Monthly Archives: April 2012

Weekend Sewing

What to do on a Sunday evening to save your weekend from complete non-productivity

I was really hoping to get the blue tunic finished this past weekend. However, after thoroughly botching the zipper insertion*, I decided to take a break from annoying polyester crepe and take a stab at using up the remainder of the Pink Suit fabric, which has been lurking around the basement for the last few months.

ETA: Emergency Clarification: this project was for Syo, the eight-almost-nine-year-old. This is her in the next photo; I did not miraculously grow my hair ten inches, nor did I shrink two and a half feet. You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog-reading.

Back view

Diving through stash, I also located the bag of lace that came from my Grandma’s stash, presumably dating back to the days when she used to make us underwear for Christmas. I picked this bit of stretch lace, enough to do the cuffs of a pair of leggings and a single line across the front of the matching leotard. I thought it would be a nice break from All Pink All The Time.

A super-simple leotard

Frankly, I was a little surprised when Syo got up this morning and eagerly put the leggings on. I was not sure that pinkpinkpink was going to be a popular colour. And the fabric has a bit more stretch in it than the last pair of leggings I made her, so they’re a bit loose, even after I took in the inseam a bit.

Lace top-stitched down with a zig-zag

I was pretty stoked when I came upstairs from finishing the set last night and realized my husband was just finishing the episode of Breakout Kings he’d started when I went down to sew. Had I really cut & stitched all this in under an hour?

… turns out it was the extra-long season finale.

Edges: clear elastic stitched on with triple zig-zag and then topstitched under with the "athletic" stitch.

But still, two hours (minus commercials, because he records and skips through those) for the set. Not too shabby.


The pattern is, again, Kwik Sew 1670, in a size 8, which is just a little big for Syo (who will be turning nine in two months). It includes both the leotard and slightly cropped leggings. This time I disregarded the lengths Kwik Sew suggests for the elastic on the leotard and sewed it in straight rather than in the round, putting a wee bit of tension into it but not enough to ripple the fabric. And I quite like how it turned out. It does involve a bit more thought in terms of construction order—sew crotch; elasticate leg openings; sew side-seams; elasticate arm openings; sew one shoulder; elasticate neck opening; sew second shoulder; turn all elasticated edges under and topstitch in the round. I *really* like that this got me both the ease of putting in elastic flat and the nice finish of topstitching in the round. As you can see I topstitched with my “athletic” stitch, rather than the triple zig-zag. It’s a bit of a different look; not sure if I like it any better, though.


Now I really need to make something for Tyo before she notices that Syo’s gotten two (three) things in a row…

Or, y’know, finish the blue tunic.

*Funny story. I wasn’t actually going to *do* a zipper insertion, except then there was a nice dress-length zipper in the proper shade of blue in the package from ElleC, so I thought it was karma and figured I’d throw it in. Bad idea. Bad, bad Karma. Either that or ElleC is sending me cursed zippers, which I might not put past her, but I think the culprit in this case is the *really annoying fabric*.



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I meant to sew today…

But there was a problem.


I hear it’s supposed to rain tomorrow…


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More Fantasy Sewing: Pyjama Party Edition

The Great Pyjama* Party Reveal is coming up, and, as with every challenge and sewalong I’ve skipped out on in the last few months, I’m totally jealous. I didn’t sign up because I just made loungewear not that long ago (the infamous Pink Suit), which gets worn for pjs plenty, and I have lots of other things on my plate. But does that impede the green-eyed monster? Not a whit!

Me-Made-May (which I’m also not signing up for as I’m totally incapable of actually challenging myself right now) is TOTALLY going to suck. If I sulk the whole month, you’ll know why.

Anyway, ending tantrum, let’s get back to the fantasy sewing. If I were a part of the Pyjama Party (which I’m not, so y’all can hit someone with a pillow in my honour), I would be sewing this:


Pyjama Party!

This is my lone Advance pattern, which I found at the Mennonite thrift store in my hometown a few months back. Bought, frankly, because it was there and significantly older than my usual 70s “vintage” scores and it was Advance, a company I’ve only heard of on blogs before (not having a lot of JC Penny stores around here, as far as I can tell.)

Black & Grey stripe

Now, for the fantasy fabric. I don’t have a whole lot of fabric in stash that screams PJs at me. Maybe the black & grey pinstripe from my willpower fail? It’s soft and fuzzy and a bit stretchy, but seems kind of, hmm, nice. I was thinking more like officewear for it.

Because, y’know, I wear so much officewear.

Grandma's flannel

The first thing that comes to mind for a pattern like this is, natch, flannel. I don’t keep a lot of flannel in stash. There’s some plain black (boring), this really twee bear stuff from my Grandma’s stash, which is either destined for a twee little girl or needs a much edgier pattern. Is there such a thing as an edgy pyjama pattern? Hmm, now my brain is going in a sexy-slips-made-out-of-flannel-instead-of-satin direction. Weird. Probably Wrong.

Crazy flannel

There’s this crazy dye-splotch flannel, originally purchased for making little zip-pouches and rice-bags for school presents. Hmm. But I think I had convinced Syo that it would be an acceptable backing for her crazy pink fun-fur, part of which she made into a pillow, the rest of which is supposed to become a blankie. This is what happens when you have to buy remnants and the second one is free…

Sparkle seersucker

For summer PJs, seersucker is a popular choice. I only have one piece, which is cute pink, white, and blue, with a little bit of silver sparkle shot through. I have a shitload of this, purchased on mega-clearance and originally earmarked for little-girl dresses, except that my little girls have gotten distinctly less little-girly in the last couple of years. On the other hand, I still have little nieces, and I’m not entirely sure that the silvery bits would be totally comfy for sleeping in.

Then there’s the navy seersucker that’s been taunting me from the fabric section at Value Village for the last two weeks. I’m resisting because it’s a tad expensive—six bucks for a piece not quite two metres—for thrift-store fabric, anyway. It would be nice for PJs (or a nautical dress) but I’m trying to resist because of the price.

Resist, damn it. Resist.

Of course, the sewalong is pretty much done right now, I’m in the middle of the spring dress of evil polyester doom, and have no real need of vintage-inspired pjs (that I’m pretty sure Osiris would find totally unhawt, even worse than the Pink Suit)… so there will not be any sewing of this pattern, at least right now. But I was feeling the itch, and I think this post has kinda got it out of my system…

Hey, it’s my fantasy. :)**

*Yes, I’m in the Y camp.

**I’ve decided, since my “wanna!” list is so much longer (and ever changing) than my “actually can” list, that I’m going to subject you all to some fantasy sewing posts. Posts about the fabric I’d like to be stitching up, and what I’d stitch it up into (or vice versa). If you’re lucky I’ll get bored of them soon… 😉


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My package from ElleC, won courtesy of her first giveaway, arrived today! Woot, woot!


Three gorgeous vintage patterns, in more-or-less my size.

And, because she is awesome and doesn’t hate me nearly as much as she claims, she threw in a mess of new & vintage zippers just for fun. Just when I was thinking I needed to hit the fabric store and pick up zippers. My hero! 🙂

Also, see that pattern on the left? Simplicity 3965? Not only is it Simplicity (so I might actually know my alterations already), it’s the very same pattern the Sewaholic has made up into so many awesome versions!

Of course, from what I can tell she started with a junior petite version. I should be so lucky…

I love that the Butterick pattern comes with the opera-coat pattern, as well.

In other news, after my big score of vintage patterns the other week, I’ve been stalking the pattern section even more religiously than usual. Sadly, that lode of vintage awesome seems to have played out… I’ve picked up a few patterns since, but they’re all of the slightly-dated-but-still-potentially-usable variety.

Thrift store patterns

Including a couple of Burdas. My ongoing weakness for jacket & coat patterns is in evidence (OK, the sleeves of that Butterick jacket on the right are crazy, but I’ve been wanting a basic raglan-sleeve coat pattern for a while…). Also my weakness for romantic sundressy things. And the cape pattern? Well, I’m bound to want to sew a cape at some point, right?

McCall's 7532

Of (perhaps) slightly more interest is this 1981 pants pattern. Holy High Waists, Batman. No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles (well, maybe)—it’s a Palmer & Pletsch pattern complete with loads of fitting tips & instructions. The view on the left, I gather, is meant to represent the gingham muslin they recommend you make. Will I use it? No promises. But it was the right size and too interesting to pass up. Those ladies definitely make high-waisted look good… just not convinced that I could do the same.


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Fantasy Sewing—Spring Dress Edition

I’ve been craving dresses for a couple of months, now. Something pretty that I can put on and not worry about pairing top with bottom. Something that would feel like Spring. So, I went through my folder of pattern pictures, and made a collage of all the ones I kinda-sorta-would-like-to-make.

This was the result:

Round 1

These are the dresses I’d kind of like to make right now—all the patterns in my collection that I’m going “oh, that’s pretty!” over at the moment. Well, not all, as it doesn’t include any magazine patterns, but you get the idea.

Round 2---Finalists

Fortunately, even just throwing this together allowed me to narrow down my focus a bit. From “things I’d like to make” to “Things I’d like to make in the next little while.”

Unfortunately, none of these are really pairing well with the Star Wars sheet in my head… I’m thinking that needs something more full-skirted, to show off the print without too much chopping and dicing.

I think the next phase is going to involve pairing with fabric. The Style pattern (bottom left) seems a bit wintery, so perhaps I should put it off until the fall… on the other hand real sundress weather is a ways off, as well.

Oh, and checking if the patterns are complete. These are all thrift store finds and may contain unpleasant surprises.

… and that’s just the dresses I want to make.

Confession: This post has been sitting in the drafts for a couple of weeks, to the point where a fabric and pattern selection was made, and last night I was finally able to wriggle in to this for a first try-on:

Winner #1, Simplicity 6710

I think I am going to like it, although those gathers below the underbust band/panel thingy are perilously maternity-esque (and I’m not far from looking four months pregnant at the best of times) and will require some taming. I am happy to say that my copious list of fitting alterations seems to have done the trick in that department, at least. My main disappointment is that the 2″ of extra length I added to the tunic, in the hopes of getting a mini-dress, don’t seem like they will be entirely adequate for real-dress wear. So I may have to just wear it with my short-shorts, come summer. Sort of like this.

In case you didn’t recognize it in the crappy iPhone photo, this is the same fabric as the Ruby Blue slip, a dusty-blue polyester crepe. This friggin’ fabric is lucky I like the colour so damn much, because in every other respect it is exactly what I detest in a fibre. It is also not significantly easier to handle when cut on the straight grain, and doesn’t press for shite.


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The Rolled Hem Foot—Devil or Divine?


It’s no secret, I think, that the rolled hem foot is one of the more frustrating of the assorted sewing machine attachments out there. Particularly since at least one is included with every machine I’ve ever seen (And if your machine didn’t come with one—well, not sure if I should offer condolences or congratulations on a bullet dodged 😉 ). (Above is the selection of hemmers that came with my vintage Domestic straight-stitcher, hence the weird clamp style foot. Most of the ones I’ve used are on the narrower end of things.) The basic idea is simple—the curls of the foot guide the fabric up and under itself, making a neat, narrow little hem without you, the stitcher, having to measure, press, or otherwise futz with the fabric. The practice, alas, seems to be the problem.

If you are a past-master of this particular, frustrating little foot, please chime in with your secrets—I’d love to hear them.  Because I have a few tips, but definitely no miracles to offer.

I was totally intrigued when I first found this foot among my mother’s plethora of attachments (I was probably ten). Needless to say, my early experiments were not a resounding success. Not that Barbie minded much, fortunately.

I too a stab at the foot now and again through my long-but-indifferent costume-sewing career. Mostly without significantly improved results. The fold wouldn’t form, or it would but bits would stick out; it lumped and bumped and was generally inconsistent, since my cutting was pretty inconsistent, too.

I can count on one hand the number of really awesome hems I’ve gotten with one. Actually, scratch that. I can count the more-or-less-adequate-acceptable bones. There aren’t any totally flawless awesome ones. But frankly, with this foot, I feel pretty darn proud of even achieving “adequate.”

Tiered Skirt edges

Tiered Skirt rolled hem

My first “breakthrough” in the use of the rolled-hem foot came while making a tiered skirt for tribal bellydance. I’ve been meaning to do a post about these skirts for ages, but haven’t gotten around to it.  I used the hemmer foot to hem the five zillion miles (ok, actually only about 25 yards) of the bottom tier. This is actually an AWESOME way to gain skill (or something vaguely approximating it) with this attachment, because it’s lots of practice and after the first yard or two you really stop caring. And the edges are perfectly straight and ripped, which is relatively easy to maneuver (although the ripped threads may stick out). The only tricky part (as usual) is going over the seams, and like I said, after the first few, you really stop caring.

Skirt in action

More recently, I discovered in making the Sheer JJ blouse, that it’s much easier to get a nice hem if you zig-zag over the little roll.

Sheer JJ

This isn’t great for all hems, as it makes a somewhat stiffer edge, but if you want a lettuce-edge or a perky ruffle, it’s a great, easier finish.

Sheer JJ blouse ruffle.

And now, I’ve managed to (semi) successfully apply a rolled edge to the hem of my friend’s Ruby Slip. So I’m really kinda stoked with myself.

Pretty much, anyway.

Shut up. I’m calling it a win.

Silkier Slip hem

Now, first off, I did not do this blindly. I took some extra fabric and I sampled and sampled and sampled. Between my various machines I have several rolled-hem feet to choose from, and I tried LOTS. I wound up using one of the zig-zag machines, because I could adjust the position of the needle to be in the right spot to catch the inner edge of the roll. I opted for the narrowest hemmer of the Pfaff’s feet, which is very narrow indeed. And, miraculously, I was able to get a really nice, insanely narrow hem around about 90% of the hem. I still made a hash of the seam-crossings, and yes, there are a few areas which aren’t fully curled, but really, I’m still pretty stoked.

Messy seam area.

In some ways, the fine, bias fabric was a blessing for this kind of hem. It was easy to cut smoothly (no jags) and the bias doesn’t fray much, which also helps a lot. On hems like this, even tiny stray threads can be a problem. And, although the slippery bias was a pain to get started, it was also easy to adjust as I went, keeping the hem even.

Rolling the hem. I wish I could get a picture of how I *actually* hold the fabric, but that takes two hands.

For the sake of those of you who are more like me—generally frustrated beyond belief by your frigging’ hemmer foot—here are my tips, for what they’re worth. Please chime in if you have your own!

  • cut the edge SMOOTH. Those little scissor jags or stray threads that you can ignore in a normal hem? They’ll FUCK YOU UP!
  • experiment with your needle placement (assuming you’re using a zig-zag machine) to get it to stitch right at the inner edge of the fold. Too far to the left and you won’t catch the fold; too far to the right and you’re more likely to have it unfold on you.
  • Better yet, try zig-zagging over the whole roll (see above)
  • when stitching, you need to watch both sides of your fold—the fabric edge, and the fold, and keep them in place relative to the foot. Also watch for any hidden folds that might develop under the foot. Don’t be afraid to stop (needle down), lift the foot, and re-position stuff.
  • keep the tension light on the fabric (ESPECIALLY if you’re sewing on the bias). Yeah, this makes it really easy to manage the previous point 😛
  • start the hem by rolling a little bit of the hem with your fingers, then putting that part under the foot (secured with a pin if necessary and possible) and then wriggling the roll into place around the little scroll of the foot. The very start is the second hardest part; the hardest is crossing any vertical seams, at least in a narrow little hem like this one.
  • using a pin or awl tip to help manipulate the fabric inside the scroll, particularly when starting or when crossing a seam, can help. A bit. Or make things worse, but hopefully help. It seemed to help more on slightly wider hems; on this narrow hem there was just no room for the bulk of the serged seam to fit through the scroll. Your best bet (again, I’ve had more luck on less slippery fabric with slightly wider hems) may be to stop (needle down) just before the seam, raise the foot, pull the fabric out of the scroll and hold it rolled by hand, lower the foot, stitch over the hand-rolled bit, and then lift the foot and wriggle the fabric back into the scroll.

Using a pin to poke the seam through.

Even after all that, I can’t really say that the rolled-hem foot is the best method I could’ve used. Probably I could’ve done as well, maybe even better, using Sherry’s baby hem method. And yet I persist with the rolled hemmer, just to say “I tried.”
My previous comments on the rolled hem foot did bring out a few lovers along with the haters:
Anne and LinB, both of whom appear to be blog-free (but if you’d like a link somewhere, please let me know!), recommended stitching with the fabric held up from the bed of the machine. I will totally be giving this a try next time the insanity seizes me (I do still have the Ruby Blue to finish…)
The Perfect Nose loves her rolled hem foot (I know, I want some of what she’s on 😉 ) and uses it for seam allowances, which had never even occurred to me but is a great idea if you’re trying to do that fold-over finish! Of course, hers came with an instruction manual. Yeah, instructions, pfft! 😉
Got your own story of rolled hem disaster or conquest? Or another great tip?
Like, maybe, don’t even try? 😉


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I have two tailoring books…

Tailoring books

One is in print, bought from my local Chapters bookstore. I may even have had to have them order it in, but it seemed like the book to have. The other was picked up from the thrift store for a couple of bucks, and is part of the Singer Sewing Library.

Different title pages.

They have different publishing dates and different publishers. The ISBNs are different.

Hmm. Something strange.

I didn’t, in fact, get alarmed until I got to the cover page.

First page of content.

Wait, wait. This is the first page of text, of each book.

And this is the last.

Last page.

Yes, everything in between is also identical.

Did you know this? Is this something that’s obvious to everyone but me? Looking through the (very very) small print on the publisher page, the same editors etc. are mentioned as parts of the “creative team”. But they aren’t listed prominently like normal authors (as you can see from the covers).

I don’t think this is a copyright infringement—I’m sure the publishers of the modern version paid very well for the rights—but it does seem a bit sneaky from a consumer point of view, right?

Or am I on glue? Am I the only one who didn’t know these were the same book?


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