The other weekend MS and I went to the Minnesotan Mecca of fabric, SR Harris. After the Textile Garage Sale I didn’t need to buy more fabric but *spoiler alert* I left with fabric I’m pretty excited about.
Since we both play ultimate, the spandex section gave us inspiration to sew some unique leggings. We both bought two yards of this geometric print, because it was also glittery with gggoooollllllddddd.
Until a few years ago, if I worked out at all, my gear consisted of old cotton t-shirts, the one sports bra I bought at Target in 2007, and one pair of aged running shorts. I do have many more polyester jerseys and running shorts, but leggings are still scarce. Target is great for most of my athletic gear needs but all their leggings are too low cut. Combined with my generous bottom, I’ve experienced the unfortunate feeling of my butt crack exposed to the elements or threatening to expose itself to said elements. NO THANK YOU.
Mom taught me well and I refuse to pay full price for clothing. This policy generally works but makes finding athletic gear harder. Some of the smaller pattern companies like Fehr Trade, Jalie, and Sewaholic offer athletic/atheleisure patterns but since this is a test, I wanted something cheaper and more readily accessible (I hate assembling PDF patterns). The Big Four pattern companies don’t offer many options in athletic wear but recently seasons have produced a few, perhaps due to the popularity of atheleisure wear. Kwik Sew 4163 looked promising and I picked it up today.
I don’t care for the tank top but the legging pattern looks like it would hold up while running around. The line art makes it hard to discern whether there is a crotch gusset to facilitate movement and prevent seams from rubbing at the crotch. I also appreciate the hot pants option; if this patterns pans out, I could see shiny gold athletic shorts (gaudy yet functional) in my future!
Last month the Textile Center held its annual Textile Garage Sale. I hadn’t been in a couple years since my last sewing phase. With a friend, we drove over to the University of Minnesota’s ReUse Program warehouse on Saturday. Parked in the adjacent lot for $4. Doors opened at 9am and we rolled in a little after 10am; already people were walking out with enormous bags and I panicked on the inside. What if all the good stuff was taken?
The ReUse warehouse is exactly that; a big rectangular building with high shelves of castoffs from the university. Chairs from various eras, sturdy desks, more chairs, lab equipment, the random popcorn machine…did I mention they have a lot of chairs? It’s open to the public on Thursday mornings and their Facebook page lists new items on Wednesdays, often with amusing captions.
Some of the aisles are consequently made wide to allow for forklifts and items that couldn’t make it onto the shelves. They also make a perfect place to hold a textile garage sale. People donate their unwanted textile-related goods – sewing machines, weaving looms, yarn, fabric, etc – and volunteers bravely sort through and price everything the Thursday evening prior. On Friday you can attend a preview sale for $25-35 and Saturday is open to everyone for the more acceptable entry price of $2.
I didn’t need to worry about not finding anything. After my eye adjusted to the dim lighting, two enormous aisles presented themselves. The first was filled with books, magazines, bins of sewing patterns, and sewing machines. The second – as seen below – was filled with yarn, fiber, knitting/weaving/sewing notions, and best of all, A TON OF FABRIC.
A couple of tips when diving through such a divine yet chaotic place:
Bring a snack and a bottle of water
Bring hand sanitizer
Bring a Benedryl if you’re allergic to dust
Bring a tote bag or collapsible shopping cart
Be really, really patient
Anti-anxiety meds are also work great if you hate crowds! Some people had backpacks or wagons, which was smart. I brought a collapsible shopping tote, which worked great but gave me a crick in the neck after walking around a few hours with all the weight on one side. They stamp your hand upon entry so you can walk out and take a breather. They also had a “coat check” where you could check in a big pile of goods before diving in to find more. Smart ladies.
I brought water, but a snack would have helped. Thankfully, I ate breakfast before leaving. Volunteers walked through, bravely trying to re-organize the shelves and tables of fabric and what not. A Sisyphean task, as another wave of shoppers would pick through and create more work.
I took photos on my phone, but they turned out blurry on account of needing more food and a break. My hands were feeling very shaky. Perhaps it was from all the excitement of rooting through so much fabric. Probably a combination of both. Next post is about my finds.
I left work early last Wednesday to drive to my parent’s home. My sister B was visiting with her new baby E so it was a good opportunity to go home.
B had asked me if I could make some bandana bibs for E a few weeks ago. I let her choose a few knit fabrics from Fabric Worm since they sell by the half yard. Some of my friends have had babies in the past few months so I was able to trace out a pattern from a Matimati bib. I forgot to bring a compass – it’s handy for adding seam allowances – but marking every few inches a 1/2 inch seam allowance was easy enough, if more time-consuming.
A bandana bib is clever in that it looks stylish while being functional. I couldn’t figure out how the top layer formed a single pleat that adds a layer of protection against drooling without chafing a baby’s chin. The Matimati bib was made of soft jersey knit on top and a terry-cloth on the bottom, then serged. For the bottom of my bandana bibs, we used cotton flannel that I already owned.
I wanted a cleaner look without the use of a serger so after tracing and cutting the fabric, the right sides were put together and sewn with the wrong sides facing out. Leave a two inch gap along the side – don’t start it at the point of the bandana, start it after sewing an inch or two in – so I could pull it right-side out after trimming the seam allowances and notching the curves. Used= a knitting needle or pencil to poke out the bandana point and along all sides. Press, press, press; poking out the sides and pressing made the bibs look more clean and professional. Hand sew up the gap using a blind stitch. Then added resin snaps from Kam, after making sure they’re facing the right directions for snapping shut.
Mom’s sewing machine was an inexpensive Brother that disliked sewing two layers of different fabric. She didn’t own a walking foot, but I found that laying the bib jersey side down against the feed dogs helped immensely. Her sewing machine also disliked sewing smaller curves like the bib collars, so I would make two or three stitches using the handwheel, lift the presser foot and rotate the bib a few degrees, lower the presser foot and stitch two or three more using the handwheel. While it initially was a pain in the ass, it became a quick and relatively painless process after the second bib.
We got two bibs out of each of the three half-yard pieces. It’s possible you can get three, but we wanted to capture the cuteness of the fabric, especially the animal panel one. B traced and cut the fabric, which is my least favorite part, and also applied the snaps. So it was a fun activity we were able to do together as sisters. It also probably helped in making her realize that she just can’t ask and have hand-made items appear like magic.
Were I to do it again, I would add sheer interfacing to the jersey side instead of the flannel side. The stretchy properties of the jersey make me worry that the snaps will fall out. I had sewn a test bib entirely out of flannel for the friend whose bib I borrowed without it and it seemed fine. I like to think that my hand-made items will last a while.
I also knit a cardigan for E that I’ll share in the next post. It was a great visit home.
Previously, I posted about using McCall’s 7158 as beach cover-up. I ended up making two muslins with two different fabrics: one with a lightweight polyester/cotton blend and the other with a stretch polyester charmeuse. Since Pattern Review doesn’t yet have any reviews on it, I thought I’d take the plunge.
Overall, this pattern is straightforward for those beginning to sew. However, this dress is dependent on fabric choice and it becomes more challenging since it looks best in flowy fabrics like challis, crepe de chine, and linen. The loose fit makes it ideal for casual settings and will be ideal for summery or tropical weather.
Sewing with cotton poly and polyester charmeuse
Fabric choices The first muslin used a gray leopard burnout in a polyester/cotton blend from Fabric Mart, bought in 2012(!). It was $1.99/yard at 60″ width, so I bought nine yards of it but then realized that
None of my wardrobe contains animal print and
It was pretty sheer. I don’t do sheer.
I had a lot of other hobbies then so the interest in sewing faded and this fabric sat around until now.
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Second dress used a coral pink polyester charmeuse from Fabric.com I bought this month. It was intended for making a slip using the favorably reviewed McCall’s 6966 before I realized that both sewing with poly charmeuse for the first time and sewing a bias-cut slip for the first time would result in a headache.
When trying new things, do it one at a time. Like learning to juggle, try juggling first with handkerchiefs or fruit before moving onto knives and chainsaws. You don’t want to end up limbless and hating juggling. I had already sewn the pullover dress in the leopard burnout so making it again with a different fabric was a more sensible approach.
Both fabrics were machine washed and dried beforehand.
Sizing McCall’s 5178 comes in two options and I chose D5, which spans sizes 12-20. I’ve only sewn one complete dress in my life and that was a Burda patterns dress in a 12, because at the time I was still offended that sewing pattern sizing is completely different from ready-to-wear (RTW). You know what was more offensive though? Squeezing myself into a dress that was a size too small, after spending hours sewing it.
Barbara of sewing on the edge recently posted about minimum ease that made total sense:
Remember the cut-her-out-flat and make her round argument? Well this is true, but you need to add in one more thing that makes garment sewing so different from other design activities.
The subject moves and as she moves the shapes change.
Thinking about that, I took the following measurements:
Bust: 35 inches
Waist: 29 inches
Hips: 40.5 inches
Sitting hips: 42.5 inches
The pullover dress is sleeveless, so I don’t have to worry about fitting my shoulders. Based purely on their size chart, I should go with a size 14 on top, and grade to a size 16 on the bottom
The finished garment measurements tell a different story, namely a size 12 is 37″ in the bust while a 14 is 39.5″ in the bust. For the hips, a size 12 is 40.5″ and a 14 is 42.5″ According to Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, you should have 2.5-3″ of ease in a shirt and 2-3″ of ease in a dress. I would have no ease in the hips when sitting with a size 14 but pride won out, so I used a size 12 on top and graded to a size 14 from the waist on.
Sewing process/modifications Traced out the pattern in View A using Swedish Tracing Paper. It’s so much sturdier than tissue paper and allows room for mistakes and re-tracings.
Added 2 inches in length to the waist area to accommodate my long torso.
The side seams were sewn with French seams since it provides a neater finish and I don’t own a serger. This is especially vital for the poly charmeuse as it displayed a tendency to fray like crazy. I sewed a 1/4″ seam with the wrong sides together, pressed, trimmed the seam allowance, folded to the wrong side, pressed, and sewed another 1/4″ seam. The seam allowance is 5/8″ but since I was skirting on the edge with the hip size, saving 1/4″ might help.
With the cotton poly version, I excluded the use of interfacing on the front and back facings. It’s a thin but sturdy fabric. With the poly charmeuse, I skipped the facings entirely because the cutting process was so stressful. I found out that I should have just done it, because hemming polyester charmeuse is a bitch and it looks awful on top.
Sewing with cotton poly and polyester charmeuse
Sewing with the cotton poly blend was all right. It has a low melting point and got shiny in parts where I pressed. Oops. I had to re-cut one of the straps since it became all wrinkly and melted in the burnout parts.
The cotton poly was slightly thinner than quilting cotton. I found that increasing foot pressure slightly helped the stitches look less puckery. I used a 70 /10 universal needle, but it sounded like it was still punching through the fabric.
The poly charmeuse was harder than the cotton poly blend but not as hard as I gathered from the internet. After washing, I laid out the fabric on the floor and sprayed it lightly with spray starch for ironing shirts. After 5 minutes it felt dry to the touch and I sprayed it lightly again. I did this once more for a total of three coats. It felt much stiffer and less slippery.
I also laid out the pattern with tissue paper underneath. Some people warn against folding it, that you ought to trace and cut it flat because it will slither all over the place, but starching seemed to eliminate that. I weighted the pattern down with large washers and other heavy things nearby and used a rotary cutter. It did shift a bit on top so the bodice is slightly off grain but it’s going to live life as a slip.
For this fabric I used a microtex needle and rayon embroidery thread. The thinner, sharper needle combined with thinner thread made it easier to sew. A walking foot also helped greatly.
Facings were not cut for the poly charmeuse and I learned the hard way why you take time to cut facings out. It makes the top of the dress look much more professional and saves time in the long run. It was a hell of a time hemming the top and it resulted in a homemade look.
Finished garments I sewed both using View A, which fall to the top of my knees after adding 2″ in the bodice to accommodate a long torso. The poly cotton was the first version. It turned out well, although it still looks a bit stiff and flared out at the bottom. After trying it on, I realized that I wasn’t going to bring this with me on my trip and didn’t bother to hem it.
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In these photos, I’m wearing a swim suit underneath. It doesn’t cling as much as it did when I wore regular undergarments. There is a lot of fabric in the back, so those with swayback may want to take that into consideration.
The poly charmeuse version is going to live life as a slip. The top finishing just looks so awful. I lopped off three inches from the bottom and hemmed it. I’m happy that the bottom hem isn’t too wavy.
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I had also shortened the straps on this version and noticed where the side bust dart falls. It’s higher on my bust than it should be. On the leopard burnout version, it falls where it should, but the overall top is lower than I like. So keep in mind how deep you want the dress to fall and adjust the bust dart accordingly.
I have another cut of poly charmeuse for the final version, so I will make this once more as beach wear. In real life I wear more structured dresses during the summer, so this will be a one time pattern.
This one looks best in flowy fabrics, which is why I sewed the second a more appropriate fabric. The practice with starching, cutting with rotary blades, and sewing with a microtex needle were really helpful. While the pattern itself is simple, the fabric you use will increase the difficulty. But if you like loose dresses, you might like McCall’s 7158.
Sewing statistics For fun, I’m including cost and numbers associated with these projects. Project time – includes tracing, cutting, pre-washing fabrics, and actual sewing – is roughly calculated, both were sewn an hour or two at a time over the course of two weeks, some days I didn’t sew. For cost, tax not included, I’m not that masochistic about tracking expenses.
Yardage sewn: approximately 3 yards
Project hours: 12 hours
Pattern cost: $3.95
Fabric cost: Leopard burnout (1.5 yards x $1.99) + Stretch charmeuse (1.5 yards x $5.98) = $11.96
This post functions for future references when I talk about fit in sewing projects, instead of rehashing the same shit over and over again.
Yes it is awkward to share my measurements on the internet, but giving numbers is more helpful when talking about the good and bad components of a sewing pattern. It’s puzzling to me when people talk about fit in terms of the numeric size without relating to their body.
Body type diagnosis
Average height, long torso, short legs, broad shoulders, generous behind.
Ready-to-wear (RTW) issues
Dresses labelled as mini are even shorter, as my torso and butt take up most of the fabric.
Dresses with defined waists can hang too high above my actual waist. Forget about baby doll/skater dresses, they look infantile
Shirts are too short. Cropped tops are out, because in my world, most tops are cropped.
Shirts with defined waists hang too high
Boyfriend-fit button-downs are great because the baggier fit means they’ll accommodate my shoulders. Often shirts will fit great in the bust but I size up due to tightness in the shoulder.
Pants are too long. 30″ inseams work well, as well as using ankle pants as regular length pants. Depends on the cut of the leg and leg opening though.
Add 2-2.5″ inches to the torso
None other known as of yet
With the confirmation of a trip to Florida at the end of March, I suddenly had a legitimate sewing goal: beach wear! Traditionally, I’ve shied away from beach wear for several reasons:
My clothing tastes run utilitarian; I often will throw a cotton tank and short over my swim suit because I can wear them later.
I don’t think about buying ready-to-wear beach wear, I’d rather spend my money on everyday garments. While there are 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, it’s only warm enough for three months of the year to swim in them.
Ready-to-wear beach wear is often expensive yet made from cheap-feeling fabrics
However, beach wear is also low stakes. Flowy caftans, elastic-waist pullovers, blousey tunics; those are approachable projects from a sewing perspective. Especially for beginners or for the anxiety-ridden. Fucking up is all right – you’ll shed them at the beach anyway – and there are no advanced fit challenges as long as you can measure your bust.
My internet search history took a drastic turn. There were many visits to the Big 4 sewing pattern sites and perusing of fabric stores. There were so many choices and so many poorly styled/drawn pattern covers to choose from.
I initially dismissed McCall’s 7158 on account of it being a maxi dress – too much fabric to deal with wearing – and the eye-searing pattern they used on the cover.
On a second pass, I took a closer look at the line art. Views A and B were mid-thigh and knee-length, respectively. Four major pieces. Depending on the fabric choice, possibly a multi-tasker; that is, I could wear it outside of going to the beach. This last part appealed to me, since I plan on traveling light.
McCall’s 7158 description: Pullover dresses (close-fitting through bust) have shoulder strap and upper back variations, and narrow hem.
Recommended fabrics: FABRICS: Challis, Crepe de Chine, Linen, Gauze.
I’d been slowly collecting cuts of flowy, summery fabrics like rayon challis for an earlier beach wear contender, Colette Pattern’s Mojave dress from their Seamwork magazine. That project didn’t turn out – more on that later – but it gave me a springboard to start on this new project.
Since late spring of last year, my interest in sewing had been slowly piquing. A friend and I enrolled in a sewing class at Crafty Planet to make Colette Patterns’ Moneta dress as a way to get together socially. Though I did come away with a finished dress, it’s been worn only once. I was rushed at the end of the second and last class and there were a lot of gross sewing mistakes because of it. As lackluster of a project, it got me excited enough to think about sewing again.
I learned to sew in Home Economics in seventh grade. Our teacher Mrs. Shirley Phister was old school and seemed to come from and currently live in a different era. From her I learned to hand sew (poorly) and use a sewing machine. I came away with a shitty fish magnet, an ugly cat pillow, a wonderful baggy sweatshirt I wore many times, a pair of boxer shorts, and a drawstring backpack my sister “borrowed” forever. Since then, there’ve been stops and starts to my sewing. I want this one to last a while.
Before Christmas, I made several of Grainline Studio’s Stowe Bag. I made the small version. Directions were relatively clear, save the last part about sewing a bottom gus
set. This photo shows the first version I made using some fabric from the Hancock’s Fabric in Madison some years back. It’s from Japan and heavily printed to the point where it’s quite stiff. This would limit its application as a garment fabric, but I bought based on how the fabric looked, not what I would use it for. Perfect for a little bag, however.
The trickiest part is making the bias tape. You can of course just buy a package, but it’s one of those things I wanted to learn. I had a 3/4″ bias tape maker from Clover that worked out well. It was still too narrow for me to sew properly, mainly because of edgestitching, so now a 1″ bias tape maker is a part of my arsenal.
Sewing bags instead of garments comes more easily to me. I had plans to make a holiday dress, but that’s now on the backburner for next year. It’s much easier to buy fabric and dream about what I’ll make versus actually doing it. There’s a lot of anxiety to starting projects, a lot of which is attributed to ADD. I’m learning slowly how to deal with that.
At the end of this month, I’ve got a short trip to Florida. The goal is to sew at least one garment for it.