My overlocker is probably about 25 years old, I bought it when I was making a lot of wedding and evening dresses to help finish seams neatly. I have to confess I never really mastered sewing with it as an alternative to my sewing machine.
I looked at it gathering dust in the corner of my sewing room and decided I really needed to give it another go, particularly as I fancy starting to sew jersey and knits. Whenever I tried the thread broke, or I couldn’t get the tension right. I took it to Jack in Leeds Market to get it serviced, ‘It runs like a dream, could have sold it three times!’…so it was obviously me!
I then noticed that at the Yorkshire School of Sewing, there was a class entitled ‘Get to know your overlocker’ I booked straight away, Gillian was great, even offering to collect me from Leeds station if I couldn’t get a lift. Yorkshire School of Sewing is based in Roundhay on the outskirts of Leeds, classes are held either at Gillians home in Roundhay or at Fine Fabrics in Harrogate.
Well I learnt loads, there were three of us in the class, so there was plenty of personal attention when it was needed. We were sewing in Gillian’s conservatory so it was nice and light. There was the usual embarrassment over ‘when did you last change your needle?’ everyone else had a fairly new machine so was ok, I had to confess to probably about 20 years ago!! New needle in now!
We started with a tour of the machine, how it works, what all the knobs do, I lost my manual years ago so I was rediscovering things like stitch width, moving the blade out of the way, foot pressure…We then tried lots of different types of fabric, thick tweeds, chiffons, jerseys, making notes each time on what settings our particular machine gives the best stitch. We learnt how to look at the stitch to work out what needs adjusting. I discovered I had a foot and plate for stitching those lovely narrow hems on fine fabrics! We practiced stitching curves and corners for necklines. We also saw the advantages of using a pressing ham and silk organza pressing cloth. The silk organza can withstand the hot iron, but it’s sheer, so you can see what you’re pressing. Gillian was selling them for £3, a bargain! A tailors ham is now on my list of things to make!
We had all taken a length of fabric to make a loose fitting jacket, a reversible boucle fabric was recommended so I googled boucle and found some on ebay, it was a lovely purple on one side and grey on the other, perfect. Gillian cut out for us a very simple jacket, just front, back and sleeves, the collar was part of the front. I was amazed that it literally took about half an hour to sew the basic jacket, all I had to do to finish it at home was overlocking all round the edge and a button.
I took Gillian’s advice, trimmed the loose ends with my scissors and then stitched without the blade, on my machine it gave a much better finish for the edges, she also recommended going round twice as it gives a better finish than stitching once with a closer stitch.
The button caused a few headaches…I found a beautiful vintage button in my button box which looked great. I didn’t want to do a buttonhole as the fabric was a fairly loose weave so I would have needed a bound one. I decided on a loop and found a scrap of soft leather which was perfect, only I’ve never sewn with leather before! I have a feeling you need a special needle, I changed to a denim needle as I thought it would be strong enough, it worked! I wanted to strengthen the loop so I decided to stitch a piece of leather on the right side over the loops. It was a good plan and would have worked perfectly if I had chosen a nice simple shape…I chose a heart shape! I eventually managed to stitch it on, not perfect, but acceptable…only to find I had stitched it upside-down!!!! Well it’s staying upside-down, shame I can’t photoshop the actual jacket!
The button is quite large and has a metal shank, as I was preparing to sew it I realised that twisted round the shank was a strip of linen which had been used to attach the button. I’ve had problems with metal shank buttons before as the shank can cut through thread. I threaded some narrow black ribbon and used that to sew the button on, looping through the button shank twice, as the fabric was pretty loose-weave, it went through easily. I put a scrap of leather at the back and tied the ribbon over it in a knot. Time will tell how successful it is.
I’m certainly back in love with my overlocker again, I even bought another three lengths of jerseys and knits and a pattern ( having gone into B&M fabrics for quilting fabric!) I can highly recommend the courses at Yorkshire School of Sewing, I’m very tempted with the Chanel Jacket course…