When we spend time patching, stitching, darning, or otherwise fixing torn fabrics, we ultimately deepen our understanding of quality, composition, and craftsmanship.
She likes using simple needlework, such as running, straight and whip-stitches in natural fibers to complement the craftsmanship of the original denim garment.
At the same time, another book caught my eye, this time about the Japanese quilting technique sashiko. The Ultimate SASHIKO Sourcebook: Patterns, Projects, and Inspirations by Susan Briscoe turned out to be a great general reference and introduction. Many readers will recognize the repeating geometric patterns used in sashiko embroidery, even if unfamiliar with the craft. Since sashiko began centuries ago as a thrifty way to mend all kinds of items made of woven fabric, it seemed like a great fit for mending my old jeans.
I took the patterns as an inspiration and looked at what I had on hand that might work. If I had some denim of a similar weight to my jeans, I could have used that as a patch. Since I didn’t, I looked for a good quality tightly woven fabric that I could attach underneath. Scraps from the quilting cotton I used for my Vintage Style Shirtdress fit the bill and was soft enough that I knew it would not be irritating against the skin.
I considered using fusible tape to temporarily hold the patch in place, but pinned it carefully instead, as Rodabaugh does in her book. On the right side, I chalked a square over the location of the patch. I used the chalk lines to help place my iron-on in place. It turned out to make a nice, solid impression, although a little bit heavier line than I expected.
Sashiko thread is a long staple cotton made especially for the highly visible sashiko stitch. It comes in different weights and colors, and can even be hand dyed. I would love to try it some time, but this time I made do with what I had on hand.
The closest match I could find was a spool of jeans topstitching thread. It’s designed to use with jeans, so the colors coordinated well. To make the stitches stand out a little more, I doubled the thread. I did try to keep the stitches nice and even, but it’s pretty obvious I’m new at this. Even so, I like the way it turned out. I think I put the brakes on the hole’s growth. I think the patch underneath will look interesting if/when it starts to show through.
Butterick 6354 by Patterns by Gertie is a retro-style set of summer coordinates. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, but held off making it until I had a vacation planned. This March was finally the time!
I had about four yards of a lightweight tropical print in my stash that seemed perfect. I knew I wouldn’t have enough to make all of the pieces, but I thought with some creative layouts, I might get pretty close.
Due to the fabric requirements, the shorts I made don’t use the Butterick pattern, but the rest of the pieces do. I’ve only made modifications for fit.
Butterick rates this pattern as Easy, which they describe as follows:
There will be more details when the techniques are simple and fewer details when the techniques are more involved. Some fitting knowledge required.
So, the garments with easy views have detailed instructions. The more complicated pieces have less. It’s left as an exercise for the customer to figure out which parts Butterick considers simple. When things get a little vague, you are expected to find (or already know) the answers on your own.
I think I did that and hopefully I can pass some of my newfound knowledge on to you.
I would rate the skirt as easy, the jacket as slightly more difficult, and the bustier as most difficult. Although I didn’t make them, I would put the side-zip shorts between the jacket and the bustier.
This wrap skirt goes together easily and has some details that make it more flattering than many skirts that are much harder to make. There is a hook and eye that keeps the tucked layer in place* and ties that are shaped to make a pretty knot at the side. The tucks going in to the side tie and two back darts give it shape while keeping bulk at a minimum. It’s a nice feature that gives all kinds of body shapes a curvy look.
Instead of a waistband, the top edge is finished with bias binding. The other edges are simply finished with narrow hems. The pattern called for a purchased package of 1/2 inch binding, but I thought the contrast of a solid color would look wrong. I certainly didn’t see it on the pattern’s cover photo. Making my own was easy enough and didn’t use up too much material. It only requires a piece a little longer than the waist circumference.
I have to admit that I accidentally sewed the ties on upside down. It looked nice anyway, so I didn’t change it. Done correctly, it should be even better!
Being an easy view, the skirt had a nice complete set of instructions.
* I forgot to do the hook when I took pictures, so all of them have the inside layer hanging down a little bit.
The Bolero Jacket
The bolero might be the most versatile view in the pattern set.
It’s just big enough to cover the shoulders when worn over a slim fitting top. While the sleeves and shoulders would accommodate a variety of shapes with no adjustment, the ribcage/bust area uses darts for a close fit. I didn’t need to make adjustments, but given that I usually reduce fitted garments there, I would say it’s worth checking before sewing.
I didn’t have enough fabric to do the self-lining the pattern called for. I used a simple lightweight unbleached woven instead. I also chose to carefully topstitch the sleeves closed instead of slip-stitching. Using this technique, the jacket can easily be made reversible.
The bustier was the most ambitious project I have undertaken in a while. I was pleased to find out that it was not beyond my ability, although there were many steps.
Preparing the Pattern
I knew from experience that I would need to make a long waist adjustment, so I made that pattern modification before I did anything else. I then started a test of the front and back body pieces. My test bodice revealed a lot of fit issues. I pinned out new bust darts and new side seams and tried again. Success! I transferred all of the changes to the paper pattern using colored pencil to make sure I knew which lines to use. Once that was done, I adjusted and smoothed out the lines indicating boning placement.
The pattern uses a lapped zipper application with a separating zipper. Separating zippers are easily found in 7 inch lengths, which is what the pattern calls for. But since I made a long waist adjustment, I needed a longer one. After much searching, I found that they can be custom ordered from Botani Trim. I paid more for my custom zipper, but I really love it. It has metal teeth on soft twill tape, which really makes it feel authentically retro.
The pattern calls for 2 1/2 yards of 1/4 inch boning.
I started with a package of Dritz featherlite boning, then halfway in noticed that 2 1/2 yards would require 2 packages so things sat around for a while until I got more. Continuing with my theme of making mistakes from not reading carefully, I accidentally ordered a different boning the second time. The other type turned out to be a 1/4 inch casingless version.
When complete, the top contains 10 strips of boning. That gave me plenty of time to experiment with the two different types and how to sew them.
The less expensive uncased boning worked fine and will probably be what I use in the future. I used some scrap bias tape to make casings, which was fine for this because the casings were sandwiched in between the lining and the surface fabric. I would choose something softer and stronger if the casing was going to come in direct contact with skin.
By the tenth strip, I had a process.
Carefully mark the wrong side of the lining fabric with the placement lines and the seam lines.
Then, for each boning strip:
Make a small arrow in the seam allowance to show the center of each placement line.
Cut casing strip to go from seam line to seam line
Iron small squares of fusible tape to upper and lower edge of casing (more for longer or curved sections)
Fuse casing in place
Using blind hem foot, sew casings in place close to the edge, leaving top and bottom open.
Cut boning strip to casing length.
Using nail clippers, clip ends into curved shape
Using lighter, slightly melt ends to smooth them (takes a little practice)
Insert the boning into the casing.
I have to say that I am amazed at how effective the boning is at smoothing out all of the top’s little pull lines and wrinkles.
Another unexpected bonus was that I don’t need to wear a bra under this top. The boning is placed directly over the bust points, so it conceals very well.
Putting it all Together
I did my best to squeeze all four of B6354‘s views into the fabric I had, but there was just not enough for the shorts. So I took the pattern pieces I had from my Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts and just barely made them fit with the scraps.
Perhaps that should have been a hint, because squeeze and just barely fit is what these shorts are all about! It seems that I took too much comfort in the comfort food over the winter. Oh well. They’ll make great motivation for getting in shape this summer.
I go into detail on how to make them here: Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 1 and here: Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 2.
I am sewing through the winter blues by working on some hot weather projects. I’m calling them the Resort 2019 collection. First up is this airy little top using Love Notions‘ Rhapsody pattern. I knew that the pattern would work, having made it several times. The fabric was another story. I’ve never sewn with such a lightweight fabric before.
Sewing the tissue-thin batiste was a bit like trying to sew cotton candy. I was able to pull it together using careful pinning and cutting, but next time I will splurge on some wash-away stabilizer.
The results though! It’s almost weightless and has a soft, natural feel against the skin. I have a feeling that it will become a summer favorite.
I’m the first to admit that hand-made tissue box covers can go horribly, horribly, wrong. But stick with me – they don’t have to. In fact, they can add a little charm to just about any room.
If you are looking for an easy to make gift, or simply to brighten up one of your own spaces, you might want to give these covers a try.
I found a free tutorial for some quick tissue box covers on Blueprint. There are lots of them out there, but this one worked well for me.
Using the tutorial as a guide, I made a pattern for the cube shaped style of tissue box. You could make your cover as simple as a single layer of opaque fabric. Or you could make something padded, lined, and trimmed. It’s really up to you.
I opted for a more finished cover with bias trim and a lined inside. So for each cover, I used the pattern to cut 5 layers:
2 Interfacing (I used a medium weight fusible)
Batting (I used a fusible version)
Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric pieces. Trim the batting piece to remove the seam allowance (or just cut smaller to begin with). Then fuse it to the interfacing side of the outer fabric.
Through all layers, stitch an outline of the top edge of the box shape. Then clip the corners to the stitching line.
Cut a hole in the center slightly smaller than the desired opening. Cut into the hole’s corners to make tabs that can be folded to the inside. Clip or pin the tabs to the inside then carefully topstitch them in place.
To trim the opening, you can simply place binding tape or trim on the inside of the box and sew in place. Or you can be fancy and apply the binding around the hole’s edge.
To get a perfect fit, pin the side seams while arranging the cover lining-side out over a tissue box. Then make a strong overcast seam on all four sides.
To finish, apply contrasting trim around the bottom edge.
TIP: Keep a covered empty tissue box at your sewing station. It’s a great place to tuck thread clippings and other small trash as you work.
Fabric: inner, outer: any woven fabric will do. I like quilting cottons just for the variety of designs available. Requirements will vary depending on the size of the tissue box. You will need a piece slightly larger than 2 x height of box side + (box length) X 2 x height of box side + (box width). Great for those scraps you can’t get rid of!
Bias Tape: buy the pre-packaged kind or make your own. In this case, you don’t have to cut bias strips. You can cut your strips on the grain because it won’t need to stretch around curves. So, you can use those little scraps for this too!
Fusible interfacing: The stiffer the interfacing, the crisper looking your cover will be. I used Pellon SF101, but you can go softer or harder if you prefer.
Batting: I happened to have some fusible fleece on hand, but any batting will do.
I think this little project started because I was still working on the hand basting for my coat and wanted to make something easy that I could enjoy finishing.
Is procrasti-make a word?
I had the floral knit in my stash and a tested pattern ready to go.* Finally all of that pattern prep (and shopping) was going to pay dividends!
At the same time, my January 2019 issue of Threads Magazine arrived. I devoured the article Luscious Sweater Knits by knitwear designer Olgalyn Jolly.**
Under “Flat Hems” on page 37, she writes:
If hemming, don’t sew a knit with poor recovery directly to itself; the hem tends to flare out. Instead, apply a fine stretch mesh or lingerie elastic along the hem allowance to ensure good recovery at the hem.
What a great idea at the perfect time! I quickly added her technique to my plan.
** Threads gives online access to their issues through paid subscriptions, so unfortunately, I can’t provide a link.
The pattern is the Hallå Slim Dolman pattern for women. I chose the tunic length, long sleeve option with hems instead of bands. I had to iron my pattern pieces from last time, but other than that, I just had to take them out of the envelope. In this case, there was no need to even pin the pattern to fabric. The swedish tracing paper clung to the sweater knit, which behaved well while cutting.
Delighted with how well everything was going, I never noticed that I forgot to cut a collar band. By the time I got to it, I didn’t have any material left. We’ll get back to that issue in a minute.
I noticed right away that I would need to keep handling to a minimum, as the edges raveled very easily. Time to put my sweater-knit tricks new and old into practice!
Trick 1: Stabilize shoulder seams
This is a good idea with most knits, but especially where the fabric may not be strong enough to support the weight of the garment. The last time I used (2-way) fusible knit interfacing, I gathered up the scraps and cut them into strips. I fused them in place on all four shoulder edges.
Fusible knit strips ready to go
Strip fused in place
Trick 2: Stretchy stabilized hems
Using the Threads article as a general guide, I put together some really stable and flat hems. I didn’t have lingerie elastic or lightweight mesh on hand, so I cut strips from a piece of power mesh. If you are not familiar with power mesh, you would recognize it as the mesh often used in ready-to-wear bras and shapewear. The only color I had was a hot pink, but since there was pink in the sweater, I figured any show-through would look intentional. I made a little slide show detailing how the hems came together.
Trick 3: Baste with Wonder Tape
Remember how I forgot to cut a neckband? When I figured out what I did, I looked around for some fabric that would work as a stand-in, but nothing grabbed me. Then I tried it on without the band. The neck opening is very wide, but I kind of liked it. I figured that if I added bra-strap carriers, it would be pretty easy to wear.
I applied wash-away wonder tape to the edge of the neckband for two reasons. First, it served to stabilize the fragile curve and prevent raveling. Second, I could use it as a guide to turn a precise 1/4 in. hem.
Trick 4: Stabilize neckline with strong and decorative embroidered edge
At this point, I could have stitched the neck in place and called it a day. I just thought the top needed a little something extra. Why not use embroidery to highlight it? At the same time, the hand stitching would secure the hem in place.
Using some plain embroidery floss I had on hand, I stitched a simple cross stitch pattern around the entire neck. It’s now a very secure hem, but gives the neck a unique embellishment. My work is not quite as precise as I would like, but that is more than made up for by how happy I am with the color and pattern.
Embroidery up close
Inside view showing stabilized shoulder seam and bra strap carriers
Even with all of the embroidery and extra steps, this was a quick project. I would definitely do another one – just maybe with a neckband next time.
I had just finished cutting out a cute new top (coming soon) out of a lightweight floral sweater knit. When I was done, I still had a wide length of fabric. It wasn’t enough to use for any garments though.
Regular readers will know that I like to find ways of using every little bit of leftover fabric. Because my scrap was basically a wide rectangle, it was perfect for a scarf.
I smoothed out the piece on my large cutting mat, aligning the grain as best as I could. Like many stretch fabrics, it was somewhat pulled out of shape near the selvedge. I cut that part away. Then I used the gridlines on my cutting mat and a long ruler to cut the largest rectangle I could, resulting in a 50 x 15 inch piece.
The cutting doesn’t have to be perfect. This project is very forgiving of mistakes.
While still at the cutting table, I folded the rectangle lengthwise, right sides together. This sweater knit stuck to itself very well, so I didn’t bother pinning it. Then I serged the long raw edges together using a 4 thread overlock.
I turned the tube so the right side was facing out, then serged the openings to each other. I had to hand stitch the last little opening, then done!
Instant gratification projects are so fun, don’t you think? Now excuse me while I rummage through all of my sweater scraps.
Before I started cutting into the good fabric, I tested the unaltered pattern by making a muslin. The coat has two sets of pieces: one larger set for the coat exterior, and one slightly smaller for the lining. For the muslin, I just used the lining pieces, omitting the collar and making only one sleeve.
Trying it on, I found that I would need to lengthen it about an inch to make the waist fall where it should. Otherwise, everything seemed to work.
I’m used to altering pattern pieces, but I think this is the first time I have had to lengthen 6 pieces for a single waist adjustment!
Muslin front view
Muslin side view
Pattern pieces in hand, I was ready to start cutting. Since I had 5 different materials to cut, I made a checklist. Between the wool, the lining, the underlining, the interfacing and the collar, I had to cut 54 pieces. Yep – 54.
For the exterior, I cut out the main fabric and an interfacing or an underlining piece for each coat part. Following along with the class, I resolved to get all of those prepared before moving on to the lining.
I used the instructor’s recommendation and applied fusible knit interfacing to the wrong side of the coat’s front, front facing, sleeve facing, and under-collar. Then I re-pinned the pattern piece to transfer markings and cut notches. I used tracing paper and a tracing wheel for the markings.
TIP: use a dedicated press cloth for fusibles. Mark the top “this side up” so that any stray adhesive comes off on one side of the press cloth instead of the iron.
I backed the remaining coat pieces with a flat-lining (black cotton lawn). First, I pinned the cotton lawn to the wrong side of the wool, gently pulling the edge inward to accommodate the “turn of the cloth,” or the extra space the thick exterior fabric takes from the seam allowance. I used my japanese basting thread to hand baste the lawn in place. As with the fused pieces, I re-pinned the pattern piece back in place. I cut notches and transferred markings, this time using tailor’s tacks.
It’s going to be a little while before I’m ready to start putting the pieces together, but I promise you will be the first to know!
I made another scarf! This one was a special request. The assignment: use a specific yarn to make a simple, long, lightweight scarf. No embellishments or fancy stitching desired.
I think the finished object fit the brief. With one skein of Cascade Heritage Quatro (400 meters), I went back and forth in garter stitch, slipping one stitch at the beginning of each row. The quatro is a sock weight yarn, so the entire project was done on tiny size 2 needles. It’s a very nice merino/nylon blend yarn made from plies of four different colors twisted together. When knitted together, they make a nice blended effect. Unfotunately, I think I may have bought the last one in existence, because I can’t find any more anywhere. I think you could approximate the effect by holding four different strands of a laceweight yarn together though.
That’s the last bit of knitting for a little while.
This is the time of year that people start casting around for what to give for the holidays. If you are shopping for the person in your life who sews, or just for yourself, keep reading.
$ Under 10
$$ Between 10-25
$$$ Between 25-50
$$$$ Over 50
When you make things for other people, you really appreciate how much effort and thought goes into handmade gifts. Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to make a handmade gift this year. But you can purchase items that someone else has crafted, and support small businesses at the same time. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together some of my favorite handmade gift ideas from people who sell on Etsy.com.
Made to Make
Here are several ideas for complete pre-packaged projects. It’s always fun to have a new toy to play with after all the gifts are opened, isn’t it?
Now I know that you would never take the pleasure of buying fabric away from your favorite person who sews. But there are lots of other sewing goodies that they would love to own but wouldn’t buy for themselves. Here are a few of my favorites.
Pattern weights can be just about anything (I have been known to use soup cans). But it’s much more fun to have a set that makes you smile. Here are some great handmade options.
Design and sewing go hand in hand. How about a few items that help to collect and plan those creative ideas?
I found some tools for the ironing station that many people who sew do without – but they shouldn’t! Here are some beautiful additions to anyone’s work space.
Opening a package with a rainbow of color never fails to please. How about giving some high-end thread? It’s a little luxury your sewing friend will enjoy whether undertaking elaborate embellishment, basting or just mending a tear.
I like it when people put labels in their handmade items. Show them that you value their unique craftsmanship by giving them custom labels. Here are a few options to get started.
I’m pulling together another guide, which will focus on gadgets and stocking stuffers. Oh – and I’m still working on the winter coat. Updates soon!