Fashion

Simplicity 8386 Tie-Neck Crossover Tops

After tackling a few challenging projects recently, I have really enjoyed doing some fun easy sewing. I probably would not have tried Simplicity 8386, but a friend bought the wrong size and gave me hers. I’m so glad she did! I have made a bunch of tops with it and have even more in the works.

The multi-size pattern contains pieces for three completely different tops. They are all casual warm-weather looks intended for moderate stretch knits. For this post, I’m going to focus on View A.

crossover_top_12crossover_top_13View A is the only top of the three that is not tight to the body. I think that makes it flattering for a wider range of people, so I was surprised that so far it doesn’t have any reviews on patternreview.com (the other 2 have several). The front body is two piece

s that cross in a faux-wrap style. The volume comes from a series of tucks which disappear into the waistband. Hate to hem? No hemming needed. All of the edges are enclosed or finished with binding. The neckband continues to the back and ends in ties. Since

I wear my hair short, I have to admit I have become more partial to garments with interesting back details like this one.

I made this top twice. It’s interesting to see how two different materials behave with the same make. The red top is in a medium weight cotton/lycra jersey with a lot of stretch. The blue and white one is in a lightweight rayon/lycra jersey with less stretch.

Binding

I was wondering how I was going to have enough material to cut bias strips when it hit me – the fabric is already stretchy. I can just use horizontally cut strips instead! It’s entirely possible that the sewing world knows this already, but it’s new to me. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pattern companies factored binding into their yardage recommendations and layouts?

Gaping opening

crossover_top_7Like wrap-style dresses and tops in general, I found that the front tended to reveal a lot more than I intended. I had to make some kind of adjustment to keep it closed, or else wear a camisole underneath. I rejected the cami idea just because these are supposed to be for hot weather. I could tack the overlap in place, but I didn’t want to have to iron around it if the top needed touching up. I settled on sewing a small snap fastener closure instead. I think it works pretty well, and I can leave it unsnapped for washing and ironing.

Note to beginners

This pattern is part of Simplicity’s Easy-To-Sew series. I would agree that it is easy, but View A may be a little overwhelming for a complete beginner. For those new to garment sewing, I would start with View C.

Next time, I go a little crazy with Simplicity 8386 again. Stay tuned!

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I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com. Click here to read.

Fashion

Mystery Activewear 2: Space Invaders!

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

Fashion

Flatlock Fun Run Tights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seam Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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Curved seams. Bleh.

I didn’t like pinning those curved seams!

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned for next time:

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

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Fashion

Girl Power Shorts

A friend gave me a neat cotton/spandex panel which features some of my favorite movie heroes.  I really wanted to make something with it, but I didn’t have any matching fabric and the design was located inconveniently right in the middle of the small (fat half size) piece.

After ruminating for a while, I thought it was worth a try to just lay out some pieces and see how they fit.  That way I would know how best to plan color blocking for the extra material I would need to get.

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Trying to fit the shorts pattern on my fat half

Since I was really trying to conserve fabric and I also needed some new workout shorts, I raided my pattern stash for the simplest, smallest shorts I would actually wear.  I have some fancy patterns with interesting details, but those extra seamlines and pieces take more yardage. I found a very basic leggings pattern with lots of length variations (McCall’s M6360).  After just rough cutting the tissue pieces and placing them over the design, I was a little discouraged.  It didn’t seem like there was any way to have a logical placement of the design and still have yardage left to cut more than one piece.  It was really close though.

I took my measurements and found my pattern size.  The outside lines of the multi-size pattern were two sizes above what I needed.  Things were looking up!

Next, I carefully placed the pattern tissue for one of the back pieces over the graphic.  I was able to get the whole image only if it wrapped around my rear on one side.  I can live with that.  There was only one way the design was going to fit (okay – I had to cut off a tiny bit of the design), so I cut that piece first.

I figured it was also fine to put the white border inside the seam allowance and hem, so that made my working area a little bigger.  With that in mind, I cut two more pieces – the other back and one of the fronts.  Now it was really just scraps.

I just wasn’t happy with my options for the last front piece. I knew if I didn’t have the same fabric, any color blocking would risk uneven wear and probably a weird looking result.  I’m all for weird, but on my terms.

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Putting the last piece together with scraps. Note that I am using my favorite quick and dirty basting method again: blue tape.

Finally, I realized that if I carefully used the white border to make horizontal stripes, I would be able to take the odd-sized black scraps to complete the last piece.

With a little more careful cutting and piecing, I had the striped piece ready to go.

Putting the shorts together was super easy. It was all done on the serger using familiar techniques. There is an elastic waistband and coverstitched hem.

I feel quite pleased that I squeezed a whole pair of shorts out of half a yard – and no leftovers!

Well, I’m off to rule the universe.  When I get back – more fun activewear!

Thoughts? Leave a comment!