Elastic Thread, Oh My!

Sometimes, a customer job request puts me in a position of having to do something that I have, until then, never had the occasion to do.

In over 30 years of sewing somehow I managed to never take the opportunity to try out elastic thread. One of my customers brought me a sun dress with an elastic-smocked bodice, to replicate. Who am I to turn down a chance to learn something new?

I wish I had been thinking about the potential of the project being inspiration for a blog post. I really should have taken photographs. Silly me! The dresses turned out fantastic.

When I first opened up the store, my thread supplier urged me to carry elastic thread. So I did. I never thought much about it until a customer came in and asked me how to use it. We googled it together and discovered that you use it on the bobbin. You hand wind it without stretching it. Use a regular thread on the top and away you sew. That was as far as I took it at the time. I have to be honest. When this recent job came up, I was a little concerned about whether using elastic thread would be frustrating or difficult.

It really wasn’t troublesome at all.

I did discover a few things that I would have been happy to know before I started. On the first dress (she wanted two dresses) I just dove in and after serging the raw edges I started sewing parallel lines of smocking. I realized after, it would have been much easier to create the channel for the 10mm elastic at the top edge before I started smocking. It was a nuisance to have to stretch the jersey against all those rows of elastic stitches and try to estimate where “neutral” was in regard to the fabric’s natural stretchiness, so everything would line up without getting a bunch of angled ripples in the channel. I managed fine, but it certainly wasn’t the easiest method. I did the channel first on the second dress and that went smoothly.

If you’re going to use jersey for the smocking (or any other knit… well actually, any kind of fabric at all), you’re going to want to take the oh-so-tedious-and-boring-as-anything time it takes to mark your parallel lines before you start sewing.

I get impatient. On the first dress I figured, “parallel lines? Pfff! I can do those in my sleep!” Yeah, in normal conditions: no problemo. However add in the jersey with its lovely stretch and the fact that with each additional row of gathering it takes more effort to ensure that the jersey is neutral (not being stretched as you work) so that your estimated distance from the previous row of smocking remains parallel.

Remember that parallel is a mathematical term. It refers to lines that are equidistant from each other… not wibbly-wobbly, kind-of, sort-of, going mostly in the same-ish direction. Not that my lines were all that bad. They were satisfactory. Not mathematically precise… but you definitely couldn’t tell in the finished product. The issue is that you work the gathering on the flat fabric and sew the centre back seam up when you are all done the smocking. So if your rows of gathering don’t line up at the centre back, it looks really sloppy. Also, we tend to notice when a series of stacked lines are grossly non-parallel.  It definitely draws the eye.. You don’t want to have particularly uneven lines across your boobs. Also, you don’t want to have to start picking this stuff apart. So yeah… take the time to mark it, all the way across the width of the fabric. In the case of the jersey, that’s all 60″ (or 152.4 cm).

Trust me, when you sew it, these marked lines will make you happy.

It took me around an hour and a half per dress to do all the smocking and finishing. I made spaghetti straps and used a Prym bra fasteners kit for the rings and the slide buckles. This way the straps were adjustable.

Oh, and I also used a Prym turning kit. This was pretty cool. It comes with three sizes of turning tools. Each consists of a tube and a wooden stick. You sew your strap and close one end. Then, you slide the tube inside the strap all the way to the closed end. Take the stick and use it to push the fabric into the tube, all the while sliding the fabric along the outside of the tube as the stick pushes it through the centre of the tube. One end of the stick is pointed, the other is flat. I used the flat end so that the point wouldn’t stress the fabric as it was forced through the tube. If the edges on that end would have needed to be turned neatly I would have reinserted the stick with the pointed end first so that I could use that to get the corners all perfect. I liked it! The kit now sits in my “must be close on hand… but not so close it has to be in my tool belt” drawer.

Only trouble with all of this is that now I am looking at all my fabric thinking,

“could I use elastic thread on this?”

Oi veh! I need to get out more!

Happy Sewing!

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The Shop Cat

Last July, we had a fierce storm.

My husband came home from work and after commenting on the intensity of the rain and wind, he mentioned that he felt as if a ghost had slipped past him on his way in the door. Then he laughed and chalked it up to the crazy weather.

Later that night, he went down to the garage and heard a meow. He called me; when I got there, he had a cardboard box set up with some small pieces of beef jerky in it.

“There’s a cat in here.”He told me quietly. “I think it’s gone behind that stuff at the wall.”

We put a plate with more tempting morsels at one end of the hiding place. After a time, we decided to leave and give the critter a chance to relax.

We went out to see a movie that night. When we came back, we found him in a different hiding place. I reached in with my buttery fingers and he began licking them. I coaxed him out of the hiding place and then I sat down on the floor. He climbed into my lap and purred as he continued to lick the salty butter off my fingers.

“He’s too nice to not belong to someone. Better try and track down his family.”

My husband was right. This fluffy black cat was gentle and sweet tempered. So I spent the next few weeks doing everything I could think of to try and track down his family. But it got us nowhere.

No one came forward.

 

After enough time had passed and I was confident no one would claim him I made an appointment with the vet and arranged for his shots and neutering. When it was time to pick him up, I could hear him meowing a conversation with the clinic staff members. This cat was good at making friends!

We live above my store. At first, the thought of having a cat in the store, around all that yarn was kind of frightening. But the poor little fellow was so distraught being alone all day that his meowing was breaking my heart! We figured it would be worth giving him a chance in the store. I set up a basket for him on my work table. He claimed it before I even finished putting the blanket in. It wasn’t long before we had a cat tower set up for him at the back of the store so he had a spot from which he could see everything.

We called him Ricasso (we are big Forged in Fire fans). He has become a fixture in the store.

He recognizes the regulars and their children.

He even anticipates some of the children; he waits inside the door for them when he hears them get out of their car. When they come in, he escorts them to the play area and sometimes keeps them company while they play. He’ll greet some of the littler children and then make a subtle exit when he has had as much of their attention as he wants. He is always gentle with the little ones. He figured out how to open the door into the exit air-lock. He goes in and out of the air-lock as he pleases and spends a lot of time watching the parking lot through the glass exit doors. He happily greets customers… unless he’s sleeping, that is.

ricasso-sleeping

And Ricasso knows what time it is.

He comes to work with me in the morning and when it’s time for my lunch break, he blatantly interrupts my work to make certain that I know it’s time to stop. When it’s time for my husband to get home, he watches for him and enthusiastically greets him when he comes in. And if I’m late locking up, Ricasso doesn’t hesitate to chastise me for it. He meows loudly and twitches his ears until I close shop.

If I’m having a tough day, he places himself where I have no choice but to interact with him and does what he can to cheer me up.

He has definitely made himself part of the family.

I never imagined I would want or have a shop cat. Now, thanks to Ricasso, I can’t imagine my store without him.

 

Raglan, Anyone?

Most of my knitting buddies will agree.

We love to knit, but we hate having to sew the pieces of our knitted garments together when we’re done.

Even people like me, who sew a lot, usually don’t like to assemble a sweater once it has been knit. A raglan sweater (whether a pull-over or a cardigan) is knitted from the collar down and incorporates a yoke that allows the sleeves to be knit directly onto the body of the sweater. The sleeves and the body (in the case of a pull-over) can be knit in the round thus completely eliminating the need for assembly once it has been knit.

Now that is my kind of sweater: No seams!

The first time knitting a raglan sweater can be rather confusing. It’s not uncommon for designers to make assumptions about what you know. If you are inexperienced, that can undermine your enthusiasm and ultimately your desire to ever make another sweater.

I love beginners. I love watching people experience the process of discovery. Last year I posted a bunch of beginner knitting patterns. I wanted to step it up a bit from the dishcloths. It’s been ages since I posted a pattern and I figured it was high time.

So today I have a pattern for you.

It’s a miniature raglan sweater designed to fit “My Life” dolls.

Small enough that you can finish it in a few evenings, big enough that you can easily get a good understanding of the process of making a raglan sweater. I put a lot of energy into making the pattern as simple as possible to follow… with the beginner in mind. I hope that once you have done this project that it will inspire you to try making a full size raglan project. (Of course, there is no obligation!)

I did my best to explain how the construction works.

I also included a chart that you can follow so you can see, row by row, where the increases happen. It gives a clear visual of how many stitches are in each section. At first glance, you might think that I have been charged with the task of increasing stitch marker sales across the nation. But, trust me. A well placed stitch marker is your friend! I tried to include some helpful photographs as well.

It’s confession time: I did not have anyone else test this pattern. I checked it over, and over, and over and I’m confident that I caught everything. However, I am just a human. So, if you try it out and you have any trouble with it whatsoever, please drop me a message and I will help you. If there is an error, I will correct it and post the amended pattern.

I’m quite pleased with the result. I hope you have fun with it. And I hope that some lucky child will be getting a new sweater for their doll very soon.

Happy Knitting!

Here is the Pattern!

Understanding Fabric: Chiffon

Chiffon is a diaphanous, ethereal fabric with a gorgeous drape. Yet, ask anyone who has hemmed a lot of formal gowns and most will agree to it’s nickname: “the devil’s fabric”. This gloriously feminine textile is very tricky to work with. There are some things that you really want to be aware of before you take on your first chiffon project.

It’s very difficult to get chiffon to lay straight on your cutting surface.

I recommend using a large rotary cutting mat with a grid to lay it out. That way you can look at the grain of the fabric and have something to align it to. You can see through chiffon. I would suggest cutting one layer at a time.

It is very important that you take the time to align it before you lay out your pattern pieces or prepare to cut it out. If you skip this step, the pieces will most likely end up distorted to the point of uselessness. If you have pieces that require being cut on the fold, grab some paper and duplicate the half pattern piece, tape the two together and use that.

Once the fabric is laid out, my preference is to use weights (I use hockey pucks and serger cones of thread) to hold the pattern pieces in place.

Some people like to draw around the pattern pieces with tailor’s chalk or a marking pen.

I have a set of 3 large cutting mats that I lay out side by side to give me a large cutting area. When I’m satisfied with their positioning, I use a rotary cutter with a fresh blade and cut out the pieces.

No, I don’t pin them, and no, I don’t like to use scissors except where absolutely necessary.

Once I have the chiffon in place, I don’t like to disturb it.

Some people are comfortable pinning it and using scissors, and that’s great. If it works for you, by all means: all the power to you! 🙂 My friend (an accomplished tailor who specializes in formal gowns) has a dedicated pair of scissors that she uses for chiffon. They are labeled so that they are never, ever used for anything but chiffon.

When constructing items with chiffon, use a relatively fine needle. My preference is about a 10 gauge ballpoint needle. I encourage you to play with chiffon scraps before you make your first chiffon garment. Try different needle gauges and see what you like. Chiffon is easy to distort. If your tension is too tight it may pucker. I pin it when I’m assembling the garment, but I don’t “drive over the pins”. Straight pins like to slip out; safety pins stay where you put them.

French seams are recommended on chiffon.

If you don’t use this method, you will definitely want to serge the edges. It frays something terrible. French seams look very nice. If you are new to them, practice on scrap fabric. I would suggest practicing with an easy fabric first, like cotton. Get a feel for what it takes to do it, then find some chiffon scraps and apply what you learned from the cotton. Once you feel comfortable and are getting a good result, then charge ahead with your garment. Handle the pieces delicately to avoid accidentally fraying the edges.

And on to finishing… If you are doing a dress with a curved hem, let it hang for 24 hours, you’ll likely have to trim the bias sections as the weight of it will give you droops in the hemline. Be conservative in what you trim away; measure it. When you are ready to finish any remaining raw edges, keep a few things in mind. First of all, if the edge is straight along either the warp or weft, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. It’s when you are finishing along the bias or around curves that you may run into challenges.

For a beginner, I would recommend that you use a serger to finish any curved edges. You can serge with a regular 3 or 4-thread serger stitch and then turn it and top stitch it on the sewing machine. This is probably the best bet to get a really nice result.

If the serger does a nice rolled edge (like you see on lingerie), that is another option. I would definitely practice on scraps with this one before doing it on your garment though. Retract the blade; make sure you have the rolled edge foot on the serger and take your time. Especially on outside curves.

If you don’t have access to a serger, you can stay-stitch 1/8″ to 1/4″ in from the raw edge of the fabric edge on your sewing machine. Be careful not to pucker the fabric. Then you can use that row of stitching to give you a guide to fold the fabric over itself twice and topstitch as you go.

Most sewing machines come with a rolled hem foot. I have one that does a 3/8″ rolled edge. These are great on a straight edge. On bias or curves there is a knack to it. It takes a lot of practice to get good at using these on chiffon. I encourage you to practice on scrap fabric being sure to challenge yourself with inside and outside curves and bias cuts so you can get a sense of what it takes to get a good result. I know professionals who won’t use this type of foot on chiffon unless it is a straight cut along the warp or weft of the fabric. There is no shame in choosing not to use this foot. I have over 30 years of experience and I still get stressed when I use a rolled hem foot on curved edges on chiffon.

Chiffon is such a pretty fabric. If you practice working with it there is no reason to let it daunt you. Take your time and take breaks when frustration threatens to creep in and you’re bound to be successful.

Happy Sewing!

 

Understanding Fabric: Knits

Sewing is both a practical and creative activity. Whether you do it for fun, or for work, there are many varieties of fabrics available to suit any project. It doesn’t matter if you want to make a draped blouse a wool jacket or a pair of yoga pants, there are fabrics that will allow you to do any and all of those, and then some. But fabrics have their idiosyncrasies. I can’t cover every fabric in one post. Today, I’ll start with knits.

Knit fabrics have a degree of natural stretch by nature; they automatically allow for movement.

They can be styled to fit the body closely without the need for extra fabric to allow for ease. There are two main types of knits: 2 way and 4 way.

2 Way Knit Fabrics

2 way knit fabrics are quite stretchy width-wise, but have little to no give lengthwise. These fabrics can be made of  any number of fibres or blends of fibres. Whether the fibre is naturally stretchy will determine how much vertical stretch you’ll get. Most commonly, we see T-shirt fabrics and jersey in 2 way stretch. When using this fabric it’s important that your pattern takes the lack of vertical stretch into consideration and allows enough ease so that the garment won’t bind on the body.

These fabrics will sag in places where the garment gets stressed.

For instance, with wear, the bum and knees will start to sag in a pair of pants. In shirts with long sleeves, the elbows will eventually sag.

They usually recover once they’ve been laundered.

4 Way Knit Fabrics

4 way knit fabrics are stretchy both widthwise and lengthwise. These fabrics rely on Lycra to give them that stretchiness. These fabrics are typically used in athletic clothing. Think of

  • bathing suits,
  • yoga pants,
  • dance and
  • skating costumes,
  • body suits.

These fabrics are great because they move easily with the body in every direction. Garments made of 4 way stretch typically fit snugly. Pattern sizing will seem very small compared to pattern pieces you would use for a woven fabric. The garment is made smaller than the body measurement so that it will fit the body smoothly. It doesn’t need to be a lot smaller than the body. If it’s too snug it will exaggerate any “imperfections”.

Knits

Because knits are stretchy by nature, it’s easy to inadvertently distort the fabric while sewing it. It’s recommended to construct knit garments on a serger. Straight stitching on a sewing machine does not allow any give in the seam. This is a problem because it means that the seam wants to be rigid while the garment wants to stretch. It doesn’t take long for the stitches to break and give you holes in your seams.

Serging creates a stretchy seam.

Many sewing machines offer stretch stitches. That’s fantastic and it means you don’t necessarily have to have a serger. It’s best to zig-zag the seam allowance to avoid potential unraveling. Make sure that you carefully pin your seams before stitching them so that you know what needs to align with what. Stretchy fabric adds a level of trickiness in this regard.

Be careful not to stretch the fabric as you sew it.

Sometimes the feed dogs will pull the bottom layer through at a different rate than the presser foot allows the top layer to move. Using a Teflon foot can help with this; also, you may be able to adjust how much pressure the presser foot applies to the fabric. You can use a zig-zag stitch to construct knit garments as well. I would do a few tests with different stitch lengths and widths to find one that works well and looks good when you open up the fabric and lay it flat after seaming it.

It’s best to use a ball-point needle.

These are sold as “stretch” needles. They have a very fine ball point at the tip of the needle. Think about hand knit sweaters or pantyhose. If a bit of the yarn or thread is damaged in one stitch, that stitch will drop and let loose and you will end up with a run in the fabric. Most knit fabrics are made with fine thread. All it takes is the point of the needle hitting in just the wrong spot, cutting the thread and you have now created a run in the fabric.

When you use a knit that has a soft stretch to it (it doesn’t “bounce back” quickly) you may need to stabilize some of the seams. Have you ever noticed clear elastic on the shoulder seam of a T-shirt? That’s why it’s there. It keeps the structure of the garment true. Shoulders and necklines are particularly prone to stretching out and looking sloppy. This is where you would simply attach a narrow elastic to the seam allowance or along the edge. You can do that with a zig-zag stitch after the seam is made, or you can incorporate it into the seam right away during construction. Last week I wrote about stabilizing necklines.

When you first work with knits it can be a little frustrating.

When I began sewing knits, I went to the thrift shop on $2 a bag day and bought a bunch of clothes that were made of different kinds of knit fabric. I cut them all up and just played with the fabric. I cut straight pieces and curved pieces; I attached curves to straight lines and curves to curves. I wasn’t trying to make a garment. I was out to make all the mistakes I could so I could anticipate challenges before I spent big bucks on fabric for a garment. It took the pressure off. When I was ready to make my first stretch garment I felt prepared for what challenges might present themselves. It turned out very well.

Happy Sewing!

3 Elastic-Sewing Tips

*Note: When initially Posted, 2 parts vanished. I have since rewritten them and added them*

Elastic is a pretty amazing product. Its stretchy nature allows us so many more options in our sewing than we would have without it. Today I thought I’d offer a few tips to help when incorporating elastic into a sewing project. I apologize that I don’t have better photos to go along with this today.

1. Edge Stabilization:

When sewing knit fabrics to make tops, you can use narrow elastic to stabilize the:

  • neck,
  • sleeve,
  • armhole edges
  • or the hem.

You can use this technique in other craft projects as well. I have primarily employed this method in dance wear and 4-way stretch costumes.

When doing this, it’s important not to over stretch the elastic.

The goal is to have the edge lay flat after all is said and done. If you stretch the elastic a tiny bit then it will still lay flat when you wear the garment. You don’t want to actually stretch it enough to gather it though. Be careful also, that you don’t stretch the fabric itself. I find that just putting the slightest bit of tension on the elastic as I attach it helps to keep it straight and even and sort of holds down the edge of the fabric at the same time. If you have a serger, it would be my recommendation to use that to apply the narrow elastic (1/4″ to 3/8″ or 8 to 11mm wide) to the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, you can always zig-zag it, or use the longest stitch available on your sewing machine to attach it. Lay the elastic on top of the fabric while attaching. I found that if I tried to lay the elastic underneath, I would not always notice if it slipped a little to the side. It was easier to make sure it was lining up.

When you stitch the elastic along the raw edge, take your time. Be patient, the edge of the fabric may want to curl as you go. Should you rush, the tendency is to stretch the fabric and elastic and it will not give you a good result. Also, if you go too quickly and the elastic shifts you can end up with a mess on your hands.  If you are using a serger, I would encourage you to disengage the blade to avoid causing any damage to the elastic if it shifts a little to the right.

I would use a length of elastic that is a bit longer than the opening you are attaching it to, but don’t make it into a circle. Stitch it on as a long piece. When you get around,

clip it so that the ends butt up against each other.

Once you have attached it, turn the edge and topstitch it with a stretch stitch. You can keep it taut, but don’t stretch it very much as you topstitch. If you stretch it a lot, it will make the end result try to curl.

Elastic Waistbands

There are two main methods to make an elastic waistband. One requires a fabric channel through which the elastic is pulled; the other requires that you stitch the stretched elastic to the raw edge of the waist then turn it and top-stitch it in place.

An elastic channel is created by attaching a second layer of fabric where you want the elastic to be applied. This is stitched at top and bottom or the fabric is folded and stitched. An opening is allowed so that you can thread the elastic through. The ends of the elastic are then attached to each other, tucked up into the channel and the channel is closed. Using a channel, in many ways can be the easier of the two methods. If the fabric waist measurement is greater than what you can stretch the elastic to, then it will definitely be easier to use a channel. It doesn’t require that you stretch the elastic while you apply it. However, if you are not careful, it’s easy to accidentally pull the elastic too far and have to start over when you are pulling it through the channel. Also, you are more likely to have issues with elastic folding up or twisting inside the channel than using the alternative method. The channel method makes it simpler to change the size of the waistband if you find that you need to.

2. Tips for an easier channel style elastic waistband

Make sure that the channel is actually wide enough:

Don’t make it too wide, you don’t want it to be sloppy. The elastic should only have just enough room to sit comfortably when not stretched at all. A common mistake is to only take the width of the elastic into consideration. Elastic can be a couple millimeters thick. If you are using stiff fabric, this can make it very tight and challenging to pull the elastic through the channel. A tight channel can force the elastic to curl inside or fold in half length-wise. This doesn’t look good and can feel very uncomfortable.

Safety pins are your friend:

Before you begin pulling the elastic through the channel, use a safety pin to attach one end of the elastic to the body of the garment. Attach the largest safety pin you can comfortably use (within reason; there is no need for a kilt pin here) to the other end of the elastic and use that to guide the elastic through the channel. Once you have pulled it all the way through, use that same safety pin to attach the two ends together (the second pin is still attached to the garment). Now check along the waistband to be sure that the elastic is laying nice and flat. Remove any twists and then stitch the two ends together. Be sure that you make at least two rows of stitching across the elastic to hold the two ends together. Having the stitching come undone after you close it all up just sucks. Now it’s just a matter of closing up the opening in the channel and you are all done. Stretch out the waistband to its maximum to even up the fabric all the way around the elastic and that’s that.

Attached Elastic Waistbands certainly remove any risk of the elastic coming undone. Even if some of the stitching comes apart, there would be enough of it still in place that you won’t lose your pants.

3. Tips for attaching elastic directly to a waistband:

Because this method is a whole lot of work to change, you want to be certain that you have the right amount of elastic. I usually put the elastic around the person’s waist and have them adjust it to where it feels comfortable to them. I mark that and allow enough extra to stitch the ends together. Make sure that you don’t have any twists in the elastic and stitch the ends together. I usually serge the end together, but you can lay them flat on top of each other and stitch on a sewing machine just as well.

Divide the elastic into quarters and mark using your preferred method. I use pins. Do the same with the waistband. Now match up the pins and pin the elastic to the inside of the waistband. If the distance between the pins is large, you may want to subdivide and pin again at the middle points between the other pins.

I prefer to serge the edge. You don’t have to, you could use the largest zigzag stitch that your machine can do instead. If you are using a serger, you may want to disengage the blade for this. It is important that the elastic be stretched to match the fabric edge. Also, when you stitch this, it’s important that you are not pushing or pulling against the machine. Follow the pace of your machine as it stitches the edge. Don’t stitch over the pins if you don’t have to. The tricky thing here is to keep the elastic and the fabric edge matched up while stretching the elastic. Take your time. My preference is to have the elastic on the top. I find it easier to control that way.

Once you have attached the elastic to the edge, the next step is to turn the elastic so that the waistband fabric wraps around it and contains it. Look for where your seams line up and pin accordingly. Next you will use the longest stitch on your machine, and while stretching the waistband so that everything lays flat, top-stitch along the edge you just attached to hold everything in place.

Commercially sewn waistbands often have multiple rows of top-stitching along the elastic. You can do this if you want to but it isn’t necessary.

It is possible to use this method if your fabric is larger than the fully stretched measurement of the elastic, however, it’s a pain in the backside to do it. You would have to first gather the edge of the fabric evenly to reduce it to the maximum measurement of the elastic before attaching the elastic. Ideally, you would gather both the edge and a parallel line at the point where the elastic will be top-stitched. Yes it can be done. Yes, it’s annoying to do. If you can reduce the waist measurement in other ways, that works too. Adding a pleat over the width of the fabric that the elastic will take up can work as well. It’s definitely not ideal. This definitely works best when the elastic stretches comfortably to the full width of the waistband.

Either of these methods are very effective. Some people struggle to control the elastic if they have to stretch it as they sew it. It takes a bit of practice to get good at it.

Don’t expect to be an expert the first time you try to do it.

If you take your time and give yourself permission to have a learning curve,

you’ll do fine. 🙂

Variety: Boredom’s Foe

In my business altering and repairing garments and outdoor gear, I get a wide variety of sewing jobs.

It’s great because it means that I never get bored!

Although I do get some straight-forward jobs like hems, a great deal of my work requires considerable skill and ingenuity to complete. It also helps to have a variety of equipment to make the work easier.

Before moving to Revelstoke I had never been asked to repair backpacks. You’d be surprised how many different styles of backpacks there are. This is a very specialized type of gear. I remember one customer who had a collection of over 20 backpacks. She brought them all in one day because she wanted all the excess webbing shortened to eliminate what would otherwise dangle off the pack. It was both entertaining and informative as she explained the reasons she chose to possess so many packs. Each one was distinctly different and specific to a particular purpose. Until opening my store, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an “Avi-pack” (a pack with an airbag that is designed to keep you above the snow if you are caught in an avalanche). Since opening my shop I have seen a lot of them.

I see gear that is specific to

  • skiing;
  • snowboarding;
  • snowmobiling;
  • motorbiking;
  • hiking and more.

There are some repairs that I see very frequently.

In ski pants, if it isn’t the edge guards needing to be replaced, it will likely be either a crotch blow-out or a hole from catching on a branch in the glades. I’ve reconstructed powder-skirts, I’ve hemmed ski pants, I’ve replaced snaps and zippers on them and at times I have advised customers that they are simply better off to buy a new pair. Snowmobile gear usually comes in because the exhaust has melted holes into the legs of the pants. I don’t see a whole lot of motorbike gear because it tends to be built very robustly. It has to be, as it acts — essentially — as body armour. When I do see it, it may be because a zipper slider has broken, or a snap broke. Usually it’s to sew on badges though.

Jackets usually come in because the zipper is no longer functioning.

Sometimes I can just replace the slider and they are good to go.

Often I do have to replace the whole thing. I have actually come up with three different levels of zipper replacement to accommodate people’s budgets. One of the things I see a lot, is down jackets on which the fabric is so light and delicate that you can’t so much as lean against a wall or tree without putting a hole in them. It’s all good and fine to want your gear to be lightweight, but honestly, they should stand up to the terrain they are supposedly designed for. Things like that irritate me. I like things to be built to last.

Someone talked me into replacing the zippers in their boots one day.

Since then, I have done many boot zipper replacements; often in Nordic ski boots. It’s not my favourite job by any means, and not every boot allows machine access all around the zipper. But it’s satisfying to know that they don’t have to end up in the landfill.

But it isn’t just gear that I work on. I do alterations on clothing and although I don’t do wedding dresses any more (one too many Bridezillas) I do alter prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses. I have altered suits, jeans, shirts… you name it. I have done all sorts of custom sewing jobs too. One memorable one was a cot foundation where the frame was made of PVC pipe; it was intended for a toddler. I have made many cushion covers as well as slip covers for helicopter seats, and cushions for kitchen nooks. Besides all that I have done a considerable amount of adaptive clothing for folks who are restricted to a wheelchair.

When I started out sewing for people, 30-some years ago, I had a typical household sewing machine that I used for everything.

After a while, I invested in a household serger. Then, as I took on larger contracts, I took the leap and purchased an industrial straight-stitch sewing machine and an industrial serger. Once I got used to them, I couldn’t believe that I had ever lived without them. Because I was getting more and more costuming jobs for skating, dance and gymnastics and was doing more with stretch fabrics, the next machine I bought was a convertible Elna serger that allowed me to do coverstitching. This meant that my work took a leap forward in looking professionally done. Unfortunately, the volume of work I was doing was just too much for it for the long term. It broke. I was able to get it repaired but now I have it dedicated for doing lingerie hemming only.

So next I invested in an industrial coverstitch machine and an industrial blind hemmer.

That’s what I had when I opened up my store in Revelstoke. After about a year, it became obvious that I was not going to be able to meet the needs of the community without investing in more specialized equipment. So next came the roller post machine and the leather patcher. These allow me to access areas on most packs and heavy gear. The snap and grommet press followed shortly after, allowing me to apply industrial quality snaps to clothing and gear and to smoothly apply grommets. Although there are some jobs that are iffy, I can take on most tasks. The one thing that I generally cannot repair is suitcases as I simply can’t work them around the machines to access what needs repair.

I had no idea how much of a demand there would be for my services when I opened my store.

I am grateful to the community of Revelstoke for embracing me and supporting my business… and keeping me from ever being bored!