Category Archives: Sewing

Last Tank of the Summer

This post has a deceptive title. Actually, it’s the first knit tank top I’ve ever made, and it’s not summer anymore.

I used McCalls 6846 which is for woven fabrics, and I also used another tank top for comparison.  I liked the cut-in shoulders on the back of view A.

I used the fabric from an XL tee shirt.  Size medium in the McCalls pattern matched up at the hips to the large size of the Kirsten Kimono Tee which fits me perfectly, but the side seam on the top part of the pattern was larger on the McCalls.

It gaped greatly under the arms so I had to keep taking it in.  That’s also my dilemma with ready to wear: having enough room for my bust while having a close enough fit in the underarm.  This is the fit on a Hanes small size tank I own:

It has sagged terribly!  I’m talking about the shirt, not my arm – ha.

I wear tank tops at home and to walk the dog twice a day for 6 or 7 months of the year, so I would like to be a little more presentable.

The seams were stitched with a zigzag stitch.  I used the  stretch double needle to topstitch over the neck and armhole seams.  I trimmed close to the seams on the inside of the shirt.

I didn’t cut the binding cut very straight, and the whole time I was making this I was wondering if it was going to work out, or be itchy around the binding.

And the verdict is: I like it!  I’m wearing it!  It fits!  It’s comfortable!

Before I made this tank, I worked on sewing a few things that didn’t work out.  Next post, I’ll share what I learned from this.

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Instagram and Summer Wrap-up

After reading the same few sewing blogs, I set out to broaden my horizons and discover other sewing bloggers and viewpoints.  Time for me to learn something new!

I read Saturday Night Stitch/Hila’s post about Instagram and decided to give it a try.  There’s lots going on in the sewing community on Instagram: #memademay, #sewphotohop, #sewcialists. Popular posts get hundreds of likes!  It’s a fantastic place if you like to look up makes of a pattern like I do:  there are 7,000 posts for #gingerjeans (a Closet Case pattern) and 4,000 posts for#monetadress (from Colette Patterns).

I like figuring things out but I was really thrown for a loop when I tried to set up my account.  I couldn’t even upload a profile picture from my computer.  It’s an app meant to be used on a smartphone.  I take some photos with my phone but not ones of me wearing my makes.

Google:  How do I post photos to Instagram from a desktop computer?  I learned that there is third party software available to install, and then I found out about Instapic, an app I could install on my Windows 8.1 computer.  Done!

I was able to upload my first post with a few hashtags added:

 

Looking around Instagram, I noticed many of the popular patterns this summer are shirtdresses, wide legged cropped pants, and tops with a boxy silhouette.  Linen is the fabric of choice, especially white or neutral shades of linen.

Which silhouette do you like to wear?  I usually wear a fitted style, and have even added my own contour darts to patterns.  I’d like to think I could have that effortless, minimalist, chic look wearing the boxy style like Ute.  In the past,  I’ve avoided that style thinking I’d look like a blob, but I’m willing to experiment.

I’m enjoying browsing, but I haven’t posted much.  I’m still thinking about what kinds of photos I want to post.  Maybe more of what I’m working on and what patterns or fabric I’ve bought.  Maybe some of the nature pics I like taking when I’m out walking.  Like these:

 

I was also inspired by Naomi Sews post on pattern storage, and her beautifully organized and color coded “popper wallets”.  In American-speak they are poly envelopes with snap closures.  I’m using more pdf patterns, and I’d been putting them in kitchen plastic baggies and then stuffing them in various places.  My order was delivered just before 8 pm, and I spent the next hour happily filling and organizing several of my new envelopes.

The envelope is transparent enough for me to see that I labeled the pattern wrong.

While writing and editing this post, the season officially changed from summer to fall, but I’m going to be stubborn and leave summer in the present tense.

 

Chambray Shorts and a Corny Question

The seersucker gingham shorts I made last spring have gotten a lot of wear.  So it was an obvious decision to make shorts for the second item sewn with my chambray fabric.

[If you’re bored by minutia about zipper flies, skip to the bottom and take my poll.]

Since the time I made my first pair I learned that the mock fly zipper is used for women’s patterns sold by the big 4 pattern companies.  It’s not a faux zipper, but is a simplified zipper that doesn’t have a fly shield forming the underlap.

I wanted to try to sew the full-fledged fly!

Which side should it open on?  According to my Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing book, published in 1976, the placket should lap in opposite directions depending if the pants are to be worn by a gent or a lady.  The men’s version is zipped with the right hand.

When women first started wearing pants in the 1940s and 1950s, they zipped at the side or the back.  In the 1970s, after the dress code was changed to allow girls to wear pants to school, we often wore boys’ Levi cords.  They were the cool pants to wear.  We became used to a front zip fly.  Then pants started to be sold to women to fit our proportions and with the front zip fly we had gotten used to.

I looked through my closet and I found that it has become very common for women’s pants to have the fly open in the same direction as men’s pants.  This is especially the case with sporty pants like jeans.  Dress slacks are more likely to open in the opposite direction as in the traditional women’s fly.  But there is no standardization for women’s pants.  (Oh, the things that occupy my mind!)

I used the instructions from the Reader’s Digest manual to sew my zip fly.  I cut off the extensions from the original pattern piece, and made my own fly shield and extension.  The instructions include much more hand basting than is common today.  I found the basting helpful and will be doing more of that in the future.

A comparison of the mock fly and the full fly that we are used to seeing in our ready-to-wear pants:

And the wrong side:

I made large front patch pockets, back pockets, and an interfaced waistband with elastic sewn to the back.  The waistband is then folded in half so the stitching doesn’t show.  I used bright pink bias tape to bind the edge of the waistband.

I practiced flat fell seams, and intended to use that technique for the shorts, but I ended up sewing mock flat fell seams on the crotch (with two additional lines of stitching) and on the outer side seams (with one additional line of stitching).

I’ll tear the fabric before I split that seam!

I used two new techniques, and more importantly, I have another new pair of shorts I love to wear.

 

Now to the corny question:  I mean that literally!

This summer I’ve been eating a lot of fresh corn on the cob.  I was eating corn on the cob at a neighbor’s house, and he commented on the way I was eating it.  I eat it around, rotary style.  He eats it across, like a typewriter.  I just assumed everyone did it my way.  I thought maybe I eat corn rotary style because I learned to eat it that way from my parents.  I asked my stepmother how my dad ate it and she said across.  Hmm.

So I took to Google to try to find out which way is more common.  I didn’t find that out, but I did find the way you eat corn is linked to personality traits.

The across the cob eaters are said to live neat, orderly, methodical lives, and the around the cob method is favored by creative, artistic right-brained people.  There is also a third, less common group who take random bites; they’re chaotic, impulsive sorts.

Does this fit you? Is there a kernel of truth to this theory?  Do you get into discussions about strange little things like this?

I’ve been asking everyone this question.  Oh, the things that occupy my mind!

Please take my poll:

 

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This is 100: Seven Sewing Tips

100 posts that is.  I have been blogging for a little less than 5 years, so I thought it was time to make some updates, and to examine my progress.

Actually, I thought it was time to change my header, and then noticed that the 100th post was coming up.  Good timing!  Do you like the photos I chose?

When I started I wrote:  I’ve never thought of myself as being fashionable, so it feels unexpected to be turning the focus and camera on myself, and what I’m wearing.   Can I finally discover my style?

Well, yes!  I have learned what I want to sew and wear.  I have been most happy wearing my casual, everyday clothes.

Let’s take a look at most of the clothes I made in 2016:  3 tees, shorts, pants, culottes,  a pretty blouse, and a refashioned dress.   Some of my refashioning is making a few alterations to make a wearable item, but I often use the fabric to cut a new item like with my tee shirts and culottes.

What I’ve learned about sewing clothes:

1)  Know what patterns to pick and what you will actually wear.

I want to sew and wear basics and a few extras.  By extras I mean things that are experimental in some way or a little different than what I usually wear or have interesting sewing details.

2)  Make fit changes to the pattern.

I started by adjusting the fit as I sewed.  Figuring out how to transfer these changes to the pattern is a real game changer.  It’s the start of developing tried and true patterns to use again and again with design changes.

3)  Know your figure.

Are you short waisted?  Need a full bust adjustment?  You will have to change nearly every pattern to fit your non-standard body.  Some of these adjustments will be obvious, but others are things you probably never noticed about your body like forward shoulders or one hip higher than the other.

4)  Make a muslin or mock-up of a pattern before cutting into your fabric.

This can feel like a chore, but it’s useful for testing new techniques and learning about fit.  Developing slopers or sewing multiples of a pattern are strategies for avoiding making a toile.  The most important thing I’ve learned from reading other sewing bloggers is to find some basic tried and true patterns.

5)  Keep detailed notes on projects.

I usually do things differently than the instructions, and a year later when I want to use the pattern again I won’t remember what I did.

6)  Use the right fabric for the project, in a print or solid you will want to wear.

I made a lined summer dress from quilting cotton and it was too heavy for my liking. Knowing the difference between a pattern that needs a fabric with drape and one that needs crispness will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

7)  Learn new techniques so you can make clothes with the features you prefer.

You may prefer a different type of pocket than the pattern provides, or a waistband with partial elastic, and you need the knowledge and experience to make your custom garment.

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I’ve also enjoyed keeping a record of my home sewing, embroidery and cross stitch projects, as well as the occasional knitting and crocheting.

As far as blogging goes, will I reach 200 posts? Maybe not, but I have a few more ideas and I’m going to continue for a while longer.

Top from Vintage Simplicity Dress Pattern 8183

It was the summer of 1969.  Young and old came together and watched in awe as American astronauts succeeded in landing on the moon.  It was also the summer of  the Woodstock music festival in New York and of two nights of shocking murders in California which were later found out to be committed by the Manson Family.

In my world, I was in elementary school with the summer off.  I was listening to “In the Year 2525″ by Zager and Evans, ” Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies and Donovan’s “Atlantis” on my transistor radio.  My library’s reading program for kids was titled “books are out of this world” and my reading consisted of books like “The Happy Hollisters” and the Beany Malone series.

The jiffy pattern, Simplicity 8183, of a darted dress with a low cut H-shaped back was released in 1969 for summer sewing.

I have a bunch of vintage patterns from thrift store shopping, but I actually set out to buy this one after seeing it on the “We Sew Retro” website.  I bare arms and legs but don’t have any clothes with an open back.

This will be my blue summer – I’m not talking about moods but fabric.  I picked up yardage of two different shades of chambray at an estate sale.

I decided to start on my chambray summer sewing with a top made from this pattern.  It’s sized for a 36 inch bust, and I’m bigger than that.   I started by doing a full bust adjustment to the pattern after I traced it off on medical pattern paper.  I made a mock-up using a sheet – too tight!  I added 1/2 inch to the seams.  I kept the front and back waist darts, but I made them shallow as I wasn’t going to use a zipper and didn’t want the top to be too fitted.

The fabric frays easily so I sewed french seams to enclose the raw edges. I planned on swapping bias binding for the facing pieces.  After I started working on the top I had the idea to substitute red piping as an accent around the very long neckline.   For the armholes I made  bias binding from the chambray fabric.

I had scraps around from the denim skirt refashion so I made the strap from denim.

A big goal with this top was to keep my bra from showing.  Initially, I tried to get the strap on the top to cover my bra, but it wasn’t quite working so I raised the back 3 inches.

I tried machine stitching a little section of the piping to the inside of the shirt, but didn’t like the way it looked.  I wanted a clean look to the front of the top as if I were using facing.  Instead I invisibly hand stitched the neckline, armholes, and hem.

view of inside

The finished top:

It has a front too.

I had a devil of a time getting the strap straight, and unpicked it a few times.  The thread is a great match, so both my fabric and nerves were fraying.  I think I was trying to attach it too close to the curve.

In the photos of me wearing the top, I noticed some strain lines across the back and I was thinking of removing the strap.  It was a cute part of the design that attracted me to the pattern, yet I raised the back and don’t really need it.  I also belatedly thought of making a strap with buttonholes on both sides that can be buttoned on or left off.

What do you think?

I wish you a happy summer of ’17.  I doubt it will be as historically memorable as the summer of ’69 but I hope it will bring you memorable days of enjoyment with family and friends to look back on.

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Beginning a Vintage Inspired Star Quilt

The board game, Monopoly, will be retiring its thimble token this year.  Does that mean hand sewing is “out”?  I don’t use a thimble for most of my hand sewing, but it is essential for hand quilting.

Quilting magazines were always available at my neighborhood grocery stores and drugstores.  During the past year I’ve noticed they no longer stock them.  I think that’s not because quilting is no longer popular, but much of the focus for patterns and fabric has shifted to the online marketplace.  I would guess that my location, a big city in southern California, is also a major factor why these quilting magazines aren’t selling enough to be carried.

One drawback to making quilts is it’s expensive in comparison to making clothes. Much more yardage is needed for all the coordinating fabrics, backing, and batting.  But that’s also the fun part of quilting – playing with different fabric combinations.

Peace & Unity Selvedge

A year ago I bought a set of 20 fat quarters of Civil War Reproduction fabric called Peace & Unity.  Time to decide on a pattern and get to work!

I liked the quilt on the cover of the December 2005 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting that I bought at a used book store.  It features sawtooth star blocks set on point alternating with a yellow print fabric.  The quilt is dated circa 1900 and is titled Vintage Stars.

Quilting Magazine Cover

on point layout of quilt

Besides the fat quarters for the stars, I would need various shirting fabrics for the background part of the blocks.  It was hard for me to settle on the fabric for the alternating squares, and I still might change it if I decide I don’t like how it looks.  Budgeting is a factor; I bought 5 yards of the gold print for $10. Although the print reads like a solid from a distance, it has cross hatching in a slightly darker shade of gold.

fat quarters and gold square

Because many of the fat quarters were dark and deep colored fabrics I pre-washed them as a precaution.  They are high quality fabrics and didn’t bleed at all.

The star blocks in the magazine pattern are 7 inches.  I made sample 7, 8, and 9 inch blocks before deciding on an 8 inch block.  I decided on a 8 inch block partly because of the size of the quilting rulers I own, and also because I wanted to make my flying geese with this Amy Smart, of Diary of a Quilter, tutorial of a no-waste method of making four flying geese units at a time.  There is no formula for a 7 inch block using this method.

I am cutting a 5 1/4 inch square and four 2 1/2 inch squares of my background fabrics.  I will make three stars from each fat quarter cutting a 4 1/2 center and four 3 inch squares for each star.

The flying geese measurements have a little extra so they can be cut to the correct size after sewing them.  For the 8 inch blocks they are 2 1/2 by 4 1/2.

Although this is not a hard block to sew, my sample blocks were still 1/4 inch off, either bigger or smaller on one side.  This isn’t a block that can be cut to dimensions at the end, because this would cut off the points.

I took care with the following steps  in order to get a uniform size:

  1. Cutting the pieces exactly.
  2. Sewing the scant 1/4 inch seams.  I changed to the 1/4 inch foot.  When sewing the geese units I lined up the gauge on the foot slightly to the right of the center line.  Another problem I had was my stitching veering off at the end and I had to correct that.
  3. Pressing!  I was mindful to press the seams in the suggested direction, but I noticed I was not always pressing out the seams completely.  There was a little tuck of fabric making the row 1/8 or 1/4 inch shorter.
  4. Measuring the rows before joining them to make sure they were 8 1/2 inches across.
  5. Making small adjustments when sewing the final rows together so that the seams were matched.

2 finished sawtooth quilt blocks

I like seeing my pile of stars growing!

Any thoughts on quilting?  Are quilting magazines still carried in your neighborhood stores?

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Quilted Sewing Machine Cover

Machine Quilted Checkerboard

I made my first sewing machine cover back in 2012.  That was when my only thought was keeping out the dust, and I just used some blah fabric I had on hand.  The pattern was from the book “One Yard Wonders”.  My sales slip is still inside; I bought it at Borders in  October of 2010.  I didn’t even have a sewing machine yet when I bought the book.

Old Sewing Machine Cover

Inspired by all the versions I’ve since seen on Pinterest, I decided I needed something a little fancier and prettier to cover my machine.

I wanted to use a sewing themed panel I had, incorporate some patchwork, some other bits of sewing themed fabric, and linen blend fabric I had bought for “zakka” style projects. I didn’t fully plan the layout ahead of time, as I like making it up as I go.

Sewing Panel I planned to use for pocket

I used the sewing panel for the pocket.  Then I made a checkerboard section with 2 1/2 inch squares of linen and accent fabric.  The third section is a representation of garment sewing with applique dress forms, one containing a little dress, and some hand appliqued hexagons.  The bottom section is composed of four 4 inch spool quilt blocks.  The spool blocks are from Laundry Basket Quilts.

Long Panel for Sewing Machine Cover before quilting

I love the zig-zag fabric for the center “thread” of the spool blocks.  Do you see what they look like?  Spools of rick-rack!

I used Sew Delicious’s basic tutorial to make a quilted cover with side panels.  Once I had my four sections sewn together in a 17 1/2 inch wide by 30 inch long piece of fabric, I added batting and machine quilted the sections with the exception of the dress form panel which I hand quilted with #8 perle cotton embroidery thread.  I used the same thread to hand quilt the pocket, and I added a few buttons as accents.  My machine manual fits inside the pocket.  It’s one part of the original cover that I liked.

Pocket Side of Sewing Machine Cover

Then I quilted the side panels, sewed them to the main long piece, sewed a lining, and hemmed the bottom.

Quilted Side Panels

Hand Quilted Section with Perle Cotton #8

Sewing Machine Cover in Sewing Nook

I used so many techniques I’ve learned since I’ve started sewing to make this cover.  I’m really happy with my new, improved, one-of-a-kind, quilted sewing machine cover!

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