Monthly Archives: May 2016

Learning to Sew Knits: Tailoring a Tee

Yellow Flag Tee Shirt

Although I wear knits, I haven’t sewn with them.  One problem is that I haven’t had a clear idea of which stitch to use to sew seams.  I also had some bad experiences when the machine ate my fabric, when I attempted to shorten and re-hem some tees.

Double Hem Knit Tee Fail

I was completely puzzled why this happened; I was using a twin needle which is commonly used to hem knits.  I knew that ballpoint needles are used for sewing knits, but I didn’t realize I needed not just a twin needle but a stretch twin needle.  This is the second one I bought.  I broke the first one when I forgot to change my stitch back to straight after sewing zigzag.

Stretch Twin Needle

I like the 4.0 mm distance between the two needles, which looks the same as ready to wear, instead of the closer together 2.5 mm twin needles.   OK, that part is worked out.

For seaming, I have read to use a narrow zigzag which is too vague for me.  I followed the advice of the tutorial “knits without a serger”  and used a stitch length of 1.5 and a width of 5.  This is a dense zigzag.

I eased into sewing with knits by altering a flag tee shirt I bought at a thrift store awhile back to be ready in time for Memorial Day weekend.  First I resewed the side seams, then I cut and re-hemmed the sleeves and the bottom of the tee.

Can you tell which is the original hem stitching and which one I sewed?

Hem Comparison

Look at the close-up.  Can you tell now?  It’s a close match and I’m happy with my results.  I know you sewists are looking for telltale signs such as tunneling and skipped stitches.

Hem Comparison Close-up

No rips this time!

And for those of us in the USA who are fans of The Great British Sewing Bee, the fourth season is being put up on You Tube.  Episode 1 had the contestants sewing chevrons.  Watch it while you can, because the episodes tend to disappear after awhile.

All About the Flounce – Simplicity 2554

Flounce of Simplicity 2554 tease

After being inspired by the lush florals of spring, I paired a two yard cut of a  nicely draping floral cotton lawn fabric with a pattern I won, Simplicity 2554. I didn’t realize until I looked it up that it’s been two years already!  I set out to make view F, the pink top with the flounce, except that I was substituting the flounce from view E (the one on the top left of the pattern envelope) which  is shorter in the front.

Cotton Lawn Floral and Simplicity 2554

First I did a mock-up to see how the pattern fit.  I made a size 14 which fit well except for being tight and pulling across the bust.  The old fabric I used for the mock-up was only 36 inches, so I didn’t have enough fabric to try out the flounce.   This was just as well because the fabric is stiffer than the lawn so would lack the drape for the flounce.

The arm and neck facings are cut on the bias, but are a little different than bias strips.  The armhole facing is folded in half, and turned to the inside.  The neck strip has one edge folded in, then it’s turned to the inside and stitched on the outside catching the other side at the same time.  Unlike other bias strips I’ve put on, the pattern states to cut these to a particular size, seam, and fit to the openings.  I struggled to get them to match, first making the neckline too loose, and then so tight that it pulled the armholes in.  I decided to scrap that method for the second version to save myself the aggravation.

For the blue floral lawn version I added 1/2 inch to each front side piece just in the bust area between the two notches, and a little more length.

There are 3 panels on both back and front with the seam lines forming a slight A shape, and gathering of the front center panel.  This is a type of princess seam, but doesn’t go directly over the bust. The flounce doesn’t go all the way around; it’s sewn into the princess seams.

Simplicity 2554 View E flounce

How is this going to turn out?  The flounce pieces are like having a  little circle skirt on each shoulder!  To magnify the romantic look even more, I added a narrow lace to accentuate the flounce.  I had the lace, and it seemed a perfect use for it.  I hand sewed the lace, covering the hem stitching.

I sewed the front two seams with a narrow seam allowance and the back center seams with a wide 5/8 inch allowance as I have a small back.

I basted the seams and then waited a few days to consider if I wanted to try to take out some of the flounciness of the flounce.  I was afraid it might be clown-like or just “too much”.  However, I decided that with the floral, the flounce, and the lace this was a dramatic,  romantic look, and to not water it down, and to just go all in.

Simplicity 2554 Lace edged flounce

Simplicity 2554 modified view F

Back to my mock-up: I almost called this post “a tale of two florals”.  Pictured below is the old fabric from TG&Y that my mother bought either in the 1960’s or early 1970’s.

TG&Y tulip fabric 36 in wide

Yes, I made a first blouse, and this version is growing on me.  I’ll wear it with shorts this summer.

Simplicity 2554 view F mock-up


Two floral blouses: one from very old, inherited fabric in a warm color, the other in a cool color from one of the newest fabrics in my stash. One basic, one embellished. Both adding some prettiness to my spring and summer wardrobe.

A Walk in Springtime

Springtime is my favorite time of year to take my daily walks in the neighborhood.  I always have my phone in my pocket and often take photos.  Come along with me.

The florals are in bloom.   The hardy bougainvillea and California poppies grace many yards.

The jacaranda trees are especially beautiful while in bloom in May.

jacaranda sun (800x544)

jacaranda 16(800x480)

While one jacaranda in bloom is beautiful, a row of them lining a street is spectacular.  They leave a colorful carpet on the sidewalk and street.  Some say these trees are too messy, but I think they’re glorious.  In all fairness I must admit I don’t have one to clean up after.

jacaranda carpet (800x480)

With all this springtime floral inspiration, I have also turned to my stash to do some sewing with florals.

We’ve all seen lost cat signs, but I was very surprised when I saw a lost drone sign for the first time.  I hope the “skiddish” cat was found.

Some signs I don’t enjoy seeing are election signs.  California has its primary in June, and suddenly signs for mayor and city counsel appeared. There are no competing signs in my neighborhood; they are all for the same two candidates.

My dog has his own encounters when we walk.  I noticed soon after I got him that he is a “cat magnet”.  Cats will walk right up to him and go nose to nose.  The first time I was worried but now I’m used to it.  I wonder how the cats know which dog to approach.

Sparky BlkCat(800x480)

These incredibly tall palm trees were probably planted around the time the neighborhood began in the 1950’s, and I was used to seeing them on the corner. I’m glad I captured this picture, because they disappeared shortly after.  The sky and I miss them.


I love the long days. When the day starts to wind down, it’s time to look at the colors in the sky.



sunsetscene2 (800x480)

What do you see when you walk in your part of the world?