Friday, August 21, 2015

Featherweight Skill Series - Straight Stitch Foot

Thank you for coming to my Featherweight Skill Series! Whether you found the series in a web search or from my Facebook group, welcome! There are thousands of us who love our little 221s but need or want a little more "know-how" on using them to their fullest potential. I hope my posts and videos will help you get more know-how and confidence in using your beautiful Featherweight. Enjoy the classes!

Class #3 - Using the straight stitch foot

Class supply list:
Your fully threaded sewing machine with a bright color threaded on top, the straight stitch foot, four sheets of paper, three 10" squares of fabric, a pen.

OK - let's get sewing!

When I started studying art, I had to learn how to draw and shade a circle. I didn't want to learn how to draw and shade a circle, I wanted to draw portraits and paint landscapes with cottages and trees and mountains. But first things had to come first. I had to learn to draw and shade a circle. After learning the ins and outs of turning a 2-D circle into a 3-D sphere, I started to get the concept behind starting at the first step.

I'm sure the last thing you want to do is sew lines. We all know how to sew straight lines! We're probably really good at sewing them! Try to bear with me! I hope to add some helpful tips for your skill foundation while we are sewing straight lines. You will get really good with eye-hand coordination and at better controlling your foot pedal with these exercises!

-Take a look at the stitch length numbers on your machine and count how many there are.

-On your first sheet of paper, draw that many lines across the sheet. 
-Then on the next sheet, draw a concentric square. 
-On the third sheet, draw a concentric circle. 
-And on the last sheet, draw whatever you like as long as it is manageable to sew.

Here's mine:

Now, with the first paper, set your stitch length for the longest stitch (all the way down to the lowest number) and sew on the line across the sheet.  
Lift the pressure foot, holding the end of the stitching, carefully pull the paper away from the needle so it doesn't rip and out far enough to cut the threads.

Write on the paper which number setting you used at the beginning and end of the stitch line.

Go to the next line, bring your stitch length to the next number, tighten the setting nut...'s how I set mine at the next number. I brought the screw next to the number and then turned the nut until it stopped.

Sew across the sheet. Remove the paper, cut the thread, and write down what number that line was sewn at.

Continue to advance to the next line and sew across at the next stitch length number until your settings are all sewn down on the paper.

If your machine is working correctly, each line will reveal shorter stitch lengths.

This will be a handy chart to refer to when you are trying to choose a stitch length for a project. Some of those stitches get really small! 

Singer sewing books have recommended numbers 6 and 8 to be used for basting because it is a long stitch and can be easily removed.
A number 10 or 12 length is suitable for straight stitching. 
Number 15 for curved and bias stitching. 
Number 20 or 30 where very smooth or rounded edges are required or when durability is needed as for stitching buttonholes or pockets.

Notes like this can be written on your chart any time for easy reference.

Fold it up and keep it in your case or sewing cabinet.
Next, take sheet #2 and pin it onto the corners of a piece of fabric. Choose a medium to high number for the stitch length. Use your stitch chart to decide which length to use. I chose length 10. 

Start at the center of the square, hold your thread tails, and stitch 2 or 3 stitches. Bring the stitch lever to reverse and stitch back 2 or 3 stitches. This is called setting or staying the seam end. Bring the lever back down to go forward again. Work the pedal to sew slowly so you can stop at the end of the line with accuracy. Pick up the pressure foot and pivot the square so you can continue sewing your lines.

Sew each line and when you get to the last line on the outer edge, set the seam end as in the beginning. Then raise your pressure foot, carefully pull the work towards the rear left side from the needle, and cut your threads.

Now you can remove your paper. Gently tear it away from the fabric along the stitches and admire your beautiful straight stitch work! This will  all feel very familiar to anyone who has done paper piecing projects. If you know how, you can make this into a quilt sandwich and stitch out your motifs. (We'll talk about them at another class!)

If you don't want to deal with stitching on paper and tearing it off when you're done, you can transfer your design onto your fabric with a marking pen or ceramic dressmaker's pencil and stitch directly on the fabric. Place stabilizer on the back of the fabric to keep it from puckering.

After sewing my first motif, I decided to jump my stitch length up to 15 so the paper would have more perforations and tear away easier.

Do the same process as with the last design.

With the circular motif, it is vital to use both hands to guide the paper and fabric under the needle so it advances in a circular motion. Take care to stitch slow enough to keep control. The center of the motif will require much slower stitching than the outer arcs of the motif.

Now that you know the routine, you may want to rethink your final drawing. Is it too easy or too hard to stitch? If so, turn the paper over and redraw your design, then sew it out.

I decided to make the veins of my leaf a little different than where my lines were drawn so I changed it while I was sewing it and added an extra line down the center. I wasn't stitching on many of the lines in this one! But it looked like a leaf so I kept going.

Here it is all done! I like it!
For doing piecing work, you can use the seam guide. Take a measuring tape, set a line at the needle hole. Line your seam guide up to the distance you want for your seam. Attach the guide, finger tight, with the screw into a hole in the base of the sewing machine on the right side of the needle plate.
Be careful to not strip the screw hole! I should be firm enough to keep the guide from moving.

Make your stitch length chart and the three motif blocks. Share your pics and comments with us on my Facebook Group!

It'll be fun to see what you came up with! Did you change your last drawing? What did you struggle with? What did you like about this exercise? What did you learn? We want to hear all about it!

You can save all your squares for future use or for stitch reference. These three squares can be used in other things. Now that you have the skill to stitch out drawn designs, you can make what ever you want on almost any size fabric!

I hope you have been encouraged to move that stitch lever and get better control over the foot pedal. Please share your pics on our Facebook group page, Featherweight Skill Series, so we can see your creations!

If you like the series, share the link with your friends, pin it to Pinterest, join my Facebook group... Most importantly, "Let's get sewing!"

Next time, we will review some common fabric types, needles, and working with the pressure control knob. See you then!

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