Sewing Machines

I get asked about the sewing machines I use quite often. If I had more space, I would probably have about a dozen different machines all set up for different tasks. In general, I like simple machines. You can spend a lot of money on a domestic (made for home use) sewing machine with tons of features, different types of stitches, and touch screens. I doubt most people utilize all of these features, and I feel that the more complicated the machine is, the more things that can potentially go wrong with it. All of my machines are mechanical without a computerized interface.

Industrial Sewing Machine

This is the workhorse of our (I share with my wife) sewing studio/office. It is a basic single needle, straight lockstitch industrial sewing machine made by Brother. It goes forwards and backwards and that’s about it. Whereas domestic machines are made to accomplish a variety of things such as straight, zig zag, and stretch stitches, industrial machines are uni-taskers. They do one thing and they do it really well. After all, industrial machines are made for the factory floor where they are expected to do repetitive tasks and run at high speeds all day long.

This machine is built into a table with an oil pan and large motor mounted underneath. It has a 3/4 horsepower motor, is very powerful, and when set at its highest speed, can sew up to 5,500 stitches per minute. I never sew even close to this speed, but it’s nice to know the speed is there if I ever want it. The really nice thing about a big powerful motor is that the industrial machine still has a lot of “punching” power even at low speeds. This machine can sew through five or six layers of heavy denim without flinching while sewing very slowly.

One of my favorite features is a lever that sits right below the surface of the table that I can access with my knee to lift the presser foot. This allows me to keep both hands on whatever I am working on while raising and lowering the foot. Right now we have this machine set up for medium to heavy weight materials with a heavy set of feed dogs.

After sewing on an industrial machine, domestic machines sort of feel like kid toys. The industrial machine is made out of steel, which contributes to it being so solid and running so smoothly. The sewing head by itself without the motor and table weighs between 70 and 100 pounds.

Industrial Sewing Machine

The Juki serger below is still fairly new to me. I bought it in January and am still learning about all of the different things it can do. Like many sergers, this model has two knives that cleanly trim off the edge of the fabric and then overlock the freshly cut edge with any combination of 2, 3, or 4 threads. These overlock stitches prevent the edge of the fabric from fraying. This model has differential feed and can be used with a single needle or double needles depending on which type of stitch I want to create.

Juki Serger

Our oldest machine is a domestic Pfaff. It was one of the first sewing machines my wife bought about six or seven years ago, long before I was even remotely interested in making clothing. It has held up really well over the years, and I still use it just about every week. Since our industrial machine is set up for heavy materials, I use this machine for shirtings and other lighter weight fabrics (update: I actually don’t use this machine very much anymore and use our industrial for just about everything). This type of machine is what I would recommend to anyone looking for their first general purpose sewing machine. I don’t think Pfaff makes this particular model any more, but there are other options and brands that are comparable.

Pfaff Sewing Machine

Leather Belt With Yazoo Buckle

Since I’ve been on a leather accessories kick lately, I thought I would post this belt I put together a little while back. I actually won the buckle in a giveaway from my local and totally kick ass microbrewery, Yazoo. You can buy your own buckle here. I picked up a belt blank from the leather supply shop, drilled a few holes, cut it to length, and rounded off the end. Simple as that. Done. New Belt.

Yazoo Brewery Belt Buckle

This is way more buckle than I am used to, but since I won it, and since the beer is outstanding, I’m really proud of it. The leather is vegetable tanned cow hide, so like my wallet and card case, it will naturally age and take on some color with time.

The best part is that the buckle also doubles as a bottle opener.

Leather Wallet and Card Case

This was my first attempt at working with leather. I needed a less bulky wallet and a way to easily access business cards. The leather, which is a vegetable tanned goat skin, is a little lighter in color than I originally wanted, but I decided to go with it anyway. This goat skin is much thinner and a bit tougher than cowhide making it ideal for a wallet.

Wallet and card case

The wallet is made using a single piece of leather. There are no stitches and no glue. Just one piece of leather folded with tabs. Some of the edges are already showing some wear. Over time, I’m sure this light color will age and patina to a darker brown (or blue if they ride around in my jeans for too long haha!).

Full disclosure: The idea for making a wallet out of a single piece of leather with no stitching or glue came from a Maxx & Unicorn wallet I saw here. I liked the simplicity of the idea and the challenge of trying to figure out how to create a wallet with just a piece of leather. The Maxx & Unicorn version is obviously more refined and quite nice. I’m not a hundred percent sure whether or not they use any glue. The description doesn’t really say, but there doesn’t appear to be any stitching.

open wallet

Despite being a different color, the card case is actually cut from the same piece of leather. I opted to use stitching here to reduce bulk/layers and to get the job done quickly. The wallet is more complicated and it took quite a while to create the pattern, cut, fold, etc., but this card case only took about a half an hour to complete from start to finish.business card case

TaylorTailor on Put This On

TaylorTailor on Put This OnI would like to thank the guys over at Put This On for featuring my jeans on their blog. I am a huge fan of what they do, and am honored that they took an interest in my latest project. As a long time reader I was ecstatic (literally jumping around the room) when I saw the above image on the Put This On home page. Their posts as well as their videos are very informative and entertaining, and I highly recommend checking out their site if you haven’t already.

New Selvedge Denim Jeans

100% cotton, 12.5oz, Blue Line, Cone Mills selvedge denim.

“Slim” fit, straight leg.

Single needle stitching.

Handmade by me from my own pattern.

folded selvedge denim jeans

top half, front selvedge denim jeans

top half, back, selvdege denim jeans

Hand felled yokes, center back, and inseams.

cuffs, inseams, hand felled

selvedge coin pocket

Selvedge coin pocket.

inside pocket, fly, selvedge denim jeans

Yeah, the pocket bags and fly are lined with a pink-ish plaid. I like it, and think men should be able to enjoy a little pink.

selvedge fly

I used the selvedge for both the left and right sides of the fly. The look is clean, and the bulk is reduced to a minimum.

me, modeling fit picture

The shirt should look familiar. It still needs to be ironed, and tucked properly.

me, modeling fit picture

me, modeling fit picture

The denim is still really stiff, which I think causes them to hang a bit odd right now.

Gathering Supplies

Selvedge denim, check.

Pocket lining, check.

Rivets, check.

Buttons, check.

More thread than I can use in a lifetime (18,000 yards), check.

A new pair of jeans just waiting to be sewn.

Modified Men’s Jeans Pattern

I started work on a new pair of jeans today. While I still love the first pair I made, and pretty much wear them every day, there are a couple of areas where I can improve the fit. The waste on my first pair is too big, and the fit through the leg is a little baggier than I prefer. Even though these were fairly minor changes to make on my pattern, I still want to make a muslin version before cutting into my denim stash. You never know how a few small changes in one place will alter the fit somewhere else.

The other reason I want to make a muslin version is that I just got a new industrial sewing machine, which is really, really fast, and I can use the practice to learn the new machine. The seams below puckered a little bit, which is probably a result of the tension being set too high and the heavy duty feed dogs that are on the machine. Once I switch to denim, the puckering shouldn’t be an issue. I attached the yokes and back pockets today, and hope to start work on the fly and fronts this week.

Backs of practice jeans with pockets and yokes

Felt iPad Sleeve

My wife and I threw together this felt iPad sleeve to protect the new toy from scratches and our crazy cats. The felt is far too thin for this to be a long term solution, but it works just fine for now. Ultimately I would like to make a similar case out of 3mm 100% wool felt, but that stuff is a bit pricey at $70 + per yard.

For $70 I would rather buy a bunch of selvedge denim for more jeans! When this case finally dies, I might have to make a lined, selvedge denim case for the iPad. I still have some denim left over from the jeans I made, which would be perfect for this type of project.

Felt iPad Sleeve

Felt iPad Sleeve

Felt iPad Sleeve

Machines!

Clearly Roy’s Jeans are quite awesome, but more than anything, I have major sewing machine envy. I love the way these vintage machines keep running after years and years of use, and in some cases, they are actually preferred to new machines that perform the same tasks.

Roy’s Jeans – Video by Self Edge from Self Edge on Vimeo.

Finished Shirts

A few weeks ago I finally finished the three shirts I started at the beginning of September. Considering that I bought some of this fabric back in June, these shirts took much longer to make than I anticipated. But having never made a shirt from scratch before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I basically followed the same procedure I used to make my jeans earlier this year. First, I drafted a basic upper body pattern to establish the general fit. Once I had an upper body sloper that fit really well, I modified it to create my shirt pattern, adding the yoke, sleeves, plackets, cuffs, collar stand, collar, and pockets.

Here is my favorite of the three. I used a light gray chambray and included pockets on this one. (clearly they all need to be ironed)

gray chambray shirt

The stripes in this shirt are various shades of blue. I decided to leave the pockets off of this one for a little variety.

blue striped shirt

This is a dark charcoal (almost black) chambray with pockets. I love the way this fabric feels, but I’m not completely sold on the color. I don’t usually wear shirts quite this dark.

charcoal chambray shirt

I am thrilled with the way these turned out. The fit is nearly perfect, which is somewhat slim but not “fashiony” tight. I designed the shirt tails to be a little shallower and a bit shorter than usual to give me the option of wearing them untucked. There are no pleats or gathers on the yoke or at the cuffs, which I think gives the shirts a cleaner look.

While the process was long and tedious at times, it was also very satisfying to start with a blank sheet of paper, (okay maybe more than one sheet) and turn it into the perfect handcrafted shirt.