Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Review: Viking Spanish Hem Foot & Plate

Price: US$35

What is this notion used for? This is a presser foot and plate used for bridge stitching (faggoting). The plate attaches to the machine and keeps the two edges of the fabric spaced and feeding evenly under the needle. My Designer 1 has specialty stitches especially for this type of decorative sewing.

Did you get your money's worth after the purchase? Well, technically not yet, because it's a pricey foot, but that doesn't stop me from buying every foot Viking puts out. ;-)

Is this notion easily available? Yes, from your Viking dealer.

Would you recommend it to others? Yes. Using this foot is a big help when doing this type of decorative stitching.

Below are photos of a pillow I made using the foot/plate. The bridging is along the top and bottom edges.

Review: Dritz My Double Deluxe Dressform

Price: ~US$100.00-$150.00

Many (all?) of the other reviews for these types of dressforms (My Double, Twin Fit, etc.) complain that no amount of turning the dials makes the dressform match the reviewers' measurements. After reading other reviews for My Double (not Deluxe) dressforms, I feel the need to address those complaints.

Dressforms are like patterns. They are standardized to some mysterious "ideal" figure. How many of us have that ideal figure and can fit a pattern right out of the envelope with NO adjustments? The same is true for dressforms. Unless you've had a dressform cast from your own body, you *will* need to make some adjustments. And by adjustments, I mean more than turning the dials.

This link will take you to the photo narrative of how I padded out my dressform. The whole process took a few hours. Not too long, and not at all difficult. The time invested was well worth it as I now have a form very much like me and one which is a tremendous help when adjusting patterns and previewing garments. If you buy this type of form, spend the time to pad it and you'll be much happier.

This thread on the PR message board is extremely helpful and covers many dressforms and the reasons why or why not they were purchased. It also covers the processes and materials some of us have used to pad our dressforms to be just like ourselves.

Also, Kathryn's tip, here, here, is a must-read in how to make your standardized dressform conform to your own shape.

All right, on to the review ...


• 10 Auto-set dials - Press & turn for easy adjustments

• Adjustments can be made in 1/2" increments

• Foam-backed nylon cover for easy pinning and marking

• Adjustable neck with pin cushion & Adjustable Height

• Hem Leveler


I purchased the My Double Deluxe form (MDD) in late-January 2006 from Joann's online. They were on sale for half price (which I think they always are online) and at the time, there was a free shipping offer. I paid approximately $163 with tax. Joann's charges sales tax for internet purchases. The MDD arrived in approximately 2 weeks.

I ordered a Medium because this size could be made significantly *smaller* than my measurements. Since I knew I would be padding it, I knew I needed to start with something smaller than me. I recommend you do the same for any non-customized dressform. It's a lot easier to make a small form bigger than it is to make a big form smaller.

The quality of the form itself is what I expected. It's not the best but it's far from the worst. It's lightweight plastic (shell) and aluminum (stand). Now that I've had it for a while, I can see that it's not really as low-quality as I first thought. It's very lightweight, which is nice because I tend to move her around in my sewing area a lot.

When it arrived, it came in a thin corrugated cardboard box with no interior padding. (The plastic must be sturdy to have survived the UPS ride from J's warehouse to being dropped -- and I do mean dropped -- at my home!) There is some assembly required. Specifically, you must insert the feet of the tripod into the stand and then you must attach the stand pole into the torso pole. It's not hard, requires no tools, and because the form is lightweight, it doesn't require any strength. You just need an area large enough to lay the stand down on the floor or a table.

The dials are fiddly and a bit awkward to adjust. Put on a pair of rubber dishwashing type gloves before you start so you don't scrape up your fingers and then you'll be fine. I didn't do this but in retrospect, I probably should have. I never could quite figure out how to adjust the dials so that the numbers on the metal strips actually meant something. But that didn't matter to me too much because I just used my tape measure and adjusted until it reached the measurement I wanted. There were very generic "instructions" included but they covered more than this specific dressform and were overly simplistic. They were adequate but with much room for immprovement.

Some of the adjustments require that you reach up inside the form. You might want to make your adjustments before you put it on the pole as it's probably easier to wrestle with it standing and laying on a table than on the form. But that's a personal preference thing. I made all the adjustments with it on the stand and just knelt on the floor and reached up.

I chose this form after seeing a Medium MDD on display in a brick and mortar Joann's. It looked more like a "middle-aged" (ugh!) figure than the perkier Twin Fit or Simplicity forms. The bust is a B cup but the bust points sit a bit lower than those perkier forms and the waist curve is more gradual, thus matching me better before I ever started padding it out.

The most noticeable difference between the MDD and the My Double (not Deluxe) and other "cheapie" forms is that the MDD has a lower section with thighs for fitting pants. Before purchasing the MDD, I thought this would be a great feature. It probably is, but I haven't used it yet, mostly because you have to completely separate the center pole from the torso in order to slide a pair of pants on or off. I can just see me wrestling on the floor and it's not a pretty picture! I do think that if you've padded the lower body to match yours and you use it to fit *before* you sew the last sideseam, that pants fitting can be accomplished without taking apart the form. But once both sideseams are sewn, there's no other way to slide the pants on without a wrestling match (or without rigging up some way to hang the dressform so it doesn't need the pole for support).


1. The overall quality. It may be mostly plastic, but it seems like it will hold up for as long as I need it. (Four years going strong so far.)

2. Price. I wasn't sure if I would actually use a dressform so I didn't want to break the bank to find out, especially if it turned out I didn't like it. $150 is still significant money, but it's a LOT cheaper than many other dressforms available so I felt I got a good deal. (Turns out I use it a lot!)

3. Now having a dressform that matches me!


1. The tripod stand. It works fine, but I would prefer a dressform on wheels. But since it is lightweight, it's not a burden at all to move it. Just that my personal preference would be wheels.

2. The difficulty in getting pants on/off as mentioned above.

3. The fiddly dials. They work, but they definitely feel/act cheap. There is a reason this is NOT a $600 dressform. Don't expect it to be gold plated and you won't be disappointed. :)

Review: Button Sewing Foot

Price: ~US$25.00

I'm the first to admit I have a serious addiction to presser feet. I own 99% of the feet Viking makes for my machine and a few others Viking doesn't make. I'm sure I'll have them all one of these days. Most of the feet work wonderfully. Many I can't live without anymore and some others mostly collect dust, and yet I still can't bear to part with them. The button sewing-on foot is one of the gems.

Before Viking came out with this foot I would still sew buttons on by machine, using the hump-jumper thingie and a piece of tape. It was fiddly and I'm not really sure if it was actually easier or faster than sewing them by hand but at least it wasn't sewing on by hand! ;-)

The Viking foot comes with this little button grabbing tool. You squeeze it slightly and insert the prongs into the holes in the button. The tool expands a bit and the button is "stuck" on it until you squeeze the tool again to release it. This removes all the fiddly-ness from placing the buttons into the foot and in position over the fabric.

The foot itself has a "shelf" where you rest the button. When the presser foot is in the full down position, the button is sandwiched securely between the two layers of the foot. There is also a finger that can be moved in and out for creating thread shanks of varying height.

Here's the grabber tool still holding the button after I've put the button into the foot. I leave the tool in place until I put the foot down.

Here the foot is down and I'm ready to stitch. Pardon all the lint on my machine. It was cleaning day today and the machines all got a thorough going over, but not until after this photo was taken.

My machine has a specific button sewing stitch, which is basically a zigzag stitch set for the width between most button thread holes. I say "most" although I've not yet had a button for which this stitch wasn't perfect so maybe I should amend that to "all." It's a handy stitch and coupled with this foot, it's the answer for sewers like me who prefer not to sew on buttons by hand.

If you have a Viking, you must get this foot! If you don't have a Viking, other brands do have a similar foot and there are generics, but I don't think any of those come with the little grabber tool. (Please correct me if I'm wrong about that.)

You've now been enabled. Again. ;-)


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Sunday, April 1, 2001

Tutorial: Serging Inside Corners

Serging inside corners doesn't have to be impossible. I learned this trick from the Palmer/Pletsch Serger Basics DVD. I'm illustrating it with a sample fly piece because that's usually one of the more difficult places to serge in one pass.

Pretend this is your fly piece (or just any other inside corner).

The trick to serging the inside corner in one pass is to pleat or fold at the inside corner, as shown in the pic below, so that the serging can be done in one smooth action. I'll show you how to do this on a serger in the next photos.

Here is the fly piece and I'm coming up on that inside corner.

I've pinched the fabric so that the inside corner is pulled into a straight line. It's kind of like making a dart, with the dart point ending at the inside corner.

I keep the fabric pinched as it passes through the blades and needles.

I'm past the inside corner at this point and am going to round the curve of the fly extension.

You can start from either end. I just happened to choose this end because it was a sample and the rest of the pants leg wasn't attached.

If you start at the other end (the top of the pants), you'll round the curve first and then make the pleat/dart at the inside corner.

This is how the inside corner looks immediately after being serged.

Unfold the pleat/dart and lay the fabric flat. If you're like me, you'll be smacking your forehead wondering why you didn't think of this before.

Techniques: Remaking a Man's Tee for Your Female Shape

How many bad-fitting men's tees like this do you have in YOUR dresser drawers?? (No comments please about the groovey PJ pants!)

It's time to remake them into something a little more flattering on a woman's body.

If you have a choice, buy the men's tee 2-3 sizes larger than you would wear. This gives you some wiggle room for placing the front pictures, etc.

First, cut apart the tee.

1. Cut off the sleeves at the seam attaching them to the tee. Cut apart the underarm seam so the sleeve lays flat. Keep the sleeve hem intact for later.

2. Cut the sides of the tee where sideseams would be.

3. Cut off the neckband. Save for another project or toss it.

4. Cut apart the shoulder seams.

When you're done cutting, you should have 5 pieces which look similar to this:

Next, fold the front of the tee in half vertically and lay your front pattern piece on the fold, and cut.

You may need to redraw or reshape the pattern neckline if the tee's original front picture/design is in the way. Since all logo tees are different, this step may take a bit of fiddling to get both the best picture placement and pattern placement where the fabric is.

My original pattern neckline is shown in pink in the photo to the right. In order to be able to include all of the tee's front design, I had to cut this neckline as shown by the blue line. Don't forget to include seam allowances if you're planning to turn the neckline under. I bound my neckline so my tee remake was cut without neckline seam allowances.

What helps to make the remakes more flattering — besides the overall better fit — are (1) the lower neckline, (2) the shaped sideseams, and (3) the shaped hemline. All of these features can easily be incorporated into the tee pattern you use for the remake.

Next, fold the back of the tee in half vertically and place the back pattern piece on the fold and cut.

I like shortcuts whenever they make the most sense. So, I lay my sleeve pattern on the tee sleeve pieces so that I can keep the hems. If your sleeve pieces allow enough room for you to do this, don't pass up the opportunity to save the step of hemming later!

(Those yellow and pink tabs you see are stickers I use to mark the front and back of the sleeve piece.)

Sew your "new" tee pieces together as instructed by your pattern, or using your favorite method.

Here's a close-up of my bound neckline, applied using my coverstitch machine.

Below are more football tees I've remade.




Another After:

Another After:



Back, After:

Techniques: Flat Elastic (when wearing) Waistband

Since my tummy is decidedly *not* flat, I've found that I really like the firmness and "hold-in power" of taut waistbands. I love how my jeans feel when I first put them on, but after an hour the waistband is stretched out and the tummy is flopping. On my last few pairs of pants (even non-jeans), I've been adding wide elastic to my waistbands and I love the result.

In Power Sewing Step-By-Step, Sandra Betzina shows a similar method. Mine differs, however, because I do not change the length of the original waistband. My waistband would still fit me without the elastic. The elastic is really just a very firm interfacing which acts to snug in both the waistband and my tummy. Sandra's method allows you to feast at the Thanksgiving table without undoing your pants. Mine probably doesn't. Keep that in mind in November.

To begin, I sew the waistband to the top of the pants as usual, and then press the seam allowances up toward the waistband, as shown in the photo below. This particular waistband will be folded over, but this method will also work with straight waistbands which have separate front and back pieces. The key is to cut (or finish) the waistband so that it is 2x the width of the elastic, plus seam allowances.

I used a fold-over waistband because I was also trying out Sandra Betzina's tip for cutting the waistband with the selvege as one of the long sides. If you're not using the selvege, overcast this inside edge of your waistband.

With the waistband attached to the top of the pants, it's now time to attach the elastic. I'm using 1-1/4" elastic. I have a 50 yd bolt of this stuff so you can guess that nearly all of my finished waistbands are 1-1/4" wide.

You can also see a bit of fusible interfacing in the photo below. I stop the elastic at the button/buttonhole areas because buttonholes are bad enough without contemplating making one through elastic! The fusible is to add body and stability for the buttonhole and button to be added later.

Pre-stretch the elastic 2-3 times and then cut it the length of your waistband minus buttonhole areas and then minus 3-5 additional inches depending on what's comfortable for you.

Slide the elastic behind the seam allowance as shown below. This is just so you know where I'm talking about. Once you know where the elastic sits and is stitched, you can skip to the next step.

Zigzag the elastic to the seam allowance as shown in the 2 photos below. Do not sew through the waistband, only through the seam allowance. Stretch the elastic as you sew. You may wish to quarter mark and pin it. I pin, but I just eyeball the quarters -- no marking.

To sew, flip the waistband down toward the pants so that both are on your left with the waistband on top. Then align the long edge of the elastic just inside the seam stitches and zigzag. This way the bulk of the pants are to the left of the needle, the elastic is to the right and on top so you can see where you're stitching in the seam allowance. Neatness doesn't count because no one (even you) will ever see this stitching when the waistband is finished.

This waistband has a center back seam and the resulting intersection of those seam allowances so I just skipped over that area, which allows the waistband to still fold down neatly in the next step.

Next, fold the waistband toward the inside *snugly* over the elastic and press. Although this is not hard, this is probably the trickiest part because you're going to be fighting the elastic wanting to gather up. Just fold over and press a few inches at a time. Again, the waistband police will not be ringing your doorbell.

Finish the ends of the waistband around the fly (or other) opening per your usual method, trim seam allowances and corners, turn, press and slipstitch closed. Then fold under the "seam allowance" of each end of the waistband at the top of the zipper and press. (I forgot to take a pic of this, but I will add one when I make my next pair of pants.) The goal is to clear the waistband long edge seam allowances away from the top of the zipper while also catching the top of the zipper inside.

From the right side, stitch in the ditch between the waistband and pants, catching the inside edge of the waistband. Use thread that very closely matches your pants, and start and stop stitching where you pressed the seam allowance under at the zipper in the previous step.

You can pin the waistband down in a few key areas or you can just stretch the elastic as you sew. I find it easy enough to stretch as I go.

Below is what the stitching looks like from the right side. It's more visible in this photo than in real life because the light of the flash is bouncing off the shine of the thread. Trust me, no one is going to be inspecting your waistband seam so even if your stitching *does* show a little bit, don't worry about it.

This is what the stitching in the ditch looks like from the wrong side. Notice that the seam allowance is *not* turned under. How fast and easy is that?? (Remember, it *is* turned under on the wrong side at the top of the zipper -- I just don't have a pic yet.)

This is the waistband off of my body. It looks like your regular bulky gathered waistband, doesn't it? Well, look at the next pic ...

This is that waistband on me. It's flat when I'm wearing it. My waistbands don't stretch out and become too loose because the elastic is keeping it snug, and my tummy gets a bit of restraint in the process. If only I could exhibit such restraint around the cookies and chocolate!