Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer maxi dress -- hemming (Part 3)

Welcome back for the third part of the summer maxi dress tutorial -- hemming! Your dress should be all put together, you just need to finish the bottom. And if you want an edgier look to your dress, you can totally skip this part and leave the bottom raw because knit won't unravel. :)

Oh yeah, check out that caboose! Haha, I was just giving my hubby some attitude, but it shows off the back of the dress. So that's what you get. Well, back on topic. Hemming.

Just a little note -- I did my hem like a traditional hem where I folded up the material and then folded again, and I recommend you don't do that. As I mentioned earlier, knit does't unravel so folding it twice is unnecessary and just more work, plus I think it made things a little harder on my double needle. But if you're not using knit for this project, then you should fold up twice.

I found this method to be the best/most professional looking way to pin the hem on anything. I tried on the dress and determined about where I wanted it to end and added 1.5 inches (that's for folding it twice -- if you're only folding it once, add 3/4 inch or whatever you want your hem allowance to be). I laid it flat on the ground and spread out the bottom of the skirt and cut it as straight as possible at my measurement.

Then I hung it up (took some kitchen clips to hold it in place). Someday I might get me a dress form, but those things are so expensive! It would really come in handy, but here's my substitute and it works pretty well. Notice the dress is inside out so I'm looking at the wrong side of the fabric.

Grab your tape measurer and pins. Fold up your hem the desired amount and pin (or fold again and pin). If you plan on using your double needle, put the pin on the other side. You'll need to sew from the right side with that method.

I like to pin the hem in halves. I pin in the middle, then the sides to kind of divide it up. Then I fill in the halves. Turn the hanger and repeat. Once you have it pinned, kind of double check with your tape measurer that it's even, then stand back and do a visual check to see if it's hanging about how you want it to.

I used this method to sew a special dress for my little girl; I hand sewed the hem, so I just left it on the hanger after I pinned it to sew it and it made it so much easier!!

You don't need to do anything special, just sew up the hem. You shouldn't need stretch at the bottom because it should be large enough to hang loose and walk comfortably in. If you're using the double needle, read on...

Here's the deal with the double needle: I found very little information online, and what I did find wasn't very helpful. So this is probably one of those things you have to work out through trial and error. This is what it looks like...

It has a single shank but then splits into two needles. As long as your machine has zigzag capability, which I think is pretty much any sewing machine anymore, you should be able to use it. Check your manual and see if it says anything about it. My manual basically says two itty bitty things about it, as in if you use it, don't use a big zigzag. Yeah, thanks.

Now, double needles come in different widths. I have one that is 4.0 (that's 4 mm between the needles), and one that is 2.5. My 2.5 is a stretch one, specifically for knits, although it was giving me trouble and I ended up using my 4.0 universal. I'm pretty sure it's because my fabric was too thick with the double fold on the hem. So basically I think the universal do a great job; just pick one that's the width you want.

This is what it looks like on the top; it mimics the cover stitch commercial clothes have on the hem, although those were created with a 5-thread serger.

The underside looks like this...

And just note, that isn't the bobbin creating the zigzag, it's the needle threads. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong because I thought the bobbin would do it. Nope...

And also note, my machine would occassionally skip a stitch; the bobbin wouldn't catch both needle threads, just one. This was driving me crazy and I was spending my whole day to fix it. I would test it on some extra fabric and it would do ok, but then on the actual hem it was much worse. Again, I'm pretty sure this is because I did the double fold. However, my friend told me she had the same problem, on only a single fold and not a knit. So this may just be the nature of the beast.

Hopefully your manual is more helpful than mine and tells you how to thread this and what settings to use. Mine didn't, so after some testing, here's how I did it on my Singer basic model. Make sure to use some scrap fabric and test it on your machine.

I threaded my bobbin like normal, then I loaded a second bobbin to use as my second needle thread. Notice that extra metal stick on my machine? I did use that for holding the extra thread, but it was really loose compared to my other thread (there on the left of this pic), so I ended up putting them both on my thread holder. I just had the threads unwind in opposite directions (I read that on one of the websites that had some info on the double needle and it seemed to work well).

I then threaded my machine like normal and just divided the threads at the bottom. My machine has two thread loops just above the needle so I put one in each and then threaded each needle. Another website suggested putting the threads on different sides of the tension disc. I tried both ways and it didn't seem to make a difference on mine, so try that both ways.

I made sure my needle was set to the center position, and the straight stitch worked better than setting my machine to a so-narrow-it's-straight zigzag.

And one more note: My needle, even the wider one, was small enough to fit through the throat plate, the opening where the needles go down and grab the bobbin thread. However, my left needle got ever-so-slightly bent and it would go down and catch on the bobbin mechanism, making the machine stall and bend the needle out more. It was freaking me out! If this is happening, check if your needle is bent back a little and gently bend it toward you. This fixed it -- sensitive little things! And please leave me any questions in the comments -- this is a tricky thing!

Just play around with it, then go ahead and hem like normal. Make sure you're sewing from the right side/the outside so the zigzag in on the bottom. Also be careful that both needles are sewing through the folded-up fabric -- you don't get the benefit of seeing where you're sewing with this method. 

Good luck, and we'll see you next Tuesday to finish up the bodice with some shirring/smocking.

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