Better than Basic Black Tee

Do you ever make up a sewing pattern in a knit even though it’s meant for woven, non-stretch fabrics? I have started to notice that I have a habit of doing that! (Here’s one example of where I did that in the past.) It has worked well for me, which must be why I keep doing it, but I find it’s a substitute that is best suited for certain types of knits and certain types of patterns. These are the guidelines that I generally follow:

  • Patterns: Most patterns can be adapted to work with a knit fabric, but I would not try to make a pattern that needs a lot of structure from a knit fabric. Also, you may need to make the pattern in a different, probably smaller, size than you normally would because you need less ease with knits.
  • Fabrics: I gravitate towards using medium to heavy weight knits, such as ponte and double knits, because they more closely mimic the way woven fabrics hold their shape.
  • Adaptations: It’s important to do a little advance planning when you decide to use a different fabric than what’s recommended. Often, it’s possible to leave off closures like zippers. Or it might be necessary to use a different type of interfacing or seam finishes than the pattern instructions recommend. It’s a good idea to test these things out first.

Here’s a recent project where making the switch from woven to knit fabric worked beautifully.

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When I bought this black knit off the remnant table, I wasn’t sure what it would become, but I think I picked a good style for the drape and weight of this fabric. The pattern is Simplicity 1879, view B, from the Lisette collection. (If you’ve ever seen the Oliver & S pattern line design by Liesl Gibson, you should check out this line of patterns from Simplicity. I want to make them all!) I did have to shorten the sleeves because I was short on fabric, but other than that I made no changes. I made my usual size and followed all the instructions, which were well written. I love how the neckline yoke and the sleeves connect to the bodice. It’s very flattering.

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Design/Pattern: Simplicity 1879, view B

Materials: black mystery knit, black bias tape, matching thread

Techniques:

  • serged seams
  • gathered bodice
  • double-stitched hems
  • raglan sleeves

Alterations/Changes: shortened the sleeve length

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I’ve called this top “better than basic” because it’s just as comfortable and simple to throw on with anything as a black t-shirt is, but it’s got a more unique style. It goes great with jeans for an everyday, casual look or with a skirt and scarf for a more dressed up look. I’ve wanted to wear this top immediately after it’s been washed, which is a good sign it fits perfectly into my wardrobe. I’m looking forward to coming up with great outfits centered around this new black tee.

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Stadium Purse

There is a baseball stadium in my neighborhood. My husband is a fan of the team (I am slowly learning to love baseball) and we often go to the games. For outings like this, I prefer to carry a bag that securely closes at the top so that nothing accidentally falls out when I put my purse under my seat. I also prefer to have a cross body strap so that I can easily keep track of where my purse is and also have my hands free. This little project does just the trick!

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This purse is basically a simple tote that I adjusted until it had all the features I wanted: zippered top, cross body strap, outer and inner pockets, simple but cute design, sturdiness, just big enough for the essentials plus my husband’s score book. I started out with two 12 inch squares, added a pocket to the front and inside, and made it stand out with some navy blue and red trim. The strap is cotton webbing that I sewed the same trim over. A zipper at the top, some lobster claw clasps to attach the strap and it was done!

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Design/Pattern: My own

Materials: heavy weight cotton canvas, 12″ zipper, 3 yards trim, 2 lobster claw clasps, two small rings, 1 yard cotton webbing

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Techniques:

  • double stitched seams for strength
  • pinked seam allowances
  • installed zipper
  • decorative trim
  • darted bag bottom

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When I first made this purse, I figured I would mostly just use it to go to baseball games or other outings where I want the things in my bag to be secure, but I have used it pretty consistently all summer. I have actually used it so much that it’s sitting on my washing machine right now waiting to be cleaned! Since making a couple canvas bags in the last year or so, that is quickly becoming my go-to fabric for bag-making. Canvas seems to look good and wear well no matter the style or size of the bag.

Pillows for Mom

I’m just popping in here today to show off what I made for my mom’s birthday gift. She had leftover fabric from having her living room curtains made and wanted some matching pillows. I had different amounts of each fabric to play with as I designed and made these, so I wanted each one to be unique.

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The top pillow has a covered button in coordinating fabric, giving the pillow a tufted effect. The middle pillow uses a striped fabric in different directions. The last pillow simply has a contrasting color band around the middle.

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This was just an easy little summer project that was fun to give to my mom. I know they are her style and will fit well in her home. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Zip Top Lunch Bag

My husband and I both pack our lunches everyday. As school teachers we can’t leave the building to get lunch and the cafeteria offerings barely qualify as food. The only option we have for eating healthy, tasty food during our work day is if we bring it ourselves. Having a unique lunch bag that is the perfect size to fit inside our larger messenger bag (Peter) or tote bag (me) and that fits a balanced lunch and snack makes the habit more enjoyable and sustainable. This is Peter’s new lunch bag.

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As I was planning his new lunch bag, these were the goals I was trying to achieve:

  • quick & easy to make
  • interesting, yet masculine design
  • large enough to hold a couple small to medium size containers
  • sturdy, but softly structured so it could be folded up when empty

I think this fits those requirements quite well. It took me one afternoon to complete from cutting the canvas to snipping the last thread. The longest part of the process was probably making the decorative lines of stitching. I like the stitched lines detail a lot. I chose the colors because they are Peter’s school colors. This bag is also the perfect size for holding a container with a 2-3 cup capacity with enough room to add an apple or a baggie holding a snack. I made it from a heavy weight canvas. I didn’t line the bag because I didn’t think it would be necessary from a structural point of view, and it saved me quite a bit of time too.

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Design/Pattern: My own (it started out as two 12″ x 12″ rectangles of canvas; pretty simple stuff)

Materials: heavy weight cotton canvas, 12″ zipper, matching and contrasting thread

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Techniques:

  • double stitched seams for strength
  • pinked seam allowances
  • installed zipper
  • decorative top stitching
  • gusseted bag bottom

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I know I’m not quite ready to think about going back to school yet, but fun projects like this one make the transition a little easier. I also enjoy making things for my husband that I know he can use and enjoy. As others who sew for men know, there are fewer sewing project options that appeal to a male sense of style. It can be difficult to make a sewn gift for a man. Unless Peter is being too nice to say something, I think this one was a success.

From Pants to a Skirt

You may remember seeing and reading about my “yacht pants“. Basically, they didn’t feel like a garment that I would wear much, yet I just couldn’t bear to let the beautiful cotton linen blend sit unused in my closet. Thankfully, since the pants were a loose-fitting style, it was very simple to transform them into a skirt that I can use.

Here are the pants:

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And now the skirt:

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This skirt is definitely more my style. It’s actually very similar to a favorite skirt that I made quite a while back (before blogging), except it has an elastic waistband instead of a zipper. I have worn this skirt a few times and it’s so comfortable and keeps me cool. I am just estimating here, but I would say this skirt is about 113% more my style than the pants version were! And it was simple to do.

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In case you were wondering how I did it, I will describe my steps here. (Sorry, I didn’t get any photos for the visual learners.)

1. Use a seam ripper to un-sew the center leg seams.

2. Try on the garment (or put on your dress form) inside out.

3. Pin at the center front and center back where you want your new seam. Try to make sure this seam is parallel to the grainline of the fabric so that your new skirt hangs nicely. (I didn’t get mine perfectly on grain, but I got pretty close and I think it looks good enough.)

4. Also mark where you want your hem. Unless you are starting with a very full-leg style of pants, you will most likely have to mark your hem at knee-length or above.

5. Take your garment off. You want to do this with the pins in partly just so that you know you’ll be able to get your skirt on and off with whatever type of waistband and closure the pants had, although this shouldn’t be a problem if the pants already fit you at the waist and hips.

6. Measure and mark your hem plus hem allowance. Cut off excess pant leg. 

7. Sew your new center front and center back seam. Press and finish the seam with your preferred method. 

8. Press up your desired hem width and sew.

9. Wear and enjoy your new skirt!

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Pretty Blue Dress

This fabric and pattern were a perfect pair! I have had my eye on the Hazel sundress pattern from Colette Patterns since it came out last spring and when I finally bought the pattern I waited quite awhile to find just the right fabric for it. I knew I didn’t want a fabric with a pattern that would compete with the unique bodice design, but I also didn’t want a flat solid colored fabric. This turquoise chambray was the perfect middle ground. It is woven with royal blue and turquoise threads, which gives the color a lot of depth and interest. It was very hard to capture this in a photograph so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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I don’t often make a muslin when I sew. If I am concerned about the fit I will often just baste the pieces together and adjust from there. One time when I think it’s worth the time and effort of making a muslin is when the design has a very fitted bodice. So, since this pattern has unique bodice seams and is close-fitting, I decided that making a muslin of the bodice was a good idea. The decision led to some other good decisions in making this dress fit me.

First of all, the darts in the bodice give the dress a more retro silhouette, which might work better for someone who wears vintage style undergarments. I do not, so I needed to make changes that would get rid of the dart point. The easiest solution? Change the dart into gathers. (Instead of sewing the dart, sew two or three rows of basting stitches in the front bodice seam allowance. Pull up the stitches to form gathers where the dart would be centered. Sew the bodice front to the bodice sides as usual.) I think this design change worked well as a fitting solution and as a bonus the bodice gathers echo the gathered skirt. Win win!

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Hazel

Materials: 100% cotton turquoise chambray, small bit of white cotton voile for bodice lining, thread, 22 inch invisible zipper (any zipper at least 14 inches long would be sufficient though)

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Techniques:

  • serged seam allowances on skirt and pockets
  • gathered bodice and skirt
  • quick-lined bodice
  • slip stitched hem and bodice lining

Alterations/Changes: As I described above, to fit the bodice, I changed the darts to gathers. I also decided to line the bodice for a cleaner finish. I used this method to create a quick bodice lining. One more thing about the bodice: the upper edge doesn’t gape. I’m pretty sure this is due to great pattern design rather than my sewing skills!

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This is a great summer dress! It’s made of cool, comfy cotton. It’s a unique design. And it can be dressed up or down. I am super pleased with this new addition to my summer wardrobe. I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who is looking for something a little different, yet still very wearable, to add to their closet.

Yacht Pants

I have dubbed these pants my “yacht pants”. Or maybe I could call them “country club pants” or “all inclusive resort pants”. For some reason they seem like the kind of thing women wear in these settings. Unfortunately, these are not places that I frequent. I’m not saying it’s unfortunate that I’m not going to these places; it’s unfortunate that these pants don’t fit well into my lifestyle and wardrobe because that means I won’t get much use out of them.

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When I bought this beautiful cotton-linen blend fabric off the remnant table, I had it in my mind that it would make the perfect pair of summery pants. My workplace isn’t air conditioned, so I was trying to figure out what I could wear that would be professional looking and light. For me at least, these pants are not it. I think I just might not have the kind of life that off-white pants fit into. I’m not super sad about that. I still love this fabric though, so I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make something that I would wear more with it. I think now that a jacket or skirt would have been a better choice for my wardrobe and lifestyle. Perhaps I could re-purpose this project into a skirt still. What do you think?

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Design/Pattern: Simplicity 1808, view C (Wanna know something funny? I bought this pattern because I wanted to make the jacket, but soon I’ll have made everything in this set of patterns except the jacket.)

Materials: off-white cotton linen blend, medium weight

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Techniques:

  • finished seam allowances with a zig-zag stitch before I started construction; this was a great idea as I felt like I flew through the construction with this step out of the way
  • pleats
  • partial elastic waistband

Alterations/Changes: These are loose-fitting pants so I didn’t have to do much fitting, but there were a few changes that I made to help the fit.

  • petite adjustment so that the waistband didn’t sit too high (folded pattern piece horizontally above crotch curve to shorten)
  • straightened the line between the waist and hips so that there was less volume across my hips, which aren’t as curvy as the pattern

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While these pants probably won’t see much wear, I am glad I made them. Every time I make something that doesn’t fit into my wardrobe I get a better idea of my personal style strengths. Right now light colored, loose fitting pants don’t work. In the future I will know that, as much as I might like this look on someone else, it just isn’t my style. And that’s okay.