Fashion · Needlework

Embroidered Floral Sweater

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Finished!

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.

* See Giant Stripes Two Ways

** Threads gives online access to their issues through paid subscriptions, so unfortunately, I can’t provide a link.

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Swedish pattern paper pieces on the sweater knit

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.

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.

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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.

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Neatly basted 1/4 in neck opening
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.

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.

Look familiar? The Super Quick Stash-Buster Scarf was actually made from the scraps left over from cutting this top.

SUPPLIES
Fashion Show

I reviewed the Slim Dolman on patternreview.com. Click here to view.

Happy sewing!

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Fashion · Whimsy

Wintertime Friends Tee

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Close up of “Best Friends” panel

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

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

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

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

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

Everything went together quickly on the serger.

I did two things differently this time.

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Contrast topstitching

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

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Hem fused in place before stitching

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

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

Here is the final result. Hot cocoa, anyone?

Fashion

Burgundy Cowl-Neck Tunic

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Cover art for V9055 View C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Fashion

Coordinating Swimwear: The Rash Guard

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Planning the layout

Rashguards used to be just for surfers, but they have earned a place as a required item in anyone’s complete activewear wardrobe. They are especially popular as children’s wear. Any parent can tell you that they protect delicate skin from the sun way better than sunscreen, which wears off before you know it. It’s easier to pull on a rashguard than to put on sunscreen and they are sporty and fun for men, women and kids.

Like everything else, fit matters!  Personally, I usually end up buying oversized, sloppy rashguards because the ones that are in standard sizes are both too tight and too loose at the same time. Sound familiar? Spandex stretches, so even if it doesn’t fit, you can usually pull one on anyway. But the results and comfort leave a lot to be desired.

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Sample / test of seam finish

The solution? Sew your own, of course!

I had enough fabric left from my maillot to make front and back pieces for a color-blocked rashguard.  So not only could I make a rashguard that fits, I could coordinate it with my swimsuit.  Fancy!  I got a yard of solid plum lycra for the contrast. I chose a pattern from McCall’s with a raglan sleeve and sleeve length and overall length variations.  If you want to make Mommy and me looks, there is also a matching kids’ pattern available.

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View of the inside, showing wooly nylon thread

Of course, you don’t have to do things exactly the way the pattern tells you to.  I cut the pieces for the long length, long-sleeve version. Instead of doing the blocking the pattern suggested, I made it solid plum overall with only a floral front and back panel.

The top went together quickly.  In some ways, sewing the stretchy spandex was simpler than doing the same type of shirt in jersey.  I’m not sure why, but it seemed to feed more evenly than cotton jersey and attaching the the neck band was more forgiving as well.  I continued to use a stretch needle and the walking foot for all regular machine work. But, most of the sewing was done on the serger set up for a 3-thread super-stretch overlock. I threaded the lower looper with wooly nylon and the needles with regular polyester thread. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I only needed to loosen the tension a little bit on the lower looper to make a nice even edge finish.  I love the softness of the wooly nylon against the skin.  I have read that wooly polyester is a better choice, because it stands up to machine mashing better.  I plan on getting some and seeing for myself, but for now, nylon it is!

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Thread conserving spool setup

This was a great opportunity to finally use my new serger’s coverstitch function.  I only had one spool of plum-colored thread, so to make two lines of matching topstitching, I threaded one needle with the spool and the other one with the bobbin thread. I kept going with the purple wooly nylon on the inside.  I think it looks pretty nice, although I wish I had found a closer match for the wooly nylon.  I used the coverstitch for all of the hems and for a nice neckband finish. (Okay, they are a little wobbly, but it’s fine for a first effort).

I really like it. Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to make matching rashguards for all of my future swimwear.

Coming soon – working with plaids and a return to wovens.

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Coverstitch tests.  Upper sample shows flat result from decreased cover stitch tension

 

 

 

 

Fashion · Whimsy

Walk the Dog Raglan Tee

Planning Time
Planning is fun!

Last week, my serger died.  Let’s pause a moment and mourn its passing.

Thank you.

So I got a new one!  And this serger has a lot more bells and whistles.  Welcome to the workshop Singer 14T968DC!  The new machine can do the functions of the old serger, a Simplicity 4-thread overlock. But the new one can be converted to work as a cover-stitch machine as well.  I have been giddy to try everything since I got it out of the box.  I already had several knitwear projects cut and ready to sew, so I will be able to create useful things as I learn.

First up is a simple raglan tee.  I used McCall’s pattern M7286 (rating Easy), but any favorite raglan pattern would do.  I have always been drawn to bright red clothes and anything with high contrast and color blocking.  Something about that sharp, vivid combination of black and white with any bright color really puts me in a great mood.  So when I saw the “Where’s Fido” pattern, I immediately thought about pairing it with blocks of black or red.  Plus, the dogs in the pattern are so whimsical and cute – how could I resist?

I considered black accents, but in the end, I cut out a red neckband and short red sleeves to go with the patterned front and back.

I have been using my duct tape double to test fit clothes as I go.  I’m glad I did. On the model, I could see that the shape was a little boxier than I usually like.  I pinned some darts into the back and it looked much better.  Since the top is so casual that it could even serve as sleepwear, I chose to leave it loose and boxy.  But before I took the pins out, I made new pattern pieces for the back and front. I reduced the back by the area pinched out by the darts.  I lengthened the side seam on the front to match the new back piece. Then I traced the new pieces onto swedish tracing paper, cut them out, and put them with the rest of the (tissue) pattern pieces.  The next time I make this raglan, I will have a choice between a straight or fitted version.

Now that I have the coverstitch machine, I wish I had cut the bottom straight across. Then I could have done a completely ready-to-wear hem finish.  The shaped hemline seemed like it would be better suited to a zigzagged narrow hem though.  So I will save the coverstitch for a future project.

 

It turned out so cute, I can hardly believe it.  If only my dog had a matching leash and collar…

(getting out markers) Hmmm….

 

Fashion

Vogue 8581 Knit Blouse

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View C Art from Vogue 8581

What is better than a loose, gathered tunic top when you want to look put together, but feel like you are wearing your jammies? This pattern is now out of print, but I think that it is a classic casual style. As a Very Easy Vogue pattern, I approached it as an intermediate level of difficulty.  Like most Vogue patterns, the instructions are written assuming a certain level of experience.

You can always modernize a look by using on-trend prints, such as this white on black elephant print I picked up from purpleseamstress fabric a few months ago.  The pattern specifies only lycra blends, and I wasn’t sure that my double-brushed poly-spandex fit the bill.  I had to go to the internet to verify that indeed it does.  Apparently Lycra is the duPont brand name for spandex (and spandex is elastane outside the US).

It’s a medium weight, which will be great for fall, winter, and early spring.  I would not go any heavier than medium weight if doing the long sleeve version, otherwise there will be too much bulk to do the gathered cuffs and neckband.

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Those are some beautiful seams!

Seams and particularly seam finishes on knits are a great fit for a serger, if you have one. My serger, a 20 year old Simplicity Easy Lock with differential feed is just about as basic as they come. But while today’s sergers are more user friendly, the actual mechanics are the same. Before starting my project, I changed my needles to brand-new ball-points.  As with all projects, I did some test sewing to make sure my settings were correct.  Since this fabric was so stretchy, I set the differential to maximum stretch.  I threaded the machine with four threads so it would cut and sew an overlock seam with safety stitch.  Testing revealed a problem – the machine consistently pushed the first bit of stitched material down into the throat plate.  Not pretty!  After a little experimentation, I found that putting a “bunny” under the back of the presser foot stopped the destruction. (bunny = sacrificial bit of cloth used to start tricky seams).

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Double brushed poly spandex – midweight & very easy care

I usually do some pattern alterations, but this design is so forgiving that I really didn’t need to.  I followed the instructions, but I would change a few things next time.  I would sew the cuffs onto the sleeves before closing the sleeve seams.  Trying to sew the small diameter cuff was pretty tricky.  It just barely fit over the sewing machine’s free arm.  I might even make the cuff about an inch deeper, just to give some wiggle room for fitting.  The instructions don’t say anything about clipping the excess from sewn gathers, but if you skip that unwritten step, it would not work at all.  I think with a lighter fabric, just doing an elasticized cuff would look really nice.  It could be done with or without a casing.

The neck opening is quite large, just as shown on the illustration.  To make the top a little more user-friendly, I have added carriers for my bra straps.  In addition to keeping my straps from showing, carriers keep the neck from slipping toward one shoulder or the other.

Probably the most important thing I would do differently would be to make a left and a right sleeve, instead of two righties.  It happens to everyone…

In the end, I have a new wardrobe staple.  It is wash and wear, wrinkle resistant, and goes with just about everything.  This one stays in the keeper pile.

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Back View: Before adding carriers, the neck shifted around a lot. (Shown before inserting elastic in bottom)
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Finished front view: Just like the illustration!