Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Wednesday's Workbox (14th March)

On Sunday I talked about how beautiful the weather was here in the part of England where we live. I also mentioned that we tried to make the most of it, that bright and lovely sunny day, because we can never be sure how long the wonderful weather will last. How right I was! It has been grey and chilly again, and thoughts of spring seem like distant memories - or hopeful dreams! The laundry had to be hung indoors today, although I did give it an extra spin before I took it out of the machine, so it would dry faster.

When I sort my laundry after it has been washed, I check it over for any items that need mending. If a button has come loose I usually know about this beforehand, because the owner of the garment usually draws my attention to it, before it gets washed. But loose hems often get missed, even by the wearer, so I check for these also, along with tears and frayed seams. It's easier to repair these, if you catch them early, than letting them get worse, and, as my mams always said, you should never put off until tomorrow, what can be done today. So I aim to fix repairs in clothing as soon as I see them!

Hems are pretty easy to attend to, as long as you are reasonably proficient with a needle and thread. It's a job that you can give to younger girls, to get them familiar with the technique of sewing, since it involves only one single type of stitch, and is mostly done along a straight even piece of fabric. In my 1958 version of "Standard Processes in Dressmaking", which cost my mams 12 shillings and 6pence to buy when she was an eager young bride, there is a useful description of how to peform a simple hemming technique, and I will share it with you here.

You will need a fine needle (even if the fabric you are hemming is quite heavy, bear in mind that you aren't going to be sewing through the whole thickness on both sides) and thread which matches the main colour of the garment you are hemming. For really heavy garments, such as coats or thick cord, I wouldn't try to sew. The fabric will be too stiff and tailored, and it will be difficult to get a neat finish. See below for alternatives.

With the garment turned inside out, fold the bottom edge where the loose hem is, upwards so that the right side is facing and you have wrong side fabric turned in to face wrong side fabric. As you're repairing a garment rather than sewing it for the first time, it will be easy to see where the fold should be (how deep in width) so just follow the natural line all along the garment. If it's a big piece of hem that you are going to sew, say, longer than 6 inches, I would pin it in place to keep the fabric smooth and avoid it puckering. For a shorter length you'll probably be fine because the parts of the garment which are still hemmed will be able to hold it in place. From the right side, it should look as if the hem is sewn all around.

With the garment still turned inside out, now take your needle and insert it into the upper layer of the edge of the hem, right at the edge where it is turned inside the garment, and pull all but the last wee end of thread through. Fasten this with a few overstitches (it won't show from the outside, as you have only sewn on the side of the fabric which has been turned in to create the hem, not all the way through both thicknesses of fabric).

Now you are ready to sew the hem. Working along the garment from the right to the left (left to right if you are left handed, so that your sewing is not covered by your hand) insert the needle through the single thickness of fabric that you have turned in to create the hem, then pick up a couple of threads of the fabric you are sewing it to, just very slightly above the edge of the hem. This way the stitching won't show on the out (right) side of the garment. Now insert the needle down, through the hem edge again, and then up to pick up a couple more threads of the fabric you are sewing it to, and so on. Each stitch should be about 1/2 cm long, maximum. Try to keep them at an angle close to the edge of the hem, so that they hold it neatly. Only pick up a couple of threads of the fabric you are sewing the hem to. If you pick up more than this, the garment will have a seam of puckered fabric all along where you have sewn the hem.

If you are sewing a stretchy fabric, keep it fairly loose as you sew - don't hold it taut, or the stitches will be too loose. Don't pull the thread too tight either, or it will form a line along the garment where you have sewn. The stitches should be nearly invisible if you keep close to the edge of the hem and don't make them too large.

Finish off by overstitching on the hem side of the fold (not the garment side) and then fasten off.

You can of course buy sticky tape which can be ironed onto a garment to hold the hem in place. I do like to use this for very fine fabrics, where the stitching will be too obvious, or for thick heavy fabrics which would be difficult to sew by hand. But for most everday clothes, this simple stitching works fine. Funnily enough, the person whose hems most often get loose and need repairing is ... ME! I think that's probably because I'm quite short, so my skirts can be a wee bit too long (especially indoors, without shoes) and I may step on the hems of them when I'm walking upstairs, or kneeling, and that makes them catch and get loose. For this reason, I always carry a miniature repair kit in my handbag (purse), just in case I get caught out when we are out and about! As yet, it's never happened, but it always pays to be prepared!