Friday, March 19, 2021

How to Alter Women's Scrub Pants

This post contains affiliate links.

I've recently begun volunteering at an organization that requires scrub pants. I wasn't particularly interested in sewing my own (maybe after I get a feel for what I want) and needed them quickly, so I ordered some from Amazon. What a weird experience! After years of making all my own clothes, I can't remember the last time I wore pants that weren't custom made to my body. I panic-ordered the size I thought would be close and hoped for the best. 

When they arrived, they fit my hips well but not my waist. They were also a touch too long. I didn't have time to send them back so I decided to alter them myself. First up, the waistband elastic needed to be shortened to fit more tightly on my waist.

I found the seam on the waistband (on my pair, this was on a side seam) and got out my seam ripper. I carefully opened the seam on just the waistband, so that I could access the elastic inside.

Once the seam was opened up, I gave a big yank on the elastic to pull it out of the waistband. No dice. It turned out, the elastic was sewn all along its bottom edge (you can see the line of stitching on the above photo). Whomp whomp. This meant that I could not shorten the elastic without ripping out the stitching all the way around the waistband. If you're trying to alter your pants, hopefully you don't have the same problem!

Like a lot of other mending or alteration projects, this one required some outside-the-box thinking. I decided to insert a second piece of elastic into the waistband, right on top of the old one. I held up some 1/2" elastic around my waist and cut it to fit, using the amount of stretch I desired for a snug fit.

Using a bodkin, I inserted the new elastic into the hole and threaded it all the way around the pants. I pulled out the ends and clipped them together in preparation of sewing them. Normally, I would sew these together by machine, but for the purposes of this post I wanted to show that it could be done without a showing machine.

Taking a strand of polyester thread (don't use dusty vintage cotton thread, it will break!) I doubled it up and tied a knot at the end. A quick X shape was sewn through my overlapping elastic ends and I was done.

Using the same needle and black thread, I then sewed the waistband hole closed.

Now that my waistband fit properly, it was time to tackle the length. Since the fabric was lightweight, I decided to fold up the original hem once and sew it down. No need to rip out the hem, re-measure, etc. as I only wanted to shorten it slightly. 

A quick trip through my sewing machine and I had a new, even sturdier hem. 

Have you altered ready-to-wear pants? If you'd like to learn how to sew, check out my post on the Best Beginner Sewing Books. If I can teach myself, so can you!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Double Cotton Gauze Fern Jumpsuit

My birthday was in February, and because he's awesome, my husband bought me a Mood Fabrics gift card. Browsing through their freebie patterns, I ended up seeing the Fern Jumpsuit, and fell in love. Their recommended fabric was a double cotton gauze, and when I checked it out I saw that it came in something like 40 colors. Even better, it was crazy affordable. 

I settled on Royal Blue for my jumpsuit, but I also snagged a bit of Rosewood for funsies. The pattern directions called for 5 yards...I assumed that was crazy pants. I've never used 5 yards of fabric for anything! Being cheap, I ordered 3 yards and assumed I'd be fine. I was wrong, but I could've gotten away with 4 yards I think. 

Video of me unboxing this fabric

One disadvantage of a free pattern is that it can be missing something useful like a finished garment size. My measurements on top put me in the 4/6 range, but it ended up WAY too big. I do think the model is wearing it with a lot of ease, but unless you stand in the same dramatic poses you'll look like you're wearing a sack. The top is essentially a fully lined Ogden Cami...I should've just used that pattern as I've already worked out the fitting. I didn't have enough fabric to make it fully lined, so I used facings exactly like the Ogden.

For the pants, I measured in the 8/10 size. Since the top and pants are gathered together it didn't really matter if I used two different sizes on top and bottom, which was nice. I found the fit of the pants to be fine, although I probably could've gone down a size without issue. I made no changes for length (I'm 5'4") and they may look a touch long compared to the model. Due to the faux ankle placket, you cannot shorten the pants after cutting.

After I assembled the top and bottom, I was super frustrated by how off the fit was for the top. Taking in the side seams was going to make the center front and back V's too wide and deep. I didn't have enough fabric to recut. I thought about finishing the bottoms as elastic waist pants and later making an Ogden for a faux jumpsuit. I thought about setting the whole thing aside, ordering more fabric to recut the top, etc. After sleeping on it (and some side eye from a sewing buddy who questioned the idea of elastic waist pants) I was determined to at least try to rework the top.

I spent some time with it on my new dressform (also a birthday gift), redoing the side seams and also cutting center back and working with a seam there. After almost 9 years of fitting on my body, it was quite a change to be able to fit on a dressform. It was SO much faster!

I ended up shortening the straps, taking in the side seams (at least 1/2" on each side) and narrowing the back via the new center back seam. That much seam ripping and resewing did mean that the final product isn't sewn as nicely as it could've been, but the fit is much improved. I sewed the top to the pants and then created a 1/2" elastic casing from the seam allowance.

Without all the styling I've done in these photos, this jumpsuit does sort of veer into weird pajama territory. I didn't have enough fabric to make the belt, but I plan on picking up another yard next time I order from Mood. The jumpsuit is super comfortable and I imagine the cotton will be lightweight in the summertime. I have a crazy bra that I wear with Ogdens and I've worn it here (from Amazon).

Band-aid from when I stabbed myself with my seam ripper

The pattern directions are minimal and what you see online is what you get. I'm kind of on the fence about recommending this pattern, I like it, but please muslin the top! There was also a labeling mistake, the bodice pieces are both labeled "front bodice" but obviously one is the back. The fabric was not that bad to work with, but it is difficult to rip seams neatly. As far as free patterns go, it does deliver a fairly dramatic style. Kind of a mixed bag all around but hey, a jumpsuit with pockets is worth trying any day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

What I'm Reading: A Beginner's Guide to Overlockers, Sergers & Coverlockers

Okay, so maybe I don't need to read a beginner book if I've had my serger for like, 8 years. But the problem with knowing what you're doing is that you can get stuck in a rut. It's never a bad idea to refresh yourself on techniques you may have forgotten all about, so I had no qualms about picking up this book at my library.

Like most serger books, A Beginner's Guide to Overlockers, Sergers & Coverlockers starts off explaining the different types of machines. Right off the bat, I learned something! Admit it, you don't know the difference between an overlocker and a serger either. The author explains that an overlocker only cuts and finishes edges. It does not do the fancy stitches like a rolled hem, which is possible on a serger. The book also discusses coverlockers (known to me as coverstitch machines) and combination machines (overlocker and coverlocker in one). 

The first 40 pages of the book are informative and get into the fine details of each machine and its parts, thread, fabric, appropriate stitches, and machine threading. The rest of the book contains 15 projects you can complete on a serger and/or coverstitch machine, ranging from pillows to tank tops to make up bags.

If you are new to these machines and don't have the ability to take a class, working your way through this book would be a great alternative. Each project builds on skills and gives enough exacting detail to ensure success. Some of the later projects even get into specialized presser feet, which is rare in these kinds of books. Unfortunately for me, my library's copy was missing the patterns, so I can't comment on them. Whomp whomp. 

It was clear from reading this book that the author has forgotten more about overlockers than I'll ever know, but I did think she was a little quick to assume that all machines are the same. For example, my serger (the perennial favorite Brother 1034d) does not make a chainstitch. Reading the manual is still the first thing you should do whenever you get a new machine, because they are not all the same.

For the beginner serger/coverstitcher willing to work through some projects in order to learn, this book is a great place to start. There are a lot of photos, concise text, and professional guidance. Just keep in mind that no generic book will ever replace your particular machine's manual.

Curious about other beginner serger books? Check out my other reviews in this post. This blog contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Colorblocked Wilder Gown

Like a lot of sewists, my fabric shelves are usually bursting. Mine are not full of brand new cuts however, more often than not they're overflowing with large scraps. Too big to stick in the "future pocket bag" box, and too small to create an entire garment. I don't consider myself a master of combining colors and fabrics, but sometimes I get lucky and do okay. What do you think, is this dress a success?

I made the Wilder Gown once before (OMG the list of things I haven't blogged is a mile long) from a rayon crepe. I love the swish factor and despite how fussy it looks, it's actually an easy sew and comfy to wear. I decided to gather up all my red/pink/coral/rust/brick/brown linen scraps and see if I could piece together another Wilder with them. I tried a few methods for choosing scraps, and ended up laying everything out on the floor to better visualize how I wanted to cut. I tried to recreate a complete piece of fabric, with selvages on each side and gaps filled in with scraps.

This method worked for me because I felt like I could "see" the project as a whole, rather than one piece at a time on my cutting table. It also helped that the skirt is simply rectangles without pattern pieces. That was easy to visualize and to know quickly if I'd have enough yardage. Additionally, the front of the bodice is cut in two pieces, making it simple to use two colors there.

It did take quite a long time to cut all the pieces. Most of my scraps were wrinkled and needed ironed out first. The rectangle skirts needed the smaller components sewn together into the right size. It was tedious, but that was outshined by how great it felt to use up these pieces! 

I made an XS and shortened the last tier by 4" (I'm 5'4") from personal preference. There is a generous amount of ease in this pattern. Next time, I may shorten each tier equally instead of just the last one.

I'm so pleased to have used a lot of extra fabric that was destined to gather dust. I was concerned that they wouldn't all play nice together (some were linen, some cotton, some Tencel, and various weights) but in the end they worked. This project definitely boosted my confidence with color blocking, and I'll be turning to that solution the next time my shelves are overflowing!

Most of these fabrics are from Blackbird or The Fabric Store Online. If you're curious about a certain one, please ask and I will try to find the source for you!

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