We spend an inordinate amount of time shopping for clothes. From surfing online, to endless hours of store hopping, and everything in between, our look has to be perfect. But how is it that in a mall full of brands, department stores, and every fashion app at our fingertips, it is still hard to find that piece that really grabs us? We know what we want, and more often than not, no sales person can sway us otherwise. That is the absolute definition of style: to be ourselves. What is the point in shopping, then? There is another option that is often overlooked. Why not make the clothes yourself? Yes, it may sound a bit more daunting than just going out and buying something. But when you think about it, this is the truest expression of your taste and sensibilities. Whether you’re starting a clothing line or not, one has to admit that being able to design your own clothes is a pretty cool skill to have. So for your fashion forward and future bespoke entrepreneurs, here are a few tips to keep your look fresh and unmistakably you.
Tools Of The Trade
Sewing machines are great. They’re a staple of any design studio. Their basic function is to sew together different pieces or layers of fabric. This is often used by professional and home designers alike to make the basic construction of their garments. But with every use, you have what you call seam allowances. If you’ve ever turned a T-shirt inside out, you’ve seen this. The seam allowances are a little bit of extra fabric, that give you a working space between the two pieces. The issue with seam allowances is that they fray. Traditionally, to combat this, designers use a zigzag stitch or a zigzag cut to minimize the threads coming out of the seams. Aesthetically, this is workable, but not ideal.
The Perfect Workhorse
Enter the Serger. A Serger is a machine that uses multiple threads in order to join, trim, sew the seam, and finish the edge all at the same time. The blade cuts the edge, and the 3 to 5 threads wrap around it, effectively enclosing it to prevent fraying. Actually, if you look at many factory made pieces of clothing more likely than not, you will see a serged seam. The reason behind this is that a serge seam can stretch. The straight seam of a sewing machine cannot. We have all heard the sound of threads popping from a non-serged seam. Not a great sound. So a serger, in essence, provides a stable and resilient construction to any peace you are creating. On top of that, a serger can get the job done at a fraction of the time of a regular sewing machine. They can do around 1500 stitches per minute. To put that into perspective, the fastest commercial sewing machines are still under 1000. Most have a maximum speed of around 800. So, with enough experience, you can cut your sewing time in half.
Tip 1: Give Life To Old Clothes
A great use of your serger is to re-fashion existing garments. If you’re like most, you have a closet full of clothes from various seasons that are just sitting. Instead of tossing them or giving them away, this is a great opportunity to not only practice technique but create new pieces. You can add two different tones to a blouse. You can turn an old sundress into a brand new romper. Or you can combine multiple articles of clothing to create a completely new look. The key is to pay attention to the details and know what fabrics you’re working with. With a serger sewing machine, your ability to create clean and professional looking seams prevents your designs from looking too “homemade.” The objective is to create an original from what you already have. With a bit of practice and know-how, you can keep from the “Franken-dress” look and steer a bit closer to what pops up on fashion week.
Tip 2: Utility
Adding compartments to your clothes like pockets and belt loops is a perfect job for the serger. On top of creating tremendous looking clothes, utility brings a sense of comfort. How many times have we seen a beautiful dress and wished there was some sort of pocket? Too many to count. On top of that, changing up the fabric on the inside brings together a whole new dynamic. The classic example is polka dot skirt with any color pocket you can imagine. The options are endless.
Tip 3: Practice New Techniques For The Summer
A great spring and summer night look is the kimono. They are all the rage right now. The trick to a professional looking kimono is for it to look totally seamless. To do this, we are going to use the French Seam and use the armband as an example. The French Seam is executed by putting the “wrong” sides together and folding it into itself. This is completely different from conventional sewing techniques. You’re going to start by sewing a 1/4 inch seam, barely cutting the raw edge. Make sure that you adjust the tension setting on your serger to accommodate the fabric that you choose. Kimonos are often made from more delicate, lighter weight material. Press seam towards the armband with your good ol’ iron, and fold the “right” sides together, enclosing your initial seam inside the fabric. Sew again. Turn the fabric right side out and press again. Voila! You have a French seam and a tremendous armband.
Tip 4: Limitless Imagination
The most important tip when it comes to using your serger is to pull from your imagination. All the technicalities can be learned. Every setting can be memorized. What cannot be given is your own individual look on a given subject. Whether you’re resizing clothes after significant weight loss, or you’re looking to make clothes for your new baby, the patterns and the looks are completely up to you.
Making your own clothes is the first step into understanding and participating in the great world of fashion design. The techniques provide insights into how everything is constructed, from T-shirt’s red carpet gowns. But all that aside, the most important thing is that you learn, share, and have fun. Happy serging!