December 10, 2018

Home sewing patterns for newborns

I received this question about commercial sewing patterns:
Supposedly the XXS size on commercial patterns (McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick) is supposed to be for babies 7 lbs or less, but they swallow newborns up. If you read around the Internet, there are lots of frustrated grandmothers and mothers-to-be that want to sew for their new or expected baby, but can't find a pattern that will fit. I read that doll clothing patterns don't work because the neck is wrong for a human infant. I tried buying vintage layette patterns from Etsy and they were just as bad. I want to know how to downsize a commercial XXS dress or romper pattern so it fits a NEW 7-8 lb baby. I am sick of gowns and knit sleepers. - Pam
It has been a long time since I have sewn children's clothing from commercial sewing patterns. What I do remember is they are big. Too big. The proportions are bit off too. I don't know why either. Those companies have their own pattern blocks and I suspect they have not really updated or checked them in a long time.

Design school does not spend all that much time on children's clothing. I know there are few pattern making manuals that really get the sizing right, though sizing (exact measurements) is less of an issue than you might think. Regardless of where you start, you will have to make adjustments for fit. Only one manual even addresses infant clothing, and that book is Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear by Winifred Aldrich. I have a previous edition, but it covers most of what you might need. For Americans, the book is in metric. I didn't really have a problem drafting basic blocks using metric. You just need a metric ruler, though I did convert back and forth to see if I was on target. But even after drafting your basic blocks, you will need to make adjustments to the pattern until you get the fit you want. I have learned quite a bit by trial and error over many years.

For the home sewist, this is probably not all that practical. There is not really an easy way to size down a home sewing pattern that already has proportion issues (even Burda, which I prefer over the others). The biggest problem with some of the sewing patterns are tops are too wide, pant legs are too short just as examples. You could begin by folding out some of the width. But I can't say how much as it would probably depend on the style and desired size. In other words, no matter what, there will be a bit of back and forth. I guess my advice would be don't be afraid to experiment. Measure your baby and the sewing pattern and reduce width and length as needed. It is a bit of a challenge to measure a baby, but it really is the only way to arrive at your end goal. I wish there was some other way. Perhaps there are some indie sewing patterns for newborns? Please leave suggestions if you know of any.

December 03, 2018

Knitting : Ragg Socks

I recently finished up a new pair of socks. The yarn was gifted to me and it was fun to knit with. The yarn is Trekking (XXL) in colorway 100. I love Trekking sock yarn but I have had a hard time finding it near me. One 100 gm ball has generous yardage that may be enough for a pair of men's socks. I had yarn left over that will migrate to some scrap yarn socks at some point. With this color way, do not expect to be able to knit symmetrical socks. The color changes are random throughout the whole ball. With this yarn it is fun to watch the color changes as you knit. You can see how each sock came out below. Some comments on Ravelry has a few negative comments about this yarn brand, but I found this colorway to be soft, with no knots or tangles.

I knit my usual vanilla socks using the basic sock pattern from Ann Budd in the Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. I have knit a few things using this book and it is a worthwhile investment. Another nice thing about Ann Budd is she is on Ravelry. If you link your socks to her pattern, she will leave a nice comment. I believe she looks at any project made from one of her patterns.

November 19, 2018

Book Review: Mending Matters

Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh is a visually beautiful book. There is full color photography on every page. The pages are thick and glossy with a sewn binding in a hardcover book. The layout and graphic design work is really well done. Those qualities alone may justify the price.

Mending Matters is a book with two blended parts. The first part contains essays on Rodabaugh's journey to Slow Fashion. She explains what Slow Fashion is and the values that are important to the movement. There are also essays from other bloggers involved in the movement. The second part involves tutorials on mending with step-by-step photography for each project.

I have mixed opinions on this book. The first involves the discussion on Slow Fashion. Like the traditional food crowd, there are certain values involved with the consumption of clothing and textiles. There are words like sustainability, ethics, social justice, and activism used throughout. I almost felt brow-beaten by the philosophy. For Rodabaugh, Slow Fashion means buying and wearing only biodegradable fibers like cotton and linen. It means rejecting Fast Fashion trends completely and wearing clothing until there is no hope of repairing it. It means buying only clothing at a thrift store and using fabric dyes made from plants. There are a lot of little decisions one must make in order to be a part of the Slow Fashion movement. My first introduction to Slow Fashion was the Alabama Chanin trend, which has many beautiful examples. Rodabaugh's book goes a step further.

But even the author concedes that as you become more aware and educated about how clothing and textiles are produced, you will likely have to compromise on the very values you proclaim. This is because the entire production cycle from fiber to fabric to clothing to retail involves some process that may harm the environment or conflict with some other value. As an example, Rodabaugh wears linen because it is a biodegradable fiber. But the process in creating that linen fiber involves manual labor in foreign countries that do not necessarily pay what we would consider fair wages, followed by bleaching, dying, and transportation across long distances.

But as I have trouble with the Slow Fashion movement, I am actually participating. For me it is less about a political statement or personal philosophy. Granted, I think that we should work to find safer ways to grow and process fibers and find ways to reduce waste. Those are good things. My participation is more about thriftiness and economy. As I read this book, I realized that a majority of my wardrobe comes from the thrift store. There are, of course, certain things I can't buy at a thrift store, and those are purchased new, but on discount. I also repair and mend as needed and up-cycle what I can. Everything else goes back to the thrift store at some point. I never put a label on those activities because it was something that I naturally did.

The second part of the book contains tutorials on how to mend. The tutorials themselves are rather simple projects. Many similar projects can be found through online tutorials from various places. Rodabaugh does have a certain aesthetic and it really shines in the photography. Her mending uses sashiko stitching to elevate a mend or patch to something artistic. Sashiko thread is a cotton thread with long cotton staples and is known for its smooth, lustrous quality. Pearl cotton thread is a bit more economical, comes in many colors, and is pretty much the same thing. Sashiko stitching is precise stitching in a repeated pattern. Rodabaugh relaxes her stitching, though there are many beautiful examples of true Sashiko stitching online that you could follow if you choose.

In the past mending was meant to be invisible, if possible. In this case, it is meant to be a focal point. Some of the projects, such as the bags, lack practicality and would likely not hold up to heavy use. Hand stitching with large stitches lack strength. But, for some things it is probably fine. Below is a link to my pinterest board with more mending ideas.

As I said, I have mixed feelings. It is a beautiful book, no doubt. The projects are inspiring in their aesthetic appeal. It is making me rethink a few mending projects of my own. But is the book as a whole worth the cost? I'm not sure. What are your thoughts on the Slow Fashion movement?

*I am an Amazon affiliate and any links to Amazon are affiliate links.

November 12, 2018

The Singer Hemstitcher 72w19 - Questions and Answers

I sold my hemstitcher. It took almost a year once I decided it was time. I was not getting enough work to justify the space anymore. At the same time, I wasn't enjoying the work that I did get because I just didn't have the energy. I did love this machine and it was very difficult to let it go. Luckily, I think the person who bought this was very excited and happy about acquiring the machine.

Over the years, I have received a lot of questions about this machine. My previous blog entry on this machine is one of my most popular entries. I was supposed to get notifications anytime someone reached out to me through my Contact page. It didn't work and I didn't think to check until recently. So, in one grand finale for the hemstitcher, I'll try to answer those questions.


I have a Singer 72W19 and I'm trying to find someone in the southeast that works on them. Do you know of anyone?

I would appreciate knowing the names for the 3 people in Utah that service Hemstitching machines. I have a hemstitching machine that I inherited from my husbands grandmother. It is a model No. 72w19 fitted with a motor. I think the timing is out as it doesn't seem to do what it's supposed to. Could you tell me who in Utah works on these old machines and how I can get in touch with them.

Could you share the contact info of person that showed you to care and maintain your hemstitcher. I have one but I can't find anyone to help me adjust and maintain the machine. Thank you so much.

The person I found to help me repair my machine many years ago was past retirement. He would be close to 90 years old now, if he is still alive. I'm grateful I found him because he taught me enough that I could adjust the machine myself. It took me calling every sewing machine repair person I could find asking them if they worked on these machines. Most repair people, technicians, or industrial sewing machine mechanics do not really know how to adjust these machines. Some will say they will try, but that always made me nervous. Incorrectly adjusted machines could cause damage to the machine. The timing on the machine has a lot of variables and each component has to be adjusted in order for it to work.

That said, I only know of one place that MIGHT work on these. Daines sold new versions of the hemstitcher. But, I will warn you that they may decline or charge you a lot of money. Your best bet is to get a copy of the manual and learn to adjust the machine yourself.

I recommend purchasing the manual and parts list. I believe I bought my copies on ebay or some other site that sold old manuals. Well worth the investment!

Specific Repairs

I cannot figure out how to replace my needle that broke. I can’t seem to fit it into the ‘slot’. Anyone who can walk me through it?!? Please!!

It is hard to provide advice on this because I can't see what you are doing. Perhaps the needle clamp screw needs to be loosened more?

I wanted to verify which screw on the instruction page to turn - is it the "S" screw? A friend said that I could mess up everything if I unscrewed the wrong one, and I am scared to try! I bought this machine a couple of months ago and it runs, but has a broken right needle. Thank you so much!

I'm not sure which screw is the "S" screw. There is a needle clamp screw facing toward the front near the top of the needle in the needle bar. If you could refer to a manual and/or parts list, you will find the correct screw.

That said, you will not mess everything up by loosening a screw. If something came out of adjustment by doing so, you will just have to work to put things back correctly. This is how I learned how to adjust the timing.

I have a Singer 72w19 and need to change the needles. First time for this. When looking at the front of the machine there are 2 sets of needles. Do I use the top set or the bottom set? I'm thinking the bottom set but when I loosen the screw the needle doesn't even budge. Any instruction on this would be appreciated. Thank you, Denise

There is only one set of needles and they look like regular sewing machine needles. Perhaps you are referring to the piercers? A look at the manual/parts list will help you identify what you are looking at.

Hi, I have a Singer 72w 19 hemstitch machine and I am having trouble with the thread breaking. I was stitching on it and suddenly the left needle broke for some unknown reason. I replaced both needles and now I'm having trouble with the thread breaking about every six inches of sewing.

This is a common problem with these machines, especially the left needle thread. I did not completely eliminate the problem with my machine, but I did minimize it. First, make sure the needles are entering the fabric correctly. Very minor adjustments there can make a big difference. It is possible the left needle is too close to the piercer and the piercer is cutting the thread. Or the left needle is not rotated to the right position. Next, be sure to oil all the moving parts on the front of the machine where metal touches metal. The needle bars and levers all need to be able to move freely. I would add a drop of oil on each of those parts before sewing. I also had a screw that would work itself loose on one of the levers and cause the needle to move out of adjustment. A drop of loctite eventually prevented the screw from coming loose from the machine vibration. Finally, use the best polyester thread you can find. In my case, a Gutermann polyester thread from a cone worked best.

I have seen on our classified ads that there is a hemstitcher head for sale for 500 dollars. I have an old industrial serger in a table that has been converted to house power. Here is my question: Do you think that I could swap out the serger for the hemstitcher?

Most likely no. The table tops are cut specifically for the machine. A hemstitcher will not fit in an industrial serger table. If you had the correct table top and stand, you could move the motor over provided you have the correct wheel size on the motor. Some motors have fly wheels that will cause the machine to run too fast.

Machine Parts

I need a complete needle and piercer holder for my hemstitcher. Do you have any of them? Please let me know what parts you have. Thank you.

Where do you purchase your needles for your hemstitch machine? I have two of them (one 1904 and one 1928), but I need to order needles. Can you help me out? Thank you, Marcia

I recently received a Singer 72-19 and need resources for supplies and how to use it. Suggestions? I live in Sandy, Utah

You can buy needles from an industrial sewing machine supply. Daines had needles at one time, but they charge a lot for shipping (it's not something they normally do and they don't really like to do it). For piercers, I ended up using google to find a source from China. Some industrial supplies or hardware store will have some of the screws. All other parts would have to come from a parts machine.

Machine Value

I have inherited Singer 72w-19 Hemsticher, W522308. I think it is from 1920. It has lots of needles and misc attachments. I am wondering if there is a market for it. it comes with a table. I would appreciate any info on it. Thank You. Jenny

Yes, there is some value if the machine is in good working order and comes with a table and motor. I have read there are attachments available for the machine, but I have never seen them. A good machine will go for a few thousand dollars, but I can't but an exact value on one. I was pretty firm on the price I asked for my machine and eventually got what I wanted. It did take me a while to sell it though.

Yahoo Group

Did you run the hemstitch Yahoo group? I hadn't checked on my groups lately and discovered it's gone...darn! I will admit to googling Esther + hemstitch machine and finding your lovely blog..... So even if you aren't the same Esther, I'm glad I found your blog anyway!

Yes, I ran a Yahoo Group for Hemstitchers for a while. At least a couple of years. It received almost no traffic and I just didn't have the time to continue it. I did ask for volunteers to take it over before shutting it down, but no one seemed interested. It's a bit of a moot point now since Yahoo Groups are dying and Yahoo has done nothing to update or improve the Group software in over 10 years. I think Yahoo Groups will eventually be shut down.

November 05, 2018

Tips for keeping a work journal

It wasn't long into my professional life that I started keeping a work journal. A technical designer or even a pattern maker will potentially have to be responsible to a lot of different people. Most apparel companies these days are small businesses and frequently family-owned small businesses. It is difficult to find a job as a technical designer/pattern maker with an established successful business, but I managed to do it two times. My client work is limited, but there are similar difficulties in keeping track of your work.

Keeping a work journal as an employee

As an employee I had to respond to all kinds of situations. A technical designer communicates with individuals at all levels of product development and manufacturing. This would include fabric sourcing, testing, fitting, pattern making, grading, cost analysis, returns, and even customer service. The boss could change from project to project. In my experience at family-owned businesses, various family members would be responsible for certain areas and would sometimes be in charge of a particular project. The shifting responsible could sometimes land on you if one department or individual disagrees with a particular decision.

In order to protect myself, I started keeping a work journal. It was pretty basic and bare bones. I usually used an inexpensive spiral bound notebook that I would pick up at the back to school sales. Though, you could go as fancy as you choose. These are the usual details I would record:

  1. Date
  2. Project/Style name
  3. Description of work completed that day
  4. Time spent on the project

But sometimes I would record requests for changes:

  1. Date
  2. Project/Style Name
  3. Description of work completed and WHO REQUESTED IT
  4. Time spent on the project

Sometimes the requested work was a change in a pattern. Sometimes I questioned the validity of the request. But, I wasn't the boss. I could advise or recommend something different, but ultimately it was not my final responsibility so long as I could prove who made the request and when.

Sometimes I had design meetings or phone meetings. I recorded:

  1. Date
  2. Topics discussed
  3. Assignments and deadlines
  4. The person who gave the assignment.

A typical entry would read:

January 5, 2018
Style: 1234
Completed first pattern draft. Double checked grade. Sent style to have first sample cut and sewn.

Style 2234
Boss requested this style have a 1 inch hem instead of 3/4 inch. Made adjustment and double checked grade. Sent style to have new sample sewn in intended fabric for style.

My work journal saved me a few times. I would have the company owner or project boss come back and ask about something. I could look back in my journal and tell them exactly what happened. There were a few times I would have multiple people tell me to do one thing and then completely reverse and do the opposite. Believe me, you will not regret keeping a work journal!

Keeping a journal for client work

My journal entries for client work is not much different. I would include, of course, the name of the client and a description of the project. Another important thing to keep track of is the time spent on the project. Keeping track of time will let you know if you are being fairly compensated and whether you need to make adjustments in billing. Eventually these notes would be moved to a file that would include any pictures, correspondence, and invoices.

  1. Date
  2. Client name
  3. Project/Style Description
  4. Work completed
  5. Time spent
  6. Any other relevant correspondence.