I 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.
I think this little project started because I was still working on the hand basting for my coat and wanted to make something easy that I could enjoy finishing.
Is procrasti-make a word?
I had the floral knit in my stash and a tested pattern ready to go.* Finally all of that pattern prep (and shopping) was going to pay dividends!
At the same time, my January 2019 issue of Threads Magazine arrived. I devoured the article Luscious Sweater Knits by knitwear designer Olgalyn Jolly.**
Under “Flat Hems” on page 37, she writes:
If hemming, don’t sew a knit with poor recovery directly to itself; the hem tends to flare out. Instead, apply a fine stretch mesh or lingerie elastic along the hem allowance to ensure good recovery at the hem.
What a great idea at the perfect time! I quickly added her technique to my plan.
** Threads gives online access to their issues through paid subscriptions, so unfortunately, I can’t provide a link.
The pattern is the Hallå Slim Dolman pattern for women. I chose the tunic length, long sleeve option with hems instead of bands. I had to iron my pattern pieces from last time, but other than that, I just had to take them out of the envelope. In this case, there was no need to even pin the pattern to fabric. The swedish tracing paper clung to the sweater knit, which behaved well while cutting.
Delighted with how well everything was going, I never noticed that I forgot to cut a collar band. By the time I got to it, I didn’t have any material left. We’ll get back to that issue in a minute.
I noticed right away that I would need to keep handling to a minimum, as the edges raveled very easily. Time to put my sweater-knit tricks new and old into practice!
Trick 1: Stabilize shoulder seams
This is a good idea with most knits, but especially where the fabric may not be strong enough to support the weight of the garment. The last time I used (2-way) fusible knit interfacing, I gathered up the scraps and cut them into strips. I fused them in place on all four shoulder edges.
Fusible knit strips ready to go
Strip fused in place
Trick 2: Stretchy stabilized hems
Using the Threads article as a general guide, I put together some really stable and flat hems. I didn’t have lingerie elastic or lightweight mesh on hand, so I cut strips from a piece of power mesh. If you are not familiar with power mesh, you would recognize it as the mesh often used in ready-to-wear bras and shapewear. The only color I had was a hot pink, but since there was pink in the sweater, I figured any show-through would look intentional. I made a little slide show detailing how the hems came together.
Trick 3: Baste with Wonder Tape
Remember how I forgot to cut a neckband? When I figured out what I did, I looked around for some fabric that would work as a stand-in, but nothing grabbed me. Then I tried it on without the band. The neck opening is very wide, but I kind of liked it. I figured that if I added bra-strap carriers, it would be pretty easy to wear.
I applied wash-away wonder tape to the edge of the neckband for two reasons. First, it served to stabilize the fragile curve and prevent raveling. Second, I could use it as a guide to turn a precise 1/4 in. hem.
Trick 4: Stabilize neckline with strong and decorative embroidered edge
At this point, I could have stitched the neck in place and called it a day. I just thought the top needed a little something extra. Why not use embroidery to highlight it? At the same time, the hand stitching would secure the hem in place.
Using some plain embroidery floss I had on hand, I stitched a simple cross stitch pattern around the entire neck. It’s now a very secure hem, but gives the neck a unique embellishment. My work is not quite as precise as I would like, but that is more than made up for by how happy I am with the color and pattern.
Embroidery up close
Inside view showing stabilized shoulder seam and bra strap carriers
Even with all of the embroidery and extra steps, this was a quick project. I would definitely do another one – just maybe with a neckband next time.
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
I 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
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.
Spoiler: 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.comhere. 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.
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.
As 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.comhere.
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.
Here’s another small crafty project from my recent crafty sewing binge.
I ran across this nifty business card holder pattern while on one of my recent lost afternoons surfing fabric websites. I landed on AmyButlerDesigns.com, home of all things Amy Butler. If you are not familiar with her work, she makes bright, fun graphic designs. You can find them on quilting, home dec and fashion fabric and more. One of the great things about the website is the fairly long catalog of free patterns. Many of the patterns are for quilting, but there are also a few for bags and accessories. I thought it would be fun to try a small project to see what I thought.
This is the Business Card Keeper. Once you “purchase” your free pattern, you are able to download a pdf file containing the instructions and pattern pieces. In this case, the only pattern piece is for the swoopy-edged cover flap. The rest of the pieces are rectangles cut to specified dimensions.
I have to admit, there was more to the little pattern than I expected. It requires the fabric, of course. But it also requires heavy-weight sew-in interfacing and heavy fusible interfacing, both of which I had to hunt around for. The closure is hook-and-loop tape (aka velcro). I’m pretty sure I followed the directions correctly, but apparently I didn’t. Everything turned out a little too small and lot too crooked. I think it’s cute, but in that kind of “Awww, she made that herself” kind of way.
Don’t let that put you off, though. I think my lack of quilting experience really shows on this one. If you can handle precision 1/4 inch seams, you should do fine!
Fabric.com carries a lot of Amy Butler fabrics, but far from all. I bought my “Cotton Blossom” yardage from a vendor on Etsy. I think if I was really excited about a particular collection, I would seek out stores that were quilting-specific. The fabric I used for my wallet was made from a random fat-quarter I bought because it was cute. Sigh.
I have a little more craftiness on the way, then back to fashion sewing.
I can’t believe it has been 2 months since I made a test version of the Angelia shorts. I shouldn’t have waited so long – I can already tell these are going to be the shorts I want to throw on every hot day!
The tan synthetic stretch twill has been kicking around my fabric stash for at least 10 years. I remember getting it from a bargain table and thinking it would be perfect for a pair of pants. Well, when I actually looked at using it with a pants pattern, it was obvious that there wasn’t enough. Rather than admit I had made a poor impulse buy, I set it aside for shorts. While I think it will be great to wear, it was not fun to sew. It required a lower temperature iron, which made it really hard to shape. Oh, and it frays like crazy! Another sewing lesson learned…
There is a lot to this pattern, but no one single step is especially difficult. If you make it, you should be comfortable with topstitching, sewing curved seams (contour waistband) and making buttonholes. I struggled with making the waistband. I ended up having to cut it 3 times because first I fused interfacing to the wrong side, then somehow switched the left and right sides so the button tab was on the wrong side of the fly. The instructions were great. I should have followed them the first time!
Darts and topstitching
I would say that making the 5 pockets and belt loops probably doubled the amount of construction time. It’s worth it though. The pockets are what make the shorts look professional. Plus, they are big enough to be useful.
Like a lot of independent pattern company patterns, the Angelia shorts use a 3/8 in. seam allowance. I really like that there is less waste, but it makes it that much more important to test the pattern first (also recommended in the instructions). You don’t have any wiggle room if you need to add a little space here or there.
If you make the pockets, there are several places where you have to sew through 4-5 layers of fabric. Not every machine can handle that, especially if you are using a bulkier fabric. If you are in any doubt, test first!
Since the fabric was determined to return to its original flat shape, I knew that keeping it in place while I finished the waistband would be difficult. So, I hand basted it in place first. This was the first time I tried my new Japanese basting thread. I really love it. It’s thicker than all purpose thread and a little fuzzy. It’s just enough texture to help the stitches stay in place while still allowing a smooth hand sewing experience.
With the basting in place, I was able to sew a very neat topstitch to attach both sides of the waistband together. I used an easy trick to keep the seam even.
Change your machine’s foot to the blind hem foot. Place the fabric under the foot so the vertical blade falls inside the “ditch” of the seam. Change the needle position at least one setting to the left or right – anything but the middle. Leave the machine on a straight stitch – don’t change to blind hemming. Then sew away and enjoy your perfect topstitching!
I only turned the hem once because the fabric was so bulky. I overcast the bottom edges then finished with a blind hem. I’m not ecstatic about the results, but they work. If I get ambitious I might pick it out and redo it with a coverstitch or topstitched hem.
In the end, I think these turned out really well. I think I need to do something easy next though!
Angelia Shorts 2
Read my review of these shorts on patternreview.com here
Independent pattern company Love Notions sells a pattern for a blouse with a loose, peasant style bodice entitled Rhapsody. I made one a few months ago which turned out a little small. I figured going up one size should fix that problem though.
Rhapsody has 8 different sleeve options: sleeveless, cap, short, 3/4 with cuff, 3/4 with flare, trumpet, flutter, and bishop. This one would be in a teal blue polyester woven with the flutter style sleeve.
Once you know what size you need, it’s pretty quick to make. (Especially if you have the pattern ready to go). Probably the fussiest part is making bias binding for the neck opening and sewing it neatly in place. The first top went quickly because I used pre-made packaged binding. This one was somewhat tricky because the fabric was more slippery, so I had to take my time. I think the matching binding looks pretty sharp in this case.
I’m looking forward to making this one again in some of the other sleeve styles. I can’t wait to show you!
Until then, happy sewing!
See my review of this blouse on patternreview.com here
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.
The 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.
Back – Before
Back – After
Side – Before
Front – After
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:
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.
Stay tuned for a “bells and whistles” version. In the meantime, happy sewing!
Independent 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.
Since 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.
Before 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.
Assembly 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.
After finishing my pinstripe trouser and vest, I was ready for something quick and easy. Winter holidays mean lots of lounging around, enjoying all kinds of delicious food, and generally not trying too hard. With that in mind, I pulled out a nice dark gray french terry I bought without a plan last year. (Another 2018 New Year’s resolution – stop doing that!). I was going to make some awesome DIY sweatpants!
Some of the features I wanted were fitted silhouette, pockets, elastic rather than drawstring waistband, cuffs instead of elastic on the legs, and a nice, long length. I decided to use the Greenstyle Brassie Joggers PDF, which offered all of those options. I haven’t used independent pattern designers very often, since patterns from the Big 4 pattern brands (Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick, and McCall’s) are so inexpensive and familiar. The pattern sells for $10, which is more than I am used to spending. But I like the idea of helping new designers and at the same time contributing to a more diverse marketplace. (The Big 4 and several others are now all owned by the same parent company).
Once I purchased it, I was able to download the PDF pattern and instruction files to my laptop immediately. If I had wanted to, I could have printed out the pattern right then on 19 sheets of printer paper. But then I would have had to tape them together. That didn’t seem like a lot of fun, so I went with option B – sending the included “copyshop” version of the pattern (one great big page) to a printer.
I looked into having the printout done where I live, but it was really expensive. Most places were quoting me between $12-$20 per sheet! The best option price-wise right now seems to pdfplotting.com be where you can have black and white sheets printed for a more reasonable $0.60 to $5.70 per page, depending on size.
Once I had my sheet, I unrolled it and set about planning. Mainstream patterns have been printed on thin, semi-transparent tissue since at least the 1920s. Tissue is easy to cut and pin through, although you need to be careful not to tear it. Regardless of who does the printing, PDF patterns will use opaque office paper. I rely on being able to pin through my pattern. I also want to be able to see through it well enough to make sure that I have stripes and other designs placed where I want them. So I went through one more step and transferred my size to Swedish tracing paper. It wasn’t too much work, and using the tracing paper is actually much nicer than using tissue. It’s sturdy, semi-transparent, and does not shift and blow around as easily.
Careful reading of the instructions is important. This pattern assumes a 3/8″ seam allowance instead of the typical 5/8. If you don’t need to let out any seams, 3/8″ is great. The serger works best with 3/8″ width, and of course, you won’t waste as much fabric.
There is a line drawing of the pants on the first page, but no pictures or line drawings of the many length and finish options. On the other hand, every step is thoroughly explained and supplemented with illustrations. Another nice thing is that the designer’s website features pictures of customers’ finished pants in all kinds of sizes and styles.
Despite all that, I managed to mistake the back pieces for the front ones. I sewed the pockets to the back crotch curve. I had to completely re-cut the backs and pockets. Luckily, I had enough scrap to cut out two more pieces, but I had to give up 2 inches of length. So. Capri length it is!
One thing I liked about the construction was using fusible interfacing strips to stabilize the curved pocket openings before turning under and topstitching. I used the heat-n-bond soft stretch tape again and it really made a nice stable curve. Because it was fused in place, I didn’t have to mess with pinning it, so stitching went much faster. Good thing – since I had to do it twice! I’ll definitely be using this trick on future projects.
The pattern features a waistband with both a drawstring and elastic in separate casings. I like this option, since I think the drawstring is a nice look, but I don’t love pants that use drawstrings alone. Instead of a drawstring, I used a length of black ribbon. It was less of a style choice than finding something on hand that would work. I can always rethread a drawstring later if I don’t like it.
The pants turned out to be ankle length when all was said and done. I like them a lot. They are really comfortable – easy wear and easy care.
I can definitely see using this pattern again. Maybe shorts length or even as pajama bottoms.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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?
So, 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.