Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tutorial: Using your serger to 3-thread flatlock

Easy 3-thread Flatlocking

Some sergers have the ability to do a 2-thread, or "natural", flatlock. If your serger is not able to do that, you can do a 3-thread flatlock instead, and it is really easy! In flatlocking the idea is to make the needle thread tension so loose that the stitching pulls apart flat. This makes a really nice stitch with a flat seam allowance, which is great for things like boys swim shirts or for fleece socks.

1. Set your machine up for 3 thread serging. For me, this meant removing the right needle. With normal, balanced tensions, sew on scrap piece of fabric just to verify that your machine is set up and threaded correctly for a 3-thread stitch.

2. Now, turn your needle thread tension all the way down to its lowest setting.

3. Turn your lower looper thread tension all the way up to its highest setting.

4. Now, with wrong sides together serge while cutting off a small amount with your knife. It will look like the top line of stitching shown in this picture:

Can you see how it forms V's? That is because the needle thread tension is so loose that the needle thread is being pulled all the way to the edge of the fabric. The bottom line of stitching is just a regular, balanced 3-thread stitch, so you can see the difference.

5. Next, you will pull apart the stitching. So hold it with the seam allowance up like this:

And just tug on the two pieces of fabric.

6. It will flatten out to look like this on the right side:

And here is how it will look on the wrong side:

Some hints:
- Because of the extreme difference in tension between the needle thread and the lower looper thread, you should go slow or your threads might break.
- Depending on the thickness of your fabric and your exact serger, it might be possible to be less extreme in the tension settings and still get a good flatlock. I can keep my needle tension at 2 or 3 (instead of 1) and my lower looper at 7 (instead of 9) and still get a flatlock.
- It is not necessary to use the knife and cut off fabric if you don't want to. You could put your knife in the non-cutting position and flatlock on a fold of fabric for decorative topstitching.
- If you want the "ladder" side of the topstitching on the right side of the garment, you should flatlock with the fabric right sides together.
- If the "ladder" is on the right side of the fabric, it makes a nice sort of channel through which you can weave decorative, narrow ribbon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My house is full of superheroes!

Lately, our 3 year old has been saying, "Yes, I did that.  Because I am Super Noah."  It turns out that Super Noah can do just about anything!  I am really not sure where he learned about superheroes, but he is insistent that it is his superpowers that allow him to do things such as run down the hall and jump on his bed.  So when I offered to sew him a cape, he was thrilled!  Of course, when the cape did not materialize for several days, he was impatient and told me, "Mama, Super Noah can't fly without a cape!"

So here is his finished cape:

And because I have 4 children, who all can't bear to be left out, here are the rest:

I do not have a full tutorial or sew-along, but I do have some hints for you.  First, you need wide fabric to make a really full cape, so use felt or fleece.  Second, capes are more fun if they are lined with something silky, like cheap costume fabric.

My third hint is about safety.  Since it will fasten around the child's neck, it's important that you use hook and loop tape (such as Velcro, Aplix, or TouchTape) as the fastener, rather than a button, snap, or ties.  That way, if it gets snagged on something, it will come unfastened with enough force so there won't be a strangulation hazard.

I actually used a pattern to get the cape shape.  The pattern I used was from the 4/04 issue of Ottobre magazine.  Then I ignored the directions and just sewed it however I wanted.  Here are the steps I followed:

1.  Cut out the cape in both the outer and inner fabrics.  Also, cut a strip of felt or fleece that is 3 inches x 20 inches to be the neck band.
2.  Applique on a cute logo with a simple shape and an initial.  If you have questions on how to applique, let me know, and I will point you to some easy tutorials.  I personally always use Heat n Bond for this step before sewing to get a really crisp shape.
3.  Place the outer and inner right sides together and sew all the way around, leaving the neck open.
4.  Turn the cape right side out.
5.  Topstitch all the way around the cape edge.
6.  Fold the neck band in half and iron.  Since it is felt or fleece, it will not ravel so you can leave raw edges.
7.  Match the center of the neck band with the center of the neck opening and pin in place.
8.  Sew the neck band closed so that the raw edges of the neck opening are completely enclosed.
9.  Attach hook and loop tape to the ends of the neck band, making sure that the scratchy side is facing away from the neck.

Here's a picture of the inside of the cape so you can see how the simple neck band entirely enclosed the raw edges:

And if you have matching hook and loop tape, that is even better:

TouchTape comes in many colors and is generally cheaper than Aplix and Velcro, but I can't buy it locally.  I get it from

I'll have to post some modeled shots another time.  The kids are loving them! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Greek Lemon Chicken Soup and My Favorite Homemade Bread

For the last two Sundays, I have made roast Greek Lemon Chicken according to this recipe.  I am pretty sure that there is nothing in the world that smells better than roast chicken.  This is what it looks like when it is all done:

Yum!  Now, if you are going to roast one chicken, you might as well roast two, right?  And then take all of the potatoes, carrots, and garlic, and throw it in a pot.  Shred the whole chicken, and add that, too!  Then squeeze out the last lemony goodness from those roasted lemon slices.  Add enough chicken broth to cover it all, and then you would have my current favorite soup.  I have been eating it every morning for breakfast all last week.  I love chicken soup for breakfast, and this is so nice and lemony.

Even better is when I actually make some fresh bread, too.  I have a great, super easy, no knead recipe that I just love.  Look how crusty the bread comes out!
The secret is to bake it in a baguette pan like this:

And, despite all the bread cookbooks that have told me otherwise, I get a great airy crumb without ten minutes of kneading:

No Knead Bread (adapted from the book No Need to Knead by Susan Dunaway)

Whisk together 2 cups of warm water and 2.25 tsp yeast. 
Add 2 cups of bread flour (King Arthur works best, and it really does need to be bread flour.) and 2 tsp salt.
Whisk until smooth (2 minutes or less).
Add 2 and a quarter more cups bread flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it all comes together in a ball in the center of the bowl.  (That's right -- I don't even bother to transfer to a new greased bowl.)
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about an hour.
As gently as you can, divide the dough in half.  This is a slack, sticky dough, so use wet hands and a wet knife.
Put each half in the baguette pan and stretch to be loaf shaped.  It won't be perfectly smooth on top.  If you want smooth, you have to knead.
Let it rise for 30 minutes while you are preheating the oven to 500 F. 
When you put the bread in the oven, turn it down to 450 F.  Bake 20 - 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom.

If you are in a rush, you can cut the first rise to 45 minutes, and the second rise to 15 minutes, and you will have fresh bread out of the oven in about 1.5 hours from when you started.
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