Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Tips to Build a Better T-Shirt

After having so much fun with my Knit Finishes series, I knew I wanted to expand it with some tips for sewing t-shirts.

sewing a tshirt

I had the opportunity to write just such a guest post for Sew Mama Sew, which appeared last Friday. I cover things like fitting the shoulders, understanding ease, and knowing your stitches. Go HERE to check it out! Thanks to SMS for having me and I hope you find the tips useful!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

I had to pause this episode a ton while watching it, so I apologize if I missed something awesome. My daughter kept climbing in my lap and giving me kisses, so I think it was worth it! :)

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: I made myself laugh when Tim came up behind Hernan for his critique and I thought it was Sandhya.

Kini finishing two hours early on the first day was a.maz.ing. I guess he didn't offer to help anyone?

Another week and another outfit I love on Heidi.

Lowlight: I thought it was petty that Amanda and Hernan assumed that Sandhya was trying to sabotage them. Really? Does she seem like a devious person? I kind of hate the show for giving her the power to choose everyone's suits...people already disliked her. Perhaps this was a lesson in why you should always be nice to people? Speaking of which, why is everyone so snippy this season? They're exhibiting behavior that you normally don't see until late in the season.

Best garment: Samantha gets passed over yet again. Not high fashion enough?

This was the first time Fade made something I liked.

I liked Alexander's also. I'm glad he pulled himself out of his tailspin from last week. I prefer to see people improve, rather than fall in on themselves.

Worst garment: Someone give Amanda a time machine and take her away from here!! I don't know what I hated more, the outfit she made for her model or the one she was wearing on the runway. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE JUDGES?!

I was kind of blah on Christine's until I saw the tape on the hem. Yikes!

Best line of the night: "Watch the boobage." --Tim

I am over this season already. The judges are nuts. The contestants are mean. Seriously, who is worth rooting for at this point?

Next week: Red carpet! Double auff'ing! Please redeem yourself show!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Simplicity 2443 in Pink Piqué

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my frustration with size charts, in connection with a muslin I was making for Simplicity 2443. I'm back today with the completed dress!

I think I should change the name of my blog to "110 Pink Creations".

I received Simplicity 2443 as part of a pattern pyramid giveaway (it's out of print, sorry!). I kinda like the jacket but I LOVE the dress (on the envelope anyway, more on that in a second). Someday my husband will come home from work to find me buried under a mountain of knit dress patterns that finally overwhelmed me.

I'd like to find a TNT racerback knit dress pattern, and I was hoping that this would be it. It might be. I finished this a month ago and I'm still not sure. After finishing my muslin, there were a few problems. First, the neckline was WAY lower than it appeared on the model on the envelope. Second, cutting according to the size chart (12) it came out much too big (thus the ranting post about size charts).

For my final version, I cut a size 8 in the bodice, a size 6 waistband and a size 6 skirt. My measurements are 33"-27"-37". The straps were shortened 1 1/2" on both the front and back (I'm 5'4"). This raised both necklines considerably and also made the sides of the bodice fit differently.

Because I shortened the straps so much, I think the overall proportions of the dress are slightly off, though of course it looks fine in these photos. The waistband is slightly higher than where my natural waist is located. I normally like my dresses hemmed to just-above-knee length, but that looked weird when I pinned it. The longer skirt helped with the proportion issues.

The fabric used for the straps and center panel is an interlock that I got, of all places, from Wal-Mart. The rest of the dress is a cotton piqué knit from Mood (sold out, but this appears to be the lightweight version?). Piqué can apparently be a woven fabric also, but my experience with it has always been in a knit. It's the type of material used for men's polo shirts. This was my first time buying/sewing with it, and it was comparable to a heavy weight waffle/thermal knit. I have some of this fabric left over and I'd really like to make a tennis skirt with it.

I'm glad I used the interlock for some subtle visual breakup (it was also easier to sew). I only had enough for the exterior panels, so the facings are piqué. This dress calls for in-seam pockets, which are basically useless when made in a knit. I used a woven quilting cotton instead, making sure that it had a similar color scheme so you couldn't see them through the skirt. The knit is opaque, but I wanted to make sure the pockets didn't look stupid in case you saw a peek of the fabric.

All things considered, this was a faster, easier sew than it appears at first glance. The instructions are excellent, and there are smart drafting choices like a smaller seam allowance for the straps. The straps take the longest, of course, but both times I sewed them (the muslin and the real dress) I managed it without ANY tucks/puckers/seam ripping. For me, that's GREAT. My advice is to go slowly, follow the directions in the pattern (i.e. baste first then sew) and to do it in two parts. I pinned the back together and sewed it, took it off the machine and checked it. Then I pinned the front together and sewed it. That way I could use a lot of pins, but it didn't feel like I had this monster porcupine dress to maneuver around the machine. Also consider changing the order of construction, sewing the straps to the bodice before assembling the rest of the dress. It's just easier to deal with when there is less fabric to manhandle.

The only part I don't like about this pattern is that the straps aren't serged to the dress (no way Jose) and the insides look crummy. What a stupid thing to not like, but there it is!

The hem was finished on my coverstitch machine, which I continue to fall more and more in love with every time I use it.

I don't have a hankering to sew this again anytime soon, though I can see it happening (with a slightly longer bodice) next summer. I a...l...m...o...s...t feel like this dress is too fancy for a weekday, but you may disagree. Let's just say that I've only worn it to church and I got makeup on it within 10 minutes. Normally lighter colors scare me since I have 1 toddler and 3 pets that enjoy making messes. What do you think? Too dressy for the grocery store? Oh and also, while wearing this someone asked me if I was in high school, so maybe it looks young? (Seriously, high school?!)


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Knit Finishes Part Six: Facings

Welcome back knit fans! Today will be my final post in this series, although I reserve the right to add to it if I discover a new technique!

This post will cover a type of finish typically reserved for woven garments, a facing. A facing is any piece of fabric which is sewn to an edge and then turned to the inside, thereby finishing that edge. There are a few times when you will see facings intentionally drafted in knits patterns, but more often you may run into them when you are adapting a woven pattern for a knit.

The very first pattern I ever bought was for a knit tank top with a cowl neckline, and it was finished with a facing. Not knowing anything about anything, I ignored the directions because I didn't know what a facing was, and sewed the top without it. Needless to say, that top didn't turn out very well, although I was SUPER proud of myself for completing it! Sadly, I couldn't even find it when I took pictures for this post...but trust me, it's baaaaad.

Although I did find the pattern!

Since then, I've learned about facings and how they help shape and complete a garment, and I would not skip one in a cowl neckline if the pattern called for it. In preparation for this post, I browsed through my pattern stash and pulled out other examples of knit garments that are finished with facings.

Simplicity 1716 (blogged here and here) and McCall's 6752 (blogged here) are both examples of a cut-on facing. Instead of a separate piece, the bodice pattern piece has a large extension that is folded back on itself to create a drape and finish a neckline.

A second example can be seen in the recently released Finlayson Sweater pattern by Thread Theory, and commonly in menswear. A half-circle shape is used to finish a back neckline, and then is topstitched to the garment. I've seen the technique in hoodies as well as polo shirts.

Finally, anytime you adapt a pattern intended for wovens to a knit, you'll need to decide what to do about facings. I've sewn Simplicity 2594, a pattern meant for bias-cut wovens (making it a good choice to adapt to a knit), two times, once with jersey and once with ponte. The first time, I kept the front facing:

Simplicity 2594

Through the experience of wearing this top, I learned that the freely-moving facing really annoyed me! So the second time, I sewed it the same way, but I cut the facing after turning it to the inside:

I then topstitched to keep it in place.

Ugggh this fabric has pilled and looks terrible.

Since knits don't fray like wovens, simply cutting the fabric worked fine, though it doesn't look that pretty!

Facings vary widely from pattern to pattern, which is why this post is not as in-depth as some of the others in my knit finishes series. But don't be afraid to try a facing with a knit, as there are no "rules" that say you can't. Short of a lining, there is no nicer way for a clean finish than a facing!

I hope you've learned some new tricks for finishing knits in this series, and be sure to check out all the posts, here. Did I miss any? Are there other finishes that you'd like to see?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

I know it's not Throwback Thursday, but in honor of last night's episode's theme, I bring you a very flattering photo of me from 20 years ago:

I still have this same haircut, but at least I've stopped tucking in my t-shirts.

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: Zac Posen is 34?! He seems wise beyond his years. And more than 5 years older than me.

Heidi looked amazing in the most basic black tank top. And her photos from 20 years ago look remarkably similar to now, lucky her!


Lowlight: Alexander's deer-in-headlights look was painful to watch.

Kristine complaining about Angela. Her anxiety is bothering people? SO SORRY someone is worried about her own future and it's bugging you. I didn't even see Angela talking to anyone. Leave her alone.

I hate Amanda's mauvey purple lipstick that she wears on runway days.

Best garment: Emily's jumpsuit was amazing. I'd wear it in a heartbeat (obviously). I'm on board with jumpsuits sticking around for the next 20 years, although I guess I agree with Nina that it was more "now" than "20 years from now".

Kini made jeans and two other pieces. Samantha made three pieces. All that work and they were just safe?

Char can fit. Can we all just agree that fitting is an art and not all of us are artists?

Worst garment: Amanda, ugh. Can someone get her a time machine and send her back to 1970 for good? I like her as a person, but her designs lack taste.

Sandhya what. the. JUDGES!? What are they seeing that I'm not?! I grant that she used a refreshing color, but c'mon! Her dress had Egyptian snakes on it! It was hideous!

Hernan, does your girl hang out in trash cans with Alexander's apocalypse girl?

I wasn't into Kristine's design. I've seen cutouts in the sleeves of a jacket before and the dress looked sloppy.

Best line of the night: "Alexander should really be worried, because his look is Bilbo."  --Hubby and I just finished rewatching the first two Hobbit movies, and I must say that Bilbo did not deserve this insult. Besides, we all know that nobody wears dresses in the apocalypse (ever see one on The Walking Dead?).

Honorable mention: "She looks like she's coming from The Planet of the Apes!" --Nina

This season is on very thin ice with me. I'm starting to feel the way I felt watching Gretchen on season eight, and that is not a good thing. The Sandhya love is beyond my comprehension. How did you feel about last night's episode? Can anyone explain why Sandhya won?!

Next week: Amanda's dream challenge, designing in the 70's

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Style Arc Jennifer City Shorts

Woohoo! Pants! Isn't that how everyone feels when they finish sewing a pair of pants? Okay, these are technically capris, but still.

As soon as I saw this new pattern in the June email newsletter from Style Arc, I knew it was going to make me finally take the plunge on their patterns. I've been a fan for a while, but never ordered. Every month, SA offers a free pattern with any order, so I've sort of been biding my time until I saw a freebie I couldn't live without. The free pattern in June was the Fiona knit cardigan, which I loved. I have an identical RTW version that I've been meaning to copy, but now I don't have to!

SA is located in Australia and they only send you one size. There is a swatch of the recommended fabric type with each pattern, and they also sent me a Style Arc tag (just one?).

The patterns are printed on a large sheet that's about like regular printer paper. Since there's only one size, it's easy to cut it out and get right to work.

I ordered size 8 which very closely fit my measurements (27" waist and 36" hip...although that hip measurement is going up these days). The pattern is designed for woven bottomweights without stretch. I made a muslin from non-stretch fabric and it fit very well (except for the fact that I totally screwed it up, more on that in a minute). This final version is made from a grey stretch denim from Jo-Ann's (woohoo Wardrobe Architect! still going strong!), and I think I easily could have gone down a size due to the stretch. The seam allowance on the sides and the crotch is 3/8", and I think if I make this again in stretch fabric I'll use 1/2" instead (maybe more). These are a little baggy even though I took them in in a few places.

What appealed to me about this pattern is the back yoke. I'm pretty tired of pants patterns with darts in the back, as I don't think it looks RTW at all. The yoke was easy to sew and I like how it looks.

There are wrinkles all over the place, particularly under the seat, which used to be worse until I took in the side seams a bit (why did that help?! IDK fitting pants is impossible). 

I want to talk about the instructions for this pattern, because there are things that need to be addressed. These are easily the most well-made pants I've ever sewn, but it's mostly due to trial and error with my muslin, and the construction wasn't helped by the instructions. This being my first Style Arc pattern, I didn't know what to expect. I'll save you the suspense:

This is it. Twice, the instructions point you to tutorials on the Style Arc website, but without saying that that's what it's talking about. I thought I might be missing a page until it finally dawned on me that I should check the website (their tutorials can be found here).

The problem with generic directions for something like a fly zip is that, well, it's not specific to your pattern. If you follow the diagrams online for the fly front, you'll screw it up (I did, on my muslin). You have to follow a combination of the written directions in your pattern, the pattern piece markings, AND the online tutorial. Now that I've done it, of course, it seems obvious, and I quite like their method. Of course, my only other experience is with Sewaholic Thurlows, and I've already gone on at length about my disappointment with those directions as well.

For some reason I was under the impression that these pants had a separate waistband piece (you can't really tell from the line drawing) but they don't. They have a waistband facing which is topstitched to appear like it's a waistband. I screwed up my zip by placing it right at the top of the pants, which didn't leave enough room for the faux waistband. This is where the online tutorial led me astray, as the diagrams there show a zipper placed right at the top. The written directions for the Jennifer City Shorts tell you where to place the zipper, but I wasn't looking at those because I was looking online at the fly front tutorial.

This top is Vogue 8950.

I did like the paper pattern pieces themselves, quite a bit. The notches were the actual length of the seam allowance (which varied) so that was an easy way to see at a glance where to sew. Certain things were clearly marked with WORDS which I also liked. It made it difficult to transfer to the fabric, but for figuring out how it pieced together, I liked it.

Finally, I sewed a perfect waistband!

Okay, enough about that (I hope I've helped someone else with this pattern through my mistake!). Once I went through my muslin and figured out where I went wrong, I actually quite enjoyed making these pants. I took my time, added extra topstitching and finishing details, and I love how they turned out. Luckily for me, I had a pair of RTW capris almost exactly like these. I used them as a guide for where to topstitch and how to finish the slits in the pant legs.

The instructions weren't great when it came to the hem and the slits. I just did what made sense to me. 

To finish the slits the way I did, you will need to serge the outside edges of your pattern pieces BEFORE sewing them together. Do not trim, simply finish the edge. You need to be able to press the seam allowances open, so they cannot be finished together. Finishing them after you've sewn the seam is very difficult to maneuver, since the seam allowance is only 3/8". In fact, I found finishing the edges before sewing to be the best way on almost all the pattern pieces, particularly the crotch. Note: the pattern instructions gave no real direction on seam finishes.

I bound the bottom edge of the waistband facing with bias tape. I had trouble easing it without puckers, so it's only sewn/topstitched on the front. I tacked it at center back and called it a day. The facing is some sort of linen that I got at a garage sale. The pockets are from a quilting cotton I got at Jo-Ann's.

I hate that this post sounds so negative, as I really like these capris and the pattern is well-drafted. I don't think you can tell at all from the outside that they're handmade, and maybe not from the inside either! I do see myself making this pattern again. But for anyone else out there considering it, please know that it's definitely an intermediate pattern. You'll need experience with sewing pants, a good knowledge of best practices for sewing, and a careful attention to detail. If you can do all that, then get this pattern, it's a great challenge with excellent results. And because I took a crap ton of photos, here is a big dump of them!

Have you tried Style Arc? I can't wait to get to that Fiona cardigan, I have the perfect fabric and I think it will be great.

Today kicks off the huge Craftsy summer sale! ALL sewing classes up to 50% off! (affiliate link) A ton of new classes have been added in the last few months, my wishlist is overflowing!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Knit Finishes Part Five: French Binding

Can you believe we're already up to FIVE different ways to finish the openings on knit garments? Hopefully you've discovered a few new tricks along the way.

You can see the previous posts here.

Today I'll be sharing a method that might be familiar, but not because you've sewn it before. Once I began sewing, I made it a habit to study some of my favorite ready-to-wear garments. There was one finish I saw again and again that I didn't quite understand, until one day I saw it explained in the classic sewing book, Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

Have you ever seen something like this in a RTW garment? After some extensive Googling, I discovered that this technique is called French binding. It is sort of a mix between a band and a facing. This method is appropriate for finishing a neckline or a sleeveless garment. It's not particularly stretchy, so make sure your opening can fit its respective body part without too much trouble. It can most easily be used in place of a narrow hem, so if that is a finish you hate (like me!) then try this the next time it comes up.

For my sample, I'm using McCall's 6744, a tank dress that's finished with narrow hems in the neckline and armholes. The seam allowance is 5/8".

To begin, cut a strip of knit fabric. The strip does NOT have to match your fabric, and in fact it might be fun to try something contrasting. It should not be visible from the outside when you're done. Have some precious scraps that you can't bear to throw out? Piece them together and making binding strips.

Make sure you cut with the stretch going lengthwise across the fabric. To determine the length, I measured my opening (along the seam line) and it was 29". You can cut your binding exactly to size, although it might fit a bit more snugly if it's slightly shorter. Add two seam allowances. For the width, determine the finished desired size (1/4" or 3/8" seems to be the most common on my RTW garments) and double it. Add two seam allowances.

My strip ended up being 30 1/4" long (29"+5/8"+5/8") and 2" wide (3/8"+3/8"+5/8"+5/8").

This method works best when your opening is already a complete circle (in the round construction). Sew the short ends of your strip, right sides together. Press the strip in half longways, wrong sides together. 

Place your strip around the edge of the garment opening, right sides together and raw edges aligned. Pin in place. You may need to stretch the strip slightly if you cut it short.

Raw edges aligned.

Using the given seam allowance, sew the strip to the opening.

So far, the construction has been similar to sewing a band, but this is where it begins to be more like a facing. Press the strip up and away from the garment. Trim and clip seam allowances so that you can smooth out the strip.

To keep the strip from rolling to the outside, you should understitch just like you would with a facing. I actually think it's easier to understitch BEFORE you trim seam allowances, but apparently that's just me since all patterns say to do it after.

Fold the binding completely to the inside. It should fold nicely since you've understitched it.

At this point, the Reader's Digest book recommends slipstitching the strip down so that you have a clean finish. Since knit garments are generally more casual, it's perfectly acceptable to topstitch instead. Stitch as close as possible to the folded portion of the strip. Since my finished strip is 3/8" I can sew from the right side at 1/4" and know that I will catch the back.

From the outside, only the topstiching is visible.


Press well, and you're done!

This method encloses all raw edges and provides some weight and stability to an opening. For a fun alternative, reverse the steps and flip the binding strip to the OUTSIDE of a garment. Use a contrasting color fabric and it's an easy way to provide a pop of color.

Have you ever used this method? I've never seen it in a pattern but it's pretty easy to do with a great result!

Next week: facings