Basic sewing steps.

    You can sew (and still have fingers left!)
    You don’t need to sew perfectly to create great costumes, but it sure helps to
    know the basics. If you haven’t done much sewing before, don’t worry! This
    chapter can help you get started.
    Essential equipment
    Although you can sew with just a needle and thread, I highly recommend
    having access to tools like these:
    for removing stray stitches and icky seams) must Seam ripper (an absolute ✄
    Measuring tape (the soft, flexible kind works best) ✄
    Sharp scissors, preferably used only for sewing (paper dulls scissors rapidly) ✄
    Straight pins, small to medium sized ✄
    Sturdy thread (very cheap thread tends to break and jam your machine) ✄
    Words t o know
    — your fabric’s right side ✁
    best looking side
    — distance seam allowance ✁
    between seam and edge of
    fabric (usually 1/4”)
    — part of sewing presser foot ✁
    machine that holds fabric in
    place while the “feed dogs”
    pull it through (must be
    lowered in order to sew)
    — the most seam ripper ✁
    important sewing tool!Basic sewing steps
    Cardboard measuring mat (not absolutely essential, ✄
    but very handy)
    Iron (and a place to iron—you can buy very small ✄
    ironing boards that work on any flat surface)
    Sewing machine (as discussed below) ✄
    Sewing machines
    Unless you’re an expert handsewer, I recommend getting
    a sewing machine. They’re fast, they do a good job, and
    they’re easy to use. You don’t need anything fancy—as
    long as it does straight stitching of adjustable lengths and
    runs decently, it’ll do. Decorative stitches and zig-zags
    can be useful but they’re not necessary. Many sewing
    machine stores sell inexpensive used models, and you can
    always trade up if you ever want a better machine. Be
    careful, however, about getting a machine that betrays
    you at every other stitch. The machine should run
    smoothly and without jamming, producing steady, even
    stitches. Run a test scrap and scrutinize the stitches
    carefully to make sure they’re all the same length.
    Since every machine is different, you need to check the
    manual to see how to wind bobbins and thread it. Most
    machines have a veritable gauntlet of gadgets (mine has
    seven) the thread must pass through before reaching the
    needle. If yours doesn’t come with a manual and you’ve
    gotten tangled up trying, ask the people where you
    bought it or the people at your local fabric store for help. Basic sewing steps
    IMPORTANT first steps
    right sides As a general rule, you need to sew your fabric
    The right side is the one you want facing out together .
    when the costume is finished. It’s usually brighter, shinier,
    more finely printed, or just plain better looking than its
    opposite, the wrong side. (If try as you may, you can’t tell
    the difference between sides, you’re probably pretty safe in
    assuming it doesn’t matter for that particular fabric.) By
    sewing fabric right sides together, you can turn the pieces
    right side out when you’re done sewing, leaving the
    stitching and untidy ends inside the costume where they
    won’t show.
    The distance between the stitches and the edge of the fabric
    is called seam allowance. One fourth of an inch (1/4”) is the
    standard seam allowance for all the costumes in this book, and
    for most small costumes in general (5/8” is standard for
    human-sized clothes). This not only affects how far from the
    edge you sew, but the way you cut your fabric. You always
    need to make sure each of your costume pieces includes an
    extra 1/4” all the way around to get eaten up by the seam
    allowance. Having a sufficient amount of seam allowance is critical to the
    longevity of your costumes, since seams sewn too close to the edge are not only
    difficult to create, but liable to come apart at the most inconvenient moments.
    Last of all, there’s very little sewing that can’t be redone. Keep your seam ripper
    handy and try it again (and again). So watch your fingers and start stitching!
    When your machine wants to
    quit working before you do
    Rethread the machine ✁
    completely (top and bottom)
    Look for anything in the ✁
    bobbin area that may be
    jamming things up. Broken
    needles, pins, and even lint
    build-up can prevent smooth
    operation. (Because of this, try
    to avoid sewing over pins
    whenever you can.) Then
    rethread the machine.
    Replace the needle and ✁
    rethread the machine
    If all else fails, start looking for
    repair shops. (I can usually get my
    10-year-old machine to behave
    just by waving a trade-in coupon
    in front of it a few times.) A
    reputable, friendly repair shop is
    an absolutely invaluable resource
    (if you have the good fortune to
    find one). Did I mention you
    should rethread the machine?Basic sewing steps
    Start stitching!
    Since straight seams are the easiest to sew…
    1. Get a fabric scrap (or a paper towel) and fold it in half right sides together.
    2. Place your scrap in the machine so that the unfolded edges
    line up with the edge of the presser foot (this creates
    approximately 1/4” seam allowance).
    3. Turn the wheel on the side of your machine towards you
    to lower the needle into the scrap.
    4. Next, put the presser foot down (there’s usually a little lever for this). The
    presser foot must be down whenever you stitch. This allows the material to
    automatically feed through evenly—you should never have to push it. You
    only need to gently guide it through.
    5. Press the foot pedal to stitch forward a few stitches, then stop.
    6. Press the “reverse” level or button to stitch backwards a
    few stitches. This is the machine equivalent of tying a knot
    and will hold your stitches in place.
    Key to illustrations
    foot up, needle up ✁
    foot up, needle down ✁
    foot down, needle up ✁
    foot down, needle down ✁
    Some machines come with several
    changeable feet, each with a
    different purpose. A zipper foot
    is one of the most common (and
    most useful)! I still don’t know
    what most of the feet on my
    machine are for, so don’t worry if
    you don’t have a lot of them.Basic sewing steps
    7. Continue stitching forward until you get to the end
    of the fabric. Reverse for a few stitches again, then
    stitch forward off the end of the fabric.
    8. Raise the needle to its highest position. This prevents
    it from becoming unthreaded.
    9. Raise the presser foot and remove the fabric from
    your machine.
    10. Cut off the extra threads hanging from the fabric so
    they don’t get in the way later.
    You did it! Look at that lovely seam! Turn your scrap
    right side out to admire it fully. If you can do that (plus a
    few more tricks explained shortly), you can sew the
    costumes in this book!
    If your seams don’t come out right (and this happens to
    everyone, beginner or expert), you can always use a seam
    ripper to tear them out and try again. That’s the beauty
    of sewing.
    Up (and down) on the corner
    Of course, you would have a difficult time costuming if
    you could only sew straight seams.
    1. When you come within 1/4” of a sharp turn, lower
    the needle into the fabric, then raise the presser foot.Basic sewing steps
    2. Pivot the fabric to the left. Since you have the needle
    lowered, you won’t lose your place in the stitching.
    3. Line the fabric up with the edge of the presser foot
    again, then lower the presser foot.
    4. Continue stitching merrily as usual!
    Rounding curves
    and watch your fingers. For slowly Approach curves
    gentle curves, that’s all the advice you need. For more
    rambunctious curves, you need to make lots of little
    stops and pivots (not huge changes in direction). (You
    may also want to shorten the stitch length.)
    Whenever you feel the fabric becoming hard to steer,
    lower the needle, raise the foot, pivot the fabric just a
    little, then lower the presser foot again and continue
    sewing. Keep repeating this until you’re back on the
    straight away.
    Once you’ve completed your
    curved seam, you may need to snip
    the seam allowance here and there
    to make the costume easier to turn
    right side out (just be careful not to snip the seam…)Basic sewing steps
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