craft, fabric, sewing

Sewing problems 01: fabric grain

Last night, I found something very interesting: the consequences of cutting and sewing strips across the lengthwise fabric grain, instead of with the lengthwise grain. I now have to scrap eight face-mask ties (or use tear-away stabilizer; even then, I’ve basically ruined one tie because holes are all punched in it) because they weren’t aligned correctly with the grain when I cut them. Because of that, the ties stretch and don’t sew correctly, getting pushed into the hole below the sewing needle, by the needle, itself.

M helped me troubleshoot last night, and this is what we discovered. I had thought I was sewing over a selvage (the edge of the weave) or something, and that this was why I was initially having such difficulty with the needle going through the fabric (the motor was stalling)…but I was also having difficulties with the feed and the flow of thread. The answer turned out to be the orientation of the grain of the fabric (which I didn’t know to watch out for, when I cut the pieces).

I did learn something from this.

It’s extremely similar to what happened with the good batik I tried to sew, causing me to wonder whether the problem was actually the fabric itself, or because I might have cut the ties cross-grain (across the bolt), instead of along the length of material. The symptoms are a noise the sewing machine makes (“pok pok pok” every time the needle drops), a tie that stretches and curves along its length, possible loops of thread above the sewing line, and the fabric puckering next to the needle (under the presser foot) every time the needle drops.

The trouble goes away (quiet, smooth sewing) when sewing other fabrics in other orientations, so we know it’s not the bobbin. (I earlier had to troubleshoot a bobbin: it was wound too loosely because I didn’t feed the thread in correctly, which resulted in weird noises and giant loops of thread on the back of the fabric. Reminisces of childhood. Solution: get another bobbin, use the poorly-wound one as a spool, and re-wind the new bobbin at the correct tension.)

It’s possible the effects aren’t so magnified when sewing garments, but these are ties, which are 3/4″ wide, at the most. (I’ve been eyeballing a width of about 6-7mm when I’ve turned in the edges…so they’re 1″ wide minus about 6mm to 7mm [a bit over 1/4″].)

If I’m correct, the grain of the fabric runs lengthwise down the bolt. Cutting across the grain is cutting across the shorter side of the fabric: the side which is scissored off of the bolt. Because I was using Fat Quarters especially, sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the selvage is…though I’ll be watching for it, now. At least one side should have a different edge, and that will be the selvage, and parallel to the lengthwise grain.

I should also be able to tell what grain to cut along by testing the fabric for stretch. M showed me the difference in stretchiness between the crosswise and lengthwise grain…lengthwise, the fabric doesn’t stretch. Widthwise (that is, crosswise: across the bolt), it does. Along the bias (at a 45° angle to both grains), stretch is maximum. When making ties, I want to cut and sew in the direction in which the fabric doesn’t stretch.

That might solve all of this. I’m not sure.

Knowing this, however, means that when I’m cutting ties out of the fabric I just obtained — which are not Fat Quarters, they’re 0.5 yard to 1.5 yard segments — I’ll likely need to cut the ties along the selvage, that is, along the length of the bolt. That should prevent these problems, but it also means that I may not be able to make 45″ long ties out of one length of fabric. That’s okay, so long as I don’t waste it…

I had been questioning, as well, whether the fabric folds more easily in one direction, than the other. I guess there’s no better way to answer that directly, than just trying it…

color, craft, fabric, fiber arts, sewing

Fabrics!!!

Remember how I mentioned that thing about having too many choices? I was partially referring to this:

A bunch of quilting cottons divided by color, into blue-greens, pinks, and purples.

And this:

Orange quilting cottons on the right, and a couple of cottons I don't like, on the left...

I obtained these after decimating my Fat Quarter stash for COVID-19 face masks. Of course, these will also be going (first) to COVID-19 face masks.

I’m still not certain whether to launder these before I begin cutting and sewing. It is tempting to wash everything, though that also means pressing everything. I don’t mind it, but it’s a lot of work, and this is a lot of fabric! The textures of the fabrics also change, and there may be differential shrinkage.

I’m almost scared to start, because I know that if I cut and construct one mask out of these, it may not last through the wash…though I have been encouraged to try making at least one mask and laundering it, to see what will happen. If it comes out poorly, then I wash everything else before cutting. If it comes out fine, then I don’t have to worry. I’m planning to tack on an extra 0.5″ to 0.75″, to account for shrinkage (the mask face should be approximately 6″x9″)…the thing is, the shrinkage via warp (length) versus via weft (width)…may not be the same. And it probably won’t be the same among all the fabrics.

I have extra yardage in the pink materials, so my first trial should come out of those…I had been planning to use the two fabrics on the left in the second photo, just because I like them least (with apologies to the designers). However, I have less of each blue and green Kona cotton (first photo, top left, plain fabrics), in exchange for more shades of those colors.

Six sets of mask cottons, ready to sew.

Ahh, decisions…

(I probably should be saying, “Ahh, inexperience…”)

I have nearly run out of the Fat Quarters I used for my initial masks. I basically slaughtered my initial stash, because I needed to. They were willing sacrifices of quilting cotton.

The cuts on the left are what I have had matched up, though I only have a few of these left to sew, and I’ve rearranged some of the pairings. Because they are all from 1/4-yard cuts, I wasn’t able to make two long ties as versus four short ones.

However…that could be rectified in what I’m about to get into.

I haven’t sewn in about two days. I think I’m still getting over the shock of the new fabrics. If I’m correct, all in all I’ve made about 16 masks, so far. What I don’t use on masks is going into quilts; I already have an interesting idea laid out, though I can’t right now find the image file of the quilt block I designed. It’s basically based on paper-folding…I can’t find the relevant post right now, though.

I really need to start an “origami” tag…and/or a “quilting” tag…

Oh hey, look. ;)

craft, design, fabric, garments, sewing

There’s always more to do, isn’t there?

Always. More. I was just looking through the (sparse) image logs I have on my current machine. I also have about 30 gigs of images archived on a memory stick. Most of it is from the community-college Art program. I’ll likely want to note which classes I was taking, when; that information is not in the same place.

What I’ve been advised to do is to copy all of my image storage onto my hard drive, then deal with it from there. It sounds like a good plan, especially as I’ve learned that, “save it and forget it,” is overly optimistic. (Backups can fail, that is.)

Today, I’ve mostly been dealing with face masks. I have 21 cuts of pre-shrunk, ironed batik for the outer portions (which I may have overdone); right now I’m picking out which Kona cottons to use on the backs, and what fabric to use for the ties. I have a lot of light-to-midweight quilting cotton which should be great for ties…but I don’t know how many I’ll get out of one Fat Quarter. All it takes to figure it out, though, is measurement and a little math.

Anyhow, there is not going to be a shortage of masks, here. I can see why people say they get burned-out on them; they can get really repetitive, at least unless I refine the design on each iteration. The latter keeps things interesting, but I can also see just wanting to get through them, as they’re needed almost immediately. The ones we need to send out, we can send out; I have a plan to replace them (plus), now. I just don’t want to send the ones I know are fragile…I can fix them, I don’t know if others can.

Not to mention that there is the stress of what to do when I run out of fabric, or thread. It may not have been the smartest thing to do, but that’s why I cut up the entirety of the batik Fat Quarters. It stops me from guessing, and lets me know what I do have. (The batiks are supposed to be good for filtering, so there are some on the outside of almost all of my masks.)

I also have more batik; it’s just more closely woven, more expensive, and in larger quantities. In other words: it’s nicer. :) But the higher quality does make it harder to sew, as it’s more resistant to the sewing machine (I’ve had the motor jam on me multiple times while trying to sew through too many layers of either the [tightly woven] good batik, or the [midweight] Kona cotton).

I also have quite a bit of soft, fine muslin, though that would likely go to ties, if it went to anything. I am not sure how effective it would be as a mask, even doubled. The reason to use it for ties is to avoid bumps of fabric at the corners of the masks (I have a sizable length of this which would allow one long tie instead of two short ones), though if I just moved in the corners of the ties a bit, I could probably take down a lot of that bulk.

Right now I do, actually, want to get back to work on the Nepali Blouse. It’s something I can do anytime, but I haven’t even wound the first bobbin, yet. We actually have more bobbins than I thought; I stalled because I thought there was only one empty one. Apparently, there are a bunch more empty bobbins, which just aren’t with the rest.

Right now I’m using Coats & Clark Dual Duty thread, which seems good enough (this is what I grew up with). The blouse, I got Gutermann thread for (it was a nice color match); but how old is it? I’m not sure — but if I look at my archives, it’s probably really old. I also don’t know how the fabric it’s made of, will sew…particularly, I’m not sure if I’ll have to use a different needle (or if I damaged the one that’s in there). I’m not quite advanced enough to know that, yet. M can help.

But tomorrow, I can wind the Gutermann bobbin, sew some scraps of the blouse material, and see how it comes out and if the needle needs changing. I’ve also just checked: I’ll need to make ties that are 2″ wide…unless I need to wrangle that a bit, in order to fit a multiple of 2 or 4 onto the Fat Quarter. Math, right?

The Internet (not my ruler, I haven’t checked) says the Fat Quarter should be 18″x22″. The 22″ is likely the length that I have lined up with the long side of the ruler (it has shrunk), which means the 18″ length is what I’m fitting 8 strips into, 2″ wide each: giving me 2″ of wiggle room and full ties for two masks.

That is what I’m talking about. Math.

I stopped work on this earlier tonight because I needed to think about what I was doing. It’s apparent, now, that I’ll end up using a lot more fabric for ties than I had predicted: however, it’s all (or, almost all) washed, dried, and ironed, now.

And I don’t have to make all 21 masks. :) However, I do have little cuts into the edges of some of these Fat Quarters. I’ll go and check on them now; I can easily swap out these lightweight things for uncut Fat Quarters, if I need to.

Just. Who knew that sewing would be such a useful skill (these days, at least)?

craft, fabric, libraries, sewing

Sewing? Who the…wha…abt…sorry, I’m tired.

I’ve spent long enough working on masks today, that I think I need a break. Right now I’ve got another batch of batiks and Kona cotton (though the latter is for ties; it may be too insubstantial for filtering) in the hot-water-shrinky-washer, so it’s not a great time for a shower…

I find it amazing, though, how much of sewing is pressing. I hadn’t really thought of it, before. In any case, today was largely spent picking fabrics, laundering them, pressing them, cutting shapes out of them, pressing them again, figuring out how to make pleats in a rational manner, ripping out bad work…and then, sewing. Sewing takes the least energy of all these things! (I found out that creasing the fabric in the center, then along 1/4 lines, makes it much easier to lay out the pleats…ideally, I’m working with a 2″ joint, but it was wider this time, as it was my first try.)

So, right now, I’ve got one mask. That’s one more than I started the day with, and because it is teal, it does look like a hospital mask (which I’m not fond of). But still. It actually catches the moisture from my breath, which is what I think it’s supposed to do. Plus, I now know what I’m doing (and where I might improve on the design, with the limitation that I’m working with a bunch of Fat Quarters, for the most part).

In specific, I’m thinking of overlapping the ties over the pleats at the sides of the mask…which will require longer ties, but I can fit four of them into a Fat Quarter, along with two mask panels. It would take down the bulk at each corner.

Work on the Nepali Blouse has stalled; it was more important to work on the I’m-not-gonna-give-you-Corona-mask. But there’s a lot to sewing that I realize now, I remember. Even threading the bobbin and the machine. It’s a different machine than I’ve ever worked on, though I did once take a Sewing Machine essentials class, so I remembered the direction in which to run the thread…(IIRC, I make a “p” with the thread if the bobbin is drop-down, and a “q” if it’s a side-loaded bobbin…don’t quote me on that, though).

I’ve also restarted reading, as I’ve realized that this is the one big thing I need to be doing, that I’m not doing. Reading, practically, anything. I did just start Radium Girls last night, and got through the 10th chapter…it’s fairly gory. Having…well — painted — myself…I know how cheap camel-hair brushes are, and wonder what the outcome would have been if the radium dial workshops had used brushes that actually would have kept a point…not to mention the lingering question of why specifically, “girls,” were recruited to perform the task of ingesting radioactive pigment with no protection.

Anyhow. I realize there may be a lot of questions as to how to access eBooks, so I had to run through getting access for myself. (It would help to know that, at least!) I still haven’t tried all the platforms, though, and I can’t try all the devices.

Right now…the fabrics are out of the wash, and in the hot-air-shrinky-dryer. Maybe I have it in me to go and sew again? Or maybe I should give it a rest and get some rest, to preserve my health…

Yeah…I’ve been up, for a while. Take meds, brush teeth, wash face, then read more Radium Girls and go to sleep when it gets disturbing enough… ;P

beading, fabric

From steel to gold

I finally did it.  I made the jump.

I now have my own handmade gold-filled earrings in place instead of my surgical steel Captive Ball Rings.  And they don’t feel bad, either.

Looking back on it, within the past couple of days I had tried to reach a compromise between having the thick steel rings in and having more decorative jewelry in, by making small loops of Ultrasuede, wrapping the loops around the CBRs, and hanging dangles off of the bottom parts of the Ultrasuede.  It didn’t work, and this is mostly because the Ultrasuede frays too much.  As I was whipstitching the tiny bits of it, I saw that it wasn’t going to work; the threads of the Ultrasuede were sticking out beyond the stitching.  Maybe it would work better if I cut the material on the bias or something, but really I think I’ve given up on that.  :)

There is the option of using real leather, but I do not look forward to that for a few reasons:

1) It’s not hygienic.  It can’t be easily cleaned, and this matters if you have piercings.

2) I’ve heard of people with nickel sensitivities having allergic reactions to leather.  I know I have a nickel sensitivity, and I don’t want to risk sensitizing myself to leather.

3) If that weren’t enough, it’s difficult to sew (and I don’t want to ruin my milliner’s needles by trying to punch through suede).

There are a set of pearls which I obtained last month which I am now ready to make into earrings.  They’ve just been sitting around resting on 24 gauge gold-filled wire.  Even if I do mess up an expensive head-pin or two…I can still work on them, and at least I’ll finally be able to wear them.

Do I lose street cred because I took out my heavy-gauge earrings?  ;D  (I suppose the blessing is that I didn’t stretch my piercings to the stage where it would be difficult to go back.)

I have more to say, but it’s on a different topic, so I’ll put it in a different entry.