Monday, 10 September 2012

Sewing handerchiefs ~ and how to mitre corners

I gave up using paper tissues years ago: I prefer to use cotton handkerchiefs as I don't want trees to be grown and then destroyed so that I can blow my nose, but it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me to make my own.  On reflection I decided that I didn't need someone on the other side of the world to make them for me as I could sew my own, thank you very much!  So off I went to Spotlight, where I asked for lawn, a fine fabric which is one hundred percent cotton.  

There it was in cream, pink and yellow, so I bought a quarter of a metre of each of the coloured ones, and half a metre of the cream.  I was very happy with my purchases: the material cost about $6 and the thread about $5.  From this I produced a dozen pretty hankies, so in dollar terms it was economical - they will last me for years!

Sewing a hem around a square can be either simple or fiddly depending on the technique used.  On this occasion I decided to 'mitre' the corners, which is time-consuming and fiddly but looks great, and I share here how I made them in case others would like to have a go:

To show the method clearly I've photographed gift-wrap paper marked with pen.  If you want to see the images rather larger click on the images themselves.

Cutting the required square:
The quarter of a metre was just the right size to start with.  The width of the material wasn't quite enough to get four squares across, so must have been about 5cm less than a metre in width.  The easy way to work out squares is to lift one corner diagonally across to form a triangle like this:

The dotted line shows where the edge of the paper will lie when folded fully across the corner.  Cut along the dotted line and you have your square.  As long as you start with one properly right-angled corner you will get a nice even square. 

How to mitre the corners:
The whole point of a nicely mitred corner is that it sits beautifully flat and has a bulk similar to the rest of the edging.

The first step is to fold a small edge over all the way around the square keeping it nice and even in width.  Press firmly with a steam iron to crease the fold:

Now fold it over once more and crease it again.  Notice that the folded corner has now become quite bulky:

At this stage you may wish to pin the middle of each side, but it's not essential.

Now open your creased corner:

In the following illustrations I've marked in the creased lines with dashes so that they are easier to see.  Here is the same thing inked in:

Now prepare to cut the corner off... this:

Now prepare to fold over this new raw edge... this:

And fold up the side seams once more, first once...

... then again...

... and you're done!

This looks like a lot of steps but once you get the hang of it it will seem completely logical and straightforward! 

The best way to secure these beautiful corners in preparation for sewing is to put two simple tacking stitches in each one.  I'm fairly sure that when I was taught this sort of thing at school we called them 'tailors tacks'.  No knots are required as the double stitch holds perfectly well and can later be easily removed:

I then stitched two seams: one just next to the actual hem, and then another next to the outside edge.  Not all my edges worked out perfectly, but overall I am very pleased with the results.

My hems have a finished width of about one centimetre, which was about the amount I could comfortably manipulate to get the desired result.  Any smaller than that was too difficult to handle or get even.

Next time I make handkerchiefs I plan to use a simpler hemming method which is less time-consuming, but am very pleased with these ones!

Mitred corners can be used in any sewing.

In a simplified method a corner neatly snipped to the desired depth and edges 'neatened' (fabric secured from fraying) with a zigzag stitch the edges need be turned over only once.  I've used this method when sewing up hand-towels cut from towels which had frayed edges but still had plenty of wear left in them.
Happy sewing!

My other articles about housekeeping and sewing can be found by clicking on the link below:


Anonymous said...

The instructions are so clear. Using paper to show the folds is brilliant. I have gone back to this blog for a refresher too. Thank you for sharing. You clearly know not just how to sew but how to clearly explain things. I am a beginner and had great results from following your instructions. Thank you very much!

Leigh Christina Russell said...

You are most welcome, and I'm glad to hear that the instructions came across clearly and were useful.

I have so many other useful things to write about but have a heavy load of commitments at present. You encourage me to make space for getting back to this, so I in turn thank you for that.