Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Confession


My new sewing student has only ever used an old, foot pedal sewing machine, and I noticed that at the beginning and end of each seam, she stops sewing in one direction, puts the needle down, lifts the presser foot up, and rotates the fabric in order to "reverse stitch" and secure the seam. She keeps forgetting that all she has to do is hold down a switch and the machine will automatically go backwards.

But that reminded me of something that I learned, but don't practice, in a Cynthia Guffey sewing class. (Of course, other people may recommend it as well.) Cynthia said that you should always sew "with the grain" of the fabric and that sometimes the direction of the grain could change within the same seam. When that happens, she instructed us to stop sewing in one direction, remove the fabric from the machine, and replace it in such a way that we could sew from the other direction.

It's like what many sewing patterns recommend when doing stay-stiching along a neckline - start stitching from each shoulder and have your two rows of stitching meet in the middle of the neck. Only Cynthia recommends doing this on EVERY seam and sometimes this mean changing the direction that you are sewing multiple times in a single seam - such as around a collar.

She said that this will prevent those times when the two pieces of fabric start out well aligned, but by the time you get to the end of your seam, one piece is stretched out longer than the other piece.

So, as I already indicated, I don't do this. How about you? Have you ever heard this advice? Do you ever do it? If so, sometimes or always? Also, do you ever have trouble figuring out the direction of the grain and where it changes? Overall, what do you think about it?


Photo credit: Mollybob

19 comments:

Ivalyn "Tee" Jones-Actie said...

Yes, yes, yes, I've taken several of Cynthia's classes and she stresses this. But I don't ever do it. LOL The only time I think about the direction I'm sewing is when I stay stich.

LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!

sewducky said...

Yes, they teach it when you take college classes.

I don't know of anyone that DOES it as long as the fabric lays smooth and you get a good fit.

I do it when I have to...which is never because I also know how to adjust for it while I sew. Grain is one of those things that I really only pay attention to to make sure it's straight (i.e. the pulling the fabric they talk about) and finding it for a pattern to make sure I'm on it and when doing anything on the bias.

Julie said...

(scratching head) WHO does this? I get the whole neck staystitching thing, I don't do it, but I get it. But to stitch that way on every seam, huh? I guess everyone has their own way of doing things. I'm a fan of taut sewing. I also beat things into submission and if they don't submit, I toss 'em. Life's too short to argue with fabric.

Uta said...

No, I don't. This is a level of perfection (-ism) that is way out of synch with my skills. I'm just glad I can sew a straight seam, if fabric shifts I put in lots of pins, and that's it! If I made every step of sewing "perfect" I'd lose my mojo and my patience. (I'm sure it's good advice, though.) Oh, and I like your new blog design!

stitchywitch said...

No way. I don't even do the directonal stay stitching, though I do stay stitch. I don't have any problems from not following grain, so I think it's ok!

debbie said...

The only time I do it is when I'm stay stitching and attaching collars. Otherwise I've never heard of doing it for every seam.

As for Cynthia I'd like to watch her and see if it's a case of do as I say not as I do. But I suppose it's a matter of what you're use to doing. It just become second nature.

CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

I so don't do that. I'm careful when it comes to collars but everything else nope.

Faye Lewis said...

Nope.

gaylen said...

Umm - no. I have never heard of this before and now that I have I still won't do it. The problems I have sewing are from my own making - I don't need something like this to add to the confusion. g

Webfrau said...

No, that's a new one on me.

Cindy said...

Giggles reading Julie's comment.

I'm right along with everyone. It's the level you want to take your sewing to. Who the heck wants to take it to that level? Kind of takes the fun out of sewing. There are many ways to achieve the same results in the end. Think of all the ways you can cut and paste on the computer. Different ways but the end results are the same. Sewing is a lot like that. I am so not a perfectionist. I teach to a higher level but never do it.

GOOD QUESTION THOUGH. We should talk about different ways to lock the stitch. What your student does is very old fashion. And also a lot of sewing is developing habits. The more habits you develop you can do things like drink a beer and sew :) or a glass of wine and have no worries you will make mistakes because you do it all the time.

Claire S. said...

Never heard of it, for anything but staystitching anyway.

I watch the grain when laying out and cutting my patterns but to sew every seam directionally ? Not likely LOL !

As for the uneven seam endings,I took an Islander shirtmaking seminar at the Toronto Creative Needlework show a couple of years ago and the big thing is to sew 'without' pins. I tried it and am getting much better at sewing without pins (or too many)and holding the fabric taut enough to finish my seams with even ends.

gwensews said...

I can see its merits, if one seam is bias. I have done it in that case, when a seam is difficult to control, but otherwise, no, I wouldn't bother. To lock my stitches at the beginning and ending of a seam though, I hsorten the stitch length.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm dating myself, but this is the way I learned to sew. And it is just habit, I couldn't sew a seam without thinking about how the grain is going to influence the stitching. The rule I learned is to stitch from wide to narrow then high to low. So, if you are stitching a flared skirt you would start at the bottom edge and stitch to the waist (wide to narrow) but if you are stitching a pegged skirt you would start at the hip and stitch to the hem. Ideally you would also stitch from the hip to the waist, but unless it is very curved I would probably just start at the waisat and stitch to the hem. High to low comes into play at the shoulders and neckline. Shoulder seams are stitched from the neck edge to the armhole.

This is more than just getting the pieces you are sewing together to come out to an even length, though this will improve the odds. The fabric will actually strecth differently depending on how you sew with or against the grain. If you sew one side seam of a skirt with the grain (wide to narrow) and the other against the grain (narrow to wide) the one sewn against the grain will likely end up longer and stretched out of shape. It is more likely to be problematic with softer or more loosely woven fabric than firm fabrics, but it can be enough difference to cause fitting problems. So the next time something you've sewn seems to fit sort of lopsided, consider if the direction of your stitching might have caused the problem.

Lois K

KARIMA said...

Nope. I do have an old singer that does not backstitch and I will turn the fabric around like your student. This is the machine I sew on all the time even though I have several modern sewing machines with all the fancy stitches.

Julia said...

No, I don't do this! I would never finish a garment if I did!!! I guess it does make sense, though.

Lisa Laree said...

I've been in Cynthia's classes and have been awed at the perfectionism she demonstrates.

I just don't sew stuff that needs that high of a degree of perfect-ness.

But I do pay *some* attention to grainline...I make an effort to sew long seams in the direction that will result in the least distortion, and I often sew the necklines on woven garments by starting at the center back and sewing to the front, then flipping the work and repeating for the other side.

But flipping every couple of inches...well, I *might* if I were striving for a couture level finish on a garment made from fabric that cost a bundle...

But, given my current budget and time constraints, that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Still, it's nice to look at garments that someone took the time to make perfect...

Becky said...

Never heard it, so obviously I don't do it! Except for staystitching (and sometimes I forget to do that too!) As for the grain in general, I try to be careful with it when I'm cutting out, but that's really the only time I think of it. Especially for things where you're a little short on fabric and sometimes have to fudge it. Or refashions, where you're even more limited on fabric. And for bias-cut seams that have the potential to stretch, I either just pin the heck out of it or hand-baste it and hope the two pieces will end together when it's all said and done!

mamafitz said...

i do it for staystitching and suit jacket collars/fronts. for sleeves that have a seam up the middle (shoot, i can't remember what they are called. dolman sleeves?), i always stitch wrist to neck. otherwise, i don't really pay attention to directional stitching.

oh, for skirt or pant seams, i start at the waist, and hold the garment up (as if it's hanging on the body) to pin it together for stitching. if the bottom doesn't match when i'm done, doesn't matter, since i know it'll hang right.