Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tutorial: Adding Elastic to the Side Seam of a Maternity Tee

Last week I showed off my new maternity Renfrew, which I sewed using this tutorial from So, Zo...


The tutorial is great for showing you how to modify an existing pattern, but a little skimpy on the details of how to account for all the extra length in the front when you're sewing the thing together. There is something like 5" extra in the front, which to me is just too much to "push forward" and gather on the machine whilst sewing. For my top, I decided instead to gather with clear elastic (3/8" but 1/4" would be fine too). It's a bit tricky since you're only gathering a small portion, not an entire seam, and I kind of just winged it. But I'm here to say that it worked, and you can try it too!

First, cut two pieces of elastic the length of the BACK pattern piece between the notches (the notches you get from following Zoe's tutorial). In other words, the length that the gathered portion will be when gathered:


If you look closely, you can see two blue chalk marks at the ends of my elastic. Again, this is the BACK pattern piece which has not been altered. The front has extra length which will be contained between these two notches.

Next, tack the ends of the elastic to the wrong side of the FRONT piece, with the ends at the notches:


You could use pins here, but I'll be feeling sorry for you because they're certain to fly out later. And pinning elastic stinks.


Above shows the elastic tacked at the ends near the notches. You can see all that extra fabric between the notches that needs to be gathered to the length of the elastic.

I did the next part on my serger, but you could use a regular machine with a zig-zag stitch. Stretching the elastic until it's the same length as the fabric, sew the fabric to the elastic. On my serger, I disengaged the cutting knife.


You may need to hold the fabric behind the presser foot as well as in front, since you're probably stronger than your machine. I recommend starting a little so the machine can grab hold, then stretching and sewing the rest.


When you're done, you'll have all these pretty gathers!

A note about seam allowances: if you're smarter than me with my pregnancy brain, you'll notice that I sewed my elastic right at the cut edge of my fabric. Since my elastic is 3/8" and the pattern calls for a 5/8" seam allowance, that was pretty dumb. It means that my elastic will be cut off and removed if I serge my side seams at the required seam allowance. The fabric will still be gathered, but I'll lose that extra stability from the elastic. My solution was to sew with a 3/8" seam allowance on the side seams. That allowed me to keep my elastic and also to give my pregnant self a bit more breathing room. Alternately, you could trim off a bit of fabric from the sides, or sew your elastic on the seam line instead of on the cut edge.

I examined a few of my RTW maternity tees and there are other ways to add elastic to the side seams:

  • Lengthen the front and back bodice a few inches. Sew elastic in the seam allowance using a long straight stitch.
  • Lengthen the front and back bodice a few inches. Sew the side seams with a regular sewing machine, NOT a serger. Use the seam allowance to create a casing for the elastic.

Any other ideas? Questions? Leave a comment and I'll be happy to help!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maternity Renfrew

It didn't take long for most of my regular clothes to stop fitting me. The scale tells me I've only gained about 5 pounds, but my belly tells a different story. It was time to try out a tutorial that I've had saved for a long time: how to modify a t-shirt pattern for maternity wear.


I used the tutorial from So, Zo... to modify my TNT Renfrew. I followed it exactly except that I didn't go up a size (my normal Renfrew is a size 4 with a slight wedge removed from CB for my narrow shoulders). I did use a 3/8" seam allowance on the side seams instead of 5/8". In case you don't want to click over and read the whole tutorial, you basically add length to the front bodice only, then gather that extra length to fit your unchanged back bodice. How you choose to gather is up to you, either with regular basting stitches, pleats, or elastic. I chose clear elastic because most of my RTW maternity shirts use elastic. Next week I'll post a mini-tutorial on how I sewed this top with the elastic in the side seams. It was a bit lengthy to include with this review and it won't be interesting to anyone who isn't sewing maternity wear!


This really unflattering side view shows that there is plenty of room left in the shirt for an expanding belly. If you follow the tutorial you'll be producing shirts that will fit through your entire pregnancy, I'd wager.


The fabric I used is a very pretty heathered coral cotton/rayon jersey from Girl Charlee. It's been a while since I ordered it so I believe it's sold out. I like the fabric a lot, but it was way off-grain. The heathered effect is sort of horizontal from selvage to selvage but even that isn't straight. After attempting to straighten it, I kind of stopped caring and did what I could to make it work.


What I like about this shirt is that it looks normal in the back, you can't tell that it's maternity wear. I *might* add a teensy bit of length there if I make this again, because all my other maternity shirts are longer in the back and that's what I'm used to. We'll see.


This was my first time making the cowl-neck version of the Renfrew and I like it. A lot. For some reason I was under the impression that the cowl was a folded-over rectangle sewn to the neckline, but in reality there is quite a bit of shaping. Just be warned that it's kind of huge and it will take a bit of fabric. This top took two yards, I can get a short-sleeved Renfrew (non-maternity) out of only 1 yard.


It also took a little longer to sew, due to the cowl. My previous Renfrews were knocked out in two days, one day to cut and one to sew, but this one took three. Still, I paid something like $11 for the fabric. There is no way I could buy a maternity shirt just like this for under $30. My favorite part is how pretty the front gathers turned out. Just need a bigger baby to take advantage of them!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stabilizing Knits: Yay or Nay?

A few weeks ago I received a great question from Nilla about stabilizing knits, in particular raglan tops since I was posting a raglan-style sweatshirt. Her question got me thinking hard on the topic of stabilizing knits:

I'm a total raglan sleeve convert these days too. I've been meaning to ask you, since you're the knit expert, do you ever use fusible interfacing on your raglan seams? I think you're supposed to use it on regular shoulder seams to prevent them from stretching. How about the neckline? Burda patterns often have you stabilizing a lot of seams, but I'm beginning to question the necessity of it. It really makes the supposedly fast and easy knit projects a bit tedious :/ 

If you've done any reading about sewing with knits, you've probably come across the ever-popular advice to stabilize shoulder seams "to prevent them stretching out over time". There are a variety of ways to do this, by sewing in clear elastic, twill tape, or using a strip of interfacing.

Twill tape in shoulder seam

Now it was nice of Nilla to call me an expert, but I wouldn't go that far! I do, however, have a lot of experience. I'd say 75% of my projects are with knits. At this point I've tried a little of everything, and here's my oh-so-scientific conclusion:

It doesn't matter.

Shocking right? I've never noticed a problem with seams stretching out over time. Not on my me-made knits, and not on my RTW knits either! Maybe it's happened and I haven't noticed. Maybe other people have had that problem. But what length of time are we talking here anyway? If I've had problems with baggy knits, it's been the fabric itself and not the seams. There is no substitute for good fabric and stabilization can only go so far.

Much more important than stabilization, in my opinion, is pressing with steam. Shoulder seams stretch a bit as you sew because they are cut with the crossgrain, or stretchiest part of the fabric (generally). To shrink those seams back into place, I steam press them immediately after sewing.

Can you tell which one was stabilized and which one wasn't?

As for raglan style tops, the diagonal "shoulder" seams are not cut on the crossgrain like a traditional shoulder. Therefore, they are more stable. I can't recall seeing a pattern that recommends stabilization there and I don't think I would ever do it. Neckbands typically require stretch to go over your head, so unless you use a stretchy stabilizer (clear elastic) then I wouldn't bother there either.

If you're going to stabilize knits, fine, go for it! It certainly can't hurt. But don't beat yourself up if you forget. Like Nilla mentioned, it does take extra time and makes those quick projects tedious. Like I said, I'm not an expert, and I'd love to hear other opinions! Have you ever seen a seam stretch out over time? Do you stabilize everything?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars recap!

I am irrationally irritated by the show Wicked. On the one hand, I never would have heard of the book if not for the musical. On the other, the book is SO much better that I almost feel like the musical is blasphemous. I saw the musical in Chicago probably a decade ago (wow I'm old) and I was severely disappointed. Sorrynotsorry fangirl Gunnar.

Highlights: This is what I like, a good old fashioned simple challenge. And a whopping two days for a "couture-inspired" look. What luxury!

I liked the face-off (despite its origins in a false rivalry between Elphaba and Glinda...who's a fangirl now?). It probably does feel less stressful to compete against one person. And rather than listening to the designers tear down the whole group, they each only compared themselves to one other person.

Was that Gunnar giving Michelle money? Who knew he was so nice!

Lowlights: More gowns. Nobody is making pants or jackets and it's starting to feel like a Miss America pageant every week. The one person who DID make pants (Fabio) was placed in the bottom because of it.

Even though it wasn't shown on screen, I'm sure Helen had a meltdown about being in the bottom for a couture gown challenge. I'm listing it as a lowlight because I know someone had to deal with her whining and I feel sorry for that person.

Best garment: Y'know, none of these lived up to my expectations. Here I am, one day later writing this review, and I can barely bring any of them to mind. I was intrigued by Sonjia's sketch as soon as they showed it, and I thought she deserved the win. It was cool and different, while Dmitry's was merely cool.

Worst garment: My husband liked Chris' dress, but I thought it went way too far into costume. Maybe it's because Halloween wasn't too long ago, but almost all of the wicked looks seemed like costumes. And torn jersey strips? I don't think anyone would call that couture. Sorry Chris. Also, Helen, stop bragging about making ruffles. If you'd done it by hand I'd feel more sympathetic. Oh, and if you didn't make something butt-ugly out of them.


For once both the winner and the loser were pretty clear-cut for me, and the judges agreed. I did miss Georgina this week. Another week and another pair of scary maternity outfits from Alyssa Milano. Now that you all know I'm pregnant it's okay for me to be appalled, right?

Next week: Everyone cries about looooooove. Or maybe they're crying because Nina is there?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Surprise!


Or maybe not? A few friends were not surprised when I called them up with the big news. Perhaps you're as observant as they are and have noticed a bit of a bump in my recent photos?

I found out I was pregnant almost exactly 24 hours after learning that I was selected for the Fabric Mart Fabricista contest. It was my own special kind of challenge to sew garments, photograph myself, and be judged all while trying to hide a baby bump that grew a lot faster than the last time around (apparently you show sooner with a second pregnancy...who knew? Not me!). Pretty much any photo of me that you've seen in the last three months, I'm sucking in my belly as much as possible!


Expect a change of pace here on the blog over the next few months (or year...). I'm struggling with the question of what to sew, as all my fancy fall wardrobe plans went out the window. My thought is to make some maternity clothes with stash fabrics that I don't totally love, or to make a dent in my upcycle bag. Luckily for me I still have a small amount of maternity clothing from my previous pregnancy, which was also over fall/winter. Currently, I'm working on a coat, since my old winter standby is too fitted to make it through a pregnancy. 

Muslin for B6104

Baby #2 will be arriving in May, just in time for me to run happily back to all my me-made summer dresses. Would it be crazy to sew that far ahead? I'm sure my coat will keep me busy for a while, but I have no queue in front of me for the first time ever!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars recap!

As I type this my daughter is putting Legos down the back of my shirt because she thinks it's a pocket. I would love to see the Project Runway designers work under these kinds of conditions! They'd probably just complain like they always do.

Spoilers ahead...

Highlights: Zanna is gorgeous. I have some serious hair envy when it comes to her. And accent envy.

I only liked this because I like Dmitry, but I chuckled at his confidence when it came to the execution of his copied look. His top WAS better than Chris'. But I was still glad to see that Dmitry was taken down a peg by sending an embarrassingly bare butt down the runway.

Lowlights: Snooki and JWoww? Really? And even more awful, they were guest judging with Elie Tahari, who is big enough on his own. This is me shaking my head at you, show.

I wish that everyone had immunity during an unconventional challenge, and that there was just some huge giganto prize instead. Alexandra was spot on with her criticisms.

I like Alyssa Milano as host, but her maternity clothes are so unfortunate. I guess she's kind of like Heidi, she wears whatever she wants, but still...where does one even find a denim maternity jumpsuit?

Best garment: I thought Jay's blue tarp dress looked the most like clothing, although he DID use a tarp, so...too much like fabric for him to win?

I also couldn't believe that Fabio's pretty quilted outfit wasn't in the top. He was the only one to use a fun, vibrant color.

Worst garment: I can't get behind Justin's zip tie dress. It looked too much like Sean's straw dress from last season. That said, Alexandra's was, unfortunately, the worst. I liked her!


I hope there are no more unconventional challenges this season. I don't know why the host always says it's a popular challenge, who likes it?! I'm over it. Lose it. It IS like being asked to make a cake with garbage, or whatever Alexandra said.

Next week: Wicked vs. Nice and yet another excuse for Kate to make a wedding dress. Also, if you've seen Wicked the musical and NOT read the book, we can't be friends.

Last day for free shipping on A Sewist's Notebook! Use code HSQ2 at checkout. It makes a perfect holiday gift for you or a friend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Comfy Cozy Sweatshirt

I hate winter clothes. There, I said it. I hate being cold, I hate wearing lots of layers, and I can't stand being bundled up inside my own house. If I lived alone, my thermostat would be at 85 degrees year round. So when it comes to fall/winter fashion, all I want is comfort. The sweatshirt is the chili of the clothing world, right?


Disclaimer: I really dislike the fabric I used for this sweater (a sweater knit from Girl Charlee). It's a cotton/polyester blend and it was a huge PITA to sew, but at least I'm finally busting through all the stuff I ordered back in my stripe-crazy days. The green is too masculine for me and doesn't match anything in the Wardrobe Architect side of my closet. Despite that, I've worn this top like crazy because it's so comfortable and easy to wear.


You might look at this and think it's the new Linden pattern from Grainline, and I can see why you'd think that. But no, it's the poor sewist's version, Simplicity 1317. This is a size XS with two inches added to the bodice length. Did it need that two inches? Probably not. Another inch and it's entering tunic range. But I forgot I was adding a hem band when I was cutting the bodice, so there it is. The side seams on the pattern are straight, so it was easy to add length to the bottom. If you want some shaping from this pattern, you'll have to add it yourself.


This pattern is designed for knits with some body, like sweatshirt fleece and french terry. My fabric has much more drape than that, so I know that if/when I make this again, a different fabric will change the look completely. Construction is super fast and easy, and can be done on a serger alone. If you've made any raglan tops before then you know they are even easier to make than a regular t-shirt. The only thing that slowed me down was matching up stripes.


If I could change anything about this pattern, it might be to lower the neckline. This high-ish crew neck isn't my favorite and to me it says, again, masculine. If I can't tell the front from the back without studying the garment closely, then the neckline is too high. But perhaps I'm being too critical and in a different fabric it wouldn't bother me so much. Goodness knows I'm too lazy to change TWO pattern pieces (the sleeve and the front bodice) just to lower the neckline. Next time, I might cut the neckband more narrowly or use a deeper seam allowance.


This is basically a wearable muslin, as I have the most delicious quilted jersey (!!!) waiting to be used for this pattern. It's a very versatile pattern and if you don't have a loose raglan style in your arsenal, I definitely recommend it!

No back neck gape! Yay!

Are you on the raglan sweatshirt bandwagon with me? Have you bought the Linden or this Simplicity pattern?