tried to write down how i did it three times....deleted three times too, LOL...

    kat, i don't know how much work a youtube thingie is, but maybe a slomo thumbhole serging one? if you ever have the time?

  • Kat, I can describe mine, but I don't know if it's the same....

    So make your sleeve, starting at your elbow. Get to the strip that goes to the bottom of your thumb. stitch a tiny U where your thumb will go. Then attach the piece that goes on top- the serger will sew the top piece but pass over the u shape leaving a hole for the thumb. (now this is best case perfect world scenario- I find a little fiddling is required to make sure the u stays open and doesn't get mowed closed.)

    Any better?

    I also don't put my thumb holes right on the seam allowance- they are in about 3 or three inches.

  • Petra, great job on your coat !! Love the colors. I too have had so much trouble with the seams on the outside concept. It's always been right sides together, for as long as I've been sewing. I dont know how many times I've had to rip panels out. ACK !! I stuck a post it note on my Juki that says "wrong sides together, stupid" so I can remember what I need to do.

    Heather.....I'm working on a coat using my beloved heavier weight orchid color boiled wool sweater as the bodice. I know if I wash it I will be absolutely screwed. The zipper will get wrecked and the wool will shrink to the point it will be 2 inches THICK and will fit my cat. I will probably get a rowdy round of BOOS for this but I'm just gonna bite the bullet and dry clean it when I'm done. He is a nice guy and he needs some business too....LOL. I would not do this otherwise, I'm not of Rockefeller resources, but because the color is perfect with my new haul of sweaters....I'm just going to go for it. So that's how I weinied out of the washing thing, this one time around...ha!!

    As you work with the sweaters more, you'll get a feeling for how much it's going to shrink, especially the ones you know well :)

    Kat, thanks so much for trying to get us going on the thumbhole thing. I have to admit, it had me scratching my head too. I worry about going over seams more than once. I did manage to make fairly acceptable thumbholes, and it was much like Loretta described. Except I used a piece of ribbing, that was finished on the edge that your thumb goes through. I think it looks OK. Agh, in other words, the thumbhole on the top is serged, but I left the bottom unserged, as it's already "finished" so to speak. You don't have to worry about the ribbing side unraveling. OMG, this is hard to describe !!!!!!!! Just want you to know how much we appreciate all the help you give us, and how hard it is to do :) You're the best. Oh, and congrats on the 2 new family members.!

    I read a few pages back to try and get caught up. I noticed alot of Savers shoppers and just wanted to let you guys know that in Minneapolis MN, anyway, Tuesdays is "senior day"....you get a 40% off of everything and the really grim news is that they consider seniors to be over 55. So, if you can find an older companion to take with you, there are some good deals. Word of caution however, it's a madhouse. Reminds me of the South Park episode when all the old people were out driving. Some of those 70 year olds are pretty rowdy.

  • @Amber J. - I saw 4 pics of your sweater coat ! BeeUUUtiFull ! I love the elegance of the red and white. It's hard to pull off red and green...

    All the shoes lined up by the door...LOL, Seattle custom... Have fun at Santarchy. Wish I were young again.....

  • Hi all~ I have a serging question...when I serge two pieces, usually thicker pieces, there are little bits of sweater coming through the threads. They poke out in little chunks. Do I need to change a setting on my machine? If so, which one?

  • Hi Everyone!

    Ok, I've read the entire forum and the tutorial, bought a used serger, washed the sweaters, and now I "just" have to learn how to use a serger!

    It's been 20 years since I briefly used a sewing machine...

    I am super excited to start thanks to all of you wonderful inspiring ladies!

    Hopefully, next week, I will have a photo to share :)

    ((Kat)), you are one kind, patient, hard-working, and generous angel.

    Thanks so much for sharing your gift.

  • @Kelly B.-It may depend on how tight the weave on the sweater is. Try cutting off a bit more as you serge the seams and see if that helps. Take some scraps and experiment with different tensions on the machine. Experiment with very tightly woven and very shrunken sweater scraps and see if it still happens. It happens on my more loosely woven bits.

    I still want to know if anyone has tried woolly nylon thread yet. I'm going to experiment with it soon. It could help with this sort of "pokey" problem, but then, there's the added expense of buying a different kind of thread and the time of figuring out how to work with it.

    Good luck.

  • I've used wooly nylon, but it's been a while, and it wasn't on these! As I recall, the worst part was getting the (*&*&) needles threaded!!! That thread is stretchy (disgusting) and miserable.... but once it's in the needle, it dows make a soft edge. If I can remeber 12 hours, I'll try some samples and report back.

  • @Diane M. - OK, I've used it on lycra for swimwear. There's a trick for threading it thru needles: take a regualr piece of thread (4-5 inches) and tie it to the end of the woolly nylon with a tight square knot. (The knot has to be small enough to fit thru the needle.) Then thread the regular thread thru the needle, gently pulling it thru with a long pair of tweezers when you get to the square knot until the w.n. thread is pulled thru. Also, you can put a bit of FrayCheck on the end of the w.n., roll it in your fingers until it's dry and pointed. Then it's a bit easier to thread it thru the needle. Do you use a pair of long tweezers to pull the thread thru the back of the needle?

    It may be a few days before I try w.n. on the sweaters. I am finishing up my first sweatercoat and not quite wanting to spend time now on the experiment. Would like to hear how you get on with it.

  • I have literally been reading this discussion for HOURS! I'm on page 15, but just had to skip forward. Getting my serger tomorrow (gotta love Amazon Prime overnight shipping 3.99 woo!) Unfortunately, as the Juki walks in the door, I will be walking out to my 'other job'. :(

    Went to the St. Vinnies today and spent about $60.00 for 20 nice sweaters - only one 100% acrylic (I'm a purple person, too... couldn't resist it!) and a couple wool (now the size of tiny cat sweaters after washing) and some wool blend, mohair blend, cashmere blend and also some nice, tight weave cotton that will make great bodices. I want to make some funky hat/scarve... (scoodies?) for the grandkids and friends and family, but am chomping at the bit to make my own coat. As I checked out, I notice the little sign that said 'blue tag .50' - wish I'd have noticed that when I walked in. Did get a couple of blue tags, but I can go back. Living in Wisconsin, we have lots of natural fiber and natural blend sweaters! Also, when sold on eBay about 12 years ago (mostly jeans) I used to go to a place down in Madison the "Dig and Save" which is the St. Vincent de Paul 'outlet' and they actually have all the clothes poured into washing machine boxes and you really have to DIG but at that time clothes were $1 a pound and on Tuesdays.... .50 a pound! Not sure what their pricing is now, but talk about a wool wonderland! Will be making the hour trip this weekend I think!

    When I get down there also going to hit up JoAnn's or wherever I can get some nice serger thread. But I'm so excited to at least make a hat that I'm just going to use my poly embroidery thread Wednesday when I get a couple of hours to play with the new serger. I have a beautiful new Singer Futura Quartet that I purchased for the embroidery unit to add another dimension to my screen printing business (wonderfullywitchy on etsy) and it does have a serger, but I thought I better go ahead and just buy the suggested serger for doing sweaters. I know it was kind of a costly investment, but I've justified it (in my head...) since I rarely upgrade equipment; have had my screen printing equipment for about 7 years and still going strong with it. The only things I ever buy are the essentials; inks, screens, film so... don't tell my husband that the thing from Amazon walking in the door tomorrow costs more than a jug of ink... but hey, I've earned it! :D So now, not only can I print and embroider things, I can SEW and embroider things. Yayyy! See, honey? I'll make that money back!

    So, thank you, thank you, thank you Kat et al, for this wonderful forum. Feel like I've met a whole bunch of soul mates and everyone so kind to each other and helpful. Must be a little hippie in all of us.

    By the way - I am totally new to sewing! When I got the new Singer, I sewed a sock closed and then mended a pair of jammy pants with the rear end blown out. Seemed to go well... This should be a baptism by woolly fire, but hey, it's how I've learned everything else all my life. Jump in and do it. (but wish me luck anyway!)

    Wheehoo! Yummy sweaters!

  • yay! welcom christine! Welcome Tina! You guys are in for a fun sewing adventure. :-)

    Thank you for everyone who took a swing at describing thumbhole. It all made sense to me, though, i already know how to do it...hopefully on my new arm warmer tutorial (coming very soon!) it will make sense. Maybe a you tube video is in order too.

    Kelly - sometimes sweaters are just too thick and there isnt a lot you can do to your machine to make it work. You can serge/finish easch seam separately and then try serging them (or hand sewing them) together. I run into this probalem all the time- especially around the collar/hood. It can be a big headache. I often have to go over the chunky bits by hand.

    , woolly nylon thread.....someone gave me some in pink and i used it on a couple of black/pink sweaters in the last batch...with mixed results. On one hand, it spreads out so it makes nice silky seams that look pretty different. It seems to want to curl the fabric more (which could be used to good effect in some places)....but overall i am not sure i will be making to swirtch because the way i sew there are usually a number or tiny ends of threads poking out - which is not that noticible with maxilock thread, but with the woolly nylon it looked really fuzzy and distracting. it kind of cheapened the overall effect.

    That is my verdict. My neighbor sews with only woolly nylon and her stuff is constucted differently than mine, and it looks really slick.

    and finally...yay, santarchy! i have some fond santacon memories from back in the day. :-)

  • @Kelly, I have had the small bits poking out too and have partially (most the time, except on really thick areas - like Kat points out) fixed it by adjusting the stitch length and making the stitches closer together. But it does still happen some on thick areas (collar hood area) for me too. I also end up going over these areas by hand sometimes too, using needle and thread. Good luck! :)

  • @ Kat - thanks for info on woolly nylon. Makes sense. I think it would be good on the hems, using rolled edge function and stretching the fabric as you go to make what's called a "lettuce leaf edge".

    Off to the serger....

  • Julie Morgan Moses-if you have some light colored or white sweaters-why not try dying them with lemonade kool-aid?

    I have been having FANTASTIC results with kool-aid dye, the same way that you would do wool diaper covers.

  • i recieved the tutorial a couple days ago...I have been shopping for sweater, washing, drying...I was shocked too at how much they shrink, found a couple good boiled wood sweaters that I am not going to shrink like that! Yellow is a hard color to find. Found a lot of reds thou.

    Bought my serger yesterday, it's a Singer...I have heard bad and good but it has a three month return policy so hopefully I will have no problems. I have watched the video and already know how to thread it-when i jump into a project I really jump in.

    So now I am trying to figure out what colors I want my coat. I will keep posting.

  • Thanks for the advice...I'll play around with the stitch length and see what happens. I'm so antsy to just do the fun sewing part that I usually skip over trying adjustments that might actually make the sewing easier! And hand stitching...aw, man! That takes so much patience! :)

    Here's a question about cleaning your serger. What do you think of using compressed air to blow out the fuzz? It seems like an awesome idea, but I've heard warnings against it with a sewing machine. Something about creating big balls of fuzz on the inside of the machine. Thoughts?

  • You can use a bit of canned air on the sergers ... at least I have for years with no problem... but first I use a paint brush (artist not house) to brush out the big chunks. And blow away from the machine proper, so the junk doesn't migrate into the machine.

    Kat, thanks for the info on wooly nylon (never did make it to the studio today) (flu bug that was a house present on Thanksgiving is still kicking my butt... blehh)

    Another thought on wooly nylon ... it is more expensive than serger thread. Like 6.59 compared to 4.59 for more yardage.

    A good place to get sewing things (if you are adventurous) is Shopper's Rule. They start by showing you the Market Price, then you can make an offer as to how much you are willing to pay. I have bought thread there for great prices. If you maje an offer that is too low nad get rejected, raise the price a bit 'til you get a good one!

    Also, Jo-Ann's sells an off brand of serger threads.... but also the Gutermann ones ... those are great for good clothes (meaning fine fabrics) as they are more expensive and are smoother than Maxi-Lock. I have found Maxi-Lock at Hancock Fabrics (1/2 off sometimes.)

    And, a last point, Bernina sergers (not the sewing machines) are the same as Juki -- made in same plant. I would not recommend the lowest priced 700D serger... the motor is too light-weight for serious serging. (I do some heavy duty serging on underskirts of prom gowns in the spring and wore one out.. traded up to the 1100)

    Sorry this is so long.

    Diane

  • IF YOU USE CANNED AIR NEVER NEVER POINT IT AT THE TENSION DISKS ON YOUR MACHINE.

    The tension disks usually have a dial close- the threads go through them, and if you hit them with that much air moving that fast it will knock the disks out of place and you will have to take your machine in for a repair.

    This is the voice of experience speaking.

  • @Diane....thank you SO much for your wise words on Bernina sergers. I *thought* they were the same as Juki - so thanks for confirming it :) I live in Australia, and my local sewing shop has Bernina - so yayyy!!! I think I know what my Christmas present to myself will be :))))

  • I just picked up a Willcox & Gibbs 5 thread, type 516-4-38, spec 5x5, and having a bear of a time finding info on it. However the delightful lady I picked it up from (sewing for over 50yrs), shared where she orders all her thread and misc supplies from (Maxi-Lock 3000yds $1.85). Does anyone know a better source?

    http://store.atlantathread.com/seandbl.html

    Blessed Be

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