Archive for the ‘Clothing Alteration – General’ Category
Altering clothes takes time, and one of the more frustrating aspects can be unpicking seams. But there is an easy way to unpick and a hard way. I have created a video on unpicking the four most common seams for clothing alterations.
- Blind hem – How often do these hems fall down when you don’t want them to, but when it comes to unpicking one they seem to lock up! If trousers are going up one hem or less the hem needs to be dropped, which means unpicking the existing hem. Learn how to unpick the blind hem in a snap!
- Chain stitch – Can be found on most garments, particularly jeans. If the centre back of jeans if being taken in, and the centre back is a flat felt seam or french seam, it should be converted to a normal stitch and overlock, but that means the chain stitch should be unpicked. There is a right way and a wrong way to unravel the chain stitch
- Coverstitch – There are a few varieties of coverstitch. I have shown you the standard two stitch one. Like the chain stitch there is a right way and a wrong way to unravel the coverstitch.
- Overlocking – Depending on the fabric overlocking can be easy to unpick or a challenge. In this video I have shown how to unpick so that the overlock pulls away without leaving any mess behind.
I hope you enjoy the video.
Judith aka genie
A placket is an opening in a shirt at the end of the sleeve or the opening in a skirt or trousers. Personally when I am typing away explaining clothing alterations, I occassionally write the wrong placket. I have written placard which is of course a sign.
A placket can be unpicked and replaced when a shirt sleeve is shortened, or if the amount is not significant the cuff can be unpicked, the amount cut off the placket and the cuff replaced.
Judith aka genie
A godet (unlike a gusset) is an extra piece of fabric in the shape of a large triangle which is added between seams to give flare. Examples would be inserts into skirts or dresses to give width and volume. A godet could be added to the back of a very tight fitting gown to allow the wearer more movement when walking.
Judith aka genie
A gusset is a triangular piece of fabric that is inserted into a seam to add width to a garment. Clothes that are too tight can have a gusset inserted at the centre back, sides seams or at the inside leg in the crotch area. Some tailors will have an insert at the inside leg that is not quite triangular, but has been added because the person has a large thigh.
Judith aka genie
Bagging basically means folding the fabric with RIGHT SIDES together and stitching from the fold to the end, or just before the end depending on how it will be finished.
The fabric is then turned back the right way and with a ruler or turner, push the tip of the folded section so that it sits flat.
Some people trim the hem allowance to reduce bulk, but I prefer to leave any excess fabric in the bagged section. There is a reason for everything I do, and the reason I leave the excess fabric is because if the section needs to be “dropped” – it can be. If the excess is trimmed, the section cannot be dropped.
Judith aka genie
My biggest pet hate is someone who sews a garment with tiny stitches. By this I mean sewing 20 stitches per inch (2.5 cm) rather than the normal 8 stitches per inch which I prefer. The problem with sewing 20 stitches per inch (2.5 cm) is that if you have to alter the garment, the time it takes to unpick has almost tripled. There is absolutely NO REASON to sew with tiny stitches.
The only time this is recommended is in Couture sewing. Instead of the standard backward and forward lock at the beginning and end of a seam, in Couture, they recommend changing the stitch to 20 stitches per inch (2.5 cm) at the beginning and end of the seam, however they do suggest this is only for the first half inch (1 cm) at the beginning and end of the seam; then go to 6 stitches per inch (2.5 cm). Personally I prefer the 8 stitches per inch rather than 6, however find what you are comfortable with and work with that.
I do like the idea of small stitches at the beginning because it has many advantages. When you are taking in the sides of a garment, and have only unpicked under the arm a small section, when you have taken it in and are putting the garment back together, you can place your needle over the top of the original stitch and sew for half an inch at small then change to normal stitches. This eliminates a mistake being made by sewing off the stitch line when back tacking.
I worked with a Scottish lady once who stitched in the largest stitch on the machine for everything. When it came to unpicking a problem she achieved it very quickly.
Judith aka genie
Before I start with this month’s newsletter, I need to point out that this article might upset some people, and for that I am sorry. However, I have always been known to call a spade a spade, and that means saying it how it is. If only one person reads this newsletter and gains something from it, then I have achieved what I set out to do. That is to shock you into good workmanship when it comes to your sewing.
So how did this all start?
I was watching Project Runway recently and one of the judges made a comment about the construction of one of the garments. He said that the way the garment was constructed was like “Home Sewing”. You know when you have one of those “Ah huh”! moments. Well that was one of mine.
I seem to recall that terminology used before, however this time when I heard it, it really did hit home to me that this is how I feel about some peoples attempt at clothing alterations.
Clothing alterations is probably one of the greatest challenges for people to perform quality workmanship. Offering a guarantee to a client, which means standing up for your work. One of my greatest challenges when training people on doing clothing alterations is stressing how important workmanship is. When you are altering a readymade garment, you want the person to look at the garment and she or he should see that the workmanship is of a high standard. When you buy clothes the workmanship is generally not in question. It usually comes down to style and fashion fabric colour which helps you to make a decision on whether you will buy it or not. Designers and manufacturers do not produce poor workmanship (generally speaking). If clothes are sold with excellent workmanship, then why can it not be altered and still look the same?
One of my biggest concerns when people do clothing alterations is the fact that they think for some reason they can take a nip here or a tuck there, and the client will be happy as long as it appears ok from the outside and that the garment fits. But turn the garment inside out, and it’s like “fright night” aaaghhhhh!!!
How many ways can we talk about altering clothes (or dressmaking for that matter) where the garment (when completed) looks the same as it would if it was purchased from a store?
If you are going to take in the centre back of a dress, do it so that it does not look like you altered it. If it has a zip and you do not understand how to bag the zip at the top or attach it to the lining first, then take the time to look at how it is done, BEFORE you unpick it.
Clothing alterations is about working backwards 99.9% of the time. Generally the last section sewn is the FIRST to be unpicked, and you work backwards from that. It’s not rocket science, but what it does is allow you to alter the garment in an orderly and timely manner. The old “hack and slash” mentality will not give a good alteration.
If you are going to put darts in a gown, then put them in so that the dart is in between the fashion fabric and the lining. Increase or reduce the dart size, working as the original garment was sewn. Get back to the dart section by unpicking around the beginning of the dart.
Whether you are putting in new darts, extending the size of the dart, taking in the sides or a centre back seam from the top, UNDO any under stitching BEFORE you open out the seam. The under stitching should always be unpicked a little more than the seam, so that when you take the garment in, the under stitching is not in the way, and you can close the seam without any interference from the under stitching. And always put the under stitching back on as it was originally AFTER you have sewn the seam.
There is only ONE TIME when you would not do this, and that is when you are taking up the shoulders of a sleeveless dress that has under stitching on the sides. Naturally you cannot get in there to re do the stitching, and to be honest it will not affect the way the shoulder sits.
So the only reasons you would not put the garment back together the way it was, is because it is physically impossible to do that. And I do not mean that it is just a little bit difficult. In a lot of alterations you have to be a contortionist to alter some garments, but when it is physically impossible, is when you have to leave it alone.
I have a saying which is “Good enough isn’t” and it stands for itself. Another is never sew to a fold. That means unpicking hems or edges that are to be taken in. It gives for an excellent alteration and one that will have people coming back to you time and again.
So back to the judges comment about “home sewn”. I loved the terminology because it really does allow me to imagine that the garment is not sewn well. These people are all working on the same machines, and a good seamstress or tailor never blames their sewing machine.
One’s first impression of “Home Sewn” is that the person works from home and uses a small domestic sewing machine and this is the reason for the bad work. There is no truth in that. Blaming a machine is a cop out BECAUSE – I only use a domestic sewing machine. In fact I have said this a few times. All of my clothing alteration shops in major capital cities, ONLY HAD DOMESTIC SEWING MACHINES. This also allowed for long workstations to have three or four machines on them and we could swivel in between the domestic sewing machine, over locker, cover stitch machine and blind hemmer (all domestic or semi industrial so it sat on the work station).
I have always said that a domestic sewing machine is all you need to do alterations. If you like using an industrial machine and have found a way to do your alterations with care and precision on one, then my hat goes off to you.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with an industrial sewing machine. I am just saying that they were originally designed for factory work. Or rather piece work. Machinists sat in rows and each machinist had a particular piece to sew. It was then passed on to another machinist. The machines were developed for speed. I have been in a few factories, and the “brrrrr”, “brrrr” of the machine was all you heard.
When all you do is clothing alterations and a little dressmaking, then a good old domestic will do the trick. When you have to do a few stitches to close a seam (say 10 stitches) a domestic will allow you the precision. An industrial (standard industrial I mean) can sometimes be difficult to slow down for such a small amount of sewing. Mind you a good industrial is great to have around when you are sewing curtains, large hems on wedding gowns etc. So they do come in handy. But a domestic will do the same thing.
The only other machine you need to perform professional clothing alterations is an over locker. If you do not have an over locker, then there is no way that you can produce professional looking clothing alterations.
Using the zig zag on your machine is not going to provide quality workmanship. You might be happy to do that for your own clothes, but do not expect a customer to pay you good money for a raw edge that has been zig zagged.
I am reminded when I started my first shop with an old mini Elna sewing machine and a borrowed over locker from my sister in law. The over locker looked like it was over the hill, but it did a great stitch and that is all I was interested in. You can start a small business working from home with a simple cheap domestic sewing machine and an old over locker. They both just have to sew well. Buying them second hand does not matter. You do not have to have an expensive machine to produce quality workmanship, and that is what you have to do to get repeat business.
I am sure this article may result in a few emails. If you have an industrial machine, and you love it like I love my little dog Nina, then I do understand. (see I do understand the passion for sewing machines) But there are a lot of ladies (and men) out there who would like to begin to earn an income from their sewing skills, and they have been told they cannot do any form of clothing alterations or dressmaking on a domestic sewing machine. They have been told they have to go out and buy an industrial, and I am just saying that this is not the case. I have been doing clothing alterations for over 16 years now, and I use a normal domestic sewing machine. One that does a nice stitch, and I have a normal domestic over locker which sews well and does what I need it to do.
And finally the domestic machine allows me the precision to get into small areas, it has an arm, which allows me to have my hems in a circle around the arm, giving me greater control.
Judith aka genie
I bought your book a couple of years ago and have been receiving your emails ever since. I just wanted to share this little something with you.
Although I have been sewing for a long time now and I have put zips in items that I have made. I have never replaced a zip in anything as it scared me (that’s funny I know but it did). This week I got sick and I was unable to do anything not even look after my family. So I got my copy of your book out and two pairs of pants that needed the zips replacing, my quick unpick and started to take out the zips. I have to say that I never thought that unpicking anything could be theraputic but I loved the whole process of taking the zip out.
Yesterday I was feeling a bit better so I got my trusty little Janome out and along with your book right beside me I proceeded to replace the zips. I loved they went in beautifully and your instruction in the book was wonderful it was like having someone talking me through one step at a time. I have to say that one pair of the pants the zip I put back in was better than the zip I took out.
I’ll never be afraid of replacing zips again. In fact a friend has asked me to replace a zip in her husbands pants and she is going to pay me for it.
Judith, do you think $15 is alright to charge for replacing a zip? I also wanted to ask you about your 2nd book is it just the same as the first one or is there extra information in there that is not in the first one? (I suggested she charge AUD$25)
So thank you for an excellent book and giving me the courage to try something new.
If you are doing clothing alterations for a living, and your business is growing, your next step will be to employ someone. There are a number of ways you can do this, but before I go into that you must find out the rules and regulations for employing people in your country. This is an international newsletter generated from Australia, which means I am only aware of the Australian rules.
The best option is to employ a contractor. This means that the person you employ has to have their own business identity. In Australia we call it an Australian Business Number (ABN). This is registered with the government, and means you are liable for all Goods and Services Tax (GST) on your services. For example – You can work from home, but may pick up work from a clothing alteration and dressmaking shop who charges out at AUD$60 per hour. You take the work home and charge the work out at her rate. That means if you complete a job that takes one hour you put on the docket $60.00 plus GST of 10% = $66.00 to the customer. You should then fill out a Contractor form with the customer’s information, including the invoice number and the amount charged. Once all the work is completed I charge her 50% of all work done. Keep in mind that you should be getting 50% of the AUD$60 per hour not $66.00.
If you decide on the other hand to bring someone into your business whether that is at home or in a shop, you will be liable for all the government regulations and rules for employing someone. In Australia we have an Award Wage Rate for Casual, Part time or Permanent. These rates are based on age and level of skill. On top of that is superannuation, holiday pay if applicable and a workers’ compensation levy. The average cost to employ someone is around $25.00 per hour give or take. Some countries have maternity leave plus other rules.
Personally I find that the contracting option works better for everyone. This is the option I take. I love working from home. It gives me the freedom to work the hours I want, and also to do all the other work I do like writing articles, creating illustrations, developing workshops and other concepts to do with clothing alterations.
This is why I get really emotional about what you should be charging for your time. I don’t mind getting $30 per hour when all I have to do is call in “pick up and deliver”. I don’t have to deal with the customer which takes a fair amount of time. When my customers come to me I charge $40 per hour, because I am doing the fitting.
If you are doing dressmaking, and you are being paid peanuts, you need to educate your customers. Think about it this way – How much work goes into one garment that sits in a fashion store? The designers have to develop the pattern, grade the sizes, cut out the fabrics, have it sewn together, market the garments, pay rent in the shops, and employ people in the shops to sell the garment.
There is a lot of time and money that goes into the develop of one garment. Once the garments are developed, they can be mass produced. Cheaper garments are mass produced in countries like China, India, and Fiji etc. They are cheap to buy and sometimes the alteration of shortening the length is more than it cost to buy the garment in the first place.
So when you have someone come and ask you to make something, explain about what you really have to do. Even if they provide you with a pattern, you still have to cut it out, check the measurements, cut it out, have a fitting, and if it is really expensive fabric, you will probably make a toile (calico sample) first to get your measurements right.
Think about your hourly rate and what you are charging. As your business grows look at how you would employ someone to help.
Judith aka genie
Remember in the Victorian times when large seams were left in everything. Recently I had a garment brought in that had become too small. I had a look inside and there were massive seams all the way through the garment. HOWEVER……….. Someone had decided that it didn’t sit correctly on the curved sections or at joins, so they had CUT through the seam allowance up to the existing seam!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For the life of me I do not understand why someone would do that. If you want to leave a reasonable seam allowance, then do that. You can even fold it over if you like and stitch it down with a loose stitch. If you have to clip, then consider folding the seam allowance over and stitching down rather than clipping. If I am reshaping a neckline or putting on a collar, you have to clip to get the curve, so clipping is important, but if you have want to leave large side seams, you really do not need to clip (usually).
In the case of the dress in question, it was not a fitting dress, so it could have been left without being clipped.
Judith aka genie