Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sewing with L&L: Day 1 - A Machine, Patterns, Heiroglyphs

On a wet, stormy afternoon...
"Ahhhhhh.... Jeez..... Urgh....."
"Lissie, I don't mind you being melancholy but does it have to be so loud?"
"It's raining and raining and raining again! Today was the day we were supposed to go out and conquer the known world and now we're stuck inside! I'm bored Lilly!"
"Well, we could always explore our Big Person's home. She's always bringing strange things in like that white boxy thing so we might discover something new yet, even if we don't conquer it."

"This white thing? Hurrnnhh! It's heavy! What is it?"
"I'm not sure, but I'm fairly certain you're not supposed to push it, you're supposed to lift it."
"What are you waiting for then? Grab that side! Ready or not, LIFT!"

"It's a... It's... a dangerous thing of great import!"
"It's a sewing machine Lissie."
"Exactly. Clearly you see what we have to do right?"
"But Lissie, we don't even know where to start!"
"That's the perfect reason for starting. Ready? Everyone, today on Sewing with Lissie & Lilly, we'll create a graduation dress for an elephant!"
"Lissie, if we're going to do this, I think we should start with something a bit more within reach."
"Alright alright, an astronaut suit then."

"I was thinking more like... learning how to operate the machine."
"Operate? If I can operate on a walrus in a coma from eating one too many sardines, I can operate anything!"
"But you can't operate a walrus in a coma which is why we should start with the instruction manual. Let's see here, first we need to find-
"Found it!"
"-a bobbin. Yes, that's it! I don't know why we don't have you buying lotto tickets with your luck being the way it is Lissie."
"Nah, the lottery is too easy! My luck needs more of a challenge! What next?"
*I had SO much fun winding up the bobbin, no lie. I felt like a right, proper country girl from the medieval ages spinning golden thread! :D Unfortunately I only had 2 bobbins to fill, though I toyed with the idea of unwinding them so I could redo it. >_<

"Okay, next we thread the machine following the arrows marked on the top."
"Bah! What's the fun if you're just following arrows? I know, why don't we change it up this time and thread the machine skipping every other arrow?"
"Lissie no! You'll break it, then break yourself!"
"Ugh, well, be an arrow follower then! What are you going to do now?"
"The instruction book said this part here- Ah!"
"No you silly treasure loving goose, this is a removable compartment where you can keep extra bobbins, and other tools."
*Despite the arrow guidelines... I messed up on threading the machine the first 3-4 times I tried. I kept missing one of the hooks but once I figured out how it was angled, I was able to finally get it in. ^_^ The secret compartment was fun too. It really was like digging for treasure!

"Oh look Lissie! It's another secret compartment!"
"Geez, you'd think this is St. Peter's Basilica with all these nooks and crannies! Why are you putting the bobbin there? I was going to hide my candy."
"You're supposed to put the bobbin here. See? It fits perfectly like a puzzle piece, and then you draw the thread out along these lines."
"Well that's redundant, why would you have thread coming from the top and the bottom?"
"But don't you think that's very clever? ... Lissie?"
*I was really taken aback that a sewing machine uses 2 threads to sew! One from the top and one from the bottom. It looks like as the top thread goes down, the bottom one catches it, and holds it in place and that's how it is able to create a seam. MAGIC!

"Giddyup! To Sunday and beyond!"
"Ack! You scared me! I almost fell over. Why did you tell me to stop?"
"That's the foot pedal and if you step on it, it'll start the needle!"
"Isn't that the whole point? How can we sew without starting the machine?"
"It's really dangerous to start the needle unless you're ready. You could ruin your project or machine, or at worst hurt yourself and others. You mustn't step on it til we're ready alright?"
"Well if we're not going to start sewing right away what are we going to do then? This is a lot more complicated than I was mentally prepared for." 
*I learned this the hard way when I tripped while standing up and accidentally stepped on the pedal. >_< BAD IDEA. Very very very bad idea. Luckily nothing was hurt or damaged, but it was a good reminder to me to be absolutely careful.

"We need to first decide what we're going to sew, and cut out the pattern for it. Here, you take that sheet and I'll take this one."
"Ooo, I'm going to cut-"
"Cut along the solid black line Lissie. Don't cut along the dashed line. According to the instructions, that marks the quarter seam."
"Give them a quarter and they take a yardstick!"
*This was the easy part. XD I was originally going to go with one of the old Pleasant Company patterns but decided instead to start more modestly with this free pattern from Lee & Pearl.

"Well Miss I-read-instructions-and-actually-follow-them, now what?"
"I really don't know where to go from here, to be honest. We've cut out the pattern pieces but there's still so much I don't understand!"

"I don't even know what half the things in this sewing kit are and if we even need them!"
*The sewing kit was a gift from a friend who is moving away for rotations and basically unused. I wish it came with a list of what each item is... >_< Does anyone have any idea what the arrows are pointing to and what they're used for?

"And just look at all these symbols! What are these black triangles? Am I supposed to cut them out of the pattern piece and the fabric, or just the fabric? Or do they just mean cute them out along the whole length of the curve?"
*Help please! >_< I saw these on other patterns too and wondered what they were supposed to represent. What do I do when I see these black triangles?

"Dots, arrows, stars, it's like reading hieroglyphs Lissie!"
*These are actually explained in the instructions for the pattern through they did initially confuse me too. :D

"Cut on fold? What is the fold? What am I folding? The instructions say to bring the right sides of the fabric together but does that mean I fold it hamburger style or hot dog style? How can I fold something without bringing the left side to the right? There aren't 2 right sides right?"
*This is also confusing me. What does it mean to "Cut on Fold"? The instructions in the pattern says to bring right sides together but I don't understand how there are 2 right sides to bring together. 

"And now we have even more arrows! The line in the middle says to fold along that but what is this diagonal arrow? Do I bring those two points together too? But that makes it into a really awkward shape! Which line do I fold first then? Does it matter?"
*Too many arrows! Too many instructions! XD

"Ah! It's all too confusing! How can we ever sew this garment if we can't even figure this out?"
"Where did you go?"

"Hmmm... which one do you think suits me more?"
"Lissie! You're skipping steps again!"
"Oh pish posh, I know you'll figure out that foreign language so I though I'd get a head start and pick our fabric first."
"I think your confidence in me is more of a reflection on your desire to preen Lissie."
"Eh, I tell no lies! When you look this good, you can preen in anything."
*Hahaha go Lissie! Preen away! I narrowed it down to these two fabrics since they were small scraps that would be fun to practice on. Which fabric do you like better? ^_^ 

Thanks for joining us on day 1 of learning to sew! This summer I really wanted to get started learning so I could start diminishing that giant stack of fabric I've been rapidly accumulating. A friend lent me a sewing machine, and another gifted me the sewing kit. I decided I would probably need an iron/ironing board so I picked those up. 

And now that I'm all ready to charge forward like Lissie, I find myself stopping every few minutes with a new question and having to constantly refer to the instructions like Sawako Lilly. :D But despite that, it's really fun! I think my plan is to come home after clinic every day and sew for a little while (with Lissie and Lilly's help of course). I'll keep you all posted on our progress and if you've been toying with learning to sew as well, head over to Lee & Pearl for the free pattern and join us in the learning process! ^_^


  1. The left, top most arrow pointing to the long stick with a hook on the end is a seam ripper! You use it to take out or undo stitches. That was the only one I knew!

    1. Thank you! :D A seam ripper it is then!

    2. The green plstic dress- shaped thing with a wire loop- the wire loop is a needle threader for when you are sewing by hand, not sure about the green part. The fabric below the green loopie things is just that- fabric! And the pencil is probably for making little marks for when you want to start or stop sewing. -_- I only sew a little by hand, but I figured out that much. :D

  2. LOL--I love it!


    In the sewing basket, the poky thing that matches your scissors is a seam ripper. It's invaluable. It's how you take out mistakes.

    I don't know what the slidy ruler is. It looks like something you use to make buttonholes…but my machine does that.

    The chalk pencil is for marking on your fabric. You may need to mark notches, arrows, etc. (Um, I never do. But you should!)

    The thing that looks like it slips on two fingers is a pin cushion.

    And, the thing with the green handle and the loop of wire is a needle threader. You push the wire through the eye of a needle, but the thread in the middle, and pull the thread through. This is great for needles with small eyes!


    1. Ahhhh, okay okay! They all sound really useful and I'm surprised I've never heard of/seen them before. Thank you for explaining what they are and what they're used for!

  3. Okay girls...first for your sewing kit. The first arrow is pointing to a seam ripper. That is very important for taking everything apart and starting all over again when L & L rush ahead! Next is a measury thingee! The little slider marks it right at a specific point, so you can fold all your fabric into a hem maybe. Sorta like a taco! The next arrow is a marking pencil so you can write on your fabric. Not blogs; more arrows and hierogyphics! Next is a needle threader. If you can't get the thread to poke through the tiny hole, you put your thread in the wire thing and pull it through. Last is a pin cushion that fits on your arm like a bracelet so you have somewhere to poke your pins besides your arm and your vinyl girls soft parts! Hope that helps! Have fun!

    1. Hahahaha! It's a good thing you explained about the pin cushion because I was definitely going to use their soft parts as a stand in. >_< Thank you for the explanations! It's good to know how to use each of my tools.

    2. Now I have a very vivid mental image of poor Lissie's bare cloth butt just bristling with pins like a pincushion. "See? It doesn't hurt!" *sticks another twenty pins in* Yeah no, Lissie, thanks, I'll pass. XD

    3. Oh gosh, it's been a while since reading something online has made me laugh so much but that visual was... too good! :D

  4. The notches (triangles) are to match up your pattern pieces. I cut them out away from the pattern, so they stick up. They will be hidden inside the seam when you sew. Or, you could mark them with your chalk pencil.

    The dots were to be matched up to help you make your pleats even. It looks like you start sewing at one "x" and stop at the other "x".

    Cut on fold means you fold the fabric in half, right sides together, and put that edge on the fold. That way you don't have a seam in the middle.

    The diagonal arrow is for matching the grain of the fabric. You should position that piece so that the arrow is parallel to the finished edge of the fabric. (That piece is being cut on the bias. It will have more "give".)

    Does that help? Ask away if I was unclear! :))

    1. Would you mind explaining what the grain of a fabric is? Is that the way the pattern printed on the fabric is point?

      The Cut on Fold makes sense now! I was confused by the use of the term "right" side of the fabric but it makes sense now.

      Thank you!

    2. Did you figure out the grain yet? I'm a new sewer too and I'm not sure if I'll be able to explain but I'll give it a go. It has to do with the weave of the fabric. Have you ever had a really cheaply made piece of clothing that twisted itself around on your body, or seemed really misaligned or not to hang right after it has been washed a couple of times? That is often because it was not cut properly in accordance with the grain. So if you look at your fabric, you should be able to see the individual threads that are woven together, and what directions they run in (or the lines of eeny teeny knit stitches if it is a knit fabric). You fold your fabric carefully along those lines, and you align the arrows on your pattern pieces with those lines in the fabric. The neck piece is cut on the bias, which means that you still align that diagonal arrow with the grain of the fabric but instead of the pattern piece being cut with the grain, it is cut against the grain on a diagonal. Does that make sense at all?

    3. Thank you for explaining about the grain! Yes it does make sense! I see what you mean, the fabric is woven out of criss crossed threads when I look closely. I didn't realize evening lining up the fabric along those lines (or diagonal to them) made a difference to the cut/fit of the outfit. :D

  5. LOL--the collar is so much simpler than it looks! You cut a strip on the bias. You fold it in half. (You can match the dots and arrows, but it's not really rocket science…) Then you sew up the long edge. It will give you a long tube…like a straw.

    1. I'm still having a hard visualizing it, but I think it will make sense once I cut it out of the fabric and see in it 3D. ^_^

  6. When you cut on the fold, you put your pattern edge right up to a fold in the fabric and don't cut the fold! Cut everything else. that way when you open it, it is one big piece, like a paper doll chain. Fabric has a right and wrong side. The wrong side is the inside part of what you are making and the right side is what everyone sees. If you fold the fabric in half and see the "pretty" side, then the wrong sides are together.

    1. Ooooo! Okay! That's a really good explanation of what the "right" side means. I was confused because I thought it was referring to a right and left side, but you mean a right (with the printed pattern) and wrong (unprinted) side. Thank you very much for the clarification!

  7. I wanted to answer your questions, but I see other people did already! You have good advice there! Of course, it's easier to learn how to sew with someone beside you that knows how. I think on Crafty you could find an online class for beginners. Once you know the basics, it's easy to carry on. Eventually, you could follow one of AGseamstress sew-alongs on the American Girl fan board... Kirsten's birthday dress would be a good start, I think!

    1. Yes! I'm hoping after I learn the basics to try AGseamstress' sew along for Kirsten's birthday dress. ^_^ Thank you for the advice and encouragement!

  8. For the record, that type of ruler is called a "sliding gauge"... and even though I own TWO and bought the first one sometime around 1997, I had to look that up!

    Just signed up at Lee & Pearl because why not, and am now waiting on the free pattern link... though for me, it may end up being useful largely as a guide for writing pants pattern instructions. ;-) I've had my pattern pretty much DONE for ages, but creating instructions is WAY harder than anticipated!

    1. Hahaha thank you! It's much easier to look up once you know the name. :D I'm glad you signed up at Lee & Pearl and I hope their pattern is useful in helping you figure out the instructions for yours, though the pattern itself is quite good in itself too. ^_^

  9. One more note about your notches (the triangles on the pattern) and I'll see if I can explain this clearly..... Notches are often on pattern pieces that don't exactly fit together like seams where the sleeves meet the body of the item. The notches get pinned together exactly and then the rest of the seam gets "eased" in. You will probably have to gather the top of the sleeve just a bit to make it fit into the space for it. This isn't a mistake because it leaves room for the doll's shoulder. It's been a long time since I took my sewing class and had it explained to me so I hope explained it decently.

    1. Oh thank you for clarifying that part! I was eyeballing the pattern pieces and confused as to why it seemed the sleeve piece was larger than the sleeve opening on the body, but now I see it's to leave room for shoulder movement. ^_^

  10. I was given this piece of advice a long time ago. You shouldn't use your fabric scissors to cut paper or tissue pattern pieces because doing so will dull them quicker and then it will be difficult to cut fabric with them. Use separate pairs for fabric and paper. Also the grain of the fabric (the direction of the long arrows on pattern pieces) is parallel to the selvage of the fabric (the finished edge where there is words printed). You can also find the grainline by stretching the fabric slightly. If you stretch it along or parallel with the grain there should be little to no give, no stretch. If you stretch the fabric perpendicular to the grain, or crosswise, the fabric should slightly warp or curve. Hope this helps

    1. That's really good advice! I will separate my scissors and keep one just for cutting patterns and one just for cutting fabric. Can the scissors be sharpened when they dull? Or do I need to buy a new pair then?

      Also, I really appreciate the advice about the give on the grain of the fabric. I just tried it and it's a very efficient way to find the grain without straining eyes! :D

  11. Here is a short animated video that will help Lissie and Lilly visualize how the sewing machine uses two threads to make stitches.

    1. Ooo! Thank you for the link to the video! It really is brilliant that people could think of such an innovative way to sew. ^_^

  12. This may be a little late, and I haven't read part 2, but before sewing on fabric it helps to learn on paper. There are patterns available online to print out, just google them. There should be straight lines, wavy lines, circles spiraling in, etc. these shapes help you to learn how to maneuver the fabric or paper to get the stitch where you want it. You also learn how to stop, leave your needle in the paper/favbric, raise the pressed foot, turn the paper, lower the pressed foot and continue in a different direction. Use the needle but no thread. It seems tedious but it will be worth it .

    1. That's really wonderful advice! I can practice getting used to the feel of my machine this way without using up fabric and thread. Thank you so much for the link to the practice sheets as well. I'll print out a few copies and practice with them until I feel more confident and smooth with the machine. ^_^

  13. Here is one I just found.

  14. Hi! I was behind on blog reading so my comment is a little late. After enlarging the photo on the pattern envelope and looking at your pattern piece, I believe you are to sew the front "pleats" as vertical or release tucks. It gives a pleated look when finished but is sewn differently. A fabric tuck is a small pinch of fabric (wrong sides together) generally 1/4 - 1/2" wide, sewn either vertically or horizontally and then pressed to create a mini fold on your fabric. They are used a lot in heirloom sewing. Release tucks are sewn as vertical tucks except you only sew for a short distance - not all the way to the bottom like you would with a kilt or pleated skirt. The tucks are then pressed in place and made permanent at the neckline when you sew the neck band on. There is no need to backstitch at the top of the tuck since the final sewing of the neck band will catch and hold the tucks. For a neater finish and to reduce thread bulk - at the bottom of the tuck, leave a long tail and then thread that tail thru a hand sewing needle bringing the thread thru to the back and tying it off. You'll do this with both threads and then tie them together. I believe someone else mentioned this method in an earlier comment. I hope I explained this clearly. If not, try looking for a youtube vid showing how to sew release or vertical tucks.

    Don't hesitate to keep asking questions because sometimes pattern instructions are not made clear on the instruction sheets. You're doing great and the more you sew, the more you know.

    Teresa F.

    Lol, now who needs help? Took me the longest time to figure out the new captcha thing. I was expecting the scrambled word icon. Could NOT figure out why there were pictures coming up.

    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to explain the pleats vs tucks to me! I finished the release tucks as you said without the back stitching and it worked out wonderfully. ^_^ You explained it very clearly, thank you!

      Hahaha! I didn't realize comments needed the captcha first. :D I guess it shows you're not a robot?

  15. The purple thing with a pppointy end is an unpicker so you can undo your stitches if needed