Sewing Bloopers

My last post presenting my denims shorts and breezy Hawaiian top ran a little long so I’m giving my mistakes their own post.  Even though these were very successful makes, I made some major and minor goofs along the way.

When sewing, I often try to ignore that sound from the machine when something is going wrong.  This is what happens on the underside of the fabric when the the thread slips off a contact point in the upper threading. I used to think this was a bobbin problem, but it was very apparent that it was an upper threading problem as the beautiful contrasting topstitching thread was only used on top, and the bobbin thread was an all purpose blue thread. I had to keep rethreading as I worked on the shorts, as I needed regular all purpose thread for the top thread when sewing the seams.

Not all of my topstitching went smoothly. Some wandered off the rails.  Part of the bottom edge stitching was ripped out and redone.

I sewed one of the pieces on the back yoke backwards, and I even topstitched it before I realized my mistake.

Here I was almost done, and doing the bar tacks on the back pockets. When I put the fabric under the needle I settled on the wrong spot, and was bar tacking right in the middle of the back yoke. Oops!

I already showed the photo of the cracked rivet placed next to a very nice example of topstitching and successfully installed rivet.

I also had to redo one of the armholes on my Hawaiian top after I had already sewn on the bias binding, because it was too high and tight, and take in one side of the neckline.  I’m not a perfectionist, but if there is a problem that will keep me from enjoying wearing a garment or from wearing it altogether, it is worth the time to fix.

What mistakes? I’m very happy wearing these two classic summer pieces!



Denim Shorts and a Refashion For Two

I have been holding on to about a yard and a half of stretch denim I bought at my now closed neighborhood thrift store for several years.

It wasn’t quite enough for a long pants version of the Itch to Stitch Mountain View Pull-on Jeans, so I decided to use the same pattern for a shorts version.  I already sewed this pattern two times previously this year: these green pants and these gray pants.

I bought topstitching thread and jeans rivets for this make. I’ve read about some machines not being able to handle the thickness of topstitching thread so i practiced on a scrap.  This thread’s thick!

comparison of all purpose thread and topstitching thread

No problems and looking good!

I also practiced installing a rivet.  They are installed by making a hole in the fabric with an awl, and then hammering them in.  The difficult part for me was cutting down the posts, as I didn’t have a tool strong enough.

If the post is too long it will crack through the rivet.

one rivet installed, discarded cracked rivet on the right

I had to improvise to find a hard surface for hammering them in.  I used the back of a cast iron skillet.  Next time I will follow advice to use a block of wood.

I chose to eliminate the back leg seam of the original pattern.  The previous time I made the pattern I traced a new pattern piece after sewing the two back pieces together.

I love these shorts!  The fit is perfect. The waistband stays put with no slippage yet they are very comfortable when sitting down.  I haven’t had a pair of denim shorts that fit for several years, and they go with so many of my summer tops. The shorts have creases in the photos because I couldn’t wait until I photographed them to start wearing them!

front view

back pockets

front pocket bags

In the top photo I’m wearing them with my I love this fabric refashion,  but I have a new refashion to show you.

I’ve had this knee length rayon challis dress with a beautiful Hawaiian print in my closet for almost 20 years.  I’ve gained weight over the years and it no longer fit, but still I hung on to it.

I laid another refashioned rayon sleeveless top over the bottom of the dress, and thought it would be just wide enough to make a top.  I used store bought bias tape for the armholes and neckline.  I didn’t take apart the side seams so had to pinch out armhole darts to remove the excess flap of fabric that formed when I tried the top on.


I love it!  I like the way the high side slits from the original dress hem show off my rivets ( I put 4 in the front) on the shorts.

What to do with the top of the dress?

I saved the best for last…..

I grabbed the leis for some twinning with my dog Sparky in his matching shirt.

I am so thrilled to add these two pieces to my closet.  They will be summer staples for me!

It’s a Grown-up Romper!

There was an Instagram sew-a-long for jumpsuits, and armed with the Sallie pattern by Closet Case Patterns and a few yards of a rayon jersey fabric, I jumped in to give this type of garment a try.

I don’t own any jumpsuits.  Would I like it?  Would it be hard to get in and out of?

The Sallie jumpsuit and maxi dress pattern is designed for knit fabric and has 3 views to mix and match.  I made view A which has a front and back v-neck, a self lined bodice, slash pockets, and an elastic waist.  I shortened the legs to make a romper. I think the last time I wore a romper was when I was a toddler!

I wanted a tropical print, but the fabric I bought wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  I like the leaves, but the background is quite light colored.  I would have preferred more of a blue and green print. This is also my first time working with rayon jersey which was very lightweight and stretchy.

The neckline uses clear elastic between the two layers of the bodice for a clean finish without any stitches showing or a band.  I’ve used clear elastic two times before without any problem.  With this make, I had a problem with one side of the neckline rippling and gaping.  In fact, it bothered me so much I made the bodice twice.

discarded bad neckline

Because the fabric was light colored, I decided to underline the shorts portion with a nude ribbed rayon knit I already had in my little stash.  Following this underlining tutorial by Seamwork, I pinned and hand basted the two fabrics together.

The inseam is 5 inches. I hand hemmed the shorts stitching through the interlining only.

The biggest surprise came when I sewed the top and bottom together, and tried the romper on.  The weight of the shorts caused the bodice to drop way too low, and the crotch was much too long. I had to keep hacking off fabric from both the bottom of the bodice and the top of the shorts until the fit was good.  I estimate I cut off 2 to 4 inches.  I also raised both the front and back necklines when I cut the bodice for a second time.  Being very short, I’m about 6 or 7 inches less in height than the pattern is drafted for, and these changes were necessary to fit my proportions.

This turned into a more challenging project because of my problems with the pattern, the fabric, and the fit.  Challenging is a code word for frustrating.

I bought another rayon/spandex jersey knit fabric at the same time and was planning on making the dress version of the pattern.  The elastic waist of the romper created bunchy seam allowances that poke me, so now I’m thinking I might enjoy wearing a dress without a waist seam better.  Another possibility for a future make from this pattern might be view C worn over a top in a cotton jersey with a tie belt instead of an elastic waist.

So, what do I think of this romper? While I can get in and out of it, I’m not jumping at chances to wear it.  I’m not a jumpsuit convert yet!  Shorts and a sleeveless rayon top are still my summer faves.

Jersey Little Black Dress

I had some soft black cotton jersey left over from this top.

I followed through with my plan to make a very simple LBD, or little black dress, a style popularized by Coco Chanel in the 1920s.

From the article: Everything About Little Black Dresses – “A little black dress symbolizes effortless elegance, simplicity, and style. It is essential for every woman because it is iconic, versatile and timeless. Wear it as it is, or accessorize with shoes or jewelry”.

I need this wardrobe magic!

I knew I wanted a dress like a long tee shirt with short sleeves, a v-neck, and an optional sash. I used view A of New Look 6461 as the bones of my pattern, and also based the dress on a v-neck nightshirt I often wear, measuring to get the same amount of ease in the hips.

This came together very easily.  I used clear elastic on the wrong side in the seam allowance for the neckline, then folded it over, and stitched it down.  I had to piece together fabric for the long sash.  Due to a lack of fabric, I was afraid the front would be too short and applied a fabric facing.

I tried wearing it several different ways: with jewelry, scarves, belted and unbelted, flat and heeled sandals. I considered adding an elastic waist, but decided against it.  I wanted to keep the dress simple, and I didn’t want anything binding. I like the sash tied for waist definition, and it is supremely comfortable.

I’m feeling tres chic in my little black dress!


Stretch Woven Pull-on Jeans #2

I ordered gray cotton stretch twill to make another pair of Itch to Stitch Mountain View pull-on jeans.  The idea being that on my second go-round I would have the advantage of learning from my mistakes from the first pair.  My two main problems were cutting the fabric with the stretch up and down instead of across the body, and twisting legs.  Despite these mistakes I have worn the olive green pants lots, and the only thing that bothers me about them is that they slip down a bit. To fix that problem I am making the second pair with a higher rise, and with tighter elastic.

So how did I do this time around? Will this be mistakes part 2?

I cut the pant pieces very carefully, measuring to keep the grainlines straight, with the stretch in the right direction, and in a single layer.

I did this in an effort to eliminate twisting of the legs. I believe the twisting was caused by the back and front outer seams being different lengths causing me to twist the legs as I sewed them. But the extra steps couldn’t hurt.

I also referred to this pattern review post and especially the diagram about balanced pants.

I had to piece the pockets to cut all the pattern pieces from 2 yards of fabric, and topstitched a simple design that well with the seam. I used a lighter gray all-purpose thread for the topstitching.


Straight legs!

I like this pants pattern because instead of having a bunchy elastic waist they are smooth and flat, and hold my stomach in while being comfortable. I also enjoy the actual sewing of the pattern; the instructions are good and making them is just complex enough to be satisfying, and easy enough for me to sew well.

Fake fly but real pockets

And this time I decided to change the back waist to knit ribbing, and used the navy I had on hand.

Um, no.

This time I couldn’t pull up my pants!!

I learned the number one thing to know about working with stretch woven fabric: test the stretch percentage.

I ordered fabric with the same description from the same vendor as my olive green fabric, but while the olive has 30-40% stretch, the gray has only 10%. When I received the gray twill, I thought it felt different, but ignored the sewing “red flags”.  The pattern states the fabric needs to have between 20% and 30% stretch. I used the Megan Neilsen guide  for calculating the stretch.

After I added the waistband, the pants couldn’t get over my hips.  I thought about adding panels to the side waist, but then realized the length of the waistband has to stay roughly the same to sew onto the pants. The stretchy knit ribbing I used for the back waistband worked, to my relief. I don’t wear my shirts tucked in, so it doesn’t show. Luckily, the pants legs are slim but not skinny tight, so I can move in them, although they’re not as comfy as my stretchier pair.

I plan to make a shorts version for the summer, and a denim version eventually.

For me, there is a lot of problem solving in sewing.  I’m able to get through projects faster now that I’m better at figuring out solutions. Do you find that you are always having to solve problems in your sewing or in your craft ?


Day To Night Drape Top

After sewing several simple tops from repurposed extra large tee shirts, I was more than ready to buy a yard of new knit fabric to make my next top. I found a gorgeous coral feather print; a cotton knit with a little spandex.

My plan was to make the Maria Denmark Day to Night Drape Top which is a pdf pattern from my make nine list for this year.

My bust put me at a size XL, while my waist and hips were within the L size.  I opted to cut the XL. The pattern has a choice of sIeeve lengths.  I cut short sleeves, but added 2 to 3 inches to the length.

When I read the instructions I noticed that a rayon knit was recommended, and I was working with a less drapey cotton knit.  Trouble ahead? The soft folds of the neckline is dependent on a fabric that is light and fluid.  The elongated top of the bodice folds to the inside to form a lining for the draped cowl.

The  back neck uses clear elastic as the facing. The elastic is enclosed by the fabric. I liked this finish, and think it’s a little dressier than a banded tee shirt.  I will use this technique again.

After sewing the seams, I wasn’t comfortable with the neckline, as it was a little too low. I didn’t want to end up with a top that wouldn’t get worn. I googled for solutions, and found this “cowl raising” post from 2013 by Samina of Sew Everything blog.  I had even commented on the post at the time, but time passes and memory fades.  It was too late to change the pattern piece so I needed to improvise and figure out a quick fix.  I  unpicked the seams and cut 1/2 inch from the edge of the cowl on each side.  It worked really well.

The sleeves were a breeze to do, as they were sewn in flat.  I sewed the cowl lining into the sleeve seams.

To finish, I needed to hem the bottom and sleeves. I’d already broken all my double needles, and I had been unsatisfied with the amount of raised tunneling that had resulted, so that method was out.

I liked the way 60 Something Teacher had finished her Nora top with topstitching, so I followed suit. I did two lines of topstitching with a narrow zigzag, and I like the result.  It was quick, easy, and lies flat.

The top is quite form fitting for an XL. It fits me more like a medium in ready-to-wear. One big difference between sewing patterns from independent companies and patterns from the Big 4 is sizing.  If I chose a size based on my measurements from McCalls or Simplicity, the item of clothing would be too big. With whatever pattern I’m using I measure the pattern piece if I can’t find finished garment measurements.

Thank you, sewing friends and bloggers for sharing your knowledge and experience!  And thank you, dear readers and friends for following my sewing and making adventures!

Knitting: The Second Round

A cold, rainy winter provided all the inspiration I needed to get out my knitting needles.

I stopped knitting for awhile after I had problems with my hands and was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome in January 2011.  Gradually, I began knitting again but only garter stitch strips.  I was concentrating on learning to sew, and my creative energies were elsewhere.  Maybe I didn’t want to be too interested in something I was trying to avoid doing.

Now I want to add knitting back into the mix. I am inspired anew, and thinking about what I would like to make.

To start the year, I knitted a cowl completing  #6 on my “Make Nine List” to hand knit an accessory.

It was knit in garter stitch in navy, gray, and off white with random stripes and then seamed to form the join.

When I was cleaning out a closet I found a foot of a scarf with the needles removed and the stitches saved intact on a length of waste yarn.  I estimate I started it about 10 years ago! I was able to find the pattern, the Dayflower Lace Scarf, put it back on the needles and count to find the row I should start on.  I finished this scarf too.

I wrote out the lace pattern on an index card, and then used a paper clip to keep track of the row I was working on.

I have three reasons for wanting to continue to knit.

The process of knitting itself:

I want the soothing rhythm of creating with just my circular needles, to experience the yarn, watch the fabric I’m making, and to play with colors and patterns.  Some of the techniques I haven’t done that interest me are gradient color changes, an Icelandic circular yoke with a color design, and double knitting.

To use my stash:

Knitting can be a bit expensive as compared to sewing. Nice yarn can cost between $50 and $120 for a sweater’s worth.  I already have yarn for at least 4 sweaters, so I would be knitting for “free”.

To have some sweaters and accessories to wear:

hand knitted socks and dog sweater worn this winter

After enjoying the process of knitting, I’ll have some pretty and unique things to put on when the weather turns cold.


The following is my account of my experience with carpal tunnel syndrome:

I used to be a daily knitter. My hand symptoms started when I had trouble turning off my alarm clock in the mornings because my hands had gone numb.  Then my numb hands would cause me to wake up at night.  When these symptoms progressed to the point that I was waking up several times a night, and the numbness was also continuing into the daytime I became concerned and went to the doctor.

I was given these gloves to wear.

I removed the metal insert from one glove to show the curved shape. The metal keeps the wrist from bending and provides support. I wore them every night and stopped knitting.  My hands would still go numb when I held the phone for too long or when holding other objects.  Now, for the most part, I only wear the right glove occasionally, usually in the winter, and vary my hand activities.  I also use a computer mouse with my right hand, but I don’t spend nearly as much time on a desktop computer as I did between the years 2000 – 2010. My keyboard and mouse usage could have contributed to my carpal tunnel symptoms. I used to also have forearm pain after many hours of mouse clicking. Remember the ball inside the mouse? My left hand does everything else, and two of my joints have signs of arthritis from wear and tear.

Knitting and other hand crafts can contribute to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, arthritis, and repetitive stress injuries. My advice is if you experience pain or numbness, don’t ignore your symptoms.  Slow down, consult a doctor, and make modifications as needed.

Have you experienced hand, wrist, or arm pain or injuries from crafting? Did you make changes as a result?