I hope you are enjoying getting to know your sewing machine! This week I worked with heavier fabrics, using the on-loan Janome Skyline S7 to sew layers of leather, canvas and denim. From a mini Forest Glen Satchel (it’s b-a-ack!) to the necessity of hemming jeans. Find 5 Steps to conquering tension and the thicker fabrics you want to sew, plus a link to a tutorial on how to hem jeans my favorite way. It’s so easy you might not even mind doing it! (P.S. There’s a giveaway! You have a chance to win the same fabric used for the satchel from Mad About Patchwork!)

As a side note, my husband has been waiting especially for this week because I avoid hemming pretty much everything over here. I have to give him tons of credit – he’s really nice about it, and I know rolling his jeans drives him crazy. Note to self: #mustdoabetterjob

Disclaimer: A Skyline S7 has been loaned to me for the purpose of writing this series.  As with all products I write about, I will always tell you my own honest opinion. I purchased and loved Janome machines long before they contacted me. Janome has not asked me to qualify my opinions in any way. Also, the fabric for the mini Satchel was given to me for this post by my sponsor Mad About Patchwork. Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

5 Steps to Proper Tension when Sewing Thick Fabrics

If you want to sew thicker fabrics we need to talk about tension. It’s really important to know how to set the tension on your machine properly. Too tight, and the tension will cause puckers and gathering. Too loose, and the seam will not be strong – or may even fall apart. Surprisingly, also – there are quite a few issues that you can run into with thicker fabrics that look like tension problems, but are really related to other areas of your machine.

I chose to make a super thick canvas and leather layered mini Forest Glen Satchel to test the Skyline S7 this week. Lucky for it, it performed beautifully! This mini version of my satchel pattern has been in the works for a few years now and I’m finally on the home-stretch and hoping to re-release the pattern to include both sizes before the summer.

This mini Satchel is sewn from a gorgeous mix of organic Acorn Trail Canvas from Birch Fabrics and Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures in Poppy. Both from my Canadian sponsor Mad About Patchwork. The two go so well together, plus the added leather details make it look super professional. I’m so proud of the finished product.  My kids and I will be fighting over this one for sure!

The things that we’ve sewn in the Diary project so far haven’t really needed a tension adjustment. Sewing machines come set to an average setting that is also found in your manual and usually marked on the tension dial. However, when you are working with thicker and thinner/specialty fabrics you may need to adjust the tension to get the best seam possible.

Step 1: Read your manual. I know, I say it every week – but it’s the best first step. What does your machine manual tell you about tension and the type of fabric you are sewing?

Step 2: Make sure you are using the correct needle. Use a denim needle for denim, leather needle for leather etc. and make sure it is changed often.

Step 3: Slow down. Make sure you are sewing at the correct speed for the fabric you are using. If you have a speed control slider like the Skyline S7 I’m using, notch it down a bit through heavier fabrics.

Step 4: Switch out your needle plate. If you have a straight stitch plate this can really help when sewing thicker or thinner fabrics. The plate has a small hole where the needle enters the bobbin area and will better support the fabric around the needle area as it is sewn, creating a cleaner stitch. The S7 has an included straight stitch plate and it’s really easy to change! I posted a video this morning so you can see it in action. #easypeasylemonsqueezy

Step 5: Check your thread. Make sure the thread you are using is recommended for your fabric type to avoid problems. I used regular polyester thread for the satchel and lots of other leather projects I’ve sewn and it’s held up fine. Do a little research to find out what’s best for you.

Now, make a test seam. Layer small scraps of the fabrics you will be sewing, including interfacing if needed, and stitch through them using the appropriate needle/speed/plate and thread. Try to pull them apart gently, if needed, to see how the bobbin and spool threads meet up. It’s easiest to see if you can do this with two different thread colours.

The photo above shows the test I made for the Satchel I sewed this week. Two layers of Canvas, two layers of leather and two layers of fusible fleece. The bobbin and spool threads meet right in the middle, and don’t seem to be pulling too little or too much. Granted, I may have cheated a little since the Skyline S7 has automatic computerized tension and a Heavy Fabric setting. Can’t complain about that!

What if your tension is not correct? Your machine will have a dial, button or screen where you can change the upper thread tension. Lower numbers loosen the tension, higher numbers tighten the tension. Here is a very simple guide on how to change your tension:

  • Gathering or puckering? Your tension is likely too tight – loosen it by changing the tension to a lower number
  • Loose or missing stitches? Your tension is likely too loose – tighten it by changing the tension to a higher number

Just like in science class – change one variable at a time. Don’t tighten tension from 2 to 9 all at once. Change the tension a few steps and test each one as you go to find the perfect setting for your machine.

Hemming Jeans

Hemming jeans saves you a trip to the tailor and some cash, sounds good to me! Especially now that you know how to adjust your tension for the thickness of the denim.

I generally hem my jeans leaving the original hem in tact. It took me about 10 minutes to hem my husband’s jeans last night, using the free arm on the Skyline S7 – all the more reason for me not to delay in the future! I can’t locate my original bookmark, but I did find one on my favorite fashion/sewing blogger’s site – Merrick’s Art. Here’s a tutorial on how to hem jeans while keeping the original hem. Of course there are more technically sound ways of doing this, but it works – and it’s quick – which is nice!

Mad about Patchwork has provided a discount of 10% off all orders until March 31, 2016!

Use the code TRH10 at the checkout to get your discount. Enjoy!

Mad About Patchwork is generously giving away a 3/4 yard cut of each of these gorgeous fabrics to one lucky sewist. I can’t wait to see what you will make with it!

This giveaway is open to everyone, internationally! From today (March 24th) until midnight March 31, 2016. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter – and if you don’t have Facebook to sign in with, just use your name and email address. There’s a “click to enter”, no social media login entry too!
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