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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Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Stretch Velvet Cami

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Inspiration: Velvet Camisole from Rebecca Taylor Winter 2018

Remember when camisoles with built-in shelf bras were popular? It was a great idea, but rarely worked well. The problem was that the bra was usually just an extra layer of stretch jersey with an elastic band around the ribcage. It didn’t provide much support or coverage.

Since I learned how to make supportive linings for athletic wear, I vowed never to make an unlined camisole again. Since the bra does not show, there is no need for fancy embellishments or time consuming finishing techniques. I didn’t time myself, but I think it only added about an extra hour to the project.

I had a piece of stretch velvet ready to go, having already used it in my recent princess seam top. Since it is a metallic, it goes with just about any color. But it looks especially good with the pinstripe I used in the wrap skirt that is also part of my fall mini-wardrobe. I think it increases the dressiness of the outfit while also being very comfortable.

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I used my favorite camisole as a template for my new one.

I really liked the V-Neck shape of my inspiration piece from Rebecca Taylor. I didn’t have any patterns that would work, but I did have a favorite camisole of my own with the same V-Neck profile. So I took a chance and used it as a template for my new top.

Here’s my process:

  1. Lay out velvet in a single layer, smooth side up.
  2. Carefully lay camisole on top.
  3. Using 5/8″ ruler and a disappearing marker, mark a cutting line one seam allowance width away from the camisole directly on the velvet.
  4. Cut on cutting lines – this is the front piece.
  5. Use the front piece as a pattern for the back, changing the upper edge using the camisole as a guide.
  6. Cut back piece.
  7. Use the velvet pieces as pattern for power mesh front and back, making power mesh pieces bra length.
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Testing the fit before sewing straps in place

Using the techniques from Craftsy‘s Sewing Swimsuits: The Supportive One-Piece, I sewed foam cups into the power mesh front. (I explain the process here).

Another somewhat unusual feature is the contrasting straps. I got the idea from Vogue 1591, which uses grosgrain ribbon for shoulder straps. I thought that stretchy straps would be more in keeping with a stretchy top, so I was really happy to find foldover elastic in a grosgrain texture. I like a wider strap, so I left it unfolded.

I had fun positioning the straps into a V in the back. With a built-in bra, the straps can go anywhere. There are no worries about having to cover up the straps from the bra you wear underneath.

And that’s it!

The gold camisole is the final garment in my Fall 2018 Mini-Wardrobe. Voting at patternreview.com is open until October 10. If you like what you see, I would love it if you would give me your vote.

Supplies

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I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com here.

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Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Reversible Green Sweater Coat

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View A from the Vogue Website

As I was planning my Fall wardrobe, my Oct./Nov. 2018 issue of Threads Magazine arrived.

I soaked up Becky Fulgoni’s article “Single Layer and Reversible.” There were so many great ideas for making garments from double-faced fabrics (or just fabrics with an equally interesting wrong side). I already knew I had the perfect fabric to make the loose casual jacket in Vogue Patterns’ V9275.  The jacket (View A) is intended to be lined, but I thought a reversible version would be even better.

The fabric is a sweater knit with a squishy olive green boucle on the right side. I think the wrong side is just as interesting: a smooth black with olive flecks. It’s lighter than it looks, so it would be for outside on crisp days or wearing indoors.

Planning

I did several tests before I started. I needed to find seam, hem and closure treatments that would work with my sweater knit and also look good from both sides. Once I figured out which worked best, I started planning in earnest.

Above: I tested binding and seam techniques using swatches like this.

I have found that sketching projects helps me plan. When I work through details on paper, I find I almost always need to make changes. This time, I had to do double the sketches, because I needed to visualize how it would look from either side. Sure enough, I realized that I had to account for the knit collar and cuffs in my plan.

Above: Puzzling it out

I used most of the pattern pieces for the jacket. But to make it reversible, I omitted the side seam pockets and back shoulder darts.

Editing for Reversibility

look5editMy version differs from the original in many ways:

  • Two sided pocket: patch pocket on green side; slot pocket on black side (details below)
  • Flat-felled seams
  • Instead of hemming, bind the lower edge
  • Use a reversible separating zipper for the opening
  • Trim and bind front opening before zipper application
  • Zipper tape exposed on black side; hidden on green side (see below)
  • Slip-stitch cuffs and collar on black side to give them a finished look
  • Decorative, error-hiding buttons
Two-Sided Pocket

The Threads article described a technique for making a pocket accessible from either side. From one side, it is a patch pocket. From the other, it is a slot seam pocket. I love this idea! Here is my slightly different method:

  1. Make the slot seam. I was using bound raw edges as a design element throughout the garment, so it made sense to use them for the pocket slot as well.
  2. Cut the front pieces along what will be the new seam line. Because I was binding the edges, I did not need to add seam allowances.
  3. Apply binding to slot seam raw edges. To keep the seam from stretching, I set my machine to use the longest straight stitch. I didn’t use a stretch stitch because I wanted the slot seam to be stable. Some machines have an option to reduce presser foot pressure. If you have it, this is why. It really helps with lofty stretch fabrics.
  4. Join the top and bottom of each front piece. I chose to apply strips of grosgrain ribbon to the green side. They will not show, since the slot is only visible from the black side.
  5. Draft a patch pocket piece to have an ample side opening, making sure it is placed where your hands go. Mine covers the entire width of the jacket, ending at the same place as the jacket bottom. Ensure that the pockets completely cover the slot opening.
  6. Cut two patch pockets and two lining pieces. I made my lining from the same quilting cotton I used for my princess seamed top.
  7. Sew the right side of the lining to the green side of the pocket piece for each side. Only the upper edge and pocket opening need to be sewn. Trim, turn, press.
  8. Topstitch pockets to front pieces. Again, only the upper edge and pocket opening need to be sewn.

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Two Sided Zipper

This is my first separating zipper, exposed zipper application, and reversible zipper. I think it’s the first time I have tried putting one in a sweater knit. So I am going to forgive myself for putting it in a little too low. I think it looks nice from the green side, where the zipper tape is hidden. The exposed tape on the black side looks… just ok. I would like to find a nice trim to cover it with, but I don’t have anything on hand right now. The main problem is that by putting it in too low, there is a janky looking gap between where the tape ends and the collar.

The only thing I could think of was to sew buttons at the neckline to hide the tape end. I didn’t have anything that I liked, so I made a couple of cover buttons. I think it looks pretty good.

Above: The exposed zipper tape didn’t line up the first time. Then it didn’t quite reach the top of the jacket. I made a couple of cover buttons to conceal the ends.

Non-bias bias

Making the large amount of binding was really simple. Since the material was already stretchy and shapable, there was no need to cut bias strips. All I had to do was cut parallel strips across the grain.

Stability without interfacing

Stability was an unexpected factor in planning for reversibility. The sweater knit was fairly loose and floppy, so it had to have something otherwise I’m sure it would begin to grow with use. Interfacing was out, of course. The seams, pockets, and zippers serve that function.

I was pleased that even though there was some loft to the knit, it could be compressed enough to make flat felled seams. The traditional method results in two parallel lines of straight stitches. I did it that way for the shoulder seams, and quickly realized that keeping the green fluff from escaping the seam was going to be a problem. So I used a zigzag stitch for the final step instead of a straight stitch for the remaining seams. The zigzag pinned everything down, kept it controlled, and was much easier to sew.

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Above: Some of the jacket’s design features

Supplies

I think this is my favorite thing in my Fall wardrobe so far. It’s so versatile. And how about those set-in sleeves? 😉

Coming soon: a bra-top camisole. Until then, happy sewing!

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Reference

Threads Magazine: Reversible Garment Inspiration

This is my fourth garment in patternreview.com‘s 2018 Mini Wardrobe Contest

I reviewed the pattern here.

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Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Floral Princess Seam Top

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com here.

Contest · Fashion · Vintage

Fall Wardrobe: Green Sailor Pants

green_sailor_pants21I’m getting started on my Fall wardrobe with a pair of olive green sailor-style wide leg pants. These are View E of the Butterick wardrobe pattern B5859. Essentially, they are high waisted pants with a back zip. If they look a little familiar, it’s because I have made them before. Why re-invent the wheel?

Previous Versions:

I dreamed up these pants as part of my Fall wardrobe plan, but also as part of a 5-piece wardrobe to enter in patternreview.com‘s 2018 Mini Wardrobe Contest. Even though this is make number 3, I used several new techniques and learned a lot.

Selvedge Trimmed Facing

green_sailor_pants15After I finished cutting out the pants, I cut the selvedges off the remaining fabric and set them aside. Pre-washing the fabric had brought out their texture as well as a short fluffy fringe. After recently buying some trim by the yard, saving this “trim” seemed like a good way to economize.

Meanwhile, I went through my scrap pile and picked out a piece of pretty floral lawn that coordinated with the green. I think that one of the delights of sewing for yourself is using surprising fabrics for pocket linings, facings, and bindings that only you can see. The floral became the waistband facing fabric.

Serendipitously, I had piled the twill strips piled on top of the facing pieces. They looked so good together that I used the strips to make a sharp binding for the facing’s bottom edge. Here’s a little slideshow of the facing going together.

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Basting with Double Eye Needle
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Very long basting stitches along zipper opening

Do any of you read your sewing machine manuals just for fun? It sounds dull, but if you haven’t cracked yours since your machine was new, it’s worth going back and taking a second look. When my machine was new, I was only interested in learning the basics: threading, straight stitch, zigzag, etc. Now that those skills are second nature, the rest of the manual is much more approachable. All of this is by way of introducing the double eye needle.

My manual has a page devoted to using a double eye needle (not to be confused with a double needle) to make long basting stitches. I don’t know if this trick works universally, or only with some machines, but it is pretty slick. Here’s what you do:

  1. Thread machine normally, threading the needle through the upper of the two eyes.
  2. Set stitch to blind hem stitch
  3. Set stitch width to widest setting
  4. Set stitch length as desired
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Thread in upper eye of double eye needle

These settings will result in a long straight stitch slightly to the left of center (test the needle position before sewing to learn how this works). Since the blind hem makes its stitches in a 3 to 1 pattern (RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT LEFT), you will get a stitch that is 4 times as long as the selected stitch length.

Once you are done, you can continue to sew normally by just switching to the bottom eye.

Double eye needles are a little tricky to find. I have never seen them in shops and they are even hard to find online. I located a package of 5 size 80 universal double eye needles in just 3 places:

  1. Create for less $4.59
  2. Amazon $6.50
  3. Directly from Schmetz $4.99

If anyone else has other or better sources, please post a comment!

Finishing Touches

green_sailor_pants16I really like the look of vintage sailor-style button front pants. I can’t imagine how annoying they must be to actually open and close when you need to (ahem). For my pants, I just copied the look without copying the design. Besides, I was already going off on my own with the green color. The buttons are just sewn on – there are no actual buttonholes. I sewed the buttons on top of the seams created by the front darts.

I wound up using an invisible zipper, just because that is what I had on hand. I don’t think it makes a big difference in this case, but I think a plain zipper would go better with the casual style.

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Supplies

Here’s what I used:

What do you think about the supplies list? Should I keep doing them?

Next time, more Fall fashion.

Until then, happy sewing!

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I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com. Check it out here!

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Fashion · Fitting

Getting Started on my Designer Pattern

designer_18Last week I wrote about choosing a designer pattern from Vogue. I was between a beautiful on-trend jumpsuit and a cute pull-on dress with a tie front. The winner is…  the easy one!

Although I love the jumpsuit, I just couldn’t justify making it when I don’t have any events to bring it to.

Also, I find myself drawn to Rebecca Taylor’s style aesthetic. Her collections provide me with a lot of inspiration, featuring prominently in my Fall 2018 mood board on pinterest.

I was reluctant to cut into the silk I chose for the final version (Thanks, Mom!). So, I looked for some lightweight cottons to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin. I have plenty of sundress-worthy cottons in my stash, but it was tricky to find something that would look good from either side. In the end, I went with a sort of washed denim colored solid for the dress and a fun multicolor stripe for the lining.

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Both fabrics frayed like crazy, so I overcast the edges before sewing anything together.

I wanted to make sure that the ties fell at my natural waist, so I spent a more time preparing the pattern than usual. I added my normal long waist adjustment all the way around. The back overlay piece was a little perplexing. When I added the extra length, it completely changed the shape of the ties. I improvised a new curve to smooth it out, keeping the start and end points where they were and crossed my fingers.

I cut the pieces according to the directions with one exception. I thought it would be kind of neat to have the inside back piece be the same as the skirt lining.

Once I got to the sewing machine, I was delighted with how quickly it went together. The neckline and armholes are faced, but use bias binding for the facing instead of the more common facing pieces. I have been experimenting with this technique for a while, and actually prefer it in most cases. However, until you are used to it, it can be maddeningly confusing. If you are doing this dress and have never tried the technique, find an online tutorial and practice a bit first. It may save you a lot of seam ripping! The “very narrow hem” that I was wondering about turned out to be really easy. I like the way it turned out and will use it again on projects with lightweight fabrics. I think that some fabrics might do better with a rolled hem, though. I’ll have to test that out for the final version.

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Very narrow hem (top) and bias-faced armholes

One weird thing about the pattern is that instead of using a conventional casing for the waist elastic, you make a completely inner casing using the seam allowances. Essentially you get a casing “tube” that is only attached to the dress on one side, not both.  It works out, but probably would fail with any elastic wider than 1/4 inch. It doesn’t seem to matter that the casing is kind of free-floating.

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Inside front view shows seam allowance casing

Another technique that was new to me was reinforced stress points. You are supposed to cut small pieces of fabric and sew them to the wrong side of the overlay at each point. I departed from the instructions and chose to fuse my  little patches in place rather than sew them. I think they are probably stronger and they don’t show on the front. I used heat-n-bond lite 5/8″ tape for a quick and easy patch.

I haven’t done a lined skirt in a while, but it was the last step and there wasn’t anything unusual about it. That kind of complacency is probably what led to me putting it in inside-out. Sigh. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m leaving it that way. Shhh…

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Perfect! If you don’t look too close….

The finished dress fits! The ties wound up in the right place and look good. I do think it will look much better in a silkier fabric. The overlay sleeves made with semi-crisp cotton don’t drape elegantly down the shoulders like the ones on the pattern photo. I also think it would be much better with side pockets. But those are minor quibbles. It meets my test for wearability and I have a usable pattern so I’ll call it a success.

The next one in this series will be my first ever silk dress. Wish me luck!

Until then, happy sewing!

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More nuts and bolts…

And a few more pictures from my fashion shoot/dog walk…

Hey – check out my review of Vogue 1395 on patternreview.com here.

Fashion

Simplicity 8386 Off the Shoulder Knit Tops

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I took a little bit of a risk making these tops. I’ve never had any off-the-shoulder tops before, and wasn’t sure if they would be comfortable to wear all day. Would they stay up? Would they restrict movement? I’ve been seeing off-the-shoulder styles for a couple of years now though. They can’t be that hard to wear, right?

These are my 3rd and 4th tops made from Simplicity 8386. I think that might be a record for me! I even have one more cut out and another planned. They are just so easy to make, so flattering, and with only 2 pattern pieces and so little fabric, they qualify as stash-busters as well.

off_the_shoulder_knit_tops_12I made the floral one first. The fabric is a stretchy cotton/lycra jersey from Jumping June Textiles. It’s a 4-way stretch with 8% lycra so there was no question about it holding its shape. I cut the top exactly to the pattern, and while wearable, it’s a little short for my taste. No regrets, though. It’s still good with layers and high-waisted styles.

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I’m still learning how to do a good coverstitch. This one has teal thread in the needles and beige wooly nylon underneath.

Making the top was very easy. Most of it was sewn with a 3-thread overlock on the serger. There is a casing for elastic around the top. I did the hems with my serger‘s coverstitch function. Once again, I used Dritz Elastic Threaders for pushing the elastic through the casing. I can’t believe how agonizing that process used to be when these cheap little gems were there all along! For the coverstitch, I used plain Maxi-Lock serger thread in the needles and Maxi-Lock stretch thread underneath. So far, this seems to work well. I put it through a machine wash and (low heat) dryer cycle and didn’t notice any shrinkage.

Now that I knew I liked the pattern, I took the time to lengthen the waist. That extra 1.25 inches by itself is enough to make the length much more versatile. That’s a good thing, because I forgot to add to the bottom like I intended.

The striped one is sewn the same way as the first. Because it is made with a less elastic 2-way stretch jersey, it feels much lighter. It was one of those remnant table finds, so I’m not sure what it is made of. The main thing is that the stretch matches the guidelines on the pattern envelope.

This would be a great pattern for a beginner who is ready to learn about knits.

After wearing them a few times, I can say that they do stay up. They don’t restrict movement…  much. If you reach up over your head, you will need to re-adjust. Otherwise, a good cute summer top.

Next time – a little home dec!

Happy Sewing!

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Click here for examples of Simplicity 8386 View A.

I reviewed this pattern on PatternReview.com. Click here to see my review.

Fashion

Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 2

angelia_shorts_215I 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!

Fabric

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…

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These are the back pockets in the middle of construction. I managed fraying by overcasting all the edges. You can see how the pressed edges don’t hold a crease.
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This is the coin pocket. Here I have pinned it to the ironing board slightly damp to help keep the creases from rolling out.

Pattern Notes

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!

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.

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Closeup view of that pesky waistband, center back. TIP: Baste seams open to hold them in place. Open seams reduce extra bulk in heavier fabrics.

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.

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Inside shorts showing hand basting

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.

Here’s how:

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.

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Lovely perfect topstitching using the blind hem foot

In the end, I think these turned out really well. I think I need to do something easy next though!

Until then,

Happy sewing!

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Read my review of these shorts on patternreview.com here

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.

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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.

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Tape-marked dart
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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.

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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.

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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!

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Fashion · Fitting · General

Quick Jeans Edit – Topstitch Hem

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So professional looking!

I’ve hemmed jeans on the blog before, I know. This time though, I’m taking it up a notch with some jeans-thread topstitching.

The last time I did some outlet shopping, I found some jeans that almost fit for $16 (yay, me!). The only problem was that they were over 4 inches too long. Fortunately, hemming pants is one of the easiest sewing projects there is. These were straight leg, making it even easier.

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Mark length with pin

I followed my usual hemming process. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Try on the jeans with shoes. Place a pin where you would like them to end.
  2. Measure the distance from the bottom to the pin. Subtract your chosen hem allowance from this number.
  3. Take out the pin. Measure up from the bottom the calculated number of inches and mark. Be careful to mark the same distance all the way around both legs.
  4. Cut at the marked line.
  5. Finish the raw edges with a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch. (Any color will do – this stitching doesn’t show).
  6. Turn the jeans inside out. Turn up the hems to your hem allowance and press. Turn right side out again.
  7. Test your topstitching on the cut-off scraps. Topstitch the hem in place. Done!
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Measure and mark

To get the factory-made jeans look, the right topstitching is essential. When you think of jeans details, you think of heavy thread in shades of gold, white, and neutrals. I found that there are many options available. You can find thread made specifically for jeans, but any thread in the heavier weight ranges is worth considering. Think about whether you want soft or hard, matte or shiny, heavy or really heavy. Here are some to try:

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Ready to cut

You will need the right size needle for your thread. I used a size 14/90 universal needle for my TEX 60 weight thread. It worked well on the first try, so I didn’t try any other sizes. However, if I were to use a TEX 80 or 100 weight thread, I would go up to a 16/100. Schmetz, Klasse and Singer make a range of needles specifically for jeans which are supposed to be more durable when sewing through multiple layers. You can also get double needles. These are great if you want to be extra sure you stitch parallel lines and come with different spacing. I haven’t tried them yet, but if I get into sewing a lot of denim, I’m sure I will.

I never really thought about it before, but there isn’t any reason that the bobbin and the upper thread have to match. In fact, what seems to work best for jeans is a bobbin thread in a normal weight the same color as the denim.

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Topstitching thread in needle, navy blue all-purpose in bobbin

Fortunately, my machine sews through thick fabrics and “bumps” without a hitch. I have found that with other machines a “hump jumper” can save a lot of frustration when going over seams. You can make your own with some folded tagboard or you can buy them ready-made. A walking foot can also help your machine cope with the thick layers.

Your machine shouldn’t need any tension or other fancy adjustments. You will just want to make sure it is sewing the longest possible straight stitch to start.

Once I had my machine set up, I lined up the bottom edge of the jeans with the edge of my presser foot. This worked well for stitching the first line. The second line was done in much the same way, just using the first line of stitching as my visual edge guide.

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Maintain even stitching by aligning presser foot with jeans edge

Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to topstitch all the time!

Next time, sewing for patternreview.com’s Shirtdress Contest.

Until then…

Happy sewing!

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Align presser foot with first line of stitching for second line
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Completed topstitching
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The navy bobbin thread blends right in. Maybe I should get some navy serger thread too!