I know I can draft a circle skirt pattern. There is even a nifty calculator to help. I used this one from Mood Fabrics to make the Run for the Roses knit skirt. But sometimes it’s just easier to buy an inexpensive pattern and let someone else do the heavy lifting. Butterick’s See&Sew pattern B6578 is just a plain pull-on knit circle skirt in two lengths. This is the longer of the two.
I’m pretty sure it took longer to prepare and cut the fabric than it did to assemble. I’m kind of bummed that the knit I picked up at a certain chain store did not hold up to machine washing. It faded quite a bit and pilled. So this is a skirt just to wear around the house. It is soft and comfortable but doesn’t really hold up to close inspection.
The directions include a cased elastic waistband. It’s easy to do, but doesn’t look as sharp as other possible waistband finishes. Next time I will try a serger technique where you sew the elastic in place and fold it inside.
The seams are sewn with a four thread overcast, and the hem and casing is done with a two needle coverstitch.
I think this is a good basic pattern. It could serve as a base for any knit circle skirt. I can see adding on pockets, embellishments, different finishes and other enhancements.
Did you know that if you buy See & Sew patterns from the Butterick website, that shipping is free? I bought several the last time they had a sale. This one was only a few dollars!
More coming soon – stay tuned!
I reviewed this pattern on PatternReview.com. Click here to read it.
I took a little bit of a risk making these tops. I’ve never had any off-the-shoulder tops before, and wasn’t sure if they would be comfortable to wear all day. Would they stay up? Would they restrict movement? I’ve been seeing off-the-shoulder styles for a couple of years now though. They can’t be that hard to wear, right?
These are my 3rd and 4th tops made from Simplicity 8386. I think that might be a record for me! I even have one more cut out and another planned. They are just so easy to make, so flattering, and with only 2 pattern pieces and so little fabric, they qualify as stash-busters as well.
I made the floral one first. The fabric is a stretchy cotton/lycra jersey from Jumping June Textiles. It’s a 4-way stretch with 8% lycra so there was no question about it holding its shape. I cut the top exactly to the pattern, and while wearable, it’s a little short for my taste. No regrets, though. It’s still good with layers and high-waisted styles.
Making the top was very easy. Most of it was sewn with a 3-thread overlock on the serger. There is a casing for elastic around the top. I did the hems with my serger‘s coverstitch function. Once again, I used Dritz Elastic Threaders for pushing the elastic through the casing. I can’t believe how agonizing that process used to be when these cheap little gems were there all along! For the coverstitch, I used plain Maxi-Lock serger thread in the needles and Maxi-Lock stretch thread underneath. So far, this seems to work well. I put it through a machine wash and (low heat) dryer cycle and didn’t notice any shrinkage.
Now that I knew I liked the pattern, I took the time to lengthen the waist. That extra 1.25 inches by itself is enough to make the length much more versatile. That’s a good thing, because I forgot to add to the bottom like I intended.
The striped one is sewn the same way as the first. Because it is made with a less elastic 2-way stretch jersey, it feels much lighter. It was one of those remnant table finds, so I’m not sure what it is made of. The main thing is that the stretch matches the guidelines on the pattern envelope.
This would be a great pattern for a beginner who is ready to learn about knits.
Stripe Off the Shoulder Knit
After wearing them a few times, I can say that they do stay up. They don’t restrict movement… much. If you reach up over your head, you will need to re-adjust. Otherwise, a good cute summer top.
Next time – a little home dec!
Click here for examples of Simplicity 8386 View A.
After tackling a few challenging projects recently, I have really enjoyed doing some fun easy sewing. I probably would not have tried Simplicity 8386, but a friend bought the wrong size and gave me hers. I’m so glad she did! I have made a bunch of tops with it and have even more in the works.
The multi-size pattern contains pieces for three completely different tops. They are all casual warm-weather looks intended for moderate stretch knits. For this post, I’m going to focus on View A.
View A is the only top of the three that is not tight to the body. I think that makes it flattering for a wider range of people, so I was surprised that so far it doesn’t have any reviews on patternreview.com (the other 2 have several). The front body is two piece
s that cross in a faux-wrap style. The volume comes from a series of tucks which disappear into the waistband. Hate to hem? No hemming needed. All of the edges are enclosed or finished with binding. The neckband continues to the back and ends in ties. Since
I wear my hair short, I have to admit I have become more partial to garments with interesting back details like this one.
I made this top twice. It’s interesting to see how two different materials behave with the same make. The red top is in a medium weight cotton/lycra jersey with a lot of stretch. The blue and white one is in a lightweight rayon/lycra jersey with less stretch.
I was wondering how I was going to have enough material to cut bias strips when it hit me – the fabric is already stretchy. I can just use horizontally cut strips instead! It’s entirely possible that the sewing world knows this already, but it’s new to me. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pattern companies factored binding into their yardage recommendations and layouts?
Like wrap-style dresses and tops in general, I found that the front tended to reveal a lot more than I intended. I had to make some kind of adjustment to keep it closed, or else wear a camisole underneath. I rejected the cami idea just because these are supposed to be for hot weather. I could tack the overlap in place, but I didn’t want to have to iron around it if the top needed touching up. I settled on sewing a small snap fastener closure instead. I think it works pretty well, and I can leave it unsnapped for washing and ironing.
Note to beginners
This pattern is part of Simplicity’s Easy-To-Sew series. I would agree that it is easy, but View A may be a little overwhelming for a complete beginner. For those new to garment sewing, I would start with View C.
Sky Tie-Neck Crossover Knit
Next time, I go a little crazy with Simplicity 8386 again. Stay tuned!
I can’t believe it has been 2 months since I made a test version of the Angelia shorts. I shouldn’t have waited so long – I can already tell these are going to be the shorts I want to throw on every hot day!
The tan synthetic stretch twill has been kicking around my fabric stash for at least 10 years. I remember getting it from a bargain table and thinking it would be perfect for a pair of pants. Well, when I actually looked at using it with a pants pattern, it was obvious that there wasn’t enough. Rather than admit I had made a poor impulse buy, I set it aside for shorts. While I think it will be great to wear, it was not fun to sew. It required a lower temperature iron, which made it really hard to shape. Oh, and it frays like crazy! Another sewing lesson learned…
There is a lot to this pattern, but no one single step is especially difficult. If you make it, you should be comfortable with topstitching, sewing curved seams (contour waistband) and making buttonholes. I struggled with making the waistband. I ended up having to cut it 3 times because first I fused interfacing to the wrong side, then somehow switched the left and right sides so the button tab was on the wrong side of the fly. The instructions were great. I should have followed them the first time!
Darts and topstitching
I would say that making the 5 pockets and belt loops probably doubled the amount of construction time. It’s worth it though. The pockets are what make the shorts look professional. Plus, they are big enough to be useful.
Like a lot of independent pattern company patterns, the Angelia shorts use a 3/8 in. seam allowance. I really like that there is less waste, but it makes it that much more important to test the pattern first (also recommended in the instructions). You don’t have any wiggle room if you need to add a little space here or there.
If you make the pockets, there are several places where you have to sew through 4-5 layers of fabric. Not every machine can handle that, especially if you are using a bulkier fabric. If you are in any doubt, test first!
Since the fabric was determined to return to its original flat shape, I knew that keeping it in place while I finished the waistband would be difficult. So, I hand basted it in place first. This was the first time I tried my new Japanese basting thread. I really love it. It’s thicker than all purpose thread and a little fuzzy. It’s just enough texture to help the stitches stay in place while still allowing a smooth hand sewing experience.
With the basting in place, I was able to sew a very neat topstitch to attach both sides of the waistband together. I used an easy trick to keep the seam even.
Change your machine’s foot to the blind hem foot. Place the fabric under the foot so the vertical blade falls inside the “ditch” of the seam. Change the needle position at least one setting to the left or right – anything but the middle. Leave the machine on a straight stitch – don’t change to blind hemming. Then sew away and enjoy your perfect topstitching!
I only turned the hem once because the fabric was so bulky. I overcast the bottom edges then finished with a blind hem. I’m not ecstatic about the results, but they work. If I get ambitious I might pick it out and redo it with a coverstitch or topstitched hem.
In the end, I think these turned out really well. I think I need to do something easy next though!
Angelia Shorts 2
Read my review of these shorts on patternreview.com here
Independent pattern company Love Notions sells a pattern for a blouse with a loose, peasant style bodice entitled Rhapsody. I made one a few months ago which turned out a little small. I figured going up one size should fix that problem though.
Rhapsody has 8 different sleeve options: sleeveless, cap, short, 3/4 with cuff, 3/4 with flare, trumpet, flutter, and bishop. This one would be in a teal blue polyester woven with the flutter style sleeve.
Once you know what size you need, it’s pretty quick to make. (Especially if you have the pattern ready to go). Probably the fussiest part is making bias binding for the neck opening and sewing it neatly in place. The first top went quickly because I used pre-made packaged binding. This one was somewhat tricky because the fabric was more slippery, so I had to take my time. I think the matching binding looks pretty sharp in this case.
I’m looking forward to making this one again in some of the other sleeve styles. I can’t wait to show you!
Until then, happy sewing!
See my review of this blouse on patternreview.com here
A few years ago, I bought a cute strapless sundress. I wore it a lot that summer, then my tastes changed just enough to push it to the back of the closet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have room in my closet for things I don’t wear!
I loved the bottom, but didn’t love the top or where the waist fell. It didn’t have pockets. By converting it into a skirt and adding some pockets, it could be transformed into a wardrobe staple.
Step 1: Deconstruction
I cut most of the bodice from the skirt, leaving a little bit of length at the waist. With my well-used seam ripper, I carefully picked out the side seams from the waist to about 2 inches below the hip.
Step 2: Pockets
Since the skirt’s gathered style gave it quite a bit of volume, I opted to hide the pockets on the inside. I found some neutral lightweight woven fabric in the scrap pile that had enough strength to handle keys and cell phones. I used a pocket pattern I had from another project (also checked to make sure it would hold my phone).
Once cut, I serged the pocket fronts and backs together, leaving the side openings alone. It doesn’t really matter if the openings match the skirt, since it is easy to close any open seams later.
I carefully pinned the pockets in place, making sure the top of the pocket was no higher than the new waistband would be.
From the wrong side, I sewed the pocket front to the skirt front and the pocket back to the skirt back. I closed the little bit of side seam opening left below the pockets.
I turned the skirt so I was now working on the right side. With my fingers, I rolled the pocket seams just slightly to the inside and carefully pressed them in place. Then I made sure they would stay that way by topstitching as close to the edge as I could get in a matching thread. One more press and I had an opening that’s practically invisible!
Fabric rolled slightly to inside and pressed
After topstitching – closed
After topstitching – open
Step 3: Elastic Waistband
There are a lot of waistband options for gathered skirts. I chose the one I thought I could do the fastest. My waistband is simply a length of wide elastic serged to the top of the skirt. I’m not even sure how long my elastic piece is – I just wrapped it around my waist and adjusted it until it felt snug. I sewed the elastic into a loop with a secure box stitch.
The rest was simple. I divided the elastic into 4 equal parts, marking with pins. I pinned the elastic to the right side of the skirt so the upper edges aligned, placing the pins at the center front, center back, and side seams. Just to make sure I distributed the elastic evenly, I pinned some more. I serged it all together using a 3 thread overlock stitch, stretching as I went.
The whole thing took a couple of hours, most of which was spent taking out the side stitches.
Coming soon, more instant gratification summer sewing.
I started out with a McCall Pattern Co. pattern 7649 printed in 1949.
The dress features:
Button front opening
Scoop front pockets
Unusual layered skirt back with many tucks and darts
Darts at waist front and back
I left the basic shape of the dress alone, but knew I would need to shorten it and modify the padded shoulder to make it wearable. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this contest rule when I chose the pattern:
The opening must be sufficient to take the dress on and off, but does not have to be the entire length of the front.
With that fitted waist, there was no way my dress was going to qualify. My solution: extend the button opening all the way down the front and eliminate the side zipper.
I had my work cut out for me!
First order of business: unpad the shoulder. To get the shape of the bodice right, I made a muslin. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t need to change the length, waist, or bust. But those shoulders were awful! While still wearing the muslin, I pinched the bagginess out and pinned a new shoulder seam in place, constantly checking the back and front in the mirror. I ripped out the old shoulder seam and sewed the new one in place. Back to the mirror, I saw that it would need more adjustment. It took three tries, but I finally got it. Once I made a new pattern piece with the changes, I was ready to cut my good fabric.
Speaking of fabric… I used an Amy Butler design entitled “Cotton Blossom.” I found the cotton woven on sale at Moona Fabrics on Etsy, but I would have paid full price. It’s really good quality material and I love that color combination! Here’s some more Amy Butler on fabric.com.
I didn’t have any problems putting the top half together. The only other change I made was to add fusible interfacing to the facings and inside the collar. Since the original didn’t call for any interfacing at all, I chose Pellon SF101, which is on the lighter side for a collar. I suppose in 1949 they would have used starch to stiffen the collar. I’m grateful for the modern materials that make starch unnecessary. I finished everything but the buttons and buttonholes and set it aside.
Next – the skirt. I didn’t think I would need to make a muslin for the skirt, but when I started looking at how it went together, I was baffled. To get that cute shape in the back, there are 5 darts and 6 tucks! I felt like it would take less time to test it with a muslin than it would ripping out the inevitable mistakes.
It wasn’t difficult once I ran through it once, but it was time consuming. There was a lot more time spent marking and ironing than usual.
For the pockets, I tried to eliminate some bulk by using a lightweight woven on the inside (which does not show). The pockets turned out to be roomy and useful. Finally, I can wear a dress and not have to have a separate bag for my phone!
Here’s a little slideshow of the pockets going together.
I have to admit the next part made me nervous. I carefully cut the skirt front down the middle. I drafted a new pattern piece for the facings behind the opening. I used that to cut out two facing pieces and two more lengths of interfacing. Using the top half as a guide, I mirrored the steps I used to assemble the facings. Finally, it was time to sew the back to the front and the top to the skirt. By some kind of miracle, my math and obsessiveness worked. and everything fit!
I don’t want to do that again, but at least now I know I can.
As regular readers know, buttonholes are not my favorite thing to do. But I think I have finally turned a corner. Not flawless, but not bad!
The dress also called for a 1″ belt. I’ve never made a belt before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was pretty easy. I stiffened the fabric (there was a pattern piece for this) with a one inch strip of Pellon ShirTailor fusible interfacing. Then I fused a strip of heat-n-bond ultra-hold tape right on top of the Pellon. I folded over the seam allowances and just fused them to the back. Finishing was just a matter of sewing on the buckle. It was so easy that I will consider doing belts a lot more!
I finished it with a simple invisible hem. I’ll definitely be wearing this dress a lot. It looks good on its own, but can also work under a sweater or other layers. I am really happy with the result, but I think I am ready for something quick and easy next time!
Check out all of the shirtdress contest entries here.
The dress must include a front opening that has button closures.
The opening must be sufficient to take the dress on and off, but does not have to be the entire length of the front.
The dress must be at least mid-thigh.
I have a few shirtdress patterns from the last few years, but a flea market find printed in 1949 seemed a little more special. I love the attitude of the popped collar. The scoop front pockets are big and useful. The back has some interesting tucks and darts that add volume and interest. In my opinion, only two things hold it back from being a modern design: the length and the wide, padded shoulders. I figured those would be easy enough to edit and dove in.
About Vintage Patterns
Everyone has their own idea about what vintage means. If you were born in 1998, something from 1997 might be considered vintage. Others might start much further back. For me, I think I start with patterns made before body/size measurements became standard for the major pattern companies – around the early 1970’s.
Some things have been the same for a long time.
Pattern printed on that same brown tissue paper
Seam allowance is 5/8″
Pattern markings such as triangles and dots are the same and used for the same purposes.
The illustrated envelope and included instructions are very similar.
Other things have changed over the years.
Sizing: no multi-size patterns. The pattern is printed for a single size only. This one is a size 12, which is somewhere between a current McCall’s 6 and 10. The vintage pattern’s bust is comparatively smaller than today with the same the waist and hip.
Pattern Tissue: the triangles for matching pieces together are numbered. Why don’t they do this anymore? I was surprised to find that the pattern tissue had French and Spanish wording as well as English.
Instruction Sheet: the pattern came with a single page of instructions, densely printed front and back. It seems like they did their best to utilize every bit of that space, making the text and illustrations tiny. But it’s all there: general sewing instructions, cutting layouts, and numbered step-by-step assembly instructions.
Some of the terminology has changed, but it’s easy enough to follow. Fabric is referred to as goods, waist refers to the top of the garment, slide fastener means zipper.
Common widths for “goods” were evidently different than they are today. Therefore, I had to figure out yardage estimates and layout on my own.
Because the pattern format has remained so similar over the years, anyone comfortable sewing from a “Big 4” pattern should not have any trouble.
Since the pattern is a single size, you may need to work a little harder to get it to match your measurements. You can’t just draw a line between a 12 waist and 14 hip. The instructions do explain how to make common changes, though.
You will want to think about modern techniques and tools that could help with construction such as fusible interfacing, overlocking, automatic buttonholes, fabric markers, and so on. Fabric options are also different today. Synthetics especially have come a long way since the 1940’s.
Read everything carefully and take notes. My pattern did not mention belt buckle and buttons on the pattern envelope’s materials list, but they are part of the written instructions. I don’t know if these kinds of omissions are common or not, but it never hurts to double check.
Sewing a dress using a vintage pattern was akin to making a cake using a vintage recipe. You might find yourself scratching your head as you go, but it’s a fun way to make a connection with the past. I’ll definitely consider vintage patterns again.
McCall’s pattern M6886 has a strong following. A recent search on patternreview.com found 203 reviews, with an average rating of 4.9/5 stars! It certainly warranted a closer look. It’s a pattern for a simple shaped knit dress with optional set-in sleeves, 2 length and 3 neckline options.
When my Mom recently came for a visit, we thought it would be a great choice for making her a fun new dress. I’ve never sewn garments for another person, so I was especially interested to see how well the fitting skills I developed for myself would translate.
The first part is always fun: a trip to the fabric store! We considered lots of options and finally landed on a vibrant textured nylon/lycra knit. It fit the bill as a medium weight moderate stretch knit. As a bonus, it is impossible to wrinkle, making it a great fabric for traveling. Because the print was so prominent, we chose the plainest neckline and the shorter knee-length.
Before cutting into the good fabric, I tissue-fit the pattern. I started with a pattern size based on Mom’s chest (not bust) measurement. This way, the neck and shoulders already fit the way they were supposed to. With a good fit above the bust, figuring out the rest was straightforward. With the tissue pinned to my model down the center line, I taped additional pattern paper around the sides to make the front and back meet. I could see right away that I would need to make darts to fit the bust. I folded the pattern paper to make the dart and taped that in place as well. I marked her actual bust apex, waist, and hip heights. With my model standing still and straight, I drew a line perpendicular to the floor from the underarm to the knee.
With the pattern unpinned, I set about creating new front and back pattern pieces. The perpendicular line became the new side seam. I added 5/8 inch seam allowance outside the seam line to make a new cutting line. I made the dart using a cut-and-slide technique, angling the dart to the actual bust point. I then checked to make sure the side seams matched by measuring inside the seam allowance on both sides. Whew! Finally time to cut into the fabric!
I basted the front and back pieces and checked the fit again. The fit was ok, but not great. The bust darts needed to be moved, but the back just looked loose and shapeless. We decided to add some shape with back darts. When I was happy with the new changes, I sewed them in place then transferred them to the pattern pieces.
By pure luck, I didn’t need to make any changes to the sleeves. The only departure from the pattern was to add 1 1/2 inches to the short sleeve length.
Once all of the fitting was done, sewing the dress was fairly simple. The only difficulty I had was figuring out how to mark the darts. I tried chalk, transfer paper and marking pens in various colors, but nothing showed up. I didn’t want to do tailor’s tacks mostly because I don’t like doing them, but also because they might create snags. So once again it was blue tape to the rescue!
I carefully positioned blue painter’s tape just outside the darts’ seam lines. I pinned the fabric as I would normally for darts. I then stitched the darts, keeping the needle just “kissing” the tape edge. Bonus: the tape stabilized the fabric while I sewed, so there was no risk of stretching the darts out of shape.
This project also marks the first time I have tried sewing with textured nylon thread. Instead of using all-purpose thread in my regular (not serger) machine, I used Maxi-Lock Stretch thread in the bobbin only. It really worked well. I thought the machine might have some difficultly with it, but I had no problems at all. The results were fantastic. All of the seams have nice stretchiness and recovery. I have no worries about any stitches breaking under a little pressure. I’m thinking about getting more in some neutral colors so I can use it in all of my knit sewing.
The edges are all finished with a truly invisible invisible hem (I hope I never have to pick it out!). The neckline is just a 1/4 inch narrow hem.
I managed to make this simple pattern much more complicated, but it fits Mom well (if I do say so myself!). Now I have a go-to pattern for her that can be used for dresses or even tee-shirts.
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.
I followed my usual hemming process. Here’s a refresher:
Try on the jeans with shoes. Place a pin where you would like them to end.
Measure the distance from the bottom to the pin. Subtract your chosen hem allowance from this number.
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.
Cut at the marked line.
Finish the raw edges with a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch. (Any color will do – this stitching doesn’t show).
Turn the jeans inside out. Turn up the hems to your hem allowance and press. Turn right side out again.
Test your topstitching on the cut-off scraps. Topstitch the hem in place. Done!
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:
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.
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.
Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to topstitch all the time!