Obedience School for Ornery Fabric
The do-it-yourselfer accustomed to 22 oz. framing hammers and 16d nails can become a bit exasperated when dealing with SylNylon and noseeum netting. These filmy, slippery fabrics have a mind of their own, and "nailing 'em down", while satisfying, is ill-advised. Tape, however, can teach them manners.
I use two kinds of tape; "basting" tape and ordinary masking tape. For those not "in the know," 'baste' is the sewer's term for stitching together temporarily with large, loose stitches to hold two pieces of fabric in position while sewing with permanent stitches. The basting tape that I use has the totally uninformative name "Wonder Tape." Technically, it's an adhesive transfer tape meaning that you apply the tape to fabric and then peel off the paper backing leaving a neatly placed stripe of adhesive. You can then carefully position the exposed surface of adhesive on the same or another piece of fabric where it will stick while you sew the two together. The only problem I've had with it is overcoming my indignation long enough to pay the outrageous price they want for it. Where the alternative won't work, however, practicality trumps parsimony. Yes, you can sew right through it without gumming up the needle.
When the situation allows, I prefer ordinary masking tape. It's advantages include 1. Comparative economy, 2. It temporarily eliminates the limpness of the fabric where it's applied, 3. When you're done, you've left nothing behind, and 4. It provides a highly visible edge to help you get nice, straight lines of stitches exactly where you want them. Here's an example using masking tape to hem and apply Velcro tape to the long edge of a Speer-type hammock:
1. Lay the fabric out on a clean, flat surface like a floor, straighten it, flatten it, and "nail" it down with books.
2. Stick short pieces of masking tape to the floor partially under the edge of the fabric and extending out beyond the edge, then put pencil marks on the tape about a quarter-inch under the edge of the fabric. If the fabric edge was cut with a scissors, the edge probably won't be perfectly straight. This is where you "fix" it without having to recut it with a new crooked line: Put your marks in a straight line.
3. Without disturbing the fabric, which you've "nailed" down with books, fold back a couple inches of the fabric.
4. Unroll several inches of tape and tear off a couple of those inches. I'll call this short piece a "tab." Reverse the tab and stick it to the remainder, adhesive side to adhesive side, with about half of the tab extending beyond the tape that's still on the roll. Now unroll more tape so you have enough to go from the first of your pencil marks to the next, plus a little.
5. Align the tape with the first two pencil marks, sticky side up, with the tab just beyond the end of the fabric, and stick the tab to the floor. Unroll more tape to beyond the other end of the fabric, keeping it in line with the pencil marks. Leave the roll right there on the floor beyond the end of the fabric.
6. Go back to the beginning, adjust the tape so it's accurately aligned with the first two pencil marks and taut, and begin rolling back the fabric. It should fall right in place with about a quarter-inch overlapping the tape. Gently press that quarter inch into the up-facing adhesive. Proceed down the edge, checking the tape's alignment with the pencil marks, and sticking the edge of the fabric to the edge of the tape, then snip off the ends of the tape where it extends beyond the ends of the fabric.
You've now put a collar and a leash on this dog. The Ed Speer hammock edge that I'm using as an example calls for a half-inch hem beyond the edge of a strip of Velcro so you will have something to grab onto to separate the Velcro. Anticipating slippery fabric and cold fingers, I decided to incorporate a thin cord inside that hem to make it easier to grip. A schematic cross-section looks like this:
7. I put marks on the fabric 2-1/2" back from the outer edge of the masking tape, which, incidentally, was 5/8" wide tape. I then laid down a length of synthetic mason's line near the tape and folded the taped edge of the fabric over it so the edge of the tape came up to the marks on the fabric. When I was sure all was properly aligned, I pressed it down firmly to the fabric.
8. I installed the zipper foot on the sewing machine and, working the mason's line out to the folded edge, ran a line of stitches right along the edge of the buried mason's line.
9. The Velcro came next. Keeping one edge aligned with the edge of the masking tape as planned when first sketching everything out, I sewed the other edge to the fabric. Having used 5/8" tape with 3/4" Velcro, the stitches were outside the tape. Having served it's purposes, I now removed the masking tape. With one edge already sewn in place, sewing the other edge was straightforward. With a bit of imaginative forethought, aided by simple freehand sketches, all sorts of intimidating assemblies can become child's play
I'm sure that anyone with a fair amount of experience sewing these fabrics will consider all this rigamarole with tape to be totally unnecessary--and so it is for those with that experience. If I do much more sewing I'll probably get to the point where they are. This time around, my first time, it saved what little sanity I still have and produced a respectable job for a first-timer.
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