From conception to catwalk, the fashion industry thrives on the energy and buzz of each collection; therefore, adhering to deadlines is important. For all fashion designers, planning and preparation are essential. Prior planning allows the designer to concentrate on the creative process without any distractions. Within the fashion supply chain there are different approaches to planning but in most companies a computerized critical path is used. However, you may wish to use a more simple form, whereby the critical dates are written in a diary and checked regularly to ensure that you are working to schedule.
|Marcus Tullius Cicero|
Many fashion designers have a signature to their collections, which is synonymous with their label. Once you become more proficient with your sewing techniques, you will start to develop a more individual, creative approach to your work that will reflect your design aspirations. This chapter will introduce you to the basics of sewing techniques, and will guide you through the initial stages of understanding the sewing process.
Confidence is the key to progression: it allows the designer to creatively explore complex sewing processes. Within this chapter, sewing terminology, machine operation and basic practical exercises will be introduced, offering a guide to sewing techniques.
Garment and sample engineering requires various different types of sewing equipment depending on the designer's needs and the scope of the project. This section provides information to help you identify the equipment easily and progress through the book. It also includes information on the type of equipment to use to record the processes, which is essential to designers who like to reflect on each stage of their work. However, use your discretion: if you find a piece of equipment that does the same job better, use it.
There are many industrial sewing machines available, many of which may look slightly different, but do not be daunted, most of them thread up in very similar ways. It does take some practice to be able to thread a machine correctly but it will take you a matter of minutes once you have mastered it. Threading instructions may be found either on the machine or within the manufacturer's handbook. Lockstitch machines do vary slightly according to the different manufacturers but they all perform the same function.
It is essential that the sewing machine is threaded correctly to ensure that it functions properly. A significant area that is often overlooked is the thread tension gauge. This gauge allows the top (the thread that is positioned on top of the machine) and the bobbin to work in harmony by allowing equal amounts of thread to travel smoothly when sewing. The thread tension gauge consists of two discs between which the thread is inserted, as well as a dial that enables you to adjust the tension as needed. When done correctly, sewing can proceed without any problems such as loose thread or puckering of the fabric.
Overlockers are designed to neaten the raw edges of the fabric, including seams. The machine has a blade that cuts off a minimal amount of fabric, which is then overlocked using several threads. Sergers perform the same process; but are a little more versatile in that they can also be used to coverstitch seams (mainly stretch or jersey fabrics) and to chain stitch (used in the construction of jeans).
The instructions for threading these industrial machines can be found on the machine or in the manufacturer's handbook. Tweezers are used and you will need a lot of patience to complete the process. Do not feel daunted when undertaking the task: it takes a little practice but persevere.
Sergers/overlockers can appear to be quite complex pieces of machinery but one of the main components is the 'differential feed'. This means that the feed systems can be adjusted to work at the same speed or one can move a little slower or faster than the other. These feed systems can prevent puckering, such as when overlocking a raw edge, to ensure that it remains flat. They can also provide more decorative effects, depending on the setting. Sergers are great for creating decorative edge finishes such as a lettuce hem (which resembles the edge of a lettuce leaf) and can be adjusted manually.
Decorative edge finishes in the fashion industry are done by machinery specifically designed for the purpose. This is because it is time consuming and not financially viable to change the settings for the different finishes. Overlockers are often set to perform one function only: overlocking raw edges. They are adjusted using a computerized setting on the machine, often by a specialist machine technician.
When the bobbin is inserted into the case, the thread is slid through a little opening that leaves a small excess of thread. This is then inserted into the sewing machine; however, this must be executed correctly as it may cause some damage to your needle if not. On most industrial lockstitch machines it is inserted horizontally; check before inserting. It should be easy to insert but you might have to use a little pressure; you may hear a clicking sound that indicates you have inserted it correctly.
This thread is used to loop around the top thread when you bring the needle down. When you bring the needle up, it will bring the bottom thread with it and both threads will be visible on the plate of the machine.
Ensure the machine is switched off. Take an empty bobbin and fill it with thread, which will ensure that the thread is smooth and able to run through the needle without any problems. There will be a mechanism to do this on the machine that is operated by the treadle. Ensuring that the presser foot is in the raised position and the machine is threaded correctly, press the treadle. On most machines as soon as the spool is full the winding motion will stop automatically; however, always check this because you do not want the spool to overfill as this will cause the thread to tangle and problems with the stitch will occur.
Once this is complete, take the bobbin and unravel no more than 5cm (2in) of thread, then place the bobbin into the case. Take the excess thread and pull this through the thread slot on the bobbin case. Now place the bobbin into the machine.
Lower the needle into the throat plate, as far as it will go. The top thread will automatically pick up the bobbin thread from the bobbin hook to form a loop. As the needle is raised, both threads will appear on the throat plate. They can then be pulled through, so that you have two even lengths.
Lockstitch machines are one of the most common machines used in the production of fashion clothing. The stitching mechanism is controlled by foot using the treadle/pedal, which makes the machine start and stop when and where required. Lockstitch machines are useful for different weights of fabric as they have interchangeable feet, including some that apply pressure to the feed dogs to give stability when using heavy fabric.
The lockstitch seam is a straight stitch, which provides a smooth professional- looking finish to a garment. It is particularly used to sew woven fabrics together and is found in some of the following places: armholes, side seams, hems, cuffs, and collars.
Lockstitch needles are used for sewing woven fabrics. They produce a straight stitch, the length of which can be adjusted according to requirements. The needle has a standard point, which refers to the sharpness of the needlepoint, and comes in different sizes.
All machine feet should have guards on them to prevent any accidents during the sewing process. Also known as standard feet, they are universally used on all lockstitch machines. They are attached and secured to the machine by a screw; when changing one, ensure that it is very tight because if it becomes loose, it can damage your work and cause an accident.
A concealed/lapped zip foot is specifically designed for the insertion of concealed zips. It is normally held in place on an industrial sewing machine by a screw, which should be secured before sewing. When inserting a concealed zip, it is important to use this foot for the correct finish; you can of course use a lockstitch foot but the zip may be uneven when complete.
An invisible zip differs from a concealed zip in that it is often slimmer and you are unable to see the teeth as they are concealed by fabric. The zip pull and centre seam are the only visible elements. The invisible zip foot differs from the concealed zip foot by its width; it is noticeably slimmer and has a half moon-shaped insert. This insert allows the stitch line to be sewn as closely to the edge of the zip as possible.
When constructing the invisible zip, you will need a left and a right foot; this will mean changing them to complete each operation. If you try to use one foot for sewing both sides, one side will be uneven and when the garment is worn, you will see the actual zip rather than a seamless line. Invisible zips can be found in dresses, skirts, trousers and other garments.
Cotton threads are matt, with very little sheen. When a garment is worn and washed over time a cotton thread will become weak. However, it is widely used in ethical clothing, if it complies with ethical growing guidelines.
Place right sides together, ensuring edges are placed evenly on top of each other. Sew a 1cm (0.39in) seam. Make sure that you secure the stitch by pressing the bar tack bar at the beginning and end of the row of stitching to prevent the thread unravelling.
There are several ways to achieve an even seam. Adjust the machine settings so that it is slower, allowing you more control of the machine. Alternatively, draw the line with chalk and use it as a guide when sewing.
This is often noticeable when the operator has been unable to control the machine and the overlocking is not sewn along the edge of the fabric correctly. It often leaves a very unsightly finish. Overcome this by regularly practising your overlocking techniques.