Monday, June 6, 2011

Identifying Techniques: Don't be frayed.

You may remember last week when I was at a loss for techniques to discuss with you and decided a skill inventory was in order. Well, there is no better place to start than at the beginning so, here we go!

There are several steps one has to take before beginning a sewing project, namely selecting a fabric to work with and then laundering it. We are just going to breeze right past those for now and cut straight to the, well, cutting. Whether you are working with a pattern or cutting based on measurements or even if you are lucky enough to own a GO! Fabric Cutter, your project pieces have to be cut out. If you are working with a woven fabric (cotton, silk, wool, etc.) chances are you'll experience some fraying along those fresh cuts.

Fray: verb /frā/ 
frayed, past participle; frayed, past tense; fraying, present participle; frays, 3rd person singular present
(re: fabric, rope, or cord)
Unravel or become worn at the edge, typically through constant rubbing

When you are just beginning your project, fraying is not the end of the world.  It really isn't even that much of an obstacle.  It can, however, be a bit inconvenient, so there are a few ways to keep it from getting in your way.

First, classic pinking shears.
Pinking is defined as a zigzag cut from a saw/scallop-toothed edge blade using pinking shears or a hand crank pinker.  A good pair of Pinking Shears or a hand crank pinker that mounts to a tabletop are handy tools for any sewing room.  To keep your pinking shears cutting sharp and even, use them for fabric and fabric only. ~ oliver + s
I have no idea about this hand crank deal, but I'm all over the pinking shears.  In fact, I just let go of my first pair of pinkers a few weeks ago when the blades could no longer be kept tight enough to effectively cut through finer fabrics. I just replaced them this week thanks to a 50% off sale at Jo-Ann's. The zig and zag of the cut means the individual threads that form the fabric weave cannot unravel in long strings so the cut edge stays in tact. The scissors themselves look bulky, but aren't any harder to use than regular shears. And the cut edge is so cute!

via Colette Patterns Blog
 Another crowd favorite is Dritz Fray Check (availableat pretty much any craft or fabric store). Fray Check is actually just one of many fray-stopping liquids. Some are available in spray form, some are brushed on, and a few (like the one I use) are sort of dribbled out of a squeeze bottle. No matter how it is applied they all work on the same basic principle.  Once the liquid dries the individual fibers to which it was applied are bound together.  It is not unlike applying clear nail polish to a run in your tights.

To be perfectly honest, my fray checking via liquid has been less than satisfactory. I work mostly with silks and satins and, invariably, I end up with some discoloration on an inconveniently visible portion of my end product. A lot of people swear by the stuff, though, so I encourage you to try it out.  I would not be surprised to find my issues are all based on user error.

There are three different stitches handy for keeping raw edges in one piece.

If working by hand, you can use the overcast stitch which I've always called the whip stitch. I am pretty sure my mom told me it was the whip stitch because of the way you "whip" it back around the fabric. I guess "overcast" stitch sounds more polished.  I'm not quite sure how to explain the stitch in words.  You pretty much stick the needle through the fabric about 1/8 inch from the edge, pull it (and the thread) through, then bring the needle and thread over the edge and push it through again about 1/8 inch left or right of your last stitch. Make sense?  No? Well, here's a picture:

via AzRA Historical Resources

The "Cross your hand" stitch being referenced is used more for a finished product such as buttonholes, but if you are going for extra credit, feel free to use it on all your raw edges. Once you do your row of overcast stitched, reverse direction and stitch your way back to the beginning.  It looks sort of like pinking with thread.

For the same results in less than half the time you can turn to the overedge and overlock stitches. My resident expert, Alison,tells me,
"the overedge stitch is usually done on a sewing machine...overlock stitch is done on the serger OR sewing machine to LOOK like a serged edge."
I actually did the overedge stitch on every single raw edge when Susan taught me how to make pajama pants. She had a nifty machine foot that kept the stitches from bunching together that she let me borrow because she's awesome like that. On my machine, the setting for overedge stitches looks like a series of "V"s connected by serifs. The finished result looks something like this:

via Today We Made
I have nothing to tell you about the overlock stitch because I don't use a serger. Yet.  But, in case you are wondering, it looks like this:

Finally (and this is the method I use most often) there is heat sealing.  In my world we call it "setting the fabric on fire," but whatever.  THIS IS NOT DO-ABLE ON ALL FABRICS.  I mostly use it on satin, ribbon, and acetate. The synthetic fibers melt instead of catching fire. Please do not do this on cotton, wool, or silk.  Those will definitely catch fire.  Trust me, I've tested quite a few fabrics and their flammable properties. On the fabrics that will melt, you generally do not even have to tough the fabric to the flame - heat will often do the trick.

There you have it, my lovelies - how to stop fraying.  I hope I didn't miss anything.  If I did, you'd tell me right?  Also, which, if any, of the above methods do you use? I love it when you guys talk back!

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