A Complete Course in Dressmaking/Lesson 1/Sewing equipment


Of course you have your sewing machine. It’s hard to find a woman who hasn’t these days. Well, all you need to start right in sewing is a needle and thimble, a pair of shears and a tape measure.

As a matter of fact, it’s a good plan not to buy a whole lot of equipment until you have sewed a while and found out just how much you really need and just how much you can do without.

However, perhaps later on you will make a profession of Dressmaking and here is a little list for an ideally equipped sewing room that you can use for reference at any time:

  • Chest of drawers
  • Closet or wardrobe
  • Cutting table
  • One or two full-length mirrors
  • Ironing board (regular size)
  • Sleeve board
  • Iron
  • Basin
  • Sponge
  • Press cloth of duck or canvas
  • Shrink cloth
  • Several strips of muslin with which to cover work
  • Wire coat and dress hangers
  • Dressmaker’s dummy
  • Square
  • Yard stick
  • Curved ruler
  • Steel tape
  • Steel tracing wheel with sharp points
  • Heavy shears for cutting cloth
  • Shears for cutting paper
  • Small scissors for clipping threads
  • Waste paper basket for clippings
  • Paper weights
  • Pins
  • Needles
  • Thimble
  • Elastic bands
  • Tailor’s wax and chalk
  • Pad of paper and pencil
  • Sharp knife

The chest of drawers is needed for patterns, material and sewing equipment. It is a good plan to keep one drawer for patterns, one drawer for new materials, one drawer for garments which are cut out, another for tools, and one for left-over ends and scraps of material.

Fig. (53) A shelf will serve in place of a closet.

From the very start, make it a habit to mark for whom each pattern is, and always take time to fold the pattern into its proper envelope before putting it away.

Fig. (54) The curtains adjusted to shelf.

When garments are partly or nearly finished, hang them up when you stop sewing. It prevents them from getting soiled and mussed. If your sewing room has a closet, it easily solves the problem of where to hang them. If there is no closet and you do not want to go to the expense of buying a wardrobe, a shelf put up on brackets with a curtain tacked to it will answer the purpose of a closet.

Fig. (55) Hang up the coat or partly finished dress to prevent it from wrinkling The Figs. 53 and 54 show the shelf and curtain. Suitable wire coat and skirt hangers can be bought at any department or five and ten cent store. Good types are illustrated in Figs. 55 and 56.

Fig. (56) Trouser hangers answer admirably for hanging up a skirt.The cutting table ought to be forty inches or wider and at least two yards long. If your space is limited have a carpenter build horses and a collapsible top. (See Figs, 57, 58 and 59.) A table of this description can be easily taken apart and leaned against the wall.

Fig. (57) A wide cutting table is a great advantage.

If the top of the table is soft wood and smooth it is not necessary to cover it. However, in time it is bound to rough up from the tracing wheel. It pays to cover any table with linoleum or heavy oilcloth. If linoleum is used shellac it so the fabric will not cling to the surface.

Fig. (58) The horse for a collapsible table is easy to make.
If you have two mirrors place them opposite each other so that by looking in one glass you can see your back in the other.

An ironing board without a frame is the most satisfactory. A skirt can be slipped over it without danger of crushing the part that comes at the under side of the board.

If your table is supported by horses, these will work nicely for the ironing board too, or rest the board on the backs of two chairs.

Fig.;(59)The top of a collapsible table
Be sure to pad your board well. Tailors’ wadding can be used for this purpose, put on in smooth, even sheets. Fold the wadding over the edge and tack it to the under side of the board. Several thicknesses of a woolen bed blanket also make a satisfactory padding. After the padding is tacked to the board, cover the board with several thicknesses of muslin. Draw the outside muslin tightly and smoothly, rolling it over edge and sewing it securely or tacking it to the under side of the board.

Fig. (60) A sleeve board is an advantage in pressing a coat sleeve.
For coat making, you will need a sleeve board. (See Fig.60.) This, too, needs a thick padding.

An electric iron is a great convenience but not a necessity. A one burner gas stove or a small oil stove and an ordinary flat iron make a practical substitute.

Do not try to get along without an iron and ironing board.

Pressing is One of the Most Essential Things in Garment Making.—It is impossible to do neat work unless each piece is pressed before joining and every edge pressed before stitching.

Include in your pressing outfit a press cloth, a basin for water, and a small sponge.

Duck makes the best press cloth as it does not cling to the iron. The press cloth ought to be about a yard and a quarter long.

Most cotton wash fabrics can be pressed successfully without a press cloth, but cottons in woolen finish and woolens must be covered with a damp cloth or the heat of the iron will shine the surface.

Press silks from the wrong side and with an iron only lukewarm. Heat rots silk.

Seams are pressed open more easily if they are dampened; so keep a basin of water and a sponge handy.

Cottons and woolens ought to be well shrunk before they are made up. Wash goods is easily shrunk by soaking in water and hanging in a shady place to dry. It is the slow drying that shrinks it.

Woolens or cottons in woolen finish are treated differently. The best home method is to wrap the fabric in a wet cloth. Duck makes a good shrink cloth. The shrink cloth ought to be about a yard longer than the material.

Lay the fabric on a flat surface, smooth out the wrinkles, dip the shrink cloth in water and cover the fabric with it. Roll shrink cloth and fabric over a board. The thin boards on which bolts of fabric are wrapped are excellent for this purpose.

The fabric must be wrapped in the wet cloth at least twenty-four hours. It is then unrolled, hung up to dry and pressed while it is still damp. Mere sponging with a damp cloth or sponge will not shrink material sufficiently so that it can be properly handled in tailoring. Material that has not been properly shrunk is sure to shrink and pucker under the iron when pressing.

You will find several strips of muslin about three yards long a great help in keeping your work clean. For instance, if you stop working when a garment is half cut you can cover your cutting table with one of these pieces of muslin. The same thing applies to the machine.You need not always take the work out of the machine, but can throw the muslin over the machine to keep the work clean.

There are many good adjustable dress forms on the market, but you can make an ordinary form answer your purpose. If you are sewing just for yourself, buy a size as near your measurement as possible.

Make a muslin French lining that fits you and slip it over the form. If it is too loose at any point, pad it out.

If you are making a business of dressmaking, buy a medium size form and pad out muslin linings for larger sizes, making them detachable so you can slip them on and off the form.

Fig. (61) A curved rule will help you with your pattern making.
The Fig. 61 gives an idea of the type of curved ruler to buy.

Fig. (62) The cutting shears must be heavy.

Heavy shears are needed for cutting fabrics, as illustrated in fig. 62. These ought to be kept very sharp and used only for cutting fabric. Keep a second pair of shears for cutting paper, and a small pair of scissors for clipping threads.

Fig. (63) A steel tape is always accurate
Many of the cloth tape measures are not accurately marked. Compare your cloth tape measure with the yard stick. A steel tape such as the one shown in Fig. 63 is always right.
Fig. (64) Chalk and wax for marking around the pattern come in convenient little cakes.
Keep tailor’s wax and chalk for marking around the pattern on the goods. Use the wax only on the outer edges where the marks will be cut off. Chalk marks can be whisked off of woolens. The chalk and wax come in little cakes, as Fig. 64, and are packed in boxes. They come in white; also gray, black and red, and are on sale at all dressmaking and tailors’ supply stores.

A steel tracing wheel is a good investment. It can be used for copying patterns or marking tucks or pleats on fine silk without injuring the fabric. A tracing wheel with rough or blunt points will tear and cut silk.

Keep a good supply of pins and needles on hand. It is a waste of time to stop in the middle of your work and go to the store for the necessities.

Black headed steel pins are the best to use. They are much easier to pick up than the ordinary metal pin and they are so slender and sharp that they will not mar even fine fabrics.

Elastic bands come in handy for slipping on a bundle of cut-out pieces or the pattern if the envelope is torn.

Paper weights are excellent for holding the pattern to the goods while cutting. No sewing room is complete without paper, pencils and a sharp knife.

If You Have no Sewing Room, keep a chiffonier or chest of drawers in which to put your work. Also reserve one closet or part of a closet in which to hang the partly finished garments.

Where the dining-room table must be used for a cutting table, buy the rubber floor matting such as is used in hospitals. It is thick enough so that a tracing wheel will not punch through. It can be rolled up when not in use.

Another way of protecting the table is to quilt a thick pad, put this on the table and then cover it with table oilcloth. If you sew in your living room or bedroom, spread out a piece of table oilcloth and place the sewing machine on this. After you are through sewing it is an easy matter to push the machine off the oilcloth, gather up the oilcloth and slide the threads and bits into the waste paper basket.