Tips For Beginners: Sewing Basics

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Sewing is becoming an increasingly popular hobby these days, you can see it on TV shows and in magazines, and it’s becoming much more admirable to say to someone “Oh, I made it myself!”. However, we know it can be intimidating though to sit before a sewing machine for the first time! Starting off a project can be daunting when you’ve not tried before, and we’ve all had a fabric we didn’t want to waste or a pattern we didn’t want to ruin, so we understand feeling overwhelmed. To help completely new sewers along (or to remind our veterans who’ve picked up bad habits) we’ve got a short guide of basic sewing tips for you to keep in mind when you’re ready to get started.

 

Firstly, Safely

Sewing may not be an extreme sport exactly, but it’s good to make sure you’re safe before you start. The big three are as follows:

  • Make sure your machine is switched off when you set up, and when you’re finished using it.
  • Make sure your presser foot is down before you start sewing.
  • Make sure you’re set up on a sturdy table, and your cables are out of the way of anyone walking by!

Knowing Your Fabric

Before you start off sewing, take a look at the fabric you’re using. Different fabrics need to be handled in different way: a knitted fabric will need a ball pointed needle to ensure it doesn’t snag. Leather and denims will need much sturdier needles to ensure they don’t break in the fabric. Different fabrics also require different tensions, get to know your tension setting and adjust it for very thick or very thin fabrics. Spend a little time getting to know your fabric and how to handle it (don’t be afraid to ask when you’re buying it!)

 

Even if you’re happy with how to set up your machine for the fabric you’ve chosen, test your settings first. Once you have a tension setting, needle and stitch, take a scrap of your fabric and trial run what you’re going to do. That way if anything has been set up wrong, you won’t damage your project pieces with unpicking. This is especially useful for things like decorative stitches or button holes, that can be very difficult to unpick.

 

 

Don’t Skip The Details

It can be frustrating when you’re sewing your first big piece (or even your first little one!) and a lot of things might seem like they’re just slowing you down. Don’t be fooled!

 

Firstly, if you’re working from a pattern, make sure you read it all the way through before you begin! Ensure you have enough fabric, understand all the terms used, and know roughly what you’ll be doing. It will be easier for you from the beginning if you know what the pieces you’re cutting are and how they’re used, as well as making it less confusing for you if you take a break and come back to it later.

 

Don’t forget to mark your notches so you can match up seams – it can seem time consuming if you have a lot of notches but it’s important to be able to line your seams up perfectly, so you get nice flat joins on your finished piece. An uneven match will lower the quality of your finished piece.

 

Iron your fabric – spending time ironing might seem tedious, but working with a flat smooth fabric will give you a much more professional finish as well as making it easier for you to sew (less chance of bumps and folds in your seams). Remember to also iron your seams after they’ve been sewn, to straighten them out and create a smooth, sharp shape!

 

Backstitching at the start and ends of your seams will give your items much more stability and make them last longer. At the start of your seam, sew for about an inch and then reverse stitch back over it. Sew forward again as normal and once you reach the end, reverse stitch back over what you’ve done for another inch. A little backstitching on your seams will help stop them from breaking and splitting apart.

 

Finally, always take your pins out while you’re sewing! It can be tempting to sew right over a pin and take them all out at the end, but you run the risk of hitting one with the needle, potentially damaging your machine. It can also damage your fabric if the bent pin gets stuck in the machine and you have to tug it out!

 

 

These basic tips will make your sewing experience smoother and leave your finished projects looking smart! Don’t worry, we know there’s much more you’ll want to know about sewing from here, so don’t forget to check out our other blogs for tips and tutorials, and watch our video guides to get to know your sewing machine better. If you have a question you need answering or a project you’re proud of, like our facebook or follow us on twitter, drop us a message and we’ll get back to you!

How To Sew: Fabric Storage Boxes

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This great little project solves two problems at once – what to do with all the odds and ends of fabric you have leftover, AND where to keep the ones you don’t use to make it! Fabric baskets are a great way to put a pop of colour into your storage, and a quick and easy project anyone can manage.

Getting ready

Supplies

Fabric of choice (a stiffer fabric works best for the outside)
Interfacing (if your outer fabric will need some support!)
Thread
Card for template if required
Any decorative supplies you wish to use

Tools

Sewing machines
Scissors or rotary cutter
Ruler
Pins
Pen or pencil

Preparing the fabric

First, you’ll want to cut out your basic pieces. To make the box, simply find yourself something square, and draw around it. Add another box next to each of the 4 sides, and you’re done! 4 edges connected to the base – it should look like a big plus sign. Cut out one for your outer fabric and your inner fabric, as well as one of your interfacing if your fabrics aren’t sturdy. As I’m using quite a plain outer material, I’ve appliquéd a square of patterned fabric onto each of my box sides, for a faux patchwork feel – but you can decorate them however you like. Make sure to do it at the beginning while the fabric is flat, before you start sewing everything together!
I’ve also ironed some creases into my thicker outer fabric, to make it easier to shape later. I’ve simple folded each of the 4 outer side over the base square, and ironed along the fold.

the outside fabric with the patches sewn on, and the lining

 

To add some texture to the lining, and extend my quilt/patchwork theme, I’ve added a small flower motif scattered around the inside fabric. I’ve created these using and thread colour that closely matches the main colour of the fabric, and the flower stitch attachment foot. For this shape, I’ve set my sewing machine to a long wavy stitch on the largest circle, which produces a simple 5 petal flower.

 

embroidered detail made with the flower foot attachment

 

Sewing them up

Once your two fabrics are cut out and decorated, take them one at a time and fold it in half diagonally across the middle square. It should turn into an L-shape, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. If you’re using interfacing, work it at the same time as the outer lining. Pin the L-shape together, and sew along the two edges that lead up to the diagonal line. Once they’re secure, open the fabric up as much as you can, and then fold the fabric again in the same manner – but diagonally between the two corners you haven’t sewn up to yet.

 

the two edges to sew after folding

 

Congratulations, you should now have two boxes to work with! Place the outer fabric box inside the lining fabric box, with the right side facing each other (so the outer fabric box has RS facing out, the lining fabric box has RS facing in). Use a pencil or the ends of your scissors to poke the corner down into each other and ensure seams all line up, then pin along the top edge of the boxes. Sew a seam long 3 of the 4 edges, leaving the 4th one open to allow you to turn the box inside out.

 

leave one side open to turn the basket out

 

pulling the lining out through the open edge

 

Finishing off

Once you’ve pulled the lining out through the open top edge, iron down the 3 edges you have already sewn to flatten them out, and iron down the outer and lining fabrics of the open edge. This will make it easier to sew them together!  Slip stitch the open edge closed, and iron it out flat. It’s worth working the tip of iron right down into the bottom corners and along all the seamed edges to really bring out the shape nicely.

 

slip stitch open edge closed to finish

 

If you make one, tow, or a whole host of these, we’d love to hear about them. Why not show us some photos on our Facebook page or tweet them at our Twitter account!

How To Sew: Christmas Bauble Pockets

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It’s nearly a month ‘til Christmas, and we’re starting to feel festive! Nothing makes the festive season feel more personal than spending an evening making your own decorations, which is just what we’ve done! These cute little bauble decorations have a pocket inside to put sweets and treats in, and we think the hidden treasure inside make them twice as fun to have around!

christmas pocket baubles

 

This project is an easy one that’s great for beginners or children (with supervision of course). That’s not to say you experienced sewers won’t enjoy it of course – although these quick little baubles are simple to put together, there are endless possibilities for decorating and you can get as extravagant as you like. With accessories, cut outs, hand embroidery, fabric painting or even with some of the decorative stitch settings on your sewing machine! As well as being festive fun, these are a great use for fabric scraps, ribbon, and left over craft items and good to clear out stash leftovers. Get as creative as you can!

Getting ready

Supplies

Fabric of choice (felts or stiffer fabrics work best)

Thread

Ribbon for hanging tabs

Card for template if required

Extra ribbons, beads, fabric, felt, glitter etc. for decorating

Tools

Sewing machine

Scissors or rotary cutter

Pins

Pen or pencil

materials and supplies

Our first step is choosing the pattern! I used a simple round shape, but more vintage bauble shapes like elongated drops, stars or hearts could look lovely. You could use a mix of shapes and sizes for something a bit more fun. There are plenty of free templates on the internet if you want to try something more exciting! For this plain circle template, you can simply draw around something of the right size, about 5 inches across – I’m using the spool my ribbon came on! For other shapes, draw a template out on to some card, and cut carefully around it.

Making the baubles

On to your fabric, draw around your template – remember for each bauble you need two of the shape you’re cutting, one for the front and one for the back. Cut out the pieces and match them up into pairs. For each back piece, cut a length of ribbon 4 inches long. Fold the ribbon in half, and pin with the two ends roughly ¼ of the way down from the top of the bauble. Sew a wide zigzag over the ends of the ribbon to secure the hanging tab and stop the ends from fraying away.

Adding the tabs

Before you attach the back piece to the front piece, you’ll want to make sure any decoration that has to be sewn on is completed (if
you’re hand sewing or gluing bulky decorations such as beads or buttons on, or using fabric paints and glitter, leave these until the
end instead). A great easy decoration is to take a length of ribbon the width of the bauble, pin it across the middle and sew along the long edges in a decorative thread.

Once your front pieces are decorated, take the back pieces and pin one to each front. Because these decorations are so small, I’m using a decorative sparkly thread and am letting the stitching show – the plain sides of both fabric pieces are inside. If you have a thinner
fabric, or prefer not to have the stitching visible, have the decorated side and the tab side facing each other on the inside when you pin. (For this method, you may have to cut small notches into the edge of the fabric up to the stitching, to allow you to turn it inside out without wrinkles). When you sew around the edges, remember leave an opening about an inch down from the top of the bauble, so that you can pop your little presents inside!

Attaching the pieces

Finishing up

When the tabs, front and back are attached, simply tie off and trim your threads, iron flat if necessary, and hang them up! Once you’ve finished your baubles, they’re very versatile to use around the house – why not use them to hang sweets on your Christmas tree, or small toys for children? If you have the time, making 25 and hanging them as a wall bunting is a great alternative to a traditional advent calendar, with toys or treats in for each day! You can even make the decorations into to numbers to help kids count the days until Christmas!

hanging the baubles

Happy sewing everyone! If you make a set of these, we’d love to hear about it. Why not take some photos and post them to our Facebook page or tweet them at our Twitter account! Tell us what you used to decorate them, and how you’re using the finished thing!

Toyota Home Sewing – Website Introduction

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Recently, we changed our Home-Sewing website to make it simpler and smarter for our users. Following this big news, we thought it was about time we wrote a little bit about it so that you not only know how to use it but you also know what you can find on there…

 

Firstly, to access our site from the UK simply click on the link here and a new page will appear and look like this:

 

 

At the top of the page you will see these options:

 

1. Sign In: If you have already registered with Toyota Home-Sewing you can log straight into the site here.

2. Search: If you are looking for something in particular you can type it in this area and click the magnifying glass ie ‘needles’.

3. Sewing Machines: If you are looking to view our range of sewing machines this is the place to head to. However, please note that the only machine we sell directly through our site is “Designs For Living“. All our other sewing machines are information pages only and are sold through our dealers.

4. Accessories & Parts: When you click on this tab, you will see our impressive range of accessories. These include needles, storage, tools & consumables etc. We have tried to make it simple to find what you are looking for by placing all our accessories into  categories. However, if you are struggling to find what you are looking for, try the search bar at the top right of the page.

5. Haberdashery & Books: As part of our new site, we have introduced a new section called Haberdashery & Books. We are hoping to grow this area and if you would like to see anything in particular being sold here, please let us know on our Facebook page.

6. Overlockers: Overlockers are becoming very popular with home sewers and we know it is important to find the right one for you so we now also have a page dedicated to our wonderful range. Here, you will find a list of our overlockers along with their key features and functions.

7. Oekaki: If you hover over this Oekaki tab you will have two options : ‘OEKAKI WORLD’ and ‘OEKAKI STORE’. If you click on the Oekaki World, you will be taken to a new site that is dedicated to the world of Oekaki; including blog posts, tips and guest how to’s. If you select the Oekaki Store, a page containing all the relevant accessories for the Oekaki machine will appear. To find out more about Oekaki and what it is, click here.

8. Instruction Manuals: We understand how important it is to have access to the instruction manual if you have a question about using your sewing machine, or you’re trying to use a new feature. If you want to find our whether we have an electronic version of your sewing machine’s manual, simple visit this page. If you cannot see your machine here, please contact our spares department by emailing spares@aeuk.co.uk

9.  Movies: Sometimes it can be tricky to pick up a new sewing technique. This part of our Home Sewing website features all our videos that may help guide you through a particular task.

10. Delivery & Returns: This section applies to any purchases made on the Home Sewing UK website. It will answer some of the questions you have about delivery fees, changing an order and returning an order etc. If you have a question that isn’t answered within this section you can ask us on our Facebook page.

11. Contact: As well as asking us your questions over on Facebook and Twitter, we have a section of the site dedicated to contact us. Here, we have a contact form where you can leave your details and comments, a contact telephone number for you to call and our address for you to write into.

 

At the bottom of the page you will see these options:

12. About Us: Here, you will find out about the history of Aisin and Toyota Home Sewing.

13. Branches & Agents: We have provided a list of our branches and distributors in Europe and Central Asia. In this list you will be able to access our addresses, contact telephone numbers and email addresses.

14: Sewing Machine Buying Guide: We understand that buying a sewing machine is an investment and therefore it is important to choose the one that best suits you and what you are hoping to use it for. We have placed some useful tips into this sewing machine buying guide to help you find your perfect match.

15: Social Media Links: This part of our site is a quick way to find us on social media. We have Home Sewing accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube and we welcome you to join our communities.

16. Toyota Home Sewing Blog: This is a quick way to access our Home Sewing blog. If you don’t have the blog web address, simply click on this link and it will bring you straight on to the blog.

 

At the right of the page you will see these options:

17. Sewing Machine Buying Guide: At the right hand side of the page you will find another link to our Sewing Machine Buying Guide as mentioned in point 14.

18. Oekaki World: This is another link to take you directly to our Oekaki World blog as mentioned in point 7.

19. Community Poll: We love to hear from you and so we have placed this simple poll on our home page to learn more about you. The question currently on there is “How Old Is Your Toyota Sewing Machine” and to answer you simply select the choice that applies to you. You can also see the results above the Poll.

 

We hope this little introduction helps you to navigate around our new site easily and you enjoy looking around our new features.

 

Josie’s Sew & Tell – The Fabric Godmother

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I LOVE dressmaking! The time spent bent over my sewing machine is my time, the challenges, the mistakes (I like to call them lessons) the triumphs when you work out something new! But most of all I love it when I wear a piece of clothing that I have made and somebody walks up to me and says I love your skirt/dress/coat etc … What a feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

It is not always easy, I have never had a professional sewing lesson in my life. Everything I learnt was through trial and error (with a bit of guidance from my Mum). Nowadays the internet, especially Bloggers and YouTube, is my sewing tutor. But I think just taking a chance is the best way to learn, give it a go and see what happens.

I get my inspirations from Magazines, High street (I love Zara and H&M for fashion forward styles) and the catwalk. I often see something I like and think ‘I could make that, but better’. I am 5ft 9” and 2 sizes bigger on the bottom that the top so buying high street clothes is a bit of a nightmare. By making your own clothes you can get something that really fits and suits you.

Last year I decided to turn my passion for sewing into my job, so I set up www.fabricgodmother.co.uk a website focused on selling dressmaking fabrics, boutique patterns and essential haberdashery. There were other websites out there but many of them focused on craft fabrics rather than dressmaking. I wanted a place where everybody from beginners to experienced dressmakers could find inspiration. As well as a shop my idea is for the website and the blog (www.fabricgodmother.blogspot.com) to become a sewing community inspiring and helping others to pull out their machines and make something.

Every day I write a sewing tip which goes out to my Facebook and Twitter followers giving them quick hints that can make their lives a little easier. Take a look, you may find the answer to that question that has been bugging you for ages.

 

Here are Josie’s Top Tips:

 

  • Always challenge yourself, never put in a concealed zip before? Use one in your next project … Tip: Iron the zip flat before sewing it in, you will be able to get the needle much closer to the teeth for a more invisible finish
  • Make sure you are using the right fabric, most patterns tell you what kind of fabrics are suitable to use. Make sure you stick to fabrics with similar properties. If you are not sure ASK! I am always happy to make recommendations to my customers if they don’t know what to use.
  • Read all the instructions on the pattern before beginning. Not only that, make sure you understand them all, look up on the internet anything you are not sure about.
  • Have fun! Only sew when you are feeling upbeat. Nothing brings on the unpicker like a bad mood. If you need to, set aside time in your diary when you want to sew, make sure you have no distractions, put on the radio or your favourite music and enjoy this time to indulge in what you love doing.

(Photo showing Josie behind the sewing machine at just 9rs old)

Happy sewing,

Love Josie x

 

 

 

 

Sew Successful – Victoria Pendleton

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SEW SPEEDY…

 

This Summer the whole nation (and world) has been gripped by the Olympics & Paralympics (and we are no different)!! The last few posts on our community blog have been Olympic inspired and it seemed only right to keep this post in the theme too…

 

Victoria Pendleton, one of our 2012 Team GB “Golden Girls”, has admitted that she looks forward to switching her “Queen of the Velodrome” status to Domestic Goddess. It’s no secret that Victoria enjoys the homely comforts that we all do, and is especially fond of her sewing machine (a women of our own hearts).

 

Within her first newspaper interview after she announced her retirement from the sport, Victoria aired her excitement of getting her hands on the ‘acres of fabric’ she has been storing up at home for such a time. Dressmaking is one of her great enthusiasms and she has been quoted to have said “I bought a vintage sewing machine, the ones with a treadle, from a charity shop and I am dying to start using it properly”. And if her leg speed on the bike is anything to go by, she will be one speedy sewer!!

 

This is quite a fitting contraption for Victoria Pendleton, don’t you think!?  The 1939 “Goofybike” :

 

 

Sew Successful – Inspire A Generation

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INSPIRED .. it’s not just sport, we want the legacy to live on for sewing!!

Following on from our Olympic theme in the last post, we want to acknowledge this year’s slogan “inspire a generation” made famous by the London 2012 games. And it seems to have lived up to the aim! Since the games came to a close less than 2 weeks ago we’ve seen streets & parks full of joggers, skaters, bikers and sports clubs becoming inundated with inquiries from people who have been gripped by Olympic fever … the conversations and legacy are far from over!!

 

So, just like the olympics are “inspiring a generation“, we too are looking to inspire a generation!! We hear of a time when grandmothers and mums clothed their families and decorated homes using their inherited sewing skills and it’s no hidden statistic that today these numbers (& interest) have dwindled!! Teaching your children to sew has a greater benefit than learning a life skill; it will teach them patience, problem solving and can be used as a useful learning tool … as well as a great fun time to spend together.

 

We can also learn from their training … it’s always practice that will make you better at what you do! With practice  comes excellence and expertise. It’s a great way to teach children practice and patience! Just like running or riding a bike…it’s hard at first but once you persist it comes much more simple and achievable.

 

Sew, let’s inspire a generation and pass on the sewing legacy!!

 

 

 

For our range of sewing machines visit our site here: Toyota Home Sewing

 

 

 

 

 

Pinning on Pinterest – Helping Overcome “Sewing Block”

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Recently we’ve been enjoying posting on Pinterest and seeing all your sewing related pins on there too.

 

Sew, we thought we’d bring you some of our favourite finds and introduce you to our Toyota Home Sewing pages, and for those unfamiliar with it:  introduce you to the world of Pinterest!!

 

Pinterest is an online pin board that is used to upload, share and manage photos between users … so for those of us who love to be organised and have a hobby like sewing … IT’S GREAT!!

 

What makes it so great is that you can create customised themed boards to pin your images, videos etc to and it’s easy to get started. For us, we love the fact that we can divide up our photos into categories and then store all our favourite images in one place on the web that we can refer back to at any time, or any place!! We also love the fact that other users can see and share the images we upload so it helps us offer our Toyota Home Community a bit more in a fun and attractive way!!

 

Sometimes, just like a good writer can get “writer’s block”, we too can admittedly get “sewing block” and find we become in need of a bit of inspiration to spark it all off again, basically a “creative kick”. Pinterest has been unique at helping overcome this obstacle .. it’s just jam-packed with amazing colours, projects, images and talent!!

 

Sew, if you haven’t yet visited it why not take a little look at our page & categories and see how Pinterest can also help you.

 

To join any of our Home Sewing Community platforms just click the links below:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

 

(For more information on Pinterest we have found Wikipedia helpful, here’s the link. )

 

Sew Arty … Bringing Banksy Back?!

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It seems we aren’t the only ones preparing our bunting for the Jubilee celebrations … this young child has popped up with his sewing machine crafting some Union Jack bunting on the wall of a street in London.  

 

Earlier this week, this very ordinary high street awoke to find the graffiti fairy had made a special visit  that night, transforming the bare wall to a new hot tourist destination. It has also caused quite a stir in the media, social and art world, igniting speculation over who did the work and what it relates too. 

 

The question is: is this the latest work of British street artist Banksy?

 

There are a lot of tell-tale signs to immediately associate it to the typical kind of works famously known of Banksy across the world…The distinctive stencilling technique strategically placed and composed that subjectively offers a social commentary to the more thoughtful viewer!

 

Whoever the “spray and run” piece belongs to we just love it … we love art, we love sewing, we love sewing machines and we love Toyota Home Sewing!!