Let’s Get Organized: Setting Up the Ultimate Sewing Center

When I got married, I brought more sew mg paraphernalia into our home than clothing and furniture combined. I had zippers in one place, buttons scattered in other places, fabric shoved into boxes, bags, and suitcases, and pressing equipment I had never used (the movers discovered it under the bed). With all this, I was still rushing off to the fabric store for thread, zippers, and buttons, even though I knew I had what I needed... somewhere.

The ideas in this section are what I used to get my own house (and sewing room) in order. You may think it a bit compulsive. But if your work area looks like mine after a few hours of sewing, you’ll thank yourself for spending some time organizing and inventorying your sewing supplies. This system works for me, and I hope it will work for you. Think of it as an idea smorgasbord: use what you like and leave the rest.


If your fabric stockpile keeps growing, it’s probably time to get your fabric organized or, at least, manageable.

First, pull out all your fabric from drawers, closets, boxes, and bags and take a look at it. Surely some of it would be better off given to a charity, sold at a neighbor’s garage sale, or given to a friend. I know my tastes have changed over the years, and since I have found a palate of colors that best suits me, I have been able to contain my fabric to a few drawers in the cutting table.

Organize fabric by season (linens together, wools together, etc.). To help with your ward robe planning, put blouse weights that work with a particular suiting in close proximity. Linings, interfacings, swim wear, dress weights, sweater, and craft materials should all have easily accessible, but separate, homes.

While taking inventory of your fashion fabric, cut 2” x 2” (5 cm x 5 cm) swatches of each. Staple swatches on a 3” x 5” (7.5 cm x 12.5 cm) card, and note the width and yardage on hand. If you have lining to match, swatch and staple it to the same card, noting yardage (ill. 1). To help in wardrobe planning, take the cards shopping with you, and add only those fabrics to your inventory that coordinate with what you already have. Store cards in a recipe file, by fabric category.

HINT: Until I reorganized my fabric, my inter facing was crammed into a large shopping bag. I never knew what type or weight was in the bottom of the bag. Then I noticed interfacing is generally wrapped in a plastic instruction sheet. I thought. Why not make a plastic bag out of the instruction sheet by zigzagging or stapling the edges together? This way, the instructions are there for reference, and the extra scraps are neatly folded and put in the bag for future use (ill. 2).

Inventory your buttons, zippers, trims, laces, and elastic by putting them in large Ziploc® bags or see-through shoe boxes. This way, you can check your inventory before making a trip to the fabric store.

It’s not as difficult as it seems to get rid of outdated or outgrown patterns. Organize them by garment category (dresses, suits, blouses, etc.). I found three-tiered wire baskets at a discount store which hold about 100 patterns each (ill. 3). One tier holds top patterns; the next, dresses and suits; the other, pants and skirt patterns. When I need a new outfit, or want to make that favorite pair of pants again, I don’t have to riffle through all the other patterns to find the one for the job.

ill. 1 Staple swatches on an index card, noting width and yardage.

== Wiki Sewing ==

Sewing -- Troubleshooting and Problem Solving

Sewing can be a very enjoyable hobby. But when you feel like you're spending most of your time fighting with your sewing machine, have no fear. Your sewing machine doesn't have to be your worst enemy. In this section, you'll learn why sewing problems happen and how to solve them when they occur.

Basic Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

  • Problems w/ Stitching
  • Clunking Noises
  • Separating Fabric
  • Difficulties w/ Threading a Needle
  • Pieces that Don't Fit Together
  • Purchase Manuals
  • Testing Fiber Content

Basic Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

As with anything related to your sewing machine, your sewing machine manual is the best resource for solving machine problems. If you don't have your manual, the following checklist can help you solve many different types of problems.

• Rethread the sewing machine. Always thread the sewing machine with the presser foot up. Make sure that the thread is running through all the guides on the machine.

• Rethread the bobbin case. You should use the correct bobbin for your sewing machine. When threading the bobbin, it needs to be evenly wound. After the bobbin is in place, the thread must go through all of the guides. Still having problems? Flip the bobbin over so the thread is feeding off the bobbin from a different direction.

• Change your needle. Is the needle worn or bent? The sewing machine needle should be changed at any sign of stitch problems. Be sure to use a needle that's appropriate for the fabric and thread that you're using. An incorrect type of needle can cause sewing machine problems and fraying thread. Refer to your sewing machine manual to know the proper way to replace a sewing machine needle and the proper kind of needle for your machine.

Note: Avoid bent needles by allowing the feed dog to feed the fabric under the presser foot. Never push or pull the fabric while the machine is running.

• Check the placement of your sewing machine needle. The needle should be seated properly all the way up so that the thread follows the groove in the needle because the needle must work in unison with the bobbin thread.

• Clean and oil your machine. Regular removal of lint and oiling as instructed in your manual are important to keeping a sewing machine functioning properly.

Follow the machine care information in your sewing machine manual.

Note: If you don't have your sewing machine manual Google for how you might be able to get a copy. Or use online Forums to ask for help – these REALLY help!

FAQ--How do I know if it's worthwhile to have my machine repaired or if I should just buy a new one?

Find a reputable sewing machine repair shop and get an estimate on how much it will cost to repair your machine. Sewing guilds and fabric stores can usually lead you to reputable repair shops. Consider if the advanced options on a new sewing machine would be more helpful to you with your sewing project than your old machine. Then make your decision.

Problems with Stitching

There are times when your sewing machine produces stitches that don't look the way you want them to look. This section will help you determine how you can fix the problem. You can also refer to your manual to learn how to make the correct adjustments to your machine.


The photo on the right shows what can result from incorrect tension settings. Before you change the tension settings:

• Check to make sure you're using the correct needle.

• Be sure that the machine is properly threaded, both the upper threading and the bob bin. Always thread the machine with the presser foot up so that the upper tension regulator is released and it accepts the thread.

• Test that the tension discs are engaging by putting the presser foot down and gently pulling the needle thread to the rear of the machine. You should feel a difference in resistance between when the presser foot is down and when it's up.

TIP--Remove Incorrect Stitching: As tempting as it may be to just stitch over problem stitches, take the time to remove loops and tangles before you continue sewing. You'll have stronger stitches in the end and less chance of the malfunctioning stitches creating more problems.

SKIPPED STITCHES: Skipped stitches are usually related to a needle problem.

Changing the type of needle if you're sewing a different kind of fabric will solve the problem. If you've been sewing the same fabric and start skipping stitches, the needle may be bent and should be changed.

HOLES IN THE FABRIC: Holes and snags that appear between the stitches in the fabric are caused by the needle shaft being too thick for the fabric you're sewing. Change to a smaller needle and a different type of point on the needle to solve the problem.


This common problem has simple solutions. If your machine sews in one spot and no stitches are forming or if it won't go for ward after you finish backstitching, try these problem solvers.

• If the problem happens every time you backstitch, consider having a scrap of fabric butted to the end of the seam. Trim away the scrap after you've sewn the seam.

• Clean the lint out of the machine regularly. A buildup of lint in the bob bin area of the machine can prevent the feed dogs from moving forward.

• Rethreading your machine with the presser foot up and follow the instructions in your machine manual.

• Replace the sewing needle.


Puckered stitches can be solved by adjusting the stitch length to a longer stitch length. If that fails or you're using shear, silky, or slippery fabric, sew the fabric with a layer of gift wrapping tissue paper or stabilizer holding the fabric taut front and back.


Almost anyone who has ever operated a sewing machine has experienced sewing a machine stitch and the bobbin thread just creates long loops of thread. This certainly doesn't create a strong stitch. Surprisingly, the problem is usually the upper threading.

Refer to the list or you can also try turning the spool of thread occasionally so it's coming off the spool in a different direction.

Clunking Noises

If your machine starts making clunking noises, don't panic, but do stop sewing. Sewing machines have a lot of moving parts, so problems can happen. Consider the noise as a warning and prevent damage by stopping to check things out.

• Did you thread the machine just before the noises started? If so, double-check that you've threaded the machine correctly.

• Is the bobbin seated properly and is it the correct bobbin for your sewing machine? Rethread with the correct bobbin.

• Is the needle bent or worn and all the way up in proper position? Replace the needle any time you're in doubt.

• Has the machine been cleaned and lint removed regularly? Those noises may be a reminder that you're jamming the feeders with lint. Stop and clean the machine.

• If you have tried all of the above and your machine is still making unusual noises, take it to a repair shop. A gear or part may have loosened or it may need another type of repair.

Separating Fabric

A seam that allows the fabric to separate, leaving a gap between the two sides, is probably not going to be very strong. Here are some ways to make your stitches more durable.

• Shorten the stitch length.

Smaller stitches may draw the fabric tighter together.

• Apply more pressure to the presser foot to hold the fabric tighter in place. This adjustment should be explained in your machine manual.

• Are the upper thread and bobbin thread even in the seam? Adjust the thread tension as described in your sewing machine manual.

TIP--How to Avoid Popped Crotch Seams on Pants: Sew both legs first and then sew the entire crotch seam to join the legs. Sew again 1/8 inch inside the first row of stitching on the seam allowance to reinforce the seam. Trim the seam and apply a seam finish to keep the seam strong through many launderings.

Difficulties with Threading a Needle

It may seem difficult to thread a sewing machine needle because the needle is stationery. However, you can use some of the same easy methods as you would for threading a hand-sewing needle.

• White behind the needle makes the eye of the needle easier to see. Painting the area of the presser foot shank behind a sewing machine needle with corrective fluid like you might use to correct a printed typo makes seeing the needle eye easier.

• Before you thread the needle, cut the thread at an angle with sharp scissors.

• Use a needle threader.

• Stiffen the thread with beeswax or saliva.

Note: Many new sewing machines have an automatic needle threader option, and some sewing machine companies offer handheld sewing machine needle threaders.

Visit local sewing machine dealers to find what's available for your sewing machine.

Pieces that Don't Fit Together

Almost everything you sew is going to require that you sew pieces together. Having the pieces sewn together properly will affect the final fit and appearance of the garment.

• Fitting pieces together starts at the layout and cutting stage. If the fabric and pattern are not smooth when you're laying them out, the pieces will be distorted from the desired shape and size.

• Sewing accurate and consistent seam allowances affects the size of pieces as you continue to join pieces. A 1/8-inch difference may not seem like a big difference until you've sewn six panels of a skirt, with 4/8-inch seams instead of the 5/8-inch seams as needed for the pattern. This can affect the size of a waistband, causing it not to fit properly.

• Some pieces need to be eased in order for them to fit together. Easing is done with rows of basting stitches to draw the edges of the fabric closer together. Easing doesn't have any tucks or gathers.

TIP--Use a tape measure and check the seam guides to be sure they're accurate. Remember that if you change the needle position of your sewing machine, the seam guide will be affected.

Obtaining Manuals

You can purchase a manual or a copy of a manual for almost any older machine from sources other than the manufacturer. The following list is a source to purchase manuals directly from sewing machine manufacturers. Have your machine's model number handy, if possible, when trying to track down a manual.

Manufacturers | Company Web site | Phone

  • Baby Lock-Tacony www.babylock.com 800-422-2952
  • Bernina USA www.berninausa.com 800-405-2739
  • Brother Company www.brother.com 800-284-4357
  • Elna www.elna.com 800-848-3562
  • Husquavarna Viking www.husqvarnaviking.com 800-446-2333
  • Janome www.janome.com 800-631-0183
  • Pfaff www.pfaff.com 800-997-3233
  • Riccar www.riccar.com 800-995-9110
  • Sears Kenmore www.kenmore.com 800-366-7278
  • Simplicity Sewing Machines www.simplicitysewing.com 800-822-6691
  • Singer Company www.singerco.com 800-474-6437
  • White Sewing Machines www.whitesewing.com 800-446-2333

Test the Fiber Content

Many bargain tables and fabric remnants don't have the bolt end information that tells you the fabric's fiber content. Don't despair-you can get a good idea of what the fibers are by doing a burn test, which will help you know how to care for the fabric.

No special equipment is needed to do a burn test. Always use caution and have water readily available when doing a burn test.

Hold a small piece of fabric with tweezers over a sink. Gently bring a match flame to the edge of the scrap of fabric, and pay attention to the smell when the fiber burns.

Burn Test

Burn Test | Fiber Burn Results

Acetate or triacetate Catches the flame and burns quickly. The melt of the fibers is a brittle, black bead. Produces a vinegar odor.

Acrylic Catches the flame and burns quickly, producing a sputtering flame. The melted fibers are hard, black, irregular beads. Produces a bitter, irritating odor.

Cotton or linen As soon as they make contact with the flame, these fibers burn. They burn very quickly and leave a light, wispy ash. Produces an odor like burning paper.

Nylon Burns evenly with a blue and orange flame. Melts into a hard, gray-brown to black bead. Produces a celery odor.

Polyester Burns with an orange flame and sputters as it burns.

The melt produces a shiny, hard, round bead. Produces a sweet odor.

Rayon Burns quickly and leaves a very slight ash. Produces an odor similar to burning leaves.

Silk Usually burns, but not with a steady flame. Produces an ash that's easily crumbled. Produces an odor similar to singed hair.

Wool Produces a steady flame but is difficult to keep burning.

Produces an odor similar to singed hair.

<<== Wiki Sewing cont. ==>>


Your cutting area can be as simple as a cardboard cutting board on a bed or dining room table, or as fancy as a cutting table de signed specially for the area or room you sew in.

Some cutting tables fold down from the wall, then fold back up, out of the way, when not in use. The top of my cutting table is made of heavy plywood covered with a formica-type laminate. It rests on two chests of drawers my family was ready to donate to charity. I use the space between the chests for storing a tall wastebasket (ill. 4), which I push fabric and pattern scraps into while cutting. The space could be used just as easily for file cabinets or pattern storage.

If at all possible (alas, I am not so lucky), the cutting table should be placed in the center of the room for easy access to all four sides. If it's also within reach of the sewing ma chine, you can swing around and use the cut ting table as a desk, a place to put cut pattern pieces, or a drawing board.

ill. 2 Store extra interfacing in a bag made out of the plastic instruction sheet.

ill. 3 Three-tiered wire basket holds patterns organized by garment category.


Proper lighting is important and easy to install. A quick trip around the lighting department of your local hardware or discount store will give you some great ideas, such as track lighting, fluorescent lights, or gooseneck lamps that attach to the edge of your tabletop. While you are there, you may want to look for shelving, pegboard, and bulletin board. I used rubber-coated wire shelving at one end of the room to hold project bins (ill. 5). More wire shelving is used as a garment rack for projects in progress. I use a pegboard to hold shears, thread, embroidery hoops, and other sewing odds and ends (ill. 6).

Because I spend so much time in my sewing room, I decorated it in soft, comfortable colors. Music and a phone are close by.


Use a bulletin board or a blank wall over or near your sewing machine to tack up pattern instructions or notes and clippings. A notion caddy to one side of your machine can hold extra bobbins, pins, threads, and presser feet within convenient reach. Some machines come with an accessory box for this purpose. Finally, tape a large Ziploc bag to your sewing table to hold tissue pattern pieces (ill. 7).

HINT: After removing the tissue pattern piece from the fabric, fold tissue so the name of the pattern piece and the pattern number can be seen through the bag. This way you will not have to fish around and unfold every pattern piece in the bag to find the one you are looking for.

ill. 4 Cutting table supported by two chests of drawers.

ill. 5 Rubber-coated wire shelving holds project bins.

ill. 6 Pegboard holds thread, hoops, and other sewing odds and ends.

ill. 7 Tape Ziploc bag to sewing table to hold pattern pieces.


Tape or pin another Ziploc® bag to the end of the ironing board or pressing table to store press cloths. Position one or more shelves over the ironing board or pressing table to hold your tailor’s ham, sleeve board, pressing mitt, and other pressing essentials. If you don’t have room for a shelf, find a large, flat basket or bin to store pressing accessories under the ironing board or pressing table.

HINT: If you use a press for most of your sewing, have a travel iron handy. You will put it to good use with the press and have it to take along on vacation or a business trip.


Meet our authors…

Sandy Berina

Orinda, California

How did Sandy start sewing? All the girls in her school had to fake one hour of sewing and one hour of cooking every day for five years. She said she didn’t mind because she loved to sew. School is where she learned the basics. But she has taken sewing past the basics.

Sandy’s friends are artists and clothing designers, many of whom have lofts or shops in the fashionable areas of the Bay Area ( Calif.). Her friends have helped her think creatively with her sewing and have shared many of their professional shortcuts and finishing techniques. She has incorporated them into her latest guide, web site and video, Power Sewing (Ways to Make Fine Clothes Fast), and in her blog, “Sew with Flair.” ( Sandy also represents the American Home Sewing Association on media tours.)

Sandy’s sewing room started with the idea of puffing a skylight in the unused attic of her home. The idea evolved into a beautiful sewing room, a master bedroom, guest bedroom, and bathroom, adding an additional 1200 square feet of living space to her home, where she and her husband, Don, are rearing their two children.

The architect designed a 26-foot skylight to run the entire length of the sewing room. An oak counter under the dormer windows holds the sewing machine, with plenty of space underneath for storage. The marble floor, Sandy feels, is great for anyone who sews, because it's easily swept clean. It is also set in about 1 1/3” (3.8 cm) of concrete, which acts as a thermal mass, collecting the daytime heat through the skylight and releasing it during the chilly San Francisco nights.

With such an elegant workplace, it’s no wonder Sandra devotes two days a week to sewing and writing. Her phone is turned off, and she accepts no calls or engagements during that time. As she puts it: “Sewing is my time alone, which I find creative and therapeutic. It offers a peaceful feeling that provides me with a sense of accomplishment.”



Now that your fabric, patterns, and other sewing paraphernalia are inventoried., let’s look at the place where the creativity takes place— your sewing machine.

If your sewing equipment doesn't include a serger or press, position the ironing board to one side, at the same level as your machine. You may also want to invest in a secretarial chair (I found one at a garage sale for $10.00). This way, you can roll over to the ironing board and press each seam without having to get up. With pressing equipment close to the machine, you’ll be more likely to press each seam as you go, with better looking, better made projects as a result.

If you are lucky enough to have a serger and /or a press, position your sewing machine in the center, with the serger and press to either side. This way, your Ultimate Sewing Center is set up for speed and efficiency. Simply serge, sew, and press.

Sewing Machine

Since sergers have become so popular, I’ve heard a lot of people say that all you need to go with your serger is a sewing machine with a zigzag stitch and built-in buttonhole and that there is no need to waste money on a new machine. I also know some who took this advice and aren’t enjoying their sewing any more than before they got the serger.

I love to sew. The focal point of my Ultimate Sewing Center is my sewing machine (ill. 8). It is the one piece of equipment I depend on totally for the sewing I do. The model I have is easy to use and versatile. I could have bought a less expensive model that wouldn’t do as much, but I wanted a machine for which the only limitation was my imagination.

Don’t skimp here. Buy the best machine you can afford. Research different brands rather than buying the first one you see. Chances are you’ll have to live with your decision for a long time, so take your time and decide what features are important to you. I look for stitch quality over a broad range of fabrics. Because I like to make gifts and clothing that have a unique yet classic look, decorative potential is also important to me.

If you haven’t shopped for a machine in a few years, you may not be aware of the innovations developed since your old standby was manufactured. Even though you may have a particular price range in mind, keep an open mind. Give yourself permission to spend the money on a machine you will enjoy using every day.

Spend some time researching different brands. Visit a number of dealers and ask to see a demonstration on the top-of-the-line and middle-of-the-line machines. Ask for the literature on both, and ask to keep the stitch samples from the demonstration. Keep notes and run a few stitches and a buttonhole or two yourself. Don’t plan to see too many demonstrations or machines in one sitting. It may be confusing.

Once you have narrowed down your choices to the two or three best machines for your needs, go back to the dealers with any further questions. Bring your own fabric and ask to see appropriate seam finishes, buttonholes, embroidery stitches—anything important to you.

Buy from a reputable dealer who offers les sons on your machine or in-house service and who makes new educational information available to you. There’s nothing worse than buying a machine, then putting it in the closet because you don’t know how to use it.

Ask whether the dealer attends regular ser vice clinics and educational meetings con ducted by the sewing machine distributors he or she does business with.

Most sewing machine companies have an educational staff that travels from dealer to dealer giving informative seminars. Find out if your dealer is one who schedules events like this for customers, and ask to be put on the mailing list.

Finally, ask for the names of several customers as references. Call and ask how they like the machine and dealing with the retailer. If the dealer is hesitant to provide you with some names, it may be an indication that ser vice leaves something to be desired.

ill. 8 The sewing machine gallery. Here are the top-of-the-line sewing machine models from the major companies. Of course, every company has models from basic mechanical models to electronic and computerized models. Baby Lock U.S.A. BL8000; White Euroflair 8910; Viking Husqvarna 1100; New Home Memory Craft 7000; Elna 9000; Pfaff 1478; Brother VX-95; Singer Quantum XL- 1

Once you’ve bought a machine, get to know it thoroughly. Learn its settings and peculiarities. Throughout this guide, you will find suggested machine settings as shown below, with space for yours after you’ve fine-tuned them on a sample:

Stitch: multiple zigzag stitch

Stitch width: widest

Stitch length: 1-1.5, or 15 stitches per inch

Foot: standard zigzag foot Needle position: center

At the right is a place to write in your own machine settings after you have fine-tuned each technique for your machine.


Sergers are fast becoming a sewing necessity. They have revolutionized home sewing in the same way that microwave ovens have revolutionized food preparation. If you are not familiar with a serger, it's an industrial- looking machine that will sew the seam, over cast the edge, and trim the excess seam allowance off in one step (ill. 9). It works with 2, 3, 4, or 5 threads and loopers rather than bobbins. The loopers “knit” the thread across the seam allowance, while the needle or needles stitch a secure seam.

The serger makes fast work of “ (6 mm) seams or can be used to finish raw edges be fore a garment is constructed with the traditional 1’ (1.5 cm) seam allowance. Depending on the model you have, a serger can be used to create a host of decorative edge finishes that can’t be duplicated on your conventional sewing machine.

ill. 9 The serger gallery. Here are the top-of-the-line serger models from the major companies at press time. Every company has different models, from the basic 2/3-thread to the more advanced 2/3/4 and 5-thread models. Baby Lock U.S.A. BL-738D; Bernina Bernette 334D; White Super Lock 228; Viking Huskylock 560ED; Pfaff Hobbylock 797; Elna Lock Pro 5; Juki MO-634; Singer 14 U85

The serger differs from the conventional sewing machine, which has a stitch selector for changing stitches, in that the stitches are changed by changing the needle or looper tension and the needle plate. At the moment, industry standards don't exist for serger tension settings, so you will have to experiment to achieve desired results. The stitch settings in this guide are a general guideline for both needles and loopers. The guidelines listed below will help you set tensions on your own serger. For future reference, record your set tings in the spaces provided and keep a note guide of swatches with tension settings for each technique in the guide.

1. Very tight: Tension dial at tightest setting.

2. Tight: Tension dial half between tightest setting and normal.

3. Normal: Balanced tension with other looper(s) and needle(s).

4. Loose: Tension dial halfway between normal and loosest setting.

5. Very loose: Tension dial almost to 0 but still with a little tension.


I suggested earlier in this section that you arrange your sewing equipment with the sewing machine in the middle and the serger and ironing board or press on either side. But what do you put the serger on? I have mine on a flat, portable sewing machine table that enables me to have access to the upper and lower loopers. On the other side I have another such table for the press. The tables are a comfort able height, reasonably priced, and large enough that the equipment can be moved back and out of the way if I need a little more working surface.

Robbie Fanning’s sewing area is against one wall in the bedroom, approximately three feet from the bed. Her serger sits on a rolling computer table next to the sewing table. This way, she can move it out into a sewing L, then push it back against the wall, out of the way, when she’s finished. Both systems work well, but you may be interested in purchasing furniture specially designed to house your sewing machine and serger. Most of these tables position the serger on the right and the sewing machine on the left. Some are made of wood, others of fiberboard covered with a thick, plastic laminate surface. Some are on wheels, other on metal legs. One model I saw can be purchased as a modular unit so that you can start with a sewing cabinet and later add a serger extension and storage drawers. By the time this guide is published, there will undoubtedly be more furniture choices.

Factors to consider before buying a particular system are:

1. Available space in your home.

2. Configuration of the table or cabinet. Will it fit in the corner or against one wall?

3. Budget.

4. Fit—I’m tall and find some sewing tables too short or confining.

Therefore, sit down in a chair like yours at home and sew at the table or cabinet on the dealer’s floor. Check for comfort and accessibility. Can you reach the bobbin and loopers easily? Is the needle in front of you, or do you have to lean one way or the other to see where you are sewing? Is your work at the right height? Do you have enough knee space?

Check on price and availability. Some dealers don’t stock a full line of cabinets because shipping costs are high and cabinets are easily damaged in shipping. If the store doesn't carry the model you are interested in and offers to special order it for you, find out what happens if you don’t like it. Try not to buy one just by looking at a catalog sheet. Some times the real thing looks quite different than what you expected.

Now that we’ve taken care of housing the serger, let’s look at another wonderful piece of equipment for The Ultimate Sewing Center—the press.


The art of pressing is essential to the art of sewing. So says every home economics teacher who ever taught sewing, dressmaking, draping, and tailoring. For that reason, I bought a press for home use, and it’s the best tool I’ve found for pressing ready-to-wear clothes and for my sewing projects.

Because I work so much with natural fibers, I find I’m pressing now more than ever before.

There are many other reasons why my press has become an integral part of my Ultimate Sewing Center. Here are just a few.

Until the press was introduced about 10 years ago, I had some unpleasant experiences using fusible products, from interfacings to waistband shapers. In addition, I couldn’t get seams and other areas (e.g., front tabs, collars, cuffs, and facings) pressed as flat as I wanted. I wasn’t able to get the crisp look I wanted for my tailoring projects. The reason? I didn’t know how to control the three elements to successful pressing: heat, moisture, and pres sure. With the press and other pressing tools, I can control all three (ill. 10).

Generally, presses have a heating shoe and board shaped to fit various parts of the garment (see Section 2). Pressing goes faster than with a hand iron because the heating shoe is much larger. For most presses, you need both hands to bring the heating shoe down to the pressing surface, so that you don’t inadvertently press your hand. Some presses also have an automatic safety device that warns the user that the press is on and when it has been closed longer than 10 seconds. A buzzer sounds, and the electricity is turned off automatically to prevent scorching. You can use a press standing up or sitting down, and it can be set up just about anywhere.

ill. 10 The press gallery. Here are the top-of-the-line press models from the major companies. A. Bernette Press. B. Elna Press. C. Singer Press. D. Viking Huskypress 1200. E. White Suprapress.

The most pressure you can exert with a hand iron is about 25 pounds (11.25 kg). Most presses have the capability of pressing with 100 pounds (45 kg) of pressure: great for fusing interfacing and fusible web, using hot-iron transfers, pressing pleats and creases, and pressing out hemlines and wrinkles on fabrics made of natural fibers. Yet you have the option of using less than full pressure to press napped fabrics.

With a press, shine is almost eliminated because you bring the heat to the fabric without moving an iron across it. In fact, I’ve found I don’t need a press cloth as often with the press as with an iron.

Using a press for knits enables you to press without stretching the fabric out of shape. I block needlework and set in pleats by pinning into the padded pressing surface. Some presses have accessories available, such as a sleeve cushion or pressing mitt. These are used to press areas that would crease or mark easily, such as a jacket sleeve, pants inseam, or zipper.

I hope this section has helped you clean out and reorganize your sewing room or area, In Section 2, I discuss pressing equipment necessary to speed-tailor a garment. Some of it you may already have. Some of it you’ll want to add to your inventory immediately. Put the rest on a wish list, for the next holiday so that you’ll be sure to get something you can really use.

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Friday, 2012-06-01 15:20