Fashion

Resort 2019: Last Night I Dreamt of San Pedro

san_pedro_color_balI am sewing through the winter blues by working on some hot weather projects. I’m calling them the Resort 2019 collection. First up is this airy little top using Love Notions‘ Rhapsody pattern. I knew that the pattern would work, having made it several times. The fabric was another story. I’ve never sewn with such a lightweight fabric before.

Sewing the tissue-thin batiste was a bit like trying to sew cotton candy. I was able to pull it together using careful pinning and cutting, but next time I will splurge on some wash-away stabilizer.

The results though! It’s almost weightless and has a soft, natural feel against the skin. I have a feeling that it will become a summer favorite.

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See my review of Rhapsody on patternreview.com here

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

Rhapsody in Blue: Now with Flutter Sleeves!

rhapsody_2_1Independent 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.

rhapsody_2_2I’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!

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See my review of this blouse 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

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

Giant Stripes Two Ways

The one piece of fabric from my Sincerely Rylee mystery box that I had no idea what to do with was this brushed sweater knit with a giant horizontal design.

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Big. Progresso soup can for scale.

While the quality is excellent, I have to admit that this is one I would never have chosen for myself. My initial reaction was just BIG BIG BIG.  I could have given it away, but as you know, I love a challenge. Also, it was so fluffy that it was taking up a big space on the shelf. If I used it, I could fill that space with more fabric!

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Front View

Like most knits, the material had a wide width: 58 inches after washing. I had almost 3 yards of it, so I had a lot of options. I thought a long time about how I could best use the vivid pattern. There was enough yardage to do almost anything, but I was concerned that the pattern would be overwhelming in anything long – so sweater dresses and dusters were out. So I started looking at my casual top patterns for a good match.

I came up with hallå patterns’ Slim Dolman. Hallå seems to have a loyal following and I’ve seen a few sewists online list the dolman as one of their go-to patterns. Bonus: Hallå gives you a code to download the pattern and tutorial free if you join their facebook group. I liked that the pieces did not have darts or any details that might disrupt the pattern.

I can see why people like Hallå. Their tutorial has a really nice, clear set of instructions that shows how the simple pattern can be modified for different necklines, sleeves, lengths, and even curviness.  I chose to make it long-sleeved, regular (instead of tunic) length with a banded bottom.

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Same pattern back

Unlike traditional patterns, all of the purely rectangular pieces such as cuffs and bands are just given as dimensions for you to cut. You are also expected to be able to figure out the pattern layout unaided. The most unusual thing is that the pieces only have a 1/4″ seam allowance. If you don’t need to do any fitting, that’s perfect for sewing on a serger. There is absolutely no wasted fabric with this one.

For those reasons, it might not be a good first pattern for a beginner. But otherwise, it’s about as simple as it gets.

When I actually started placing pattern pieces on the fabric, I was surprised to observe that I could only fit one complete repeat of the design on the large front and back pieces. I decided to maneuver the pieces so the large dark stripe would go across the body so the shoulder and hip would be coral. For the bands, sleeves, and cuffs, I played around with different combinations until I found what I liked the best.

When I put it all together, it turned out to have a kind of sweatshirt vibe. It’s really perfect to wear with jeans and super warm and cozy. The crazy stripes were starting to grow on me!

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Version 1 – Sweatshirt-y

Because I had so much fabric left over, I thought it might be interesting to see how it sewed up in a variation of the dolman pattern. I was really curious about the batwing modification. I don’t have anything with a batwing sleeve in my wardrobe and wondered how it would be to wear. Also, it gave me another opportunity to experiment with those stripes!

There is no pattern piece for batwings. Instead there are directions on how to modify the pattern to achieve it. I simply made a new pattern piece with a shallower underarm curve. Because the slim dolman uses the same piece for front and back, I only had to do it once.

I really like the way stripes look when they are joined at an angle. I was already changing the pattern, so I made one more change and cut right and left pieces (plus 1/4 inch) for both the front and back.

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I used the guides on my quilter’s ruler to place the pieces at a 30 degree angle (or 60, depending on how you look at things). To make sure the stripes aligned, I cut the first piece then used it as the pattern piece for the opposite side. When you place the piece wrong side down, it’s easy to see if the pattern lines up.

Sewing the pieces together along what would have been the foldline results in a front and a back that are the same dimensions as the original pattern pieces.

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To minimize adding anything that would disrupt my now beloved pattern, I also changed the neckline from a neckband to bias facing. For the same reason, I hemmed the bottom and sleeves instead of using cuffs.

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Version 2 – 1985 and 2018 mash-up

I discovered something neat about 99% of the way through this project. I wan’t really happy with the way my machine hems were coming out. I just couldn’t find a thread color that would blend well enough to not be distracting. Solution: after securing the edges with an overlock or zig-zag, hand finish the hem with lace-weight knitting yarn. I know not everyone has yarn on hand, but my medium-gray wool yarn turned out to be perfect. I only did the sleeve hems this way, but they are absolutely invisible.

So… the stripes don’t line up. I guess I should have measured twice and cut once. I don’t hate it though. I think it worked very well as a proof of concept, and I’ll definitely wear it as a casual top.

It looks like I have another pattern for the keep pile. Which one do you prefer?

Up next, I begin working on my entry for the patternreview.com 2018 Match Your Shoes contest.

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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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