Sewing, mending, and other DIY stuff

Russell Street

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In 7th grade, I must have taken Home Economics and made some drawstring bag on a sewing machine, but I can't remember jack. The only person I know that can operate one is my mother, but she is useless as a teacher as she is impatient and would rather do it herself than explain anything.
I've occasionally toyed with the idea of getting a sewing machine, because the few minor mendings that I've done by hand have taken forever and come out crude. But this is like buying a car when you don't know how to drive. I'd likely end up with something totally wrong.

Anyway, I found out that a fabric store not far out of my way offers a beginner sewing class, two hours for a mere $30. I'm taking it. I'd really like to be able to do more than sew on buttons and rough hem fixes.
 

Russell Street

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Sewing machines are overrated, handstiching is where its at!
pfft, that's for detailing. Stuff that one with mediocre machine skill should be able to do, and currently adds up a bit, is hemming pants, adjusting seats/waists, and maybe even playing with tapering legs of baggy pants.
Really, it's setting the thing up and adjusting thread tension that I don't get. Working the pedal and moving the cloth don't seem that tricky.
 

doghouse

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The mechanics are actually not difficult to learn. The real art in sewing is working with different cloth and learning how your measurements translate to 3 dimensions. It's sounds a lot easier than it is.

I learned to sew on sails, which are even trickier, so it actually made clothing slightly simpler to do.
 

Russell Street

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Oh, I'm a long way off from actual construction from scratch.
My big gripe now is seeing some sweet looking machine at a thrift shop for a song and not being knowledgeable to know if it is complete, or working, or any good. That, and being a wreck at actually using one.
 

LelandJ

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You only want to buy vintage sewing machines with all stainless steel moving parts. The new ones they make today, even the pricey ones, break down too easily.

I bought my mother a $600 Singer on eBay and it's built like a tank, damn heavy too.
 

Russell Street

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Hmm, I was tempted by the newfangled ones that can do all kinds of pre-programmed stitches... like a flat seam. The old workhorses presumably won't do that.
I think my mom has an Singer too. The old sewing machines are just like typewriters - granny dies and the kids don't have a clue what to do with it, but the thing's in fine shape but too unwieldy to ship easily...
 

doghouse

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Yeah, my grandma had an old foot power Singer table unit. Thing weighed like 400 lbs.
 

Russell Street

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Oh yeah, so I took this course and didn't actually learn all that much. I mean it refreshed a lot, but nothing that I hadn't done before.
Somebody gave me one of those toy <$20 portable sewing machines and it is utterly useless. Craigslist, where Rambo shops for sexual thrills, seems to have no shortage of used machines, so that's likely my next step.
 

ter1413

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Oh yeah, so I took this course and didn't actually learn all that much. I mean it refreshed a lot, but nothing that I hadn't done before.
Somebody gave me one of those toy <$20 portable sewing machines and it is utterly useless. Craigslist, where Rambo shops for sexual thrills, seems to have no shortage of used machines, so that's likely my next step.

:unsure:
 

Russell Street

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ou only want to buy vintage sewing machines with all stainless steel moving parts.
I've been doing a drop of research, and it does seem that there is a vast preference for units from the early 60s and before featuring metal gears.
 

LelandJ

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I've been doing a drop of research, and it does seem that there is a vast preference for units from the early 60s and before featuring metal gears.

Smart and elite audiophiles don't use any turntables made after the early 60's. Sad to see general industry quality reduced to crap since then.
 

Russell Street

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So I actually did a little sewing project with m mother's machine last week. There is a joy when one gets in the flow with it.
I'm scouring the Craigslist for a used sewing machine and ideally I want something with metal gears for heavy fabrics and the zig-zag function for knits and buttonholes (yeah, I ain't hand-sewing no buttonholes) and whatever. I suspect these technologies do not co-exist.

I will now take this opportunity to ask Scherensammler Scherensammler about shears, as I don't have a pair and all my mom knew was that Wiss was a good brand decades ago. It is very clear that a good cut edge is crucial. What should I look for?
 

Scherensammler

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So I actually did a little sewing project with m mother's machine last week. There is a joy when one gets in the flow with it.
I'm scouring the Craigslist for a used sewing machine and ideally I want something with metal gears for heavy fabrics and the zig-zag function for knits and buttonholes (yeah, I ain't hand-sewing no buttonholes) and whatever. I suspect these technologies do not co-exist.

I will now take this opportunity to ask Scherensammler Scherensammler about shears, as I don't have a pair and all my mom knew was that Wiss was a good brand decades ago. It is very clear that a good cut edge is crucial. What should I look for?


I don't use them for cutting real garments, but a thin edge (called knife edge) gives a better cut.
I have shears with thick blades and thin blades, most of them are made with the "inlaid" technique.

There is a thread about shears here (seems I am not the only collector):

How to spot "good" shears! - General Technical Discussion, Books, Resources, and Supplies - The Cutter and Tailor

WISS, Dragonfly, Shozaburo (and other Japanese brands) are quite good and mostly available on Ebay.com
 

Russell Street

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Thanks, I'll look though that.
BTW, my mother also had a pair that had a barely visible ding along one blade edge. By hand you couldn't really feel it, but it was a nuisance in operation as it created a little skip at that point. I was at a loss as to how to fix this beyond some total regrind.
 

Scherensammler

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Try using your finger nail to find that nick. Can't be big. Someone probably slightly hit a pin while cutting, causing this.
If the edge is not too damaged and it's only on one of them you might get away with taking off some steel off that edge until the nick disappears.
You could either buy a set of fine grinding stones or start with waterproof grinding paper in various grades. Try to grind the cutting edge only, do not touch the insides..
After that, do not close the shears as if you were cutting, that can damage the edges. Press the blades slightly apart so that they don't touch and close them.
Then, starting at the tips, apply slight pressure and let the blades glide along each other. This will give smooth edges.
 

Russell Street

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So I was looking through some Singer sewing machine manual online and it listed a "blind stitch." Before I go searching that term, does anyone know if that is like a blind hem? I can't see how an interlocking stitch machine could do such a thing.
 

Scherensammler

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From what I know it just imitates a sort of hand stitch, but I don't think it works well, since it's more of a zig-zag stitch. Did it show the special foot you need for that?
 

Scherensammler

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You won't be able to do it invisibly with a lock stitch machine.
First of all, even the finest thread that this type of machine can handle will still be visible, simply because your needle will catch more of the fabric than a professional blind stitch machine does.
Have you tried doing it by hand? Given all that preparation work for the machine job the hand stitch version won't take that much longer. Plus it will look much more "professional" when you are hemming a pair of dress trousers.

tipp0302.jpg


This hand stitch isn't far away from the one that is used for hemming a silk pocket square or scarf. so with a bit of practice and the right silk prints you can make your own ones.
 

Russell Street

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Yeah, now that I own a thimble and was reminded about pinning, hand stitching might work out better than in the past.
I'm starting to grow away from the lure of the zig-zag machines.
I'm strongly considering a bulletproof old Singer 95-10 like this.
 
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Russell Street

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Yes, I nabbed a Singer 337 that has metal gears and zig-zag and runs like a charm for $25 off the Craigslist. The stamping under the cover say 1966.
Singer%20337_1.JPG
 

Russell Street

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I am contemplating buying pinking shears for hem jobs and the like. Is this a waste? Is buying used online advisable?
 

OfficePants

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I am contemplating buying pinking shears for hem jobs and the like. Is this a waste? Is buying used online advisable?


Depends on the brand and how well they have been cared for. It's a mixed bag, and getting shears (especially pinking) sharpened is expensive.

In your favor is that pinking shears aren't usually abused the way tailors shears may be (kids cutting out snowflakes with paper, etc), so you're in a pretty low risk scenario to acquire used.

For $20 you're not taking much of a risk here:

Vintage Wiss Pinking Shears Scissors Model CC7 Chrome Plated 7 5" Mint in Box | eBay

I've seen decent stuff on ebay in the past. I have a couple of pairs of antique Wiss shears that I might restore one day, big ones, like 14 or 15". I've also heard about a group putting together a large order of tailor's shears from Italy. I can find it if you're interested. Apparently they haven't made them in like 40 years and they're having new ones re-cast and hand made from the original mold.
 

Scherensammler

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Pinking shears will only work well on milled cloths like flannel (or any other type that won't fray by default).
The ones from Fiskars are pretty good, cut almost everything from cloth to fine fusible interlinings.
You need to search for the best price, though. This looks good: http://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-8-Inch-Pinking-Shears/dp/B000AXI856 or the 1" bigger version: Amazon.com: Fiskars 9 Inch Pinking Shears
Get a stiff brush to clean the teeth every now and then to guarantee smooth operation.
Buying used ones online is risky. The seller's description or view of "sharp" is not always correct. Sometimes they have been used for scrap booking and the like, so they won't cut cloth anymore.
 

Scherensammler

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I've also heard about a group putting together a large order of tailor's shears from Italy. I can find it if you're interested. Apparently they haven't made them in like 40 years and they're having new ones re-cast and hand made from the original mold.

Whatever happened to that?
They had it on the C&T and SF, but I haven't heard about it for some time. Latest news was that delivery is delayed.
Not convinced it isn't a scam, nobody has written about them or posted images of the ones they got.
 

OfficePants

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Pinking shears will only work well on milled cloths like flannel (or any other type that won't fray by default).
The ones from Fiskars are pretty good, cut almost everything from cloth to fine fusible interlinings.
You need to search for the best price, though. This looks good: http://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-8-Inch-Pinking-Shears/dp/B000AXI856 or the 1" bigger version: Amazon.com: Fiskars 9 Inch Pinking Shears
Get a stiff brush to clean the teeth every now and then to guarantee smooth operation.
Buying used ones online is risky. The seller's description or view of "sharp" is not always correct. Sometimes they have been used for scrap booking and the like, so they won't cut cloth anymore.

I like Gingher as well. I have 2 pairs, an 8" and 5". I don't have their pinking shears, though.

Gingher Pinking Shears G 7p w Box Instructions Mint Condition | eBay
 

Russell Street

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OfficePants

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Whatever happened to that?
They had it on the C&T and SF, but I haven't heard about it for some time. Latest news was that delivery is delayed.
Not convinced it isn't a scam, nobody has written about them or posted images of the ones they got.

I can think of much less elaborate ways to scam people out of a few $. I believe the photos are being shared with the buyers only per the factory's request. Let me find that thread.
 

OfficePants

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I've seen that brand and the packaging made them look a bit cheap. If they are quality, I'll take a look.

I believe many Gingher's are still made in Germany. I think them and Fiskars are now the same company. You're not buying Japanese sword steel, but for what they are they're good value.
 
T

Tweedy

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I used to be able to sew ok on a machine ( haven't done it for years), its all the threading that gets me.. quicker and easier to get out a needle and thread : )
 

Russell Street

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I used to be able to sew ok on a machine ( haven't done it for years), its all the threading that gets me.. quicker and easier to get out a needle and thread : )
For short mend jobs, I agree. The pulling of more than a foot or so of thread becomes tedious.

In other news, after having much time wasted by the local sewing machine repair schmuck who was afraid to touch the thing, some other guy took care of all issues for a much lower price. Joy.
 
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Tweedy

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I used to hand sew kilts for a living so got plenty of practice at it with all those pleats
 

Russell Street

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I made a pair of boxer shorts. They are pretty crappy but decent as a first attempt. The fabric I have looks enticing for a bow tie...
 
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