Some of my sewing friends who don’t normally sew for clients call me (you know who you are) to ask how to hem rayon knits for their friends who assume they want to sew for them since they own a machine. They ask if I use a twin needle or a coverstitch machine. Luckily I own a Janome CoverPro 1000 that makes the job easy but I do a few extra steps before just whipping the hem under the foot.
Clients love the feel of rayon in t-shirts and pants, yes, long pants that seem to grow while you are pinning them up. Last week, I was pinning up a 3.5 inch hem on a pair of pants and I swear by the time I finished the second leg, the first one had grown 1/2 inch! This is where persistence/
stubbornness pays off. My client asked if I could just pin up one hem and make the other one match….well…no. In my experience very few manufacturers produce matching lengths of pant legs anymore so pinning both is my routine. Once the pants are off the client and she is out the door, I thread baste the new hem line and remove the pins.
Next, I lay the pants flat on the ironing board and compare the leg lengths and thread basted hem lines. If everything matches I want to shout “halleluiah”.
Now comes the part that none of my friends want to do/
surrender to. Since the pants had to be shortened by 3.5 inches I didn’t want that unstable rayon knit running loose under the presser foot so I basted about 1.5 inches above the new hem edge. This ensures that no one is going to get out of hand.
One trick I use is at the point where the side seams (usually serged) overlap inside. What do you do with those anyway? Can you snip into the seam and flip one in one direction and flip the other in the other direction? It depends how wide the serged seams are. If they are narrow, you had better not and just move them off center, not stacked and then baste over them as a unit so they don’t move. Next is what to do with the starting threads from the needles….cut them off once you have stitched along, you will stitch over them when you come back to the start again. So here we are, back at the beginning ready to stitch about 3-4 stitches over the first ones. Using a clear foot really helps be accurate! OK, now what do I do to end the stitching? It is not a regular sewing machine…you cannot just stitch off in one direction, oh no, you have to do this: Stop, raise the foot, grab some flat tool to reach under the presser foot to pull the needle threads toward you. See how my ruler has a little wedge that holds the threads…I love that!
Once pulled out about 4-5 inches, snip them and get ready for a reverse motion. Pull the garment straight back under the presser foot and you find it releases and all that is left is to cut the looper thread. Flip it to the wrong side and decide what the next step is…here is what you have…top thread is the original looper thread, you can cut it off. Then the 3 lower threads can be tied together, I use a surgeon’s knot, and cut close.
So what is left to do? Well on these pants there is a small matter of 2.5 inches of excess fabric to trim away…let’s get out our rarely used duckbill scissors and trim shall we? Yes, I know you bought those scissors a long time ago and you have forgotten where you put them but this is the perfect occasion to resurrect them.
Time for a pause to take a deep breath. You know in a perfect world with plenty of time to fiddle around attaching great machine gadgets that make this final step unnecessary, I can trim with those duckbills pretty darn fast and since knits don’t ravel I don’t bother.
If you are using the narrow 2 needle setting you have to be pretty accurate since it is about 1/4 wide and it is hidden underneath as you sew from the right side. Some gals use Post-it notes to keep a straight edge seam guide and pins to do their hems but if one little critter gets out of line or folded under while you are merrily stitching along you will not have any nice words to say when you flip it over and see you have skipped that fragile edge and have to rip out. Sewing for yourself is way different than sewing for clients when time is money.
I leave you with an example of what a blogger friend calls an “ass-hat”. A woman came this week with a floor length beaded dress to wear to a formal event. She bought it at a second hand boutique that stocks “designer”/
shop worn garments. She then tells me that she wants me to have a good going over the dress and make sure that EVERY bead is secured and tightened down so that none of them release and fall off. “Sure”, I said, “I charge by the hour so how many hours were you thinking of?” She says is is willing to pay for one hour to do the entire dress and it should be done in a hurry as she wants to buy a hat to go with the dress. Okey Dokey, Madam, I do it over the weekend and call her Sunday to say it is ready. I get her answerphone at work and I leave a message…so far no one has called me back. No worries, eventually clients come for their goods when they are ready and have to pony up. In the meantime her dress will be held hostage and subjected to relaxing spa-type music and Glade plug-in fragrances…ahhhh.