Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Pockets can be decorative, functional, or both. Side seam pockets are functional, patch pockets are decorative as well as functional.

In-seam Pockets are the easiest to make. They are attached to the garment's side seams. They can be cut as part of the garment front and back, or cut from a separate pattern piece and stitched to the seam. For heavy or bulky fabrics, cut the pocket pieces from lining fabric. All sewing is done on the inside of the garment.

1. For pockets cut separately, sew the pocket pieces to the fronts and backs, right sides together. Press seam allowances toward the pockets.

2. Pin garment front to garment back, matching markings.

3. Stitch the seam and around the pocket in one step. Reinforce at the corners. Press seam allowances flat.

4. Turn the pocket toward garment front. Clip the back seam allowance below and above the pocket to enable the seam allowances to be pressed open.

5. Add seam finishes, if needed.

Patch Pockets are stitched to the outside by hand or machine. If making a pair of patch pockets, it is important that they be the same shape and size, as well as sewn to the garment evenly.

1. Turn under the top edge of the pocket 1/4", press, and stitch.

2. Turn the hem to the right side along the fold line and pin.

3. Use stay-stitching around the pocket on the seam line, starting at the fold line of the hem. This is used as a guide for turning and pressing edges and corners.

4. Trim and grade seam allowances. Turn hem right side out and press.

5. Use stitching line as a guide to fold seam allowances under. Press.

6. Stitch the hem edge to the pocket by hand or machine.

7. Pin pocket to garment along markings. Topstitch in place. Reinforce corners with backstitching or triangular stitching.


Used on overlapping edges such as waistbands, pockets, center fronts and backs, collars and cuffs. Decorative as well as functional, buttons are strong fasteners that can withstand pulling and strain.

Buttonholes are always completed first, then the buttons are sewn onto the garment. Buttons are sewn with a double strand of thread. Use heavy-duty thread for extra strength on heavier fabrics.

To determine buttonhole length, add the diameter of the button, the thickness of the button, and 1/8" to allow for fabric thickness.

Before sewing buttonholes on a garment, sew a sample on a piece of scrap fabric. Make sure you have enough bobbin thread to finish the buttonhole before you begin. Follow the instructions in the sewing machine manual to stitch the buttonhole. Be careful when cutting the buttonhole with small, sharp scissors. Cut from the center to each end, being careful not to cut through stitching.

Hand Stitching

Use hand stitches to finish garment hems and sew on fasteners. Some hand stitches are also used to baste, reinforce, or decorate as well as mend.

Either make a small knot or take two small stitches on top of each other on the wrong side to secure the beginning and end stitches.

Basting stitch: This is temporary stitching to mark or hold fabric layers together. It is removed after permanent stitching is finished. Even basting is used to hold seams together for fitting or until permanent stitching is complete. These stitches are about 1/4 " long and even on both sides of the fabric. Uneven basting is used for marking or to hold a hem in place for stitching. Sew 1" stitches on the top side of the fabric and 1/4" stitches on the bottom. You can take several stitches then pull the needle through.

Running stitch: The easiest hand stitch, running stitch is used to gather, ease, tuck, quilt, or sew seams that get little or no strain. Use tiny, even stitches 1/16" to 1/4 " long.

Backstitch: This is the strongest hand stitch and replicates machine stitching. Use it to repair seams and securely fasten thread ends. Use tiny running stitches, beginning by inserting the needle at the end of the previous stitch. Bring the needle out one stitch length in front of the thread. Keep inserting the needle in the end of the last stitch and bringing it out ahead of the thread. The underside stitches will be twice as long as the upper side stitches.

Slip stitch: Used to attach one folded edge to another piece of fabric such as hems, linings, trims and patch pockets. Slip the needle inside the fold for 1/4", pick up one or two threads of the other fabric, then continue by stitching through the fold and then the other fabric.

Lock Hemming stitch: Used to hold hems in place, this stitch is more difficult to pull out than the traditional hemming stitch. Take a tiny stitch in the hem, hold the thread back and away from the hem, then take a small stitch in the garment. When pulled smooth, the thread should "lock", making it more difficult to pull out. Space stitches about 3/8" apart.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


A casing holds a drawstring or a piece of elastic inside a closed tunnel of fabric. Usually used at necklines, waistlines, sleeve edges, or hemlines to help control fullness. Garments with casings are easily adjustable for good fit. Casings are frequently used in easy-to-sew patterns since they are easier to construct than cuffs or waistbands. Casings are also used in home decoration when sewing some curtain styles. The curtain rod goes through the casing before hanging the curtain.

A self-casing is constructed in a similar manner as as hem. Fold over the edge of a garment and stitch in place.

How to Sew a Self-Casing

1. Turn under raw edge 1/4" and press.

2. Turn casing to the inside of the garment along the fold line. Pin in place. Press outer edge of the casing.

3. Stitch close to the inner, pinned edge. Leave an opening to insert elastic as directed in the pattern guide sheet. If a header line is indicated, stitch along that line. Once elastic is inserted, adjusted and secured, sew the casing opening closed.


Darts are triangular folds of fabric stitched to a point. They are used to give shape to fitted clothing and are another method of controlling fullness. Darts should point toward the fullest part of the body. Well sewn darts usually end about 1" from the curve to which they point. Single-pointed and double-pointed darts are the two basic types.

How to Sew Darts
Single-pointed Darts
1. Fold with right sides together, matching marked stitching lines. Pin the small dot markings together and put one pin exactly at the point.

One pin at the point

Pin through the dot on one side,

Then match the dot on the other side.

Do the same for the second set of dots.

2. Stitch from the wide end to the point. The last 2 or 3 stitches should be as close to the fold line as possible to create a sharp point without bubbles. DO NOT BACKSTITCH. Leave a longer thread tail than usual.

3. Tie the threads using a pin to slide the knot as close as possible to the point of the dart. Trim thread close to the knot.

Double-pointed Darts
1. Start at the center and stitch to the point on each side. The books say to overlap the stitching lines at the center about 1". Clip the dart at the center (widest part) and clip again as needed along the fold so it can be flat.

All darts should be pressed before crossing with another seam. Press the dart flat, then use a tailor's ham to press vertical dart folds toward the center and horizontal dart folds toward the bottom. For wide darts or for darts in heavy fabric you should follow the pattern guide sheet.

Gathering and Easing Fabric

Gathering and easing are used to control fullness along a seam line.
Gathers: soft folds of fabrics formed by pulling up basting stitches to make the fabric fit into a smaller space.

An area to be gathered is marked on the pattern with "gather" or "gathering line" on the seam line. Notches or dots mark the beginning and end of the area to be gathered. Usually gathers are 1/2 or 1/3 of the original width. It takes more yardage to create full gathers in sheer or lightweight fabrics than in heavier ones.

How to Gather
1. Adjust stitch length to basting stitch (6-8 stitches per inch)

2. Stitch the first row of basting next to the seam line in the seam allowance. DO NOT BACKSTITCH. Leave long thread ends. For gathering long areas, start and stop stitching at the seams.

3. Stitch the second row of basting 1/4 inch away in the seam allowance. DO NOT BACKSTITCH. Leave long thread ends.

HELPFUL HINT: Tie each set of threads together to make it easier to pull the right ones at the right time.

4. Pin the fabric edges, right sides together, matching all pattern markings and seams.

5. Pull up both bobbin threads from one end. Gently slide the fabric along the threads to gather half the section. Repeat from the other end until the gathered section is the proper length.

6. Wrap the threads in a figure 8 around a pin to secure.

7. Distribute the gathers evenly. Pin in place about every 1/2 inch.

8. Stitch with standard stitching along the seam line, gathered side up. Make sure the gathers are even on both sides of the needle to keep folds from catching in the seam.

For heavy fabrics, you can zigzag over a narrow cord held 1/4 inch inside the seam line. Pull cord together. Stitch along seam line. Remove the cord.

Easing: most often used at shoulder seams, sleeves, yokes, and waistbands. The most common eased seam is a set-in sleeve. The finished seam should be smooth, without any gathers or tucks.

Pin Basting: if there is only a slight difference in the fabric lengths, pin baste the right sides of the fabric together with the longer side on top. Place pins every 1/2". This keeps the fabric from shifting. Stitch with the longer side on top, gently easing in extra fullness as you stitch.

How to Ease Stitch

To ease in fullness, use one or two rows of ease stitching. Use the same technique as for gathering.

1. Stitch close to the seam line with long machine stitches extending stitching slightly beyond markings, leaving long thread tails.

2. Stitch a second row 1/4" away in the seam allowance for set-in sleeves.

3. Pin fabric with right sides together and eased side up.

4. Pull up thread between markings and distribute fullness evenly.

5. Stitch with standard stitching along seam line, leaving a smooth seam.