Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tank Top Top (part 2)

How're your Tank Top Tops coming so far?  Did you get your fabric cut?  Hems finished all neat and tidy like?  (If you're new here and have no idea what I'm talking about, go check out Part 1: materials, measuring, and a tidy little hem and then come and rejoin us.  It's okay.  We'll wait for you.)   

Part 2--Today in Part 2 we will cover: marking your sewing machine for exact seam allowances, sewing your gathering stitches and side seams, and distributing your gathers evenly.

And remember, all seam allowances are "lined up with the edge of my presser foot" (i.e. between 1/4" and 3/8") unless otherwise stated.

Ready to move ahead?  Me too!

Marking Your Sewing Machine
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Before we can get started, we need to do some prep work.

For our gathers we're going to be making three rows of stitches, one row each at 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4".  In order to be sure you're sewing at exactly 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4", you can either move your needle, follow pre-marked guidelines on your sewing machine, or make your own guidelines.  I was a pro at moving the needle on the sewing machines I learned on, but, to be completely honest, I can never remember how to do it on my own machine.  (To Mom- There is no need to leave a comment telling me to look it up in my manual.  I am fully aware that that's an option.  I just have no desire to do it. And I love you. -Katie)  And since some of you may not know how to move your sewing machine needle, I thought I'd teach you a little trick that I really prefer anyway.

 Grab your tape measure and some Scotch tape.

(Mine does happen to actually be Scotch brand tape, but that's not necessary.  I do, however, recommend including some tape with the matte finish in your sewing kit since you can write on this kind of tape with a pencil.  It doesn't matter for this particular project, but it can really come in handy sometimes.  Just a tip for later.)

 First, move the hand wheel on your sewing machine until the needle is all the way down.

Get a piece of your tape.

Fold both of the ends under just a little (so you won't hate yourself and get angry trying to pick at those stupid jagged edges later when you go to take the tape off your sewing machine.  I have done that a lot.  And I don't recommend it.)

Very lightly (as in, just barely) press your piece on your tape measure, lining up the edge of your tape with the 1/4" mark on your tape measure.

Slide your tape measure onto the base of your sewing machine, lining up your inch mark with the needle.

Keeping your tape measure in place, press your Scotch tape in place on your sewing machine base.

Still holding your Scotch tape in place, pull the tape measure away.  Voila!  You now have a clear marking to follow for sewing your 1/4" line.

Just be sure you line your fabric up with the inside (left side) of your Scotch tape.  :)

Repeat these steps to move your tape to make a 1/2" and 3/4" marking.  So easy! 

Sewing Your 3 Rows of Gathering Stitches
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Now we're ready to start on our gathers!

First, make your stitch length about twice as long as it usually is.  On my sewing machine that means I usually set it at 4 for gathers.

At the top edge of your skirt piece, sew three rows of gathering stitches, one row each at 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4", making sure not to back-stitch.  Do this for both of your skirt pieces.

Also, be sure to leave fairly long threads at the beginning and ends of your three rows of gathering stitches.  This will help make the gathering process a lot easier later on.

Keeping your thread ends long increases the chances that you'll accidentally get them tangled.  Be sure to hold your thread ends out of the way as you stitch your second and third rows of gathering stitches.

If you're using a lightweight cotton like I did, your three rows of stitches should look about like this.  There may be some slight bunching, but your fabric will more or less still lay pretty flat.

Sewing Your Side Seams
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Finished all three rows of gathering stitches?  On both skirt pieces?  Okay, then we're ready to move on. 

But first, change the stitch length on your sewing machine so it's back to normal now.

Lay your skirt pieces on top of each other, right sides together.

Be sure to line up the bottom hems of the skirt pieces as exactly as you can.  This will help your top look more professional.

Pin as needed.

Stitch side seams together, being careful to keep the thread ends from your gathering stitches out of the way.  (Be sure you changed your stitch length so it's back to normal!)

Press your side seams open with your iron.

Now we're going to do a quick edge finish on those raggedy seam allowances.

Change the stitch setting on your machine to a zigzag stitch.

Line up the edge of your seam allowance with the needle guide on your sewing machine (that little line on your presser foot that lines up with the needle when you're sewing a straight stitch).

Making sure to back-stitch at beginning and end, sew a zigzag stitch almost all the way along all of the seam allowances on your side seams.  DO NOT STITCH OVER YOUR GATHERING STITCHES.  Just sew your zigzag edge finishing stitch up to your gathering stitches, back-stitch there, and stop.  Just trust me on this.

Since the hem will receive a lot of wear and tear, when sewing your zigzag stitch, back-stitch a few extra times at the bottom to reinforce your fabric there.


Pinning Your Skirt Piece To Your Tank Top
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Now that your skirt piece is fully constructed and you've sewn your 3 rows of gathering stitches, you're ready to begin easing your skirt into your top. 

That just means we're going to make your skirt top the same width as the bottom opening on your tank top... since it's obviously a little bigger right now.  :)

In order to do that, we're going to need some clear markings at the center front and center back of your skirt piece and your tank top.

 So fold your skirt top in half lengthwise and make a very small snip at the top of your center fold, being (very) careful not to snip through your gathering stitches.

Do the same with the bottom edge of your tank top.

When I folded my tank top in half lengthwise, the center front and center back didn't quite come to the same place.  If yours does that too, don't worry.  Don't force them to match up.

Just (very) carefully make a small snip at the center of each.

This should give you an idea of how deep to make your snips.  They shouldn't be so tiny that they're hard to find, but they also shouldn't be so big that they weaken the integrity of your material.

With right sides together, carefully match up your side seams and pin together at the seam.  Do this for both side seams.

Next, match up the markings (the snips you made) at center front.

Pin together, making sure not to pin through/into your rows of gathering stitches.  Do the same with your center back markings.

Making Your Gathers & Distributing Them Evenly
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 After pinning your tank top to your skirt pieces at the side seams, center back, and center front, your top should look something like this.  We're ready to begin making those gathers.

Now, back to your gathering threads.  Each end of your rows of gathering stitches will have a total of 6 thread ends sticking out--3 top threads and 3 bobbin threads.

Carefully separate the 3 bobbin (or bottom) threads from the 3 top threads.  Pull all 3 bobbin threads together and anchor them by wrapping them in a figure 8 pattern around the pin (the pin already at your side seam, holding your skirt and tank top together).  Repeat with the 3 other sets of thread ends.  (There will be two "sets" of thread ends at each side seam.)

 Holding your rows of gathering stitches between the thumb and index finger of your right hand,...

...gently pull the top threads of your gathering stitches with your left hand.

You will now begin to see gathers form!  Pretty!  Typically, they tend to bunch up right next to where you're pulling on your thread ends.

Keeping a good grip on your thread ends, gently shift your gathers down until they reach your center front/back mark.  Do this in between every few pulls in order to make sure you don't have too many gathers bunch up next to your thread ends.

Continue pulling your thread ends to gather your skirt until the section of skirt you're gathering matches the width of the tank top, without your tank top needing to be stretched out or bunched up.  The corresponding portion of your tank top should just nicely lay flat across your gathered portion.

 Anchor the thread ends from your top threads on the pin at your side seam.

At this point, your gathers will be fairly unevenly distributed.


 Using your thumb and index finger, carefully arrange your gathers until they're evenly distributed across the section between the pin at your side seam and the pin at your center marking.

 Once your gathers are evenly distributed, pin your skirt and tank top together at the middle of the section...

...and then on either side.

 Repeat these steps to create even gathers for the rest of the sections around your skirt/tank top.

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Whew!  That was quite a lot of little steps!  Hang in there!  We're almost done!  Tomorrow we'll finish up by sewing our gathers in place and giving our Tank Top Top a few final touches.  And then your Tank Top Top will be ready to wear!  See you then!

1 comment:

Kathy Haynie said...

Ha ha! Thanks for the personal message. :)
Love all the pretty red pins. And thanks for the advice to make 3 rows of gathering stitches, not just one...I didn't know that trick.