Knit Shorts Times Three

August is a HOT month. I love the navy ponte shorts I sewed late last summer so much, I decided to sew more knit shorts. With fluctuations in weight, I no longer wanted to wear my previously sewn shorts with a fly and button. I sewed three pairs of shorts with three different types of stretchy knit fabric.

French Terry is a stretch terry cloth fabric with a smooth side and a looped side. The terry I used is a polyester/rayon/spandex blend. This was my first time sewing this fabric. It’s usually used for cozy garments, so it might not be a great choice for summer, but I can also wear the shorts in the spring and fall. I sewed the elastic waist Allegro pattern by Love Notions, even though the pattern is for woven fabrics. I sewed the shorts with the smooth side on the outside. After inserting the elastic, I had trouble distributing the gathers evenly. I added a button embellishment just for fun on the mock fly front.

Next I sewed the Mama Bear Jogger shorts by Patterns for Pirates with green scuba. Scuba is a polyester/spandex mix with a good drape and a sheen. The website says it resembles an apparel weight version of neoprene. I had never sewn with scuba before, and my needles had problems sewing this fabric: I experienced skipped stitches, and even though I had selected the zigzag pattern the machine was sewing straight stitches instead. I changed from a stretch needle to a ballpoint needle, and that helped. I’m wearing the shorts with a woven rayon top that was a refashion from a dress. I like the top but needed shorts that go with it.

Next I sewed a pair of shorts in the same style with double knit ponte fabric in a powder blue. This ponte fabric is a heavy weight polyester/rayon/spandex blend. I have sewn with ponte before, as I like both sewing with it and wearing this fabric for knit pants. The ponte I previously used was a rayon/nylon/spandex blend, which is a nicer and pricier ponte. I’m not usually a fan of polyester as it can get sticky.

I sewed these shorts with the Itch to Stitch waistband from another pattern. It’s a beautiful curved waistband that fits me well. I added another inch to the waistband length and the elastic for added comfort when sitting down. I hate a too tight elastic waist! It’s a double waistband with the elastic stretched and sewn to the seam allowance. I sewed a wider seam allowance to use 3/4 inch elastic. I also tweeked the fit a little adding more to the crotch point in the back. When I made changes to the pattern earlier I had removed too much.

I sewed the seams with a zigzag on the sewing machine, finished the seams on the serger, and top stitched the pockets and hemmed the shorts with a zigzag stitch.

All three shorts have generous front pockets which I use. Part of the pocket piece is visible on the outside, and a lining is sewn on the main shorts front and turned to the inside before being joined to the main fabric pocket piece. I used a different slinky fabric for the pocket lining.

I love this swingy Laundry Day Tee Tank so much for summer! I think it looks much more flattering than the traditional Hanes tank that is tight in the hips that I’m wearing with the terry shorts. I bought some more rayon knit to make another, but might make a dress instead. I can always cut it down into a top later.

All three pairs of shorts were sewn with 1 yard of fabric each bought online making them inexpensive; two were under $10 and the scuba was under $7. I like ponte fabric the most as I found the terry snagged on my nails, and the scuba was hard to sew with.

Color Block Tees

I was working on a upcyling project that I had lost interest in when the July sewing challenge for the Sew Over 50 Instagram group launched. The challenge was to mix at least 2 solid colors in a garment. OK, I’ll play!

I had done color blocking with raglan tees (also known as baseball tees) before, but that’s about all. I had a few old tees and other tees that I bought for a dollar each at a garage sale that I thought would be fun to experiment with.

BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern is a book I have had in my library for years. It was published December of 2012 and has examples of styles from the 1920s to the 80s. I almost never make anything from sewing books but I used to enjoy browsing through them at the bookstore, and this is a book I actually bought in person. How old fashioned, ha! I liked the Veronica Geometric Top, and used the illustration for my inspiration. In the book, this top is an example of an 1980s inspired look.

My mother had a similar woven color blocked top circa 1960. Fashion does tend to be cyclical. I remember bright color blocked dresses from the 1960s mod era. The most famous color blocked garment is the Mondrian inspired dress introduced by Yves St. Laurent in 1946.

See more examples in the article: The History of Color Blocking.

For my project, I drew out a basic boxy tee and then made 2 cuts.

I used 4 colors, blues and gray, making a v-front and putting the little lavender triangle of fabric in the back.

The joining of the fabrics to a point was tricky. It’s more of a skill that quilters have than a garment seamstress.

Then I made a second tee with a variation on the same shirt but with only one diagonal cut to the pattern. I used a coral tee for 2/3 of the shirt and periwinkle blue for the rest. I sewed v-neckbands for both tees. They are a little tricky – I had to read a few tutorials.

I even did a little piecing within my block, choosing to make the join using the original shirt hem overlapping to make it part of the design. The back of the shirt is shown with the close-up on the left:

I feel prints are more fun to sew than solids, but combining solids creates an interesting look. I love these!

I also sketched out other color block combinations I might want to try.

I would put the cut in this shirt over the bustline.

Either of these would be striking with black on the sides, or combining a print and a solid.

Just some ideas for possible future projects. Of course, there are many other ways of combining solids, whether for woven fabrics or for knits. Sew creative!

Another Bardon Dress for Summer

The Bardon Dress is a free pattern from Peppermint Magazine designed by Elbe Textiles. Bardon is a loose fitting sleeveless dress with no closures, a bodice with bust darts, gathered tiers, and deep side seam pockets.

I had this quilting cotton fabric stashed from many years ago when I first aspired to sew my own clothes. It is a beautiful Japanese inspired print called Sakura by Robert Kaufman. Sakura is the cherry blossom, the national flower of Japan, and the print also has cranes and fans. Although a gathered pattern is not the best for showing off a print, I decided to go ahead and sew it.

I thought the first Bardon I made was too oversized, and changed the proportions of the tiers. This one is about 7 inches less at the waist and just below the knee. I had to put a seam in the back bodice because of lack of fabric. I only had a few little scraps left over.

I shortened the bodice by two inches, and I did a full bust adjustment to add some length back to the front but it’s still pulling up a little bit.

I like to gather by putting two lines of basting stitches, and then sewing in the middle. The second line of basting stitches is outside of the seam allowance and later must be removed.

The neckline and armholes are finished with bias tape.

I had just enough fabric left to make a belt using a pretty mother of pearl buckle I had. The belt dresses it up a bit, but I will probably wear it most often without and with flat sandals for a casual everyday look.

I also put a quarter inch piece of elastic in the seam allowance in the center part of the front bodice. I dislike the way clothes look on me when they hang from my bust and stick way out from my body. The seam is pressed upward and the elastic is on the inside and not against my body. On my first try, I didn’t stretch the elastic enough and there was no effect, so I unpicked. I may have stretched the elastic too much when I stitched it again. I was trying to get just a gentle pulling in, but this is close enough. I think I may try a different construction order if I make this pattern again so that the dress can be more easily adjusted at the side seams to get the waist no bigger than needed to fit over my bust. The pattern has you put the front and back together for the bodice and each tier before attaching the tiers together. Basically, any bodice can be used for a tiered dress with gathered rectangles for the skirt portion.

I’m very happy with it – it’s a lovely dress!

The colors in the print look fresh together, the tiers are fun to wear, and I love when the dress catches a breeze.

I think I could use another one in light as air rayon or cotton lawn.

Linen for Spring – Allegro Capris and ZW Shirt

I often sew with thrifted fabric so was excited to sew with two intentionally bought fabrics. Both are lovely linen blends – the blue is Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen/rayon in Chambray color and the stripe is linen/cotton. I love the yellow stripe amidst the blues.

The pants are the elastic waist Allegro pattern by Love Notions.

I had previously sewn a pair of shorts with this pattern, so I had already altered it quite a bit – the crotch extension, the rise, the pockets, and the length and width of the legs.

I made the Allegro pants with a narrower elastic waist, and without the drawstring. I also made them a cropped length, with a deep cuff and a slit so the pants wouldn’t get “caught” on my calf when I sit. I used to wear pants as long as possible with platform sandals to look taller. I always thought I was too short to wear cropped pants, but I quite like them. The fit is excellent. I could use a few more pairs of pants like these.

The fabric has a texture. The pants feel dressier due to the linen fabric, but they’re also a little scratchy. I used a smooth cotton chambray for the inner waistband for comfort. The raw edges of the fabric unravel very easily. I was glad to be able to serge them and keep them neat.

I bought the striped fabric to sew the Zero Waste Cropped Shirt by Birgitta Helmersson. It is a pattern without pattern pieces and is designed to be sewn with a yard of fabric with a 57 inch width leaving no leftover fabric.

I made changes to the formula, adding length to the shirt by making the sleeves shorter. The sleeves are cut on the cross grain. I also cut off the selvedges of the fabric. The layout as written has a shirt length of 21 1/2 inches and a chest circumference of 47 inches. I sized down 2 inches.

After cutting out the shirt, you are left with a little semi-circle, two triangular pieces, and a large rectangle. The instructions have you use the pieces as facings. The large rectangle (not pictured) can be used as a large facing at the back of the shirt or as pockets. I elected to not use it as a facing as the shirt already has a deep hem.

I did use the other bits: the triangles covering part of the side seams, and the half-oval as a piece for the tag in the back neck.

My neck placket wasn’t long enough so I added a piece.

I made four buttonholes for my longer shirt. The buttonholes are easier to make with my new machine, so that’s a plus.

Because the shoulders are square cut, they stick out, and bunch up in the back. The neckband is awkward, as it’s higher than I like, and gapes around the neck. There is a strain on the top buttonhole, but I might have caused that problem by putting the buttonhole a little too high.

So what are my thoughts on “zero waste” patterns in general?

The pros: I was intrigued by the concept, and saw other makes of this shirt that I liked, so I bought the pattern. I like the clever design, the idea of getting the most use from your fabric, and not wasting paper. In the case of this shirt, I also like having a go-to pattern that uses only one yard of fabric. Although the pattern doesn’t come in different sizes (at the time I bought it, there are now two sizes), it does have instructions on making changes to the layout.

The cons: I use fabric wisely, but I think it’s gimmicky that every bit has to be used in one garment. I like to take a swatch to match for thread, and to practice buttonholes and thread tension. I also think a well fitted garment will be worn more than one with an awkward fit, and the whole point of being a home sewist is to make a garment more tailor-made than something I could buy off the rack. Rectangular pieces have their limitations.

Still, the shirt turned out pretty well. I just don’t know how much I’ll wear it.

I was especially eager to try my new pants with other tops. Here it is with the floral Phoenix blouse and as a summer look with my sleeveless Laundry Day Tee:

Spring Decor Crafting and Sewing

I love decorating for holidays! I made two little projects for spring and the Easter season.

I used to do more crafting before I started sewing and missed this type of project. The wreath was made with a wire frame with ribbon wrapped around it, ribbon mesh, and plastic eggs from the dollar store. I kept playing around with it and changing it.

Previous versions:

I looked at some tutorials but ended up improvising something very simple and fast, because I didn’t think I had enough supplies for a wreath with ribbon pieces tied on and didn’t have the knack of weaving the ribbon, both of which I initially attempted. I inserted wire into the egg openings to attach them. I thought the wreath needed something else so I added a flower I already had.

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I saved an old ripped quilt with the idea of upcycling part of it in a project. I love textiles, and always have ideas about repurposing. I thought I had better hop to it and actually follow through with an idea so I don’t become a crazy hoarder.

I found a silhouette of a rabbit I liked from Positively Splendid. The pattern prints on one page and I estimated it would be about 9 and 1/2 inch finished. I wanted a bigger bunny, and I found out that this is very easy to do directly in the printer interface. I increased custom scale and selected poster for page sizing. I tried a layout with 4 pages but decided on a 2 page layout with a scale of 125% for a finished size of 12 inches high.

I fussy cut the quilt to place the star on the rabbit body. Then I zigzagged around the perimeter to keep the 3 layers together, and sewed the two sides together leaving an opening for turning. Clip into those curves first!

I stuffed the bunny with pieces of the quilt, hand sewed the opening closed, added a bow, and done!

Cute! Happy Spring!

My First Quilt is A Rag

The title sounds dismissive, but I’m actually so proud of it! A rag quilt is not made from rags, but gets its name from the exposed raw edges that become frayed or ragged from washing. In the book Quilt As You Go by the British author, Carolyn Forster, it is referred to as fringed quilting. The frayed edges take on a ruffled look. I had been vaguely aware of rag quilts, but not at all interested. Then I became obsessed and just had to make one. I wanted to get going right away so didn’t start with a pillow cover as I had planned, although I’d still like to make one in the future.

Let’s go back to the beginning. The fabrics that fray the most are 100% cotton, flannel, and denim. Some rag quilters also use fleece or minky as a backing even though they don’t fray. I used 300 eight inch squares for 3 layers: I cut 250 squares myself and used a pack of 50 precuts I bought from Amazon as well. That’s a lot of cutting! The seam allowance is a generous 1/2 inch so the finished size of the squares will be 7 inches. My layout was 9 squares wide and 11 squares long for a finished quilt of 63 x 77. I used the 100th square as my test square, which I washed to get a preview of what the quilt would look like. My top layer is composed of 99 different pretty woven cotton prints, mostly floral and also some novelty prints included like the ones below, half cut from my own stash. I wanted prints that are fun and happy. The quilt would have had a more unified look if I had just used the pastel florals but I have been collecting fat quarters and bits of fabric for years so wanted to use what I had on hand as much as possible.

I bought 5 yards of flannel for the backing, and the flannel in the center was cut from an old sheet. I prewashed the new flannel and rewashed the old flannel, but I did not prewash my top cotton fabrics.

Next, I sandwiched the layers and quilted an X through them. I attached my walking foot and eyeballed the lines to sew without marking them.

Then I decided on the layout. I was unsure how best to sew the squares together. I first thought to sew in long strips, while the book suggests to sew the squares as 4-patches. I don’t think it matters too much. I started with 4-patches to help keep the seams of the squares matching up together. This is only seen on the back, so again, it doesn’t matter too much. The fabric on the back is important for contributing to the color of the ragged borders on the front.

The squares are sewn wrong sides together, and look like this. Weird!

I then attached them in bigger sections, and began to cut the seams allowances without cutting into the stitches. The snips are close together, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch apart.

I have a spring-loaded scissors of the type recommended to make the large number of snips needed, but it had dulled and wasn’t sharp enough. I used the the newer and very sharp Fiskars scissors in the photo, and my hand held out.

The exciting part is the first wash. I was a little scared of this, as I no longer have a laundromat in my area, and had read about the possibility of clogging the washer. I don’t have a dryer so no worries there. I have a top loader machine and meant to check on the quilt during the wash cycle, but I was doing something else and forgot. I didn’t have a problem, whew!

I washed it twice, and then hung it on the line and ran my hand up and down the quilt knocking as much of the fluff off as I could and watching it blow away.

I didn’t need to use a lint roller over the surface. The individual squares looked lint free, maybe because I didn’t use a dryer. But…little threads got all over the carpet while I was working on it, and carrying it around, and they were very hard to vacuum up. Rag quilts are very messy!! I read that they continue to shed until they are washed 3 to 6 times, and I also read they shed for a year or more. So we’ll see.

I have read rag quilts are quick to make, but that wasn’t my experience. It was much more physically exhausting than garment sewing. First I had to cut up all the fabric. The quilt was also heavier than I thought it would be, and once most of it was put together it was hard lifting it up and running it through the machine. Then I cut all those snips. My machine also got quite a workout sewing through all the layers. I bought a pack of 16 and 18 size needles, but I still broke a needle.

On the plus side, they’re fun to make! I love the texture, and the piecing doesn’t have to be precise. This project ticks my boxes of sewing goals for this year : try something new, enjoy the process, and use textiles I already have. And yes, it is my first completed quilt.

I absolutely love my ragggedy rag quilt! It’s pretty, but still an everyday quilt that will be able to withstand digging from little paws.

Quilt As You Go Placemats

My current obsession is the quilt-as-you-go technique. I bought the book Quilt As You Go by Carolyn Forster and love the variety of techniques. There are 14 techniques including chapters on stitch-and-flip, piecemakers quilting, manx log cabin, potholder quilting, japanese reversible patchwork, envelope quilting, cathedral windows, siddi quilting, applique quilting, lined circles, fringed quilting, and pojabi patchwork. I have also taken 2 Craftsy classes on QAYG, and watched YouTube videos.

I want to try almost every technique in the book except Suffolk puffs – Americans call them yo-yos. A quilt made from yo-yos would not stand up to digging paws and the openings look like they would make good spider homes.

I decided to try some of the techniques by sewing small projects such as placemats or pillow covers before attempting a larger quilt. The first method I tried is called piecemakers quilting in the book. It is also called a 1 hour serger quilt or a quilt as you go serger quilt. If it’s not done on a serger the ends can be finished with a zigzag or overcast stitch to reduce bulk.

I pieced 2 1/2 inch strips for the top of the placemats of different lengths for interest. I also cut 2 1/2 inch strips from the batting and backing. My finished placemats are about 12 by 16 inch, but I started with longer strips so they could be trimmed.

Every row is sewn with 6 layers: 2 top strips, 2 backing strips, and 2 layers of batting. You start with a conventional quilt sandwich: the backing wrong side up, batting, and the top strip right side up. Then you add your next row before sewing by putting a backing strip right side together to the first backing, a top strip right side together with the first row top strip, and then a batting strip on top.

So your layers are: batting, top RS down, top RS up, batting, back RS down, back RS up.

You sew the layers with a 1/4 inch seam. I found this hard to do on the serger because I have less control than on the sewing machine. I used clips to hold the layers together but I also had trouble catching all the layers a few times. You don’t have much room for error with a quarter inch seam so I took a slightly bigger seam allowance to compensate. I had trouble sewing with the less stable batting on top and found it worked better when I turned the layers over so that the batting was on the bottom against the feed dogs.

After you sew your seam you open the layers up. You have two rows sewn together to which you can add quilting. Then you add your next row to the second strip by putting another backing strip right sides together to the back, a top strip right sides together to the top and a batting strip on top. So you’re always sewing with the bulk to the left as you add rows.

I experimented by adding decorative stitching and attaching the binding by machine without any hand sewing. You can’t beat a beautiful traditional binding but you might come close. My ends aren’t straight so I need more practice with the binding.

I sewed the first placemat with wavy quilting, but I didn’t iron out the layers before sewing so there is a ridge. It doesn’t ever seem to work out to forego pressing yet I keep on trying.

This is an easy technique if you can catch all the layers and don’t need a precise join. For a quilt, its drawback might be a bulky seam. Another common QAYG technique uses sashing strips which are sometimes finished by hand sewing. This technique is much faster for a quilt that can be sewn together in rows. Some might find it less aesthetically pleasing to have a backing with many seams. I’m not sure yet which method I would use for a full sized quilt.

Next up: My first bed size quilt!!