Fashion · General · Vintage

October Highlights at Seasonal Change-Over Time

roseabelle_5
Hats are cool

Last weekend daylight savings time began. For those of you not in the USA, it’s a charming custom whereby we set our clocks back one hour until spring. (Not everyone does this – it’s a whole big thing…)

For me, this is when autumn starts to feel real. Here in Rhode Island, the sun is now setting at 4:30PM! I think at a subconscious level, I knew I had to prepare. October found me as busy as a squirrel collecting acorns and about as focused. Unfortunately, that meant that many projects have gone unblogged.

Rather than go into a lot of detail (for a change), I’m just going to share some October highlights.

Fall Wardrobe Sewing

tan_floral_skirt_3I didn’t do a lot of ambitious sewing in October. I finished a few projects I started earlier in the year though.

I made another pull-on knit circle skirt from the Butterick B6578 pattern. The skirt was part of my original Fall 2018 sewing plan and coordinates nicely with the rest of the collection. I made View A. The fabric is a nice brushed poly from Sincerely Rylee.

Also for Fall, I made a neat cloche hat with leftover green twill. More on that below.

I also finished another fit and flare top using McCall’s M7356. This top was actually constructed from my original muslin. The fabric is way too thin, but I never intended to use it for real. I just really liked how the muslin looked. So I took out all of the basting and put it together properly. There are a few imperfections, but I think with a camisole I will wear it a lot. I go into more detail on my pattern review here.

Above: Fall cloche and fit and flare top

Vintage Handkerchiefs
handkerchiefs_1
Some of my nifty new old things – oh, the possibilities!

My Mom has saved all kinds of interesting things, including a number of old handkerchiefs from the 1930s to the 1960s. I took some back to Providence after my last visit to incorporate into my fabric stash. After a bit of effort, I now have 34 clean, ironed bits of old-fashioned charm. The collection is a veritable needlecraft sampler, with hemstitching, tatted lace, appliqué, embroidery, and crocheted edges. I can’t wait to start playing around with them! I have already started a board on Pinterest to collect ideas.

handkerchiefs_2
I blocked some of the lacier handkerchiefs

Halloween

suffragist_1Spoiler: I did not sew my costume. But I will take credit for making the accessories that pulled it together. This year I dressed as a suffragist. I can well imagine that this might have been me in reality if I have been alive 100 years ago.

The dress I found in my Mom’s closet – she wore it in the 1970s. Since we have an election around the corner, I thought a suffragist would be fun.

I found a free downloadable cloche pattern which I used to throw together a vintage style hat. I’ve never made a hat before. It was much easier than I thought. Since the individual pieces are so small, I was able to use scraps alone. The ribbon is even saved from a Christmas package. I wound up making two hats because I misread the instructions the first time and sewed the seams with too narrow of an allowance. This led to a large and loose hat, which someone else might enjoy some day. I cut out another hat, following the directions the second time. The fabric is scavenged from the scraps of my fall 2018 collection, so it coordinates with everything. It’s already found it’s way into my closet. I reviewed the pattern on patternreview.com here. The pattern itself was from the website sewmamasew.com. There are gorgeous versions of this cloche and other styles for sale on Etsy at the Etsy store Elsewhen Millenery.

suffragist_3
The sash came out again on election day. It felt pretty good to wear it at the polling place.

I made the sash using some plain unbleached muslin. The lettering was really easy. I found a font that was close to the one used by the marchers in historical photos. I typed the words, scaled them to the size needed for the sash, then flipped them to be mirror image. Then I used my inkjet printer to print it on an Avery light fabric transfer sheet. I followed the instructions on the box to iron the lettering onto my sash. I think it looks great.

Knitting

hat-2As if that were not enough, I somehow found myself in a yarn store early in the month. I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a yarn shop without buying anything. This time was no exception. I have been knitting my way through my purchases. So far, I have finished two winter hats, both with the same yarn. I’m keeping one for me and the other for donating. I have a bunch of other works in progress, which I will add to the blog as I finish. For other knitters (and curious onlookers), you can find my work going back to 2004 on Ravelry.com here.

red_yarn_winding_1
Winding yarn for the next project
Embroidery

I finished a couple of embroidered day-of-the-week dishtowels recently. Aren’t they adorable? They are made in the same way as the ones in this post from earlier this year, only with a different iron-on design. You can find the puppy design here.

 

Mending and Editing

I have been making my way through the work basket as well lately. In the past month, I have mended or altered at least 6 items from my work pile. They have all been there so long that it seems like I just went shopping and came home with 6 new things. I haven’t seen the bottom of the pile yet, but I think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll feature some of the more interesting upcycles in the coming months.

Coming in November:

  • I make a winter coat
  • Craft and gift projects
  • Holiday gift guide

Whew!

Until then, happy sewing!

sewing_sig

 

Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Floral Princess Seam Top

Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 10.26.39 AM
Mine is View A

Fall wardrobe item number three is hot off the ironing board! For those who are new, I have been making a five piece coordinating mini-wardrobe to enter in patternreview.com‘s 2018 mini wardrobe contest.

My new top is a take off on McCall’s M7356 pattern. View A has short sleeves, no sash, no godets and no hi-low hem. I do like the frillier versions, I just wanted something a little more serious for Fall.

Since I hadn’t made anything with princess seams in a while, I started by making a muslin. I lengthened the waist as usual before cutting anything, but otherwise made no changes. Even though the thin white cotton woven was only for practice, it frayed so easily that I went ahead and overcast all of the edges. Then I basted the whole thing together using my new favorite trick, the double-eye machine needle (if you missed it, I talk about it in my last post here).

princess_top_2
My muslin (View D with sleeve)

I was delighted to find that the only change I needed was to raise the shoulders by 3/8 inch. It’s a good thing I remembered that that also meant changing the sleeves and facings before I cut into the good fabric!

I thought it would be neat to change the center panel to a contrasting pattern. I selected gold stretch velvet, because it coordinated with the floral pattern and I also planned on using it in another wardrobe item. The gold by itself looked terrible. It had way too much shine to go with the flat cotton. I found some black crochet lace in my stash and tested a layered look. Bingo!

I again prepared the panels, facings and sleeves by overcasting the edges. For the layered panel, I pinned the top and bottom together carefully then headed to the serger. Both of the layers stretched like crazy, and not in the same way, either! It was ok, but far from perfect. After some consideration, I forged ahead anyway.

princess_top_10
Layered center panel, piping and main fabric

I had recently purchased a cording foot and used that to insert the black piping. What a difference! The neat piping also stabilized and straightened the center panel quite a bit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I again used the cording foot to insert a invisible zipper in the center back. It’s definitely better than using a plain zipper foot, but I suspect a purpose made invisible zipper foot would be even better.

princess_top_4
Velvet and lace before sewing

The only other construction detail that gave me pause was sewing the v-shaped neckline facing. I’m not a big fan of facings. Even when I catch-stitch them perfectly, they have a tendency to flip to the outside. I followed the instructions, but also understitched the whole neckline. I think it will be fine when I am wearing it, but because the front panel is so bulky, the centermost part does not want to lie flat. We’ll just keep that between us, right?

Scroll down to see the finished top. It looks a little more medieval princess costume than I intended, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I will add more pictures of me wearing it once it stops raining long enough to take them.

Supplies:

Cording feet are available in various styles. Mine is similar to this one. You can see that one side is higher than the other to allow the foot to contact both the cord and the fabric at the same time. If you are shopping, make sure the foot you purchase is compatible with your machine.

The last two projects for the contest are nearing completion, so I’ll be back soon.

Until then, happy sewing!

sewing_sig

I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com here.

Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Asymmetrical Wrap Skirt

pinstripe_wrap_skirt_13Here’s the second item for the Autumn 2018 collection: an easy asymmetrical wrap skirt. If the fabric looks a little familiar, it’s because I have already used it in two other garments:

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I bought five yards of it a few years ago from FabricMartFabrics.com and even after this skirt, I still have more than a yard. I don’t think you have seen the last of it yet!

This skirt is one of McCall’s 2018 early fall patterns, M7813. The pattern includes options for different hem profiles, but they all share the same basic design. I was drawn to view D, which has two curved front pieces that come together in a neat jagged line. It’s a very simple pattern. The only closure is a single snap. There are no pockets, lining, or anything tricky. It may not be obvious on first glance, but all views cinch at the natural waist, continuing anther 5 inches or so upward. The part above the waist can be turned down, sort of like a shirt collar.

pinstripe_wrap_skirt_9I like that this skirt can work with or without tights as a transitional piece. I just wore it for the first time and loved the way it looked in the mirror. But…. if you plan on wearing it on a windy day, definitely consider putting in some extra closures. While having your skirt fly up worked for Marilyn Monroe, it’s not really what I’m going for. I’m still deciding how I want to handle mine.

I did another contrast facing with the skirt. This time I chose a scrap of flannel stripe that I salvaged from a jacket that was on its way to jacket heaven. The pattern matched almost too perfectly. It might add a little more bulk than desirable, but it’s really soft and comfortable.

I don’t have too much to say about construction or techniques this time. It was so darned easy! Instead, I’ll just post the supply list and some pretty pictures.

Supplies

pinstripe_wrap_skirt_14

I plan on entering this skirt in patternreview.com‘s 2018 Mini Wardrobe contest. It will be item 2 of 5. Don’t worry – I’ll remind you when voting opens!

Until next time, happy sewing!

sewing_sig

 

Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 2: Making the Dress

7649
Art from the pattern envelope. I made View B.

See Part 1 here for general impressions on sewing with a vintage pattern.

For Patternreview.com’s Shirtdress contest, I made a vintage shirtwaist with lots of modifications.

I started out with a McCall Pattern Co. pattern 7649 printed in 1949.

The dress features:

  • Open collar
  • Dolman sleeve
  • Button front opening
  • Scoop front pockets
  • Unusual layered skirt back with many tucks and darts
  • Side zip
  • Belt
  • Shoulder pads
  • 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!

shirtdress_1_26
Taking the padded shoulder away affected the fit of the back and the dolman sleeves, but eventually I got it sorted.

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.

shirtdress_1_10
Skirt muslin back view: so many tucks and darts!

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.

shirtdress_1_1
Sure, that makes sense. Practically sews itself!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

shirtdress_1_11
Finally figuring out how to do buttonholes!

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!

IMG_4093

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!

Until then,

Happy Sewing!

shirtdress_1_24

Check out all of the shirtdress contest entries here.

sewing_sig

 

Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 1: Sewing with a Vintage Pattern

7649
My vintage pattern: McCall 7649 from 1949. I made a variation on View B.

This post is about the shirt-dress style and sewing with vintage patterns in general. Those of you who just want to see how I made it, hang in there. That post is coming soon!

Patternreview.com’s Shirtdress contest inspired me to consider making this classic style.

For the contest:

  • 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
markle_collar
Style inspiration: popped collar shirt-dress can be worn today too

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.

shirtdress_1_15
My attempt at a View B pose

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.

Conclusion

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.

Happy Sewing!

sewing_sig

 

Fashion · Fitting

McCall’s M6886: Knit Dress Fitting and Tips

M6886

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.

momdress_10
Lots of color and texture

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.

momdress_6With 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.

momdress_1
Tape-marked dart
momdress_3
Sew close, but not into the tape

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.

momdress_2
Machine threaded with textured nylon in the bobbin

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.

momdress_5
Narrow hem on neckline

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.

Happy late Mother’s Day, Mom! You look beautiful!

sewing_sig

Fashion

Black and White Tulip Tee

I have an easy one for today. I was in the mood to make casual tops, so I pulled out a pattern I have been wanting to try for a while: McCall’s M7247. I bought the pattern because I really liked the views with overlapped curved edges. It seemed like it would have interesting possibilities for color blocking.

I also had some very nice knits in my collection that I purchased with the hopes of using them together. Fabric 1 was a rayon/spandex blend in black. Fabric 2 was a horizontal black and white stripe. I had bought both fabrics from Fabric Mart Fabrics online thinking that they were the same material in different colors. They weren’t. That’s one of the pitfalls of shopping for fabric online. Don’t make assumptions. If you have doubts, ask!

tulip-front-tee7
One of these knits is not like the other. Opacity issue led to Choice No. 1 with black on top.

The stripe is lightweight enough that dark colors show through. The black is tightly woven and has good stretch and recovery. Looking at the pattern, it seemed like it would still be fine to combine them, as long as the black was always on top of the white, not vice versa.

I took the pieces for View C and made my own variation. My top has long sleeves and uses only two colors.

Construction was really easy. Ironing the curved hem was the only part that I wished would end before it was over. But it’s a wide curve and really not difficult.

I considered a few different embellishments. I decided against a little pocket because I couldn’t find a shape that really worked with the big sweeping curves. Instead I made a cover button with the stripe fabric. Putting the button on the shoulder of the top flap just seemed to fit. Also, it gave me a way to see the stripes on top of solid black without the black showing through.

tulip-front-tee9
Pocket? Button? Both? None?

This is the first time I have made a cover button. If I had known it was so easy, I would have done it sooner! I used Dritz 7/8 inch “half-ball” cover button forms which just snap together. No special tools needed.

Back opening in a RTW top (Amazon)

Overall, I really like how it turned out. The one issue is that the bottom flap can easily show bare skin depending on how high the waistband is on what you are wearing underneath. My plan is to wear this with yoga pants in the winter and a high-waisted long knit skirt in the summer. The jeans I am wearing in the pictures looked fine for a while, but as the waist loosened up, my skin started to pop out. Some people have lengthened the top to combat this. I suspect that this issue is the reason that I have only seen this type of style in stores with the opening in the back.

The pattern is staying in the keep pile nonetheless. I think it would be really cute sleeveless or short-sleeved for warm weather. I might try eliminating the hemmed edge and do a bias facing instead.

Coming soon: more sweater knits and Marfy blouse toile.

Fashion · Whimsy

Wintertime Friends Tee

gnomeandpig1
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.

gnomeandpig4
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.

gnomeandpig5
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.

gnomeandpig6
The coverstitch hem turned out better than before – only a little tunneling in one area.

Here is the final result. Hot cocoa, anyone?

Fashion

Mystery Activewear 2: Space Invaders!

space_invaders22
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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

space_invaders9
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.

space_invaders10
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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

off_and_on_again18
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

off_and_on_again8
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!