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The Sewing Diaries – Week 3: Sewing Thick Fabric {discount + giveaway!}

2016 March 24

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!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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74 Responses leave one →
  1. DebraKay Neiman permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I am ALWAYS looking for special prices on wonderful Kona Solid Colors. crystalbluern at tds dot net

  2. Stephanie permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I am loving that black and white from C&S!

  3. Nicole Sender permalink
    March 24, 2016


  4. Diane Hicks permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Over at Mad about Patchwork I really love the Bluebird Bundle collection from Cotton + Steel. Fabulous satchel project, well done!

  5. March 24, 2016

    Love the essex linens!

  6. andrea permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I love the new Sunprint fabric bundles!

  7. carol n permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Architextures by Carolyn Friedlander is really pretty!

  8. LINDA permalink
    March 24, 2016

    HI,what a neat post today! Thanks for sharing on your Blog+in this Giveaway too! Mad About Fabric has a neat shop! I like the “Acorn Canvas”!

  9. Cheryl permalink
    March 24, 2016

    glad I found this, lots of good information, thanks!

  10. March 24, 2016

    I order from Pam weekly it seems… LoL! Right now my favourite thing in her store is the Mendocino and the new Sunprint!!

  11. NancyB from Many LA permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I like the Katie Jump Rope: Big Dot in Fairway!

  12. Lee permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I love the Cookie Exchange jelly roll by Sweetwater!! thanks!

  13. Quilting Tangent permalink
    March 24, 2016

    The bird fabric in the giveaway is a favorite.

  14. Erin permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I like the Blue Bird Cotton & Steel. The Paper Obsessed fabric in the coming soon section is also awesome.

  15. Claire Sutherland permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Love this fabric : BLUEBIRD: BLUEBERRIES

  16. Hayley permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Lovelovelove the new Alison Glass Sunprimts 2015

  17. Julie Manouchehri permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I love the canvas print you chose, the birds are so perfect! And then I found the Make a Wish Double gauze… *sigh*

  18. Betty Meyskens permalink
    March 24, 2016

    The Essex Linens are really awesome – need to get some soon – love the colours of this line of fabric.

  19. March 24, 2016

    there all nice but love the black and white bear hug metallic….

  20. March 24, 2016

    Love the Alison glass sunprints

  21. Sarah J permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I love the C&S black and white bears! And Ii just learned that there’s an Alison Glass kona bundle– so lovely!

  22. Kathy E. permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I have used this technique to shorten jeans several times and it works like a charm! One of my faves at MadAboutPatchwork is the First Crush Bundle!

    • March 28, 2016

      That hemming tutorial is so easy right! It’s perfect and quick :)

  23. Michele T permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I love all the colours and prints of the Sunprint collection… Gorgeous line!!

  24. Cherise permalink
    March 24, 2016

    There’s so much fabric to love there but I’m especially in love with the Strawberry Fields Revisited!

  25. auschick permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I love the bluebird blueberries.

  26. Vicki H permalink
    March 24, 2016

    I like the Black and White 2016.

  27. March 24, 2016

    I love the new Sunprint collection.

  28. Lori Morton permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Love the ” Prairie” Fat Eight Bundle!!! (plus many other things over there .. giggle..)
    Thank you for chance to win your Give-a-way! :D

  29. Mary D permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love Sun Print 2016 by Alison Glass. Don’t you just love all of that saturated color? I certainly do.

  30. Chris permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I really like Tula Pink so some Chipper would be wonderful.

  31. March 25, 2016

    Love the Sunprint fabrics!

  32. March 25, 2016

    This is a really cute fabric. I have the perfect bag of the month club project for it.

  33. Katy M permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Thanks for a really helpful post! At mad about patchwork I love the new cotton and steel line :)

    • March 28, 2016

      I’m so glad you like it Katy! Cotton and Steel is my favorite! :)

  34. Delaine permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love the Christmas at Brambleberry bundle. Thanks!

  35. nancy permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love their Sun Print 2016 bundle in End Paper.

  36. Emily C permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love the Cats Meow White Scroll. I also really like the leather detail on the bag. It looks great.

    • March 28, 2016

      So glad you like it Emily! I was so impressed the machine stitched through it so well :)

  37. Beth permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love the sunprint fabric bundles! So bright and spring like!

  38. Peggy Gibbs permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love Kona solids.

  39. Faye permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Great tutorial! I’d love the Zen Chic For You bundle.

  40. Amy Z. permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love the black & white 2016 bowties!

  41. March 25, 2016

    Great tips! Love the birds too!

    • March 28, 2016

      Glad you can use the tips Helen! The birds are so amazing aren’t they! :)

  42. Audrey permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love all things about Mad About Patchwork. I am especially in love with the Essex Linen. Thanks for coordinating this giveaway.

  43. Jenni Hunt permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Oh, Mad About Patchwork has a bunch of things on my wish list: Blueberry Park, Alison Glass 2016 Sunprints and Katie Jump Rope! Thanks for the giveaway!

  44. Loretta Metcalfe permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Love all the fabrics. Interested in vibrant prints to make Little Dresses for Africa.

  45. Janie permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I love the sunprint. Thank you for the tutorial. Great details.

  46. Bev Leischner permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Love my Janome machines and your new bag!

    • March 28, 2016

      Thank you Bev! I am so happy the bag turned out so well – the birds are so cute!

  47. Pauline Perry permalink
    March 26, 2016

    I really love the SUn Print bundle in Grow – the colours and the print are gorgeous.

  48. Twila O permalink
    March 26, 2016

    I love the Alison Glass sunprints and am waiting anxiously for Heather Ross’s Mendocino to arrive!

  49. Diane Beavers permalink
    March 26, 2016

    Bluebird Rice prints, and the cutlery prints. Perfect for a kitchen fabric basket or decorating towels, making small appliance covers. Thank you

  50. March 26, 2016

    Pam has many wonderful fabrics, I definitely love the Sun Print Sphere in Tiffany. PS I think the rafflecopter is under my Facebook email.

  51. Debbie Rogowski permalink
    March 26, 2016

    I love the great selection of black and whites and then I found the bluebird collection too which is all blue and whites

  52. Nancy Hilderbrand permalink
    March 27, 2016

    It’s a great site with so many wonderful things. My favorite item is sold out and is
    Lucky Spool’s Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making
    Nancy Hilderbrand

  53. Patrizia Greco permalink
    March 27, 2016

    Love the chipmunk in mint and the forest in white!

  54. Jean Parrott permalink
    March 27, 2016

    I love all of the fabrics and will definitely be keeping an eye out for you to release the pattern.

  55. Kathy C. permalink
    March 28, 2016

    I love the bird fabric – so cute!

  56. Gill permalink
    March 28, 2016

    Loving those patterns and love the bag you have made. I want to do more “me” sewing!!

  57. Barbara Bailey permalink
    March 28, 2016

    I love the specialty fabric section! Lots of yummy things!

  58. Jeannie permalink
    March 29, 2016

    Love the fabric … and the bag is super-cute! Thank you for the chance to win.

  59. Laura permalink
    March 29, 2016

    I love that Mad About Patchwork carries those versatile Essex linen-cotton blends. These are such a versatile fabric. Love to combine these with regular quilting cottons in projects.

  60. Dana White permalink
    March 31, 2016

    i love how different this bird fabric is! it’s not crazy or anything, but i definitely haven’t seen anything like it before!!!!

  61. natalie permalink
    March 31, 2016

    The Christmas at Brambleberry prints are stunning – love the red and the natural world prints

  62. Bekki permalink
    March 31, 2016

    I like the linen flying colours. The birds on the fabric are adorable, it’s such a nice treat to have a pretty canvas fabric.

  63. Danette permalink
    March 31, 2016

    Really like Katie jump rope! Thanks for the chance to win!

  64. Donna permalink
    March 31, 2016

    Black & White 2016: Hoos There . I love this one, but so many to choose from….

  65. Jenn Burkhart permalink
    March 31, 2016

    I love the Christmas in Brambleberry line! Such gorgeous fabrics!

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