December 16, 2012

How To Choose Your Sewing Machine For Skating Apparel


Today I'd like to address another apparel-based problem. Skating dress design and sewing is one of the hottest topics on my blog, so I'm hoping to answer a really important question for all you wannabe skating dress designers out there: what sewing machine should you use to make a skating dress?


If you're a complete novice, and you're looking to find information on the very basics, this is the right post for you. If you've got a few years of sewing experience under your belt already (perhaps you love perusing the plethora of blogs that span the internet, chock-full of tutorials on how to make everything from dog bow-ties to tablecloths?!) then read on anyway, you might pick up something skating-specific you'll find useful.

In order to answer the question of what sewing machine to use to create skating apparel, all you really need to understand is the basic requirements you will have of your proverbial machine. Once you know the key features it must have for successful couture creation, all that's really going to limit you is the range that's available to you in your area (and even that can be swiftly overcome by Amazon.com!) and of course, your budget (fear not, there are some great prices out there!).

What's more, once you've got the hand of your machine, I'm sure you'll find yourself using it for other projects too! A sewing machine is a wonderful investment – not only financially, but also personally! I have spent many an hour of fun at mine, yielding not only skating costumes, but Christmas presents, hair accessories, turbans, aprons, tables runners, blade soakers, and more besides! {this way for a tutorial on making blade soakers!}

What Your Machine Needs To Do
You really aren't going to have many requirements of your machine. Even “basic” machines these days come with a multitude of stitch settings, and you only truly need a few to get you on your way.

So, without further a do, here's what your little baby needs to be able to handle for the successful sewing of skating fare:

Straight Stitches
You'll use a straight stitch to hem chiffon and non-stretch fabrics

Zig-zag Stitches
You'll use zig-zag stitches for any stretch fabric, because they will stretch with the fabric.
If you can imagine attached a skirt to the bodice of your dress (which is essentially a leotard), and the fact that your skater will be pulling the dress on over her hips, it becomes evident that the skirt seam must give as does the stretchy fabric of the bodice, so that the construction will fit over the largest parts of the body, and then resume normal function once in place (i.e. on the waist).

Reverse Stitching
The ability to stitch both backwards and forwards really comes into it's own when you need to stitch elastic into your costume. A classic example of this is securing elastic in the leg holes of your bodice.

You want to make sure that before you close the casing (the “tube” of fabric within which the elastic is encased), the elastic is truly secure, and won't go PING! in the middle of a competition. Not only would it be uncomfortable, but also a bit embarrassing, with one baggy leg hole that causes the bodice to ride up!

So once you've sewn in the entire length of your elastic, securing the ends together with a couple of runs of forth-back-forth-back stitching really makes sure your elastic ain't going anywhere. Perfect.
Changing Needles
The single most important thing I can tell anyone about stitching for skating is to use ballpoint needles. These are the needles of excellence for sewing with stretch fabrics, and will allow you to keep seams flat and avoid any sort of bunching of the fabric as you run along, stitching. Regular sharp needles causes puckered, unsightly seams.

Thus, your machine needs to allow you to change your needle. As far as I'm aware, all machine do so, because sooner or later needles break, so you need to replace it. But perhaps some budget machines aren't so clear on the subject, so I thought it best to include this point.

Light It Up
A light built in to the machine is a really great extra. It will let you see your stitching close up, as it is under the foot of your machine. This helps with precision seam sewing, and general lining up of fabrics. Sure you can put all the room's lamps on, but having a little light bulb right there above your piece, really, really helps.

And there you have it! Those are the few factors I really couldn't live without on my machine.

I bought my machine from the La Redoute catalogue about 6 years ago now, and she's still going strong. I paid just over $120 for her, so this is proof that you needn't break the bank to invest in your new tool.

Once you've received your sparkling new machine, it's time to start the action! There are a few accessories and tools which really took my skating sewing to the next level that I would recommend you guys get if you're serious about making a professional job of your dresses.

These include a self-heal cutting mat, and a rotary cutter (I bought mine from eBay for cheaps, and you can too!). This combination of tools essentially allows you to lay your fabric and pattern flat, and then cut from the top, without disturbing the fabric at all. This is so much more efficient and precise than using scissors, which lift the fabric to place the lower blade underneath it. If you'd like to read more about the tools I use, let me know by one of the means of contact below, so I know you're interested, and I'll set about writing a post on the subject.

Until next time, sew sew sew my pretties!
XOXO


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1 comment

  1. I love sewing things just finished a nightgown for myself, really soft and nice to sleep in.

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