Top Ten essential Sewing Machine Feet

I am aware that there are in fact twelve feet in the picture above and even worse there are actually more than ten feet mentioned in this post, I never have been able to stick to a budget! I have been asked alot recently after introducing the Teflon foot in another tutorial, about sewing machine feet. There are lots of different kinds of presser feet depending on what you need to do and which machine you have. I thought today I would just run you through my ten… sorry twelve most used machine feet. I have three machines, a Janome 525s a Babylock 1600 and a mint green John Lewis mini and I am lucky enough that they all take standard low shank snap-on feet. I have used contrasting threads to make it easier for you to see what each foot is capable of. 

Zig Zag foot The zigzag is the most versatile of all the feet that come with your machine. This is the foot that you cannot live without. With the ability to stitch almost any stitch through the oval opening, you would be lost without this little one.

Zipper foot for sewing zips into anything a zipper foot is essential. Depending on your machine, your foot or your needle will shift from side to side to be able to get up close to the zip coil without the foot veering off the edge of the zip and without damaging the coil, so that you can attach your zips with neat straight stitches.

Concealed zip foot You don’t need a concealed zip foot to insert a concealed zip but it is jolly useful if you do. The foot helps to roll the coil of the zip away whilst you stitch so you can get as close to the edge as possible to make a neat closure with no stitching showing on the outside of the project. 

Teflon foot/ Walking foot These two for me count as one foot, as they are both designed to aid in moving sticky, slippery or bulky fabrics through your machine. The Teflon foot is recommended for fabrics like PVC and leatherette where the surface has a tendency to stick to the underside of a metal foot. The walking foot can also help with this issue, but it can also be used for sewing bulky fabrics and slippery fabrics like Minky fleece which tend to shift when sewing with a regular foot. In the photo above you can see the results sewing on Minky fabric with the walking foot on the left and with a regular foot on the right. So much better with the walking foot I think you will agree. 

Blind Hem Foot The amazing invisible hem that you can achieve from this foot and its corresponding stitch is brilliant. Sometimes practice is required to truly appreciate what a wonder this foot can be, but once mastered it is a skill you won’t forget. 

Embroidery/darning foot If you have a need to be free with your stitching, embroidery or darning foot will be your best friend. Once you lower the feed dogs (the little rough teeth that move the fabric through with your other feet) the bouncy foot will hold the fabric whilst the stitch is being made but will jump up so you can move the fabric in any direction you wish. Great for creating stitched art, appliqué and free-motion quilting. 

Gathering foot. Again a rather specific use and a little temperamental but good fun if you are in the mood to play around a little. This foot will stitch and as the name suggests, gather your fabric as it goes. I find that it does better with lightweight fabrics and small amounts, but it is a time saver when sewing long lengths of trimmings. 

Piping foot You can get different sizes of the foot depending on the size of your piping, but basically, the groove in the bottom is designed to hold the cord in place whilst you stitch the casing or cover in place. You can also use it when sewing the covered piping between two layers of fabric. Like the zip foot with zips, it is designed to get the stitch as close to the piping as it can, so as little of the stitching is visible on the finished product. 

Buttonhole foot/guide As the name suggests it is there as a guide when sewing a button hole by machine. It usually has markings on it so that it is easy to judge the size you need whilst sewing (if you have a manual buttonhole stitch). It also holds the fabric in place all the way around the buttonhole area whilst stitching to get a neat even finish. 

Bias binding foot Designed to make the dull task of sewing on bias binding a little easier. It holds the fold of the bias in place with consistency to get a straight line when sewing your binding on the straight or round a curve. You just wheel the guide in to place and sew!

Roll Hemming Foot A simple and efficient way to get a narrow neat finishing edge is to use a roll hemmer. It is a little fiddly at first but once the technique has been mastered you will love it.  Really good for finishing edges on silk scarves and fine or sheer fabrics. 

There are a couple of things I would suggest if you are thinking of trying or buying any of these feet for your own machine. Make sure you buy the right foot for your brand of machine. Keep all your feet and accessories together in one place and keep it in a safe, clean and dry environment. If you are using a foot for the first time, or for the first time in a while practice on some scrap fabric before you sew on your final project… just in case.
Want to find out more about other sewing machine feet and more on how to use any of the feet specifically? You can head over to our friends at the Sewing Directory, where they have more articles about all the feet I have mentioned and more.
Do you have a tool or technique that you love?  Is there something about sewing or crafts you have always wanted to know about?  Let us know, We would love to write some more posts like this.  Look out for my much-requested ‘Bias Binding’ Top Tips special in a previous blog!


Sammy xxx

Top 10 Things To Look For When Buying A Sewing Machine

I get asked a lot at Sew Crafty what to look for when you are buying a new sewing machine, lots of our customers are intimidated by the sheer number of different kinds out there and where to even start looking. Here are my top ten tips for buying a new Sewing Machine. 

  1. Before you dive straight in, why not try and borrow a friend or relative’s machine for a while and see how much you really use it and what kind of things you like sewing.  It will give you a better idea of what you like and don’t like so you can make sure the machine you choose has those features.       
                                                                                                                    
  2. Be careful of picking a machine with too many bells and whistles. If it is your first machine you may be overwhelmed with too many stitch variations To start with keep it simple, you can always sell on your old machine and upgrade if you feel you are missing out.     
                           
  3. Always buy from a reputable source. I would always recommend buying from a bricks and mortar shop. If your machine is faulty or needs a service (it will eventually need one) you want a place you can go back to. It is not always possible of course so if you are buying online, head to a reputable company like John Lewis, and if you can, pay on your credit card so the purchase is insured.             
                                                                                                     
  4. The added joy of finding a shop that sells Sewing machines locally to you is that you can go and try them out. You can ask questions of the shop owners, they should have good experience and if you have your list of requirements and budget they can hopefully match you to your perfect machine. 
                                                                                                                           
  5. Head to online guides like Which best buys or search online for reviews and recommendations for the machine make and model you are looking for.   
                                                                           
  6. Buy the best you can afford, like I always say in haberdashery you get what you pay for and in most cases this rings true with sewing machines too.   
                                                                       
  7. Try and choose a brand with parts that are easy to find locally or again from a reputable online source. It can be so annoying when you want or need to buy a new foot and you can’t find where to get it from.                         
                                                                                                                 
  8. When you purchase your machine, find out where you can get it serviced. If you are buying locally you can often take it back to the shop for servicing, but if not you may need to contact an independent engineer. Your machine will need a service every year -18 months after the end of the guarantee to keep it running efficiently. Regular servicing will help to avoid larger repair bills and replacement costs further down the line.                   
                                                                    
  9. Your machine will need to be cared for. It will need cleaning and maintenance to help it run smoothly. Your machine manual will have information about how to dust and oil your machine to get the best results. It should be stored somewhere warm and dry. If it has been stored in the cold make sure you run it for a while to warm it before you start sewing.     
                                       
  10. Ask to see the instruction booklet. It will be your best friend when late night sewing. Your local machine shop owner will not appreciate late night phone calls to chat about tension, but your machine book, if it is a good one, will answer a lot of questions. It should also explain all the accessories and extras that you can get and how to use them. 

I hope that has guided some of you in the right direction when searching for your new sewing machine. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them

Sammy xx

Sewing Tips: Bias Binding

 

I get asked a lot about bias binding, like how to use it and what it’s for, which is understandable, if you have never been taught about it, it may seem like a bit of a mystery. I love how it can take a project from okay through to polished and it really isn’t as complicated as it may appear. So I thought for this month’s sewing tips post I would write a definitive post including everything you ever wanted to know about Bias Binding.

What is Bias Binding or Bias Tape?

Bias Binding is a strip of fabric cut at a 45 degree angle to the straight weave of a fabric. It is cut this way to take advantage of the ability to curve around corners when fabric is cut on the cross.
What do you use it for?

Often it is used to edge quilts and bags, it can be used as a narrow facing, particularly around arm holes in clothing. You can use it to cover piping cord to make an edging or you can sew it together to make a rouleaux style tape to use as ties or cord.

What different kinds are there?

At Sew Crafty we stock cotton bias, polyester satin bias and printed bias. You can also make your own out of pretty much any fabric and you can also get stretch or Lycra bias, although I prefer to cut my own if I’m sewing with Jersey from the same fabric if needed. I usually buy an extra half a metre of any stretch fabric I buy to allow me to cut bias. 

How do I make my own?

To make your own bias tape you simply need to cut strips across your chosen fabric at a 45 degree angle to the straight weave of the fabric. You can then with or without a bias binding maker, fold the edges in and iron it to set the edges in place. If you are going to be using it as single fold it is easier to do this before you start to sew it in place, if you are using it as double fold, you wont need to do that step.

What is the difference between single fold and double fold bias?
When talking about single fold and double fold some people get confused, the bias you traditionally see with the two raw edges folded in, is actually single fold and bias tape with the raw edges unfolded is double fold bias. 

Single fold is attached by unfolding the pre-folded edges and sewing the raw edge to the raw edge of your project with right sides together using the fold as a sewing guide. It is then folded over and the other raw edge folded under and hand catch stitched in place so that none of the stitching shows.

Double fold is usually much wider, usually hand cut. You sew the two raw edges to the raw edge of your project and then fold the whole thing over to the other side before catching it down by hand. It is designed to give an easier finish as you are catching down a fold and not having to fold under a raw edge as you go like single fold. However it does make the finish a little bulkier as you are using a double layer of fabric. 

Are there any special tools you need to sew it?

You may remember I mentioned in my Top 10 Sewing Machine Feet post about this little wonder that is a bias binding foot. This little guy takes all the faff out of sewing bias tape in place as it holds the bias in the attachment as you sew it, so basically it feeds the bias through sewing it perfectly in place every time. Some people don’t like it because you can see the stitching but it makes big jobs so much easier. As I explained above it is not necessary to buy one, you can just sew bias with a regular sewing machine foot, or by hand.

It curves!?

The best advantage of bias binding being bias cut is that it will nicely curve around corners, this is great for edging around things obviously, but it is also a great help when finishing off necklines and armholes on clothing. It is also great if you struggle with hemming flared skirts as it will curve with the hem and give a smooth wrinkle free hemline.

How would you use it as a facing?

If you don’t want to line a piece of clothing but you want a nice neat finished edge you can use bias binding to help you get a nice professional finish. By sewing the bias as you would normally, but folding the entire tape to the inside of the garment and sewing it with a line of top stitching you get the benefit of a crisp finish without the bulk of a lining. 

What else can it be used for?

Bias tape is also great for covering piping cord, again because it is so great at going around curves it sits beautifully when wrapped around cotton cord or simply sewn into the seams for cushions and detailing on clothing.

Wow! That is a lot to take in, sorry, I wanted to be thorough.  I hope that has answered everything you ever wanted to know about our flexible friend.  If you have a question that isn’t answered in this post, let me know in the comments below and I will do my best to answer it for you.
Sammy xxx

Ten Steps To Becoming a Macrame Master

Macrame is so hot right now and we’re totally addicted. There are some fantastic macrame kits out there, but to get started why not grab any yarn, string, embroidery thread or twine you have lying around to get you started. Perfect for beginners, or your next macrame party! This is a thing. Is this a thing? I might make this a thing.

1. Simply Braided

Let’s start at the beginning. Here are the basic Macrame knots. Once mastered can be the base for thousands of designs and patterns.

2. The Next Step

This looks tricky but is actually a lot simpler than it looks, I think it actually looks super impressive! Its literally just knotting 2 threads next to each other, together, 2 at a time. See, super simple. The creativity comes in the colours you choose, and the pattern. Click the image for the Pin I found this on, which shows the step by step images.

Here is a more detailed explanation on honestlywtf.com

3. Up Your Game

Working with this principle, and these rainbow colours because, what could be better, why not try this slightly more detailed pattern by the dolls at Macrame School. Again, its a lot simpler than it looks! And so fun!

Macrame School Youtube

4. Go Glam

This super glamorous and dainty design is the natural next step. You’ll have made 100 bracelets for yourself, so now you’ll want to start making some as gifts, or maybe to sell at a craft fair? Learning different patterns like this is a great tool to your belt. Picking softer colours and neater thread for something like this works wonders. Also by Macrame School.

6. Master the Tension

There are a million ways to create the tension needed to make nice tight bracelets. But using a clipboard and craft foam is our favourite.

7. Put your heart on your sleeve (wrist)

Its time to add embellishments! Start with this simple heart then the world is your oyster! This shouldn’t be hard now you’ve mastered the basics. You’ll be sticking these hearts on everything! Click here for the tutorial.

8. Graduate Up

Time to try a necklace? Use your skills to create a “chain” with your favourite macrame style, then add a gorgeous precious stone, rock or memorable trinket to the bottom by learning how to make a quick bespoke net. The beauty of this is you don’t have to dig out perfect beads with holes in them, you can literally turn anything, OK maybe not the cat, but close to anything, into a necklace pendant! Click the image for the tutorial from Quiet Lion Creations.

You could also try wrapping the pieces with this tutorial from Ecocrafts.

Or go back to bracelets and pop a net in one of them instead with this tutorial from True Blue Me and You.

9. Have a Hoot!

Confident? Why not make your OWN charm? I am so in love with this owl design. Its gorgeous. Who wouldn’t love receiving this for their birthday? Wear this out and you’ll get tons of comments and questions. Check out this video from Macrame School – they really are the best.

Macrame Owl Video

10. Get Creative!

Look on Pinterest for inspiration, and use your new skills to make something incredible and unique! Maybe something like these incredible creations by the amazing Lesh Loom. I’m in love!

Have fun guys! If you delve into macrame, especially if you use any of our bits, then let us know in the comments or on social at @samanthaclaridgstudio

Check out our Pinterest board on Macrame to see some more wonderful ideas, knots to learn and video tutorials from some of our favourite makers.

Sammy x

Fire Safety Around Fabrics and Children’s Product Testing Information.

There has been a lot of buzz in the press over the past year or so around the subject of fire retardant fabrics when it comes to children’s clothing and naked flames. Especially centred around the horrific accident that happened to The Great British Sewing Bee presenter Claudia Winkleman’s Daughter Halloween 2014.  You can watch her interview and read more about what happened on The Guardian’s Website. The story is a stark warning to us all, but I feel the message is being lost, the message is one, yes, of taking care with cheap synthetic Halloween costumes, but also and more importantly of fire safety.

The fact is that virtually no fabric is immune to a naked flame. In some cases fire retardant treatments have been know to actually cause more problems than they solve, making fabrics burn faster and hotter than without those chemicals. What needs to be focused on here is the matter of fire safety for all, which includes the care and attention when purchasing ready-made clothing or costumes or fabric for adults and children. Most ready-made garments have to undergo testing before they can be sold in shops, by law, however few of us these days take the time to read the small print on the labels that warn against flammability. I am obviously an advocate of making your own costumes, but even then I wouldn’t advise that someone wearing  a handmade costume would be any safer than a shop bought costume next to a naked flame.

There are some other situations I have been asked about lately that I would like to mention here too. Some of the cotton fabrics we stock now require advice against the use of them for Children’s sleepwear. This is due to the testing that Children’s sleepwear has to undergo in order to be deemed safe for use in that manner. It is only related to sleepwear, garments that are surrounding the entire body, interestingly the legislation does not require the same level of testing for bedding, quilts or day time clothing.  Read the regulation document for more detailed information. The potential for these fabrics to catch fire over ones that have been tested are no more or less likely, often the only difference is the fabrics that you would buy from a fabric shop may not have undergone the testing that ready-made garments require in order to be put on sale as a products intended for children. This is the reason these fabrics and we who sell them are required to share the advice that they are not suitable or intended for Children’s sleepwear. If you choose to go against the advice and make some kids PJ’s out of that fabric, you do so at your own risk. It is no more or less safe than the fabric that has been used in ready-made garments for any other reason than that it has not been tested for that purpose.

If you are making things for babies and children the rules are very clear. If you are making things for your own children you do so, again at your own risk, there are steps you should be taking, but at the end of the day you are responsible for taking those steps. If however you decide to make something for another child that is not your own, even if it is a friend or relative you NEED to be very, very careful. If you make something for a child and that child is hurt in some way by that product, or as a result of that product, in the eyes of the law you are responsible. If you choose to make and sell products for babies or children (classified as under the age of 13) even if it is only a from home set up, or at school fairs etc. (you are classed as a manufacturer) if you don’t have these items tested it is illegal and again if your product causes harm to a child, you by law will be held responsible. There is a reason that children’s toys and clothing can be expensive and some of it can be put down to the cost involved in the testing of these products.

As with any legislations like these they are put in place for one reason, to protect our selves and our loved ones from harm. Our advice is in line with the Fire Department and Government guidelines to always be vigilant around fire, naked flame, fireworks, heaters or anything that could potentially cause your child to be burned. All fabric has the potential to burn and cause damage to the child or adult wearing it.

I am by no means an expert in any of these fields, these are just the things I have picked up over the years that I have been working with fabrics. If you are in any doubts about how to protect yourself and your family from the risks of fire check out this Government released Fire Safety leaflet. Or Fireservice.co.uk where you can find advice for fire prevention for many different situations.  If you are interested in finding out more about Children’s product testing visit The British Toy and Hobby association,  or this guidance page on the Government website or if you want to know about sleep-wear legislation in particular check the UKFT.org.

I hope that this post has been helpful in some way to anyone who has been worried about any of the issues covered here. If you have any questions, or if you have more information that might be helpful to anyone reading this please leave a comment below. If there is anything you believe to be false or misleading then also please feel free to comment and I will take them in to account.

Sammy xxx