End of Summer Leftovers

Do you like leftovers? Some are good, others are tasteless. Well, in this case I’m talking about using fabric left over from other projects.

I sewed up another Laundry Day Tee, the sleeveless version, by Love Notions from the fabric left over from the Classic Tee. This a versatile pdf pattern and the no-trim pages of Love Notions patterns are a big time saver.

Some sewing tips:

1) When you print out a pdf pattern with layers, don’t print only one size or all the sizes. I usually print out 3 or 4 sizes because I might want to use the shoulder or neckline of a smaller size, and it helps to see a few sizes in case you want to grade up or down in certain areas.

2) Don’t print out the entire pdf for a pattern with multiple variations. Look for where it tells you which pages you need for the option you are sewing.

3) Customize your pattern. A pattern is a starting place, and you can use it to make your ideal garment with some changes. I cut the neckline wider at the straps and not as deep, and now it is perfect for me.

I wore it walking to the library and took a selfie. The breezy wider hem shape was perfect for keeping me cool.

4) Measure clothes that fit well and compare to pattern pieces to help cut the right size.

5) Take notes on makes. I do this but often leave out important details, and my memory fades.

6) If there is a pattern piece for the band on a knit, don’t use it. The length you need will differ depending on the stretchiness of your knit. You may need to shorten it. This rayon/spandex knit is very stretchy and I had to snug up the top of the side seams and then stretch my binding tighter to avoid droopy underarms.

I’m wearing the top with one of the two denim shorts I have sewn.

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I don’t wear clothes that are classified as activewear. I don’t ride a bike or go to the gym. One active thing I do is walk. Since I’m out walking my dog every morning and night, why not sew a sporty walking outfit.

I had some navy ponte fabric left over from the full length pants I sewed at the beginning of last year. Ponte is a double knit fabric. I think I wore polyester double knit shorts from K Mart when I was about 10, but this fabric is a nicer, more breathable rayon/nylon blend. It was just enough for a pair of shorts, although I did need to cut the inner waistband from another bit of rib knit I had. The pocket linings are from a scrap of silky fabric which helped to reduce bulk. The pockets are nice and deep to hold phone, keys, and poop bag.

I sewed the shorts with my sewing machine and then serged to finish the seams. The pattern is another repeat: the Patterns for Pirates Mama Bear Joggers with the waistband of the Itch to Stitch Mountain View Pull-on Jeans. It’s satisfying sewing a pattern that has already been altered to fit.

The shorts feel sleek, soft, and firm. They are thicker than leggings, and not as skin tight and revealing which makes them just what I wanted. When I came home from my walk this morning I didn’t want to take them off. So I didn’t – I wore them all day.

I topstitched the hems and around the pockets with a zigzag stitch and I very much like the sporty look and lack of a ridge I’ve gotten when using a double needle. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s easier than threading up a double needle.

More photos of garment and construction details to follow because this is a sewing blog, not a fashion blog, ha! How the clothes fit on the body is important to see, and the final piece.

The knit tee was an upcycle cut from a XL tee I had on hand. I again used the Laundry Day Tee but with much of the swing removed due to fabric width limitations. I chose the neon/lime green color to give me more visibility when walking at dusk.

Do you wear woven tops with knit bottoms? The opposite is very usual with a tee shirt paired with jeans. Somehow I got the idea that knit bottoms should be worn with a knit top. I need to experiment with this.

I used the hem of the original tee shirt for the binding so I didn’t have to iron a strip in half. That’s why there is a line of stitching on the binding. I like a good shortcut.

right side of tank
serged wrong side

I sewed the blue floral top back in July and I struggled with getting the neckbands and armbands sewn decently. I don’t like the method of measuring the neckline, calculating 85%, and marking the band and fabric circumference into fourths that the standard instructions have you do. It’s too hard for me to get it stretched evenly and takes too long pinning. I messed up and sewed folds into the shirt side of the seam and had to rip and redo. For the green tank I cut a longer strip for the band, didn’t join or pin the band, left a tail unsewn at the start, and then stretched the band as I sewed it on with a basting stitch, stopping before the end and making a mark for sewing the ends together. It’s kind of like joining quilt binding but with a straight stitch. Tanks are the worst to sew because there are three bands instead of one! I would buy some tanks if I could find a brand and size that fit well, but at this point it seems easier to just sew them.

I love these leftovers! The two knit sleeveless tops and knit shorts are first rate pieces that fit well, are comfortable useful clothes, and in my opinion look good too.

Tempo Sundress by Love Notions

I learned a new skill in order to sew the Tempo Sundress: shirring.

I still had the elastic thread I bought many years ago when I tried unsuccessfully to shirr. I read that many others had been unable to shirr with a Brother machine, and the tension on the bobbin case needs to be tightened by turning a screw. I decided to experiment before taking apart my machine. The shirring tutorials say to hand wind the thread with little to no tension. I tried hand winding the bobbin with a significant amount of tension, started sewing, and suddenly my flat, squiggly lines bunched up into shirred fabric.

My fabric was a cotton from deep stash with an interesting plisse texture with some stretch from the slightly gathered texture. I had two yards and never knew what to do with it.

The photo below shows the pattern piece and how much smaller the fabric became after shirring.

I cut out a size large according to my bust measurement. Then I added an inch to the bodice front. That was a mistake, as the bodice was too large on me. For the interfacing for the bodice facing I used a light woven fusible interfacing. I switched to an orange cotton for the facing at the top bodice because I thought a smooth fabric would work better than my lumpy main fabric.

I took an inch off the bodice length. I have a difficult fitting situation with needing more length in the front for my bust, but having a short back. I added 1/2 inch to the front tapering to nothing at the sides, and subtracted from the back in the same way. Even so, the bodice hits past my waist in the back.

The straps are sandwiched between the facing and the bodice, making it difficult to access the fit and placement before sewing.

The deep inseam pockets are attached to the waist at the top, which keeps them securely anchored. The skirt is gathered to the bodice. I tried taking big seam allowances on the bodice to compensate for the largeness, but the fit is still off and the straps are too far apart on my small shoulders. I will have to make some alterations to feel more comfortable wearing the dress. I would have liked to made another bodice, but didn’t have enough fabric. The straps are supposed to be wide enough to cover bra straps but they don’t on me. I made them 1/2 inch wider, which wasn’t enough as they are folded in half. I may add some elastic to the straps because I can tell I will have a problem with keeping them up. You can see the strap ready to slip in the back view photo. In the photos, I wore the dress with a bra with clear plastic straps.

A cute dress, good use of stash fabric, but needs some work. And I can shirr!

Quick Summer Refashions

Is there such a thing as too hot to sew? For me, there is. My sewing area is not in my cool zone, and I don’t like to set up my ironing board on a hot day. Sometimes I try to cheat and sew without pressing when I should to avoid the iron, but that doesn’t work out so well.

Rayon is a cool fabric for summer, and I have two quick refashions to show you.

The first is from my own closet from over a decade ago. I didn’t sew then, and I bought the dress at the drugstore, which shows that I was never much of a clothes shopper. The dress was rarely worn, and became too tight in the bust, and the elastic didn’t sit in the right place. I didn’t have much fabric to work with so I didn’t use a pattern and just improvised. I made a bandeau top elasticized on the top back, and made straps fashioned from the leftover top pieces. I like the swingy shape from using the bottom of the dress.

The sun faces are upside down. I don’t think I noticed things like print placement before I started sewing.

The before photo is from over 10 years ago when I was in my late 40s.

The second refashion was of a maxi dress bought several years ago at the thrift store that needed to be resized. It’s one of those dresses with the thin ties that tie at the back to give some shaping to the waist. The length was perfect but I never properly finished the dress because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it , so it sat in the refashion pile. The border print was the prettiest part of the dress, so I decided to make another simple boxy top. I used my altered Maya pattern and black bias tape for the neckline.

Even though I also liked the dress, the top will get much more wear than the dress would have. I already have another dress with the same style but with a print that I like more that I’m keeping as is.

Using recycled fabric already in the system is also an example of sustainable sewing. This type of sewing is concerned with limiting ecological waste, and is an issue widely talked about in the sewing community.

“Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly. The whole idea behind “sustainability” in general and sustainable sewing in specific is that of leaving a minimal impact on the planet. This idea incorporates issues like carbon footprint, waste creation and disposal, and labor practices.”

A large portion of my sewing is sustainable. Most of the tops and dresses I sew fit this category with the fabrics sourced secondhand, but I usually have to buy new bottomweight fabric for pants and new knit fabric. I bought three different knit fabrics last year – a ponte, a cotton knit, and a rayon knit and sewed them all. I have no knit fabrics in stash. To be honest, I started sewing with secondhand fabrics as a more affordable way to sew, and not because of the environment. I also like the creativity of upcycling textiles such as making clothing from sheets, tablecloths, and scraps. I like using what I already have, and I love the advantages of sewing this way from both from a thrifty and environmentally friendly perspective.

Little State Samplers Cross Stitch

I came across one of the Little States Samplers by Alma Lynne on Ebay, and then bought a second state as a companion piece. The two states I chose were California and New York. California is where I live, and New York was where I was born. The finished size of the designs are 4-1/8 by 5-3/4 inches when stitched on 14 count fabric which will fit nicely in a 5×7 frame. I stitched them on oatmeal colored Aida.

New York snagged the best symbols: the state bird is the bluebird, the state flower is the rose, and the state insect is the nine-spotted ladybug. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a state bug, but the ladybug is about as lovable as a bug gets. I liked this design, and stitched it as written with few changes. I used floss I already had, and didn’t use the exact colors as charted. I just looked at the photo and chose similar shades.

There were a large number of partial stitches which made the chart hard to follow. For the rose, I stitched the outline first and then filled in with 3 or 4 different shades of the same color. The blue leaves were the result of not being able to tell colors apart when stitching at night.

The California grizzly bear is on the state flag, and is the state animal. I liked the bear design, but not the collar and bib. That’s just wrong for a wild bear, and suggested captivity which is sad. The grizzly is a type of brown bear, and has been extinct in California since 1924.

Our state flower is the California poppy which bloom in March and April. I have photographed them many times.

I thought the poppies were too small and simplistic in the design, so I redesigned that as well. With the bear and the poppies as the only motifs besides the grapes at the top, I felt the design was lacking. The state bird is the California quail which wouldn’t be recognizable as a small cross stitch, so I can see why it wasn’t included. I got out my very old graph paper and tried to come up with something. I had never done this before and enjoyed the challenge and the creative process.

I sketched a pan of gold, but had trouble making it look appealing. Eureka is our state motto which means “I have found it” referring to the discovery of gold in 1848 leading to the gold rush of ’49. I settled on a mission bell tower and a wave as my motifs.

The wave represents California’s 840 miles of scenic Pacific coastline. California is also known for its 21 Spanish missions. The first, established in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcala, is the inspiration for the bell tower design I created.

I haven’t framed these two pieces yet. Because they are so small, I will probably display them on a shelf.

Adventures in Quilting: Patchwork Placemats

Some say that sewing clothes is not cheaper than buying them. Well, it is in my case. I have managed to sew for cheap using thrifted fabric and patterns, discounted, and free patterns. I also get “free” fabric (and often free shipping depending on the seller) from Amazon with credit card points. I can make a top or shorts that I will wear for years from one yard of fabric. I can make pants and most everything else with only two yards. Quilting is a more expensive hobby. You need yards and yards of fabric, and then more fabric to coordinate with the main fabrics. Piecing is only the beginning, and there are many more steps to completion. Machine quilting is so awkward and difficult that some quilters are not even quilters – they send out for the quilting to be done professionally. While I will never be primarily a quilter, that doesn’t stop me from having quilting aspirations from time to time. I’ve collected a large number of fat quarters and fabric odds and ends over the past 15 years. Mostly, I have ideas and plans that never come to fruition.

Years ago, I bought some fabric pieces at the thrift store, including a stack of fabric cut into 4 x 6 inch rectangles. Some were already pieced together in a long sequence. The fabrics look dated and ugly together. It has been said if you don’t like a fabric you haven’t cut it small enough.

From the pile, I noticed some fabrics that coordinated together and would make impressionistic American flags. I decided to make placemats for the patriotic summer holidays. I bought a yard of navy stripe fabric for the backing, and navy for the binding.

They took me a long time to finish. I started last year, and the stitching looked so bad due to tension problems, that I gave up, and put them away.

In addition to the problems with my machine, my attempts at quilting were atrocious, and caused major distortions.

I also had tiny stitches from holding on too tightly while quilting. These placemats just looked sad!

I wanted to finish them this year. I started by spending an entire afternoon removing all the quilting. I was still having problems with finding a quilting pattern that I could sew well. I finally liked the way they looked when I changed to a chevron pattern. Each rectangle contains three lines of diagonal stitching. They finished at 12 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches. Done is good! And I am pleased with them.

I have watched various quilting videos over the years. Right now, I am a fan of Karen Brown of Just Get It Done Quilts. Karen has a website and You Tube Channel. I especially like her concept of an ugly quilt. Maybe I could make one of those! The idea is that a quilt that isn’t seen as perfect or special will actually be used and not just stored away. These everyday quilts aren’t just bed quilts, but can be used on the couch, in the yard, at a park, for the dog, etc. My dog digs and scrumples bedding so I wouldn’t have to worry about him wrecking it.

I also like watching the way Karen stacks fabric, makes blocks, then cuts them up and recombines them. Karen has great ideas for simple blocks and scrappy blocks. None of the quilts she makes are actually ugly, but I think I could manage that.

So, should I make something ugly from the rest of these rectangles and this long pieced strip?

Summer Dresses: Laundry Day Tee and Bardon Dress

Shorts are a summer staple for me. I’ve sewn six pairs since 2017, and I love wearing them. But I want to have an alternative to shorts for going shopping or out to lunch. My plan for this summer is to sew casual dresses that are comfortable, have pockets, and are loose enough to not need a zipper. No constricting belts wanted either, but a self -fabric sash is a comfortable option for shaping.

I started with two fabrics, a knit and a woven, and two free patterns.

I used the navy stripe cotton/spandex knit to sew a sleeveless Laundry Day Tee by Love Notions with a V-neck. I sewed a size medium and added inseam pockets. I chose to cut the fabric with the stripes being vertical for the lengthening effect.

Next up is the Bardon dress by Elbe Textiles for Peppermint magazine. I chose size E by my upper bust measurement and did a 1/2 inch full bust adjustment to the darted bodice. The adjustment added 1 inch to the waist which I should have taken away with vertical waist darts but I forgot that the FBA also added to the waist. I also shortened the bodice by 2 inches due to my short torso. I didn’t want the pockets, which are sewn on the first tier, to hang too low for my short arms to reach. My fabric is a red cotton I bought at a thrift store many years ago, with the pattern having a stripe-like effect. The bottom tier was very wide, 48 inches per side, and I cut it on the cross grain in order to be able to cut the full width of the pattern. I also like the visual interest it creates.

A gust of wind caused the dress to billow into a perfect bell shape!

These patterns are keepers! I would make both of these dresses again, perhaps with some alterations. For the Tee dress I would add ease to the underarm area and some width to the back hip as I would prefer the dress to hang straight and not pool at the back. The tiers of the Bardon dress lend themselves to playing with the lengths and proportions, and I can imagine several variations.

I styled these dresses with accessories for going out. They are even easier to wear than shorts since it’s only one item of clothing, but look more polished. The Laundry Day Tee dress is a sporty classic in the navy and white stripe, and doesn’t feel too different than wearing shorts. The red, flouncy Bardon dress is a fun dress and more of a stand out look. So I hope I’m ready to be outstanding this summer!

Angelia Shorts Hack to Cargo Pants

I wanted to make a pants version of the shorts I made last year, the Angelia shorts by Itch To Stitch. I loved the patch pockets, zipper fly, and buttonhole and buttons details. I also wanted to change the pattern to have a partial elastic waist. My fabric is a light olive mostly cotton twill with about 10% stretch.

I enjoyed sewing these pants and love the look of them, but not the fit.

When I basted them and tried them on, I was disappointed. They were very baggy and full of drag lines in the back thigh, and the crotch was not right. The rise was too low. There was not enough room for my butt, and they dipped down at the back waist. I tried to save them by adding an inch to the waistband, but they are now too long in the front crotch and still too short in the back crotch length. It’s odd because the shorts fit me better in the rise and waist, but I guess I must have made some changes to that area when I altered the pattern. I also should have extended the elastic partway into the front, because they’re too loose in the front waist. One of the problems I have with the fit of close fitting pants legs is I have smaller than average thighs and larger calves. I might try a large calf alteration to help with the hang of the legs and to see if some of the wrinkles are caused by the fabric riding up from the lower leg. I was thinking to remake them into shorts, but if the crotch fit isn’t comfortable they won’t get worn. I have made so many clothes that are favorites in the last 2 or 3 years that I’m not used to a fail, but, to paraphrase Longfellow, into each sewing life some clunkers must fall. The poem is “The Rainy Day”.

The top is a refashion from a thrift store rayon skirt that I made last year but hadn’t written about. I loved the wonderful abstract print and fall colors with brown, tan, rust, and dark green.

The shape was wider and shorter than my pattern piece, but I like the way it worked out.

I have two more fall fabrics I wanted to sew to go with these pants, but I’m putting those plans on hold. I still would like a pair of pants in this color family, preferably a drab dark olive.

No more rainy day – tick-tock, do you know what time it is? Time for summer sewing!