Welcome to Crafting 101! The chance where we get to showcase our lovely and amazing guests here at Hochanda! In Crafting 101, you can expect helpful Top Tips, Tutorials, Video Q&As and more! This blog is for all you nifty crafters to enjoy! This month’s guest is Thimblewood, with a fantastic list of Top Tips to cover all things sewing! If you missed last months Crafting 101 with Mrs H Bag Making you can check that out here.
Unique Sewing Kits and Patterns designed by Michelle Goodfield. Sometimes funky, maybe quirky, often cute, and always fun to stitch with Thimblewood! So without further ado, here’s Thimblewood’s list of fantastic tips!
“A bad workman blames his tools”
Well, you’ve all heard the saying – but I have to disagree in part, it really can make a huge difference to your cutting out if you have a very good pair of sharp scissors. Many Thimble Wood kits have lots of small fiddly elements to cut out. The best technique is to transfer the shape onto the felt or fabric and use small sharp scissors to cut out, I especially like scissors with a serrated edge. When you cut, move the fabric not the scissors, as this way you will get a far neater cut with lovely smooth curves. When your fabric piece is cut out, hold the original template on top and trim off any bits of fabric that stick out. Use the very best materials you can afford, often when we sew we invest many, many hours in creating our masterpiece, why spend all that time and energy and end up with something that still says cheap to us. Quality felts and fabrics are so lovely to work with, you’ll enjoy the whole process more and end up with a really special handmade item.
Transferring your pattern pieces to your fabric is mostly straightforward, I’d recommend cutting out the thin card templates (supplied with all Thimble Wood kits and patterns) and drawing around them carefully, using a pen that is friction (heat) removable. Simple, right – but it’s somewhat more tricky if you are transferring a shape onto dark coloured fabrics. You can get white chalk markers, but I find the line too thick to be useful so I’d suggest using ‘Freezer Paper’. This is an American product that is used literally to stop your burgers slicking together in the freezer. It has a very fine layer of wax on one side. You simply trace the shape onto the freezer paper using a pencil, and then iron it to the fabric. It will stick just enough for you to cut out on the drawn pencil line, cutting through both the freezer paper and fabric at the same time. When you are done the Freezer paper peels away easily. If you need to cut the same shape again, simply iron the Freezer paper piece onto the new fabric and cut out again. The outer paper that is used to wrap reams of A4 office printer paper is similarly wax coated and can be used for the same method.
Backwards is best: Sew first then cut out
It may sound wrong but there are huge advantages to sewing your smaller fabric pieces before cutting them out. For things like teddy ears, doll arms and legs etc, it is by far the easier method, but I know it can add some confusion. I’ve tried to make sure my patterns really clearly state when you need to sew before cutting. You draw around your pattern pieces (without a seam allowance) onto a double layer of fabric, right sides together. You then sew directly on the drawn line. And then cut out leaving the appropriate seam allowance. The huge advantage is it is much easier to handle one large piece of fabric in the machine than lots of small ones, you also get a far more accurate stitch line (as you have a drawn line to follow) and you have no issues with edges fraying and less issues with fabric stretch as a large piece of fabric is far more stable than smaller pieces. It also means you avoid double cutting out, where you cut out once, sew, then trim the seam down.
Super Starch to the rescue
On how I love starch! Not a phrase I ever expected to say! But it is a stitcher’s best friend. I’m talking about the stuff your Grandma used when doing the ironing, it’s cheap, and readily available in most super markets in the ‘washing’ aisle. If you ever have fine, slippy and tricky fabrics to sew, make sure you apply a good few layers of starch to the fabric before you cut out. Fine cottons, silk, organza, lawn fabric all are far easier to handle when starched. It even helps stop fraying on linens too. Spray the fabric with the starch and press to dry, repeat two or three times. Don’t worry, the starch naturally wears off as the fabric is worked. It’s great for precise patchwork blocks and helps to reduce the bias cut stretch of the fabric too.
Avoiding the ugly duckling!
Oh I’ve seen so many lovely dolls and soft toys spoilt by some rather ugly heavy features! The face makes such a huge difference to the overall look of your finished creation, you really need to get it right. Firstly the eyes, they are the most important of all. Find yourself two black headed knob pins and use them to work out the best position for the eyes on your creation. Stuff the face and push the pins right in, try to make sure they line up, measure if you like. Take a photo on your phone then move the pins to another position, and photograph. After a few tries compare your photos, it will be easy to see which looks work and which don’t. Using the photo makes you step back and view it from a different perspective. When you’ve chosen your eye position and the pins are in place, wiggle the pin to make a larger hole so you can see where to insert the safety eye or sew on the bead, mark the spot if necessary. When it comes to other features, less is certainly more, especially if you are not too confident. A simple circle of blusher applied with your finger makes great soft cheeks. A single short horizontal stitch in a matching coloured thread makes a neat nose. And use a single strand of machine thread to sew a fine mouth.
To notch or not to notch? that is the question!
Now I’ve tried it all ways, how to get a lovely smooth curve, especially on the chin of a doll or head of a teddy bear. You know what I mean, you need to notch otherwise the seam allowance makes the turned through fabric buckle nastily, but if you notch too much you end up with an angular 50p edge rather than a nice smooth curve. So the trick is you use a combination of methods; for really tight curves like teddy ears and around doll hands I use my pinking shears to trim back the seam allowance, this cuts away some of the seam bulk and notches in one – perfect! For longer sweeping curves I like to trim back to about 1/8” and not notch at all, instead use the iron, and a bit of firm tugging to very slightly stretch the seam allowance into the new shape. The only time I’ll really cut into the seam allowance is for a really tight angle such as on a scalloped edge, then just one neat cut works best.
As always, we hope that this blog has helped to inspire you to pick up your crafting kits and join along with us.