Starting Out With a Serger

I started my sewing journey with a sewing machine I bought in 2010 for the very modest sum of $80. I started off slowly, but now I sew nearly all my clothes, although I still wear old ready-to-wear clothes. It is rewarding and feels amazing to have reached the point in my sewing where my favorite clothes are handmade.

I had mixed thoughts about whether I really needed a serger or overlocker. I had put learning to serge on my list of sewing goals for the year and hoped it would elevate my sewing, so I hit the order button.

The Brother 1034D is a popular and affordable option.

My first attempts at serging were with the 4 different colors the machine came threaded with:

I used the overlock type stitch on my sewing machine for pockets and some seams, but I often didn’t finish the waistbands because of impatience.

I read that sergers are noisy and hard to thread, but neither has been a problem for me. I was able to thread it from scratch fairly easily, but I did need good lighting and a magnifying glass.

I also serged my cross stitch fabric.

Since I sew on a oval table meant for eating and not at a sewing table, I had to find a comfortable set-up. I use an extension cord for the serger and then put it back on a book shelf when not in use. I also had to change my sewing habits of many years. Once I got over this initial awkwardness, I started to incorporate the serger into my sewing, and appreciate the quicker and neater finish on my seams.

I bought a book to learn more about what a serger can do and how to do it.

Next up: sewing knits – black ponte and a striped knit with a sparkly lurex.

Do I Need This Pattern?

This summer I tried to buy a pattern on sale on the Simplicity website, but it was no longer available.

I liked this pattern because it reminded me of the Rae pants from the book “Breaking the Pattern”. But the book is expensive and I find patterns hard to use from books, so I end up not making anything from them.

I like the partial elastic waist and I like the front slit, although I would probably make the conventional closed leg first as it’s more practical.

I bought the Simplicity pattern on EBay instead. I had a lot of fun with the bidding process when I joined EBay back in 2001, especially loving the excitement of last minute steals and the thrill of getting a bargain. Now bidders identities are hidden, and you can no longer check out their buying history. I know Etsy is also popular for patterns and fabric, but from habit I’m more likely to check EBay first. When I go shopping on the site, I usually find what I’m looking for and always find other things I like as well.

I ended up buying 3 more patterns.

The drawings looked so cute! Simplicity 2414 has drawstrings but no elastic for closure.

I already had Love Notions Allegro pattern.

So did I need more elastic waist or drawstring pants patterns?

Another example is the Hey June Handmade Willamette shirt, a cut-on sleeve, collared shirt with a back yoke which I own.

The Love Notions Melody pattern is another cut-on sleeve shirt, but without a back yoke. I saw it on sale for $5 for a pdf pattern.

The Closet Core patterns Kalle shirt is a very popular shirt with the same cut-on sleeve, although it does have several options that set it apart, including a curved faced hem. This pattern is also much more expensive at $16 for a pdf pattern.

But do I need another similar shirt pattern? In this case, no.

Besides the two pants patterns I also bought two top patterns on EBay.

New Look 6284 was selling at a low price, so I put in a bid. I lost it, but then that made me want it even more. I love the square neckline, and it looks ideal for hot weather without being too bare.

I also bought Simplicity 4122.

I liked the gathers instead of darts, and the curved yoke.

The point is I have enough patterns that I see many patterns that are similar to patterns I already own. I need to use and adapt more of the patterns I have instead of buying more. But I can’t resist the excitement and possibilities of a new pattern if I can get it at a good price.

Printed patterns are such perfect little packages in their envelopes, uncut, factory folded. I have so many, but often use a pdf pattern instead. I’m still trying to get over my fear of unfolding the tissue paper and then not being able to get it back in the envelope. This is especially a problem when there are several sheets of tissue paper. Well, I’ll just have to accept once I unfold the pattern sheets the perfect, flat pretty package won’t be the same, but I’ll be using the pattern for its intended purpose.

So, yes, I sometimes buy more patterns than I need just because I want them and they are on sale.

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I just reached my 8 year anniversary blogging with WordPress. com. It was so easy starting the free blog, and I’ve never had any technical problems, or needed to have special knowledge. Then I logged on earlier this month and got an unwelcome change. WordPress changed the classic editor to a block editor, and I thought my blogging days were over. I couldn’t write a post and got the error messages “sorry, you’re not allowed to edit this post” and “this page not found” when I tried to preview a post. I troubleshooted, and here I am. I’m adapting, and I’m glad I can continue on with WordPress.

More Summer Sewing

I sewed a third pair of shorts, and a simple skirt.

The shorts are made with gray knit fabric, a cotton jersey.

I used the Patterns for Pirates Mama Bear  Joggers, modified with a higher rise and slimmed down hips and thighs, with the waistband from the Itch to Stitch Mountain View jeans, the same combination I used for my navy ponte pants in January.   It is a double waistband with the elastic stretched and sewn to the seam allowance with a zigzag stitch.  These shorts are so comfortable I could wear them to bed.

I topstitched a dense zigzag in a blue thread for a decorative look on the pockets and hems.

I had some of the tan cotton twill left over from my Angelia shorts, so decided to sew up the Love Notions Allegro Skirt.  This is the same pattern I used for my denim shorts.  It’s an a-line shape with an elastic waist.  I changed the pockets, but I made them too hard to get into.

My goal was to have a casual summer alternative to shorts. I don’t know if it’s the fabric or the pattern, but I don’t like the way it hangs on me.  I either need a fabric with more drape, a different color, or a different silhouette.  This make is a dud – I feel like I’m wearing a middle school uniform!

I achieved my goal for this summer with sewing 3 different pairs of shorts, 2 sleeveless tops, a dress, and a skirt.  The red top is an old Hanes tank and the yellow print top is a refashion from a few years ago.

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For future summer sewing, I could still use a casual dress with pockets and lightweight, loose cotton pants.

What’s next?  I don’t know, maybe I’ll take a breather and ponder the meaning of life, clean house, or take up a hobby. More likely I’ll reorganize my sewing stuff and keep on sewing!

Knit Midi Dress

I stopped sewing shorts to make a dress!

Last year, I bought a few different printed rayon spandex knits.  My intention for the 2 yards of this big pink roses on navy background print was to sew a birthday dress.

I cut the dress long, and was undecided how I wanted to finish it: maxi, midi, a drawstring or elasticized waist, add pockets or not, or maybe make two pieces.  My indecision led to not finishing the dress in time for my birthday, and I wore a ready-to-wear dress out to dinner instead.  I decided to put the unfinished pieces in storage and move on to something else.

This year I don’t plan on going out, although outdoors dining is allowed in my city.  But my present to myself is to finish this dress.

Butterick 5607 is an old pattern, and is meant for woven fabrics.  Well, I broke the rules and used it to sew a very stretchy knit! The pattern has 3 neck variations; I chose the scoop. The dress style is a simple shift with a slight A-line shape, and an all-in-one facing is provided for the neckline and armholes. It has bust darts which were not needed on a knit fabric. This pattern would also work well for sleeveless tops.

I had previously cut out the dress and basted it together, and cut out the facings.  I sewed the side seams, and followed the directions which have you sew the shoulder seams last.  Then some hand sewing is required to finish the top of the armholes. While sewing I suddenly realized I could have used the burrito method for a clean finish, but didn’t want to change course.  In the burrito method the shoulders are sewn first, the side seams are sewn last, and the whole garment is  rolled up to sew the armholes.

I stabilized the shoulders by sewing on top of a twill ribbon. This was especially important because the whole garment hangs from the shoulders and my fabric is very stretchy.

Later, I took the ribbon off half of the seam to reduce bulk. (The outer garment shoulder and facing is sewn in one continuous pass). I also edge stitched the neckline and armholes because the weight of the dress was pulling the front down exposing the facing.  I  didn’t skip the understitching, but my fabric was still misbehaving.  I added side slits, sewed a 2 inch hem a little above the ankle, and I was finished.

I sewed a sash with the fabric I cut from the bottom, although I like the fit of the dress just as much without.

I had mixed feelings about the print: first I liked it, then I thought it cloying.  I didn’t add pockets because the dress looks dressy to me, and not like an everyday dress, even though it’s as comfortable as a nightgown.

I enjoyed posing to show off the slit in the photos!

I’m glad I took this birthday (plus one year) dress from UFO to done!

Love Notions Patterns Summer Outfit

I sewed up another pair of shorts and a tank top. They are two Love Notions patterns, the Laundry Day Tee, and the Allegro bottoms.

 

I love that Love Notions pdf patterns are quick to put together because there is no cutting of page margins.  You can choose to print only the size or sizes you select, and the instructions tell you which pages to print for the variation you have selected.  Love Notions pattern are very affordable, often just $5 or $6 during their frequent sales.  They also offer many cute and practical patterns!  This is my first time actually sewing their patterns, although I own a few more.

Let’s take it from the top. The Laundry Day Tee is close fitting through the shoulders and bust, and then flares out into an A-line shape.  The pattern comes with many  neckline, sleeve, and length variations, and is free when you join the Love Notions Facebook group.  The idea is you can whip one up in the time it takes to do laundry.

I had a rayon spandex knit with a tie dye type print in stash in mind for this.  I thought the swinginess of the A-line shape would be ideal for the hottest days of summer, and I opted for a sleeveless tank.

I folded away a few inches of length at the shorten/lengthen line and added some width to the straps.

I bought the fabric online so didn’t see the variable colors of the dye pattern of the fabric.  There was more light space than I expected, and I played around with the best way to cut it.

I have since decided I don’t like sewing with this type of rayon knit because it’s so very very stretchy which means it easily stretches out of shape and grows.  I cut a size large and then had to snug it up at the underarms quite a bit.  I should have also cut it an inch higher at the underarm to give me some leeway, because I don’t want to deal with too low underarms.  The neckline and armholes are finished with 2 inch bands folded in half.  I don’t have a serger so I used a stretchy zigzag stitch of 1.5mm  long and 3mm wide to sew the seams.

This is such a fun and cool top!  It feels as light as a whisper. I put it on before pressing the hem and bands, and didn’t want to take it off!

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For the Allegro, I cut a size 10 of the 5 inch inseam shorts. The pattern is for woven fabric, but I had a yard of stretch denim I had ordered to see if I liked it enough to use for pants.  It is the Robert Kaufman super stretch denim.  I didn’t like working with this denim.  It’s supposed to be indigo but looks almost black and attracts lint.  As soon as I touched it, the color came off on my hand. I prewashed it twice, and started sewing with it.  And the result was still a deep blue stain on my hands.

I didn’t want to use the denim for the pockets, so substituted a scrap of cotton with a cute dolphin print.

I lengthened the rise and narrowed the legs on the shorts pattern.

The waistband has an inserted piece of elastic that was hard to get through the channel.  The elastic is then stitched down in two rows. I had never made this type of elastic waistband before. The elastic called for is 1 and 1/2 inches wide.  I didn’t have any so substituted a 2 inch elastic which I cut down.  I omitted the drawstring.

I  topstitched  with the same gold thread that I used for my previous denim pants. Partly because I lengthened the rise, the slash pockets had too long of an opening.  I added some bar tacks to help with this, but need to change the slant of the pockets in the future.

I considered doing a turned up hem on the shorts, which I see on denim shorts a lot, but sewed a deep hem instead.  The funny thing is I could see a blue ring on my lower thighs from the turned under hem after wearing the shorts for only an hour.  Hopefully, a few more washes will make them wearable because it’s super annoying shedding dye everywhere.  They pass my test of not slipping down while walking and total comfort while sitting.

The photo below shows the comparison of the waistband to my favorite denim shorts I made last year.  I wear them so much I thought I would sew a similar pair.

I love the smooth fit of the Itch to Stitch Mountain View Jeans waistband.  It probably would have been better to use that pattern for these, because denim is a little thick to be all bunched up, but I wanted to try out the Allegro pattern.

I will be sewing variations of both the Laundry Day Tee and the Allegro bottoms again.  They are patterns that make the kind of comfortable, casual clothes that I live in.

Angelia Shorts and Upcycled Top

I bought tan cotton twill to make shorts to match my summer tops that don’t go with blue.  I was attracted to Itch to Stitch’s pattern, Angelia Shorts, as they have details similar to ready-to- wear shorts I had bought in the past.

I sewed view B which has a zipper fly, 8 buttonholes with lots of pockets, tabs, and cuffs.

I cut a size 10, shortened the crotch extension, narrowed and lengthened the legs, and added to the rise.  I typically make significant changes to a pattern.  I prefer comparing patterns I’ve used before or measuring clothes that fit instead of sewing a muslin mock-up.  I omitted the front pocket tabs, but made the buttonholes and sewed on buttons to keep the same look.

The shorts have a curved waistband with a seam in the center back.  In the future, I would either make the waistband elasticized in the back, or use a knit fabric for part of the waistband for greater comfort and ability to fit through weight fluctuations.  My new motto is no more uncomfortable waistbands or shoes!

I had major problems with my machine halfway through.  The thread kept breaking, the machine locked up a few times, the bobbin tried to jump out of the machine, and the stitches and buttonholes became dreadful.

comparison of buttonholes

this was supposed to be a buttonhole

this is the bobbin thread

I had to stop working on the shorts, take a break, and read a book.  After about a week, I set to work on troubleshooting the machine.  I readjusted the tension,  changed the thread, rewound the bobbin, changed the needle and stitched on scraps until somehow I got it in workable condition. Whew!  I was able to finish.

To go with the shorts, I upcycled another too tight knee length rayon dress from my own closet into a top, using the bottom 2/3 to make the top.  I did the same thing last year, and used that top as a template and used ready made bias tape to finish the necklines and armholes.

More summer sewing to come!

Basic Jeans and Tee

I sewed another pair of stretch denim jeans.

 

It’s the Itch to Stitch Mountain View Pull on Jeans.  It’s the fourth time I’ve used this pattern.

My denim is from Cali Fabrics.  It is 10 ounce and described as midweight.  I like this denim, but it isn’t as stretchy as my magic denim shorts that fit me perfectly through weight fluctuations.  It was sold as 25% stretch, but I tested it as about 15-20%.  My magic denim (from the thrift store so it’s also mystery denim) has about 30-35% stretch and the comfort is amazing! I still like the weight, the color, and even the smell of this denim, but I would love to find a stretchier denim.  Previously, I had ordered stretch denim that I liked much less: one was shiny and didn’t look like denim, and another with color that came off on my hands just from touching it.  It’s hard to find the perfect denim, but this is close enough that I would buy it again.

I love the cute doggy fabric that I found at Dollar Tree for the pockets.

I feared I wouldn’t be able to get the waistband over my hips, so decided to skip the elastic.  I may redo the waistband and add elastic when I start wearing them again in the fall.  I was going to substitute ponte knit fabric for the waistband, but the denim does stretch enough to just get past my hips.  I will wear these a whole bunch because they meet my two musts in pants : stay up while walking, and complete comfort while sitting.

It turned out my Ginger Jeans are unwearable, because they wouldn’t stay up even after I added a button further in than the first one. I am always needing more bottoms than tops because I have often have pants that are either too big or too tight as my weight fluctuates 5-7 pounds.

flat lay of jeans and tee

I topstitched with the same gold thread, but omitted the rivets since I used them all up.

But…I made a mistake eliminating the back seam.  That seam really does help with lessening the typical bagginess I have in the back thigh.

I would have taken in the inseam more but I had already topstitched it.  I also think I have a too long crotch extension. I did a flat seat adjustment, but that wasn’t enough.

On the same afternoon I finished the pants, I quickly sewed up a tee shirt.  I used a 3X tee shirt I got at Dollar Tree as my fabric, and a free pattern.  I really like my dollar shirt.  I used the easy tee pattern from It’s Always Autumn blog.  The one size she offers, a size large, fits me well.  I’ve also used the free Kirsten Kimono Tee Shirt pattern from MariaDenmark for this type of tee shirt.  The shirt has cut-on sleeves without an armhole seam.  I raised the neckline, and I sewed a band for the sleeve cuffs the same as I did for the neckband.

Next up:  I’m excited to get started on my summer sewing.  I plan on making 2 to 3 pairs of shorts, 2 tops, and maybe a dress or skirt.