Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Perfect Point-Turning Tool

My methods for turning out a clean, sharp, non-distorted collar or corner point have evolved very slowly over the decades.

This was not because I've ever been completely happy with the results my primitive, but apparently complete, little point-turning tool and skill set were providing; not at all!

I simply always thought I already had the best available info and tools available for helping out with this basic task and simply lacked the practice essential for ever getting good at it.

And getting the kind of practice needed—over-and-over-all-day-every-day, sewing-factory-type practice, that is—was simply not in my cards.

I'd had a couple of break-throughs, thanks to kindly professionals like Adriana Lucas, whose custom-shirt-workshop methods I described in my book on shirts (pages 105-106). From her I learned that keeping the seam allowances at the corner flat and carefully folded exactly along the stitching lines during every turning step was a far better plan than trimming them tiny and then poking at them with one of those pointy tools the notions rack wanted me to use. She even convinced me that tweaking out the last little bit of the point was better done from the outside with a needle or an awl, than from the inside with a pointy pusher. And I even had the temerity to think I'd refined on her methods and should write about my discoveries in Threads, not once but twice, in June 1994 and February 1996. I still stand by all I said in those pages. But I'd still felt like a struggling, if well-informed, beginner every time I had a point to turn.

I shall no doubt always be a beginning point-turner compared to the Adriana Lucases of the world. But now, at last, I do have a tool that almost completely makes up for my lack of mastery. It's become my favorite notions discovery of the last decade, and I don't hesitate to insist that every sewer on earth should get themselves one, at least, and not just for point turning. For this tool is truly a classic and perfect thing, little likely to ever be substantially improved upon, cheap enough for all to try, and guaranteed to expand the reach and precision of your fingers in ways that will become indispensable—so long as you remember to keep one close by.

I refer, friends, to the humble Hemostat.

The trick the hemostat offers, besides its strong and tiny tips and its scissors-like familiarity, is that it clamps shut, so you can let it go without it letting go. Perfect for holding on to your carefully folded and flattened corner seam allowances. And perfect for grabbing them precisely at the pivot point of your corner stitching.

Clamp them up, let go, and you can easily turn your collar over them without fear that they'll let go or slip.

And after turning, they're perfectly in place to push out the last bit of the point, either while still clamped or after releasing them.

The stills here are from one of the video clips on the DVD that comes with my book on making pants, which also has a demo of hemostats solving another nagging if less crucial sewing challenge: tying a knot with thread ends you've clipped too short. These two functions alone would secure the hemostat an honored and eternal place in my notions drawer. But it also excels in pushing or pulling stuck needles through tough layers and in any other situation in which tiny, fiercely strong, clamping fingers would be a boon. They are the vice-grips of the sewing room.

You can read about alternate approaches to using hemostats to turn collar points at Pam Erny's excellent blog, and the page on them in my pants book thanks to google books. And buy them from Pam, as well as lots of other places. 5- or 6-inch ones with straight, smooth or serrated tips are perfect for turning and general use.

Don't hesitate!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kathryn’s busy daughter Dale

She says: "Here is my daughter wearing one of her new dresses with a tank top underneather to accomodate the school dress code. She braided white cording to make the straps. Made from McCall's 4440.“

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A website option; Vote!

Here’s the page that Kathryn's considering for her website, announcing and describing her new CD (click to see it full size). She asks:
"My options are:
A downloadable pdf preview of a few pages from the CD
A series of 6 or 7 rotating snippets that would change every 1-2 seconds in the spot where there is now a photo of me sewing red leather.

How do you think the sample page compares to the screen shots of each video topic posted here below.
Do you think you would find a downloadable file useful or overkill?
Too many choices for me to make a decision!"

Have an opinion? We’d love to hear it; just post a note to the list and we’ll read it there. MANY thanks!

That snazzy belt!

She says: "Here is a leather belt that I made using some leftover scraps of leather. The buckle set and conchos were purchased from Tandy leather. The reptile print is actually pig skin which has been dyed and embossed to look like reptile."

Kathryn’s Koos

She says: “Here are some pictures of Vogue 2971 which I recently made. Love the pattern! I got the fabrics on a recent trip to NY. The main skirt fabric was so busy I didn't use a contrast as suggested in the pattern. The skirt fabric was one of those amazing NY deals at only $1.99 yard! The T-shirt knit is used on the skirt as well. The panel down the front is sewn on then cut into strips."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

...and two more!

More T’s

Kathryn’s T-Shirts

Kathryn’s student’s buckskin jacket

She says: “One of my local students just completed a buckskin jacket last week. I am very proud of him as he wasn't much of a sewer before he started coming for weekly classes. It took him 14 weekly 2 hour sessions along with a bit of time at home to make. The jacket is completely lined and has an inside welt pocket for his wallet.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

...and here’s the covers, of the disk and of the pdf. The belt on the disc label is one of the included projects on the CD.

Sewing Leather

Here’s a quick preview of the latest workshop on CD I’ve produced. It’s called Sewing Leather with Kathryn Brenne. More info is now available on Kathryn’s website,, but this will hopefully be useful, too. The first pictures are miniature screen grabs of the topic titles from the over 1 ½ hours of detailed, tightly edited video demonstrations on the CD, along with a couple of full-scale images from the videos themselves. Click on them to see them life-size. Like my other CDs, this one also includes lots of text information, a close-up detailed gallery of Kathryn’s wonderful work, and extensive resource listings, all hot-linked to relevant web pages. There are also two complete beginner’s projects, complete with easily printed full-size patterns and step-by-step directions, each requiring very little leather and no pattern adjusting. If you want to see more, there’s a link to download a preview sample of the pdf file that contains all these wonders at Kathryn’s website, listed under Links at right.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ideas for Dawn

Here’s my once-in-a-lifetime “I Made It and It’s On the Cover of Threads!” grey-striped shirt with cufflinks, from issue #47, which was also the issue in which my shirtbook was introduced. I draw your attention to the cuffs, which while double-fold, only use a single layer for the cufflink buttonholes...sort of a best of both worlds version of the single vs double issue for shirts using cufflinks; I prefer single and did these cuffs just to add some interest for my cover garment, and to add proof that shirts are for girls, too. Also note the placket buttons, placed close to the cuff so that they provide a larger buttoned circumference, handy when you want to push your sleeves up without rolling. Other carefully considered features: fronts only placed on the crossgrain for horizontal stripes; collar stand and cuff facings cut from shirt fabric, not white; outer yoke pieced at CB to allow stripes to run parallel to the front yoke seams; inner yoke not pieced and cut from white so as not to show conflicting stripe pattern through this very thin, fine Sea Island cotton fabric.