sewing t-shirts, a tutorial

I promised a few people a little blog regarding sewing with knits; here goes. My oldest requested a shirt in “earthy” tones. I had just enough in my stash to make them one. The natural-colorway was from a piece of organic bamboo yardage given to me by a friend; the brown was from a 100% organic cotton t-shirt I thrifted (I used most of the shirt to make a headband for my mother). In both cases once I cut out the shirt pattern pieces I ended up with only a small portion scraps to compost. I love it that I use fabric so economically.

Squinky

The pattern I’m demonstrating here is the Tea for Two from Patterns by Figgy’s (and while I’m at it – seriously? You could not find a couple of better people to help the beginning sewist achieve rugged yet stylish, boutique, unique home-sewn awesomeness!). Regardless of whether you use this pattern or another, the techniques used here should benefit anyone attempting to home-sew a t-shirt.

Knits are tricky. So many sewists claim to “whip up a t-shirt on the serger” – but the truth is, for most of us it takes time to get proficient at knits, especially those with a high degree of stretch. Many home sewists don’t even own a serger (or they own one and don’t know how to use it). I hasten to add, a serger is not needed to make great knitwear. The following tutorial regards making a t-shirt on a sewing machine. It needs only a zig zag function to achieve good results (a width of 0.5 – 1.0 and a length of 3.0 was used for this shirt).

One of the best tricks I know to make t-shirt sewing go easier (especially on a tricky fabric) is to stabilize the seam allowances. This means “painting” a solution on the seam allowances and allowing them to dry. This solution ensures that the knit will not roll nor be sucked into the feed dogs of the machine. It’s not a necessary step to sewing with t-shirt knits, but one that makes things a lot easier. In addition to creating an easier sewing experience, I have found the stitch formed on stabilized knits “floats” on the fabric (instead of being pulled into it). Not all knits need this treatment (a sturdy or non-stretch knit may not), but for my slim-fit t-shirt with the very stretchy, soft bamboo it made the whole process easier.

To stabilize the seams you can either purchase a water soluble spray-on stabilizer or a stabilizer by the yard. If you choose the latter, you simply dissolve a small amount in water to create a solution then “paint” the edges of your pattern pieces (shown below in a moment). In this case, I am sewing with a 1/4″ seam allowance so I stabilized about 3/8″ on each seam.

Which seams do you have to stabilize? Those that will be travelling across the feed dogs of the machines. For this pattern, this means all edges except the sleeve and shirt hems (which remain unfinished). I stabilized the short ends of the neckband as well, given as a last step in this pattern the neckband edges have to be topstitched closed in a little rectangle and I figured, “Why not?”. The neckband in general does not need to be stabilized as it is rarely against the machine (when you attach the band it will be the shirt bodice that travels across the machine surface) and it needs to stretch quite a bit to perform its function (which is to “snap back” after sewing and bring the shirt edge in to hug the neck).

Here’s a little photo-explanation of stabilizing (click each photo for more information):
Stabilizing Solution, Part 1 Stabilizing Solution, Part 2 Stabilizing Solution, Part 3

After you’ve stabilized your seam allowances, you must let the pattern pieces dry. Give it overnight or, if you’re in a hurry, carefully put the pieces in front of a heat source (don’t burn your house down!). When the seams are dry, they will have a stiff edge to them. They may even be a bit waffle-y. Don’t worry about that, as on the machine they will sew up beautifully. Here is an example of the texture change resultant from the stabilizing process. It’s a bit difficult to see but it’s obvious to the touch (the green thread is the tailor’s tacks I use for pattern markings):
Stabilizing, Once Dry

Now we’re all ready to sew!

In the Tee for Two pattern, the first seams sewn are those of the sleeves to the front and back bodice. I chose to do Option B. of the pattern – that is, a raw-edge, topstitched seam. This means first sewing the sleeve seams wrong sides together. The sleeve seams are curved – one generally a “convex” curve (the shirt bodice) and one generally a “concave” curve (the sleeve piece). The way you pin and sew these seams will make a difference in the ease of sewing. When pinning curves that have opposite lines (concave vs. convex), pin such that you’ll be sewing with the convex curve against the machine. To look at it another way, the curves will often look like they won’t match (don’t worry, if you cut accurately they will). Whichever seam looks like it has more fabric to be taken up during stitching, pin and place this piece against the machine. The natural action of the feed dogs will help subtly gather it (in the below photo, the brown is the sleeve, the natural-colorway the bodice. You can see the concave and convex curves):
Pinning & Stitching Curves

When sewing – any time when sewing, but especially with a picky knit – hold the thread tails before you sew. This actually take a bit of practice. But if you don’t, your machine will often pull the thread tails into the machine’s throat plate. You’ll end up with a snarled-up bunch of thread and sometimes an ugly, bunchy seam. Observe the results when the thread tails were properly restrained:
The Importance Of Thread Tails, Part 1

After you sew each seam, you should steam press for best results. In general, it is always a good idea to “set the seam”, then press. “Setting the seam” is a technique I learned in a quilting class. It means pressing the seam just as sewn, before you turn it up and topstitch or whatever is next. Fabric is not two-dimensional but 3D – “setting the seam” helps integrate the seam into the structure of the garment (in this photo you can also see the nature of the zig zag that works well with stretchy knit sewing):

After you set the seam, go ahead and finger press it open and press with the iron again, this time in the formation you’ll want it in before proceeding. In this case, the seam allowances are pressed toward the bodice and then top-stitched down for a deconstructed-look finish. Since the seams are curved, it makes sense to use a tailor’s ham (although this is rather optional):
Press Curves On A Tailor's Ham

The final touch in the raglan bodice/sleeve seams is the topstitching with the raw edge finish. I chose to do this from the inside of the shirt. This is because the stabilized portion of the pattern pieces would be travelling across the feed dogs. When I tried this from the outside of the shirt (as you typically do with topstitching) the seam process distorted the fabric and made a wonky seam, so I flipped the shirt. As long as you go slowly and make sure to gently pull the seam open, sewing from the backside of the garment lends a good result:
Topstitching Sleeve Seams

Since I made the “puff sleeve” version of the garment, the next steps in the pattern were to gather the raw edges of the sleeve hem into the two strips that will form the finished sleeve. This is done by a long basting stitch on the sleeve’s raw edge to gather the sleeve, then applying the two edge strips simultaneously. Again, the importance of securing the thread tails before you sew will result in a clean finish:
The Importance Of Thread Tails, Part 2
After attaching the sleeve strips, you press them together (hiding the raw edges of the sleeve end) and topstitch. Easy-peasy!
Sleeve Band Topstitch
For a more subtle finish, you could use a matching thread instead of the contrast I have done here.

The side seam is one of the last remaining aspects to shirt construction. I elected to do a typical finish – that is stitch it right-sides together, then finish the inside seam allowances for sturdiness. One nice thing with a knit is you usually only have to pin at the top and bottom of a seam. Go slowly and stretch to fit and you’ll have lovely results. I sewed at a 1/2″ seam allowance (instead of the pattern’s 1/4″), because I knew my skinny-minnie daughter would fit just fine, and I wanted to trim the seam down to a clean edge before finishing the seams:
Side Seams

After trimming, and then stitching along the seam allowances:
Reinforcement

The neckline is probably the trickiest part of this particular pattern, but it is an ingenious little treatment that not only looks fabulous but is a lot less trouble than most self-finished necklines. Two strips are sewn, one at a time, first to the outside of the garment than the inside. Both strips are simply overlapped at each short end. The outside strip is sewn at a slightly wider seam allowance. Thus when you press up both strips the seamline will cover itself. The only thing that remains is to sew a tiny rectangle, anchoring the overlapped ends of the neckband at the back-left shoulder.

So first, pinning:
Pinning First Neckband
I always imagine your Beginner stitcher is alarmed at this point. The neckband of shirts is always so much smaller than the shirt opening! But, that’s the point. This strip, cut against the knit grain, will pull the shirt neckline in to lie flat on the body. Again, you sew with the strip facing up and the shirt neckline against the machine. Carefully pin at a few places and stretch and the whole thing comes together like a dream.

Neckline Sewing

Although the pattern doesn’t have this extra step, after attaching each neckline strip I prefer to trim the seam at 3/16″ from the innermost seam, then press up and topstitch:
Trimming

Here’s the best trick I know regarding topstitching: go slow! Very few of us make “perfect” topstitching but the slower you go, and the more you practice, the better things will look.

Finally, stitch the little rectangle at the back-left shoulder seam where the strips overlapped. The best thing about this little square is it will look different every time. It’s like a signature:
Neckline Finish
Finally, either wash by hand or throw in the washing machine and dryer to rid the fabric of the crunchy stabilizer. Then present your client with their new shirt! After the cutting and stabilizing aspects of construction (which I typically do the night before and take about a half hour), the shirt takes less time to sew than it took me to write out this tutorial. It’s a quick and lovely creation.
Raglan Sleeve Finish

Neckline Quack
Soft Bamboo
At Her Best
You can see my Flickr tagset, including more details of construction, here.

volunteer efforts

I’ve been busy; tonight and the night before I logged in time volunteering at The 7th Street Theatre here in Hoquiam; last night I was up late (verrry late) baking up a storm for today’s Birth Fair at the HQX Library (Ralph and I both attended the discussion and were all loudmouthy and birthy while our kids read and entertained themselves upstairs in the library for 2.5 hours).

Most exciting to me personally, I finished my very first pattern test for my friend’s fledgling pattern company, Patterns by Figgy’s (you can look at way too many Flickr photos in my tagset).

Askance
Tummy
Hace Viento

I can say without reserve this pattern is drafted in a most excellent fashion; in particular I love the lines of the sleeve and the topstitched raw-edge details. It also sewed up very quickly, in about a half hour. I stabilized my pattern seam allowances first using a technique my mother-in-law told me about – dissolving some sheet stabilizer in water and “painting” it along the edges (I also used some of my spray stabilizer, with is almost the same thing). After letting the pieces dry it was much easier to sew on the stretchy knit than it would have been otherwise.

Whenever I plug my camera in to retrieve photos I find pictures by my kids. Wacky pictures.
Goofball Sister
Modern Dentistry
Ralph, Kitchen
Nutty
They suffer small and delightful insanities.

“couched” in mediocrity *

I’m handsewing more. It’s a learning experience. Learning that I suck at handsewing. Whatever. By this “whatever” I mean as follows: I think I am this incredibly bush-league person who gets decent enough at a variety of talents but ever gets very good at any particular thing.  This previous sentence is fact; the part that’s interesting is I struggle with accepting my fair-to-middling-ness.  I feel guilty that I never reach Awesome.  Yet it isn’t even that I’m unwilling or unable to put the time in to do something really well. It’s just that at a certain point I plateau and can’t / don’t push past it. This is Me; this is my life (Trust me – Cooking! Yoga! Blow jobs!). It kind of makes me feel terrible and it kind of makes me laugh.

I am working on being grateful for a body that works and for a life where I can exercise my creativity and impulsivity.  These are wonderful forces in my life.

Sea-Snail Wrist Pincushion

Today I made a sweet-enough little wrist pincushion (recognize the fabric for the applique’d patch?). For stitchers these devices are quite useful (you keep needles and pins handy instead of buried under piles of fabric alongside your work station or wherever else). I’d love to gift this to someone; I am not sure who though. I sized it to fit my rather small wrist (6 1/2″) and slip over my, shall we say, petite (= stubby) hands.

I like up-close pictures of stitching work because the way these pictures look is how I feel when I am sewing and things are going well:

Stitchery

(You can see more delicious up-close photos of this project here at the Flickr tagset.)

My daughter is having intermittent bouts of difficulty. She has grown to be a very good citizen who is also at times very hard on herself.  I seem to be a source of her power and a source of her self-hatred.  She is alternatively child-like and affectionate to me, then suddenly deeply troubled and wounded.  Her hurt surfaces even at times when I have done nothing, in that moment, to hurt her. Nevertheless I know this is my fault because I have not been a gentle parent. I try to wait patiently for her. I try to do better as a parent. It is hard.

I seek to surround myself with humane parents.  Because I look around me and see so many who act as if their children are these huge impositions in their life.  The kids are messy or “rude” or they crawl into bed at night and they Need To Learn Limits. Etc. Etc. I see so many non-parents act as if children are obtuse, messy, smelly, clumsy, “rude”, scary, sub-human, second-class citizens.  It is a grave disservice we do to our children.  They are people first and foremost.  So many of us are too tiny, pent-up, and fearful to do better by them.

These days my sins are not those of a person who does not recognize the Sacred within my children (and all other people), but rather a person who has a hard time just slowing down to Be. This is the gift my daughter needs. I hope I can give it to her the next time she feels open to requiring me.

* Because that blue/gold bit on the pincushion is a couched stitch! Hahahaha… ha… heh. Eh. Meh.

Brooklyn, a tank top: repurposing

Killa Zilla

My daughter seems to love the little knit camisoles and tanks I’ve made her.  The Brooklyn tank top was the next project as listed in my Farbenmix sew-up project, and yet the weather is not really tank-top weather. I chose to make a double-layer tank, providing more warmth than it might first appear.  Yesterday Sophie layered it under a close-fitting jean jacket. She survived outdoor walks in the wind and indoor frolics in the dance studio equally well.

Sophie / Dance Studio Mirror

Good quality knits hold up well during their usage, do not pill, and have intelligible grainlines to work with.  Purchasing good-quality knits isn’t exactly easy unless you live in a city and know where to find them.  You can order online but then, since you are not able to feel and see the fabric, you are at a slight disadvantage.  I do order fabrics online, but when I am matching something I prefer to see them in the flesh.  Case in point: nine yards of silk velvet burnout are on their way to my house for a bellydancing skirt.  I won’t purchase fabric to make a coordinating top until I can carry a swatch of the skirt fabric around in my hand.

Back to this tank top: fortunately, finding very nice-quality t-shirts is an option where I live because we have a few wonderful thrift stores.  These shirts are from Thrift City here in Aberdeen and are high-end brands in Pima cotton.

At first I’d thought to dress this top up a bit.  I’ve been sewing a bit of Alabama Chanin projects – making an armchair pincushion for a practice run – and I thought to decorate the bodice with reverse applique.  After experimenting with both hand- and machine-sewn versions, I decided to just keep the shirt simple.  It wasn’t working out for me.  To put it politely.

Instead I added a couple subtle tucks at the hem of the outer jersey fabric to expose the dusty rose of the underlayer. The double-layer makes for a sturdy garment; the soft hand makes for a very cozy shirt for my girl.

Pink / Pink / Pink

This top was very easy to sew.  If you are a beginner sewing with jerseys, I might suggest using strips of stabilizer or a stabilizing spray when you are sewing directly on the jersey (my mother-in-law tells me you can dissolve scraps of stabilizer in water and use it as a DIY spray or paint to stabilize. I am sure this works, and it is cheaper than buying a stabilizing spray). Your aim in using these products will be to stabilize the edges of the jersey.  Such persnickety handling is not needed for the entire project; for instance, after you’ve attached the trim and are topstitching it things go easily without stabilizing (the woven fabrics are against the feed dogs).

This brings me to my favorite aspect of this project.  The notable thing about this top was the construction of the trim.  I chose to use a woven fabric on the bias, as opposed to a knit.  For any novice stitchers reading here, bias trim is made from long strips cut on the bias of the fabric and used at hemlines and seamlines or as detail. These bias strips serve as ties and trim both.  Using the bias is important, as only then will a woven perform a bit of stretch and can easily go around a curve; a strip cut on the straight-of-grain would not work well at all.

In this version, you attach the 1 1/4″ strip’s long edge to the right-side of the garment edge, flip the trim to the backside, and triple zig-zag topstitch all layers:

New Bias Trick For Knits
A triple zig-zag is a thready stitch, but such a great one with knits. You can pretty much use it with impunity. The results are a firm, slightly stretchy, and very sturdy trim application.  Given I have a very small stash of fabric, a project like this is perfect for using scraps to trim the top.

Tie Close-Up, Brooklyn Tank Top
¡Que bonita!

You can read a few more details in my Flickr tagset.

stitch by stitch

Yesterday at Homeschool Sports a new mama took me in to talk to. I am gradually getting to know these parents one at a time. I’m in no hurry as I’m not particularly needy for friends right now. Anyway, I’d noticed this woman before but she always seemed engrossed in conversation with other mothers.  In case you’re not a lady, I might point out that in social scenarios it’s easy to get one’s feelings hurt if you aren’t embraced into the fold – to wonder if people are clique-ing and clustering up and eschewing you.  Day two of sitting on the bleachers with everyone else talking and you away alone and you start to think they all hate you, or judge you, or are happier and more well-adjusted than you, or bitchier and narrow-minded, or whatever.

And it’s almost always just not true. Case in point: I’m the only non-Christian lifestyle parent at this function – as far as I know – and definitely the only woman with tacky hair and the proclivity to say words like “cock” (often).  More relevant or close to my heart (okay, “cock” is pretty close to my heart, but still) I believe (could be wrong) I’m also the only matriarch shrugging at “traditional” homeschooling whilst fully embracing self-directed learning. And don’t get me wrong, at times these can feel like huge differences.  I could choose to feel like an outcast or all Special Snowflake or Different.  But that’s not my style.  I know I’m not any more special than these ladies; they may church-talk like no one’s business and wear classy yet understated fashion but they are not the Borg and I am not all misunderstood and awesomely weird and “So-Called Life” Different. We’re all mothers, women, people and the only way we can know what we have in common (more than we might like to admit) is to talk to one another.

I think I asked this woman A. a question – I can’t remember what question exactly – but I’m glad I did because she was one of those people with a lot of experiences and opinions – on a variety of subjects.  In fact A. talked so much and jumped from subject to subject so rapidly as to make me look positively inarticulate and wallflower-y. Within a few sentences she asked me if I was a Christian. I can’t remember exactly what I said (I should have bellowed out, “Ma’am I am tonight!”) but within the next few minutes she, a Biblical fundamentalist, was talking about the difference between her and other Biblical fundamentalist who are too fundamentalisty, more Bible-exacting (long skirts, long hair worn up, no mainstream music) and too… something.  I felt a little jet-lag as I was thrust into the conversation of fringe Christian, which although disconcerting at times interestingly enough has a lot in common with my own views (namely, a fierce defense of family and the position that our children are not primarily the State’s children).  A. was mother to seven children, the oldest being 20 and the youngest looking about 2.  She was a veteran homeschooler and a passionate person.  I like passionate people.  I was glad to talk with her.  The little homeschooling group has been a much-looked-forward-to date during my week.

I’ve been more or less sucessfully hand-sewing.  It’s different than machine sewing; mostly in that I can sit in the living room instead of in my sewing studio. During the day my work seems to calm the children.  They like having me there.  My latest project was an armchair pincushion, mad practical:

Alabama Chanin Pincushion

Alabama Chanin Pincushion, Close-Up

LoveFool
The entire time I was trying to take a picture of the above, the Love-Cat kept getting in the way. Wanting Love. More Love. There is never enough Love for her. Unless there’s Food. Then she wants that more. When she’s done with that? Back to Love.

of needlesharp ire

Yesterday in my belly dancing class we learned to hold the veil and work with it while dancing. Holding the veil hurt the claw part of my hand, because I’ve been handsewing more of late.  The pain in my extremeties served a bittersweet reminder of my love and bondage; it spoke aloud of something that will be with me for the life I have, as long as I’m able:

Because I love sewing. Times one million.

I’ve been sewing since tempus immemoria, i.e. always.  And over the years I’ve been annoyed by, to some extent large or small, the following:

1.  The elitist, sizeist, racist, ableist, etc. buffet our current glut of craft books and websites are serving up. This needs so much unpacking I had to write up a separate post.

2.  “You should / could sell those!” Really?  Because I’ve never heard anyone say that before.  Or no wait, I hear it all the time.

I understand this is delivered as a compliment 99.44% of the time.  That’s cool.  And it’s interesting that from the lips of so many springs the concept that the ultimate compliment is deigning my work fit for commoditization or earning potential.  Huh.

A tip: those who sell things usually mass-produce them at some level.  This is not for everyone.  Some of us who sew shudder at the very thought of making two identical pillowcases (hello!), let alone churning out one after another diaper cover. Some sewists thrive on this sort of thing, sure. I personally know several. But when someone spies my crayon roll- up (genius!) and says you should sell those, they don’t seem to realize if I took their “advice” I’d be making a bunch of crayon roll-ups instead of other stuff, and the resultant item would be something that would either end up being more expensive than I could unload easily, or it would necessitate a whole wholesale fabric / factory-style construction / mailing center / production workshop.  And me making the same thing over and over.  And: no.

These days I simply smile and say, “If I sold them I wouldn’t have time to sew for my family.”  Ralph says I’m getting good at this.

What I say to other crafters:

“Wow, that’s fantastic.”
“How long did that take you to make?”
“Do you sell those?”
“I’m impressed.  How long have you been making those?”

3. “My mom/Granny/whomever used to make all our clothes.” Really? Did she do anything else, ever? Did she bonsai kitten you into a glass jar so you didn’t grow?

I have no doubt some moms (grandmothers, aunts, fathers, etc. etc.) did in fact make close to 100% of their progeny’s garments (though: socks? underwear? shoes? really?). However the number of times I hear this, I’m pretty sure many have exaggerated. Before I sewed a lot I used to say this about my own childhood wardrobe and I think I’ve even heard my mom say it. Until I look at the pictures in the photo album and yeah, I’m rockin’ some homemade digs but a lot of non-homemade stuff too.  To the extent cheap labor and crappy enviro-pillage occurs it’s currently a bit cheaper to buy ready-made (although not necessarily quality) than the materials and time-effort going into homemade.  This wasn’t always the case, though, and some people did used to sew quite a bit.

It annoys me to hear it because it’s all part of a conversation that cheapens the time and effort needed for high-quality, sturdy clothes. As if a half-hour a day thrown here or there could clothe a growing family.

What you could consider saying to crafters instead:

“My mom/Granny/whomever used to sew clothes for me. I loved (/hated) them!”
“How much time did it take to make that?”
“How much time do you spend sewing?”
“I seem to remember my mom made so much of our clothing. I wonder why so few do so now.”

4. “Will you make me one of those?  I could pay you [ some incredibly small amount for your time and the materials ].”

These days I will do it for free or not at all.  Because first off, again, my goals do not include earning currency. Secondly, if I charged someone a fair price it would be more than most people are willing to pay (trust me!).  So the offer of $25 for a full dress and pintucked pinafore, including fabric costs, is insulting (true example!).  But a request for a gift is flattering (I may not say yes, but it never hurts to ask).

5.  “OMG I would love to sew but I just don’t have time.”

Right.  I have loads of it to spare!  Why don’t I come over and do the rest of your lifework so you can sew, if you’re not too busy!

OK, no more sarcasm, but: Hey guess what!  I made all that time!  I elbowed other things out of the way!  It has been long, mostly joyous, occasionally hard, haul! It’s not like I just had time lying around!

6. “OMG, did you make that?  That is so cool!  I totally want to sew but I just can’t get past blah-blah, one time I made such-and-such, and everyone loved it blah-blah”

My sewing is All About You, so thank you!

7.  “You need new curtains?  Why don’t you just make them?  You can sew anything!”

FUCK YOU*, I totally hate sewing lots of things, including home dec, duvets, cushion-covers, etc. Just because I can make things doesn’t mean it wouldn’t kill my soul to undertake the effort (recent potholder-fail, I am looking at you!).

[ / asshattery, mine ]

* I don’t literally think “Fuck you” towards hardly anyone, it’s more like I think “fuck you” towards curtains.

Riviera, leggings: construction and fit in simple knit garments

Perfectamundo!

Leggings are, to quote Mugatu, “so hot right now”!  Even if they go out of vogue for the adult fashion set, they’ll always be practical for children.  You can use them for play wear, costumes, or pajamas, and they’re smart in the Northwest where layering clothes is de rigueur for our capricious weather swings.

Leggings come in about three fits (your terminology may vary): loose, fitted, and footless tight (or negative fit).  The Riviera leggings in the Farbenmix book are pretty much just what you might understand by the book’s photos – that is, a legging in between loose and fitted.  This makes perfect sense for children’s garments when you want them to last more than one season.  If you were sewing these leggings for an adult, he/she might not like such a relaxed silhouette.

Knit fabrics that work well for fitted or footless tight style will have a sufficient bit of “spring” to them.  This isn’t rocket science, and you can test it in the fabric store.  Simply pull aross the stretchy grain and release: you want to see a bit of “snap”.  You can certainly sew leggings up in something with less elasticity but they may bag slightly during wear – and if sufficiently un-springy (like a 100% cotton), they may retain a knee-shape (this reason is why I hate stretch jeans – even with a tiny bit of spandex in them, they are significantly looser at stress points by the end of one wearing).

Leggings are usually made with one pattern piece, roughly a six-sided kite-shape.  The top and bottom represent half the waist and the full leg hem, resp.  There is a front and back crotch curve at the top of each piece, and the long “kite” leg sides of the piece represent the inseam.

Here is my general methodology for leggings: reinforcing all construction seams, I finish each leg first (hems and all), then turn one leg inside out, slip a right-side out legging into it, and sew them together at the crotch.  I then construct the waistband, which is the trickiest part.  I will detail in the following paragraph but – don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed, as a method will likely be detailed (with pictures) in any pattern worth its salt.

Reinforcing seams:

Reinforce Seams

To construct the waistband.  I first make a tag in the back of the leggings (otherwise simple pants, without a fly or pockets to guide you, can be tricky to tell front from back).  I cut elastic to the comfortable waist measurement (either using my intended, or taking a waist measurement minus an inch or two), stitch the elastic together at the short ends, and mark both the elastic and the pants hems in quarters.  I slip the elastic “loop” into the pants and pin at the quarter marks, pinning the stitched-together elastic at the back seam of the leggings (below photo, tag included).  Then I stitch the top of the elastic to the raw edge of the leggings with the legging fabric against the feed dogs, stretching the elastic as I go (I first take a few stitches before stretching to secure the seam).  You can use a simple zig zag or a three-step zig zag for the waistband stitches.  After the elastic is secured at the top edge I simply fold the whole business down to the inside of the pants, then stitch again, stretching the legging fabric again.  Easy – especially after you’ve practiced a bit.

Preparing To Attach Waistband

My methodology is more or less the methodology outlined in the Farbenmix book.  The waistband recommended for the Riviera leggings is sport elastic.  I used the 1 1/4″ channeled sport elastic I use for sewing the kids’ boxer shorts.  It’s very soft and supple and easy to work with.

Sewing elastic to knits is easy and, once you get the hang of it, very fun.  For instance, the dress Sophie is wearing in the finished-garment photos is a GAP size 0 rayon number we purchased for $5 at Pure Clothing in Hoquiam.  The dress, being an adult size, was too large in the chest and strap length.  I sewed the straps shorter, cut off the excess, and added some 1/4″ elastic to the top of the dress.  These alterations took about fifteen minutes together and now Sophie has a stylish playdress (if you want to watch a tutorial on sewing elastic to stretchy knits, Brian Remlinger, my favorite sewist to stalk, has an excellent tutorial of a fast, effective method).

I made only one ruche (pronounced “roosh”) on the leggings.  This is because I still do not have a rolled hem plate for my serger (my local vendor keeps forgetting to order me one) so it’s not all that fun to finish edges of fabrics that require slender hems.  I simply did a zig-zag; the fabric isn’t going to ravel or anything.  The busy pattern of the fabric also hides any less-than-professional stitch-business:

Attaching A ROOOOOOSH

My daughter loved the leggings – once she saw they were ready she changed into them.  They fit her perfectly both in size and in attitude.

You can read more details of construction at my Riviera Flickr tagset.


Tough.
Glee-Glee
Leap!

Pegasus/Unicorn Roller Skating Birthday Party

let’s not make it a habit

Oh my goodness – I bought a book! I did! I never do this! As in, if you come to my house you will see the smallest-ever little pile of books, because we are so incredibly selective about the ownership of said libros! I have literally never known of anyone who had fewer books!  (Pssst, there’s this secret thing called a library, they totally give you books – for free! and then you don’t have to own them and have them clutter up your house! It’s crazy!)

But purchase a volume I did, just yesterday – and it arrived today (speedy!).  The book: Sewing Clothes Kids Love: Sewing Patterns and Instructions for Boys’ and Girls’ Outfits (that is one decidedly non-catchy title, bro).

I bought the book for a two compelling reasons: 1. the styles, techniques, and layer-ability of the resultant garments are stellar matches for my children’s preferences and lifestyle (that is: active!), and 2. at $16 with free shipping, ten multi-sized patterns, and tons of directions for modifications and embellishments, the price and convenience of doorstop-delivery were “compelling… and rich”.  Today at lunch as the kids colored their coloring books and worked on math worksheets I flipped through the book and drooled – the Manhattan Special Occasion Dress!  The Avalon Jacket! – and reconsidered some of my upcoming sewing projects (my girl’s birthday, see below) to accommodate breaking into the pattern sheets.

In other news: we’re busy planning Sophie’s birthday festivities, which include a shared Unicorn / Pegasus skate party – Sophie (turning 8), and Michael, Ralph’s drummer (turning 22). If you don’t think this late-night roller skating party is going to be so incredibly awesome, well.  You’re wrong. And stuff.

Kids, late-night, roller skates, sugar-snacks, costume horns!
Kids, late-night, roller skates, sugar-snacks, costume horns!

Yes, I made my first pair of assless chaps!

OK, this is an inside joke in my household (yes, I know chaps are assless). These beauties were an entry for the Instructables / Etsy SewUseful contest (Instructables is having server timeouts – as soon as I’m able to, I will link to the tutorial posted there).

Bike Chaps Deployed
Now you see ’em…

Bike Chaps Stealth Mode
Now you don’t! How about the “stealth mode”?

Pocket!
I made a pocket to hold an iPod shuffle – on the right side, sorry southpaws. I love sewing patch pockets. Other pockets, not so much.

Ties
I think this was actually the last project I successfully sewed on my old Singer – it’s top and bottom tension assemblies are sad and I can’t make them work. I need to get it into a shop.

Belt Of Bike Chaps
Messing about with waist strap length. Webbing is easy to sew. I did a three-sectioned strap for waist, thighs, and knees, that included elastic as the middle section of the strap. They are comfy and won’t come loose.

So, silly as this is, there is actually an Etsy listing for this item and it is for sale (it was a requirement for the contest). So now I have an Etsy shop. As if I want to start selling anything! But… my shop looks empty. So I’m thinking it over… I’m not going to be another tote bag / cloth pad / caddy-of-some-sort artiste, we have enough far more talented and inspired in those venues than I.