Fashion

Flatlock Fun Run Tights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

seam_plan
Seam Plan

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

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

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

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

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

tights_pinning
Curved seams. Bleh.

I didn’t like pinning those curved seams!

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned for next time:

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

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Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation

Before I started putting the robe pieces together, I tested out some ideas for seam and edge finishes. I was looking for a good compromise between durability, attractiveness, and lack of bulk.

For the raw edges, I looked at applying binding and different overcast treatments. I wanted to work with supplies I already had, so I wasn’t able to get exact color matches. I chose several bias tapes I thought might work and two colors of nylon serger thread. I liked the way the blue tape looked, but none of the others. I played with different settings on the serger to get a nice decorative edge that completely covered the raw edge (already starting to fray). While both the white and the purple were a nice match for the plaid, only the purple completely covered the edge. The purple is Wooly Nylon and the white is Guetermann’s textured nylon. The wooly fills in the edge much better than the textured. I decided to go with the purple wooly nylon edge because it was best of the less bulky overlock finishes.

 

Since raveling was going to be an issue with the material, I went ahead and finished the raw edges on all of the cut pattern pieces.  I left the edges that were going to be inside a seam unfinished while I decided how to sew them.

Next, I took some more scraps and tested out a few types of seams

Seam 1 – Bound seam

There are a number of options for what to bind the seam with.  I could make my own bias tape out of the robe fabric; I could use seams great; or, I could use a pre-made tape from a package. I already looked through the packages I had on hand when looking at edge finishes and couldn’t find a color I was happy with. Seams great would work, but for something that is going to show, it is too sheer to look right. So I moved on without even testing bound seams.

Next, using my regular sewing machine, I tried out 2 different kinds of enclosed seams.

Seam 2 – Mock French seam

I really like the way this looks from both sides.  Having two rows of stitching makes the seam more durable. The extra weight from having essentially 3 layers of fabric stitched together actually makes the seam more structural. The very lightweight fabric really is pretty shapeless, so the extra stability really helps.

Seam 3 – Flat felled seam

The flat felled seam has the same advantages as the mock french.  The main difference is that it is started with wrong sides together and trimmed and stitched from the right side. Technique aside, it’s slightly less bulky and slightly wider.  I’m familiar with flat felling from other projects, so for me, this is the easiest one to consider.

I have never used the serger for any other seam than a 3 or 4 thread overlock. I knew that I could go that route and it would be fast and easy.  I really wanted to try something else for this project though.

Seam 4 -2 Thread flatlock with serger

This seam is really fun to do.  It’s cool to make what appears to be a plain overcast edge, but then pull the two pieces of fabric apart and have them lay flat with a neat decorative join. I’m glad I tried doing the sample first, though. It just didn’t look as “finished” as the enclosed seams.  It would be really fun to use on a thicker material, like a neoprene or fleece.

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The winner: Flat felled on the regular machine.

BONUS Technique: Covered Cord

I came across a neat idea while I was browsing my copy of Serger Secrets.  One of the examples illustrates a technique where a serger can be used to make decorative covered cord. I probably never would have thought of this on my own, but now that I know about it, I am sure I will find all kinds of ways to use it.  This will definitely be the go-to choice for belt loops.

It’s super simple to do, too.  Just cut a length of gimp or thick thread. I used white crochet thread.

Set up the serger:

  • Needle position: right
  • Stitch length: 1mm
  • Stitch width: as narrow as your machine will go.  Mine is 4.5mm
  • Presser foot: a gimp foot is recommended.  I don’t have one, so I used my cording foot instead.  I think anything with a channel on the sole of the foot would probably work.
  • Thread: decorative thread in the upper looper, all-purpose in the needle
  • Stitch finger: rolled
  • Tension: set for 2 thread rolled edge

Make a few inches of chain.  Pull the chain threads towards the back of the machine. Slip the cord under the presser foot so it feeds through the channel and exits just to the left of the needle. Add the cord to the other threads and hold them together to start. Then just hit the pedal and watch it go. Magic!

Next time: putting it all together.

Find Part 1 here