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!