For March: Bralette Sewing (Livestream)

“seams legit” sewing lesson: a bralette!

It’s March – already! We had a lovely time sewing briefs last month; this month we continue our lingerie efforts by making a bralette.

A reminder that for all sew-alongs you need:

1. a machine with it’s manual, tuned-up, that can sew a balanced zig-zag
2. the supplies listed in the pattern, as well as a thorough read-through of the pattern you use

From here on out we will be cutting with a rotary cutter and mat. March 15th I will also list some preparation work we can do for the bralette sew-along, to make sure our livestream class goes smoothly!

So! Let’s talk about this month’s project!

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

 

 

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

tutorial: pintucks in tissue knit

Knit chiffon, or tissue knit: absolutely a gorgeous material to work with. Typically made in 100% cotton and often with a slightly slubbed appearance, this luxe fabric usually has stretch with little if any recovery. I find making a size down, the garment will often stretch with time. In order to shrink it back, you will have to occasionally put the garment in the dryer (remember those tissue tees so popular with the GAP etc, in the late nineties?).

Sheer and semi-sheer fabrics are absolutely wonderful, in that each seamline, dart, and detail is really shown off – like a stained glass window. I tend to make french seams in these garments. And for a bit more interest, here I demonstrate how to create simple 3/16″ pintucks in a black knit chiffon. 

You need:

1. prewashed and dried fabric
2. marking chalk
3. cutting mat, rotary cutter, and see-through cutting ruler
4. masking tape

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

The first thing to note about tissue knits is the grain can often be quite distorted – in other words, not parallel to the selvege. When laying out your yardage you have to determine if you need to cut the pieces on the grainline or no. For the front panel of this tunic, I decided to cut off the grain since I’d be making two rectangular panels abutted together, and could flip the grain (to chevron), making the garment symmetrical. For the sleeves, neckband, sleeve band, and back panel, I cut along the grain in one layer.

Shown below; the yardage arranged with the grain corresponding to the cutting mat; you can see what I mean about the selvege.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit
Now for marking tucks, it is best to cut the fabric and leave it be on the mat – don’t shift it whatsoever – then mark right away. Cut out your panel according to your cutting mat; next you’ll be marking the centerline of your tucks.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit


Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

When marking, I use a ruler and line it up with the guide lines on the mat; the sheer nature of the fabric makes this easy to do! You want to be very careful and apply firm vertical pressure to your ruler as you mark, or else you will shift your fabric. If you do shift it, just carefully rearrange to the guidelines on the mat.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Here I am applying lines at a 45 degree angle.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit
Be patient; this is the most exacting part of the process. It’s easy from here on out!

Once you have your tuck lines marked, take the piece to the machine.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Using a straight stitch or a very narrow zig zag, start your stitching line on your first tuck, folding right on the chalked line and making sure you are stitching at the width you want. My tucks are 3/16″. After you’ve started your tuck successfully, pause and retrieve your roll of masking tape.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

I like to create a little seam guide by layering about six layers of the masking tape very accurately on top of one another, then applying it to my machine bed. This will help you get exact tucks – note you can use this method to create tucks as deep or shallow as you like!

Make sure not to stretch your fabric as you stitch. Just let the machine action guide the fabric through.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Below, I am about 60% of the way through my tucks. They may look a little wavy but don’t fear – we will be pressing them and they will be #legit!

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

The pressing is the most fun. Taking them to your pressing surface, carefully press each tuck as-sewn and then, if you like, you can press them a particular direction.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Gorgeous!


Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit
These tucks can be used to create interest in any project – gowns, tops, robes – what-have-you. They add a bit of drama and set your garment apart from others!

Welt Pocket Tutorial (cutting)

tutorial: double-welt pocket w/grosgrain ribbon

Pocket pr0n!
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

There are many ways to create a double-welt pocket, but this is my favorite for a very fast and easy pocket. This method involves no measuring (that’s right!), and no interfacing. Best of all, it’s really easy to memorize. This translates to great-looking welt pockets that come together very quickly.

This method is also ideal for very spongey, thick, or wonky fabrics that don’t respond well to fiddling. I came up with it after dicking around for wayyyyyy too long with this perfectly lovely ponte that was bulky and terribly susceptible to pressing transfer.

This method only needs a few supplies!

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

At left: shell fabric (houndstooth), pocket bag (shot cotton), and welt fabric (typically the same for shell but, for the sake of this tutorial, a dark brown). You also need 7/8″ grosgrain ribbon,basting spray (or gluestick), and marking chalk.

I like to use a fine cotton, as I like to tear (not cut) my pocket bags. Very fast, very accurate. If you use satin or some other foolishness, you will need to cut.

As with any welt pocket treatment and any new technique, please make a sample first!

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Cut a piece of ribbon that is at least 2″ longer than your pocket. Lightly spray the grosgrain on one side, and lay the ribbon along the crossgrain of a piece of welt fabric, making sure the welt fabric is about 4″ wide. Pro-tip: I spray by placing the ribbon in my wastebasket, so the trash liner catches any overspray.

Next, sew two channels a generous 1/4″ from the grosgrain edge, using a basting stitch. I like to stitch in the same direction for both channels. You don’t want to stitch any closer to the edge than this 5/16″, or the threads may show in the welt lips.

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
This is what your stitches will look like on the other side:Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Now, flip the assembly with the ribbon side facing up. Fold over one edge, snugging it against that ribbon. Stitch at 3/16″ from the folded edge, using a regular stitch:
 
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain RibbonTutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Now, cut 1/8″ from that stitching line:Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Repeat with the other side, folding and stitching, then trimming from that stitching line:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

So for pocket placement, you really only need your vertical end marks! Pin the welt to the right side of the shell fabric, with the trimmed part of the welt facing up. Pin well and, if you’ve already done a sample and are working on the garment, you can use this opportunity make and align the other welt to the corresponding side:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Now, we’re going to stitch the welt to the garment – think two parallel lines (NOT a rectangle). Stitch right on top of those previous 3/8″ stitching lines, making sure to stop and carefully backtack right at the ending marks of the pocket. Unless the fabric is very shifty indeed you can confidently backtack – but if you are worried, leave long tails at these four ends, pull the ends to the welt-side after stitching, knot, and secure the thread tails in the welt.

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
You really want these stitching lines to be a very scant 3/8″ although this is why you make a sample – because the turn of the cloth will vary a bit depending on what you’re sewing:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Here is the backside of the work – two parallel lines. Make sure to double check before proceeding.

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Now cut the welt I (not the shell) right down the middle:
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Next, you want to cut from the backside, catching only the shell (not the welt). You want to cut to the stitching lines, and right exactly to those stitching lines. Make sure to make a very long triangle at these ends. I like to start cutting at the triangle point that intersects the center line, and cut right to my stitching lines using a very sharp scissor. Then I cut the center line.

Welt Pocket Tutorial (cutting)

Now flip it! FLIP IT GOOD! From the front side of the work…

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Push the welt through the back, being very gentle with those little triangles but giving them a bit of a tug. The ribbon welt will lay SO nice and flat and the little triangle will rest on top:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
This is how it looks – no pressing or stitching yet! Very promising:
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

So go ahead and flip your shell back and, using a zipper foot (or not, but it’s handy), stitch that triangle right to the welt. The ribbon will help the welt lips lie wonderfully close together. Repeat with both sides.
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Time for the pocket bag!

Two things, before we proceed.

1. If you want, you can tear or cut a shell facing strip, to put at the top right side of the pocket bag. This is pretty standard, especially for a pocket that may gape. For kidswear or casual wear or a small pocket, I don’t add the facing bit as it is unneccesary and adds bulk, and pocket gap is not an issue.

2. This pocket treatment looks gorgeous enough it does not need a lining to obfuscate it. That said, the only application I would install these without a lining, would be the back of trousers. In that case, make sure your pocket bag strip is very long, so you can bring up the top edge to later snug it into the waistband of the trouser – a really classic look.

OK so – here is our trouser bag, torn at the exact width of the welt, which I have trimmed to about 5/8″ past the pocket width:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Now how long do you make the bag? Well I like to measure such that the torn bottom edge overlaps the bottom raw edge of the welt by 1/4″, and the fold is no deeper than the bottom edge of the garment (obviously). If this is confusing you, don’t worry. If your pocket bag ends up too long, because you can always stitch it shorter. I love the neat look of the fold at the pocket bag bototm, but it’s also standard to stitch a U-shaped curve and cut the fold off. Reminder: that torn edge at right, on the trouser application I described above, will extend much further than the top welt raw edge.

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
So let’s stitch that top edge! Go ahead and place the assembly right-side up, and flip down the top edge of the shell. Stitch, using that zipper foot, and aligning the pocket bag just a little past the welt raw edge. No need to back-tack here, as we’ll be catching the stitching line with our side seams – but do use a short stitch length:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Here is that gorgeous seam, as it finishes:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Here’s the right side with a finished top welt edge and the pocket hanging all the way down, not yet pinned to the welt’s bottom raw edge:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Now bring that bottom edge up, getting ready to stitch, tucking it under the pocket:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Go ahead and stitch the raw edge of the pocket bottom to that bottom welt, just as you did the top welt:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Now finger-press the pocket down, and prepare to stitch your side seams! Make sure you stitch the side seams down the right way, or you’ll make an upside down pocket (ask me how I know this!). If the pocket is going to be visible in any way – or if like me you just like accuracy – go ahead and trace your stitching lines straight down from your side seams, before stitching:

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
You can leave these side seams as they are, or pink them. If I was using a trouser application, I’d probably pink, bind or serge them, depending on the weight of my trouser fabric (this houndstooth is too thin for binding).

Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

All done! Good work. 🙂
Tutorial: Double-Welt Pocket w/Grosgrain Ribbon

Star Hoodie from FreeSewing.org

tutorial: puffed taffeta patch

Shown here: patches in taffeta (silver) and satin (red), augmenting a hoodie and jacket, resp. I’ve long loved the look of a bit of posh on casual wear.

Star Hoodie from FreeSewing.org

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
It took me a few tries to get the look I wanted – a raised puffy patch, quilted, that retained its shape accurately and really showed off that topstitching. Although the satin (red) is super fun – and will be the version I am showcasing today – I like the taffeta even more. It has a crisp but antiquated look I am just drooling for!

Star Hoodie from FreeSewing.org

So let’s do this!Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

You will need (from left to right) your satin or taffeta, some fleece (no-stretch works best), and an interfacing. You also need basting spray, a pattern template (handmade or computer-made), and tracing wheel and paper. For interfacing, think about what color you want to use, as a little may show in the final product. You want a color that matches either the patch or the garment beneath; you can also use white and a bit of Sharpie to help with that (which is what I’m going to show you here).

And of course you need the things you always need for sewing: a machine, thread, scissors, iron – et cetera.

So first, iron your fabric nice and flat:

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Next, pin the paper template to the satin/taffeta, and carefully slide the tracing medium underneath, to transfer markings to the right side of the satin/taffeta. Remember that the outer line of the template will not be stitched – it represents the turn of the cloth.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Trace carefully, making sure not to shift the paper template as you trace. You need to make sure you will be able to see the tracing marks while you sew; a red background, by the way, is one of the most difficult to read!

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Once you have both your patches traced, lightly – and I mean lightly – spray the rough side of your fleece, with a layer of basting spray. If you spray too liberally, the glue might transfer through the satin/taffeta and leave an icky mark.

By the way – I always lay my fabric in my waste can before spraying, so I don’t get any stickiness anywhere else in my studio. Then I remove the sprayed fabric and proceed.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Press your satin/taffeta wrong side to the glued surface of the fleece, and smooth by hand. Securely pin. Then machine-baste around the motif and move the pins; you won’t want to have them hanging out for all the rows of stitching you’ll be doing.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Begin stitching from the top (satin/taffeta) side, ending in the same location and carefully pulling all threads to the backside. When you’ve finished, you will be knotting those threads securely and clipping about 1/2″ from the knots.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Shown below: the fully-stitched patch. Note the outer line remains unstitched, with the basting line further out from that.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Now, cut 1/4″ to 1/8″ away from that traced, unstitched line. I know I can sew very accurately here so I have only cut 1/8th away.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Cut your interfacing according to the paper pattern, and pin to the right side of the satin/taffeta, with the sticky side of the interfacing either up or down, depending on what you want. If you put the sticky side up here, then when you turn the patch, you will be ironing the interfacing to the patch itself. If you put the sticky-side down, you will be able to use the fusing to apply the patch to the garment. I have used both methods and they both worked great.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Now, stitch around the perimeter! Make sure to firmly catch the satin, fleece and interfacing:

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Cut a small slit in the interfacing, and use this to carefully turn the patch right-side out:
Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Now if you like, you can use a sharpie and color your interfaced edge either the color of the patch or a color that works with the garment:

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Now – it’s time to press! If your sticky side is on the outside of the patch, you want to position the patch on the garment (see below). If, like for this patch, the sticky side faces the underside of the patch, this pressing will help anchor the patch into a firm shape.
Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Pin the patch in place:Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
If you have two patches in symmetrical locations on the garment, I have a method to use. I like to pin the first, then lay the second patch right-sides together, then lay the respective pattern pieces on top of that. It’s a fast way to end up with symmetrical pockets/patches etc.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
Now you can certainly machine-stitch this patch to the garment – but having gone through all this trouble, a fell stitch is a gorgeous touch! Since this garment is lined, I went ahead and pulled the running part of the stitch to the backside of the sleeve; for the blue star hoodie shown in this post, since it was not lined, I enclosed the running part of the fell stitch into the patch itself – thus making for a completely invisible patch installation.

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch
The backside of the installation – halfway through:
Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta Patch

And – all done!

Tutorial: Puffed Taffeta PatchStar Hoodie from FreeSewing.org

Hold Up!

hold up!

[Stuart voice]: “Look what I can do!”

Hold Up!

Hold Up!
The Beyoncé “Hold Up” dress (here’s the original: yes, it’s amazing!) was my biggest project this Halloween. A friend saved up and went big – she not only requisitioned the dress, she acquired the hair, shoes (which were then hand-painted), and jewerly. There is nothing I like more than someone going all-out, and it was wonderful to be a part of that.

Hold Up!

Let me get right to the knitty-gritty of how (I think) the dress was originally constructed (it’s from a collection, so there is more than one version out there – which is confusing for a reconstruction effort), and how I duped it.

So, he dress appears to be made with tiered chiffon flounces, and lace appliqué on a mesh and spandex underdress. The flounces were also roughly pleated and lettuce-edged; the bottom two flounces were trimmed with lace. The dress is hardly structured at all, a lot of bare skin shows as well as the actual push-up bra. My client found the black bra herself and hand-stitched an interlining to emulate the double-strap look on the bra. I wish I’d paid more attention to that particular bra detail, as I could have done that job for her by machine; her handstitching failed at the party she was at (bras need to be very sturdy, especially for the large-busted)!

Because the dress is mostly a monochromatic garment, I had to figure out how to get four matching colors in the absolutely gorgeous yellow of the dress, and this affected my choice of fabrics. Notice in the photo at upper left a version of the dress looks warm and poppy-colored, at left – and greenish at right; you will also notice the dress appears several different colors in this post depending on the lighting I am working with. I ended up deciding to buy my 25 yards of chiffon, and dye the other fabrics to match using a local dye artist. Note that dyeing different fabrics (including fabrics with differing fiber content) is a bit of a technical challenge, and will likely involve lots of testing and different types of dye processes.

It took trial and error to get the fabrics dyed the correct color;  one nylon lace, for instance, simply didn’t take dye. My dye artist friend (Val from FiberPlay) had to do two washes to get the colors deep enough – but they were lovely and all matched, by the time she was done. Below, you see (from left, clockwise) the chiffon, spandex, mesh, and lace I used.

Hold Up!

One other major technical component was the pleating. I believe the flounces on the original garment were cut circular, not straight – which meant the pleats were formed that way as well (I think of this as sunray pleating although I’m sure it has other names). After lots of pleating research and a few phone conversations with the *amazing* Rusty at SF Pleating (415.608.1983), I opted to send Rusty labeled strips, and he pleated them all. The pleats arrived in these fabulous crepe paper bundles. Rusty was beyond amazing and I hope to work with him again!

Hold Up!

Hold Up!

Now that I had the pleated chiffon and all properly-hued fabrics, it was time to assemble! I build the mesh and spandex underdress, using carbon paper to trace my flounce positions. I then fussy-cut the lace motifs, and applied the lace to locations on the mesh underdress:

Hold Up!

The mesh needed a stabilizer to form a nice strong zig-zag stitch.

Hold Up!
All of the chiffon flounces had to be finished by serge, as chiffon likes to fray into these teeny tiny fibers. These flounces were then either edged by serge or edged by fishing line. The latter process is so fun! You wrap your fishing line around a form, use heat (boiling water or heat gun) to seal the shape of the circular culry-q’s, let cool, and feed this line into the chiffon while hemming. This process required a lot of trial and error; you have to find the right weight of fishing line – but was super fun. I’ll have to create a tutorial someday!|

After the flounces were hemmed, I applied them to the mesh in the locations I’d traced:

Hold Up!

One regret I had was not acquiring a twist-cord blank to dye. Instead I created cord from the spandex fabric, and used it for the dresses’ back-tie, as well as the three straps in the bodice.

Hold Up!
The original dress likely does not fasten by tie, but this is the most adjustable and comfortable way to go for a costume:

Hold Up!

So, obviously my friend K. stole the show at her event. It was both an honor and a privilege to get to make her something so special! And I can’t wait for my next pleated project!

Hold Up!