Two very different children. Two very different greens.
Yes, I made a dress based on an aoxlotl. Here are the external gills:
Both garments are self-drafted! This means I designed these garments 100% from scratch, no Franken-patterning. Just a ruler, pencil, and tracing medium. I am feeling fabulous about it all.
I drafted and sewed up Nels’ little PJ pants in about an hour or so last night. I’d like to get him a few more cozy cottons and I’d like to draft myself such nice, roomy, cotton PJs.Read More
First, my daughter’s Scootaloo hoodie (you can look at the Flickr tagset, which includes some construction discussion).
I’m seriously proud of my rendition of the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ badge.
Next up: Nels’ hooded linen coat. My design, Franken-patterned from previous designs. A fully-lined and underlined jacket in a linen/rayon blend. Square pockets, pointed pieced hood. Hand-knit i-cord drawstring. A hood with axotl external gills. YOU HEARD
Ah, yeah… I made the pants too. Super-fun. I think I shall be sewing with linen ALL SUMMER LONG
Yes, those are bound buttonholes. Want a closeup?Read More
& the wee, tiny lined breast pocket! I AM DYING HERE!!1!
OH SHIT lambswool elbow patches with yellow topstitching LIKE A SIR
My kids wear these blazers until they are far too small and quite shabby from all the extensive use. Last summer when I tried to get rid of a jacket – originally fashioned for my daughter, worn a billion times by both children – my son howled and attempted to climb in the clothing donation bin after it. I had to promise to make him another coat just like it. Which I’ll be doing here pretty soon, for the summer.
At any rate, here are a few notes and pictures about constructing such a garment. I’d love to teach this as a course somewhere but, barring something like being picked up by Craftsy, the clientele is just not where I live so this ain’t gonna happen.
Sometimes the pattern dictates fabric choices; sometimes it’s the other way around. Each choice influences the other, so in that respect we learn best by experience – ours, or that of experienced stitchers.
In this case, I chose my pattern first. I drafted a three-button blazer pattern, sort of a Frankenpattern based on design elements I enjoy. This garment features a two piece sleeve and a center back seam and front waist darts, which gives a slightly more fitted, less boxy shape. It also features three lined patch pockets and a full lining. Here is the front piece of the jacket, which includes markings for facings, buttonholes, darts, and pockets:
It might look a little tricky, but honestly this front piece is the only garment piece that has anything tricky about it.
(clockwise from upper left: shell fabric, underlining and lining, oval lambswool elbow patches, three buttons, interfacing, silk organza for bound buttonholes)
Shell: I used a wool blend for the shell. It has a lovely tweedy houndstooth weave, making for a great texture. However, the weave is quite loose and this needs to be considered throughout all steps of construction. To wit: 1. straighten the grain before each cut, 2. twice-finish seams, and 3. handle each garment piece carefully while you sew!
Underlining: I used a firm-weave quilter’s cotton for underlining, and underlined only the front and back pieces (not the sleeves). Underlining is one of the single best things you can do for a garment – especially a jacket. The fabric used needs to be lighter weight than the shell fabric, and with a firm hand and solid grain. If you have any questions about underlining, please put them in the comments!
Lining: children’s garments need linings that are slick (for ease of wear) but also quite sturdy, as my kids will immediately climb eighteen trees in their new coat. I used a polyester fashion fabric from Jo-Anns with a nice floral pattern – shown here at lower-right.
Interfacing (for collar, front facings, jacket and sleeve hems): Inerfacing can be thought of as a way to add some firmness and structure to parts of the coat. It keeps collars and cuffs looking crisp; I also enjoy using it along the jacket and sleeve hems, on the shell fabric, as shown:
This adds a wonderful, crisp, rugged nature to the hems.
I use Pam Erny’s interfacings. They are worth the little bit of trouble to order them, and Pam provides excellent support in purchasing and using them. If you don’t prepare interfacings properly, you can ruin a garment. Ask me how I know this!
Extras: wool for elbow patches, silk organza for bound buttonholes. The wool came from a thrifted-and-felted 100% lambswool sweater. These kinds of things make great elbow patches and are worth keeping around.
Needle, thread, other notions
I use a Sharp needle for the shell and the lining, at appropriate needle size (16 and 10 resp., in this case). I use Mettler 100% polyester thread. For working with the knit elbow patches: a stabilizer. I use Sulky’s Fabri Sticky-Solvy which comes in very handy for all sorts of projects involving knits.
A straight-stitch machine is all that is needed; in addition, a serger or zig-zag machine helps for seam finishes but is not necessary.
I cut and mark as I go piece by piece, using tailors thread tacks, especially if, as in this case, the fabrics are prone to raveling and will not tolerate notch-snipping.
In this case, I underlined the body of the garment, minus the sleeves. I marked the shell, underlining, and lining darts on all pieces (six total) using thread. I marked the RS of the shell for the three patch pockets and buttonhole locations. I interfaced the jacket and sleeve hems and then carefully pressed at the hem (as shown above).
Finally, I interfaced the WS of the shell for pocket positioning on the three patch pocket locations.
I sewed darts in shell, underlining, and lining; then I basted underlining to shell and treated the two pieces as one piece:
I staystitched the back neckline facing and back lining neckline, as these are two curves that need to be joined and can be a little tricky (Normally, I would trim & notch this seam after I sewed it, but given the loose-weave of the shell fabric, I decided not to risk this.)
As for bound buttonholes: there are many methods to create these; I won’t detail those here. They are best done early in the process of the jacket, before proceeding with shell construction.
Elbow patches: a pattern that includes this feature will also include where to place these patches. However, my children are almost always getting a major length adjustment in their sleeves, so I find my own placement. This is easiest to do by sewing the uppersleeve and the undersleeve together, then pinning the final sleeve seam and placing it, carefully, on the recipient.
I marked the elbow patch location, unpinned and removed the sleeve then placed it flat on the table. I pinned the patch in four places for stitching. In general, the center midline, lengthwise, of the patch should be parallel to the grainline of the garment.
Now: stitchinz! I used a goldenrod thread and two rows of stitching, in a narrow zigzag.
You will note the elbow patches have a wash-away stabilizer attached to them. This is to keep the soft 100% lambswool knit from stretching while I applied the patches to the sleeve. It worked perfectly; it also helps my Pfaff has an IDT system (*yawn, casual brag-stretch*).
I like to make the lining before the shell for a number of reasons. For one thing, linings are oddly tedious to construct, and it gets it out of the way. For another, this is a great way to do a fit check on the client (note: my front facings are overly long; I usually design a little extra there as I finish my jacket hem and lining by hand).
The shoulder-width is one of the more important fit considerations on my tall, slim children. Remember, the neckline will be 5/8″ shorter (or whatever the seam allowance is) against the neck.
While seam-finishing isn’t necessary on most linings, I like to do so for extra sturdiness. I used a serger for all seam finishes.
Here you can see the aforementioned staystitching at the back neckline facing, as well as the pressed and finished seams:
I then created the patch pockets and applied them to the shell. I like to make lined pockets, and then attach by a fell stitch. One can always go along and topstitch the pocket, but the fell-stitch allows for perfect placement and will keep the lining from peeping and showing.
I cut my pockets on the bias because I think bias pockets look great. Warning: this can make for pissy pocket construction. If you aren’t pretty familiar with working with bias pieces, first attach a very lightweight interfacing to the WS of the piece you’ll use for bias-cutting, then proceed.
Here are the three pockets, shown at various stages of construction, before being trimmed, turned, and stitched closed:
I used a sturdy whip stitch to close the pocket:
Finally – topstitching along the garment hems, opening, and sleeve hems adds sturdiness to the garment. I used a triple-stitch to give the right bold topstitch look; you can also use a heavyweight thread if you like. If you don’t use a heavier stitch or thread, the garment fabric may swallow up the effect. Topstitching is an art in and of itself!
All done! I suspect I will make many more blazers in my time. They are so versatile, can be dressed up or down, and can be made in all types of materials and different weights, depending on the needs of the garment!
And for now, my daughter is all ready to sit in bookstores reading Raymond Chandler graphic novels & looking awesome!Read More
Here is a self-drafted top I made Phoenix, yesterday afternoon. It took me about a half hour. I particularly love the marriage of fabrics, both very soft cottons:
The day before, I made this in a different colorway of the same Michael Miller clown stripe line:
Despite their simple construction, knitwear – as in leggings, t-shirts, and undergarments – can be rather difficult for the beginning stitcher. Yet most machines have good knit functionality. If you’ve a sewing machine less than thirty years old or so, chances are it includes stretch stitches. These are scary-looking stitch settings many new and intermediate stitchers don’t mess with:
On my Pfaff, you can see them in the 20-range:
20 through 29 are easily what one would hear called stretch stitches; however, ten through 19 can qualify too. Why? It’s simple. If you think about a stretch stitch, its job is to stretch along with the garment as strain is applied to the seam (think: pulling a hooded sweatshirt over one’s head). A straight lockstitch would pop. But almost anything that has some zigzag can stretch with the fabric, then recover. If it is a version of a straight stitch that meanders, like Program 19, or doubles back on itself, the resultant seam might be sturdy enough to withstand seam strain without stretching much or at all.
But it’s a little more complex than that. Knowing whether the seams will need to stretch or not is key. Some stretch garments are made with so much wearing ease that you don’t need a very elastic seam. Take, for example, the Kwik Sew knit cardigan pattern below. First, imagine you have a pin-sized head and large 80′s-esque shoulders and hair fashion. Then, think of how little strain these garment seams endure – for instance, you could easily make this garment in a drapey woven fabric and not utilize stretch fabrics at all:
In contrast, imagine wearing a swimsuit and how much strain the stitches are subjected to while you wear it. And finally: different seams in a garment need different behaviors. The side-seams in a loose-fit crewneck t-shirt won’t likely need to be very elastic, whereas the neckline will definitely need this capability!
Therefore: when it comes to sewing knits, experience is the best teacher. Sewing is after all a three-dimensional, structural, form of engineering!
Recently I’ve enjoyed sewing with stretch stitches, as opposed to my oft-used narrow zigzag, for a few reasons. Here’s my list of considerations to use stretch stitches, or to avoid them:
1. These stitches make a sturdy, good-looking seam. You can sew and finish the garment in one step, using one spool of thread and bobbin.
2. If you cut accurately and practice, you won’t have to do any trimming after you sew. You will end up with a lovely finished garment with very good-looking inner seams. If you love sewing, chances are you love good-looking seam finishes.
3. Mastering these stitches means you don’t have to invest the time and space of a serger or even a coverstitch machine. There are lots of good reasons to own these pieces of equipment, but there are also reasons to be able to do without them.
1. These stitches use more thread than a zigzag (but not more than a serger); this means more thread cost, more wear on your needle and machine, and more lint. However, even an entire shirt won’t eat a whole bobbin’s worth of thread.
2. These stitches take longer to stitch than a zigzag. If you’re used to “whipping through” a garment (a phrase I loathe, by the way), it might take a bit to get used to a slower stitch pace.
3. These stitches can stretch the fabric in unbecoming ways, which is why you will read people complaining online about knitwear ending up “wonky”. Yes, this can happen – UNLESS YOU KNOW MY AWESOMESAUCE TRICKS to avoid this [she said, triumphantly]! Read on:
Let me walk you through sewing up a couple of tops. I used two stitches – Program 20 (which was referred to as the “closed overlockstitch” in my manual) and Program 12, a double-zigzag (more in a bit, on that stitch).
1. A proper needle (stretch, ballpoint, or jersey) and polyester or polyester-core thread
2. Your sewing machine manual. I PITY THE FOOL who sews without one! I don’t even.
3. Water-soluble stabilizer. This stuff is worth its weight in gold for sewing with knits and it is the BASIS OF MY TRICKSY-est TIP in this tutorial. Buy some at your local sewing shop or buy it online. As you sew you will have all these strips married to the garment seams and it will look assy. But when you wash the garment, they will disappear and you are left with coolness. (Tangentially: using stabilizer is also how I add woven or knit appliques to knit fabrics, even thin and stretchy knits).
4. Your garment pieces, cut out with about 1/4″ seam allowance
1. Make sure you have a good needle, inserted properly, and that the machine is threaded and tension-balanced.
2. Cut strips of water-soluble stabilizer into 1″ widths. Over time you will get the hang of how much to cut per garment, although I use these strips so much I have a bunch of them in my supplies. Obviously, for the most part, you are cutting the same length as the seams you’re sewing, so you can do a rough pattern-edge measurement.
3. Start sewing, feeding the water soluble stabilizer under each seam. Take special care starting and finishing the seams. Knits are so fast to sew, so make the time to get a secure sleeve hem, et cetera. Here you see me at the end of the seam, using the overlockstitch (Program 20) and a width of 4.5 mm (a very scant 1/4″):
The glowing green lights are buttons I have engaged: the left button is “Needle Down” (meaning when I release the foot pedal, the machine will stop with the needle in the fabric – very handy) and the right is “Reverse”, as I’m about to back up the seam to secure it. Upon the “Reverse” button, my Pfaff performs the stitch pattern in reverse unlike my Juki, which merely stitches a small straight stitch backwards. I like securing the HELL out of my seams at the beginning and end, yes even if I am going to cross this stitchline with another seam later. Please note: using your sewing machine provides you with a better seam-securing backstitch option than most sergers:
4. I am using Program 20 for these construction seams. I used them to make the whole garment, including fastening the hood to the neckline. However, for the hood’s face edge, I used a double-zigzag. Here you can see it after I finish it on the machine, then from the RS of the garment after the stabilizer has been washed out, then the WS:
This stitch (#12 on my Pfaff Program, see above photo of my machine) is identical to a triple-zigzag except it only ‘bites’ two stitches while travelling in the zig or the zag. I like the way this zigzag looks and it is a great, stretchy, sturdy seam. Please note, if you have to apply elastic to a garment, as in the top of the hood or ruching, triple-zigzag is BAWSE.
For this simple black-and-white striped hoodie, the only real complexity is the two-layered sleeves and attaching the hood at the neck.
Let’s talk necklines first. I love using the overlockstitch for necklines. It is super-simple, easy to secure at the beginning and end of the stitching line, and only takes one simple step whether you’re attaching a hood, a band, a turtleneck, whatever. Check it out on the self-bound neckline of the orange-and-raspberry shirt:
By the way if you’re thinking I OWNED aligning stripes on these shirts, you’re right!
Now: sleeves. Specifically, two layered seams. You can sew the sleeves into tubes and apply them, or apply them simultaneously in the flat, as I did. I simply pinned at the edges of the seams and at the shoulder (three pins per sleeve) and sewed slowly. What’s the rush? You’re almost done with the shirt already!
Remember your stabilizer! You will be glad you did, when you wash the stuff out and your shirt drapes beautifully. Check out these seam finishes, too:
What about hems? What about them? I hardly ever do them for knits. An unhemmed sleeve and garment edge looks great and feels great. If you insist on making them, use a stretch twin needle and more stabilizer, or some form of stretch-stitch and stabilizer. For a slim-fitting garment like this, you’ll want a hem that has a little give.
Now: enjoy your super-soft knit garments LIKE A SIRRead More
Swimming, today. Below: Nels is a “shark”, scooting along his bum with a (hand-) fin out the water, to get me. I waited until he got close enough I could kiss him.
A new suit. I started it yesterday and finished it up this morning; I am featuring a few tips on sewing swimsuits in my next zine (February 2013). So I won’t chat much about methodology here.
I am pretty pleased with how this garment turned out. I got to make length alterations for my daughter’s very tall, weasel-belly body. As you can see here, making length alterations is not super-straightforward with all those curves in there.
But far better than my relative success at a challenging project – my daughter loved the suit and praised it vociferously. She put it on immediately and I grabbed a photo. She wore it around the house all morning.
When we went swimming she showed it to the lifeguard, telling the woman her mother made it.
EAGLE-EYED VIEWERS WILL NOTE I lined those stripes up LIKE A SIR
The suit is fully-lined. I sewed via a narrow zig-zag and finished on my serger:
After this garment with its fussy little pieces, typical – and simpler – suit designs will be easy! I’m offering custom builds of the suit on Etsy, tailored especially for those who need a performance suit and don’t want off-the-rack sameness. At any rate I’ll offer them there until my mind feels bored at the thought of sewing another one. However at this point? I’m wanting to make another one right away!
This was the second project I finished on my Pfaff. I found this machine in a new sewing shop in Mason County this summer. I purchased it via layaway for about half the going price and it feels like forever I’ve waited to bring it home! There were a few hiccups in the aquisition of the machine, once because I couldn’t make a payment, around Christmastime, and then due to tech problems in the shop – the shopkeep is new to selling older equipment. However, I am grateful to be able to use a layaway program as, let’s face it, otherwise I wouldn’t be bringing home anything at all. And so far, I am very pleased with the machine’s performance and all its cool bells and whistles!
A bit about my equipment while I am on the subject. This Pfaff is the first sewing machine I’ve purchased that wasn’t under $20 from a thrift store (I have had my go-arounds with thrift store machines and, now, I am quite wary). It is an early-80s machine. My other two working machines were gifted to me; one, the Singer 15-91, was built in 1950 and originally belonged to my grandmother. The second, a Juki, came to me as a birthday present from my mother five years ago. So if you’ve lost count, I can tell you I am doing my work on three sewing machines and one serger (a White 534 superlock I purchased on eBay for $100); I also have two machines I don’t work with, both 1950s Singers, one a treadle. They each need a tune-up so they’re waiting until I can afford one. I am actually willing to give up the treadle, but haven’t put any time and effort into finding it a good home.
My long-winded point is: if you’re a new crafter or want to learn to sew, you do not need a $2K (or more!) machine nor a bunch of fancy shit to sew amazing stuff. But the truth is, time and experience provide the right equipment; so does community and family support. Many years’ at this craft has yielded friends and family who provide encouragement, equipment, and materials -
And for those parties, I am so grateful.Read More
Shirt, on my “new” (early-80s model) Pfaff. I used two yardages of very soft cotton houndstooth, both scrap pieces gifted me a little while back. The buttons were scavenged off a thrifted wool coat I used to make an upcycled newsboy cap, which was sent across the states to a client a while back.
Below: the backside of the front placket, revealing my wee little button knots:
The shirt’s cuffs, collar, and front plackets are interfaced using a firmly-woven cotton. I don’t know why more people do not interface using fabric, instead of commercial interfacings. There is a distinctly appealing drape to this method.
My “new” machine!
I know, it doesn’t look all that exciting, being two colors of 80s-Ass-Brown. However I have been enjoying getting to know it, and its little conveniences. The “Needle Down”, “Buttonhole / Tie-Off”, and the wind-from-needle function charmed me right away.
Yesterday in the car Phoenix was complaining about how the shape of her eyebrows, because she says she always looks “pissed”. I think her eyebrows are awesome. & yeah, they give her a semi-feral countenance, for sure. She’s just beautiful, always has been.
See what I mean?Read More