Measuring Curves

I’ve tried all sorts of methods for measuring curves on sewing patterns. I thought I’d test them all out, since I just got a curve measuring wheel and I wanted to see how it compared to other methods.
Curve_measuring_tools

I tried walking a ruler laid flat around the curve using a pin as a pivot point. This is one of the more accurate methods if you do it right, but it requires some skill, lots of patience, and good eyesight. The main benefit is you can use the same ruler to measure your straight and curved line segments, so you don’t have to worry about using two rulers with different scales (they can vary more than you might think).

C-thru_pivoting_to_measure_curve

I found references to using a flexible plastic ruler (like a C–Thru B–95) on edge. It might not be too bad for a gentle curve like a hip curve, but it doesn’t really work very well for an armhole or sleeve cap. You can’t bend the ruler to fit the whole curve at once, so you have to align a section at a time. Sometimes the ruler slips and you have to start over. It’s also not the most accurate method.

C-thru_ruler_bent_on_edge

I tried my 5/8” wide plastic measuring tape on edge. I had to stretch the tape tightly and only measure a small piece of the curve of the time. This is not a bad method if you have an accurate measuring tape.

Tape_measure_curve
Recently I acquired a narrow retractable tape measure that came with a vintage sewing machine. It is perfect for measuring curves. It is narrow enough (8 mm [5/16″]) not to flop over when I have it on edge, and it’s also not wrinkly like my other measuring tape, so I don’t have to stretch it as I measure. The retractable tape I have has an accurate scale on the centimeter side, but the scale on the inches side is off by 1/16” over 24”. Fortunately I try to do all my pattern drafting in metric units. As with any measuring tape, you need to compare it against the straight ruler you usually use to see if they match. If they don’t match, buy another brand of measuring tape and keep trying until you get a good one. Also consider that your straight ruler might be the one with the incorrect scale!

Retractable_tape_measure_curve

I made my own tape by cutting a 1 cm (3/8”) wide strip of poster board or manila folder. I used this method before I got my retractable tape measure. This turned out to be a fairly easy and accurate way of measuring curves. I walked the strip of paper on edge around the curve, marked the end of the curve on the paper, then measured the paper strip with a ruler. It was nice that I could mark the location of notches right on the paper. My problem with this method was that I would forget to erase the marks from the previous curve I measured, so I wouldn’t know which mark to measure to and I’d have to re-measure the curve. Also it’s a two-step method – walk the paper along the curve, then measure it with a ruler. It’s a good method to use if you don’t have a measuring tape that matches the scale on your straight ruler. It’s easier and faster than walking a straight ruler around a curve.

Paper_strip_for_measuring_curve

I tried a flexible ruler—the kind with lead inside that holds its shape when you bend it. This was terribly inaccurate for measuring curves, since the actual measuring tape is set in from the edge of the ruler. These rulers seem like they’d be really cool but they’re not. You can’t measure with them, and they don’t hold their shape well enough to accurately copy the shape of a curve, so I never actually use mine.

Flexible_ruler_measure_curve

I was reading 1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts and Tips and one of the tips is to use a plan measuring wheel to measure curves on sewing patterns. I do enough pattern drafting that I figured it would be nice to have one, but after looking at prices, I decided I didn’t need one that bad after all! There are less expensive map measuring wheels which are basically the same thing, just with different pre-programmed scales. I considered buying one, but then I discovered Japanese manual measuring wheels, and decided to get one of those instead. I’m not sure how I found them on Amazon – the poorly translated product title “Measurably faster exactly the length of the mouth curve” is not exactly helpful. If you live outside the US, you can order these measuring wheels through Rakuten.

Curve_measuring_wheel

My wheel didn’t measure perfectly, so I very lightly sanded it down on the edges until it measured the same as my ruler. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong ruler to calibrate it to, so now it measures a little too long compared to my C-Thru B-97 ruler that I use as a standard. Doh. It’s still within a half millimeter over 20 cm.

Measuring wheels only measure accurately if you center the width of the wheel over the line you are measuring, which can be hard to do. My natural tendency is to line up the edge of the wheel with the line, but for a thin line this means I’m measuring just inside or outside of the curve, which results in a measurement smaller or larger than it should be.

There is a new measuring wheel made in the US – the Curve Runner. There was a recent Kickstarter for them. I’ll update this post with links if/when I see them for sale elsewhere. They are made in both metric and inches versions. I might have to try one of these – the fact that they are clear should make it easier to center the wheel over a line.

The last thing I tried is using a French curve with measurement marks. They have to be pivoted, but not as many times as a straight ruler. I had better results with my free printable curves than my Dritz Styling Design Ruler. The Dritz ruler gave me such poor results (up to 1/8” off over 12”) that I will not use it for measuring. Besides that, it’s marked in inches only. Of the methods I tried, I found that measuring with my printable French curves was the fastest, easiest, and most accurate method when measuring a curve that is similar in shape to the French curve. My printable curves are quite accurate if you print them to the correct scale, your printer is good (be sure to print at the highest quality setting) and you cut them out accurately.

Paper_French_curve_measuring_curve

Style_design_ruler_measure_curve

If I purchased a curve with measurement marks, such as the Fairgate curve, I would definitely test it against other methods before trusting it to be accurate. I’ve learned the hard way never to trust any ruler to be accurate – not even expensive metal ones.

Here is the test sheet I made to test curve measuring methods on. Print it with your printer’s highest quality print setting with the scaling set to “None” or “100%”. Measure the border with an accurate straight ruler. If it checks out OK, measure the border with your curve measuring device to see if its scale is good, then measure one of the curves several times.

Curves_to_measure

Of the curve measuring methods I tried, the flexible (lead-filled) ruler and the Dritz Styling Design Ruler were the only ones that were so inaccurate I would never use them. The measuring wheel was up to 3 mm off over 30 cm if I wasn’t careful, but if I kept the wheel centered over the line, it was within 1 mm of the correct measurement. Every other method got me within 1 mm of the correct measurement most of the time.

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

Break the 5/8” Habit

Years ago, when I first learned about using narrower seam allowances like the garment industry does, it didn’t work for me. I’d sit down at my sewing machine and without thinking, I would sew 5/8″ from the edge, forgetting I’d changed the seam allowance. My seam ripper got a lot of use.

Then I took a break from sewing for a few months, and when I came back to sewing I had somehow miraculously broken the 5/8″ habit. I realized how much better narrower seam allowances worked, especially around curves. Now I mark the seam allowances on my pattern and keep it handy for reference.

I should probably mention that I don’t like to press seam allowances open. Typically after sewing a seam I just serge the edges together for a finish like you find in ready-to-wear. I suppose 5/8″ seam allowances might be a better choice for seams that you prefer to press open.

seam allowancesWhy bother with different seam allowances? For fairly straight seams, it doesn’t really matter what your seam allowances are – you can sew them accurately as long as you have a guide on your sewing machine. In general, though, narrower seam allowances are easier to sew accurately and require less trimming and clipping. Seams where you match an inner curve to an outer curve, like sleeve caps and princess lines, are especially hard to sew with 5/8″ seam allowances. Try changing these to 3/8″ and see how much easier they are to match up properly.

For necklines, armholes, jeans front pocket openings, collars, and sleeve cuffs, use 1/4″ seam allowances. The benefits are that you can sew more accurately and you don’t have to trim or clip curves.

Trimming terrifies me, and I try to avoid it whenever possible. Although I can only remember two times I’ve actually ruined garments by accidentally snipping a hole in them while trimming seams, I’ve had a lot of near misses. Plus I can never get a trimmed seam an even width – it wobbles all over the place, which sometimes shows through on the right side. Also, if you clip or notch a curve, it won’t bend smoothly; you get sharp bends where each clip is.

seam allowance half presser foot widthIf you don’t have a quarter inch presser foot for your sewing machine, instead of 1/4″ seam allowances try using narrow seam allowances that are half of the width of your standard presser foot. That way you can guide the fabric right along the edge of the presser foot for perfect seam allowances and you ensure that the edge of the fabric won’t be on the middle of a feed dog, which can chew up the edge of the fabric on some sewing machines.

Most of the time I don’t have problems with necklines stretching out of shape even when I use 1/4″ seam allowances. However, it is a problem with some fabrics. Here’s how I deal with staystitching for fabrics that stretch out of shape. This method can be used on hard-to-sew fabrics even if you decide to stick with 5/8″ seams.

When you cut out the garment, instead of cutting out the neckline or other edge that will be staystitched, just mark the cutting line and cut roughly around it. If you are cutting on the fold, use a tracing wheel and dressmaker’s tracing paper to mark the other side.

mark neckline

Immediately staystitch, using the marked line as a guide. Staystitching is usually done 1/8″ away from the seam line, but with narrow seam allowances you can accurately sew 1/16″ from the seam line. A walking foot or non-stick (Teflon) foot can also help keep the fabric from stretching out as you staystitch. Don’t cut along the marked cutting lines until you are ready to sew those seams.

staystitching

For thin, stretchy, or slippery fabric, you may want to pin a layer of tissue paper behind your fabric before staystitching. After staystitching, cut on your marked cutting line, then gently tear away the paper. You can layer paper and fabric before cutting to make it easier to cut out slippery fabric, and if you use tissue paper for the bottom layer, you’ll already have tissue paper in place for staystitching.

Here are some suggestions for measuring and marking seam allowances on your patterns:

For straight seams, transparent gridded rulers are quite helpful.

Gridded-Ruler

To mark seam allowances along curves, I use my home-made seam allowance guides.

seam allowance guide

Tape pens or pencils together, adding spacers as needed. A compass can be used the same way. Make sure you always hold either of these perpendicular to the curve, or your seam allowance will be too small in places.

double pencils

Use this little measuring tool. This is not my favorite tool, because I always get it flipped around and forget which side I’m using.

measuring gauge

Use an an adjustable sewing gauge.

sewing gauge

A note on units: I do most of my measuring and pattern drafting in metric, despite the fact that I live in the US and think in inches and feet. Math is so much easier with metric units! However, I almost always add seam allowances after I’m done measuring and calculating, so I add seam allowances in fractions of an inch since all of my sewing machines and gridded rulers are marked in eighth-inch increments.

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

New Serger and Some Sewing Projects

Juki MO 654DEI finally got a new serger! To everyone who purchased my half-scale dress form patterns, thank you! I wouldn’t have had a new serger in my budget otherwise. It’s been pretty fun having my sewing turning into a self-supporting hobby.

After much research, I decided to buy a Juki MO-654DE. I’ve only sewn one project on it, but so far I’m very happy with it. I plan to do a thorough review of it when I’ve used it for a while. If anyone has any questions, let me know so I can answer them in the review. I know I had a lot of questions before I bought it, since I don’t live anywhere near a Juki dealer and I couldn’t test it before buying.

I realized that four out of five of my last posts were about sewing machines. I have been going nuts acquiring sewing machines lately, but I think I’m done for a while! Except now that I’ve been sewing a lot of knit garments I really want a coverstitch machine . . . well, that one’s going to have to wait.

To prove that I’m not just a crazy sewing machine lady who does nothing but collect sewing machines, here are some of my recent sewing projects:

Girls denim elastic waist pants
I made some elastic waist denim pants for my daughter. She was complaining that all her pants were all too small, so I made up a few pairs of these over a weekend. I made the pattern by tracing a pair of her RTW elastic waist jeans, then making some fit adjustments. For the waistband, I folded knit fabric over the elastic, then serged it to the top of the pants. With no pockets, these were super fast to sew.

White underwear
I made some underwear for me. I’ve been meaning to do this for years, and finally got around to it. To make the pattern, I cut the elastic off of three different styles of my old underwear, traced them on top of each other, and sort of averaged out the pattern, making the fit corrections I thought I needed. After sewing three pairs, I got the fit right. Now, for the first time in my adult life, I have underwear that fit like I want them to.

White leggings
These are leggings for me. I started with my pajama pant pattern and made the legs narrower. The first pair was still too loose for leggings, so I pinned out the extra and adjusted the pattern.

Upcycled girls tank tops
These are tank tops for my daughter made from her daddy’s old T-shirts. There were some stains on the T-shirts, but I figured she’d stain them herself the first time she wore them anyway, and sure enough, she did. The pattern was a RTW rub-off.

Rub of long sleeve tee
This long sleeved tee was a request from my adult step-daughter. She wanted me to copy a shirt she had. I do take sewing requests sometimes, but my answer is usually, OK, maybe I’ll do it when I feel like it, don’t hold your breath. That way I don’t feel guilty if I never get around to it or if it takes me six months to get to it. Hence the long sleeve tee at the beginning of summer. This was my first project on my new serger. I used a lightweight poly/cotton/lycra blend from my stash. It is super stretchy and difficult to sew, but I adjusted the differential feed and my serger made perfect seams.

 

 

Posted in Sewing

Chainstitching on a Touch & Sew

While I was researching my Singer 401A sewing machine, I discovered that there are vintage sewing machines made in the 1960’s and 1970’s that will sew a single thread chainstitch with the right attachments. I immediately decided I had to have one, since I don’t have a serger or cover stitch machine that sews chainstitches, and I hate picking out basting stitches.

Singer 604E sewing machine with chain stitch attachmentsAfter doing some more research (which I will detail at the end of this post since I want to clear up some misinformation I found) I decided to buy a Singer 604E Touch & Sew. Unlike most of the 600 series Touch & Sews, this is a straight stitch only machine. I decided on this one because there is less to go wrong with a straight stitch machine and I wanted to leave it set up for chainstitching, so I wouldn’t be using the other stitches anyway.

 

Here are some ways you can use chain stitches, which quickly unravel when you pull on the thread at the end:

  • Basting for trial fittings
  • Marking a hem before you press it up
  • Basting zipper openings closed
  • Use anywhere you need to machine baste but will not be sewing directly over the basting stitches
  • Attaching collars and trims that need to be removed for laundering
  • Sewing hems that will need to be altered
  • If your weight fluctuates, you can take in side seams, then easily let them out later
  • Use single thread chain stitches as a stretch stitch on knits (2-thread chain stitches like you find on sergers and cover stitch machines are not stretchy)

I am having so much fun sewing basting stitches. Pulling out a seam in less than a second hasn’t lost its novelty yet. I’m like a kid playing with my new toy – sometimes I’ll sew a seam on a scrap of fabric just so I can pull it out!

P.S. I thought I’d throw in this basting tip – if you don’t have a chainstitch machine, try using wash-away basting thread for easy basting stitch removal.


The rest of this post is about the research I did on vintage chainstitch machines, which will probably only interest you if you are looking to buy one.

I very briefly considered getting a toy machine that chainstitches, but they usually don’t work, and for sure won’t work on thick fabric. Just go check out all the one star reviews on Amazon. I have memories of being frustrated with my toy sewing machine as a kid – I think maybe I got it to work once or twice for a few stitches. I looked at industrial chainstitch machines, and even simple vintage ones are at least as expensive as a cover stitch machine. Antique chainstitch machines are pretty, but they are expensive, may or may not work, and many of them use needles that are no longer manufactured.

As I was researching my Singer 401A, I read a lot of forum posts about vintage sewing machines, and I was excited to discover that there are some sewing machines made in the 1960’s and 1970’s that can chain stitch with a few simple attachments. Some of these machines are the Singer 600 series Touch and Sew machines (the 700 series Touch and Sews chainstitch too, but they all have plastic gears, so I would avoid those). The Singer 411G and 431G can chain stitch. Some Kenmore machines (many in the 158 series and some others) can also chain stitch with the right attachments. See this blog post and this thread for more info on Kenmores. Note that the Kenmore chainstitch attachments look completely different than the Singer chainstitching attachments.

I had a hard time doing research on these sewing machines. I found lots of conflicting information on blogs and forums, so I’m collecting what I learned here in one place, hopefully minus most of the mis-information other people have spread around the internet. I didn’t find as much information on Kenmore sewing machines, and I ended up buying a Singer, since the machines and attachments were less expensive and easier for me to find. The vintage Kenmores are good sewing machines, and they kept using metal gears even after Singer switched to plastic gears sometime in 1966, so if you can find one, don’t overlook a Kenmore as an option for chain stitching even though all of what I discuss below is about Singers. You might have trouble finding the right attachments to go with a particular Kenmore machine, so I’d suggest if you’re going to buy one, try to get one that comes with the chain stitch attachments.

Just to clarify, not all Singer sewing machines with model numbers in the 600’s are Touch & Sews, and not all Touch & Sews have model numbers in the 600’s. “Touch & Sew” machines have wind-in-place bobbins. The Touch & Sew machines I’m going to talk about are “600 series Touch & Sews” manufactured in the 1960’s. The 700 series Touch & Sews all have plastic gears, and as old as these machines are, if those gears haven’t broken yet, they will fail soon since the plastic is at the end of its expected lifespan. Singer has also re-used the name “Touch & Sew” for some modern sewing machines. Those are something completely different and I’m not discussing those at all.

All Singer 600 series Touch & Sew machines can chain stitch with the right attachments, despite what you might find on the internet leading you to believe otherwise.

The earliest models in the Touch & Sew series for sure had metal gears. These are the 600, 600E, 603, 603E, 604, and 604E. You sometimes find metal gears in later model numbers, like the 620 series models, but you’ll have to unscrew the bottom cover and look inside to find out if the gears are metal or plastic. I’m going to ignore any other Touch & Sew models, because . . . old plastic gears.

The only difference between the earliest Singer Touch & Sew models (600, 603, 604) and the later versions with “E” at the end of the model number (600E, 603E, 604E) is the location of the bobbin winder button. The very earliest 600’s were called Auto-Reel, before someone decided Touch & Sew was a catchier name. A “Singer 600 Auto-Reel” is exactly the same machine as a “Singer 600 Touch & Sew”.

Of the vintage Singer machines that can chain stitch, I would recommend choosing one with metal gears. These include (but are not limited to) model 600/600E (lots of built in stitches plus takes “top hat” special discs), 603/603E (will only make zig-zag or special stitches with a “top hat” special disc – no built in stitches), the 604/604E (straight stitch only), 411G (rare – built in stitches plus takes “top hat” special discs, and can be hooked up to a treadle base), or the 431G (rare – built in stitches plus takes “top hat” special discs, and has a free arm).

I wanted a machine to leave set up for chain stitching, so I chose the 604E, since as a straight stitch machine it has fewer parts to to break, it for sure has metal gears, and I happened to find one on ebay at a low price. I found a free Singer pdf manual for the 604, but not the 604E, so I also downloaded the 600E manual for the updated bobbin winding instructions. I found the 600 series chain stitching guide on the TNT repair website. TNT Repair is a good source for repair information and parts for many vintage Singer machines. The Singer 24 manual has additional tips for sewing with single thread chain stitches.

You need three attachments to chain stitch with any 600 series Touch & Sew sewing machine. They are the chain stitch throat plate (part #21913 for zig-zag models OR part #21915 for straight stitch machines), bobbin cover (part #21908), and thread guide (part #163455).

Here’s what the 600 series Touch & Sew chain stitch attachments look like. You might find them for sale mis-labeled or in with other attachments, so it helps to know what you’re looking for.

For the 411G or 431G, you will only need a chain stitch throat plate (part #503599) to chain stitch. It looks similar to a mirror image of part #21913.

 

 

Posted in Sewing, Vintage Sewing Machines

Treadle-izing My Singer 328K

I’ve been looking for a vintage all-metal zig-zag sewing machine to keep in a treadle base ever since I was confronted with my Singer 252’s limited life expectancy. This search led me to the Singer 328K.

My requirements for a sewing machine were:

Singer short shank sewing machine so all my attachments and accessories are compatible
All metal gears and no timing belt to break
Takes special stitch cams (fashion discs)
Can be used with a treadle base
Uses regular sewing machine needles
Top-loading drop-in bobbin (they have fewer thread snarls than front or side mounted bobbins)

I wasn’t sure my perfect sewing machine existed, but then I found the Singer 328, and it seemed to meet all of my requirements. The only thing I wish it did that it doesn’t was hold two fashion disks at once so I can switch between zig-zag and 3-step zig-zag easily.

Singer 328K treadle

I bought my Singer 328K on ebay. On the auction listing there was a video of the seller putting it through its paces without thread, but the motor worked, the needle went up and down, and the feed dogs moved, so I thought there was a very high chance it was in good working order.

When I got the sewing machine, it had survived shipping. I attribute that more to the shape of the sewing machine and the fact that it was in a case than the limited amount of packaging material. I cleaned and oiled the machine, then put thread in it. As soon as I started to sew, the thread immediately jammed in the bobbin area.

I finally figured out that the spring on the bobbin case was broken off and the bobbin tension screw was missing. Well, I just happen to have a Singer 252 parts machine with a very similar bobbin case, so I took the spring and screw off of its bobbin case and put it on the 328K bobbin case. They fit just fine, and the sewing machine works! Do you know what lesson I took from this? NEVER, EVER get rid of vintage sewing machines or sewing machine parts. Which means I will have to be very careful not to acquire too many sewing machines, or my house will be too crowded to live in.

One of the things I noticed about this sewing machine is that the shuttle race oscillates rather than spinning around in a complete circle. I suppose it is cheaper to manufacture an all metal machine this way, since you don’t have to have gears down below the bobbin. Also you don’t have a timing belt that can break. The affect of this design is that the machine vibrates when sewing at high speeds, which is kind of annoying. It’s not quite as bad as my antique vibrating shuttle machine, though. Now that it is on a treadle base, I can’t sew fast enough to have the vibration be an issue.

Singer 328K plug for treadle belt notchIf I hadn’t read that the Singer 328 can be put in a treadle base, I never would have guessed that it would work. On the bottom right of the sewing machine bed there is a plastic plug that unscrews to reveal a notch for the treadle belt to go through.

After removing the plug, the motor belt needed to come off. I found this blog post that helped me figure out how to get the motor belt off.

I have two treadle bases; one is a Singer base from the early 1900’s and the other is a German treadle with a larger wheel. There is so little clearance for a treadle belt I figured the Singer base would be the only one that would work.

Singer 328K belt rubsI made my own table top with a custom hole (nothing fancy – it’s made from scrap wood) so I could position the sewing machine exactly in the right spot to get the best clearance for the treadle belt. I quickly realized that no matter how I positioned the machine, the treadle belt would rub on the front of the sewing machine frame just below the bobbin winder. I think you are supposed to replace the handwheel with one with a smaller pulley before hooking it up to a treadle, but I don’t have one that fits. I’ve seen pictures of a Singer 401G (which has a similar shape to allow for a treadle belt) with leather shavings all over the machine from the belt rubbing. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work for me. Some of the sewing machine frame had to come off.

I’ve marked below the part I cut off. The frame is aluminum, so it wasn’t too hard. I drilled holes along the cut line, then filed down the edge. A Dremel would probably be good for this, but I don’t have one. For anyone else doing this, learn from my mistakes – mask off the end of the machine so it doesn’t get metal shavings all over inside and put tape on the front of the machine so you don’t scratch it when your drill bit or file slips.

I could have just left the original wiring in place, but the old cord was getting a little stiff and I didn’t want to have the foot controller in the way, so I put in a new power cord to the light only. Since the machine is metal, my electrician husband suggested grounding the machine to avoid the possibility of electrocution if there is an electrical fault. Sounds like a good idea to me! There are moving parts in there right next to live wires, so I could see the possibility of something bad happening.

Singer 328K treadle belt no stapleSince there is so little clearance for the treadle belt, I didn’t want to use a metal staple to connect the ends of the belt. I figured it would scrape on the inside of the sewing machine. Instead I connected the belt ends with upholstery thread and put Fray Check all over the thread. We’ll see how it holds up.

I would not describe the Singer 328K as “treadle ready”. It took a lot of work to get it set up, and even now there is barely room for the treadle belt. Maybe someday I’ll get a replacement handwheel that works better for this machine.

Would I recommend this machine for treadling? Not really. It’s not terrible, but it takes some modifications to make it work and it sews slowly since the pulley on the handwheel is so large. It should be a good machine for teaching young kids to sew on, though, since it treadles slowly and easily. I just happen to have a couple of kids I’m teaching to sew, so maybe this isn’t a bad thing.

Posted in Treadle Sewing Machines, Vintage Sewing Machines

A Treadle and a Quilt

Singer 127

After my recent sewing area re-arrangement to accommodate my new Singer 401A, my antique Singer 127 treadle sewing machine is now accessible instead of being buried behind my main sewing machine. I haven’t sewn much on this machine, since the stitches were uneven and the tension went from tight to loose every few stitches.

I decided to try to fix it up some more. I polished the rust off of the tension disks, cleaned some bits of ancient thread from under the spring in the shuttle, and replaced the missing oil wick. I also switched out the tension dial and worn feed dogs with the ones from my parts machine. After a good oiling, this 99 year old sewing machine works almost as good as new. The tension is a bit fiddly, but it’s making pretty decent stitches now.

Unlike modern home sewing machines with plastic gears that choke on thick fabric, this machine will happily sew through anything that I can fit under the presser foot. It doesn’t like topstitching thread, though, so I won’t be using it to make jeans.

After fixing up this sewing machine, I wanted to sew something with it. I decided to sew a baby quilt for my niece-to-be, which has been on my to-do list, and it’s a project that only requires straight stitches.

Surprisingly, my modern snap-on quarter inch foot works perfectly with this machine. It works even better than the original presser foot, which tends pull the fabric to the side when I sew near the edge of the fabric. My walking foot works with this machine, too.

Singer 127 with quilting foot

I love looking at those patent dates on the slide plate (the slide plate came off of an older machine).

Singer 27 slide plate patent dates

I’ve never been a huge fan of quilting, but this time I added an ingredient that made it so much easier and more accurate – cornstarch. I used one teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of water, sprayed it on the fabric, let it soak in for a few minutes, then pressed the fabric dry before cutting out the pieces. I highly recommend starching when quilting – it is so worth the extra time.

Here’s the finished rainbow heart quilt, sewn entirely on my antique treadle sewing machine:

Heart_baby_quilt

 

Posted in Sewing, Vintage Sewing Machines

Creating Tiled PDFs in Inkscape

Do you want to make professional looking print-at-home PDF patterns? How about doing it with free software?

There are many ways to create a tiled PDF pattern. Here’s how I do it in Inkscape, which is a free vector graphics program. I wrote another post on getting started with Inkscape, so check that out to see tips for getting started with Inkscape and work-arounds for some of the bugs I’ve run into.

If you want to see what my finished PDF patterns looks like using this method, download one of my free patterns from Craftsy.

I made an example .svg file that you can use to follow along with the steps below. Click the download button in Google Drive to save it to your computer (that upper bar auto-hides, so move your mouse cursor to the top of the screen to see it). Feel free to copy and paste from this file if you want to save yourself some work making borders, test squares, and alignment marks. It is set up for 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper, with a 7″ x 10″ pattern area.

DownloadGoogleDrive

Decide what size border you want on each sheet. I usually use 7″ x 10″. You may need to match a standard size if you are uploading your pattern somewhere – for example Burda style border size is 6.625” by 10”. Pick a size that will print well on both 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper and A4 paper.

Note: I don’t suggest using strokes thicker than 0.5 px for any borders that are used as match lines, test squares, etc. I make my pattern lines 0.5 px, too, so that they can be cut accurately.

In Inkscape, draw a rectangle the size you chose for your border. Use a thin stroke and no fill. Turn on object snaps and make sure snap nodes or handles is selected. Duplicate the rectangle and create a grid big enough to fit all of your pattern pieces on.

Fit copies of your pattern pieces into the grid, and draw and label alignment marks. Make sure to add test squares so people can check that they printed to the correct scale. Make the test squares a minimum of 2″ x 2″ (5 cm x 5 cm), and make sure the stroke is 0.5 px or thinner. I’ve seen 1″ test squares drawn with a marker, and they are useless.

pattern in grid

Now group all of your pattern pieces and the grid together so you can click on it as one object (select the objects, then press Ctrl-G).

In the page layout area, draw a rectangle the size of the paper (snap to the page border), then another one inside it that is 7″ by 10″. Make sure the inner rectangle is on top (select the rectangle, then use PageUp and PageDown keys to change which object is on top). It helps to temporarily set the fill for each rectangle to a different partially transparent color so you can see what’s going on.

Borders1

Select both rectangles, and from the menu, select Path > Difference. Now select the border, change the fill opacity to 100%, and change the fill color to white (don’t remove the fill – actually set it to the color “white”). I’ve left it pink in the picture below so you can see what shape it should be.

Borders2

Create a new layer that is above all other layers, and put the border on this layer (select the border and press Shift-PageUp to change its layer).

If you want to add page numbers, make a text object on its own new layer that is above the border’s layer. You will have to manually update the text before exporting each sheet.

Now turn on object snaps, making sure snap to paths and snap to cusp nodes are selected. Select the grid and pattern grouped object, and snap the upper left corner of your pattern grid to the upper left corner of the inner rectangle on the page border. Edit the page number if necessary. See how the white border is masking off the pattern around the edges?

snap grid to border

Now you are ready to export the first page to a PDF. From the menu, select File > Save a Copy. Change the file type to Portable Document Format (*.pdf), choose the folder to save in and a file name, and Save.

Move the grid over to the next sheet, update the page number if you are using them, and repeat to create the rest of the pages. I find that snapping to the page border is sometimes buggy, so if I’m having trouble dragging and snapping the grouped pattern pieces over for the next sheet, I use Object > Transform, Move to move the pattern to the left/right and up/down as needed. For example, if my border is 7″ by 10″, I would move it -7 inches horizontally to go to the sheet to the right or 10 inches vertically to go to the next row down.

transform move Inkscape

Now you will probably want to combine the PDFs into a single file. I use the free software PDF Split And Merge Basic to combine PDF files, but there are a lot of other free options available too.

Posted in Inkscape, Patternmaking
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