If you already have a sewing machine, you may have wondered why an overlocker is worth bothering with. After all, you can do almost everything with your sewing machine that an overlocker does, can’t you? But an overlocker has so much to offer and having one in your sewing room will revolutionise your sewing!
An overlocker, known in the USA as a serger, allows you to stitch, trim and overcast in one step. You can use your overlocker from beginning to end of your project, and as it does all this at double the speed of your average sewing machine then you can complete projects in a flash. Just think, there’s no need to sit and trim all of your seam allowances by hand and then go back to the sewing machine to finish those fraying edges – with an overlocker it’s already done!
Overlockers can stitch using 4, 3 or 2 thread capabilities, allowing you to adjust the strength and bulk of your seam according to your project. They can be used on all fabric types, including knitted garments that may be tricky to sew using a standard sewing machine. They are particularly useful for sewing on stretch fabrics due to their differential feed. This means that they have two sets of feed dogs that feed the top and bottom layers of your fabric independently through the overlocker, preventing your fabric from stretching out of shape while it is stitched.
This differential feed also allows you to create decorative finishes such as gathers or ruffles, but you have even more options with additional feet, including more complex gathers/ruffles, more hem options (including, blind hem, flatlock, mock bands, rolled hem, lettuce leaf) and a variety of seam types (including French, mock French and mock flat felled seams, although some will need to be finished on your sewing machine).
On top of all this, you can embellish your projects using decorative threads, ribbons or yarns, plus you can apply lace and elastic, add tucks or pintucks, stitch narrow spaghetti straps with ease… the list of what you can do with your overlocker is enormous!
If you want a really professional finish to your knitwear and activewear, or to further embellish your projects with decorative stitching, then you need a coverstitch machine. While this can mean purchasing a separate machine, the Husqvarna Viking Amber Air S|600 also has a coverstitch function, making it two machines in one. This is a worthwhile purchase if you sew a lot of stretch garments as it produces a robust finish that is as good as anything you can get in the shops, while avoiding the puckering that can occur when stitching with a twin needle on a sewing machine.
When you buy a new overlocker from Coles then you get a one-day owner’s class with me to help you learn how to use your machine, absolutely free. If you’re interested in buying an overlocker but you don’t know whether it’s for you then you can browse what we have on offer on our website here, give us a call in the shop for advice on 0115 9881550, or better yet, come and visit us for a demonstration!
We’re all a little sad at Coles this week, as we have had to say goodbye to our Garment Making tutor Lorna Keeling. Lorna is retiring after 20 years, and we had a little goodbye party last Friday to wave her off. In her two decades with Coles Lorna has taught countless students, many of whom came to her as complete beginners and have gone on to work in the fashion industry all over the world. Lorna’s classes were always in high demand because of her expert knowledge of garment making, as well as the clear and practical way she communicated it. Her passion for sharing her knowledge ignited a love of garment making in everyone she taught, and we are all very sorry to see her go. We hope she enjoys her retirement, but we’ll all miss her!
As we say goodbye to Lorna, we have some new tutors to introduce who have their own expert knowledge to share. Our own Catherine Crew, who you may already know from the shop floor or her excellent overlocker classes, will be taking a weekly Garment Making class on Wednesday mornings. We have Lorna to thank for having Catherine here, as she first came to Coles to attend one of Lorna’s dressmaking classes! Since then, Catherine joined the Coles team and has become an expert in overlocking as well as garment making.
You may not know that Catherine passed her Level 3 in both Pattern Cutting and Tailoring with distinction, and she is now working towards her Level 4 in Tailoring. She brings this expertise to her new classes, as well as her in-depth knowledge of all the latest sewing products from working in the shop. She is so excited to teach Garment Making in addition to her popular overlocker classes! She is looking forward to spending more time with other creative people and helping them to see their projects through to fruition. Catherine will be taking a four-week summer class on Thursday mornings beginning on 28th July, before moving to a regular weekly Wednesday slot in September.
Our next new tutor is also a familiar face – we are welcoming back Jayne Childs, who will be teaching some fantastic embroidery workshops in the coming months. Some of you may remember Jayne, as she worked for us (when we were Husqvarna Studio) for several years before moving on to be sales manager at Husqvarna Viking UK. Jayne makes embroidered lace, designed by hand and created using Husqvarna Viking computer software and embroidery machines. She uses text within her lace to weave stories and tell tales inspired by her research into lace and social history.
For the past twelve years Jayne has been making and selling a range of lace fashion and home accessories, under her brand name of JC Middlebrook. She recently became a UK brand ambassador for Husqvarna Viking mySewnet software, and she also works part time at Nottingham Trent University as a Research Assistant for the Lace Archive, as well as teaching on the Fashion BA course.
Jayne is looking forward to sharing her software and embroidery knowledge with you in her workshops. All three of her upcoming workshops are based around designs that Jayne has created especially for the classes, which are inspired by Nottingham’s lacemaking history. In her Paper Embroidery Workshop she provides vintage papers for you to embroider on and create some unique art. Her Embroidered Lantern Workshop and Embroidered Lampshade Workshop will lead you through the creation of some beautiful homewares, once again inspired by vintage Nottingham lace designs.
Our final new addition is completely new to Coles. Emma Smith has been a freelance tutor for various venues across Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire since 2019. She is a prolific dressmaker for her own personal projects and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others discover the joy of sewing and develop their own skills and experiences. Emma originally completed a fashion and textiles degree and, having spent many years in the UK manufacturing industry, she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team.
Emma has some amazing things planned for her classes with Coles. Coming up, she has an Introduction to Patchwork and Quilting class for people completely new to the hobby, as well as two-day and three-day workshops helping you through trouser-making and jeans-making. These are two of the more challenging garments to sew, and her workshops promise to be extremely informative.
You can find all of our upcoming classes online here and you can book online or by calling the shop on 0115 9881550. As you may already know, our classes are very popular so we do recommend early booking to avoid being disappointed. We hope to see you in one of our classes soon!
I’ve been sewing my own clothes since I first made my school uniform skirt 25 years ago. It was only when I stated working at Coles five years ago that I discovered that a lot of people trace their patterns out rather than cut them directly from the pattern pieces. At first I thought it wasn’t worth the bother but since then I’ve changed my mind, so read on to learn why it’s worthwhile to trace out your patterns instead of cutting them.
Why is it useful to trace off a pattern?
Making the same pattern in a different size
You might like to make clothes for other people as well as yourself, but that becomes difficult if you are different sizes and you have already directly cut out the pattern pieces. Similarly, if you have made something that you love that no longer fits you correctly then you can trace off the pattern again in your new size and make it again! Tracing off your pattern gives you the opportunity to make it in as many sizes as you like.
Multiple pattern pieces on the same sheet
Some pattern companies print multiple pattern pieces on the same sheet, so if you cut one out you destroy the rest! Unless you are happy to buy the same pattern several times over, then you need to trace off the pieces you need.
Same piece for multiple views
If the same pattern piece is used for different views then it is worth tracing it off, that way you can adjust the piece if necessary and not worry that it won’t be usable if you make a different view at a later date. Plus you can keep all of the pieces for the same view together, which, if you are anything like me, makes organising your patterns much easier!
Adjusting pattern pieces
If you are an adventurous stitcher then you might like to adjust your pattern pieces to fit differently or to make best use of limited fabric. While you can fold, cut or pin your pattern pieces directly, its much simpler to adjust and re-adjust as you trace it off until you get it perfect.
Patterns printed on thick paper
A lot of the independent pattern companies print their patterns on lovely, thick, quality paper, which is great for making them last but isn’t well suited to being used directly to make your garment. Similarly, if you have downloaded a pdf pattern and printed it off at home then you are faced with creating an A4 pattern jigsaw with sellotape. It’s a lot easier to work with thin pattern paper, so trace the pattern off and the problem is solved!
How do you trace off a pattern?
I like to save any unprinted sections of pattern paper from printed patterns, but unless you have a large stash of blank pattern paper then you are likely to need to buy some. Burda Tissue Paper is easy to store and transport as it comes folded – simply lay it over your pattern piece and trace with a pencil. You might like to iron it first to remove any creases.
Prym pattern paper comes in two versions: blank and gridded. It comes on a roll so you don’t need to worry about crease marks and gridded paper is ideal if you want to enlarge or adjust your pattern. We only sell this paper in-store so come and see us if you’re interested in this useful pattern paper!
You’re going to need to hold everything in place to make sure it doesn’t shift while you’re copying your pattern. You can use anything heavy for this but pattern weights are the ideal tool as they prevent shifting without leaving marks. Prym have a cute series of orange, kiwi and melon-shaped weights that double as pincushions, as well as set of four mini weights in either pink or blue.Simplicity Vintage’s pattern weights are flat and wide, so are less likely to be accidentally shifted or knocked.
Tranferring your pattern
Once you’ve laid your paper over your pattern piece and held it in place, you can simply trace it off using a pencil (and easily rub out any mistakes). An alternative to the pencil and paper method is to use carbon paper and a tracing wheel. Place the carbon paper between the pattern piece and your blank paper; once you have the hang of it then this can be a lot faster than tracing with a pencil. Some people even transfer the pattern directly onto their fabric! Using carbon paper is particularly useful if you struggle to see the pattern piece through the pattern paper when tracing – the pattern piece is uppermost and so can be seen clearly. You can also transfer different line styles dependent on your wheel – a smooth wheel will transfer smooth lines while a toothed wheel will give a dotted line.
It’s a good idea to use a pencil so that you can rub out any mistakes, but did you know that Pilot Frixion Ball Pens come in a variety of colours and can also be rubbed out? Be careful if you choose to use Frixion pens though, if you iron your pattern piece you will lose all of your markings!
Don’t forget to transfer any markings such as notches – they’re easy to overlook but you will definitely miss them if they’re not there! The Prym Aqua Trickmarker is perfect for transferring markings to your fabric, as the ink disappears with a dab of water
Make sure you label your pattern pieces with the pattern name (and number if it has one), the piece name/number and the size you have copied
Rather than try to cram everything back into your pattern envelope, use a transparent press-seal bag to keep your pieces together – don’t forget to label this too so you can easily find your pattern pieces again in the future!
Now that I know the benefits, I always trace my pattern pieces off but ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference. Let us know in the comments if you like to trace, use carbon paper or cut directly!
At Coles Sewing Centre, we’re not just a shop – did you know that we have a classroom upstairs? Our classes can take you from complete beginner to confident sewer and even the most experienced stitchers can find something new to learn. Our classes are also a great opportunity to make friends with similar interests and many of our regulars enjoy the social aspect as much as the sewing!
When we opened our doors back in 1996, we ran just one class a week; fast forward to 2019 and our classrooms were buzzing with people attending classes every day of the week. Sadly, we had to close our classroom doors in March 2020 as Covid hit and when Covid restrictions started to lift in April 2021, we began to realise that reopening the classroom was going to be the most difficult part of our business to restart. Somehow we had to adhere to social distancing and continue to follow Government guidelines to keep everyone safe.
So, with screens in place and tables well-spaced, we reopened the classroom doors in September 2021 but only ran one class at a time to avoid overcrowding. As the Covid vaccine rolled out and people started to feel more confident about mixing, we have gradually added more classes. Our variety of classes isn’t what it was pre-Covid, but we are getting there and plan to have a full program up and running in the autumn, with lots of new and exciting classes!
To everyone that has attended our classes we would like to say a big THANKYOU, your support has been very much appreciated!
We have one large classroom area that can accommodate up to 33 people or can be divided into two or three smaller areas, accommodating groups of 12 or less. The classroom areas are bright and airy with large tables for cutting out patterns or for laying out quilts, including a table that adjusts in height for those that are unable to stand to work. If you want to bring your own machine then you can take it up in our lift, but Husqvarna Viking sewing machines are provided for students to use when attending our classes, as well as overlockers and embroidery machines – if you are considering purchasing a machine you can attend a class and try before you buy. And, of course, tea and coffee making facilities are available too!
Classes at Coles
Our classes cover all aspects of sewing, so whether you are a patchwork/quilter, embroiderer, garment maker or you prefer to focus on home crafts, we have something that will interest you. We can help you get to grips with your new machine, expand your skills with software, or give you inspiration to be creative with your stitching. All our tutors are experts in their fields and enjoy inspiring, encouraging and sharing their skills.
Machine Owners courses and workshops
Although the instruction booklets are excellent – and as easy as the machines are to use – there is nothing quite like having an expert at your elbow guiding you through new procedures… and offering you useful ‘tips of the trade’ at the same time!
The sewing and embroidery machine owners courses and workshops are taught by me, Rosemary Coles. These courses are aimed at owners of Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines and are designed to help you get the most out of your sewing/embroidery machine. They are free to customers who have purchased their sewing/embroidery machines (selected models) from us but can be purchased by anyone who wants to brush up on using their machine.
We also run a one-day Overlocker Owners Course, taught by Catherine Crew. Catherine will help you to you get the most from your new overlocker and to discover all the wonderful features it has to offer. This course is free for overlocker owners who have purchased their machines from us, but if you have bought your overlocker elsewhere or have a different make of overlocker then the course can be purchased. In the coming months Catherine will be introducing some brand new one-day workshops to take your overlocking to another level, so please watch this space!
Until now the owners courses have taken place in our classrooms, but we are currently working on them becoming online videos that you will be able to download and watch over and over again. This is still in progress, but an announcement will be made on our website as soon as the videos are available. If you didn’t purchase your sewing machine or overlocker from us, don’t worry – the online courses will be available to buy.
Patchwork & Quilting
Our patchwork and quilting tutor is Gilli Theokritoff, who has been with us for many years and is keen to encourage new quilters with her lively and engaging classes. Gilli is an experienced quilter who has won awards for her contemporary quilts.
Our weekly Patchwork and Quilting class is held on a Thursday morning and is aimed at all abilities, whether you are a complete beginner or already an avid quilter. If you are a novice then Gilli will take you through the whole process from choosing your fabric to completing your first project. If you are already a keen quilter this is an opportunity to learn new skills and techniques or finish that UFO!
If you work during the week then you might be interested in Sampler Quilt Saturday. This class is ideal for those new to quilting or those who would like to build on existing skills. Each month you will work on a variety of different blocks, exploring different techniques, including appliqué, complex piecing, curved seams, foundation piecing, etc. There are a variety of quilts to choose from, or if you’re looking for a shorter project there’s also a table runner option.
If you are looking for a one-day quilting workshops, then take a look at the Herringbone Table Runner on 14th April or our very popular Tuffet Workshop on 7th May, where you can make your own tuffet footstool.
Our garment making classes are particularly popular, so we have two tutors to take you through constructing your very own garment. Lorna Keeling has been with us for many years and has a great depth of knowledge of the sewing trade from designing to manufacturing. Tracy Corns joined us in 2021 and has been a freelance tutor for the last five years, teaching at venues across Leicestershire.
We offer two weekly Garment Making classes – Tracy teaches the Tuesday morning class and Lorna teaches on Friday mornings. With their expert guidance you can make a garment that will be a perfect fit and have a professional finish. These classes are suitable for all abilities – if you are a beginner then our tutor will take you through the whole process from how to read the pattern, to how to cut your fabric (accurately!), as well learning the skills such as darts, hems and inserting zips. Those with sewing experience can learn new skills and techniques to take your sewing to another level.
For those of you who have some sewing experience, you can take your skills to another level by attending our Pattern Cutting and Design class, which runs once a month on a Saturday with Lorna. This course is for anyone with an interest in pattern cutting or garment construction. The course covers pattern cutting, garment design, fitting and garment construction. If you already have some pattern cutting experience this will give you the opportunity to develop your skills further.
If you work during the week then you might be interested in our Saturday Garment Making and Home Crafts class that runs once a month on a Saturday, where you can stitch a garment, soft furnishing project or craft project, all with expert guidance from Tracy.
Soft Furnishing and Crafts
Jill Dean has been a tutor with us for over 10 years and enjoys making all kinds of items for the home, from cushions to Roman blinds and curtains. She teaches our weekly Soft Furnishing and Crafts class on a Tuesday, which is suitable for all skill levels. This course will teach you how to make a variety of soft furnishings for your home, cushions, curtains, roman blinds etc., or if you prefer you can work on a craft project – maybe a bag or embellished cushion! If you can’t make a weekday then you can join our Saturday Garment Making and Home Crafts class, which Tracy runs once a month.
Workshops for Software Owners
There are so many modules within the Husqvarna Viking software packages that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, but we have our very own software expert, Anna Mather, on hand to help you. Anna has lots of ideas up her sleeve to help you get the most from your software package and is experienced with helping even the most tech-novice of embroiderers. Her Software and Stitch classes will run in our classroom but she will also be introducing some Zoom classes for those of you that aren’t local to Nottingham, so if you are an owner of Premier+2 Ultra, Extra or Embroidery then why not join Anna on Tuesday 10th May for her first Zoom class!
Kathleen Laurel-Sage teaches our creative machine embroidery classes. She is a freelance designer and embroiderer, who in her own words, loves to “create, inflict and infect fellow creative folk with the bug to master and perfect their creativity”. Kathleen has incorporated hooped machine embroidery into her workshop repertoire using a Husqvarna Viking Ruby 90 embroidery machine and software. She has created some amazing workshops, which are designed to give you the confidence to try new things and gain new skills and are ideal for owners of Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines.
Kathleen will show you how to create a beautiful waterfall of flowers and butterflies on her Floral Waterfall workshop on Saturday 25th June, using your embroidery machine, organza, water soluble fabric and a soldering iron. Watch out for many more new machine embroidery classes in the Autumn!
Mary Broddle is new to Coles this year and brings with her a range of hand embroidery workshops, including one for children this Easter. Mary encourages mindful stitching, where you let your needle and thread move through the fabric without overthinking its path – this can have a calming effect, aiding relaxation and reducing stress.
Mary’s hand stitching workshops include Clothes Embellishment, Mindful Stitching and Hoop Art, designed for the days when you don’t want to sit in front of your machine but you want to relax and be creative. If you are like me and aren’t a keen hand stitcher, I would encourage you to come and give it a go – it really is very relaxing and it’s perfect for all abilities, even if you’ve never threaded a needle!
You can view and book all of our upcoming classes online here – keep an eye out as we will be adding more classes for autumn soon! I hope this post has given you an insight into what goes on behind our classroom doors and maybe we’ll see you on a class very soon.
Get ready for the massive March fabric drop! We’ve had some fantastic new fabrics arrive at Coles Sewing Centre this March, including lovely lightweight dressmaking fabrics so you can get started on your summer wardrobe, several brand new quilting collections (including some absolutely gorgeous Liberty fabrics) and a new craft fabric that you can draw on with chalk like a chalkboard! We’ve also got a couple of special offers that you don’t want to miss, so let’s have a look at what’s new at Coles this March.
Chalk cloth, also known as chalkboard fabric, can be written or drawn on with chalks and when you want a change then simply wipe clean with a damp cloth and you can write on it again and again! Use it for a tablecloth that the kids can draw on, make a doodle book to keep children entertained at restaurants, or why not make placemats that you can personalise for every meal?
This month’s quilting fabrics are absolute beauties. We have Playtime and Roar from Dashwood Studio – perfect for children and dinosaur lovers alike!
We also have a new selection of Classic Tone on Tone fabrics, which are great to use as blenders in your quilting. They also make great fillers to make your designs pop, as they have a little more to them than a plain but won’t overwhelm your focal fabrics. They’re a little hard to see clearly online so I would recommend viewing them on the Coles website, where there are a selection of images that you can click to enlarge – they’re really lovely so it’s definitely worth a look!
Tonal Vineyard is subtly patterned with traditional vine designs for a sophisticated vintage look. It is an extra wide fabric, giving you a whopping 274cm (108″) to back your quilt. Extra wide fabrics like this are also great to use as a border fabric as you can cut long strips without needing to piece. Of course, these are beautiful enough that you could use them in your main design!
Originally designed for Liberty Fabrics in 1933, their Wiltshire print has been reimagined into a two-colour shadow silhouette to become the perfect fabric blender. The muted leaf and berry print of Wiltshire Shadow is designed to coordinate against other layouts from Liberty’s vast archive of prints for a seamless mix-and-match effect.
We have one final collection from Liberty and it’s just gorgeous: Flower Show Sunrise. There are 15 fabrics that would look amazing in any quilt but this collection is so much more than quilting fabric!
These fabrics would look fantastic as a dress for a little girl or a summery top for you, but you can also use them to pick out details in a garment – use them inside pockets for a flash of colour, make some bias binding with the Prym Bias Binding Maker (available in 6mm, 12mm and 25mm sizes) and use it to edge a neckline or hem, or make more of a feature of it with a collar or patch pockets!
If you’re looking for a present for the quilter in your life then you really can’t go wrong with some Liberty fat quarters but we also have a new product that anyone would be delighted to receive – the Prym Patchwork & Quilting Starter Set. Ideal for taking to classes, this set is also perfect for beginners and includes a folding cutting mat, rotary cutter, quilitng ruler, quilting pins, quilting needles, stitch ripper and trick marker. This set is normally £72.00 but you can get it from Coles for £59.99 until midnight on Friday 25th March – that’s a saving of more than 15%!
There are some really fantastic new fabrics this month but you just can’t beat those new Liberties, such beautiful prints on great quality fabric that is a joy to sew. And with those great offers on the Prym Patchwork & Quilting Starter Set and Simplicity patterns, it’s going to be hard to resist getting a little something for myself! Don’t forget, we have even more dressmaking fabrics coming in over the next few weeks – I can’t wait to show you what’s new next month!
We have had a little New Year spring clean on the Coles website and now you can find all of our bargains in one place! Go straight to our new Clearance section by clicking here, or read on to see a few of the special offers and clearance items we currently have available.
If you have browsed our selection of fabric online, you might have noticed that we often have special reductions on offer. In our Fabric Clearance department you will find Ends of Bolts, which are the very last pieces from a bolt of fabric. These are reduced by up to 50% and the price is for the whole piece, so you know exactly what you are paying. Fabrics in the Special Offer department are also reduced by up to 50% and both craft and dressmaking fabrics are on offer, depending on what we currently have available. We add more to the selection throughout the year, so it’s worth checking back every so often to see what’s available. Special Offer fabrics are sold by the metre, but with a minimum purchase of 10cm for dressmaking fabrics and 25cm for craft fabrics you can buy precisely the amount you want. You can even order a 10cm sample of dressmaking fabrics or a fat quarter of craft fabrics!
There are some real bargains available at the moment – we have several Liberty fabrics Ends of Bolts, or if you’re more interested in dressmaking fabrics then there are more than twenty to choose from, including several Tilly and the Buttons jerseys.
It’s also worth watching out for our Fabric of the Week. Periodically we put a few special fabrics on a 25% discount for just a week. We don’t always have something in fabric of the week but when we do you know it’s going to be great. This week it’s a checked jacquard in black, yellow and coral on a mid-grey background. It’s a viscose and polyester blend with a touch of elastane, so its beautifully soft with a slight stretch, but still very washable. It would be perfect for a skirt or dress, and as you can see from the pictures below it has a beautiful reverse as well so would make a lovely cardigan. It’s £10.49 per metre but it will only be at this price for a week so make sure you get it while you can!
The clearance books section is brand new to the website. You’ll find a real variety in there, from ex-display books that may be a little faded on the front to out of print editions that you can’t buy elsewhere! You can save up to 50% so there are some fantastic bargains to be found! We have loads to choose from but here are just a few personal favourites…
We have Girl With A Sewing Machine by Jenniffer Taylor from the Great British Sewing Bee for £6.50, which gives you a fantastic guide to making and customising clothes to your your body and style.
If you have toddlers to sew for then why not try the Happiness Halter Playsuit by Lisa Lam at just £4.99 – it has three full dress patterns for a playsuit, halter top and dress with fully illustrated step-by-step instructions.
For quilters, we have Fast Flying Geese Quilts by Karin Hellaby for £8.99. This book tells you all you need to know about creating fast flying geese quilts and is packed with inspiration, instructions and templates.
Finally, if you’re a crafter then we have Fa la la la Felt for £6.50. This book has the patterns and templates to create 45 Christmas decorations out of felt, so is great for beginners and children as well as more experienced crafters. I bought this book at full price because I absolutely love making handmade Christmas decorations and there are so many gorgeous ideas to choose from that it was hard to know where to begin!
Theres so much to choose from! Whether you are a quilter, embroiderer or dressmaker, there’s something for everyone. Please remember that everything in the Clearance section is the last of our stock and we are unlikely to get it again so make sure you snap things up while you can!
Gutermann have recently released Maraflex, an elastic thread with high stretch that gives amazing results. So what’s special about Maraflex and why should you use it?
Ordinarily, when you sew a garment with a stretchy fabric then you need to either use an overlocker or an overlock stitch on your sewing machine. Either way, you will use some form of zigzag stitch to allow your fabric to stretch. If you were to use a straight stitch with a sew-all thread on a stretch fabric then your thread would most likely snap when the fabric was stretched. Maraflex lets you sew with a straight stitch on a stretch fabric and will stretch right along with it, up to 80% on top of its original length!
Maraflex can be used for any number of applications, but is particularly useful for sewing with jersey, activewear, swimwear and underwear. With 80 colours to choose from, there is a shade for every project!
Benefits to sewing with Maraflex
You don’t need to use an overlocker. Not all of us are lucky enough to have an overlocker as well as a sewing machine! And even if you do have one, it can be a hassle to have to keep swapping machines depending on the type of sewing you are doing. With Maraflex then you can stitch your stretch fabric on an ordinary sewing machine with a straightforward straight stitch.
You use less thread. Maraflex lets you optimise your thread consmption – sewing with a straight stitch instead of a zigzag stitch uses far less thread.
Stretches along with necklines and cuffs. Small openings such as necks and cuffs have more give when sewn with Maraflex.
Helps make your seams pucker-free. The elasticity of Maraflex gives beautifully smooth seams, preventing unsightly puckering.
Easy to care for. You can wash at 60°C, use a hot iron, tumble dry, dry clean (any solvent except trichloroethylene) and use chorine/oxygen bleach – Maraflex can take it all.
Tips for sewing with Maraflex
Use a jersey/ballpoint or stretch needle in size 70-80. The correct needle is always important, whatever you are sewing. A jersey/ballpoint needle has a rounded end to prevent fibre breakage, while a stretch needle also has a special eye that helps to prevent skipped stitches, and is especially useful for very high stretch fabrics.
Works best with knits and stretch fabrics. Gutermann recommend that you use Maraflex with light to medium-weight knit fabrics such as jersey, or light to medium-weight elastic woven fabrics, such as fabrics that contain elastane.
Use as both needle and bobbin thread. For best results you should sew with as little thread tension as possible and use the Maraflex as both your top and bottom threads. You will get optimal seam elasticity with 4 stitches per centimetre.
Where can you get Maraflex?
We have a brand new thread stand in the shop with every available shade of Maraflex – you will find it above the Gutermann Sew-All threads. Of course, you can also order the whole range online by clicking here. A reel is 150m long and costs £3.40, although of course Red Thread customers will get 10% off when shopping in store!
What is Red Thread? Customers who join our Red Thread Club receive a 10% discount on a huge number of items when shopping in store, including threads! It costs nothing to join - simply provide your contact details and your discount will automatically be applied to eligible items when you shop in store (does not apply online). Eligible items include threads, fabric, haberdashery, quilting and embroidery accessories, stabilisers and sewing notions, as well as the majority of Husqvarna Viking feet and accessories (exclusions apply). The savings can be huge!
Rose has already given Maraflex a try and she says that it is ever so easy to use and sews beautifully. She used it to shorten a stretch skirt and the stitches stretched perfectly along with the fabric, without snapping. I have recently bought some of our leaf print ponte roma that I plan to make a Tilly & the Buttons Coco dress from and I will definitely be getting some Maraflex to stitch it with. You can expect an update from me in 2022 letting you know how I get on!
Are you looking for some Christmas inspiration? We can help! We have a wide variety of gifts to suit all budgets, so read on for our gift suggestions to make this Christmas a sewing wonderland!
Machines and bags
If you really want to push the boat out this year, then we have some great offers on machines that would make wonderful gifts. The Huskylock™ S15 is a great starter overlocker and comes with a free carry bag as well as a free course to teach you the basics. If you want to give a sewing machine then you can’t beat the H|CLASS™ E10, which comes with a free book packed full of patterns as well a free tuition, or the H|CLASS™ E20, which comes with a free Prym Love Starter Set and free tuition. Alternatively, we have a great selection of machine bags and trolleys, which are perfect for storage as well as carrying your machine to classes.
Have you seen our latest selection of fabric gift boxes and sewing bundles? It’s worth having a browse through them because each one comes with something different. The Windy Days Gift Box, for example, comes with four fat quarters, two matching Sew-All threads and a pack of Magic Clips to make sewing a breeze, and all of this is packed up in a recyclable Kraft box and tied with a ribbon so you don’t even need to wrap it!
We’ve recently expanded our selection of thread sets and there’s something for every stitcher’s needs. If you’re buying for a dressmaker, Gütermann have a thread set that comes with 12 reels of Sew-All thread in a rainbow of colours as well as a pack of Prym pearl-headed pins and a mixed pack of Schmetz universal machine needles. For an embroiderer then you can’t go wrong with Mettler’s 28 thread set of Silk-Finish Cotton 50 – their colours are exceptional and there is the whole spectrum in the pack. Quilters can make good use of this set of Gütermann cottons, while Gütermann’s Nostalgic range gives you a choice of 8, 30 or 48 reels of Sew-All thread in a presentation tin, perfect for storage and useful even after you’ve used up all of the thread!
Who doesn’t like a stocking full of little gifts? We have a whole section dedicated to items under £5 – a personal favourite is the Prym Love Birdy Needle Threader. This cute little pink bird lets you thread a sewing needle with ease and even has a built in thread cutter, so you don’t even need scissors handy!
Christmas makes and fabric
Speaking of stockings, a home made stocking is always a lovely gift. There’s still time to get 15% off Christmas fabric (just add discount code XMAS15 at checkout) but you’ll have to be quick because the offer ends at midnight on Sunday 5th December! If you need a pattern then Simplicity have a few holiday patterns that you can put together in no time, or why not try your hand at a June Tailor Quilt As You Go Stocking – with the pattern printed on the included wadding then it’s perfect even for beginners, all you need is the fabric and thread!
As we all try to make our lives more eco-friendly, then the trend for gift wrapping this year is to use fabric that can be endlessly reused. You can find some ingenious wrapping methods online, but as you can see from the gifts that Carys has wrapped for the shop, just some fabric tied with a ribbon looks amazing!
As you can imagine, working at Coles is like being a kid in a sweetie shop and we always have our eye on something! Deborah has added the Rose Gold Milward Scissor Gift Set to her Christmas list as it’s just so pretty and it has everything you need for most dressmaking projects. Anna has asked Santa for a Ruby 90 but in case it won’t fit down the chimney then she also fancies some of our William Morris fabrics to make a sofa throw and some cushions for her living room. Catherine loves Mettler’s variegated threads because of the amazing effects it can give to your sewing, she says they make each stitch stand out, giving it that extra decorative touch, so this Mettler Poly Sheen Neutral Collection would be ideal. Jackie finds her sewing room a little gloomy in the evening, and thinks that this adjustable lamp would be perfect for her – it is poseable and the light level is adjustable so that you can get the light exactly where you need it. Personally, I absolutely love a presentation tin (not only do they look lovely, but they’re so handy for storage) so I would be over the moon with one of the Gutermann Sew-All thread sets in a nostalgic tin that I mentioned earlier.
I don’t think I’m alone in struggling to choose a present sometimes – you can have a great idea but not be sure if someone already has it. Well we’ve got you covered because a Coles gift card can get you anything in the shop! We have them online in amounts of £5, £10, £20, £25, £50 and £100 but if you would like to give a different amount then just give us a call or drop us an email and we can can help you out.
Well I hope we have given you a few ideas for your gifts this Christmas. As always, if you have any questions then please get in touch. Now I’m going to send this post to my family Secret Santa group and hope that someone gets the hint! Merry Christmas!
Well, congratulations, a sewing machine is a wonderful tool and accessory to have, a gateway to many creative ideas, and a great therapy and relaxation. So how do you decide which machine to buy? Having been an exhibitor at many sewing shows, I have seen so many people overwhelmed by the choice available, often ending up going home with nothing. So let’s see if we can help filter it a bit.
A few questions to ask yourself before you begin looking:
Why do I want a sewing machine?
What sewing do I do now?
If I have a sewing machine, why am I looking to replace it?
Is there a new area of sewing I would like to try, but the machine I have does not have the capability to do it?
Don’t be too worried about trying to find a machine with everything you might ever want to do on it all at once. Yes, a sewing machine tends to be a long term investment, but they do have a value as they get older so you can always sell the one you have on, or part exchange it against an upgrade. Many people begin with a simpler machine and as they grow in skill and experience they upgrade to machines with more features.
The technology used in traditional mechanical sewing machines has been around for many a year and they are a great place to start the sewing journey. Modern ones are easy to thread and use, require minimal maintenance and will give years of trouble free service if given some TLC and a service occasionally.
Stitches and size of stitches will be selected by dials and it will be necessary to set the stitch length and width manually to suit. There could be some electronics involved to help control the speed of the machine and for needle piercing power for heavy fabrics.
A mechanical machine will offer, at minimum, straight stitch for joining seams, zigzag for overcasting seams, 3 step zigzag for inserting elastic and repairs, blind hem for easy curtain and trouser hemming (once the technique is mastered) and a buttonhole. It may also have some stretch and overlock stitches, some decorative stitches or a free motion facility for free motion embroidery or stipple quilting.
I’m afraid you get what you pay for so if you’re looking at a sub-£100 machine from a supermarket, don’t expect it to be up to much! The engineering in a sewing machine needs to be excellent, as do the materials used to build it, so if it’s very cheap then this will be reflected in the quality of materials or build. You may end up spending more on a cheap machine in the long term when problems arise from its poor quality.
Ideally you want to look at spending, as a minimum, £150. Go with a reputable brand, ideally bought from a sewing machine specialist, and if you can pop in (or have a virtual demonstration), so much the better. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so only watching YouTube videos before you buy might not necessarily help you make the right purchase.
Why have a demonstration?
When you are choosing a machine, a specialist sewing machine shop like Coles will offer you a free demonstration. Not only do you get to see (and hear) the machine in action and have a go for yourself, you also can ask any questions you might have. The demonstrator will try to ensure that the machine is within your budget and meets your needs and as they are experts, they can offer suggestions that you wouldn’t get otherwise. You would test drive a car, why not a sewing machine?!
Some examples of mechanical sewing machines from Husqvarna Viking:
Similar to the Emerald 116, but with a slide speed control and needle up down function to make sewing even more controllable, plus a few more decorative stitches
For beginners to intermediate/advanced users
Computer sewing machines
Computer sewing machines started appearing with the advent of the microchip, as long ago as the late 1970’s. They are so much easier to set up than mechanical machines as simply selecting the stitch sets the machine up ready to go. They often have computer controlled upper tensions, with the tension matched automatically to the chosen stitch/fabric combination. They usually have needle/up down functions to save you having to turn the handwheel. They will probably have a stitch count in the hundreds, with specialist stitches for utility, quilting, decorative and lettering.
A computer sewing machine may also have auto thread trim, and auto presser foot lift (with an extra height setting for thicker projects) plus a pivot function for patchwork, and a bigger distance between the right side of the machine and the needle, to allow for bigger projects such as quilts. They are simple to use once the basics of threading are mastered, so any user level can use them – beginners to advanced.
A few Husqvarna Viking computer sewing machines to chew over:
OPAL™ 690Q – currently £899 with 5 years’ warranty
This is just such an amazing machine – it has so many features, but is still intuitive and so easy to use
It has growth room, so you could buy it as a beginner/intermediate, and grow with it, or buy it as an advanced sewer, and still be amazed at what it offers!
If you really think you will be into sewing long term then this is the machine for you
This is a top of the line computer machine, but still easy to use
It has a colour touch screen like the SAPPHIRE™ 930, as well as extra wide decorative and quilt stitches
For intermediate to advanced users
Sewing and embroidery machine combinations
This innovation in domestic sewing started to appear in the early 1990’s and allowed for small embroideries to be added to garments. It was simple stuff at first, and quite complicated to set up through using electronic memory cards that went into a specialist port on the computer. Designs and customising designs were quite tricky too. But not now!
We really are spoilt by the choice, ease of use and familiarity of operation these days. Designs are plentiful and easy to customise, or you can create your own design with software – the only limits are your imagination! They come with USB connectivity and the most recent machines have built in Wi-Fi, letting you download your design straight onto your machine, no matter where you are. There is even a phone app, with which you can take a photo of an item and send it to your machine for stitching out direct from your phone! The combination machines are top of the line sewing machines as well, so you get the best of both worlds.
I would recommend buying one from somewhere that can support you, as you need to learn the techniques of hooping, positioning, the right backings and thread and so forth. The investment in one of these is high, but the rewards are amazing – imagine seeing an embroidery you have created on a garment, cushion, or quilt! It can even turn into a cottage industry as there are always clubs, businesses and societies wanting embroidered logos stitching on garments, as well as the massive opportunity in the small craft business. They can be used from beginner to advanced, as the modern interfaces with large colour touch screens make the stitching side easy. You just need to master the art of setting the fabric to embroider up correctly, and to find inspiration.
A few Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines to look at, all with 5 year warranty and free tuition with Coles:
DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 40 – normally £2299.00, we have some demonstration models available at £1299.00 while stocks last
An easy to use sewing and embroidery combo
Great as a sewing machine and simple to set up for embroidery
Longer arm and larger colour touch screen than earlier machines
Has the deLuxe™ Stitch System: the machine works out the thickness of the thread, fabric, and works with the project being stitched to alter the tensions in real time as necessary to give perfect results
In addition to the features of the Ruby, the EPIC™ 2 has an integrated dual feed system
Long and high sewing area, making it the perfect quilting machine as well as being one of the most advanced sewing and embroidery machines in the world!
Well I hope that helps a little. I have concentrated on examples of Husqvarna Viking machines as we know them well here at Coles – it’s worth clicking to have a look at any machine you’re interested in as we have some fantastic offers on our website right now. If nothing here takes your fancy then there are many other makes out there which you can find on the web, but hopefully you now have a bit of a filter onto the genre of the machine for you. Whatever you choose to look at, I would certainly recommend a test drive if possible to make sure you feel happy using it; also make sure there is some support, other than a couple of online videos!
You will have a range of basic accessory feet that came with your sewing machine, like your buttonhole foot, zipper foot, etc. But what happens when you want to do something more specialised, like inserting an invisible zip, topstitching a collar or sewing a garment with a specific seam allowance? Which accessory do you use then?
The clever people at Husqvarna Viking have created over 50 specialised accessory feet to make your sewing applications easier (and they are always creating more!). Here are three feet from my accessory box that I use regularly when I am garment making.
1. Invisible zip foot
First out of the box is my Clear Invisible Zip Foot (there is a metal version if you prefer to use metal feet). An invisible zip, sometimes known as a concealed zip, is stitched into a seam and as the name implies it’s almost invisible – once it’s inserted all you should be able to see is the zip pull.
Zip application is often thought of as very difficult to do but it`s really one of the easiest, especially when sewn with the Clear Invisible Zip Foot. An invisible zip is always inserted before stitching the garment’s seam. It has two grooves underneath the foot to accommodate the zip coils and hold them in place as you stitch. You need to buy a zip that is at least 1 1/4″ (3 cm) longer than the zip opening.
If you haven’t inserted an invisible zip before then don’t worry, I go through the process step by step in the video below!
2. Seam guide foot
Next out of my box is the Clear Seam Guide Foot. As it says in the name, it’s a clear foot so has lots of visibility when joining fabric and stitching seams. The Clear Seam Guide Foot has a metal guide, which is set at 5/8” (1.5cm) from the centre needle position; this is the standard seam allowance on most patterns. So when you are constructing a garment all you need to do is place the edge of the fabric on the guide and you’ll get an accurate seam allowance every time. To allow for varying seam allowances there are also markings on the foot set at 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2”.
Last out of my accessory box is the Clear B Edge Joining Foot, which is one of my favourites as it can be used for so many applications. It also comes as a metal foot but I personally prefer the clear one as it gives lots of visibility. As it’s a joining foot then you can use it for tasks such as joining fabric and lace, or for embellishing ribbon with decorative stitches. However, I generally use it for topstitching as you can put the guide on the edge of the fabric and move the needle across to get a really close topstitch – great for garments but also useful for things like bag handles. It’s also good for top stitching around T-shirt necklines – the guide sits in the seam line and then you can position the needle for top stitching.
So those are my top three additional feet for garment making. We have a special offer on these feet at the moment – you can buy them as a bundle and save 10%! This offer is only available online so make sure you get it while you can!
I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of my sewing accessory box, I do have lots of other feet so be sure to pop back to our Blog and I’ll tell you about some more of my accessory feet!