Fashion

Mystery Activewear 1: Have You Tried Turning it Off and On Again?

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The contents of the mystery pack cut and pinned for four garments.

Today’s activewear project is a complete set of shorts and long sleeveless top.  Last month, I impulse-bought a mystery pack of athletic-brushed-poly (ABP) prints from Zenith and Quasar. I love their designs, so I was pretty sure I would be able to use most of what I got. I was promised a USPS padded flat rate envelope (PFRE) stuffed with a variety of small and large pieces, and that was exactly what I got.  I took inventory and found that I had two groups of coordinates.

Group 1: Coding, Windows & Space Invaders – blue and white with primary color accents

Group 2: Black and Green Tech – Black and variegated dark colors with lime green accents

Each grouping contained a panel and coordinating fabrics of different dimensions. The panels are set up with a design centered on one half so that they can easily be cut into shirts. While both panels were a full 60 inch width, only the blue had an entire yard of length.

Washing and drying brought out the “brushed” texture of the ABP, which before washing was smoother than I had expected. There was plenty of stretch and recovery, so I was confident that it would work well as close-fitting gym wear.

I started working on Group 2 first, for the sole reason that I already had my machines were already threaded in black. I’ll feature Group 1 in an upcoming post.

I designed a top around the panel print (“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”). I selected a Butterick “lisette” pattern which contained a basic athletic tank with built-in sports bra (B6295). I centered the panel design on the tank front, and cut the rest of the top from that panel piece.

I mostly followed the instructions, but chose to make the bra with sewn-in cups instead of removable ones. Making my maillot last summer gave me the confidence to try doing custom cups. In some ways, it makes it easier to sew, since you don’t have to mess with making the hidden inner cup pockets. In other ways, it is more work because you need to take the time to fit and sew foam cups. Since I don’t machine-dry my tops, sewn-in is a better long term option for me. I won’t have to re-adjust the foam every time I run the top through the laundry.

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The inner bra is constructed of two layers. The inner layer provides structure with power mesh fabric and in my case, foam cups. The outer layer (next to the skin) is made from the fashion fabric. The two layers are held in place with an elastic band enclosed in a casing made from the fashion fabric. Elastic casings have been a lot easier since I started using Dritz elastic threaders. I have tried a lot methods, but these little flat plastic things are the fastest and never twist the elastic.

Although the ABP is soft and stretchy, it is a little thicker than other spandex options. As a result, I found that even after pressing, the neck and armhole edges would not lay flat. The instructions call for understitching as much as possible. I have never seen understitching make such a big difference! This is the kind of step that is so easy to skip, but don’t do it!  It took the top from homemade to professional in just 15 extra minutes. The instructions showed using a straight stitch to understitch, but just to be on the safe side, I used a narrow zigzag.

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I love that fabric!

Compared to the top, the shorts were so easy that they almost seem like an afterthought. But I think that the circuit board coordinate really makes the outfit. I had to be a little creative since I only started with a wide horizontal strip about 10 inches high. A review of all of my pattern stash options led to McCall’s M7514, which had a yoga-style pant. Since M7514 featured a one-piece leg, it used less fabric horizontally. If you do the math, adding a single seam adds 5/8 in. to each piece, which would be 4 pieces total in the case of a typical 2 piece leg. So 5/8 x 4 = 2 1/2 inches. That doesn’t include the extra you may or may not need for placement. Normally it doesn’t matter, but in this case the pieces only just fit. I squared off the fabric and cut the the leg pieces with as much length as I could. Then I cut the waistband from the remaining bits of the panel. I had to cut two pieces and sew them together to make that work, but I could live with that.

The shorts were super-simple to make. I hemmed them with a 1/4 inch narrow hem, which saved a little more length and gave them a whopping 2 3/4 inch inseam. Still, they are longer than a lot of yoga shorts out there and seem to stay in place as I move around.

Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Fashion

Burgundy Cowl-Neck Tunic

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Cover art for V9055 View C

This is one of those projects where the fabric dictated what it wanted to be. As soon as I saw the gorgeous heathered burgundy hacci fabric, I knew it was meant to be a loose cowl-neck pull-over. And it would be mine. I guess if pressed, I would deny that the fabric literally spoke to me, but fellow sewists will recognize that subtle whisper.

I love cowl neck garments in the cooler months. Now that there are so many lovely lightweight knits on the market, sweaters can use bulkier design elements like cowls, gathers, and draping. With that in mind, I landed on Vogue 9055. One of the views was exactly what I had in mind. View C is a cowl-neck raglan tunic with a high-low hem and a kangaroo pocket (which I omitted). Although I had recently done a raglan tee and copied out a good version of the pattern, I chose to start fresh with this one since I was looking for a garment with more ease.

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The sleeve pieces fit together so the outside wraps around the inside. In other words, you have a seam on each side of your wrist, not one down the middle.

Vogue 9055 is a “Very Easy” pattern, and this time I agree. I spent more time preparing the pattern and cutting out the pieces than I did assembling everything. I even made it a bit more complicated by finishing all of the raw edges and it still was only about two hours of actual sewing.

This pattern was unusual in that it featured a two-part sleeve. I was a little concerned that the sleeve seams would be prominent and distracting in the finished garment, but my fears were unfounded. I’m intrigued and hope to learn more about them and how they can best be used.

I was surprised that the neckline was so deep. It’s clearly shown on the illustrations, but somehow I didn’t notice. I think if I were to make this with the regular scoop neckline, I would make the neckline a little higher. I would also try omitting the darts, especially if I was going for a sportier look.

Once again, I used serger thread only for the serger’s loopers and used “regular” thread for the serger needle. It would have been nice to match all of the thread, but when the garment is on, the black looper threads don’t show at all.

Next time, a short detour into activewear again. What are you making for fall?

 

 

Fashion · Vintage

Vintage-Inspired Pants Part 2

For my vintage style pants, I chose a medium weight twill in a poly blend that drapes easily. I wanted something that had a little bit of movement and fluidity this time. I think in the warmer seasons it would also look great in a crisp cotton or linen.

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Pattern for facing and pattern for matching interfacing

After cutting the fabric, the first step is to stabilize the facing pieces. Sometimes it is tricky to know what to use. You don’t want the waist to have too much stiffness. It would be well supported, but it would not be comfortable to wear. You also don’t want too little. That would run the risk of having pants fabric bunch up at the waist when you sit. I chose a medium weight fusible tricot interfacing. It has flexibility vertically, but is stable horizontally. Placed so the stable horizontal axis goes across the waist, this option supports the waistband shape without stiffness.

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Tricot interfacing after fusing

Since I was planning to use this pattern more than once (stay tuned!), I went through the extra step of making pattern pieces for the interfacing. Typically, pattern instructions have you cut interfacing with the same pieces you use for facings. There is nothing wrong with doing it this way, but it can be improved on. I trace the facing pieces onto extra pattern paper, then draw a new line where the seam line would be (in this case, 5/8 inch from the edges). Using these smaller interfacing pattern pieces, you will waste less interfacing material and you will not add unwanted bulk to your seams.

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Fraying situation critical

I assembled the pants mostly on the serger using a 3 thread overlock. The fabric I was using had a tendency to fray, so I made sure all of the raw edges were enclosed in some way.

I spent a little extra time on the facing, binding the lower edge. I’ve seen this done in better ready-to-wear and just liked the look.

I did the hem with my regular machine using the blind hem function.

The versatile black pants look great dressed up or down.

Something about this outfit makes me want to learn to tap dance. I think that’s a good thing.

See Vintage-Inspired Pants Part 1

More construction details

 

Finished Pants

Fashion · Vintage

Vintage-Inspired Pants Part 1

B5859 Company Photo
Inspiration photo

This year, I’m facing the change of seasons head-on. While we are still able to dip our toes in the ocean, I’m pulling together plans for fall looks. First up will be a vintage inspired high-waisted trouser.

I am making view E from Butterick 5859 – one of their Lifestyle Wardrobe patterns. The high waist is right on trend. This year, wide legs are coming back as well. Finally, trends are starting to converge with my taste!

The pattern is not that old, but unfortunately is already out of print. For those of you looking to sew your own version, you might want to try Decades of Style’s 1940’s Empire Waist Trousers, or Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers.

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Line drawings from B5859 Envelope

Although the pants are described as semi-fitted, they still warrant editing to follow the wearer’s curves. The pattern has front, back, and side seams as well as darts in the front and rear; so there are 8 places to make alterations. Knowing that I would probably need to make some changes, I decided to make a quick muslin first.

One of the nice things about making a muslin is that you only have to work with the essential parts of the pattern. There is no need to bother with facings or interfacings, pockets, zippers, etc. So, I only needed to cut the front and back pattern pieces.

Last month, Craftsy.com had an all-you-can-watch for free day. I took advantage of it and watched all of the lessons in Linda Lee’s Serger & Coverstitch: Fashion Details class. My favorite take-away: use your machine’s chain stitch for temporary seams. When you are ready to take the seam out, you don’t need a seam ripper.  You just start pulling one end! I tried this with my muslin and it worked like a charm. It’s way easier than using a seam ripper and leaves no little thread “crumbs.”

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Chain stitch used to baste muslin together. French curve used to smooth revised seam line (teal marker).

I’ve actually picked up a lot of tips from Craftsy classes. Sandra Betzina’s Pant Fitting Techniques class got me in the habit of cutting side seams with a 1 inch seam allowance (at least the first time you are trying a pattern). That way, you have lots of room to make changes, if necessary.

I chose a pattern size based on my largest measurement (hip). I marked the new 1-inch side seams on the onion skin, then cut out my muslin pieces. Then, I chain-stitched my pants together and checked the fit.

Fitting Round One: Torso Too Loose

I put the pants on inside-out to make pinning simple. Being careful to do both sides evenly, I pinched and pinned slight changes in the side seams of the waist and above-waist area. There was still a little gap in the small of the back, so I pinned that as well. After taking the pants off, I used the pins to draw new seam lines for the sides and center back. Just to make it more visible, I changed the color of the chainstitch thread. Then I stitched the new seam lines.

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After the second fitting: green thread on changed seamlines; horizontal decrease pinned.

Fitting Round Two: Torso Good, Crotch too Low

Using a ruler, a mirror, and a little bit of guesswork, I saw that I needed to raise the crotch curve by about an inch. I started with the upper “shorten or lengthen here” line on the paper pattern pieces. I found the corresponding points on my muslin, then used them to draw a horizontal line (perpendicular to the grainline). I made two more lines, 1/2 inch above and 1/2 inch below. I pinned the top and bottom lines together to make a 1 inch reduction. I was thrilled that they looked perfect when I put them back on. Just to make sure I didn’t over-fit, I twisted, sat down, and walked around. Still good… I was done after only two rounds – that’s a record for me!

Transferring the modifications to the paper pattern was pretty easy. While I was working on it, I also removed the extra seam allowance from the sides. The last change was to modify the pattern pieces for the facings to match the new waistline.

Next time, putting it all together!

Fashion

Floral Sundress: the UFO has landed

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Art for view B Vogue 8469

Beautiful fabric, cute pattern, halfway done….  why did I ever stop working on this?  Has this thought ever occurred to you?  I have a stack of boxes in a dark corner – each one containing everything that I need to finish a sewing project.

I found myself in the mood the clear out that corner recently. This incomplete sundress from 2013 called out to be finished.  It was really a fabric-driven project.  I fell in love with the painterly, multicolored floral the minute I saw it.  I splurged and bought some yardage at the full retail price, which is unusual for me.  It seems to be a cotton poplin with a little bit of stretch.

When I cut out this dress, I paid particular attention to the bright, large scale design.  I especially made sure that the large yellow sunflowers would be placed in flattering areas.  I also thought about how the pieces would connect to each other so the design would flow in a pleasing way.  Placed incorrectly, large design elements can ruin a garment.

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Fully lined bodice

The pattern itself was yet another Very Easy Vogue, now out of print (Vogue V8469).  I added pockets and omitted the sash, but otherwise left the dress pattern alone.  I am not sure this one should have been considered “very” easy though.  It requires lining, inserting a zipper, and installing kind of fussily small elastic casing for the cap sleeves.

I cut the lining from a soft old white bedsheet. Bedsheets can really make nice lining for casual clothes. They will not shrink, and most will outlast typical fashion fabric.

When I opened the UFO* box, I found that I had cut and marked all of the pieces and finished most of the bodice.  Oh…  yeah.  I stopped working on this because the top was too small.  I don’t remember if I cut it too small, or whether I made a sewing mistake, but instead of being semi-fitted, it was crushingly tight.  The bodice side seams were still unsewn.  At the time, I couldn’t decide if I needed to insert more fabric under the arms, or whether I could make it work by just changing the placement of the side seams.  Back then, I had to make alterations by trying things on and pinning in front of a mirror. Since I made a duct tape dress form, I don’t have to do that anymore.  I put the top on duct-tape Cindy and figured out my modifications in just a few minutes.

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Overlocked seams

The fit and flare style is flattering on so many body types. You have freedom of movement and a classic silhouette at the same time.

All of the raw edges are either encased or overcast, so washing in the washing machine will not lead to annoying loose threads and fraying.

*UFO: Unfinished Object

Fashion · General

Quick Fix: Coverstitch Cut-offs

Front View
Old jeans to new summer staple

Here’s a quickie that can really reinvigorate old pants and shorts. Making a raw edge by leaving everything unfinished and letting the fraying process take its course is a fine option. But sometimes a neater finish is a better fit. Here’s what I did to some tapered jeans that I wanted to make into shorts.

First, decide on the length you want and how deep you want to make the hem.  I decided to go with a one inch hem and a 6 inch inseam. Carefully measure and mark the legs before cutting.  I like to use a temporary marker that fades in a day or so. Cut the legs.

Open Seam
Inside with side seam opened and spread flat.

Since these bottoms were tapered, they needed a little extra work. I examined the legs and saw that they were only angled on the outside seam. So I picked the stitches out until the outside leg seams opened just slightly below one inch. Next, mark the right side of the legs at one and two inches from the bottom all the way around.

Fold the hem into place and press.

Set up the coverstitch machine with topstitching thread in the two needles and wooly nylon in the looper. I found that plain orange polyester thread works well for jeans topstitching. Using nylon helps keep the seam flat.  Otherwise, you may risk creating a ridge or “tunnel” of material under between the two topstitch lines. The nylon color isn’t important since it will not show.

Using the 2 inch line as a guide, stitch the hem.

Press and Mark Hem
Hem pressed and stitching line marked

I had contemplated getting rid of these jeans at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t. Sewing to the rescue!

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Finished hem: inside
Finished Hem Top
Finished hem: right side
Back View
I could live in these
Fashion

Flatlock Fun Run Tights

I recently decided to audit my workout gear. My activewear drawer had been packed full, but when I got rid of the things that didn’t fit, were damaged or just plain ugly, there wasn’t much left.  The worst category was bottoms that could be used in a gym workout.

I was off to a good start with my Girl Power Shorts, but I also wanted to put together a long tight with some compression and at least one pocket.  I landed on Greenstyle Creations’ Stride Athletic Tights PDF pattern.  The pattern offers options for high and medium rise waistbands, different lengths, with or without pockets, and with or without a crotch gusset.  For my first pair, I chose the long length, pockets (always!), medium rise, and gusset.

TIP: Use a gusset if you are planning on wearing your tights for yoga or activities that require a degree of contortion.  You can leave it out if you are just going to use them for walking or running.

Flatlock_testI had a piece of really nice medium weight black poly/lycra calling out from my stash. The deep solid black was the perfect base for decorative stitching.

Flatlocking is a seam technique where the fabric pieces are joined at the raw edges with a covering stitch. It’s particularly useful for thicker fabrics since there is no double thickness at the seams.  It’s also great for activewear because the inside of the garment is smoother, reducing the possibility of chafing.

When considering a flatlock technique, you need to think about how the seam lines will affect the appearance of the garment. You will be stitching a stripe between all of the fabric pieces where they are joined. You can downplay the stripes by choosing a matching, or slightly darker thread. I thought it would be fun to play with it though, keeping the fabric simple and making the seam stripes the focal point.

I tested various types of thread, seam widths and stitch lengths. I tried wooly nylon, rayon embroidery thread and polyester embroidery thread. I liked the shine of both of the embroidery threads and chose the poly just because I liked the color better. I preferred the narrower 4mm flatlock with the “Seaglass” polyester embroidery thread.*

*Note: This was not a great choice…  keep reading.

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Seam Plan

My next step was to make a plan for which seams I wanted to highlight and which I wanted to disappear into the background. I wanted to hide the gusset, inside leg seams, pockets and hem. My regular black serger thread worked well for this purpose.

Sewing a flatlock seam is really easy.  You simply set up your serger for a 2 or 3 thread overlock with the knife down.  (For most of my seams, I chose to do a 3-thread version for durability). Thread the needle with the thread for the underside of the seam. Thread the lower looper with the thread you want to show on top. Adjust the spacing so that the overlock extends slightly past the cut edge of the fabric. Stitch the seam as usual, right sides together. When you have chained off and taken your piece out of the machine, gently pull the two pieces apart and flatten. If your tension is right, you will have a nice, flat seam joining the two.

The PDF pattern includes easy to follow instructions, so putting the tights together went smoothly.

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Since I was featuring flatlock seaming, I hemmed the pockets using black thread and a 2-thread decorative flatlock.  I’ve seen this in ready to wear, but never tried to do it. The process is not difficult. Press the hem in place as usual, then fold over once more. With the knife down, stitch a two-thread overlock over the outside (or top) edge of the fold. When it is done and smoothed flat, the front has a decorative flatlock stripe while the back’s ladder stitches hold the hem in place. Neat!

I like that Clear elastic is used inside the waistband to add a flexible, invisible bit of structure.

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Curved seams. Bleh.

I didn’t like pinning those curved seams!

I sewed my label inside the hidden pocket – no chafing!  Also – hey, hidden pocket!

I had intended to do a coverstitch hem, then I realized that it would be impossible to work with the small diameter opening on a machine with no free arm. I ended up zig-zagging the hem on my regular machine.

Full disclosure:  I messed up one of the decorative seams.  It was close to the bottom of one leg, and could not be fixed.  So I cut the ends off of the legs, saving as much as I could.  My tights are capri length instead of long.  Oh, well.  We’ll just keep that between us, okay?

tights_pocket_zoomSo, what was wrong with the thread? No stretch. The first time I put on the tights and tried stretching, the seams pulled right out in the tighter areas!  I was able to repair them, but there is no way that I will be using my tights for anything more athletic than housework.  I’m keeping the pattern, though.  With a few changes, this could still be a great staple piece.

Lessons learned for next time:

  • Modify the pattern for roomier thighs
  • Try the higher waistband
  • Use a fabric with more stretch
  • Use a thread with some stretch

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