So, You Think All Interfacing is the Same?

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Hey, I’ll just use whatever interfacing is on sale, or cheapest. It doesn’t matter, right?”

Wrong.

Here’s a graphic example. For a super-triple-secret project I’m working on, I needed to apply interfacing to the back of a pattern piece. My thought process was, “I need to apply it to a paper piece, so a non-woven interfacing should do the trick.” I went to the local JoAnn and picked up a yard and a half of Pellon non-woven interfacing and applied it to my pattern piece.

To say it was a disaster would be kind. The Pellon wrinkled immediately, even though I had the heat set properly and I didn’t over-fuse. I pulled a piece of Fashion Sewing Supply’s Pro-Sheer Elegance Interfacing out of my stash, and applied it to another pattern piece (I had two copies of the pattern just in case, thank goodness!). I used the Exact Same (correct) Settings for both interfacings.

The wrinkled mess on top is Pellon. The smooth piece on the bottom is Fashion Sewing Supply.

The difference between the cheap Pellon and the professional grade Fashion Sewing Supply is stark. Imagine, if cheap interfacing gives you that kind of result on paper, what will it do to your garment? Kittens, you deserve better than a wrinkly mess. Make sure you use good interfacings. You’re worth it!

I was not solicited, paid for or compensated in any way for this post. I was just appalled at the results I got from the Pellon, and pleased with those from Fashion Sewing Supply.

Happy sewing!

Notion Review: Coats & Clarks Eloflex Stretch Thread

Please note: Coats & Clark did not ask me to review this product, nor did they provide me with any product or any compensation. I bought it with my own money, and you are getting my highly unvarnished (one might say ‘blunt’) opinion.

Lately it seems that lots of bloggers are flogging hyping talking about a new product, Coats & Clarks Eloflex Thread. This is a thread with elastic properties that’s designed for knit and stretch fabrics, and can be used straight – it doesn’t require any specialized stitches. According to Coats’ home-sewers website:

“Eloflex is a new, innovative thread from Coats & Clark that sews, soft, secure, stretchable seams in knit fabrics. Special stitches or a serger are not required to achieve professional results. Seams and hems will not pop when stretched because Eloflex expands with the fabric.
Eloflex is perfect for knit fabrics used in athleisure, cosplay costumes, swim suits, lingerie, and dance wear. Use with knits, but also with fabrics like stretch denim or twill. Use for sewing your own knit garments or for repairs or alterations. Have you ever tried to hem a knit skirt or T-shirt only to have it look stretched-out or wavy? Eloflex will make this a thing of the past.

Repairing a popped seam? Stitch it with Eloflex and ithe thread will stretch with the garment instead of breaking. Eloflex is 27 wt and can be used on the top and bobbin or in the needle and loopers of a serger. A size 11 ball-point or universal point needle is recommended. Eloflex is chlorine bleach resistant.”

(If you want my unvarnished opinion, the Coats Industrial Website has better information and less purple prose.)

Okay, that sounds promising. So I went to the local JoAnn to pick some up. Be warned, it’s not cheap. I paid full retail, without any coupons. Eloflex will set you back $3.49 for a 225 yard spool. By comparison, Coats’ Dual Duty all purpose thread retails for $2.99 for 400 yards, which means the Eloflex nets out to more than twice the cost of Dual Duty.

Okay then, let’s see if it’s all they say it is…

The Test Drive
I figure the best way to test it out is to try it against a control: I pulled out a spool of bright orange Gütermann polyester thread that I have in my stash. I used a royal purple Eloflex. I sewed with both threads on samples of Striped Viscose Jersey left over from my Vogue 9205 top.

I used the same thread in the needle and the bobbin (so Gütermann/Gütermann, Eloflex/Eloflex) on each sample. In all cases I used my Pfaff 2030 sewing machine with the same Stretch 75/11 Organ needle.

I ran three lines of stitches with each thread, all along the crosswise-grain, so they were along the greatest stretch of the fabric.  I ran two lines of straight stitches, each 2.5 mm long. In the line of stitches that has the red pin at the end of it, I stretched the fabric very slightly on both sides of the needle as it stitched. In the line of stitches with the white pin at the end, I didn’t stretch at all, I just let the feed dogs do their work. The third was a line of zigzag stitches, 3mm wide by 2.5mm long.

I used the Integrated Dual Feed (the built in walking foot on the Pfaff), and my presser foot pressure was set to 3 for all samples. I didn’t press any of the samples after sewing, so you see what they look like as they came off the sewing machine.

Eloflex thread: Top row, I stretched the fabric very slightly on either side of the needle while sewing. Middle row, I didn’t stretch the fabric at all while sewing. Bottom row, zigzag.
Top Row: Fabric stretched slightly on either side of the needle while sewing, Middle Row: Zigzag, Bottom Row: Fabric not stretched while sewing.

The Results
One thing I saw right away was that the Eloflex incurred more puckering along the stitching lines than the Gütermann. That was true in all three cases. I don’t know if pressing the stitches will release that. It’s not horrible, but it is noticeable, and it’s quite noticeable on the zigzag stitch.

Next I wanted to test the elasticity of the stitching. So I stretched the fabric along each of the stitching lines. I started in each case with a line of stitches measuring 5 inches.

White Pin (fabric not stretched at all while sewing)
Eloflex: 5 inches stretched to 6 inches (20% stretch) without undue stress
Gütermann: 5 inches stretched to 5.25 inches without undue stress

Red Pin (fabric stretched slightly while sewing)
Eloflex: 5 inches stretched to 6 1/8 inches without undue stress
Gütermann: 5 inches stretched to 5 ¾ inches without undue stress

Zigzag
Eloflex: 5 inches stretched to 6 3/8 inches
Gütermann: 5 inches stretched to 6 ¼

Breaking Point
Next, I decided to see how far each would stretch before they broke.
The Eloflex broke when I stretched it from 5 inches to 9 inches (80% stretch)

Breakage in the Eloflex – it took a fair amount of stretch, but it did break

The Gutermann broke when I stretched it from 5 inches to 6 3/4 (25% stretch)

The Gütermann broke with a lot less stretch

Conclusions
In my highly unscientific test, the Eloflex did a reasonable job. Here are some of my initial observations.

  1. It’s expensive.
  2. I didn’t like the fact that the thread causes the stitching line to pucker, sometimes noticeably.
  3. The Eloflex does indeed have more stretch than all-purpose thread, but I don’t believe it will allow you to sew swimsuits with a straight stitch.
  4. If you’re making a garment that takes a lot of stress through the seams, test out different types of stitches (notably zigzag and triple stitch zigzag)
  5. On the plus side, this thread is very soft, and it would be quite suitable for lingerie and other garments that lie against the body.

So, Is It Worth the Money?
The jury is still out on that. I’m going to try it on the bomber jacket that I’m making right now, and I’ll let you know what I think after I run a few more things with it.

Happy sewing!

How to Use Sleeve Heads and Chest Shields

The other day I had a lovely conversation with a customer about making a jacket. Jackets and coats are my favorite garments to make. She asked me where I had gotten the sleeve heads for my Lori Jacket, and mentioned that she wanted to balance out some hollowness in her upper chest. She said, “So I want a sleeve head to put in between my shoulder and the top of my bust.”

I replied, “Well, actually that’s what a chest shield is for.” There was silence on the other end of the line, then she asked, “What’s a chest shield?”

Well, let’s talk about the differences and uses of chest shields and sleeve heads, shall we? This is a long one, so grab a cuppa and settle in.

Q: Ann, what is a chest shield?
A: I’m so glad you asked! A chest shield is a layer (or sometimes layers) of interfacing that gives body to the upper chest area of a garment. A chest shield is generally cut in the same shape as the upper chest part of the pattern. It can be a single layer of interfacing, or, if there is a pronounced hollow above the breast area, you can pad it with batting or several layers of interfacing. Chest shields are quite common in men’s jackets, and they are de rigeur in bespoke tailoring and couture tailleur garments. You rarely see them in women’s ready to wear.

Q: What’s the difference between that and a sleeve head?
A: Another excellent question! A sleeve head is a rectangular strip of batting, usually backed with a bias strip of interfacing. It gives support to the sleeve at the shoulder. You do see sleeve heads in better ready to wear.

Both sleeve heads and chest shields are useful in tailored garments. They help support the weight of the fabric and give it good fall along the body. I mocked up half of a jacket (OOP Simplicity 4698, if you were wondering). Here’s the jacket (sans sleeve) on a dress form:

Nothing supporting the fabric, so it collapses

The arrows point to hollows where the fabric collapses from its weight. If you want something that looks more structured, then adding a chest shield will give you the support you need. You can buy pre-cut (men’s) chest shields from tailoring supply companies, but they are simple to make. Just trace the upper chest part of your pattern, eliminating the seam allowances.

Traced off the pattern

In this case I used fusible hair canvas, though you can also use sew-in canvas, or layers of interfacing and/or batting if you need to build up the front.

Applied to the upper front garment piece

Adding that interfacing eliminates much of the fabric collapse in the upper chest.

Much nicer!

Okay, so now let’s talk about sleeve heads. But first, let me go back to the conversation that started this blog post. Here’s a pair of sleeve heads in their natural state:

Batting on one side, bias cloth or interfacing on the other

One long edge of the sleeve head is finished, the other is left raw.

In the spirit of There are No Hard and Fast Rules in Sewing, sure, you can use those to fill out hollow areas in the upper chest. But… look what happens when you do:

It only covers about half the width of the chest.

And, sleeve heads are a lot more expensive than two small pieces of interfacing. So I stick with the chest shield.

Now, let’s talk about how I use sleeve heads. Sleeve heads are inserted into the sleeve at the shoulder seam to control the fall of the fabric down the arm. Here’s the jacket mock-up with sleeve attached, but no supporting understructure:

Note the deep hollow

The arrows show how the fabric collapses down the sleeve. Adding a sleeve head will eliminate that. To insert the sleeve head, sew the finished long edge just inside the seam allowance, with the raw edge facing out into the sleeve. You don’t need to worry about finishing that raw edge. It will be covered and protected by the lining of your garment. I generally attach the sleeve head starting at the front sleeve notch and ending at the back sleeve notch.

In a real garment I use shorter stitches, but I don’t use much tension.

Trim the excess length from your sleeve head (I’m not doing that here because this is just an example and I’ll use those sleeve heads in a real jacket or coat at some point). Here you can see how the chest shield and the sleeve head relate to each other.

Finally, from the outside, here’s how they work together:

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

And for a final before/during/after shot:

That was a bit of tome, but hopefully it’s helpful. Now go and make yourself a Gorgeous jacket!

Happy sewing!

Website Review: ZipperShipper.com

I’m making a sleeveless blouse, and the pattern calls for an invisible zipper at the neckline. Since I am using a lightweight stretch silk charmeuse, I want a zipper that won’t be too heavy for the fabric. When I was making my lace dress late last year, I bought a mesh-tape invisible zipper at Botani in New York. That type of zipper is perfect for this, but I don’t have near-term plans to go to New York again, and Botani doesn’t sell that type of zipper on their website. It was Sunday and they are closed, so I couldn’t call them to order one. Being impatient, I went online and did some hunting. That was how I found ZipperShipper.com.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 4.34.28 PM
What do they sell? Zippers of all types, as well as other notions like chalk, interfacing, knit cuffs and waistbands for jackets, buttons, etc. I bought 10 zippers in all: 5 white mesh tape and 5 black mesh tape invisible zips.

How is the Selection? Pretty good. They have lots of colors of the more “standard” zippers. They only have 4 colors of the mesh-tape invisibles (black/white/pink/blue), so if you need a special color other than those, you can’t buy them on the website.

How are the prices? Excellent. My zippers were $1.79 each. I’m trying to remember the price of the zippers at Botani, and I can’t recall exactly, but they were somewhere between $7 and $10 each.

How’s their site? Good. Easy to surf, items are arranged in a way that is easy to find what you are looking for.

Is it a SSL (secure) website? Yes. They use Authorize.net

How is the customer service? Excellent. The order went through without a hitch. I was promised my zippers by Friday and they arrived today.

Where are they Located? They ship from Virginia

Do they ship internationally? Yes

So, thumbs up or thumbs down? Big thumbs up! Excellent prices, excellent service, lightning fast shipping. The downside is that you can’t get all the colors of the rainbow for that particular zipper, but you can’t beat the price.

These should hold me for a while.
These should hold me for a while.

I will definitely use ZipperShipper again, and I heartily recommend it!

Happy sewing!

Things to Make with Less than One Yard – Ursula Ponte Skirt in Black and White

Continuing my series on projects and patterns that use up one yard (or less) of fabric, today I give you another StyleArc Ursula Skirt. I’ve already made this once, and you can see My Original Pattern Review Here. I used all the same construction methods, so I won’t bother to review it again. But this time I decided to do the contrast panel version, using two Matellassé doubleknits from Gorgeous Fabrics: Novelty Bows Matellassé Doubleknit in Off White, and Novelty Bows Matellassé Doubleknit in Black.

I used the off white for the main front panel:
Ursula BW Front

And I used the black for the sides, waistband and back:
Ursula BW Side
Ursula BW Back

I thought about using the off white for the back panel, but there is one big obstacle:

Hoover
and his name is Hoover

I’ll have black dog hair all over me anyway, but at least I can see it on the front and get at it with a lint roller. Sitting on my family room couch in a white-backed skirt would spell disaster.

I used less than one half of the one-yard piece of each fabric for the skirt, which leaves me with enough of both to make a color-blocked top tomorrow.

Shameless Plug Time!
New Kai Scissors
I got an email from Kai Scissors last week that they were having an introductory offer on “Very Berry” colored scissors and shears. I generally need to replace or augment my shears every 2-3 years, and the email arrived at just the right time. So I got a pair of 6 ½ inch scissors, and I got a new pair of serrated edge professional shears. I also indulged in the curved scissors. Phyllis swears by them. I love Kai scissors. They are my go-to brand. Even with the heavy use I give them, they retain their edge better than any other kind of shears I’ve used. NAYY, just a very happy customer.

I’ll probably try to whip up a top with the remaining Matellassé knits tomorrow. Then I want to start on my next big project, which is a red lace dress. More later…

Happy sewing!

Another One Bites the Dust

From Craine’s Business Report:

Another garment center seam rips
A 91-year-old dress supply company becomes the latest in long series of garment firms to file for bankruptcy; lists largest creditor as landlord Olmstead Properties.

Another tenant has been cut out of the fabric of the garment center. Greenberg & Hammer Inc., a 91-year-old dress-supply company based on Eighth Avenue and West 37th Street, has liquidated. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, released Thursday, listed assets of $55,964 and liabilities totaling nearly $441,000…

Read the entire story here.

Oh dear. I was in G&H this summer, and my radar was going off that something was not right. Chapter 7 liquidation means the business is closing completely. I think things started going south before they moved from their street-level location to the 7th floor of an 8th Avenue building. To get in to the store, you had to sign in with the surly guard in the lobby – never a good thing for a retail operation.

Well, there’s a damned shame. Vale G&H. You will be missed.

Not-so-happy sewing…

Notion Review – Bienfang Canary Sketching and Tracing Paper

What it is: This is a lightweight tracing paper in a soft canary yellow. I bought this when Charette was having their going-out-of-business sale (sniff!). I wanted white tracing paper, which I had bought there on many occasions, but they were already sold out. It turned out to be a happy circumstance. I opened this up today for the first time when I was tracing off the damned Burda pattern.

What did you think of it? Love. It! Seriously. This is much better than the other tracing papers I used. It’s about halfway between the weight of standard pattern tissue and the white tracing paper that I always bought. I can see the Burda lines much easier. So on a more sane pattern, this will be a joy. I can’t wait to use it on a Jalie or HotPatterns.

Worth it? Yes, definitely.

Where did you get it? As I say, I got my rolls (I buy my tracing paper in 100 yard rolls in different widths) from the late, lamented Charette. But you can get it at most art supply stores.

I’ll post a picture of my traced pattern over the damned pattern sheet tomorrow, so you can see why I like it.

Happy sewing!

The. Best. Seam Guide. Evah!


Pam Erny from SewExciting Fashion Sewing Supply sent me a surprise gift the other day. This fabulous little seam gauge! Now, full disclosure. It was a gift; I didn’t pay for it. But it was a surprise, and she didn’t ask me to review it. I’m doing that on my own after using it on my Cosmopolitan Dress. And you know what? I love it!

Features
The front of the gauge has measurements of 1/32 inch on one side and 1/64 inch on the other. On the back is a table of metric equivalents. And best of all? There’s a pocket clip!! Can I just tell you? My Darling Father would have owned 3 of these. He was an engineer par excellence. Sniff. This would have been right up his alley. It would have resided in his pocket pack. But hey, I are an Engineer’s daughter and a Math Major, so I totally appreciate it!

From a utility standpoint, I love the fact that the pocket clip has a wide bar so I can use it easily to measure hems. I also really love the precision of the measurements. I have my Dad’s old slide rules, including one that is like a long triangle with all sorts of measurements on it. This is actually more precise. And when you are doing anything requiring precise measurements, like couture sewing, this is invaluable. Here are a couple of closeups:

Pricing
This is available from Sew Exciting for a whopping $2.98. It’s made of steel, and it’s solid so it won’t bend out of shape like all my other seam guides do when I run over them with my rolling chair. I know. I already rolled over it a couple of times. Life is rough in my sewing room.

Would I Recommend It?
Hell yah! This was a lovely gift, but I’m going to buy a couple of more to keep in the studio. I definitely recommend it. It’s precise; it’s strong, and it has a wonderful, slightly retro feel to it!

Happy measuring!

Another Shameless Plug

I’ve been so busy lately that I have barely had time to sew, never mind post! There are tons of things in the works right now, and you’ll see the fruits of all my labor starting soon. First up will be the newest Cosmo dress, as soon as I make the buttons (covered, I gave in), then in about a month, the ol’ “Super Triple Secret Project” will see the light of day. And in the meantime, I’m working on a couple of articles and such, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I want to put in yet another shameless plug for a great supplier. Sew Exciting. Pam owns the company, and I use her interfacings for every project. She gets THE BEST stuff! I love her elastics, too. The service is great, and if you call to talk to Pam, she’s just a delight.

So, if you need high-quality interfacings and notions, get thee to Sew Exciting. NAYY, but I use her things, and I can personally give a big thumbs up.

Happy sewing!