I’m a bit of a dorky geek when it comes to sewing and pattern making (I’m actually probably a dorky geek when it comes to a lot of things). Here are a few of my favorite sewing related things.
The Double Needle
One of my favorite sewing related things is the Zwillings Nadel – or, if you prefer, the double needle. (Zwillings nadel is German for double needle.) A double needle is the perfect solution to hemming anything knit (or with any amount of stretch) if you don’t happen to own a machine that can do a cover stitch. I use them all the time to hem t-shirts, ribbed knit shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, even jeans with an excessive amount of spandex.
Any domestic machine can use a double needle. How they work is with two top threads and one bottom thread. This creates a zig-zag in the bottom thread that allows for stretch. I often use a double needle and a stretch stitch at the same time. I find the stretch stitch produces a result with minimal puckering.
My trick for hemming most anything, but especially things that require a double needle, is to cut after I sew.
First, mark a nice clear line for your hem on the right side of your garment using wax or some kind of marking pen that will disappear when heat is applied. Press the hem along the line you have marked. Do not trim any excess away. Next, using a double needle, stitch up an inch from your pressed line, or whatever is your desired hem depth. Once you have sewn, trim the excess fabric away. Try to trim as close to your zig zag bobbin line as you can. The ziz zag will keep anything from raveling and fraying if that is a concern though many tightly knit fabrics won’t really fray (Sweaters and some loosely woven ribbed t-shirt knit will of course). I press the hem at this point as well to get rid of any puckering. If the hem is still a bit wavy, try spritzing with water and pressing dry with a press cloth.
come in varying widths, meaning the two needles can be further or closer together. I keep a variety of widths around. They are also sized like regular needles, 12/80, 14/90, etc.
Bias Tape Makers
Bias tape makers are one of the most brilliant inventions in ‘modern’ sewing. If you don’t own any, buy a set now. They are these cool little devices that you feed a strip of fabric into on one end and get a beautifully uniformly pressed bias tape out the other end. They come in varying sizes – ¼” ½” 3/8”, and on. I use bias to bind necklines and armholes. Pretty much every single slip we made on Boardwalk Empire has a bias bond neck and armhole.
Ever tried to turn a very thin spaghetti strap? It can seem virtually impossible. Unless, you have this really cool thin metal rod with a hook on one end. Insert the loop turner all the way through your strap and hook the little crochet hook into the seam allowance at the very end of your strap. Then pull gently from the other side, turning the strap inside itself. Once you are able to pull the hook through the other end, you can hand turn the remaining part of the strap.
A simple, 1/8” or ¼” round wooden dowel is very useful for pressing belts, straps, and ties that you are bagging out. Put the dowel inside your strap or tie before you have flipped it so you can press open your seam allowances from the wrong side. This will give you much nicer and crisper finished edge when you turn them right side out.
These simple, inexpensive tools will not only help you achieve cleaner more professional looking results, but will also (I think, anyway) make your sewing life a little easier.