Thank you so much to Gwen, Becky, Elaina, Marie, Katherine, Mamafitz, Mary, Patsijean, Linda, Carla and Mrs. Mole for talking back to my confession last week! I confessed that I resorted to (what I thought were) desperate measures when sewing dozens of rectangles together to make all those wine and casserole totes – in order to get my rectangles to line up nicely, I held the fabric tightly and “helped” it move through the machine.
As usual, we got a ton of good information from the commenters! Gwen kicked it off by explaining that we are really dealing with a somewhat complex system that has at least three variables.
The feed dogs (under your fabric) are doing their job and “marching to their own drum”, so to speak, pulling the bottom layer of fabric (primarily) along.
Then there is the presser foot pushing along the top layer of fabric – and its impact depends on things like how tightly it is pressing down on the fabric.
But all of these things can change, depending on what type of fabric you are working with!
So, the odds that 2 equal length pieces of fabric that start together are also going to end together fall somewhat short of the 100% that we would like to see! ;)
Of course, a couple of people pointed out that sometimes we can take advantage of this – something we’ve talked about before – the feed dogs usually move the bottom layer of fabric a bit faster than the top layer, and so they will help ease a longer piece (placed on the bottom) into a shorter piece (on top).
But sometimes we have to overcome this “feature.” And, as far as my 2 suggestions for how to overcome it, I had one hit and one strike. ;)
While a couple of folks didn’t really have a strong opinion either way, holding the fabric tight – or, “taut sewing” as (I learned) it is officially called – got a big thumbs up from our commenters. Seven people wholeheartedly approved of it. And Katherine even said that it has the David Coffin seal of approval! In fact the only potential negative that was mentioned was the stress it can put on your shoulders and back. Linda reminded everyone to take the time to stretch when you use this method.
Several people had suggestions for exactly how they do it. For Patsijean, it depends on the length of the seam to be sewn. For shorter seams, she only holds the fabric taut in front of the needle. For longer seams, she holds it taut both in front of and behind the needle.
Mrs. Mole learned taut sewing on a sewing factory floor and she adjusts her hold every 12 inches or so.
When Gwen is using taut sewing, she lifts the presser foot every few inches to let the fabric relax. She mentioned that having a knee-lift on the machine (something I never understood before!) makes this easier.
The topic that elicited a bit of disagreement had to do with the use of pins in taut sewing. Some folks advocate using pins and at any given time are holding the fabric taut up to the next upcoming pin. And Elaina often relies on heavy pin use (or, in her words, she “pin[s] the goober out of it”) instead of taut sewing.
But not everyone feels this way. Mrs. Mole, for example, said that there were no pins used on the sewing factory floor – not only did she do taut sewing without pins, but she even used to use her fingernails to trim threads.
Now, my second idea - “helping” the fabric move through the machine – wasn’t quite so well received. To put it mildly! ;)
Most everyone who commented on this gave it a big: N.O.
The two exceptions were Becky, who sometimes does it a little bit, but is extremely careful to keep her pressure smooth and even, and Linda, who only does it to help the machine get over bulky seams. Speaking of bulky seams, has anyone ever tried presser foot spacers to help with bulky seams? They are pictured above, and I found them at this website.
And the reasons for not pulling or pushing on your fabric included: breaking needles flying everywhere (What? You don’t enjoy a bit of danger and excitement in your sewing room?) and pitting your needle plate. I have also heard that, if your machine is computerized, you could pull it out of alignment. I’m not sure if that applies to 100% mechanical machines too or not…
So, my take-away from all this is that I am going to try to deliberately use taut sewing more often, and I am going to try very hard to NOT control the fabric’s movement through the machine… Wish me luck! :)
Thanks again to everyone who took the time to leave a comment! You guys rock! :)