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Equipment and Tools

July 07, 2020

Here are some of the equipment that I get asked about frequently and would recommend if you were looking to take fashion more seriously.

 

ADJUSTABLE MANNEQUIN FROM SINGER

These adjustable mannequins are great because you can adjust its bust, waist, and hip measurements. I would highly recommend this if you do a lot of client work because it saves you from having to buy dress forms in multiple sizes and you can also adjust it to fit their proportions.

I was sceptical at first due to a few reviews saying it was flimsy so refrained from purchasing one. I finally gave it a go and found it to be quite decent value for money.

Here are a few things to note if you decide to purchase one:

  • Make sure to double-check with a tape measure after adjusting the dials as the numbers may not be accurate.
  • The bust point is 1-2cm higher than the natural bust point on the average woman. This can be adjusted on your pattern afterwards. Or, you can bring the waistline 1-2cm higher. This is not a huge issue to stress about as the garments were not ill-fitting when I followed the mannequin’s shape.
  • The hips on the smaller size is not proportional to the bust compared to the average woman. I normally have to open the dials much wider for the hips. The larger size seems to be more in proportion.
  • The dials and gaps sometimes get in the way when I’m pinning in pleats or details. Again, this is a small annoyance and does not affect the outcome.
  • The height adjuster does not work well. The weight of the mannequin plus adding pressure on it eventually slides it down to the lowest setting again. Mine always sits on the lowest setting which is a good height when I sit down.
  • Make sure to be gentle when adjusting the dials to avoid any issues. I’ve used mine for over 3 years and it’s holding up well.

 

SELF HEALING CUTTING MAT

A rotary blade and cutting mat combo is great for cutting slippery fabric such as silk or viscose. By weighing the pattern pieces down, the fabric won't shift out of place. Also, it is much quicker because you can often skip pinning the pattern to the fabric.

I got my mat and rotary cutter from Olfa but any brand would work. The weights I use are cheap stone coasters from Kmart. 

Here are a few things to note if you decide to purchase one:

  • Keep out of direct sunlight and avoid any heat. This will warp your mat. Don’t worry if you accidentally warp it as it can be fixed. I accidentally left mine in the sun 6 years ago and haven’t bothered to fix it - still works ok.
  • Make sure to change your blade as soon as it gets blunt. This ensures you are not putting excessive pressure on the mat and will keep the condition better for longer.
  • Clean it regularly to get the fabric fibres out of the cuts. This will allow it to heal.
  • To be honest, I don’t do any of the above steps because I’m lazy. The mats will still be in good condition as long as you don’t abuse it.

MY SEWING MACHINE

Two years ago, I saved enough money and decided to invest in my business with an industrial machine. The model I got was an automatic straight stitch (Brother S-7100a). I chose this model because I used it on Project Runway and fell in love instantly. It was easy to use and was not as scary as I imagined.

Before that, I used a small domestic machine which was my very first (Bernette 66). It did its job for 9 years and I felt it was time to upgrade.

Here are benefits of industrial vs domestic that I found:

  • The sewing speed is insanely faster. 
  • Automatic functions that allow you to be very efficient. Eg. a knee pad which lifts up the presser foot, automatic settings for backstitching, and automatic thread cutter (my favourite feature).
  • Much less technical issues with threads jamming and tension problems
  • I love that the sewing plate is flat with the table. I can often skip pinning because of this. It’s also more ergonomic in my opinion.
  • Durability wise, it will probably last half or my whole fashion career so is a good investment.

Cons

  • Only one stitch available (mine is straight stitch)

This comparison is just from my personal experience as the machine I had prior was older and very basic. For general-purpose, a domestic machine will do everything you’ll need it to. How fancy your machine is will not necessarily equate to beautiful garments so don’t feel pressured into getting the latest or most expensive machine. 

I would advise, only invest in an industrial machine with the profit you have made from your clothing business. This is a good rule of thumb for any big pricetag equipment.


MACHINE FEET

Don’t forget about all the sewing machine feet add-ons! Look into different machine feet compatible with your machine and see how they can benefit your sewing. They're relatively inexpensive and can make a huge difference.

Here are some I use most often

  • Invisible zipper foot: for sewing the perfect invisible zips.
  • Narrow foot: for sewing the tape of invisible zips as well as regular zips and getting into tight nooks and crannies.
  • Gathering foot: automatically gathers a piece of fabric. This makes creating ruffles 10x quicker. It is a bit tricky on soft tulle so will need some getting used to.
  • Teflon foot: a plastic foot that’s great for ‘sticky’ materials such as vinyl or pleather.

 

ENTOMOLOGY PINS

A comment I get very often on my videos is whether or not sewing over pins is safe to do. Most of the time no. The only exception to this rule is when you use entomology pins. These are super fine pins and are great to use for delicate fabric like silks and chiffons. They will glide right through the fabric without leaving any marks afterwards. 

This is not a must-have but was a nice little treat.



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Size Guide


Custom size

Don’t see your size on the chart? We offer a custom service. 
Simply email info@judygao.co.nz with your measurements or to arrange an appointment.

 

How To Measure

Here are some tips to take the most accurate measurements. It is recommended that you have a friend assist you or you do it in front of a mirror.

Bust: Place one end of the tape measure at the fullest part of your bust and wrap it around your body, keeping the tape parallel to the floor.

Waist: Find the narrowest part of your waist, located above your belly button and below your rib cage.

Lower hip: Measure the fullest part of your lower body. It is below the natural hip line and around 24cm below the waistline.

Skirt length: Measure how long you want the skirt to be, starting from the waist. Include the height of your heels.