Monday, November 23, 2009

One-Yard Wonder T-Shirt Tutorial

Last winter, I made a bunch of t-shirts with 3/4 length sleeves. That length seemed to be in style, and I was loving that I could make them out of just one yard of 60" wide fabric. But do you know what? I am cold, cold, cold natured these days, and I need a whole sleeve, darn it!

Even so, I persist in buying just one yard of fabric. It's easy to get a smaller sized front and back out of a yard, but obviously two 22" sleeve length from shoulder to hem can't be cut from a 36" long piece of fabric (I'm short, but I do have two arms!).

But there is a way to get that yard to yield long sleeves, and the way is called cuffs. Cutting this out is a bit improvisational for each piece of fabric, but I've tried to give you an overview of how I have gone about it. Prewashed fabric may shrink, your cut may have been off grain and you had to straighten it, your arms may be longer than mine: I can't guarantee that you can get a true long-sleeved shirt out of one yard. But now that I've done it four times, I have to say I think you have a good chance.

First, here is a sketch of the general approach:

After cutting the front and back, I fold the remaining fabric in half from top to bottom and mark the center of the fold. One sleeve can be cut above the mark, one below. Measure the distance from the top of the fabric to the mark. Knock of a half inch or so just to give yourself a tiny bit of wiggle room. Measure from the top of the sleeve pattern to that measurement and make a mark. That is your cutting line for the sleeve. You can fold that bit back so as not to cut your pattern. Then cut two sleeves. I try to stagger them in order to leave a larger scrap to one side for cuffs. Don't forget to turn the pattern over for the second sleeve!

Look how close I had to cut it to get my two sleeves:

Now you will make your cuff pattern. Lay your sleeve pattern flat and place a piece of tracing paper on top of it. Trace the part of the sleeve you omitted, but fold up the hem allowance. Add two seam allowances at the top (1/2" to 1", depending on what you like). I say add two because you didn't add one to the upper sleeve section.

Then make a duplicate of this piece and put the two together in an hourglass shape, like this:

Now, wherever you can fit the whole length of the neckband on the crosswise grain (from selvedge to selvedge), go ahead and cut that strip.

Assemble the t-shirt in your normal fashion. After applying the sleeves and stitching the side seams, you will be ready to attach the cuffs. Here is a view of the cuff seam folded right sides together, and then beside it the cuff folded in half.

Attach the raw edges of the folded cuff to the end of the sleeve, fold it down, and your sleeve is full length...and hemmed!

With this busy print, the finished cuffs are hardly noticeable.

But in a stripe, there are lots of options for playing up the cuffs as a design feature. Notice that the sleeves are cut with the stripes on the bias. I couldn't get even two shortened sleeves from one yard with the stripes running horizontally because I couldn't work out the repeats properly. Now that it's done, I am so much happier with all the crazy stripe directions than with a standard stripe layout.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Necchi Mirella

A few months back, I spotted a Necchi Mirella on eBay. As is so often the case, the photos were few, dark and fuzzy. It was difficult to know what I was bidding on, but I was eager to see one of these machines up close. The very unusual thing about the Mirella is that it is designed for both motorized and hand crank operation. Switching between the two is simple and requires nothing more than loosening the motor clutch, pushing in a button and attaching the crank.

In no particular order, here are some things I've learned about the Mirella:
  • Straight stitch only, with reverse
  • Rotary hook
  • Mirella-specific bobbins required; no longer made and very scarce
  • Low shank, but Singer attachments don't seem to work well
  • Motor is difficult to access
  • The body is made of aluminum, so the machine is extremely light and easy to carry
  • The free arm is accessed by unscrewing a knob underneath the machine and removing the extension. A separate cover is provided to protect the bobbin area.

Accessing the gear area on a Mirella, or on one of its sisters (such as the Lydia or the Silvia), requires loosening a set screw in the knob located in the middle of the handwheel. Then the knob can theoretically be unscrewed by holding the handwheel steady with one hand and loosening the knob with the other. In actuality, this proved very difficult. I eventually got the knob free by removing the set screw, oiling with Tri-Flow through the set screw hole, cushioning the knob with a rubber jar gripper pad, grabbing the pad with pliers and applying force. It took some effort!

With the end plate removed, you can see the very simple inner workings of the machine. If this were a Lydia or a Silvia, you would see the nylon camstack between the top and bottom gears. This camstack is very often cracked and is no longer made. It is my understanding that repairs are all but impossible. If the crack is small, the machine can often operate and perform some of the stitches but not the ones controlled by the cracked area.