my first jean-like pants

i’ve made pants and shorts before, so i’m pretty comfortable with the whole process. still, i’ve put off making any actual jeans. but as with many of my sewing adventures, i try new stuff out on my kids first. i picked up this green stretch twill for pretty cheap and was dying to try out the famed jalie #2908. if you don’t know jalie patterns, they specialize in all things stretchy and active, and each pattern comes in approximately 5,987,423 sizes. since i’ve been into tracing patterns lately, i was okay with this.

i set off tracing each piece suuuuuupeeeerrrrr carefully. the pattern has 3/8″ SA, so there isn’t much room for error. overall the directions are very good and i didn’t need many changes. she wanted a skinny pant so i narrowed the legs in for a custom fit. hey, every kid needs custom fit pants, amiright? i started out by cutting a straight leg so i could taper as needed. i ended up taking in the seams by about 3/8″ below the hip, and 5/8″ from the knee down.

other changes were pretty minor. i added one of those little change pocket things, which i stitched onto the facing before assembling the front pockets. i made up a separate fly facing instead of the folded in variety, and cut a separate inner and outer waistband. i feel both of these are sturdier when cut separate instead of just folded. the pattern has a seam at the CB of the waistband, i’m not sure if this is just to save fabric or what. the waistband is a straight rectangle, so if/when i make her another pair i’ll eliminate the back seam.

i topstitched throughout to mimic RTW and even added a regular jeans hammer it in shank button. i don’t have pics of the shank button because initially i had sewn on a regular button because she was so eager to wear them and i hadn’t bought a jeans button yet. the shank button makes all the difference in the world for that real look. plus you get to hammer stuff. which is fun. next time i think i’ll try rivets too.

she wanted a lightning bolt design for the back pocket because she is a huge fan of the “percy jackson and the olympians” series (one is entitled: “the lightning thief”), not to mention harry potter.

i thought i would give you a comparison between these and a RTW pair. she usually wears an 8 slim, so i decided to make a size 7. in retrospect, i should have cut the waistband and length in size 8, then slimmed down to a 7. they’re long enough for her, but an extra inch wouldn’t have hurt!

so here they are next to a 7 slim skinny jean from old navy. it looks like the sizing would be very consistent with RTW, though the waist may be a tad snug by comparison.

the only thing that really bugs me is the giant back pocket. see how much larger it is than the ON jean? HUGE! i didn’t even think about this before stitching it on. i will definitely make a smaller pocket next time.

after this i feel pretty confident to make some jean-like pants of my own. i’ll want to alter some of the SA’s for a proper flat fell in places, but overall this is a really nice pattern. call me crazy, but i’ve been oogling over all the floral/patterned skinny jeans for spring. it’s hard to track down floral stretch twill in a pant weight, but i finally found some online at mood… if i feel daring enough, i’m tempted to make my own!

—lisa g.

mccalls 6044: version 2.0

it’s tricky to get interesting-looking shots of an un-modeled men’s white shirt (i should probably at the very lest get myself a nice hanger) but here you go anyways. i finished this last week right before my husband had to take off for the weekend on business. to las vegas. wah-wah…

this is one of two shirts i cut out for my husband, this time dress shirts for work. there is a dive fabric shop nearby that has amazing deals and i picked up some white and light bluish grey shirting for $2.50/yd. since i’m still learning all the tricks i’m not ready to splurge on the $10-$20/yd quite yet.

i made the white shirt first with a couple fit and design alterations. i widened the neck by about 5/8″. when i had him button the top button on his first shirt, it was definitely too small for tie-wearing. also, the sleeves were a touch long, so i shortened the sleeve by 1/2″.

if you squint you can see the collar-stay channel i added

then i did the front placket different. i extended the center front of the shirt front so i could attach the placket at the edge then fold it onto the front, then top’s a small change, but it requires less blind precision and eliminates hand stitching the placket from the inside.

i went ahead and flat-felled the sleeve/shoulder seam as well as up the sides and down the sleeve. surprisingly not as hard as i thought it would be! i just ordered a felling foot to make this stitching a little more precise in the future though. it’s damn near impossible to hide imperfect stitching on a light solid colored fabric, let me tell you.

i decided to track down the ultimate resource in shirtmaking, aptly titled “shirtmaking”, by david coffin. since the husband has tasted the fruits of custom clothing there’s just no going back. i’ve glanced through the book and there is so much information to absorb. he has great techniques for all the tricky bits and i will no doubt rely on this book heavily.

i had promised a sleeve placket tutorial to go with my pattern piece, but i made this one in the evening and had no adequate lighting. i’ll make sure to do the next one during daylight hours for your benefit. it did turn out rawther well, i think.

overall i’m pleased with how the shirt came out. the fabric weave is looser than a lot of shirting so i had some issues and struggles all throughout. the next one has a very tightly woven fabric so i think it will come together a bit easier. even though i have it cut out, fused and ready to go, i have another project i’ve already started: thurlow pants in denim! the shop that i picked up the shirting fabric at always seems to have a pile of denim for $2.50/yd and i finally picked some up. plus i have an unblogged pair of pants i made for my daughter… ack! it’s only the end of january and i’m already getting behind in posting!

—lisa g.

rayon bias facing: the "no swearing necessary" method

okay, you asked so i’ll share…

if you’ve ever tried to use rayon bias tape for a facing, you’ll know how tricky it is. it shifts, it frays, it’s generally uncooperative. before my portrait blouse, i had done it twice: the first time was a bloody mess, the second time took for-ev-er! and still didn’t look that great. so i was searching my pile of scraps for a lightweight cotton or basically anything that would work as bias facing. nothing. okay, fine. [deep breath] i’ll use self fabric.

i didn’t take pics when i constructed the blouse, but i used scraps to show you my method.

leave the full 5/8″ seam allowance on the neckline of the blouse and stay stitch at 1/2″ (or just inside the SA) directionally from the shoulder down to center front, then shoulder to center back. make sure you overlap those last few stitches at CF and CB. stay stitching makes a world of difference, trust me!

cut your bias tape to 1 1/4″ in width, then serge one edge with 1/4″ wide serging. if you are living in a cave and don’t have a serger, take your bias tape and press one side in by 1/4″.

line up the edge of the blouse with the edge of the non-serged (or pressed) edge of bias tape and sew at 5/8″. don’t bother pinning the bias tape all the way around first, just go slow and keep adjusting the bias tape as you go around curves. don’t stretch the bias tape or you will end up with a puckered seam.

once it is attached, trim the seam allowances down to 1/4″.

press the seam flat first in order to shrink back any stretching that may have occurred and to eliminate any wavy-ness at the seam.

now lift the bias tape out flat and press the seam open from both sides. this will give you an good clean edge.

press in the serged edge of the bias tape using the serging as a guide, or re-press the 1/4″. seriously though, get a serger.

now turn the bias facing into place and press. pin as little as possible perpendicular to the bias tape. excessive pinning or pinning parallel to the bias tape can distort the seam and if you have adequately pressed along the way, you won’t need many pins.

finally, topstitch at a scant 1/4″. i find that if i move my needle to the left position i can get 1/4″ by lining up the right edge with the edge of the opening on my presser foot. i tried using my 1/4″ piecing foot as a guide, but it was just a smidge too wide.

now you have a perfectly bias-faced edge!

this may seem like a lot of little steps that take too long, but in reality it goes very fast. if you half-ass or skip any of the pressing steps, it will take much longer and not look as nice. true story.

—lisa g.

gertie’s portrait blouse

many of you no doubt have gertie’s new book laying around. i received a copy for my birthday back in november and immediately devoured every bit of information she had to offer. now, as i’ve mentioned before, i’m not much into wearing the vintage inspired garments (though i do love to oogle at them), nor am i much into the hand sewing when i think a machine can do it better. nevertheless, i love many of the patterns included in her book and still enjoy reading and learning the vintage techniques. i may not use them much, i can certainly appreciate them.

i have a distinct lack of nice tops in my wardrobe so i thought i would try out the portrait blouse with a beautiful piece of rayon challis i picked up (it’s from the van gogh collection by free spirit fabrics). now, i have an unwarranted disdain for shirts that require zippers in them. just a personal preference, but there you have it. i decided to eliminate the tucks so i could slip the blouse on and off, but to retain the waist shaping, i added two rows of shirring. i also added 3″ in length to the blouse since i will mostly wear it with jeans and not tucked into a high waisted skirt.

before i started i checked out some reviews on the pattern, and there were a few complaints about the difficulty in hemming the sleeve. the instructions have you sew up the sides, then hem the sleeve by turning and stitching. now, the edge of the fabric will be much shorter than the line where you end up stitching. i decided to alter the pattern slightly and add extra fabric to the edge of the sleeve opening, then hem sleeve before sewing the side seam.

that little triangle of fabric makes all the
difference in hemming the sleeve easily!

here’s what i did:

i ran a line of hand stitching along the 5/8″ mark where the sleeve is to be hemmed, then i pressed along this line.

next i ever so slightly stretched the edge of the fabric around the underarm curve so it would turn in nicely. do be careful that you only stretch at the very edge and not further in! the actual pressed hemline must stay intact.

i serged the edge with 1/4″ of stitching, then using the serged edge as a guide, i pressed it in and folded the sleeve hem in place and pinned.

then i was able to easily stitch at 1/4″ and remove the line of basting.

when i went to sew up the side seams, i simply tacked the seam allowance back right under the arm.

i managed to bias face the neckline in self fabric without swearing once! if you’ve ever tried to use rayon challis as bias facing or binding you know what i’m talking about. i turned a 1″ hem at the bottom, then added a tiny pocket just for fun.

this turned out to be a great top i can wear layered with cardigans for now while the weather is cold. it works with jeans, but would also be cute with a pencil skirt and belted.

i love the funky fabric i choose. these are my favorite shades of pink, and it works great as a blouse. i haven’t seen many reviews of this top yet, but i can see it being a very versatile pattern. i would like to try it out with the tucks next time and maybe a button closure down the front to avoid the whole zipper thing.

as far as sizing, i made a 4 on top then graded out to a 6 at the waist, then added 3″ in length. i think i have a slightly elongated torso (but a high waist), so definitely check the length before you make this up. again, if it were always tucked into an at-waist or higher skirt, you’d probably be fine. the bust darts could be moved up 1/2-3/4″, but this is a typical alteration for me. overall, this patten is a winner—it’s quick to make up and is virtually a blank canvas for whatever your need it to be!

—lisa g.

UPDATE: tutorial HERE for the rayon bias facing

just a quick note!

first off, thanks a million to everyone who voted for my project over on pattern review. i didn’t get first place, but i did come in second! and second place still gets a prize. woooo!

Sewing For Children

also, i am rearranging the page links on my header and adding some content. mostly i’m categorizing my FO pics by year with links to the blog posts. i also added a pattern page where i have the one piece button placket i drafted for my husband’s button down shirt. i don’t have instructions up yet, but i’ll get there (i have fabric for two business shirts that i’ll start shortly so i’ll make a full on step by step with pictures). in the meantime, there are other tutorials out on the interwebs and in sewing books. i know my whole layout isn’t super-slick, but it’ll have to do!

thanks again for the votes!

—lisa g.


finally, finally! the lovely guy who supports my addiction, obsession, useful skill of sewing FINALLY has his own garment to show for it. i should have done this ages ago, but… well… i don’t really have a legit excuse.

i picked up some plaid shirting from and used mccalls 6044, which i picked up for $1 at joanns. i mentioned in my last post that i had a laundry list of gripes about this pattern, but upon further reflection i’ll just call these “changes” and QUIT COMPLAINING. 

overall, this is a decent pattern. the fit for my husband is an unaltered, straight out of the envelope size small, and it’s basically perfect. (to all of us who do extensive alterations on patterns to get a decent fit… I KNOW! so not fair.) and it’s not that he doesn’t fit a standard RTW size, but he’s small-framed and those sizes aren’t heavily stocked. ultimately i want this pattern to serve as a business shirt that i can make over and over whenever he needs a new one. right now he needs about ten. i went to his closet, checked out all the details on his RTW, and here is is what i changed.

i drafted a back yoke piece that was straight across the back (instead of the western style—though i love me a good western shirt) and did the whole two piece yoke sandwich thingie (or “burrito” as described by peter at MPB).

then i added 1″ in width to the back piece so i could add pleats. his casual shirts have two pleats out toward the shoulder and that’s what i did here. his dress shirts have a single larger pleat in the middle, so i can easily change where i pleat the back piece as needed.

for the long sleeve version in this pattern, there are two pieces to the sleeve. typically there is a button placket at the cuff, but to get around doing a regulation placket, you are instructed to turn the SA’s in and topstitch. eh. not gonna cut it for me. all i had to do was lay the sleeve pieces together along the seam line and cut it as one. but, then i had to figure out and draft the button placket. i had instructions on how to sew it in a book, and after a bit of puzzling i worked out the dimensions and drafted my own. if anyone is interested in having this pattern piece, i plan to create a .pdf with instructions at some point. i measured the plackets of his existing shirts so what i have is a pretty standard size, though it could be customized according to preference.

i didn’t flat-fell the seams on this one, though i plan to for future makes. i did serge and topstitch for a faux flat-fell. i set the sleeves in flat, so topstitching the side seam and down the arm was something of a challenge. it was like sewing in a tunnel. not sure if i’ll be skilled enough to flat-fell it this way… if anyone has tips for me on how to do this, please speak up! i’m a complete newbie on this one.

i bought a 1/4″ piecing foot for quilt making (i have grand plans to use up my leftover fabric scraps and turn them into my very first quilt), but i found it came very much in handy as a guide for topstitching, fancy that.

the only thing i plan to change for future shirts will be how the front button placket is done. it’s fine as writ, but it requires a bit of lining up so that the inside and outside edges line up perfectly when topstitched. there’s an easier way that minimizes both bulk and room for error. next time i make a shirt (and i’ll be fabric shopping for white shirting this week—wish me luck!) i’ll elaborate and show how it’s done.

so what did i learn? the button down men’s shirt is not to be feared ladies! it took a little more of my attention since the process was not my normal autopilot dress or tee shirt, but difficult? not really. okay, the collar can go very wrong very fast, but other than that, not difficult. you will see more of these from me. and maybe even one for me if i ever get around to it.

so there.

i did it.

—lisa g.

UPDATE: click here for the sleeve placket template

sewing in 2013

i’ve just finished a button down shirt for the hubbs (mr. housewife?). yeah, it’s about time i begun re-working his closet. most of what he owns is either ill-fitting or worn down and threadbare. i resisted for a long time because i feel like men’s clothing demands a higher level of technical skill than women’s clothing. even though my sewing isn’t perfect, i think it’s good enough to dive in and give it a shot.

i started tracing off mccalls 6044, and as i went along i began my usual laundry list of gripes about the pattern:

faux back yoke!
no sleeve placket!
two piece sleeve?
no pleats on the back piece!
why are they skimping on these details? why? WHY!

i paid $1 for this pattern.

are the lack of “real” details in the big 4 our own fault? we’re so accustomed, at least here in the US, to buying cheap patterns that perhaps it’s just a vicious cycle. initially i thought the dumbed-down patterns were the pattern companies’ response to the fact that most people don’t know how to sew (therefore requiring simplified patterns), and most (i think) sew as a hobby, not out of necessity. yet, i can’t help but think our reluctance to pay full price for patterns is also a factor. it does take extra work to make those extra pieces. i know, because i do it regularly.

so all this brings me back to my plans and goals for 2013.

first, buy more expensive patterns. we don’t have a lot of money to throw around, and these days sewing is more of a necessity than just a diversion. i’m growing far more averse to buying cheap clothes that wear out and were potentially made under unethical conditions. did you hear about this fire a while back? i only came across the story by chance one day, it certainly didn’t make many headlines here. at this point, we simply can’t afford clothes that i can trust are ethically made, even with a “buy less/buy better” mentality. but, i can make it a point to spent a few extra bucks on nice patterns, especially those that will get multiple uses. this doesn’t mean i won’t buy big 4, i just need to complain less when i have to draft pieces to get the look i want. you get what you pay for and it’s high time i accept it.

secondly, make men’s clothing. as i stated before, his closet could really use a re-vamp. the button down shirt is a great place to start, but t-shirts, pants, and outerwear are also on the list. (i stated non-specific menswear over on dymt’s re-sew-lution jar post. doesn’t she have the greatest ideas?)

thirdly, i’ll continue to beef up my staples. my every day life is pretty casual and involves running kids here and there, the occasional playdate, volunteering at their school, sitting on the floor doing puzzles, snuggling with them for story time, and the like. i have a dreadful lack of appropriate clothing for these sorts of activities, so pants are on the list as well as tops, and probably a jacket or two. minoru! cordova! i’m looking at yooouuu!!!

lastly, i need to buckle down and sew more kidswear. it’s hard for me to spend $8 or $10 on a pair of leggings or a t-shirt when i know i can make two or three out of a $5/yd piece of knit fabric.

okay, there it is: my plan for the year and what you can expect to see on the blog. i’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s goals, and i see many people are on the “beef up the staples” bandwagon. i know that doesn’t satisfy the sewing itch for everyone, but i really do find this sort of thing fun. it is completely satisfying to reach in my closet and pull out a knit top that i’ve made or grab my hand made winter coat as i run out the door. 

i’ll be back with a real post on the afore-mentioned button down shirt once i can sneak in some pics. in the meantime, i have a portrait blouse from gertie’s book awaiting my finishing touches… here’s to an amazing 2013!

—lisa g.

what i did in 2012

so 2012 was actually a pretty big sewing year for me. i wasn’t going to bother with my final thoughts, but i realized i never posted official pics of my biggest project to date. namely, my sister’s wedding dress. in my defense, i only got the “official pics” back in november. (original posts: flower girl, wedding dress, bridesmaid)

if you’re interested, there are many more pics over on the photographer’s blog (post labeled tom + rebecca).

in 2012 i ventured into outerwear. i am so very pleased with my results on this front, and i’m itching to make more!

seersucker suit
knit blazer
winter coat
duffle coat

these were all my biggest projects. there is so much more that i made and loved in 2012, but going through and finding all the posts and links is a real pain in the buns (mega props to all you who did bother!) and i have real-time sewing to get to!

my only disappointment for the year was my inability to get all my projects onto the blog. i tried to count the number of things i made, but quit when i hit 45. i typically finish at least one item a week. problem is, my blogging (and picture taking) gets behind my sewing, then i lose interest in writing about it or plum forgot what amazing tidbit i wanted to share to begin with. i do try to make my posts worth your time reading, and i really appreciate the feedback. here’s to another great year of sewing!

—lisa g.

p.s. tomorrow is the last day to vote in the pattern review sewing for children contest. thanks for all you who voted for me!

polka dots

i made this dress quite a while ago but it never made it to ye olde blog. mostly because i wasn’t that excited about it. i used mccalls 6503. now, i really, really loved this pattern. the minute i saw it i knew i wanted to make it. then it was always sold out at the fabric store (i’m too lazy and stingy to order directly). i think my mom 1600 miles away in kansas ended up buying it and sending it to me because i just couldn’t get my hands on it here. then, i had this super cute drape-y rayon polka dot material i just knew would be a perfect match.

i even added piping to the waistband!
i did a narrow straight ruffle instead of the
circle ruffle thing as on the pattern.

then, i had all the pieces months before i had a chance to make it. finally when i did, i just didn’t like it all that much. the fit was acceptable (i had even done a muslin!) but it just didn’t do anything for me. this style of bodice left my top half a bit err… deflated looking. then the polka dot thing happening just looked a little too retro for my tastes. don’t get me wrong, i love this style. but it really illustrated to me the difference between what i like to look at, and what i like to wear

the skirt was a little on the long side, so that wasn’t helping either. i wore it once (and even heard whispers of admiration behind me: did you see her dress? so cute!). in the end, i still loved the fabric, just not as this dress. it wasn’t me. so i took it apart. I’M SORRY. i know some of you just gasped in horror, but it was the right thing to do. i shortened the skirt and added a simple waistband with a double hook closure. hey, it even has pockets!

made that knit top months ago.
never blogged it. sorry.

believe you me, i love this as a skirt sooooo much more than as a dress. oddly enough, i’ve had trouble finding tops that match it. apparently i don’t have many solid colored tops. working on remedying that. i’ve worn it once with a black cardigan and black tights, but that’s so expected. i thought i’d try it out with some patterned tops in the privacy of the entire interwebs before wearing it out in public. yay or nay?

i’m currently on the hunt for a nice lightweight emerald green or fuchsia/magenta or teal knit to make a renfrew to pair with it. apparently those pantone people just named emerald green “color of the year” or some such nonsense (seriously. their declaring what the on-trend color is annoys me to no end). but maybe it’s a good thing, cuz it happens to be one of my favorite colors and i can never find fabric that color. maybe something will pop up now.

oh, and lest all the work i put into the bodice go to waste, i’ve saved it to add a different bottom half for later. i think if i have a nice fat midriff and pleat the skirt (like on this dress) i can eliminate some of the excess fabric to make it a little more flattering. i’m thinking a lightweight denim skirt would be crazy awesome, but that’s gonna have to wait for spring. i have too many cold weather makes to get to!

—lisa g.

dixie DIY’s hot cocoa sweater

new years day i started coming down with a cold. there is nothing like starting to feel sick that highlights to me my lack of lazying around the house clothes. i immediately remembered that dixie DIY has a free (yes free!) hot cocoa sweater pattern that would fit the bill. i had to run to the fabric store to pick up a couple $1 mccalls patterns (namely a button down shirt for the hubs. wooo! look at me all growed up and being unselfish!) so i browsed the red tag table to see if i could score a nice knit. and what do you know, this small floral print caught my eye. it’s 100% rayon knit. i typically associate rayon knits with lighter-weight drape-y stuff, but this one was nice and stable. for $5/yd i couldn’t pass it up.

yesterday i traced off the pattern, then spent some time in the evening to sew it up. i thought the floral print might be a little too busy or young looking, but i don’t really care. i just wanted a cozy top. i happened to have this grey knit leftover from anastasia’s coat and there was just enough to cut the cuffs and neck binding. it helps to break up the floral i think. then i thought, hey why not add that little triangle patch you see on sweatshirts? i really have no idea what it’s there for, but the more i sew the more i notice the truly random details on rtw. so why the heck not? i cut a triangle patch and zig zagged the edges down before constructing the top.

this could not have been an easier top to make! the raglan sleeve is wicked fast to put together. dixie offered this pattern in one size, which just happened to be my size, so the only changes i made were lengthening it by 1″, then adding 1/2″ at the hem so i could turn a 3/4″ hem instead of the drafted 1/4″. i have monkey arms so i made my cuff 4″ so the sleeves would be long enough. i prefer a wide cuff so this worked out just fine. by the way, all the seams have a 1/4″ SA. i love her for that! so much easier to sew and a fabric saver to boot.

hi-low hem! look at me being all trendy.

i have a few leftover projects unblogged from 2012, my 2012 favorite makes, what i want to accomplish this year…  i’ll get to all of that, it’s just really nice for once to blog a fresh off the serger project. i’m so glad i have this top to lounge in today. not only am i nursing a cold but it’s currently 10 F outside. that would be -12 C for you metric folks. brrrrrrrr!!!!

—lisa g.