Sunday, March 24, 2013


So I feel a little bit like I've finished a marathon. When I started the blog, I created a bunch of stub posts that I've been gradually filling in, and creating more stubs as I realized I was opening up more and more avenues. These are now all done, and I'm starting to create new stubs. The posts before this cover what I consider to be "beginner's stuff." If you're fresh out of the gate, working on those projects (and ones like it) will get you comfortable with the basics of sewing in no time.

I'm going to throttle back a little bit on the blogging from here on out--I'm going to start working on intermediate topics, so the posts will come fewer and further between as I try to master them. I'll still post "Let's make..." pattern guides, but they won't be as detailed as those first three were, and will assume you're comfortable with the basics and focus on the tricks of getting the more nuanced steps figured out. I'll still post instructions for different stitching and assembly techniques as I come across them, but it will definitely be a little quieter. So take advantage of this and go do some sewing!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Let's make a matching jacket (Simplicity 2938 - View C)

In our last project, we made a sleeveless sundress and a contrast color tie belt. The pattern comes with a little raglan-sleeve cardigan jacket that would be a nice way to finish off the outfit. (View C). So let's make that!

Confession: While I have made view A a few times, this is actually my first time making view C, so there will be considerable more head-scratching and "this is how I figured this out" in this post. I have made a similar cardigan before, so this isn't completely foreign to me.

The requirements for view C are fairly simple. You need your fabric and matching thread (naturally), and you need a single ¾" button for the front, and you need a bit of lightweight fusible interfacing. That's it!

Pattern, fabric, thread, button(s).
Not shown: Interfacing

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's make a sleeveless sundress (Simplicity 2938 - View A)

For our second project we're going to go incrementally harder than our first project. Simplicity 2938 View A will make us a sleeveless sundress (sleeves are on their way, don't worry), that uses interfacing for the collar, and a side-zipper. Like the sleeveless tunic we made earlier, the sundress will include a gather around the neckline, however, rather than using an easestitch, we will be working with pleats.  It will also include a tie belt. I've made this pattern a few times and it's a great "first effort" pattern: plenty of challenges without being insanely difficult. Now that I've gotten it more or less down, I'm making it this time for a friend who is knitting me a pair of wristies in exchange, and I'll also be making her the matching jacket (view C--next!). Because the jacket and the belt will match, however, I've cut out the jacket and the belt together just to make sure that everything fits on the fabric.

If this is your first effort, here are a few must-reads for sizing your pattern and purchasing the matierial:
Because the pattern has pleats and some subtle gathers in it, this is not really appropriate for verticle lines--go with a solid color, or an organic or abstract design. No checks or plaids. Also note, the model shows off the dress we're going to make (the larger picture, of course) and the tie belt is in a contrast color. If you make this and you want the tie belt to be a contrast color, you will have to get an additional 1 yard of fabric in that contrast color or print, as it is not indicated on the back of the pattern envelope. 

Pattern, fabric, matching thread, bias tape, and zipper
Not shown: contrast fabric and thread for tie belt
Otherwise, make sure you get all of the proper notions: Thread, ½" Wide Single Fold Bias Tape (matched to the color of your dress), and a 12" or 14" zipper (depending on the size you will make. If you're making sizes 10-18, get a 12" zipper, If you're making plus sizes, get a 14" zipper). Again, match the color of the zipper to the dress. Get a regular zipper, not an "invisible" zipper or of course, a jeans zipper. Take your fabric home and prepare it (see the link above) and we're ready to get started! If you're making the belt in a contrast color (or you're planning on making the matching jacket), make sure you get some thread in the contrast color for the belt!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Hemming is generally done at the bottom of a garment's opening: Either the bottom edge of a top or bottom (shirts, skirts, pant legs), or the bottom of a cuff. Hemming is simply put, to fold the fabric onto itself and then stitch around the circumference to prevent the fabric from fraying and unraveling.

A pattern piece will usually indicate the hem both in the instructions and on the pattern piece itself. Almost every pattern I have done uses a standard 1¼" hem.

If you are making a more formal dress, skirt, or pair of pants, it's always a good idea to try the garment on before you hem while wearing the shoes you plan to wear with the outfit (for a bottom) or if you're a woman and this is a top, to wear the bra that you plan to wear with the garment (don't make me spell out why), and then determine where you would like your hemline to be. You can mark the hem and press it up, and then stand on a chair and have a friend or family member check to make sure that the hem is even all the way around. You may find that your hem is longer or shorter than the pattern's standard.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finishing show-down -- which is best?

No "Fraytality" puns, please.
There are a plethora of finishing options out there that we've gone though, but you might wonder which one is "best" in terms of preventing fraying in the long-term. As you create garments that you might want to wear and wash often, durability of your seams might become a concern.

In order to test the durability of the various raw edge finishing techniques, I've created a test swatch. Each edge of the swatch will use a different finishing technique, and then it will put the swatch through the a machine wash/dry cycle multiple times and track the progress of the raw edge and see how it frays. Of course, I'm only testing raw-edge finishing, not any finishing technique that encloses the raw edge, like bias tape or  french seam, as those do not weather in a washing machine quite so badly since the raw edge is not open to the elements.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Sometimes, you will find yourself needing to join multiple layers of fabric invisibly without the sort of access to the interior that would make the understitch an option. For example, you're sewing a self-enclosed facing piece to a collar, or you've turned out a tie belt and now you have to close the little bit that you used to pull the belt through with. To do this, you have to use a hand sewing technique called the Slip-Stitch.

The slipstitch is a hand-stitch that starts from the back (interior) and goes through all the layers of fabric except the frontmost (exterior) layer of fabric, before coming back up through all layers to return to the back. Generally, you want to put your finger behind that last layer of fabric and if you feel the needle prick your finger, you pull back just enough to feel that layer of fabric "slip off" before pushing the needle back towards where you put it in. This means that the stitch remains "invisible" to the outside of the garment. It also means you'll learn the value of "light touch" very quickly or you'll need to get in good with your local blood bank (I've always been an elbow-grease kind of girl myself, this is a new horizon for me).