When working on the machine, refer to your manual before you sew furnishing fabrics. The manual will recommend needle sizes, tension and the correct foot to use. Always select the thread according to the type of work and material, and the needle according to the thread. A good tension is when the threads are locked together properly between the layers of fabric.
To cut out any large piece of fabric, you need to start with a straight edge. This ensures that the fabric hangs true, on curtains, for example. For firmly woven fabrics, you can tear to get a straight edge. Cut into the selvedge and, grasping both sides, rip across the width. If the fabric is loose, pull out a crosswise thread right across the width and cut along this line. Alternatively, lay the selvedge up against the edge of a table and check that the crosswise grain is level with the end of the table. To measure off the first length, use a set square or a large object with a right-angled corner. Draw across the width of fabric with dressmaker’s chalk and cut along this line. Cut out the rest of the lengths in the same way.
A puckered or poorly finished seam will spoil the look of your soft furnishings. For example, the seams on full-length curtains need to be Rat and tidy or the whole effect will be ruined. Make sure there wedges are together before you sew so that the allowances are the same width; most seams are about 1.5cm wide. Everyone has a favorite method of holding the fabric while sewing; either tack or pin at regular intervals. If you insert the pins across the seam you can sew straight over them and remove them at the end of the sewing. Reverse the stitch at either end of the seam to secure the threads. After stitching, press seams open or to one side, as directed.
This can be worked on the machine with a zigzag stitch or more laboriously by hand by taking an even diagonal stitch over the raw edge along the seam. If the fabric is likely to fray, use pinking shears or make a line of machine stitching about 3mm (A in) in from the edge.
CURVED SEAM Pin and stitch as usual but clip outward curves at intervals to ease the seam and cut V shapes along an inward curving scam. You can then press the seam open. This clipping also reduces bulk where the seam cannot be pressed open, as on a circular cushion.
When sewing a regular corner, trim the seam allowance by cutting straight across the corner. To get a clear point on sharp corners when using thick fabrics, make two or three stitches across the turning point (1). Trim the seam allowance parallel to the seam line. To turn a corner on a welted or boxed cushion, clip into the welt at the corner point, reinforcing the corner with extra rows of stitching.
This is a very strong seam and perfect for home furnishings where wear and constant laundering could present problems. From the right side it looks like a top stitched seam. Sew an ordinary seam (1) and press the allowances to one side. Trim the underneath seam allowance to about 6 mm ( in) (2) and fold the top allowance over it, turning under the raw edge to enclose the trimmed edge (3). Pin and press Rat then sew through all layers close to the folded edge.
This encloses the raw edges but because it can be bulky it is best on lightweight fabrics. It is particularly appropriate for lace and voile because turnings are narrow and don’t show through the fabric. With wrong sides together, sew a narrow seam (1). Trim seam allowances (2), even if fabric doesn’t fray, and fold along the machined edge with right sides together (3). Stitch along this seam about 1 cm from the seamed edge (4).
LAPPED SEAM To match patterns from the right side of the fabric, turn under one edge of the fabric by 6 mm (t in) and pin in place over the other piece to be joined, matching patterns if necessary (1). On the right side of the fabric, pin and machine stitch along the fold (2) and then sew another seam parallel to the first to catch down the raw edge beneath (3). To join bulky widths of interlining overlap the raw edges by about 6 mm (i in) and machine stitch a line of zigzag down the length. Alternatively, butt the two raw edges together and hand sew down the length using a loose herringbone stitch (an abutted seam).
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