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!
Cost – I checked out several retailers looking at basic, lined, medium length wool or wool blend coats. The coats I found all had front pockets and polyester lining. Prices ranged from $150-$400 for mid-range brands. I made a mental note that I did not want the materials for my coat to exceed $150.
Fit – Although fit is less crucial in a roomy garment like a coat, it still matters. Obviously, sewing your own leaves fit in your own hands.
Quality – I don’t think I have ever had any problems with the construction of store-bought coats. Materials are another story. I’m hoping that I can avoid torn linings, pilling and other wear and tear by using better quality fabrics.
Style and Details – I like pockets. I love when I am able to go for a walk without having to carry a bag because my pockets do the job alone. While most coats typically have some kind of front pockets, that’s where it stops. I think I can do better. I also don’t want to have the same thing as everyone else.
I mentioned in a previous post that I purchased a coat-making course from Craftsy*. The interactive, online video lessons also come with a pattern, Vogue V9040, which the instructor, Steffani Lincecum, uses as her example throughout. Before buying anything else, I went through the course. I confirmed that I still wanted to do it, and noted all the ways the course instructions deviate from the pattern. For example, the pattern calls for sew-in interfacing while the course uses fusible knit interfacing.
*Craftsy and Bluprint both offer this course. If you are a Bluprint customer, you will need to purchase the pattern separately.
With pattern and notes in hand, I started hunting for materials. It took over a month. I am glad that I started looking when I did, because it took a while to wait for swatches and make final decisions.
I think I’m ready to begin. Here’s the result of my shopping spree (includes shipping):
3 yards Italian Dark Brown Wool Blend Coating from Mood (on sale) $62.96
I’m already over budget by $60. Oops. I chose to use silk for the lining, and that was really expensive. My rationale was that silk is warm and hard wearing. It’s also something that will bring me joy whenever I put on my coat. New budget rationalized!
I wish I could say where the yarn came from. I only know that I have had it for a long time and that I was saving it because it was too good to use. I have revised my thinking and now more often consider materials not good enough to use. 😉
I do remember that both colors are undyed 100% alpaca yarn. They are so soft, warm and light.
This is a very very easy scarf to make. It only uses one stitch, so it can be done almost mindlessly. I finished it in 4 nights while binge-watching TV. If you are interested, I have a few more details on Ravelry.
More sewing coming soon. Until then, happy making!
Last weekend daylight savings time began. For those of you not in the USA, it’s a charming custom whereby we set our clocks back one hour until spring. (Not everyone does this – it’s a whole big thing…)
For me, this is when autumn starts to feel real. Here in Rhode Island, the sun is now setting at 4:30PM! I think at a subconscious level, I knew I had to prepare. October found me as busy as a squirrel collecting acorns and about as focused. Unfortunately, that meant that many projects have gone unblogged.
Rather than go into a lot of detail (for a change), I’m just going to share some October highlights.
Fall Wardrobe Sewing
I didn’t do a lot of ambitious sewing in October. I finished a few projects I started earlier in the year though.
I made another pull-on knit circle skirt from the Butterick B6578 pattern. The skirt was part of my original Fall 2018 sewing plan and coordinates nicely with the rest of the collection. I made View A. The fabric is a nice brushed poly from Sincerely Rylee.
Also for Fall, I made a neat cloche hat with leftover green twill. More on that below.
I also finished another fit and flare top using McCall’s M7356. This top was actually constructed from my original muslin. The fabric is way too thin, but I never intended to use it for real. I just really liked how the muslin looked. So I took out all of the basting and put it together properly. There are a few imperfections, but I think with a camisole I will wear it a lot. I go into more detail on my pattern review here.
Above: Fall cloche and fit and flare top
My Mom has saved all kinds of interesting things, including a number of old handkerchiefs from the 1930s to the 1960s. I took some back to Providence after my last visit to incorporate into my fabric stash. After a bit of effort, I now have 34 clean, ironed bits of old-fashioned charm. The collection is a veritable needlecraft sampler, with hemstitching, tatted lace, appliqué, embroidery, and crocheted edges. I can’t wait to start playing around with them! I have already started a board on Pinterest to collect ideas.
Spoiler: I did not sew my costume. But I will take credit for making the accessories that pulled it together. This year I dressed as a suffragist. I can well imagine that this might have been me in reality if I have been alive 100 years ago.
The dress I found in my Mom’s closet – she wore it in the 1970s. Since we have an election around the corner, I thought a suffragist would be fun.
I found a free downloadable cloche pattern which I used to throw together a vintage style hat. I’ve never made a hat before. It was much easier than I thought. Since the individual pieces are so small, I was able to use scraps alone. The ribbon is even saved from a Christmas package. I wound up making two hats because I misread the instructions the first time and sewed the seams with too narrow of an allowance. This led to a large and loose hat, which someone else might enjoy some day. I cut out another hat, following the directions the second time. The fabric is scavenged from the scraps of my fall 2018 collection, so it coordinates with everything. It’s already found it’s way into my closet. I reviewed the pattern on patternreview.comhere. The pattern itself was from the website sewmamasew.com. There are gorgeous versions of this cloche and other styles for sale on Etsy at the Etsy store Elsewhen Millenery.
I made the sash using some plain unbleached muslin. The lettering was really easy. I found a font that was close to the one used by the marchers in historical photos. I typed the words, scaled them to the size needed for the sash, then flipped them to be mirror image. Then I used my inkjet printer to print it on an Avery light fabric transfer sheet. I followed the instructions on the box to iron the lettering onto my sash. I think it looks great.
As if that were not enough, I somehow found myself in a yarn store early in the month. I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a yarn shop without buying anything. This time was no exception. I have been knitting my way through my purchases. So far, I have finished two winter hats, both with the same yarn. I’m keeping one for me and the other for donating. I have a bunch of other works in progress, which I will add to the blog as I finish. For other knitters (and curious onlookers), you can find my work going back to 2004 on Ravelry.comhere.
I finished a couple of embroidered day-of-the-week dishtowels recently. Aren’t they adorable? They are made in the same way as the ones in this post from earlier this year, only with a different iron-on design. You can find the puppy design here.
Mending and Editing
I have been making my way through the work basket as well lately. In the past month, I have mended or altered at least 6 items from my work pile. They have all been there so long that it seems like I just went shopping and came home with 6 new things. I haven’t seen the bottom of the pile yet, but I think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll feature some of the more interesting upcycles in the coming months.
Remember when camisoles with built-in shelf bras were popular? It was a great idea, but rarely worked well. The problem was that the bra was usually just an extra layer of stretch jersey with an elastic band around the ribcage. It didn’t provide much support or coverage.
Since I learned how to make supportive linings for athletic wear, I vowed never to make an unlined camisole again. Since the bra does not show, there is no need for fancy embellishments or time consuming finishing techniques. I didn’t time myself, but I think it only added about an extra hour to the project.
I had a piece of stretch velvet ready to go, having already used it in my recent princess seam top. Since it is a metallic, it goes with just about any color. But it looks especially good with the pinstripe I used in the wrap skirt that is also part of my fall mini-wardrobe. I think it increases the dressiness of the outfit while also being very comfortable.
I really liked the V-Neck shape of my inspiration piece from Rebecca Taylor. I didn’t have any patterns that would work, but I did have a favorite camisole of my own with the same V-Neck profile. So I took a chance and used it as a template for my new top.
Here’s my process:
Lay out velvet in a single layer, smooth side up.
Carefully lay camisole on top.
Using 5/8″ ruler and a disappearing marker, mark a cutting line one seam allowance width away from the camisole directly on the velvet.
Cut on cutting lines – this is the front piece.
Use the front piece as a pattern for the back, changing the upper edge using the camisole as a guide.
Cut back piece.
Use the velvet pieces as pattern for power mesh front and back, making power mesh pieces bra length.
Another somewhat unusual feature is the contrasting straps. I got the idea from Vogue 1591, which uses grosgrain ribbon for shoulder straps. I thought that stretchy straps would be more in keeping with a stretchy top, so I was really happy to find foldover elastic in a grosgrain texture. I like a wider strap, so I left it unfolded.
I had fun positioning the straps into a V in the back. With a built-in bra, the straps can go anywhere. There are no worries about having to cover up the straps from the bra you wear underneath.
And that’s it!
The gold camisole is the final garment in my Fall 2018 Mini-Wardrobe. Voting at patternreview.com is open until October 10. If you like what you see, I would love it if you would give me your vote.