Monday, April 29, 2013

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Mortem's Favorite DIY Notion Links

There are certain tools that are essential when it comes to endeavoring into garment construction.
Over the years I've learned that some things are just too important to get into the habit of using and doing, than to progressively invest in them over time. The thing about garment construction is that it's face value is pretty much how it always is; you either don't like the idea of spending hours fussing at the machine and ironing board, or you're really passionate about it. I would lump "casual" sewists into the latter because lots of love and time was spent getting to that point-- even if you feel like you can only make skirts.

The price of these particular tools are exorbitant-- vintage, used or new; it's enough to put off the novice into thinking it isn't a vital tool to have. What's more, with the lack of quality inherent in the market, it is in fact cheaper in the long run to DIY; as an individual you're able to learn from your mistakes and transcend them, whereas the quality of store bought usually tends to remain stagnant for long periods of time.

Here is a brief list (I could go on forever about essential items) of some basic tools you simply should not be without for sewing clothing-- and the best links on how to make them yourself:

  • Pattern Weights: One of the things I commonly find is that many teachers hammer in the idea of using pins in sewing. Pins are good, mind you, but not for everything in sewing... a good example of where not to use pins is pattern cutting-- enter pattern weights. These heavy little bundles of nifty keep the pattern and fabric together quite flat and accurate; I love to use my rotary cutter and mat as I find it the most precise way of cutting out patterns. If you don't have a cutting mat, than simply trace with marking chalk then cut it out with shears.                   
Woman of 1000 hobbies Instrutables
The only thing I would add to this tutorial is more washers to each bundle for more weight; hot glue them together and proceed as written.
  • Wrist Pincushion: Before I figured out I needed one of these, I had been jumping back and forth to my pin bowls; the one by my machine, and the one at my table; going to refill one from the other. Once I had my dressform, it was more of a pain to reach out for pins.
Ruffles & Stuff + Tea Rose Home
  • Pressing Equipment: pressing and ironing is to sewing as heat is to cooking. If you're not doing them together then chances are you're not achieving the greatest results. They say that you spend as much time at the ironing station as you would at the sewing machine; I find this to be an unequivocal truth-- and the right equipment for the job makes all the difference.
Tilly & The Buttons Tutorial

Tailor's Ham:
a fundamental tool for pressing darts of all kinds-- how can you ever sew a garment without one?! The ones that dritz make are very run off the mill and affordable, but they tend to fall apart not too far along-- so in reality you'll end up having to buy more, meaning you'll have to spend more. The pattern also comes with a contoured ham, which helps with rounded seams. You'll need a ham holder to go with the ham; you might find that they're more expensive than the hams themselves, but a great and almost-always-inexpensive alternative is a football kicking tee.
Seam Roll: Perfect for pressing long or tricky round seams, like in pant legs or cuffs. Dritz also makes one, but has the same pro's and con's as their ham.

The Curious Kiwi
 Tailor's Board: Probably the most intimidating pressing tool is the tailor's board. This tricky looking piece of jumbled wood is probably the best item you could have in your arsenal-- it gets to the even trickier parts of garments such as pointed collars and highly curvaceous seams. Dritz makes one that has an integrated clapper that I currently own, but sadly it's quite pricey-- truth be told I am not entirely in love with it either. I'm hoping one day I can make my own clapper and board separately and from more quality and heavier wood.

 Sleeve Board; This has one use that you can probably guess-- yup, sleeves. You can press the entire length of a sleeve on this baby without worrying about leaving leftover creases. This blogger also offers an alternative template/pattern for the tailor's board.
The Curious Kiwi
Don't forget about the importance of pressing cloths to go with your newly made pressing equipment! Uncolored silk organza, and 100% plain uncolored cotton are the best to get; high temperature tolerant and not at all abrasive to even the most delicate fabrics-- the organza allows you to see through to your work being pressed, and won't leave a shine. An added tidbit; if you find yourself wondering where on earth you might find solid wood sawdust, there is another equally good product, albeit pricier than sawdust; ground walnut shells, which is commonly used for iguana bedding-- crafters also use it for filling pincusions!

  •  Dressform: An invaluable tool, but also can be quite a pain finding the most accurate one for less than the price of your eyeballs. There is the commonly known duct-tape version, which I have had very lumpy and flimsy results with... then there's the brown paper tape method. It doesn't lose quite as much shape after it's dried and ready to come off.
    Threads Magazine Tutorial
 Although finding paper tape proved to be the most tedious task. This article also happens to have alternative DIY dressforms with a tutorial on making your own dressform stand. I'd still stuff the form once it's finished, FYI. Side-note, the magazine itself is a fine morning read. 
Update 05/04/2013: I found this blogger via the Threads comments who has shared in depth the casting method of making a dressform, which also includes instructions to create an adjustable stand to go with it. Casting yourself seems like a much more accurate way of acquiring your true "double"; I have a strong itch to try it! Go see for yourself at LULUSHION.

I realize that the tailor's board and sleeve board DIY may not be a viable choice for everyone; it wasn't for me, since I don't have the tools to make them... I ended up couponing my own tailor's board from Joann's, and found my sleeve board for .25 cents at the thrift store; I don't presume to know if the shops and sales are quite the same elsewhere in the world, so I can't say waiting for coupons are viable as well. My hope is that somehow more options have been realized, and that starting up good garment sewing habits doesn't have to be a totally arduous endeavor, and can actually turn out quite fun and inspirational little sewing room equipment. I plan to write up my own tutorials, reviews and tips about sewing notions in the future.

Happy crafting!


  1. I also made that duct-tape dressform once..but the result was not so good, my boobs disappearad somwehere along the way it seemed :'D

    1. Yeah I found it to be extremely less than accurate-- it's not a double at all =/

  2. Thanks for sharing those links. I'm going to have to make myself a wrist pin cushion. I had a hard plastic one I got for free, but I didn't like it.

    Someday I'll have a proper ham and sleeve roll. Now I just use a rolled up sock because I'm cheap!

  3. hm im still jumping back and forth to pin bowls or put them in the clothes i'm wearing, i just can't get used to the wrist pincushions XD

  4. Wow, you are a hardcore sewer! I admire you because you have the patience to sit down and do it RIGHT. I used to sew very crappily and despite the books I read, I have never really learned to do it properly. I suppose I could take a class or something. Where did you learn to sew?

    1. Your comment really made my day =D

      I taught myself through books over the years. Once upon a time in high school I tried taking an elective class, but that's about as close to an actual class as I've gotten. I've mostly exchanged information with other sewists, some who have once taught classes.
      I'm really wishing and hoping one day I can attend a class from the bottom up!


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