Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Absolute Basics of Sewing: Seams and Hems

So I'm home sick today... Drinking a tea made from some stuff that I bought from WholeFoods that we call witch's brew. It tastes like you're drinking nature... and not in a good way.

Whilst I've got some bed-ridden time on my hands, I may as well post this tutorial that I made a couple of days ago, but didn't have time to write.

So here you go!

How to sew...


Seams are when you sew two pieces of fabric together or connect the edges of one piece of fabric.

Start by threading your machine. If you can't remember how, follow these directions.

Now that your machine is threaded and ready to go, let's sew some seams!

Take the two pieces of fabric and figure out which is the front side and which is the back side.

Some fabrics it's really obvious which side is which.
Some fabrics it doesn't matter which side you use.

Now put your fabric with both front sides facing together and line up the edges.

Pin your fabric together to keep it from slipping or moving around.

I like to have my pins about an inch apart on smaller pieces and about four inches apart on larger pieces.

Now, on your machine under your needle you'll see the needle plate. Conveniently, most needle plates have some handy-dandy measurements to help you measure your seams.

These measurements are in eighths of an inch incrementally and measure the distance from the needle when it is in the centre position. 

If you are using a sewing pattern, it will let you know what seam allowances to use. If you're not using a pre-made pattern, a quarter of an inch is what I usually use. 

Now take your fabric and line its pinned edge up with whatever measurement you plan to use for your seam.

Here I'm using 3/8ths. For a quarter inch, I usually just line my fabric up with the edge of my sewing foot.

Now, keeping your fabric in place, put your foot down (like I showed you in this tutorial). This will hold your fabric down, and put pressure on it to help the feed dogs pull it away from you.

Just like you learned in the Simple Stitches tutorial, we will first do a straight stitch.

Because this is stretch fabric, I chose a size 3 straight stitch.

Next, sew a few straight stitches. Stop. To keep the edges of your fabric from coming apart, it is a good idea to do a few reverse stitches before continuing on down your piece.
To do reverse stitches, press down on the reverse lever (pictured below) and sew a few stitches back. Do not go off of the fabric, just a couple of stitches will do.

Now, making sure to keep the edge of your fabric lined up with your measurement, continue sewing your straight line all of the way to the end. Also make sure to take out the pins as you go. If you sew over a pin, your needle could hit it and snap off and go flying and hit you in the eye and blind you FOREVER!!!

So take your pins out.

When you get to the end, again, add a couple of reverse stitches.

Now you will have two pieces of fabric that you can open up and you won't have any stitches visible on the other side. Like a pro!

To keep your fabric from fraying, let's add a zig-zag stitch along the edge of the fabric.

I have again chosen a size 3, but switched the stitch type to a zig-zag.

This time I line my fabric up with the edge of the foot so that the zig-zag stitch won't go over my straight stitch.

Just like sewing the straight stitch, sew along the edge all of the way to the end of the fabric.

Congratulations! You've sewn a seam that is strong, won't come apart at the ends and won't fray along the edge!

Now it's time to learn how to sew...


Hems are when you roll over the end of a piece of fabric to finish it nicely; like the bottom of a skirt or the end of a pant leg.

To begin, I like to put a zig-zag stitch along the entire edge of the hem. This keeps the fabric from fraying and makes it so that I don't have to roll the hem twice.

So let's start with that. When you're sewing an actual garment, start your zig-zag stitch from one of the seams. If you're just practising, sew from one edge of the fabric to the other.

I again used a 3 stitch and kept the fabric on the edge of the foot, this usually keeps the zig-zag close to the edge of the fabric, which is what you want when it is intended to stop the fabric from fraying.

Sew all of the way along the edge of the fabric.

When you're done, roll the back edges of the fabric together so that mostly the back side of the fabric is facing you, with about a half inch of the front side of the fabric folded over. I don't measure my hems when I am making a garment from scratch- I just go with a half inch-ish, but if you are using a pattern, it will tell you how long your hem should be. 

Now pin your measured hem roll into place.

Switch your sewing machine back to a straight stitch. 

I like to line up my stitch either with the right edge of my zig-zag stitch, or right down the middle. This time I went right down the middle.

Sew a straight line, following along the edge of your hem and making sure that your stitches are nice and straight.

When you turn over your fabric, you'll have a nice, tidy, straight hem. If you'd like, you can press this hem flat.

And that's it! With these basic skills, you should be able to make yourself clothes, curtains, cushion covers and more!

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