2019 "Seams Legit" calendar

“seams legit” calendar & schedule

Today we went live on Facebook and made up our Jalie socks; we had a great time! I was especially pleased that several people sewed their own socks along with me, and others gave feedback on the stream. This kind of participation really helps me create a helpful and coherent stream.

If you are just finding this post, but want to make the socks yourself, you can start at my materials list, and continue on.

Merlo Field Tee In White And Gold Velvet

the merlo field tee (a quick-and-dirty sewalong)

Merlo Field Tee In White And Gold Velvet

Look, I get it.

 

The holidays are intense. For those of us who celebrate – or who are shoehorned into celebrations – it gets hectic. We are barely staying afloat – balancing family responsibilities, meal-planning, travel and party arrangements – while struggling with all the regular bill-paying, job-holding, schedule-wrangling stuff we are used to.

 

Many of us are celebrating Thanksgiving – or some form of communal meal – this month. My suggestion for this very quick sew-along is to carve a little space to sew something cozy. Whether you are making this for a friend or your own enjoyment – a holiday gift or something warm and snuggly for yourself – this is a relatively quick project but a satisfying one.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

tutorial: ban-roll finishing

Ban-Roll Tutorial

I often get questions about teeny-tiny hems – on men’s shirts, baby clothes, or frocks. I tell them: use a ban-roll. They ignore this advice. They struggle. They have ripples. They ask for advice again. I say: use a ban-roll.

So, ban-roll is sewing notion, a a waistband stiffener used to provide structure inside a garment. It is also a notion we can cleverly repurpose as a teeny-tiny comb. I have yet to meet the fabric it cannot conquer! Shown above a semi-sheer dress in a single gauze. I not only finished the v-neckline with the ban-roll technique, I finished the highly-curved armscyes – without a ripple in sight. This was done to avoid facings – which are fiddly and would have shown through – and a lining, which would have changed the entire appeal of the garment.

You want to purchase ban-roll that is at least an inch wide, and make sure it has a weave to it; not all items advertised online have this weave. Cut a fairly long length; for necklines and armscyes about three feet is plenty. You will want more, if you use the ban-roll for hems.

After you cut your ban-roll strip, carefully cut the thick “selvedge” edge strand at one long edge (you can see this long edge at the top of the strip in the photograph below). Then peel more of the long strands, until you have a depth you like. Shown at the bottom of the strip below: about 3/16″. This corresponds to the 3/8″ hem allowance I have for these seams, since the depth of the ban-roll comb will be half the depth of the seam or hem allowance. Adjust your allowances, or your ban-roll comb, accordingly.


This is the armscye we’ll be tackling! Please note, there are tons of ban-roll tutorials out there that show how to do straight seams or very subtly curved hems. We’re about to tackle a deep curve.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Place your ban-roll right up against the right side of your fabric, with the free end of the comb touching the raw edge of the fabric. The needle will magically travel over the comb. Now, stitch carefully – right up against the base of the comb. Your needle should just kiss that first long fiber on the left. Go slowly! If you stitch over the long strand, it’s kind of a pain and will muss your finished product a bit.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Now here’s a bit of a tricky part. Look how severe the curve is, that I’m approaching. Instead of pulling the raw edge straight – as if you were serging a curve, say – simply sew slowly, take your left fingers in between the ban-roll and the fabric, and push (gently) the fabric into the foot. This finesse is how you avoid ripples in the final product!

Ban-Roll Tutorial

When you get to the end of your seam, you can carefully backstitch, or pull the work off the machine while making sure to snug the stitching line right up against the base of the comb. You can see below, how my stitching line has drifted off the comb base. Simply snug it right back down. This is important, before the next step – making sure the stitching line is right up against the comb base.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Next, you are going to fold the fabric over the ban-roll until the teeth of the comb are nestled in the fabric fold! Some people consider this a two step process. But when you’re done, you will have a nice double fold, and the wrong-side of your fabric will be facing the body of the ban-roll strip.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Next, stitch with the wrong-side of the fabric facing up, right on the inner fold of that baby hem. This essentially means you are turning the work and stitching back against the direction you came. Keep about 1/16″ in from that fold, and stitch slowly. If you come to a curve again, repeat the gentle – very gentle – pushing motion with your left fingers between the ban-roll strip and the fabric.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Now, remove the work from the machine. Here is my curve – before pressing, it already looks pretty good!

Ban-Roll Tutorial

This is the fun part – you get to haul that ban-roll out of the finished hem – and you can reuse the strip many times! Gently tug it out of the seam. Even on very fragile fabrics, this has always gone beautifully.

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Gently press your hem/curve – and admire your results!

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Ban-Roll Tutorial

This technique is a lot of fun and provides lovely finishes. With practice you just get finer results each time.

Enjoy!

Ban-Roll Tutorial

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

tutorial: clean finish inseam pockets

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets
I can’t be the only person irritated by the fairly untidy nature of inseam pocket finishes. Often we are lining garments, and in that case there is no need for pocket finishes to be perfect. But for other articles of clothing – like hoodies or simple pants – these pocket finishes will be visible when the garment is inside-out.

I fiddled around and finally came up with a very quick, reliable, and easy method for a good pocket finish. This method uses a sewing machine for the stitching line and a serger for the finish, but you can also zig-zag and trim in place of serging.

Enjoy!

So first: cut your pieces as per usual, except use thread-tails, chalk or washable marker to mark your pocket position in the side seam, rather than clipping into the seam allowance.

Now, we have the four pocket pieces – I call them “kidney-shaped” although that’s not perfectly accurate:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

We are going to serge-finish the curved edge first. Go around the very edge, careful not to trim any of the piece:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

 

Now, we are going to serge the straight edge, leaving long tails:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Next, take these long tails and, using a blunt darning needle, thread them through one of the curved seams and trim. You will end up with a perfectly-finished pocket seam:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets
Now, finish the side seams only of both the front and back piece. Below you can see my black thread tail marking the pocket position:

 

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Pin your pocket to your side seam, right sides together:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Stitch 1/8″ from the seam allowance, starting right at that pocket piece and performing a firm backstitch at the beginning and end of the stitching line. This garment is made with a 3/8″ seam allowance, so I stitched at 1/4″ from the finished edge:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Now, either steam-or finger-press this last seam, then press it open such that the seam allowance faces to the pocket. Press again, if you like. Stitch 1/8″ from the seam along the full length of the pocket, catching all layers:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Here is the underside of that understitching – it looks great!
Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

And here is the view from the public side of the garment:
Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Once you’ve completed the pocket join for all four pocket pieces, it’s time to join the shoulders and then the sleeves. Finish the sleeve long edges before joining to the body, join the sleeves as the armscye, and finish the armscye seam leaving long serge tails.

Next, pin the side seams of the garment together:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

You want to really get your pocket pieces lined up exactly. Sometimes that understitched seam allowance will want to push towards the body of the shirt while you are sewing the side seam and pocket closed. To keep this from happening, I usually sew this long side seam from the sleeve hem, and then stop in the middle of the pocket curve. Then I flip the garment over, and sew up from the shirt hem, meeting in the pocket curve. This keeps the seam allowances from trying to push away from the pocket.

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

When you get to pinning your pocket curve, really make sure the pockets are lined up perfectly with one another. If you cut accurately and you did not trim anything with the serger blade, they will line up beautifully:

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Now, it’s time to sew that side seam. Take your time and really make sure your finished edges line up well together.
Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

When sewing toward that pocket I usually “cut over” from the side seam allowance, to stitch right on the finished edge of the pocket kidney pieces. You can of course maintain the garment seam allowance instead, and then go back over the serged edges with a stitching line on a second pass, if you like.

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Here is that underside of the pocket – it’s perfect!

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Finally, those long tails we have at the armpit? Knot these and then slip them into an inner serging channel. A firm finish, and a good-looking one too!

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

Those are some sexy pockets!

Tutorial: Clean-Finish Inseam Pockets

So to sum up, the method is fairly simple:

1. use thread marks, not clips, to mark pocket location
2. clean finish the entire kidney-shaped pocket piece
3. finish the side seams, leaving long serge-tails at the armpit and hem
4. sew the pockets to the side seams, right sides together
5. understitch the pocket side seam to the pocket
6. join the shoulders, sleeves, and then side seams of the garments, keeping a very exact seam allowance
7. continue to finish the shirt

Enjoy!

The Old Singer

tutorial: my favorite methods

I’ve pointed out before that my first sewing studio was a closet – a closet with a shag-green carpet (occasionally redolent with cat piss; joy!); and a closet I shared with my partner’s computer and with our clothes! This was in an impossibly-small studio apartment! There wasn’t even enough room for my sewing machine (a cheap plastic Kenmore my mother bought me) – I had to store it on the porch in a cabinet.

So I know all about how hard it is to “make space”.

Tutorial: Sewing A Button

tutorial: sew a button

When people learn I sew they often tell me, “Oh I can’t even sew on a button!” – it’s an oft-repeated phrase that means, essentially, one has no sewing skills whatsoever. But I find this phrase funny because actually, sewing on a button is more difficult than it seems!

Here I’ll illustrate how to enact a button installation – in this case on a folded edge of felt. My method hides thread tails and creates a very strong, and very tidy result. It can be used almost any place you need a button – whether a new garment, or a repair!

vegan tailor, tying a bow tie

tutorial: bias-cut bow tie

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Bow ties never went out of style, but they are enjoying the spotlight again at the moment. My sons and partner all enjoy wearing this type of neckwear and it is not only satisfying to make them, it is the absolute perfect opportunity to add some panache to the wardrobe.

In order to make a bow tie, ideally you’d have a properly fitted one (or a mockup cut out of a piece of woven fabric) to make your pattern. If you are starting without a tie to trace, you will need to draw up your own. The shape of the tie is a long straight stretch for around the neck, ending in the trademark fish-like shape at the ends (there are doubtless many templates online). The bow tie shown here has a straight stretch of 5″ longer than my son’s neckline; that accounts for the knot to tie.

It can be fiddly getting the right length, but remember once you have it down you have the right tie for life. I recommend you purchase a high-quality adjustable tie (like the red swiss dot version shown below), tie it on your intended client, and make the pattern from there.

Shown below next to the tie I’m copying: the fabric I’ll be using – a gorgeous rayon faille – and a very lightweight knit interfacing. You will only need a feather- or lightweight interfacing and make sure it has stretch, or the loveliness of cutting on the bias will be for naught. If your interfacing is too thick the tie will be hard to turn.

You will also need blank paper and pencil, a transparent ruler, and tracing wheel and paper. We will be folding the example tie in half and tracing only 1/4 of the tie, then folding our paper and using our tracing implements to get the symmetrical shape.

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Below, I draw a “T” shape a little longer than 1/2 the length of the tie:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Folding the tie in half, I place the short folded end a the base of the “T” with the wide end at the leg of this “T”, bisecting the entire tie. Then, I trace. Beware you don’t make the straight stretch of the tie any thinner than about 3/4″, or you may have trouble turning it.

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
After tracing add your seam allowance to this 1/4 of the tie (I used a 3/8″). Then fold your paper down that long center line and trace both the stitching line and the seam allowance, using your carbon paper. So when you are finished, you will have half a tie traced, including seam allownaces.

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Instead of having a bulky center seam down the middle of the tie, I drafted a bias-seam for the join. This can seem confusing but it is quite simple. The short end of the tie (the top of the “T” I drew above) represents the center line (back of the neck) of the tie. Simply draw a 45 degree angle through the center of the tie, and add your seam allowance to that line.

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Now, take your fabric and fuse your stretch interfacing:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
And place the tie pattern piece on the fabric; remember, you will want 4 of these pieces in total:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Now, we get to sew. You want a fairly firm stitch – say 2.0 mm or so – as you’ll be trimming these seams pretty closely before turning. Take the tie pieces to the machine and sew the short bias ends together; joining your four pieces into two:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Press these seam allowances open and grade them. You can use this opportunity to tie the tie around the neck of your recipient, to make sure the length is appropriate.

Now, place your long tie pieces right sides together, and stitch, leaving a 2″ or so gap in one of the long straight edges (but not where the bias seams are joined):

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Go slowly around the curves; this is going to yield a beautiful result!

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Cut the corners of the tie ends, and then trim the entire tie down to about 1/8″. Again, this is where you need to make sure your stitches are tight and firm enough the seams will not unravel later:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Now, we get to turn the tie! This can be tedious, but is best accomplished gently and with a chopstick or similar high-falutin’ turning tool:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Now press, carefully! I was so pleased that my tie is the precise length I was aiming for, even with my fancy little bias-cut seam:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
Next, all we have to do is slip-stitch our little gap closed:

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow TieTutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie+
And – all finished! Provided our finished accessory is the right size, we now have a paper template and can make as many gorgeous ties as we like.

Tutorial: Bias-cut Bow Tie
And of course: how to tie it:

vegan tailor, tying a bow tie

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

tutorial: a perfect sash

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash
You know, I rarely do a basic-basic tutorial, but recent events inspired me! I put together four maxi skirts from African wax print cotton (two adult and two matching toddler skirts), and the project was delightful. Besides the kidney-shaped pocket pieces, every aspect of the skirts were rectangles: the body of the skirt, the waistband, the sash, and the sash carriers.

I got to thinking that I can put together a lovely sash in my sleep, but I had troubles earlier on in my sewing career. While no tutorial can cover *every* eventuality, this is a basic tutorial from a sash made of a stable, woven, nonstretch knit. You need your sash strip – the width and length of the finished sash plus a seam allowance per side.

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

As you can see above, I cut my sash with a rotary cutter. Tearing is also a great way to get the sash right on the grain; not all wovens tear that well. YOu want everything along the crossgrain as much as possible.

Next, I fold the sash right sides together, lengthwise, and give them a light press. In this photo you can tell the strip is right sides together as the gold metallic print is only on the right side of the fabric:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Then right sides together I sew up the long edge, leaving about a 2″ gap in the middle of the long edge. I backstitch firmly at this gap:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Next, I sew the two short edges:
Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Next, I clip both the folded corner and the sewn corner at a 45 degree angle, right up to the stitching line:
Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Taking the piece to the ironing board, I iron the seam allowances back toward the main part of the strip – one at a time. I do this for both long edge seam allowances, and all four short edge seam allowances. This is a great time to really use that iron to press the strip into a flat shape:


Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

At the gap, I carefully fold down the seam allowance and press that too:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Now, it’s time to turn the sash right-sides out. Leaving the gap in the center of the strip makes it easier to turn. If the sash is narrow, I use a wooden chopstick to turn:

C
Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

The ends should turn out nicely – no need to push and prod them. Here are my ends, before pressing:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Close the gap of the sash by a slip-stitch or machine topstitch, give a final press – and voila!

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

 

 

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 1

tutorial: converting a menswear-style shirt to clean finish

As simple as menswear shirts are for me now, for a long while I struggled to understand their components. Years ago when I started wanting to convert my shirts to an entirely clean finish (meaning no serge, pinked, or zig-zagged internal seams) I really foundered in knowing where and how to do this.

While it’s impractical for me to attempt to detail every kind of menswear button-up shirt out there, and while there are many ways to clean-finish a shirt, I’m going to share my tried and true method with the more common builds of menswear shirts. I generally use french seams for all the block joins, including the curved armscye (which some people tend to flat-fell – not me). The collar, yokes, cuffs, and front plackets generally do not need any changes to cutting and marking, but these block joins do.

By french seaming the interior of the shirt, you get a gorgeous finish on the interior. I also think it is faster than flat-felling and leads to a more agreeable effect:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

For french seams, you usually need a minimum of a 5/8″ seam allowance. Can you just ignore this and make the shirt up anyway? Not if it is at all fitted or semi-fitted – your shirt will be too small. So if you have a pattern with a smaller seam allowance – 3/8″, 1 cm, 1/4″, or 1/2″ seam allowances, you are going to need to add some seam allowance to the vertical interior seams (body and sleeve), the shoulder seams, the armscyes, and (possibly) the yoke joins.

Let’s try to understand a menswear shirt a bit first. Disregarding for a moment the collar/collar stand, cuffs and cuff plackets, and front placket, let’s just think about the body and sleeve pieces. Below is a basic example, which includes four body blocks: a front, a back body, a back yoke, and a sleeve:

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 1
If you have been following my blog, you may notice I am enjoying the Euro fit pattern (this version by Bootstrap is great). Even though this shirt does not have a back yoke, it is functionally rather similar.  There are five body blocks: a front, a side front, a side back, a back, and a sleeve:
Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 2
In general, the only place you will need to add more of a seam allowance are these basic block seams (including the shoulder and armscye). This is because the collar, front placket (whatever way it is formed), and cuff and cuff placket generally come with the seam allowances required to finish the garment cleanly. There are likely exceptions to this, and if you have any questions please take a few screenshots and ask in the comments.

There are several common variations on collar and front placket, and that can be confusing. I’m going to talk about those a bit.

So for a basic shirt, below are our pattern blocks with seam allowances included (minus the cuff placket piece). We have a collar and collar stand at top left, and a cuff at top right. Below that we have the body back (left), the shirt front with a cut-on front placket (center), and the sleeve (right). My blue lines indicate where you want to add your seam allowance for a total of 5/8″ seam allowance. If your back block is not cut on the fold – if there’s a curved center seam for example – you will also add to your seam allowance there, as it is a vertical body seam. Note you do not have to add any additional seam allowances to the collar pieces, the cuffs, or the cuff placket. Think of these as little mini-blocks that are self-contained.

Also: if you have a back yoke, you don’t have to add a seam allowance to the yoke/body joins if the yoke is lined; most yoked menswear shirt patterns will ask you to cut out two yoke pieces and sandwich the back body between them when you join. You could also ignore adding seam allowance to the shoulder too, in order to finish the front and back shoulder seam using the burrito method.

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 3

Below: a lined yoke, inside a plaid shirt I made my partner.

More About Plaids

But I mentioned variations – yes? Below are a few more common shirt pattern blocks. On top, we see a collar with cut-on stand (meaning: the collar and stand are one piece). At bottom left, a front with a cut-on front facing. At bottom right, a shirt front with a separate front placket. Again: the collar, neckline, and the front placket pieces have enough seam allowance for a clean finish. So does the front placket. But you will want to add a seam allowance to the shoulder, armscye, and side seams to get your 5/8″ for these french seams:
Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 4

By the way – if you are curious – of all the styles of shirt placket and collar I like the cut-on straight front placket, and the separate collar and stand. This allows me to colorblock and affords me a great deal of control in hand-finishing.

Western-Style Shirt, V. 1

Nels, Chambray Shirt

Below are the blocks for the Euro shirt build I mentioned (which is featured in the photo directly above). Instead of two body pieces for the trunk (a front and a back), the shirt has four body blocks for the trunk that feature princess seams – really great for shaping. Here, we are still only adding seam allowances to the vertical seams, shoulder seam, and armscye. The neckline and front do not need more seam allowances for a clean finish.

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 5

So there you have it! When you think about changing any construction of a garment, it becomes so much easier to tackle it when you start to really think about the parts, and that is easier with experience. Now, there are loads of tutorials on making french seams online and I trust you to find them. For the 5/8″ version I am mentioning here I sew a 1/4″ seam (just a hair scant) wrong sides together, press open, and trim (if it seems necessary). I then re-fold right-sides together, press again, and sew. And then – the final press! Pressing several times yields very smooth results, which is especially important for that curved armscye.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

For the front placket, I find that sewing from the right side of the shirt secures a gorgeous front finish. For the cuffs, I hand-finish the bottom of the collar stand (shown below – you can’t even see the stitches) and hand-finish the inside of the cuffs.

More About Plaids
If you are new or new-ish to sewing menswear style button-up shirts, contemplating all these different shirt patterns can be overwhelming. I advise you make a few of these shirts, and bookmark your favorite tutorials as you do. Soon they will be easy as pie!

You got this!