Fashion · Fitting · General

Quick Jeans Edit – Topstitch Hem

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So professional looking!

I’ve hemmed jeans on the blog before, I know. This time though, I’m taking it up a notch with some jeans-thread topstitching.

The last time I did some outlet shopping, I found some jeans that almost fit for $16 (yay, me!). The only problem was that they were over 4 inches too long. Fortunately, hemming pants is one of the easiest sewing projects there is. These were straight leg, making it even easier.

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Mark length with pin

I followed my usual hemming process. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Try on the jeans with shoes. Place a pin where you would like them to end.
  2. Measure the distance from the bottom to the pin. Subtract your chosen hem allowance from this number.
  3. Take out the pin. Measure up from the bottom the calculated number of inches and mark. Be careful to mark the same distance all the way around both legs.
  4. Cut at the marked line.
  5. Finish the raw edges with a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch. (Any color will do – this stitching doesn’t show).
  6. Turn the jeans inside out. Turn up the hems to your hem allowance and press. Turn right side out again.
  7. Test your topstitching on the cut-off scraps. Topstitch the hem in place. Done!
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Measure and mark

To get the factory-made jeans look, the right topstitching is essential. When you think of jeans details, you think of heavy thread in shades of gold, white, and neutrals. I found that there are many options available. You can find thread made specifically for jeans, but any thread in the heavier weight ranges is worth considering. Think about whether you want soft or hard, matte or shiny, heavy or really heavy. Here are some to try:

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Ready to cut

You will need the right size needle for your thread. I used a size 14/90 universal needle for my TEX 60 weight thread. It worked well on the first try, so I didn’t try any other sizes. However, if I were to use a TEX 80 or 100 weight thread, I would go up to a 16/100. Schmetz, Klasse and Singer make a range of needles specifically for jeans which are supposed to be more durable when sewing through multiple layers. You can also get double needles. These are great if you want to be extra sure you stitch parallel lines and come with different spacing. I haven’t tried them yet, but if I get into sewing a lot of denim, I’m sure I will.

I never really thought about it before, but there isn’t any reason that the bobbin and the upper thread have to match. In fact, what seems to work best for jeans is a bobbin thread in a normal weight the same color as the denim.

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Topstitching thread in needle, navy blue all-purpose in bobbin

Fortunately, my machine sews through thick fabrics and “bumps” without a hitch. I have found that with other machines a “hump jumper” can save a lot of frustration when going over seams. You can make your own with some folded tagboard or you can buy them ready-made. A walking foot can also help your machine cope with the thick layers.

Your machine shouldn’t need any tension or other fancy adjustments. You will just want to make sure it is sewing the longest possible straight stitch to start.

Once I had my machine set up, I lined up the bottom edge of the jeans with the edge of my presser foot. This worked well for stitching the first line. The second line was done in much the same way, just using the first line of stitching as my visual edge guide.

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Maintain even stitching by aligning presser foot with jeans edge

Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to topstitch all the time!

Next time, sewing for patternreview.com’s Shirtdress Contest.

Until then…

Happy sewing!

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Align presser foot with first line of stitching for second line
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Completed topstitching
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The navy bobbin thread blends right in. Maybe I should get some navy serger thread too!
Fashion · Fitting

Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 1

angelia_shorts_1_15For the past year, I have been working on putting together a collection of good basic patterns fit to my measurements. So far, I have go-to patterns for a raglan top, a dolman top, a cowl-neck pullover, a loose high-waist pant, joggers, and a workout bra-top. Since I live in shorts in the summer months, a good basic shorts pattern was the next logical choice.

The Angelia Shorts pattern from Itch to Stitch Designs seemed to fit the bill. Itch to Stitch is another independent pattern company that sells downloadable PDF patterns. Itch to Stitch PDFs are available in “copy shop” versions, which is a big time saver. When you purchase the pattern, you get it in all of the available sizes. In this case, there are 12 sizes ranging from a waist measurement of 23 7/8 to 39 inches. You can choose to turn the cutting lines for each size on or off, which really helps when you have so many sizes on one sheet.

angelia_shorts_1_16The basic shorts are slightly below waist with loose fitting legs, a waistband and front zipper fly. There are length variations starting at a 4 inch inseam and all kinds of options for pockets, belt loops, and so on.

I made a quick muslin to test just the main front and back pieces for fit. I did not worry about the closure – I just pinned the center shut.  I found that I needed to taper the sides a little and widen the darts. I transferred the changes to my front and back pattern pieces, then adjusted the waistband piece to compensate for the darts. Now I was ready to test the whole pattern.

I made my wearable muslin out of quilting cotton (Orient by Nel Whatmore). Yes, it’s a little busy, but I have to be me! I have to say that I was impressed by the instructions provided by Itch to Stitch. They don’t assume any garment sewing experience, so there are detailed steps for things like making pattern alterations and shortening a zipper. I followed the instructions closely, since I had never made a zipper fly closure before. It worked! I was not confused by any of the potentially confusing steps and I’m really pleased with how the closure turned out. Here’s a slideshow of the closure construction:

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I’m really glad I made a test version, because I could see right away that I needed to make more changes. The main issue is that the crotch sits too low. I pinned out a slightly shorter crotch length and transferred the change to my pattern pieces. I feel like I am now ready to go with any of the pattern options.

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Side view with shortened crotch pinned

Stay tuned for a “bells and whistles” version. In the meantime, happy sewing!

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Fashion

Vogue V8792 Bias Tee Shirt 3 Ways

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I made Views A and B (Short Length)

I had a lot of fun last week putting together some cute lightweight tee shirts. Vogue V8792 has been on my to-sew list for a while. I initially chose it because I liked the interesting way the stripes were positioned on the top in the cover photo. Did I mention I love stripes? But when I started looking at the details, I was really intrigued by the short sleeve views (A, B, C). The long and the short sleeve shirts are completely different, not just the same shirt with options. The long sleeve versions are fitted and have set-in sleeves. The short sleeve ones are loose fitting and made from only 3 pieces: front, back and neckband. The front and back are cut on the bias and attach together like a puzzle. That sounded like a lot more fun!

My first version used a lightweight gray rib knit with a subtle heathered stripe. I thought the stripe would create an interesting effect where the two bias pieces met. It went together quickly on the serger – cutting it out took about the same amount of time as sewing. I was surprised that I didn’t see the effect I was expecting though. It turns out that I somehow ignored the layout directions and cut the front and back pieces on grain instead of on bias. Oops. The shirt is still nice, still wearable, but a little disappointing.

Since it was so easy to make, I thought I would give it another try and see if I would like it better if I followed the instructions! I made two more, both using a mix of different colors.

The second tee used up a pretty mottled green remnant that was about 1/4 yard long and full width. I paired it with a sheer cream color knit that was a little too transparent to use on the front. I made the neckband a little wider than the pattern called for, but otherwise this one followed the pattern instructions. The difference is subtle when there is no obvious stripe, but I think the shirt may drape a little better than the gray one.

The third tee gave me an opportunity to try a color combination I love: sky blue and white. There isn’t a lot to add about this one, but isn’t it cute?

Summer, here I come!

Happy sewing!

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Fashion

Run for the Roses Circle Skirt

circleskirt7I love bold patterns, so when I saw this stunning print from Ommelinen at  Jumping June Textiles, I snapped it up.

The design is printed on a very stretchy cotton/lycra jersey. You could easily use this stable fabric for leggings or activewear. So I took a cue from the athleisure trend and settled on a casual, pull-on circle skirt.

Circle skirts don’t really need a pattern, but they do require a little thought and planning. I used Mood Fabrics’ circle skirt calculator to get a general idea of what I could make with my 2-yard cut. You can see what the possibilities are for 3 skirt lengths and 3 types of skirt: half, 3/4, and full circle skirts. If you want to maximize the length, you would choose a full circle. If you don’t like the fullness of a full circle, you can make a 1/2 or 3/4 circle, but you will sacrifice some length. I compromised and chose a happy medium 3/4 circle.

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Some early possibilities

The large rose and peony (?) blooms run vertically down the fabric selvedge. I wanted to make sure I placed them on the skirt to maximum advantage. Luckily, I found an image of the exact design on google. The image even worked out to the same ratio as a 2 yard cut. I saved the image, then marked it up with several possible cutting layouts. To make it even easier to visualize, I used some scissors and tape and made little scale models of my favorites. It really helped and only took a few minutes.

Construction was super simple. I only had to serge together one vertical seam and a waistband. The waistband is simply a rectangle from the same fabric made into a tube, folded once and serged to the skirt opening.

The only construction detail on a circle skirt like this that requires any technique is the hem. Hemming a curved edge usually requires extra steps to manage the difference in circumference between the bottom edge and the seam line. I have to admit that I didn’t want to bother with all that. I also thought the stretchy material, which does not fray could look nice with just a rolled hem. As a bonus, it would maximize the amount of the floral design that shows.

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My hemming assistant

Having made that decision, I set about marking a level line around the skirt’s bottom edge. To do the marking myself, I rigged a hemming assistant with my duct-tape model, a tripod, and a command-adhesive cord bundler attached to the ceiling. I was delighted with how well it worked. Once I got it set up, it was pretty stable. It was also a much more comfortable working position. I made sure the model’s posture was correct, then pinned the skirt level around the waist. I took a carpenter’s tape measure (my yardstick was too short), measured and marked the skirt an equal distance up from the floor. I’ll definitely be using this trick again!

I know that when I try on fuller ready to wear skirts, they typically hang lower in the front than the back. I was still surprised that I ended up trimming off 4 inches to make the front match the back. No wonder!

The last step was to stitch the rolled edge. Of course, I did a few test runs with scraps. Somewhere along the line, I thought instead of hiding the edge, I would highlight it. So the final version features a narrow line of hot pink stitching. It’s subtle, but I think it enhances the design.

I can see this skirt as something easy to pull on after a workout. But I can just as easily see it dressed up. A very comfortable, easy to make project, but special too.

As a nod to Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, I’m calling this one the Run for the Roses skirt.

Happy Sewing, everyone!

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Fashion

Sleeveless Rhapsody

Rhapsody-1-8Independent pattern company Love Notions sells a blouse with a loose, peasant style bodice entitled Rhapsody. I love wearing this kind of top in warmer weather and have been looking for a good pattern. What made Rhapsody stand out from the others was their 8 different sleeve options: sleeveless, cap, short, 3/4 with cuff, 3/4 with flare, trumpet, flutter, and bishop. Whew!

Love Notions sells multi-size downloadable PDF patterns. You can print them at home and tape together your printouts, or you can do what I do and send it off to be printed onto large single sheets. (Right now, the best deal seems to be pdfplotting.com). I was delighted by the thorough instructions Love Notions provides as part of the download. In addition to the usual stuff, they include color photos of tricky steps and links to instructional videos.

Rhapsody is designed to be made with lightweight wovens. All of the versions have narrow bias bound necklines, so you also either need purchased or handmade bias tape.

Rhapsody-1-11Since the Marfy short sleeve top didn’t use up all of the pretty cotton lawn fabric, I thought there might be enough to make a Rhapsody. I laid my scraps and pattern pieces on the cutting table to see if I could make it work. I almost had enough to make the sleeveless version, but nothing was wide enough for the single piece back. I changed things around a little so the back was made from two pieces instead and just barely made it all fit.

I did not have enough scrap left to make narrow bias binding, so I found some plain white pre-made in my stash. I think it’s a good idea to keep a few sizes of basic colors on hand just in case. I’ll stock up on black, white, navy and red (those are my basics anyway) whenever I see a bargain.

Rhapsody-1-1Before I put it all together, I thought about how I could embellish it to stand apart from my other top. I played around with all of my scrap trimmings to see what looked good. The curved bottom edge didn’t look right with any trim, but the front came alive with a faux placket. I just sewed two lengths of cotton lace an equal distance from the center front before doing anything else.

Remember those pockets I couldn’t find a use for? I think they look like they are made to go on the Rhapsody.

Again going through my stash, I found a couple of buttons that looked good on the pocket fronts. Initially, I was going to put a row down the placket, but with the ties (or bow) at the neck, it was just one thing too many.

Rhapsody-1-14Assembly included many different techniques. There are french seams, tucks, gathering, narrow hems and bias trimmed neck opening. Even if you have no experience, the instructions should get you through it. Applying binding to a V-neck is a tricky proposition, but I was able to do it perfectly the first time by following their tutorial.

I think it turned out great, albeit a little tight across the back. I scooped out the armholes by about 1/4 inch, which helped. Next time I will try a wider yoke, or possibly go up an entire size. There will definitely be a next time for this one. I really want to try out some of the different sleeves.

Next time: T-Shirts cut on the bias.

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Neckline with Bow
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Neckline open
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French Seams
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Tuck in back

Happy Sewing!

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Fashion

Marfy Blouse 3 – Final Version and Thoughts

MarfyMake1-7Summer sewing begins!

Last week, I finally made the Marfy blouse in the “good” fabric (a cotton lawn I have been hoarding). I took a little more time on the finishing with this one, and I am glad I did. I’m sure I will wear it so much that it will have to hold up to many washings.

Pattern Modifications

In addition to the changes I worked out while making the toile, I also added to the front and back pieces to raise the level of the underarm. If anyone out there is considering this pattern, I would recommend leaving extra fabric in this area and then figuring out if you want to make the change. Once you cut that armhole, you can’t get the fabric back!

Button, button, who’s got the button?

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Is this the world’s most perfect button?

One of the reasons it took so long to put this together is that I obsessed over getting the right buttons. I really wanted a button to match the darker color in the fabric pattern. It was so much harder than I thought it would be.

Issue 1: What color is it anyway? If you can’t name the color, you can’t really search for it. I can say with certainty that it is not purple, plum, violet, burgundy, or red-violet.

Issue 2: Online vendors that sell buttons have many different ways of listing sizes, colors, and shapes. Some buttons are sized by diameter in inches or millimeters, others use Ligne numbers. Here is a great explainer from Mood fabrics: How to Measure Buttons.

It’s a jungle out there in the button world. If you have access to a store with a good collection, count yourself lucky. The best and easiest way to find exactly what you want is to look at actual samples against your actual material.

I finally found what I was looking for on Etsy from a vendor in Germany.  I did mention I looked everywhere, didn’t I?

Pockets

I didn’t make the pattern’s patch pockets for the toile, but I wanted to add them on the final version. Of course, Marfy assumes that given the general shape, you can figure out how to assemble them on your own. By mistake, I attached the pocket flap to outside if the pocket. But after some mild cursing, I decided to keep it that way. I realized that in practice, I would be more likely to use the pocket if I didn’t have to lift a flap to get to it. So this way, I can have the cute round flap detail, but keep the opening the way I like.

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Wrap the seam allowance around the form.
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Cover holds the fabric against the curve
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Perfect curve after ironing

Since the last time I made patch pockets, I have acquired a template which is used to make consistent curved pocket corners. It was great! Ironing tiny pocket curves is a fiddly task that can be so frustrating. The pocket template helps by holding the seam allowance in place while you iron. It is even designed so that you don’t have to have your fingers close to your work.

After all of that, I pinned the pockets in place, stood back and… hated it. That’s okay. I’ll use them for something else later.

Buttonholes

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Looking for a close-up of the buttonholes? Maybe next time.

After struggling to make machine-made buttonholes on the toile, I spent some time thinking about the best way to do these. My original thought was to make then in a matching purple-ish thread as a design feature. I changed to white thread because it would hide my inevitable mistakes better. Also because like the buttons, I couldn’t find the right color thread.

An online friend mentioned that she always hand-sews her buttonholes because for her, it is easier. I had never considered hand sewing, but since I have been playing around with hand embroidery, I thought I might be up for it. Of course this is covered in the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, my go-to technique reference. I followed the instructions to the letter and made a totally functional buttonhole. Unfortunately, it took forever and really does not bear close inspection. Back to the machine I went.

Partly because the fabric was more stable, and partly through practice, the machine served me well this time. I breezed through the machine buttonholes. In the future, I will save hand made buttonholes for coats and heirloom sewing.

I can’t wait for the weather to catch up to my creations!

Missed any of the other posts on the Marfy blouse?

Marfy Blouse 1 – The Pattern

Marfy Blouse 2 – The Valentine Toile

 

Fashion · Whimsy

Party Dress: Homage to Bauhaus

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Starting Point

Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicised and taught. Wikipedia

I recently attended the 2018 DesignXri Designer’s Ball. The theme was Bauhaus Bash in honor of the Bauhaus design movement’s 100th anniversary. Predictably, if you give talented, creative people a spark of inspiration, you get remarkable results. I knew I would have to come up with something good!

To achieve this look, I went shopping in my closet. The dress was just a simple black knit dress that has been hanging around waiting for warmer weather. When you look at Bauhaus designs, you see a lot of simple shapes, primary colors, high contrast and humor. That inspired me to make a pattern of bold stripes and circles. Easiest (and most reversible) way – duct tape. I applied the stripes just by eye. The circles are made by layering strips of tape on my cutting mat and using a utility knife to cut out the circular shapes.

Bauhaus13The element that really makes the outfit is the “sleeves.” The sleeve apparatus is made from two inexpensive plastic IKEA placemats, some ribbon, some cable ties, and one strategically placed safety pin.

Add some slicked-down hair, red lipstick and a sense of adventure and the outfit is done!

The whole thing took about 4 hours to put together – or 8 if you count all of the time I spent browsing the internet.

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I really can’t say enough about this great event. For some great photos of how other people interpreted the theme, check out JTJ Photography. For more information on DesignXri, check out their website:http://www.designxri.com

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