Fashion

Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 2

angelia_shorts_215I 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!

Fabric

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…

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These are the back pockets in the middle of construction. I managed fraying by overcasting all the edges. You can see how the pressed edges don’t hold a crease.
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This is the coin pocket. Here I have pinned it to the ironing board slightly damp to help keep the creases from rolling out.

Pattern Notes

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!

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.

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Closeup view of that pesky waistband, center back. TIP: Baste seams open to hold them in place. Open seams reduce extra bulk in heavier fabrics.

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.

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Inside shorts showing hand basting

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.

Here’s how:

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.

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Lovely perfect topstitching using the blind hem foot

In the end, I think these turned out really well. I think I need to do something easy next though!

Until then,

Happy sewing!

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Read my review of these shorts on patternreview.com here

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

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

Flatlock Fun Run Tights

I recently decided to audit my workout gear. My activewear drawer had been packed full, but when I got rid of the things that didn’t fit, were damaged or just plain ugly, there wasn’t much left.  The worst category was bottoms that could be used in a gym workout.

I was off to a good start with my Girl Power Shorts, but I also wanted to put together a long tight with some compression and at least one pocket.  I landed on Greenstyle Creations’ Stride Athletic Tights PDF pattern.  The pattern offers options for high and medium rise waistbands, different lengths, with or without pockets, and with or without a crotch gusset.  For my first pair, I chose the long length, pockets (always!), medium rise, and gusset.

TIP: Use a gusset if you are planning on wearing your tights for yoga or activities that require a degree of contortion.  You can leave it out if you are just going to use them for walking or running.

Flatlock_testI had a piece of really nice medium weight black poly/lycra calling out from my stash. The deep solid black was the perfect base for decorative stitching.

Flatlocking is a seam technique where the fabric pieces are joined at the raw edges with a covering stitch. It’s particularly useful for thicker fabrics since there is no double thickness at the seams.  It’s also great for activewear because the inside of the garment is smoother, reducing the possibility of chafing.

When considering a flatlock technique, you need to think about how the seam lines will affect the appearance of the garment. You will be stitching a stripe between all of the fabric pieces where they are joined. You can downplay the stripes by choosing a matching, or slightly darker thread. I thought it would be fun to play with it though, keeping the fabric simple and making the seam stripes the focal point.

I tested various types of thread, seam widths and stitch lengths. I tried wooly nylon, rayon embroidery thread and polyester embroidery thread. I liked the shine of both of the embroidery threads and chose the poly just because I liked the color better. I preferred the narrower 4mm flatlock with the “Seaglass” polyester embroidery thread.*

*Note: This was not a great choice…  keep reading.

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Seam Plan

My next step was to make a plan for which seams I wanted to highlight and which I wanted to disappear into the background. I wanted to hide the gusset, inside leg seams, pockets and hem. My regular black serger thread worked well for this purpose.

Sewing a flatlock seam is really easy.  You simply set up your serger for a 2 or 3 thread overlock with the knife down.  (For most of my seams, I chose to do a 3-thread version for durability). Thread the needle with the thread for the underside of the seam. Thread the lower looper with the thread you want to show on top. Adjust the spacing so that the overlock extends slightly past the cut edge of the fabric. Stitch the seam as usual, right sides together. When you have chained off and taken your piece out of the machine, gently pull the two pieces apart and flatten. If your tension is right, you will have a nice, flat seam joining the two.

The PDF pattern includes easy to follow instructions, so putting the tights together went smoothly.

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Since I was featuring flatlock seaming, I hemmed the pockets using black thread and a 2-thread decorative flatlock.  I’ve seen this in ready to wear, but never tried to do it. The process is not difficult. Press the hem in place as usual, then fold over once more. With the knife down, stitch a two-thread overlock over the outside (or top) edge of the fold. When it is done and smoothed flat, the front has a decorative flatlock stripe while the back’s ladder stitches hold the hem in place. Neat!

I like that Clear elastic is used inside the waistband to add a flexible, invisible bit of structure.

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Curved seams. Bleh.

I didn’t like pinning those curved seams!

I sewed my label inside the hidden pocket – no chafing!  Also – hey, hidden pocket!

I had intended to do a coverstitch hem, then I realized that it would be impossible to work with the small diameter opening on a machine with no free arm. I ended up zig-zagging the hem on my regular machine.

Full disclosure:  I messed up one of the decorative seams.  It was close to the bottom of one leg, and could not be fixed.  So I cut the ends off of the legs, saving as much as I could.  My tights are capri length instead of long.  Oh, well.  We’ll just keep that between us, okay?

tights_pocket_zoomSo, what was wrong with the thread? No stretch. The first time I put on the tights and tried stretching, the seams pulled right out in the tighter areas!  I was able to repair them, but there is no way that I will be using my tights for anything more athletic than housework.  I’m keeping the pattern, though.  With a few changes, this could still be a great staple piece.

Lessons learned for next time:

  • Modify the pattern for roomier thighs
  • Try the higher waistband
  • Use a fabric with more stretch
  • Use a thread with some stretch

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Fashion

Girl Power Shorts

A friend gave me a neat cotton/spandex panel which features some of my favorite movie heroes.  I really wanted to make something with it, but I didn’t have any matching fabric and the design was located inconveniently right in the middle of the small (fat half size) piece.

After ruminating for a while, I thought it was worth a try to just lay out some pieces and see how they fit.  That way I would know how best to plan color blocking for the extra material I would need to get.

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Trying to fit the shorts pattern on my fat half

Since I was really trying to conserve fabric and I also needed some new workout shorts, I raided my pattern stash for the simplest, smallest shorts I would actually wear.  I have some fancy patterns with interesting details, but those extra seamlines and pieces take more yardage. I found a very basic leggings pattern with lots of length variations (McCall’s M6360).  After just rough cutting the tissue pieces and placing them over the design, I was a little discouraged.  It didn’t seem like there was any way to have a logical placement of the design and still have yardage left to cut more than one piece.  It was really close though.

I took my measurements and found my pattern size.  The outside lines of the multi-size pattern were two sizes above what I needed.  Things were looking up!

Next, I carefully placed the pattern tissue for one of the back pieces over the graphic.  I was able to get the whole image only if it wrapped around my rear on one side.  I can live with that.  There was only one way the design was going to fit (okay – I had to cut off a tiny bit of the design), so I cut that piece first.

I figured it was also fine to put the white border inside the seam allowance and hem, so that made my working area a little bigger.  With that in mind, I cut two more pieces – the other back and one of the fronts.  Now it was really just scraps.

I just wasn’t happy with my options for the last front piece. I knew if I didn’t have the same fabric, any color blocking would risk uneven wear and probably a weird looking result.  I’m all for weird, but on my terms.

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Putting the last piece together with scraps. Note that I am using my favorite quick and dirty basting method again: blue tape.

Finally, I realized that if I carefully used the white border to make horizontal stripes, I would be able to take the odd-sized black scraps to complete the last piece.

With a little more careful cutting and piecing, I had the striped piece ready to go.

Putting the shorts together was super easy. It was all done on the serger using familiar techniques. There is an elastic waistband and coverstitched hem.

I feel quite pleased that I squeezed a whole pair of shorts out of half a yard – and no leftovers!

Well, I’m off to rule the universe.  When I get back – more fun activewear!

Thoughts? Leave a comment!