Thursday, August 29, 2013

Crafty Tip #4

Before I dive into this week’s tip we have something very special happening at our Christmas market in November. To find out all about it and to see the display make sure you pop by the front desk on Saturday to see what’s happening. Let’s just say it will be interesting, educational, inspiring, interactive and might just help you out with those Christmas presents you need to buy. My lips are sealed, so make sure you make a note of it. You really don’t want to miss out on this.


So with the market only two sleeps away I have for you the last of my 4 crafty tips. Last week’s tip was all about your sewing machine, this week we look at machine needles and why they are so important. I apologise for the lengthy post but there is a lot to cover.

You’ve probably gone into your local craft shop and seen all of those tiny little packets of machine needles and wondered why there are so many. Short answer is because there is a needle for every type of sewing/craft/material out there as well as different machines needing a variety of styles of needle.

So let’s take a look –

There are two styles – flat-backed and round. This is to do with the part of your sewing machine where the needles are attached. The shaft where the needle is inserted can be different from machine to machine. It’s really easy if you think of it like this; domestic sewing machines are usually a flat-backed needle and commercial or industrial machines are round needles. There are some exceptions to that rule but it stands for the majority. Some overlockers also take round needles. If you are ever unsure, check your machine’s manual or take the original needle from when you purchased the machine with you when buying new ones.

This section is where the type of sewing/material comes into play. If you are sewing heavy duty fabric you need a needle that is up to the task – like a jeans or leather needle. If you are sewing fine fabrics like chiffon try a microtex sharp needle. There are types of needles for every task and choosing the right needle makes your sewing job that much easier.

Types of needles: Jeans, Leather, Embroidery, Quilting, Microtex Sharp, Universal, Stretch, Jersey/Ball Point, Metallic

This is a sub-category to Types. Machine needles come in different sizes within the types of needles. This is so you can tailor the thickness of the needle to the type of fabric you are using. Fabric comes in grades; thin, medium, thick and so you need a variety of needles to accommodate those grades. For example a universal needle in a size 80/12 is the most commonly used size as it is as its name implies universal, but the size 80/12 means that it’s the medium size of its type making it the universal needle of the universal needles.

Machine needle sizes go up normally in twos. Example: Universal 70/10, 80/12, then 90/14, 100/16 and lastly 110/18. There are only a few sizes within the needle type as there isn’t much call for sizes smaller or larger and due to manufacturing constraints would be more costly to produce. The bigger the number the bigger the needle (this is opposite in hand-sewing needles, more on that next time).  So if you had a fabric that is and all purpose cotton drill and were folding it over a few times it would be come thicker, because you need a universal needle you would go for the 90, 100 or 110 depending on how thick the folds were. The other rule with needle size is that the bigger the size of the needle also increases the holes that they punch into the fabric as well as the eye of the needle. This is relevant with the next section.

When choosing needles it also pays to have what thread you are using in mind along with your fabric selection. This is because of the size of the eye of the needle. Microtex is the prime example of this; I use a Microtex 70/10 when I am appliqueing as the needle is quite fine and doesn’t leave huge holes in my fabrics, but as the eye is tiny I need to make sure that my threads aren’t too thick. I use machine embroidery threads as they are slippery (rayon, viscose) and slide through the eye with no issue. Decorative metallic threads however need a larger eye so the metallic coating is not stripped off the thread – in this case I would use a metallic thread specific thread or a larger sized embroidery needle.

Parts of a needle
Shank – the uppermost section of the needle, which is inserted into the machine and held in place with a screw.

Shaft – the body of the needle, the thickness determines the size of the needle.

Front Groove – on the round part at the front of the needle, this groove acts as a guide for the threading the eye.

Eye – the hole in the end of the needle through which the thread passes. The eye carries the thread down into the bobbin case to form stitches. The size varies with the size of the needle.

Point – the tip of the needle, which passes through the fabric first. The shape and sharpness of the tip varies depending on type of needle.

Scarf – is a short indentation on the back of the needle. This allows the hook in the bobbin case to get as close as possible to the eye and catch the thread to make your stitches.

See you all on Saturday!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Crafty Tip #3

Machine Maintenance

Getting closer and closer to the market now and I can hear the whir and hum of sewing machines and overlockers all over the coast as products for the Handmade Craft Market are finished and ready for market day.

Speaking of machines did you know how important it is to have your machine regularly serviced? It’s like having your car serviced – vital, so as to insure good working order and to extend the life of your machine.

So this week’s crafty tip has a few things you can do to help your machine’s performance and your sewing stay true to your skills.

1.     Use the right tools – Make sure you have the correct screwdriver, oil, tweezers, can of air and small brushes.
The right stuff - Can of air from Officeworks $2.50

2.     Turn all the power off and unplug all the cords. Safety first.

3.     Unthread the machine and remove the bobbin.

4.     Take your time and make sure you don’t lose any screws you remove, 
making sure you keep an eye on what screw came from where and the various sizes.
5.     Don’t use oil on your machine unless you know that it needs it. Many machines these days don’t require oiling as they are made from different materials/parts than machines that do need a bit of oil.
6.     Make sure that the dust and other particles you clean out of your machine are thrown out. A common bit of debris found inside machines are broken needle tips, which can be a hazard.
7.     Put the machine back together and test sew to make sure everything is okay. Adjust tensions and rethread as necessary.
8. To prevent any disasters with your machine plug it into a power board with a surge protector. And when travelling with your machine make sure it's stored in a suitable box/bag/trolley and that your machine's pressure foot is in the down position.

Take off the storage tray. 
Remove the needle and foot including the shank.
Unscrew the faceplate.

Remove faceplate.
Remove bobbin case.
Lie machine on its back.

Unscrew the cover plate. 
Remove cover plate.
Attach the nozzle on your can of air and blow the dust away!
Use tweezers to remove any clumps of dust that are stuck. 
Turn the machine back up and use a small brush to remove any more dust you can see.
Oil any spots that require it or that your machine manual advises to.
DO NOT oil if your machine doesn't need it.
Lie the machine back down and reattach the cover plate.
Put the machine back up. Dust out the bobbin case (front and back).
Put the bobbin case back into position.
Screw the faceplate back on, return the needle and foot/shank
back to their rightful homes.
Pop the storage tray back on. Rethread the machine, power up and
test your stitches and tension.
Then back to work!
NOTE: This tip in no way replaces the need for you to have your machine serviced yearly. There are things that a mechanic will check that you cannot do yourself.

See you next week with our last tip and some exciting news!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Crafty Tip #2

With just over two weeks until the market’s third birthday celebrations I’m here bringing you crafty tip #2.

As many of us use fabric in our market creations you will know that sometimes cutting fabric up can cause all sorts of problems – fraying, warping, and an assortment of puckering and pulling.

So this week’s tips are a few ways to help avoid creating these problems.

Firstly accurate cutting is essential for whatever style of sewing you are doing – for patchwork you need to ensure you allow your 1/4in seam allowance, for dressmaking it’s a half inch seam allowance and you also need to check the bias of your fabric – this is done to allow your clothes to drape properly depending on the fabric you’ve chosen. The best way to make sure that you are cutting fabric properly is to use the right equipment for the job and that those tools are kept in good working order (new blades for rotary cutters, sharpened scissors etc.).

Secondly as fabrics have been treated with various chemicals for transport and presentation in shops you may need to wash them (this is personal preference, I don't judge :) ). This washing will remove the crispness of the fabric, which may attribute to cutting issues. You can remedy this by re-starching your fabrics.  There are several spray starches on the market that you can use depending on the fabric you are starching.

Crisp – Aerosol spray starch available from the supermarket.
PROS: Cheap, smells good, excellent starching qualities, washes out well.
CONS: Can leave white marks on fabrics, can burn easily, if sprayed and residue lands on tiled/lino floor can be slippery.

Mary Ellen’s Best Press – Liquid spray starch available from all good craft stores.
PROS: Smells lovely (four fragrances available – fragrance free, lavender fields, rose garden and Caribbean), excellent starching qualities – does not burn or leave residue on fabrics, no aerosol propellant chemicals, and is a refillable bottle.
CONS: More expensive than most starches.

The third way to prevent any problems with fabrics when cutting them would be to use interfacing. Using an iron-on interfacing suitable to your type of fabric can stabilize the warp and weft threads in a fabric enabling you to cut neatly without fear of massive amounts of fraying or the fabric stretching in odd ways. Interfacings are sold by the metre and vary in price according to the grade of interfacing that you are buying. Iron-on interfacings come in lightweight, medium weight; heavy weight and then you go into a grade that is more suited for bags and other more rigid items.
Interfacings can be purchased from your local craft store.

If you enjoyed this week’s tip stay tuned for more crafting goodness next week!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Crafty Tip #1

Well here we are again only a few weeks away from the exciting celebratory times of the Handmade Craft Market’s 3rd birthday. I for one cannot wait!

I’ll be bringing to you blog posts on a few techniques that can be used in your craft making in the lead up to the market, just as a slight change of pace, something that could help with making stock, something that might interest you or something you might be able to pass onto a friend. 

Some tips will be craft specific, while others will be a tad broader to cover the great collective of those who create.

This week I want to talk to you about one of my all time favourite methods for quilting – this technique can also be used in other forms of sewing but is most common in patchwork.


This method of piecing is fast, efficient and saves thread. What more could you want really?

Well it does require a small bit of preparation and a dash of thinking ahead and by that I mean you need to have everything cut and laid out next to your machine so you can sew as efficiently as possible making the technique as effective as it can be.

So here’s a brief run down of what I’ve done –

Firstly I chose my fabrics, pre-washed and ironed them. Then I chose a 60degree triangle template that I had in my stash of handy gadgets. I cut my fabrics into strips that measured 4 1/8in wide (to accommodate my triangle template). Then I set to cutting out oodles and oodles of triangles. Oh my poor rotary cutter!

The best part is laying out all of your neatly cut shapes in a pretty pattern next to your machine.

Then I started chain piecing - laying one triangle on top of another and stitching 1/4in from the raw edges with my 1/4in foot.

The best way to keep the design straight in your head and neat while you work is to keep it next to your machine.

 Keep chain piecing until all of your triangles are in pairs and then start to join the rows together, chain piecing them as well.

Nice long length of chain pieced sections.

When you have pieced together all of the sections to make rows of triangles, head over to the ironing board and press the seams in one direction.

Layout your design again just to double check that everything is in the right place and then pin the rows together ready to be pieced.

Stitch until all the rows are joined together - this can also be chain pieced.

Press the seams on each of the rows (no particular direction this time, just not open seams).

Once all the rows are pieced and ironed you are ready to baste, quilt and then bind your quilt.

Don't forget to label your quilt so the lucky recipient knows who made it!

To see the finished quilt at the Handmade Craft Market on the 31st of August make sure you pop by the Frankenstein's Fabrics stall and see me, Marni.