Fashion · Whimsy

Wintertime Friends Tee

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Close up of “Best Friends” panel

Some time last summer, I saw this print for sale in the Wanderlust Designs Custom Fabric Facebook group. Even though the next snowflakes were at least 5 months away, I knew I would want it when they came. Pig and Gnome on stump in the snowy woods… how could I not? The design is printed on a 28″ x 36″ cotton/lycra panel.

Well, it’s December and the snow is here. All of my other projects would just have to wait. I pushed all of my works in progress off the table and started on my tee.

81TUQLvY5sL._SL1500_I wear a lot of long sleeve tee shirts in the colder months – sometimes as a layer, sometimes alone. I already had a pattern ready to go, having made my Walk the Dog Raglan using McCall’s M7286 earlier this year. I just needed to change the sleeves into long sleeves and decide on the layout.  I found a gray knit from my stash that coordinated with the panel and got to work.

Planning the front was easy. I knew that I wanted the characters to be centered on the lower half of the shirt front. Unfortunately, that left a somewhat awkward shaped remnant. There was just no way I was going to be able to use any of the remainder in the shirt. So the sleeves, neckband, and back are all in solid gray.

I made a sleeve pattern based on the medium length piece I already had. Once I was finished, I looked at the picture on the pattern cover and realized that it already contained one. Oh, well. Good practice, I guess. I also changed the bottom to be straight across instead of rounded.

Everything went together quickly on the serger.

I did two things differently this time.

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Contrast topstitching

After reading some thoughts of fellow sewing bloggers, I decided to try using stretch thread in both the upper and lower loopers for my overcast seams. I haven’t had any problems with regular thread, but I was curious to see if there was a difference. I set up the serger to do a 4-thread mock safety stitch with maxi-lock all-purpose thread in the needles and maxi-lock stretch in the loopers. Stitching went smoothly. The result did seem to be a bit stretchier. What I really like is that the seams feel softer against the skin.  I might not do it this way every time, but for knit apparel, it certainly works nicely. If it does well in the washer I’ll definitely use the stretch in both loopers again.

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Hem fused in place before stitching

This other thing I did was stabilize the hem before cover-stitching. I saw a mention for Heat-n-Bond Soft Stretch fusible in a sewing magazine’s new products section and thought it might be just the thing. I wanted something that would keep the hem from stretching excessively under the presser foot, but still maintain the softness and stretch of the original fabric. Bingo! The Soft Stretch Lite did exactly what I wanted, and came in a convenient 5/8″ roll. (I had expected to have to cut my own strips). This is the best cover-stitch finish I have done yet, although I know I can still get better.

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The coverstitch hem turned out better than before – only a little tunneling in one area.

Here is the final result. Hot cocoa, anyone?

Fashion

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I haven’t actually owned a vest since the 1980’s. Looking back, that vest probably was not the best in the world. But I loved it. It was a thin, shiny black brocade with pearl buttons, no lining, and made me feel stylish and cool.

I don’t think I’m trying to relive my youth, but if I could restore some of that good feeling by making a new contemporary version, why not?

Maybe I had that in mind when I bought Simplicity 4079. It seems to have been printed in 2006 and is now out of print. However, vests are a classic wardrobe builder, so there is always something similar on the market.

Some promising looking substitutes:

Vests are also a staple in the steampunk and Victorian costume worlds, so that could be another source. Look for “waistcoats” as well as vests in your search.

All of the versions in my pattern are variations on the same lined, princess-seamed bodice. I went with the most classic. View A has four buttons, a V-neckline and comes to points in front.

The instructions were clearly written, which really helped me get through the relatively complex construction. But why is this pattern labelled “Easy-To-Sew?” I think anything with buttonholes and lining should really go into a different category. If I was a beginner and picked this up, I think I might have given up in frustration!

It would be easy enough to eliminate the false front pockets, but I think they really give the vest the menswear vibe I was going for.

Here’s a little slideshow of the pocket flaps coming together:

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Straps assembled and ready to sew

The pattern instructions did not specify whether the outside back and ties should be cut from the main fabric or the lining. I went with my gut and did the back with lining fabric and the ties in the brown stripe. As I noted before, the poly satin lining was tricky to press and really wanted to fray. I took my time with it, used a walking foot for traction and tried to handle it as little as possible. I used a press cloth and lots of steam when pressing was needed. It worked out fine and in the end, I am happy I chose the lining I did. Once enclosed in the garment, fraying is no longer an issue. I made extra sure by trimming off the excess with pinking shears. The heavier weight should pay dividends in extra durability (and of course, appearance). I went with a gold color buckle to secure the ties. The Dritz vest buckle comes in either a silver or gold tone. It’s fine, but I wish there were more options on the market. So far, the Dritz is the only one I could find.

There is surprisingly little interfacing in the vest. It only calls for one small piece under each placket. I guess the seams provide enough shaping on their own, because it seems to stay sharp even after a lot of handling. I used a fusible lightweight non-woven.

Is it just me, or is the process of turning the lining kind of like magic? The garment goes from a project to a real article of clothing in the blink of an eye. The vest was particularly satisfying in this regard, since the inside looks so different from the outside. I’m pretty sure turning linings is the closest I will ever get to making origami.

Putting it together:

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I wanted to wrap up this post with a finished vest, but unfortunately, I forgot to buy buttons. So, I’m hitting pause while I get the last bits together. I’ll wrap up soon with Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 3: Button Up!.

Click here if you haven’t yet read Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants.

 

Fashion

Mystery Activewear 2: Space Invaders!

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Blue, Space Invaders, and “Hello World” prints on ABP from Zenith and Quasar

This is the second in a series where I make activewear from the contents of a fabric mystery pack from Zenith and Quasar. In the first installment, I showed how I divided my haul into two groups of coordinating fabric. This outfit is from the pile which included a complete yard of blue, a fairly large piece of white with a multicolor text print (“Hello World”), and a narrow strip of an awesome space invaders print also on white.

 I had a pattern for shorts (McCall’s 6360) all set to go, having made my Girl Power shorts a few months ago. Then I pulled out a Butterick “Lisette” pattern (B6295) which contained a basic, long, scoop-neck sports bra . With the fabric all spread out and pattern pieces in hand, I puzzled out what would fit. I started with the largest pieces first, then went from there.

I really liked the idea of using the solid blue for shorts. There wasn’t quite enough width for that, but adding a stripe on the sides made it work. Fortunately, the pattern had an option for side stripes (View F). The white “Hello World” print was just right for the stripe. The shorts took care of most of the blue. They were so simple to make, I won’t go into detail. I’ll just say that if you can make pajamas, you can make these!

Next, I tackled the top. I really wanted to feature the space invaders design on the front, but the strip was way too short for that. Piecing came to the rescue. There was enough to make it work if I separated the front into top and bottom sections with a wide blue band in between. The front of the top used almost the entire space invaders remnant.  Everything else (back, bra lining, straps) was cut from the white coordinate.

Here’s a how the front came together:

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Power mesh bra inner lining with fusible knit interfacing between the cups.

In the last post, I went into detail on how to construct the bra-top. I’ve worn and machine washed the first one several times since then. While I am happy with it overall, I’ve noticed it has a tendency to gap a little in the center of the neckline. This time, I added a small strip of fusible knit stabilizer between the bra cups, oriented so that it was stable horizontally yet stretchy vertically. That fixed the gap problem. Otherwise, it’s great. Wearing it for a workout is a joy. I love the way the criss-cross back style allows for freedom of movement. The custom front is snug, but doesn’t over-compress. When I take it off, I don’t feel like I have to take a deep breath like I do with some of my commercially made tops.

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The first set of straps I cut had upside-down text. Oops.

Other than adding stabilizer, I followed the same process to assemble the Space Invaders top as I did for the first one. I glossed over a few things that deserve a little more attention in my writeup, though.

Understitching and hemming are the last two things to do when finishing the top. A lot of times, people skip understitching because it seems like such a hassle when your garment is already wearable without it. Understitching is simply sewing the seam allowance to the lining layer close to the stitching line. Because the fabric is somewhat bulky and doesn’t hold a crease well, if you do not understitch, the lining may start to roll outward, showing at the neck and arm edges. In addition, the extra stitching adds stability so those curves hold their shape better. To preserve the stretch, I used a zigzag to stitch the seam allowance down.

Understitching the top made a subtle, but important difference:

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For the hem, I tried doing a wide two-needle coverstitch with the Singer. I’m definitely still learning. I set everything up with white serger thread in the needles and white wooly (or textured) nylon thread in the looper. While the machine made the stitch perfectly, I still seem to have a problem placing my stitching line so that it catches the hem all the way around. For others new to coverstitching, the fabric runs under the presser foot right side up, so you can’t see the hem edge underneath as you sew. I got a lot closer this time though, only missing the edge for about a third of the circumference. I was pleased with my fix though. I left my first botched line of stitches in place and carefully sewed another line just below it. Unless you look carefully, you would not realize it was not intentional. It just looks like a very wide three needle cover-hem.

Setting things up for coverstitch:

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And here is the finished project:

If you missed the first part, check it out here: Mystery Activewear 1: Have You Tried Turning it Off and On Again? I have a few ideas for the remaining scraps, so there may be even be a third installment soon.

Fashion · Vintage

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

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Fabric swatch close-up: Brown Pinstripe Polyester

Last month, I made these awesome high-waist pants. In the process, I made a good copy of the pattern including all of my personal alterations. I have been looking forward to using it again ever since.

With that in mind, I took a look through my fabric stash and drew out this pretty pinstripe polyester. The plain chocolate brown is brightened up by alternating pinstripes of gold and bronze. It seems to have a little spandex as well. I had always intended this fabric to be used for pants, and with fall finally beginning, the timing seemed right.

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Wrong side of pant facing using both knit and non-woven interfacing due to poor planning. I think it will work…

I’m not sure where the fabric came from. It was probably a remnant or some kind of irresistible bargain. That would certainly explain why, after pre-washing, I found dozens of flaws. I had five yards to work with (also a good sign it was an irresistible bargain), so there was still plenty even when I avoided the snags and pulls.

Before jumping in, I thought through some style possibilities. While I love the high-waist look, I know that there are some situations where the style would make me feel out of place. Because they fit so well (that is, comfy!), I can see using them as the base for casual looks with fitted pullover tops. But what really appealed to me was the idea of wearing it with a matching vest. Something about a feminine version of menswear basics always seems to look so chic. Making a vest is something I have never done, so it would also be an interesting challenge.

But first the pants. I am once again making view E from Butterick 5859. Because I took the extra time with the first pair, these went together quickly. That’s not to say that I didn’t manage to sew not just one, but two seams on the wrong side. That happened. But the seam ripper and a good night’s sleep took care of the problem.

I have to say, it felt really great to put on my new pants and have them fit on the very first try!

In the meantime, I also cut out the pieces for the vest (Out of Print Simplicity 4079 View A). I found that I had a lot of lining left over when I was done, so I decided to make it into bias tape. I thought it would be nice to bind the waistband facing with it. The lining fabric from Mood is a polyester satin, which is heavy enough for a jacket or coat lining. I really love the way the bound facing turned out, but I am not sure if I would try to make bias tape with the same kind of fabric again. The material did not want to take a crease, so it was really slow going. Still, I have at least 2 1/2 yards left, so I don’t think I’ll need to make any more.

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Right side of facing
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Inside pants (zipper is in back)
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Lots of binding left over

And here are the finished pants:

Next in this series, follow along as I tackle my first vest!

Whimsy · Vintage

I Can Do It! Quickie Halloween Costume

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Inspiration images

Ladies, are you pressed for time and want a quick no-sew or low-sew costume? How about Rosie the Riveter? It’s quick to do and easy to wear!

You’ll need:

  • Blue work shirt – must have collar. buttons, and sleeves
  • Dark work pants or overalls
  • Lace-up shoes, work boots, or loafers
  • 1 yard red fabric with white dots or similar bandanna
  • A little bit of makeup and a “We can do it!” attitude

Optional items:

  • Button for collar
  • Classic lunchbox
  • Power tool or mock-up

Here’s how my costume shaped up.

I started gathering things about a month before Halloween. I had shoes and makeup already. I got the clothes from secondhand shops. I bought the fabric for the bandana online, and I found the lunchbox on etsy.

Depending on what you can find to work with, you may need to spend more or less time pulling things together.

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Re-hemming the pants was the only sewing needed.

Step 1: Pants or overalls

I started out with a dark denim jumpsuit, which I chose only for the dark color and loose fitting legs. I needed to take off about 2 inches of length to make them work for me, so I did a quickie hem on my machine. If they hadn’t have had a flared shape, I would have just rolled them into cuffs.

The headwrap came next. I folded the fabric up from one corner to make the largest equilateral triangle I could. I cut across the hypotenuse to make an extra-large bandana. After some experimentation, I found that folding it in half worked the best.

How to tie:

  1. I have short hair, so I didn’t have to do anything special first. But if your hair is long, think about pinning it as flat to your head as you can, or tucking it into a wig cap.
  2. With the fabric folded into a right triangle, position it so the right angle is on your forehead, kind of pointing to your nose. The long edge should be centered at the nape of the neck.
  3. Wrap the long edge forward on both sides so all three points meet in front. Tie snugly. Tuck in any loose material. To look like the poster, adjust it a little so part of your hairline shows.

rosie_costume2I did my makeup next. It was pretty easy – the classic Rosie images show a woman with dark arched eyebrows, pink cheeks and lipstick. There are so many tutorials out there to demonstrate how to apply makeup in a 1940’s style, I won’t go into detail here. My only tip would be to go for a long-wearing lipstick – then you can eat all of the candy you like without messing up your look!

Since I was wearing a jumpsuit, I just knotted the shirt at the waist. I would have tucked it in if I had been able to find pants. Don’t forget to roll up the sleeves.

I put my 21st century technology into my lunchbox and put on my shoes. Done!

This is such a great costume to wear. You can move around, eat and drink – even put a coat on over it if you must.

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Simplicity’s take on the idea

After I did my costume, I found that Simplicity carries a pattern for Rosie, Simplicity 8447. I think I missed it on my initial search because it is in the Vintage category, not Costumes.  Has anyone out there tried it? Their version goes the overalls route, but is pictured with the same lunchbox!

What do you think? You can do it!

Fashion

Mystery Activewear 1: Have You Tried Turning it Off and On Again?

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The contents of the mystery pack cut and pinned for four garments.

Today’s activewear project is a complete set of shorts and long sleeveless top.  Last month, I impulse-bought a mystery pack of athletic-brushed-poly (ABP) prints from Zenith and Quasar. I love their designs, so I was pretty sure I would be able to use most of what I got. I was promised a USPS padded flat rate envelope (PFRE) stuffed with a variety of small and large pieces, and that was exactly what I got.  I took inventory and found that I had two groups of coordinates.

Group 1: Coding, Windows & Space Invaders – blue and white with primary color accents

Group 2: Black and Green Tech – Black and variegated dark colors with lime green accents

Each grouping contained a panel and coordinating fabrics of different dimensions. The panels are set up with a design centered on one half so that they can easily be cut into shirts. While both panels were a full 60 inch width, only the blue had an entire yard of length.

Washing and drying brought out the “brushed” texture of the ABP, which before washing was smoother than I had expected. There was plenty of stretch and recovery, so I was confident that it would work well as close-fitting gym wear.

I started working on Group 2 first, for the sole reason that I already had my machines were already threaded in black. I’ll feature Group 1 in an upcoming post.

I designed a top around the panel print (“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”). I selected a Butterick “lisette” pattern which contained a basic athletic tank with built-in sports bra (B6295). I centered the panel design on the tank front, and cut the rest of the top from that panel piece.

I mostly followed the instructions, but chose to make the bra with sewn-in cups instead of removable ones. Making my maillot last summer gave me the confidence to try doing custom cups. In some ways, it makes it easier to sew, since you don’t have to mess with making the hidden inner cup pockets. In other ways, it is more work because you need to take the time to fit and sew foam cups. Since I don’t machine-dry my tops, sewn-in is a better long term option for me. I won’t have to re-adjust the foam every time I run the top through the laundry.

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The inner bra is constructed of two layers. The inner layer provides structure with power mesh fabric and in my case, foam cups. The outer layer (next to the skin) is made from the fashion fabric. The two layers are held in place with an elastic band enclosed in a casing made from the fashion fabric. Elastic casings have been a lot easier since I started using Dritz elastic threaders. I have tried a lot methods, but these little flat plastic things are the fastest and never twist the elastic.

Although the ABP is soft and stretchy, it is a little thicker than other spandex options. As a result, I found that even after pressing, the neck and armhole edges would not lay flat. The instructions call for understitching as much as possible. I have never seen understitching make such a big difference! This is the kind of step that is so easy to skip, but don’t do it!  It took the top from homemade to professional in just 15 extra minutes. The instructions showed using a straight stitch to understitch, but just to be on the safe side, I used a narrow zigzag.

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I love that fabric!

Compared to the top, the shorts were so easy that they almost seem like an afterthought. But I think that the circuit board coordinate really makes the outfit. I had to be a little creative since I only started with a wide horizontal strip about 10 inches high. A review of all of my pattern stash options led to McCall’s M7514, which had a yoga-style pant. Since M7514 featured a one-piece leg, it used less fabric horizontally. If you do the math, adding a single seam adds 5/8 in. to each piece, which would be 4 pieces total in the case of a typical 2 piece leg. So 5/8 x 4 = 2 1/2 inches. That doesn’t include the extra you may or may not need for placement. Normally it doesn’t matter, but in this case the pieces only just fit. I squared off the fabric and cut the the leg pieces with as much length as I could. Then I cut the waistband from the remaining bits of the panel. I had to cut two pieces and sew them together to make that work, but I could live with that.

The shorts were super-simple to make. I hemmed them with a 1/4 inch narrow hem, which saved a little more length and gave them a whopping 2 3/4 inch inseam. Still, they are longer than a lot of yoga shorts out there and seem to stay in place as I move around.

Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Fashion

Burgundy Cowl-Neck Tunic

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Cover art for V9055 View C

This is one of those projects where the fabric dictated what it wanted to be. As soon as I saw the gorgeous heathered burgundy hacci fabric, I knew it was meant to be a loose cowl-neck pull-over. And it would be mine. I guess if pressed, I would deny that the fabric literally spoke to me, but fellow sewists will recognize that subtle whisper.

I love cowl neck garments in the cooler months. Now that there are so many lovely lightweight knits on the market, sweaters can use bulkier design elements like cowls, gathers, and draping. With that in mind, I landed on Vogue 9055. One of the views was exactly what I had in mind. View C is a cowl-neck raglan tunic with a high-low hem and a kangaroo pocket (which I omitted). Although I had recently done a raglan tee and copied out a good version of the pattern, I chose to start fresh with this one since I was looking for a garment with more ease.

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The sleeve pieces fit together so the outside wraps around the inside. In other words, you have a seam on each side of your wrist, not one down the middle.

Vogue 9055 is a “Very Easy” pattern, and this time I agree. I spent more time preparing the pattern and cutting out the pieces than I did assembling everything. I even made it a bit more complicated by finishing all of the raw edges and it still was only about two hours of actual sewing.

This pattern was unusual in that it featured a two-part sleeve. I was a little concerned that the sleeve seams would be prominent and distracting in the finished garment, but my fears were unfounded. I’m intrigued and hope to learn more about them and how they can best be used.

I was surprised that the neckline was so deep. It’s clearly shown on the illustrations, but somehow I didn’t notice. I think if I were to make this with the regular scoop neckline, I would make the neckline a little higher. I would also try omitting the darts, especially if I was going for a sportier look.

Once again, I used serger thread only for the serger’s loopers and used “regular” thread for the serger needle. It would have been nice to match all of the thread, but when the garment is on, the black looper threads don’t show at all.

Next time, a short detour into activewear again. What are you making for fall?