Wednesday, September 28, 2016

PR Sewing Bee Round #2: A Bias skirt

I was in my (parked) car when I read the email from Pattern Review revealing the challenge for round #2: Make a Bias Garment.  I didn't cheer, I didn't groan, my reaction was more of a "Hmmm..."  Since I was already in the car out and about, I headed over to Joanns to peruse the pattern catalogs. McCall's patterns were on sale that day and I was hoping to find one of their patterns that would be interesting and which would work.  Nope.  Simplicity/Butterick/Vogue? Nope, nope nope.  I did find a New Look pattern, for a slinky dress, but when I pulled the envelope out of the drawer it said it was a juniors pattern!!  Nope.  Deflated, I realized I would never wear a slinky bias dress, so it was better that I not waste my time.

Then I went where I had never gone Burda.  Right away I knew I would be able to find something that would work.  Their patterns were interesting and different.  There were different styles and interesting seamlines.  I know there are a number of sewists/bloggers out there who love Burda, but I've never had a need.  I do own 4 Burda Style Magazines but have never made anything out of them.  I found 2 great patterns for bias skirts, but the one that won out was Burda 6572.

I meandered through Joann's and found what they called brushed cotton windowpane plaid in black and red.  It was perfect! I love black and red together, it would look great on the bias, and it would be much easier to match than a more complex plaid.  

There is really interesting seaming on this skirt.  The front and back are on the bias, the back yoke is on grain, there is a front yoke and pocket that look different altogether.  The top of the pocket lines up exactly with the back yoke and I wanted to highlight that cool continuous looking line using dark red piping.

The red piping looks like it is continuous around the side and back of the skirt. It also provides a visual break between the skirt back, which is cut on the bias, and the back yoke, which is not. I was very concerned about the thickness of the piping at the CB seam and invisible zipper. Invisible zippers don't like bulk, so I discovered a clever idea to keep my piping but to make my zipper happy. I was able to slide the cord (inside the piping) out of the covering and cut 5/8" of it off. I then slid the cord back inside the covering and voila! no bulky cord at the seamline! I did this on the side seams as well. 

The hardest part about making this skirt was dealing with the bias, both in layout/cutting, and sewing so that the seams didn't stretch out.
#1: Cutting out the pattern pieces and making sure the plaid was on the grain lines. The flannel was very pliable and would shift easily off grain. On my pattern pieces for the front and back, I drew extra grainlines that would line up with the windowpane pattern on the fabric. Starting in the center of the pattern piece, I folded the pattern, placed it on the fabric aligning my grainlines with the red lines in the fabric and pinned in it place. Working from the center outward, I continued folding the pattern, aligning the fabric, and pinning it in place. It was tedious and time consuming, but to me (and my perfectionist tendencies) it was necessary.

 #2: Making sure seams didn't stretch out or skew before sewing. In order to prevent the curved seam line around the front yoke/pocket from stretching out or shifting while sewing, I used small strips of fusible interfacing along the concave curve on the front skirt piece. I was worried that manipulating the fabric and sewing this curve would stretch out the fabric and make my seams pucker. I also hand basted the pocket/front yoke to the skirt front, then machine basted, and then did a final stitch to make sure the curves laid flat. I also used strips of fusible interfacing at the center back where the zipper was installed to stabilize the seam prior to sewing in the zipper.  At the center front, where the bias front piece is sewn to the inner facing, I sewed a strip of 1/8" twill tape along the seam to be absolutely sure it didn't stretch out.

Here are the final photos:

I am once again happy to report that I have advance on to PR Sewing Bee Round #3.  --It's a doozy!

Thurlow Shorts! PR Sewing Bee Round #1

Long ago, I made a pair of Sewaholic Thurlow shorts.  They were not great:

I thought I'd still wear them but I never did.  I thought I had donated them before I moved.  Lo and behold, I found them in my refashion bin and was able to assess what went wrong last time.

I have put on a little weight since I made the first pair and they were a little small in the hips.  The waistband also fell on an odd spot which made my stomach poof out over the top.  No good.  I started my new attempt by cutting a muslin one size larger, a 14.  I lengthened the front 1", and I raised the center back up 3/4" increasing to 1" at the side seams to match the front.  The fit was good through the hips but very large at the waist.  I needed to take it in quite a bit at the center back seam.   Rather than just adjusting the center back seam, I took a little off  the side seams at the waistline and about 1/2" off at the center back.  I didn't want the back pockets to appear too close to the center seam so I shifted them and the back dart outward by 1/2".

I am not a fan of double welt pockets.  They look like lips to me.  Not the look I'm going for for my back pockets.  So I switched them to single welt pockets.  I used this excellent tutorial by poppykettle to make for single welt pockets.

When I first had them assembled, there were some butt-flossing issues in the back.

I scooped out the CB seam at the seat and it made a big difference.  I've never had to do this adjustment before, and was very happy with the result.

Seriously...that is a great view.

See?  Impressive!

One thing I did with these shorts that was unusual for me was to hem them much shorter than I normally do.  I was talking with a friend who has a similar shape as me, (although she is MUCH taller) and she told me that a stylist once told her to wear shorter shorts. That gave me the confidence to hem these with a 3.5" inseam rather than my typical 9".  I really like how it looks and I feel young!

Apart from scooping out the CB seam and raising the waisband, I made only minor changes.  I cut a size 14 with a slight decrease at the waist and a slight adjustment on the front pieces for athletic thighs. 

I skipped the belt reason I sew is to have bottoms that fit--no belt needed.

A note to future Thurlow sewists:  check the length of the left waistband. Mine was about 1.25" too short.  The pointed end of my waistband did not cover the entire fly extension. Some online research revealed that this has happened to other people as well. I didn't have enough of the gray denim to cut a new waistband on the correct grain-line, so I had to be creative. I wanted the pointed end of the waistband to completely cover the fly extension. I cut my waistband just to the inside of the zipper and cut a small piece of denim 1.75" long and the width of the waistband and waistband facing. I used 1/4" seam allowances to sew this piece to the main waistband and also to the pointed end. I pressed the seams open to minimize bulk. This little extension stays hidden behind the front closure.  Not everyone has has this issue but there are definitely some of us.  Save yourself a headache and measure the waistband and compare it to the left front, back, and fly extension.

  I am happy to report that I made it on to Round #2 in the Sewing Bee with these Thurlows!

Friday, July 22, 2016


Jess, this one is for you!

I have been sewing all kinds of active wear since I started running regularly.  It seems my machine always has a stretch needle on it.

First up, sports bras. I have made several versions of Jalie 2563.  I made a size V and lined the fronts with firm powernet in order to have some serious compression.  I also lined the backs with less firm powernet.  Compression indeed!  The negative side effect of this compression is that once sweaty, the bra was really hard to get off.  I needed some escape help.  So...I tweaked the back and added bra hooks!  It was a simple change involving making a "U" shaped cut out of the back the width of the bra hooks I wanted to add.  I covered the edges of the U with fold over elastic before attaching the hooks. Now I can get it off without contorting myself.

I used a variety of fabrics including swimwear nylon spandex, red supplex, and a gray wicking activewear knit. 

Next up: Steeplechase Leggings!!

I really like wearing running tights in colder weather and was very interested in the Fehr Trade Steeplechase leggings since they have clever seaming an no seams on the inner thighs.  I did make a muslin of these to check the fit.  My hips were a L and waist was closer to a M, so I cut a L for the legs and made the yoke smaller by making several partial depth cuts at the top of the pattern piece and then overlapping the cuts to make it 3/4" smaller. I followed the advice of fellow pear shaped runner, Kathy, and raised the CB up 1", although she took the complicated route, and I just made the yoke taller in the back tapering to 0" at the sides.  Like her, I found the legs to be a little loose and took them in about 1/2" with my serger after they were assembled.  

My first pair were capri length and made from a gray/black "space print" I found at Hancock Fabrics (RIP).  The my 2nd pair was made to be bike short length, above the knee.  The leggings are drafted for someone with longer legs than mine, and I need to shorten them almost 3".  This pair was made with a blue/pink "space print" also purchased at Hancock.  I omitted the back pocket since I wear a hydration belt (like this) when I run and didn't need the extra pocket. 

Here they are:

(For comparison of body shape, the gray pair was photographed in mid-May and the blue on July 1st.)

I really like the Steeplechase leggings and find them to be very comfortable when running.  With that success, I really wanted to try the Cora running short from my beloved Jalie Patterns.  Again I consulted Kathy's blog to see what she did with her Coras.  Based on her recommendation, I did not raise the CB since she said they had great coverage as is.  I also wanted some compression so I made a straight size X which is one size smaller than my high hip measurement.  The fabric was a High Performance ATY Nylon Spandex in Heather Purple from for the main body of the shorts.  The waistband and leg bands were made with a Violet Nylon Activewear knit from FabricMart, which was slightly stretchier than the Heather Purple.  Construction-wise the pattern is excellent.  The fit was great too.  They are definitely compression shorts both because I made a smaller size than suggested and also because my fabric was slightly firm.  They are very comfortable for running and they make me feel awesome!  

My next pair was made with my blue/pink "space print" for the front of the legs and denim blue supplex from FabricMart for the remainder.  I skipped the back pocket for both pairs.

The blue supplex was less firm than the Heather Purple, so I didn't hesitate to make this pair in a size X as well.  They are also excellent, just not a compressing.  

But wait...there is more!  More activewear and more Jalie!

Enter Jalie 2796 multi-sport skort.  I made a few tweaks to this pattern.  I had read reviews of other curvy sewists who said that the back of the skirt was a little snug across their curves.  So I slashed and spread the back of the skirt pattern piece to be 1" wider at hip level.  The back piece is very A-line now.  

My first version was the royal blue which was made with an athletic mesh type knit that I think I bought at but I really don't know for sure.  The mesh wasn't as stretchy as was needed for the waistband (I couldn't even come close to getting it past my hips.  Thankfully I had some royal blue swimwear spandex that worked perfectly.  Underneath the skirt, I made the compression shorts using a Nike Dri-Fit purchased from  I didn't even bother hemming the need for extra seams or bulk along the inseam. I felt like the waist should have come up higher, all around, especially in the back.  I raised the front waistband up 3/4" and raised the back waistband up 3/4" at the side seams and 1.5" at the center back.  I also lengthened the skirt.  Version 2 was the marron version using the same mesh-type fabric.  I knew I didn't have any matching spandex to use for the waistband, so I used gray wicking athletic knit.  The 3rd version was the black/gray space print and black ITY for the contrast and waistband.  I love these!!

Last up is the one thing that isn't really me.  I bought the Fehr Trade VNA top, and for some reason I thought it had a built in sports doesn't.  I guess I got confused with the XYT top.  Anyway, I used my violet activewear knit from Fabric mart for the lower front/back and bindings and  the blue/pink space print for everything else.  I raised the neckline up 2" to provide more coverage on my chest.  

The instructions were very good an walked you through the assembly step by step.  I made a size Small and that seems right.  I think I need a little more length in the upper front, the seam hit me in a weird place.  I have worn it, and it is comfortable, and not having side seams is a plus, but it doesn't really feel like me.  I really don't like excess sun exposure and I feel a little exposed in this top.  Maybe I'll wear it on cloudy days. 

There you go, lots of sewing, lots of activewear!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I spend a lot of time during the summer at the pool, and I like to vary which suits I wear each day.  I also wear rash guards so that adds more variety to my swim wardrobe.  The 3 suits I wear the most are my 2 versions of Jalie 3023, in blue (blogged here) and red polka dots (blogged here).  I also wear this one, which is a Jalie 3023 skirted bottom and a Jalie 2563 sport bra top.  



I love tankinis and wanted to make a new one in a different style.  I wound up copying a RTW suit I had that fit well, but whose elastic was showing its age and whose straps were stretching out.  For the top front, I copied the RTW suit, and for the back I used Jalie 3023 raising up the back to eliminate the back band.  I cut the straps extra-long so that I could decide later if I wanted them to cross in the back or not. 

The bikini bottoms I copied directly from my RTW suit, and once I tried it on, it was a little blousy on the back (I’ve never had that problem before!) and I removed some of the length between the legs by taking an extra large seam at the crotch.  There is still a little bit of extra fabric but it is acceptable as is. (Sorry: no photos of the bottoms). The fabric was a printed spandex from that I bought quite a while ago and had been saving for something special.

As I said before, I wear rash guards at the pool since I don’t want to tan/age prematurely.  My current collection of rash guards, most of which were purchased from Land’s End, are starting to wear out.  The fabric in several spots have worn thin and they need to be replaced.  I have made one rash guard for myself using Jalie 2566, (blogged here).  Searching on Pinterest for some rash guard inspiration, I noticed that most of the ones I liked had raglan sleeves.  I owned Jalie 3245, the raglan tee and tank pattern but had only made the tank.  I traced off a size V (2 sizes smaller than I would normally) and raised the neckline up to be much higher for a rash guard.  For the sleeve and back, I used the size FF neckline.  The front needed to be raised up even higher than the FF level.   I did a quick muslin and was happy with the fit.  Instead of doing Jalie’s method for the neck binding (which is quite clever) I cut a 2” wide band and folded it in half lengthwise, for a Renfrew-style neck binding.  I also made the sleeves full length. 

The fabric is a very pretty navy background with dark turquoise rose and leaves.  I purchased it from Hancock Fabrics before they closed their doors for good (sniff sniff).  I absolutely love how it turned out!

(the sleeves are all twisted because I was already wet when it put this on!) 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Endless Combinations!!

Hello! I have been sewing like mad!  When I discovered that Hancock Fabrics was going out of business, I went a little nuts buying fabric.  By "a little nuts", I mean a little more than a little.  ;)

I started sewing up my new-found stash and then discovered the Endless Combinations Contest going on at Pattern Review.  It was fate I tell you!!

Let me describe my entries in the following ways:
1.  Using cool fabric
2.  Replicating a cool pattern envelope photo
3.  Replicating a long gone and memories-attached jacket

First up. A skirt made from a blue/white/navy/green swirly ITY knit.  I used the trusty McCall's 6654:

Cool fabric isn't it??  Since the going out of business sale at Hancocks had 2 yard minimum cuts, I had plenty left over for a top to match.  Enter Vogue 8390:

My previous version of this pattern was in a brown knit and I still love it (but it did need some tweaks):

When the 2 pieces are worn together, it looks like a dress:

On a side note, I have started running...and apparently my waist has returned!!

Part 2 of my thoughts for this contest was replicating the Jalie Eleonore pattern cover.  In particular, the light blue capris and the striped top:

Jalie Eleonore Jeans

The model seemed so springy, cool and comfortable.  It is very unlike me to copy a pattern photo, but it happened this time.  I even bought similar shoes!!  

My attempt at the cover pose

I did a split hem on these, using this excellent tutorial from pattern~scissors~cloth.

The top was a new pattern: New Look 6384.   Let me tell you that the top runs big.  I cut a large and should have done a medium.  The neckline was both low and wide.  I took in the shoulder seams and also the center front.  The fabric was a white striped interlock knit which I used on this dress:
McCall's 6886 blogged here

I am not a big fan of interlock knit mostly because it has poor recovery.  My neckline was a wavy mess when I finished it:

I was industrious and used some stretch thread which I ran through the channeling made by the neck binding.  I did not follow the pattern instructions, but used Jalie's method of using a skinny binding. Here is a great tutorial to show how it's done.  Once the elastic thread was inside the casing, it was almost gathered.  After ironing, however, it came out perfect!  Quite the save!!

So my pattern envelope re-enactment was finished and last up was replicating a long gone and memories-attached jacket.  Back when I was 18, I was an exchange student in France (Western Brittany).  At some point during my year long stay, I purchased a white Gap jean jacket from the Kilo Shop, where everything is sold by the kilo.  I remember the jacket being a bit too big, and I remember adding velcro to the inner pockets to prevent pick-pocketing during my travels (I was really paranoid about theives).  I have fond memories of that jacket including learning that the French word for velcro was "velcro".  So when I needed something to create Endless Combinations, a white jean jacket would be perfect.

I used Butterick 5616 from my stash:
Butterick 5616

Most reviewers mentioned the pattern being boxy, which is something I meant to minimize, if not eliminate.  I wisely made a muslin and did the following changes:

1.       I tapered the center back piece to narrow at the waist.  As drafted there was about a 2” difference between the finished bust and finished waist measurement…boxy indeed!
2.       I did a swayback adjustment, taking a ~1” fisheye dart across the back & side back pieces, tapering to nothing at the side seam.
3.       I did a slight FBA adding 3/8” to the bust at the side front.
4.       Below the bust I shaved off ~ ¼ ”on the seam to fit closer to the stomach.
5.       From my muslin, I discovered that the shoulders were very wide.  I narrowed them about 5/8”.
6.       I lengthened the sleeves from ¾ length to full length.
7.       I made the sleeve cuff narrower to match the lower band and used 1 button instead of 3
8.       I added ¼” twill tape along the collar to stabilize it. 
9.       I added interior pockets to the front pieces (you must have interior pockets to thwart pickpockets!!)
10.   I added a coat hanging loop.

I had JUST enough fabric for this jacket.  This is all that was left:
"Big" Scraps

"little" scraps

I am very happy with how it turned out.  I did made a bit of a goof-up however.  The sleeves & cuffs were designed to be 3/4 length and ending at the forearm.  I made the sleeves full length, but I forgot to taper them both down to be wrist size.  I realized my error after the cuffs were attached and topstitched.  Sigh...   So I put the button on ~2" from the edge of the cuff to make them a more sensible size.  

My Endless Combinations were complete.  Here is my collage:

It is a great assortment of outfits, and I am very pleased with how they turned out.  

Mid-April I was able to tag along when my husband had to go to Miami for work.  Here is a photo of me on South Beach, all cool and windblown:

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