Technical Studies – A Samples Folder

When I was first at college, studying for my fashion diploma we had to produce a folder of samples. This served both as practice and reference and I have often thought about it and how useful it was for me as a beginner. The subject has occurred quite a lot in conversation so I’ve been prompted to put together a post of suggested practice pieces which might prove useful to anyone wanting to do the same. The important thing is to label everything well and to list the stages involved – either by including examples of each point or by listing the steps taken to reach the finished sample shown.

 

Stitch Samples

You will need: plain cotton lawn, medium-weight cotton, cotton jersey, coarsely woven fabric. All fabric should be plain – patterns make it too hard to see the detail of what you have stitched. Stickers and pen to label the fabric with. Tension should be set at between 4 and 5 unless stated otherwise. Match the thread colour to the fabric as closely as possible.

 

Stitch Length Exercises

Each machine will vary in the range of stitch lengths (mine are old machines and are incremented in 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30 stitches per inch) but for simplicity’s sake I will suggest sewing with 1, 2, 3 and 4mm stitch lengths although you may of course include samples for 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5mm if you wish to do so.

  1. Stitch length exercise – Topstitching:
    1. Fabric – a 20cm square of medium weight cotton folded in half and pressed.
    2. Sew parallel lines down the length of the fabric, each line in a different stitch length.
    3. Observe the finish and which seems to be neatest, which disappear into the fabric weave and which sit above it.
    4. Press them and label them. This may be repeated on as many fabric types as desired.
  2. Stitch length exercise – Seaming:
    1. Fabric – cut a 20cm square of fabric into four equal strips, cut each strip in half and press them. This will give us eight fabric strips 5 x 10cm. We will sew strips together in pairs, using different stitch lengths on each to show how it looks and behaves when pressed open.
    2. Take a pair of the strips and sew them along the longer sides, right sides together, using a 1.5cm seam and the longest possible stitch length. Repeat for the other stitch lengths and press all of the seams open and observe how each looks.
    3. Tug on the fabric either side of the seam and see whether the fabric appears stressed and likely to tear alongside the seamline.
    4. Press and label.

 

Seam Examples

Fabric – cut a 20cm square of fabric into four equal strips, cut each strip in half and press them. This will give us eight fabric strips 5 x 10cm. We will sew strips together in pairs, using different stitch lengths on each to show how it looks and behaves when pressed open.

  1. Open seam, pressed open, raw edges unfinished. Practice with sewing it pinned & also with it basted and compare.
  2. Open seam, pressed open and with raw edges turned under and stitched on both sides.
  3. Open seam, double topstitched.
  4. Open seam, raw edges pinked.
  5. Open seam, raw edges zigzagged.
  6. Open seam, raw edges overlock stitched (if your machine has this stitch).
  7. Open seam, raw edges overlocked (on an overlocker).
  8. Open seam, raw edges overcast (by hand).
  9. Bias bound seam.
  10. Hong Kong finish.
  11. Side-pressed seam – press seam open first, then press both to one side, raw edges unfinished.
  12. Side pressed seam, pinked edges.
  13. Side-pressed seam, overcast (by hand).
  14. Side-pressed seam, raw edges turned inwards then stitched down through all layers (looks like a felled seam).
  15. Corded seam – side pressed seam, topstitched through all layers from RS.
  16. French seam (straight seams only).
  17. Lapped seam.
  18. Felled seam.
  19. Tape bound seam (straight, using seam tape or ribbon).
  20. Bias bound seam (curved).
  21. Crossed seam – practice matching up seam lines where two cross.
  22. Piped seam – practice with and without piping cord.

 

Seaming and Hemming curves:

  1. Seaming a convex curve onto a concave one – will need to notch and snip the seam to get it to lie flat when turned and pressed. Use a tailor’s ham. Good practice for pressing princess seams and yokes.
  2. Seaming a convex curve onto a straight edge – experiment with where to notch and where to snip to get the seam pressed flat (over a tailor’s ham – good practice for pressing princess seams).
  3. Seaming a concave curve onto a straight edge – experiment with where to notch and where to snip to get the seam pressed flat (over a tailor’s ham – good practice for pressing princess seams).
  4. Piping a curved seam (gives strength as well as decoration).
  5. Binding a convex curve.
  6. Binding a concave curve (harder than convex, easiest to finish second side by hand if the curve is tight).
  7. Hemming a convex curve with darts (cotton fabric) & braid or bias binding.
  8. Hemming a convex curve with gathers (wool fabric) & braid or bias binding.
  9. Hemming a concave curve with facing or bias binding.
  10. Hemming a fancy (scalloped) hem.

 

Seaming stretch fabrics

  1. Straight seam using ordinary zigzag (use a small stitch and a small zigzag).
  2. Straight seam using triple-stitch.
  3. Repeat for whatever utility stitches your machine is equipped with for stretch fabrics.

 

Hems

  1. Single-turn hem. Practice with sewing it pinned & also with it basted and compare.
  2. Double-turn hem.
  3. Faced hem.
  4. Bias-faced hem.
  5. Single-turn hem, neatened with bias sewn flat across raw edge.
  6. Single-turn hem, overcast edge (by hand).
  7. Single-turn hem, herringboned (by hand).
  8. Double-turned hem, slip stitched (by hand).
  9. Blind hem.
  10. Rolled hem, machine stitched.
  11. Rolled hem, hand stitched.
  12. Pin hem.
  13. Narrow hem.

 

Buttonholes & Buttons

  1. 2-hole shirt button by machine (with a stand).
  2. 2-hole shirt button by hand (with a stand).
  3. 4-hole shirt button by hand (cross-sewn, with shank).
  4. Metal shank button (using thread).
  5. Metal shank button (using eyelet & split pin).
  6. Metal shank button (using tape or fabric, sewn through eyelet).
  7. Handmade buttonhole (keyhole).
  8. Bias bound buttonhole.
  9. Faced buttonhole.

 

Darts, Gathers & Ruffles

  1. Stitching a straight dart.
  2. Stitching a curved dart.
  3. Gathers on different stitch lengths. Measure and mark 10cm distances across pieces of cloth and then, using a gathering foot, stitch across between the marks on different stitch lengths then re-measure and note down how much each one had ‘shrunk’ by.
  4. Ruffles on different stitch lengths and settings. Measure and mark 10cm distances across pieces of cloth and then, using a ruffle attachment, stitch across between the marks on different stitch lengths then re-measure and note down how much each one had ‘shrunk’ by.

 

Pleats and Tucks

  1. Straight pleats.
  2. Part-sewn pleats (sewn down for part of their length).
  3. Straight tucks.
  4. Pin tucks.
  5. Box pleats.
  6. Hemming a pleat.

 

Pockets

  1. Patch pocket with rounded bottom edges.
  2. Welt pocket.
  3. Bound pocket.
  4. Flap pocket.
  5. Jetted pocket.
  6. Side pocket (set into a seam).
  7. Hip pocket (set into a shaped panel like a front jeans pocket).

 

Zips and Fastenings, Openings & Miscellaneous

  1. Faced opening
  2. Bound opening
  3. Continuous opening
  4. Sleeve opening (with tab end placket)
  5. Bias-faced V-neck
  6. Faced V-neck
  7. Faced round neck
  8. Faced square neck
  9. Closed-end zip sewn into seam (no underlap).
  10. Closed-end zip sewn into seam (with underlap).
  11. Closed-end zip sewn into slit.
  12. Invisible zip sewn in seam.
  13. Invisible zip sewn into slit.
  14. Open-ended zip.
  15. Zip set into a fly opening.
  16. Hooks and eyes.
  17. Press studs.
  18. Thread bars, loops & chains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Order of Making Up

Looking through my old needlework books I found the attached and thought it an excellent resource well worth reproducing and sharing here.

The jpeg is necessarily in quite low resolution to meet the file size requirements for attachments so I’ll transcribe the text here:

“The sequences for making-up on the opposite page naturally have to be altered for jackets and complicated garments. Especially important is the frequent pressing, which has to be done after every seam is sewn. All embroidery should be worked before the garment is made up, unless the design crosses the seams, in which case it is better done afterwards.

The Sequence for Sewing a Dress
1. Put in darts at back, front and side. Draw out tacking threads, and press.
2. Machine side seams, draw out tacking threads, and press. Any fastenings can be left until last.
3. Machine shoulder seams, draw out tacking threads, and press.
4. Machine skirt seams, pull out tacking threads, and press.
5. Join skirt and bodice, remove tacking threads, and press. 
6. Machine sleeve seams, remove tacking threads, and press.
7. Put in sleeves, press and finish off.
8. Finish off neck.
9. Finish the wristbands.
10. Turn up the hem, press all seams again, put on trimmings, and press finally.

The Sequence for Sewing a Coat
1. Machine darts at front, trim and press, shrinking material at the points.
2. Machine underarm and shoulder seams, and finish them if the coat is to be unlined. Press.
3. Cut canvas or linen interfacing, and tack to wrong side. Join to coat and outer edge of under collar. Press.
4. Join under collar and coat – trim seam and press open.
5. Make bound buttonholes.
6. Join coat facing to collar.
7. Join collar and facing.
8. Turn facing and collar inside, tack into position.
9. Turn up hem.
10. Make pockets.
11. Cut out and fix in lining.”

From Weldon’s Encyclopedia of Needlework (undated but looks 1940s. Red boards. Hardback. Boasts nearly 2000 illustrations. I also have an earlier version dating from the 1920s which is much smaller and with only 500 illustrations. That one has pale green boards. The two volumes are not at all alike and the contents equally valuable.)