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Important Fabric Concepts for Sewing Students (revised)

Washing your fabric

ALL fabric should be washed before sewing with the exception of fleece and “dry clean only”  fabric. But no need to use laundry soap! All of our beginner projects are made with woven cotton (Flannel is a type of woven cotton.). Wash your cotton fabric in cold water WITH NO DETERGENT and dry in the dryer. DO NOT USE perfumed fabric softeners or dryer sheets!

  1. Reasons for washing new fabric 
    1. Removes coatings/fabric finishes
    2. Fabric can shrink up to 3% when washed the first time.
    3. Some new fabrics “bleed” when washed the first time because of dyes used.
  2. No perfume products! When the fabric is ironed they become an irritant to nose and lungs. If you have respiratory allergies, it makes it hard to breathe.  We have seen kids having a hard time breathing. It’s scary to see a child struggle to breathe if they are near the ironing board when the fragrance is intensified by ironing.
  3. Fabric softeners leave a residue on the fabric which gets on the iron, sewing machine and your needle. There is no need for these chemicals to be added to your fabric. They were developed to deal with body odor. This is NEW fabric 🙂
Diagonals and solids  
  • SOLID COLORS: People flip fabric and sew the wrong pieces together. You have to mark right side and wrong side  and sometimes it still gets sewn wrong.diagonal stripesone way pattern
  • DIAGONAL STRIPE: Almost impossible to match the stripes. This never looks good on a beginner project and is frustrating.
  • ONE-WAY DESIGNS  Buy an extra half yard to a yard of fabric so you can lay it out with everything is facing the right way! Example: picture of cup-cakes
Info on the end of the fabric bolt

When you shop for fabric, look at the end of the bolt. There is so much information!end of bolt

Fabric Name, Fiber Content, Fabric Width, Fabric Care (i.e. washing) instructions, Designer, Price (per yard)

Fiber Content is important. 100% cotton is the easiest fabric to start learning to sew with. Fabric width is also important. The wider the fabric, the more fabric you get per yard. Fabric Care (washing) instructions: If it says dry clean only, it is not a great choice for a beginner project of lounge pants!

That’s all I can think of for now. I hope this clarifies concepts we have tried to explain in the past. If you have any questions or comments feel free to call, text or email me. I love to hear from you! 

Rebecca Linson Szetela
Create!® Sewing Studio, 274 Great Road, Acton, MA 01720

Important Fabric Concepts for Sewing Students

I have not written a blog post in a while, but I feel compelled now as there are some subjects that come up constantly in our classes that I think are important. This blog post is dedicated our present sewing students and to future sewing students as well.

Wash your fabric before sewing! With the exception of the fleece that we use for stuffies and fabric that says “dry clean only” all fabric should be washed before sewing. Our beginner projects are all done on some type of woven cotton. Flannel, by the way is woven cotton as well. When washing your cotton fabric, it should be in cold water with detergent (preferably unscented!) and dried in the dryer. PLEASE do not use perfumed fabric softeners or dryer sheets. There are several reasons for this.

  1. When the fabric is ironed, these scents and  perfumes heat up and can be a real irritant to your nose and lungs. If you have any allergies affecting your respiratory system, it can make it hard to breathe. This is a real issue in our sewing classroom as we have seen in our classes some children have a hard time breathing being around any kind of fragrance…it’s scary to see a child struggle to breathe if she or he is near the ironing board when the fragrance is intensified by ironing.
  2. Fabric softeners can leave a residue on the fabric which gets on the iron, sewing machine and your needle.
  3. In addition, there is no need for all these chemicals being added to your fabric. All that perfumed stuff was developed to deal with covering up body odor. This is NEW fabric!
  4. Reasons for washing new fabric:
    1. Gets any coating/fabric finish off the fabric.
    2. Gets the “shrink out” as fabric can shrink up to 3% when washed for the first time.
    3. In addition, some new fabrics “bleed” when they are washed for the first time because of the dyes used. After the first washing, you should be able to wash your new garment with your other clothes once it is sewn.


Diagonal Stripes, Directional Fabric & Solids

This topic seems to be misunderstood by many of our parents when buying fabric for their children’s lessons. Adult sewing students also seem to have a hard time with this concept. When we send out information on buying fabric for a class, we ask the following:


diagonal stripesone way pattern













  1. NO SOLID COLORS. The problem with solid colors is if you don’t carefully mark right side and wrong side, people end up flipping the fabric around and sewing the wrong pieces together. What a mess! We have seen this on lounge pants (both kids and adults have made this mistake) and it is a disaster!
  2. NO DIAGONAL STRIPES! Diagonal stripes are almost impossible to lay out with a pattern and match the stripes. This never looks good on a beginner project and is VERY frustrating!
  3. ONE-WAY DESIGNS there are some very cute fabrics with a one-way design, so just buy an extra half yard to a yard of fabric. That way we have enough fabric to lay it out so everything is facing the right way! Example: picture of cup-cakes… if you turn it one way the cupcakes face up, but if you turn it another way they are upside down and if you turn it sideways…well, the cupcakes look pretty odd!


Info on the end of the fabric bolt

When you shop for fabric, look at the end of the bolt and you will find all kinds of information. There is so much information on the end of the bolt! Look at the picture below. end of bolt

  1. Fabric Name (Nice to know if you want to buy it again at a later date, but not terribly important.)
  2. Fiber Content (This is VERY important!)
  3. Fabric Width (This is important.)
  4. Care (read: washing) instructions
  5. Designer (sometimes included, but not always)
  6. Price (per yard)

Number 2 Fiber Content is SUPER important. We ask for 100% cotton because it is the easiest and most forgiving of fabrics to start learning to sew with.

Number 3 Fabric Width is also important. The narrowest fabric is usually 42-43″ wide. Some fabrics are actually narrower (especially some specialty quilting cottons and batik cottons) and some are as wide as 58-60″ wide. The wider the fabric, the more fabric you get per yard.

Number 4 Fabric Care (washing) instructions is SUPER important. If it says dry clean only, it is not a great choice for a beginner project of lounge pants that need to get washed often!

That’s all I can think of for now. I hope this clarifies concepts we have tried to explain in the past. If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me. I love to hear from you! 

Very sincerely,

Rebecca Szetela
Create!® Sewing Studio

Adventures of a Treadlin’ Man









Photo credit: http://sewing.about.com/library/machines/bltrmachine.htm


Adventures of a Treadlin’ Man

Written by Brian Szetela
Edited by Rebecca Szetela

Inspired by several power outages during a recent surprise October snowstorm, I got interested in an antique treadle sewing machine at a local consignment shop. The old sewing machine looked neglected. The stylized ancient Egyptian decals on the machine were badly worn and the finish was scarred, but I could make out a sphinx or basilisk here and there. Although the decorations were worn, the machine did not seem to be “locked up” with ancient oil and thread and even though the belt was broken, the treadle mechanism was intact. I bought it.

Once I got home, I looked up the serial number on the Singer website and discovered that this was an early Singer “15-30” manufactured in New Jersey in 1908. From a website called Treadle On, I found instructions on how to refurbish the treadle. I disassembled the treadle, cleaned out the old threads wound in the works, reassembled and lubricated it and adjusted the treadle mechanism. Then I used kerosene to remove the old oil and lint from the machine’s interior shafts and bearings and I cleaned the outside with a soft rag and mild car washing soap. Finally, again referring to the Treadle On website, I fitted the new drive belt I found on Ebay.

The “15-30” model was the first Singer sewing machine designed to use an oscillating hook mechanism, departing from the back and forth shuttle mechanism suggestive of a weaving loom. The “hook” on a sewing machine is the mechanism that catches the needle thread, bringing it around the bobbin in order to complete the stitch. Oscillating hooks are rarely used on sewing machines today. The oscillating hook design was an intermediate step leading to the full rotating hook mechanism used on most modern sewing machines.

The stitch length on my 15-30 treadle sewing machine is adjustable, although there are no numbers to go by, and the machine can only make a straight stitch. There is also no reverse mechanism on the machine. Since I can’t reverse direction in order to “lock my stitches” I have to draw both threads to the back of the garment and tie them off instead. In spite of its limitations, my “new” sewing machine stitched flawlessly once I got the treadling motion down, despite its age and appearance of neglect.

I wanted to test the machine out on a garment sewing project, so I decided make lounge pants for my first treadle sewing adventure. I chose this as my first project as it has long straight seams and wide seam allowances to practice on. I wasn’t quite ready to start out working on a complex project with small pieces that required detail sewing. The challenge was going to be just getting my initial stitches done correctly! Once I got started I quickly found out that it takes practice plus finesse to get the pedaling motion down on the treadle.

In treadling, I quickly discovered that the goal was to get the treadle flywheel to start moving in the right direction so the belt would move forward over the top of the machine’s handwheel. This can be challenging, because sometimes it wants to go the wrong way, causing tangled stitches in the process. The good news is that the large spoked handwheel allows fine control of stitching because it is so easy to turn by hand. Once I got it started correctly on one of the long side seams, the treadling finally went smoothly and the seam came out great.

I am now the happy owner of a great pair of cotton flannel lounge pants and in the process I have discovered that treadle sewing is fun and relaxing.  My 1908 treadle-powered Singer 15-30 machine makes a neat, precise, consistent straight stitch that is a delight to see and the whirring sound as I treadle is very soothing. It makes me wonder what the pre-electric, pre- gasoline powered world was like.  I suspect it was very quiet back then.

Create!-ive Designing & Sewing

We are very big into helping our students sew, make and create whatever it is that they want to make. There is always a starting point of a student’s vision of what she or he wants and then figuring out how to do it. Often that involves taking fabric, pattern and directions and marrying the 3 so that the garment or accessory or “stuffie” comes out the way he/she/we envisioned it.

Sometimes however, a student comes to us with an idea  that is more “outside the box”. Either they have a drawing they want to see come to life or the pattern they chose is clearly not adequate to the task of their vision. That’s when our creative minds start working overtime.

Two projects come to mind that were in this category and interestingly, both were from advanced students who were in the same summer class. It was also the last class of the summer, so we were scrambling to try to get these projects done and done right under a serious deadline. They were also both projects involving stuffed animals, which if you have never made one before, can be very challenging since you are working in 3-D and it has to work as a sort of sculptural object as well as a sewing project.

One project was a stuffed cat that had to have very distinct properties. The first of which, since the student is a true cat lover was that it look “real” in it’s stance, with legs that actually were separate and helped it stand, not a 2-dimensional curled up flat “idea” of a cat. It also needed to be relatively easy to make since she wants to make several stuffed cats, each one slightly different.

The other project was a stuffed bear, but not just any stuffed bear. This was “Mr. Bean’s bear” made to resemble the bear from the the Mr. Bean movies. It had to look a certain way (skinny and somewhat gawkish, like Mr. Bean) and have 2-toned paws.

We had a limited amount of time and two very picky “sewing artists” plus two sewing instructors who wanted these kids to get what they wanted and not  be disappointed.

Here are the pictures of the finished projects. How did we do?

yellow kitty

yellow kitty

yellow cat on student's head

Successful cat stuffie!

Mr. Bean's Teddy Bear

Mr. Bean's Teddy Bear designed by advanced sewing student at Create! Sewing Studio

Mr. Bean's Bear

Summer Sewing Creativity

Every class we have is full of very creative sewing students, but last week’s our group of students got creative in some unexpected ways. Take this “Button Fish Sculpture” for example.

The student who made this just created it totally on her own when she saw a bunch of buttons on the table top.

Other kids got really creative with our new “monster” project. Here are some pictures of their work.

Happy Monsters

Lonely Monster

Several students also made more traditional projects like our lounge pants, ipod cases, totebags and backpacks. Here are some of those sewing projects.

“Sewn by me” Lounge Pants & Totebag

A monster and a new handbag!

Ah yes and we now celebrate at the end of each session with a cupcake treat! Yum!!!!

Cupcakes to celebrate!

We all love cupcakes!

And finally, our most advanced students show off their sewing projects for the week. Summer tops and totebags.

New Summer Tops! Great Sewing!

"Made by me" beach bag with fabric flowers

Mom was amazed at the great job these girls did!

Birthday Parties!!!!!

We are now doing birthday parties for kids! Check out the new page on our website: https://createsew.com/sew/parties/

…more news to come!

“Sew Simple” Tips for You on SuzySaid

Have you seen our new series of  Sew Simple “mini-blog” newsletter articles on SuzySaid? Here are links to a couple of the posts. If you get yourself on “Suzy’s” email list the links will come right to your email. Enjoy!

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