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.

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.

How to: Draft a Half-Circle Wrap Skirt

One of my most popular posts has been my half-circle wrap skirt. Maybe you’ve seen it and were secretly hoping for a how-to? Well, today would be your lucky day! I have prepared instructions for how to make your own half-circle wrap skirt pattern based on your own measurements. Once you have the pattern made, the sewing process is very simple. Add waistband ties, hem the edges and you’re done.

A couple notes:

  • These are only directions for how to make the pattern. Sewing instructions are not included, but I’d be happy to answer any sewing questions in the comments.
  • I didn’t include fabric requirements because you’re basing the pattern off of your personal measurements. However, two yards of 60 inch wide fabric is a good starting point for a knee length skirt.
  • This style works well with a variety of fabric types and will really play up the natural characteristics of the fabric you choose.
  • Since the skirt is a half circle most of it will hang on the bias, (diagonal from the selvedges) so it’s a good idea to let the skirt hang for a day before you hem it. This will allow the fabric to relax and then you can straighten up your hem before you stitch it. The bias cut also means it will look great on any body.
  • Hemming a curve can be tricky. I recommend using a very narrow hem allowance or using bias tape or hem tape to help you control the fullness.

Without further ado…how to draft a half-circle wrap skirt.

Draft a Half Circle Wrap Skirt

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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2013 Goals Progress Report

We have made it through the first six months of the year, so I thought this would be a good time to revisit my 2013 sewing goals. Here’s my progress report:

50 posts: I made a goal of writing 50 posts in 2013 and so far I’ve written 21, not including this post. I’d say I’m doing pretty well at achieving this goal. I’m a little under half way to 50 posts, but I think I can easily reach my goal if I keep sewing and posting at my current pace. It’s been wonderful to spend more time writing about my sewing.

Sewing at least once a week: I did pretty good at keeping this goal from January through May, which was the hardest part of the year to stick with it. Doing some sewing for my sister’s wedding helped keep me on track! Now that it’s summer break, it’s been a breeze to sew at least once a week. The ratio is basically reversed; it’s unusual if there is one day a week when I don’t spend time at the sewing machine!

Building my sewing community: If you’ve been keeping up here, you’ve probably read about Urban Threads Studio. I found out about this new organization as I was looking for people or places in Chicago where I could work on this goal. I was so lucky that they just happened to be moving into my neighborhood. Through my involvement with UTS I’ve met others who are interested in sewing and I’ve also invited a few friends into my sewing circle. I am very excited to see how this community grows in the second half of 2013!

Teaching: Through UTS I also have the opportunity to accomplish my next goal. I started out by helping at the Mending Cafe event, where anyone can bring in clothing that needs repaired. I have had a great time teaching others to do some basic sewing at this event. I am also going to be teaching a couple of workshops, which is going to be very fun, I think. My first class is how to make a reversible apron and it’s coming up soon on July 9th from 7-9pm. (If you’re in Chicago and are interested in this class or others, there is a coupon deal going on right now on youswoop.com)

Challenging Project: I haven’t really taken on a very challenging sewing project (unless you count teaching). I am still interested in learning to quilt, but whenever I go to the fabric store I end up gravitating towards what I know best, which is garment sewing. I still think it would be great to learn some new sewing skills or put my sewing skills to use in a new way. I just have to figure out what project will help me do that. Any suggestions?

Did you make any sewing goals for the year? How are you doing at keeping them?

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.