Knot your average top – cute and cropped

Love a top with a twist. The plot thickens a little more with this version.

Today, I am writing about one of my very first PDF patterns. This one that was similar to a favorite ready to wear top I found at a high end department store on vacation. It was my very first 5 out of 4 pattern, and I was really curious how it was made. The rest of my PDF journey has been a blast! You can find the pattern at my affiliate link here.
This version was made five years ago. Compliments every time I wear it!

When teaching a KYA class locally a few years ago, we talked about how cute the pattern would be if it were shortened to a shrug length. It really looked amazing on all of my students, and was perfect for my daughter in her nursing days, so today, I tried it! I used the Front Top Piece and a shortened back piece. Hemmed the back to match the front on the sides. Easy Peasy!

Added a band to the neckline of the light pink version.

The next fabric I chose is a very lightweight rayon spandex. I wanted a sturdy edge for the neck and hem, so I cut a pair of two inch tall strips as wide as the width of fabric in order to make a band that firmed up the edges of the garment. It was a quick and fun sew, and I have enjoyed wearing it over my Virginia tank all day. You can make one too!

Make the back as short as you like.
  1. Determine how long you would like the back piece to be. I chose to have a back piece that was 7 inches from the arm pit corner of the back piece down the side. I did not cut the back straight across, I curved it down so that the center back was a little more than an inch longer than the side seam. Trace a new pattern piece, and get help holding it up to see if it lands where you would like it.
  2. Stitch the shoulder seams.
  3. Serge the first band (folded in half hot dog style) to the neckline of the top. leave 3-4 inches of the band unsewn . Partial seams can be useful. Stitch across the front diagonal edge , round the back of the neck, and back down across the other front diagonal. Rather like a wrap front. I held the band slightly taut, and had a few inches left over on each side. There is probably a ratio for this, maybe 90-95%. Except, I did not serge the band all the way to the edge. I stopped short about three to four inches from each end.

You can find more on partial seams at this post about the wye seam.

Partially serged neckband.
  1. Top stitch the band around the neck, except start and stop a couple inches from the serged seam. I used a triple stitch.
  2. Neatly finish the long straight edge of the Front Top Bodice, mark the halfway point and two inches towards either side of the half way point.
  3. Same as the pattern instructions, fold one of the Front Top Bodice pieces in half and sew the seam from the open edge towards the folded edge. Stop two inches before you get to the fold of the fabric. Secure your seam. I used a triple stitch but a lightening or narrow zig zag will work here too.
  4. Slip the other Front Top Bodice piece narrow end through the hole that is created, and fold those right sides together and sew a seam from the open ends to the marks you made that are two inches from the center. This creates the twist.
  5. Sew your sleeves to the armscyes.
  6. Pin the sleeve seams and side seams together. You will likely need to gather the front to meet the back. This will vary greatly with cup size. You may prefer to stretch the back to match the front .
  7. Try on your cropped knot top. What do you think of the back length. Too long? Now is the time to adjust that, and mark your pattern. Measure the back piece across the bottom. Cut a 2 inch tall band that is 90-95% of this length.
  8. Carefully, without twisting, sew the short seams of the not quite finished band from the front to one side of the back band, and the other end of the back band to the other side of the unfinished band. Double check that it is not twisted.
  9. Match up the center point, and pin/clip. Match up quarter points and pin or clip.
  10. Serge the back and little bit of side front bands, and complete the top stitching.
  11. At this point, you can hem your sleeves. I had enough of the second band that I cut to add a band to the bottom of the sleeves. I measured the sleeve bottom, and cut my band one inch shorter than that measurement. Seam the short ends together and match up centers, seams, and serge.
Pink cropped KYA with neck/hem band over Cecilia dress.

In a light weight fabric, it will extend the wear of any sleeveless top or dress into a cooler season, or just give you a tad more coverage for modesty or sun protection. A wardrobe extender for sure! Enjoy your cropped knot over a Virginia, Journey, Escapade, Key West, Cecilia, Maria and Taylor, you name it.

The floral Escapade dress in this post is packed away for summer. Cant wait to pair it with the pink version! Or maybe this Jessie! When I get my summer tanks and tank dresses out for warmer weather, I will be looking for the common solids that will work for more cropped knot tops to pair with them!

You no longer need to choose between a top with sleeves or sleeveless! This will soon become a capsule essential that will take you from garden to office! The purple stripes version was serged then hemmed at the neckline, then the back was hemmed after the side seams were sewn. Note the water jugs in the photo are part of my winter sowing experiment with perennial pollinator friendly plants. Happy gardening too!
Pop a KYA crop over any sleeveless top or dress. More sun protection, warmth, modesty, pizazz!

This blog post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission from the pattern designer if you use my link to purchase the pattern. Thank you! Happy sewing – Joan

Fall planting with an oversized cloche

Beefed up my garden this year with more containers, and with fall upon us, I really want to continue growing. Living in the desert, I am continually seeking ways to conserve water. I found a few huge grow bags at my local nursery, and popped them in the masonry pans you can find at hardware stores. Was hoping that this would work like a sub irrigated pot, allowing excess moisture to hang out at the bottom and get wicked back up when needed. I use earth boxes and love them for basil and marigolds, thyme and winter savory. To get a leg up on planting, I created PVC frames that fit just inside the lip of the earth box. Cover those with green house plastic, nylon netting, upcycled nylon sheer curtains, or garden fleece. They make a difference at the beginning of the season to help baby plants through the chill of early spring.

Location Location Location. I have been noticing spots in the yard where things might be a little happier growing. The spot below is where the compost bin had lived for years. With the sun hitting the south wall of the house, this was a seriously cozy spot. Sometimes too cozy, and certain plants struggled there. However, Okra, who likes it hot, did really well in a 3’x3′ box I planted along the wall next to the lavender this year. Used compost that had been collecting, and netted three volunteer spaghetti squash from it! In late summer, I decided this area would be great for winter growing. Moved some masonry pans (with holes drilled into the sides about two inches up from the bottom for drainage) into this spot with grow bags and home mixed soil. Peas and spinach are happily growing in this area. Well, happier after I added some shade since these are cooler weather loving plants. The folding plant supports are helpful in holding up the shade cloth for now, the peas will climb on them. I have used and loved them for years. They are versatile! Plans are to use either floating row cover or green house plastic over this area when the weather cools. I am also considering building a PVC frame for more protection in this area.

Peas and spinach in grow bags.

Asters and beans grow, up a chain link fence. I measured the masonry pan, which is about 20 x 27. Plan to put two of this bag/pan ensemble side by side in the PVC “cloche” in a sunny area of the garden to grow beets, turnips, and salad greens. The asters I planted the first time this year may have been happier in a shadier part of the garden. I will mark the bag so that we may see them come back in the spring. In the mean time, this bag can give us winter greens.

I used the dimensions of the masonry pan to cut my PVC pipe.

Here is the recipe for this version.

Six horizontal 27 inch pieces and eight horizontal 20 inch pieces and six vertical 24 inch pieces came from three ten foot lengths of 3/4 inch PVC pipe. There was an almost 12 inch piece left over which was cut in half and used to raise the center bar.

The 3/4 inch fitting pieces were found locally at Lowes. Two cross tees two 90 degree elbows and eight 90 degree side outlet elbows. I went on line for the two – four way furniture fitting side outlet tees.

This design with the raised center should deflect snow, and rain so that there is not a sagging issue. It feels sturdy and heavy enough to deflect wind. I just got notification that the garden fleece I ordered from Ace hardware is ready for pick up. I plan to use clamps to clip the fleece onto the PVC pipe. This may cover my pots of basil and lemon grass when we have a cold spell next week. I often use these to start beans and peas, and keep critters from eating the plants. Unfortunately they blow away in our wind and the staples they come with are not quite long enough for NM winds. Used in conjunction with a heavier cover, they are great for double cover.

Above are end of season second or third generation Marigolds in earth boxes with tarragon cascading over the side. They were started under a small PVC frame. The clear cloches fit nicely underneath the frame for a little extra warmth and protection. For more great information on extending your season, check out Eliot Coleman’s video here

Happy growing! Joan

Why the Wye Seam? Partial seams are the answer.

Recent pattern test with a boat neck and crossed bands.

I had pretty much hung up my pattern testing hat, when this really fun boat neck top pattern showed up. A 3/4 length sleeve boatneck was my mother’s signature garment, and I was curious about the technique employed in making this iconic style. The pattern from 5oo4 is called Edith, and has some pretty trendy sleeve treatments as well. Personally, I am quite happy in a tank, and pull on a cardigan when it gets cold, so I made a first version in tunic length in the heavy pink ribbing you see here. There were pattern changes and so my second version is short sleeved, in a deep stash Doodles interlock, that my SO says is quite floral for fall.

Notorious for not always following sewing instructions, I veered from the get go. Read the pattern instructions first, please. This is how I did it. I serged the raw edge of the shoulder seams individually. If your fabric is super stretchy, you could include a strip of seam tape or clear elastic in with that serging to give it more body. Then, using a straight stitch, or triple stitch, sewed from the outer edge of the shoulder seam up to the neck. I stopped 1/4 inch from the neckline. And back stitched. Or at least I tried to back stitch, but my machine had other ideas. I removed those last few stitches, and you can see the holes my needle made in this photo. So, on the other side, I chose to mark a spot 1/4 inch from the inside neck and start there with a secure stitch and sew to the shoulder edge of that seam. Important here to leave that last (generous) 1/4 inch open and have your stitches secure at each end point.

Next, I prepared my bands. Since this ribbing was really stable, I just folded the whole thing in half hot dog style and serged the raw edges together. Cut the front and back pieces from that, and zig zag basted the corners together. Since the band was cut at two inches wide, I just basted the one inch overlap. As the designer states in the instructions it is important to cross front over back on each side, and not to twist the bands. I will state that it is important to baste within that 1/4 inch seam allowance, so your basting stitches do not show later. Since my serger seam is actually closer to 3/8 inch wide, it technically is slightly deeper than pattern recommendations, but this is a knit garment and not a quilt, where exact seam allowances make all the difference.

Boatneck Band corners basted.

Speaking of quilts, that is where I learned about a “Y” seam or Wye seam. Worth a google. In the photo below, you can see where I pinned the seam allowances of the shoulder seam open. A little wash away wonder tape could hold those open, or even glue stick, but I had pins. I could have made a dot at the quarter inch (generous) point on my bands, and lined that up with the opening of my partially sewn shoulder seam. Instead, I lined that up with the finished edge of the folded back shoulder seam, right were the lowest pin in the photo below is. I stitched this seam for a generous inch, starting just before the band overlap, which happens to be the one inch, and ending at the precise spot where the shoulder seam ends. When you get close to that spot, sew very slowly. Remove the pin, once the toes of the feed dog are on top of the seam allowance and can reliably hold that down. Perhaps even manually roll the wheel on the side of your machine so that you can place that needle down exactly in the crotch of the seam. I used a wobble stitch here. Sandra and Nancy both talk about the wobble stitch that is 2 long and .5 wide. Easier to remove than a lightening stitch.

Super duper close up of the needle sunk into the crotch of the (partial) Y seam at the shoulder. Be sure to catch the fabric of the body of the top. If you do not catch it, there will be a hole. If you are too far into the fabric, you will get lumps. While the needle is down, lift the presser foot and rearrange the fabric pieces, so that the under section, the band and upper section the body are both realigned along the raw edges. You are pulling the band towards you. At the bottom of the photo, you can see a tiny bit poking out. And pushing the excess body fabric back behind the needle to the left, out of the way, so that you can stitch this next inch.

Super tempting, I know to continue stitching this seam, but don’t do it! Just sew the generous inch, to just past the end of the crossover of the bands.

I purchased this machine used, and left the tape that a previous owner had placed there to mark a 5/8 SA. It makes me happy to use an older machine that has seen some action.

I like to secure the end of this seam with a tiny back stitch. I flipped this over and this is what the under side looks like. You are now a pro, hop on over and sew the other corner, making sure to keep your bands from twisting.

This is what the other side looks like. You can see I missed my mark by a few threads on the photo below. And this is close enough for me. One of the benefits of this method, is that you are not clipping into raw fabric, and there is less chance of a hole in this seam developing over time. Especially with a loosely knit fabric, like a sweater knit.

Now it is time to flip the top over and sew the band to the rest of the body. When I cut my front and back out, it is simple to make a notch at the center front and back. Actually I often seam my back, to offer subtle help with swayback pooling, so there is that. Match up center front band and center front top, and starting right on top of your one inch corner stitching, complete that seam. You can see my previous stitches in the photo below. Aim for an half inch overlap, and stitching right were you stitched before to avoid puckers. Sew to the center, remove the pin just as the toe of your foot gets to it, then to the other side, overlapping that previous stitching by a half inch. Then separately, do the same for the back neck. Why sew with the band up and body down? The feed dogs will help ease the extra body fabric into the band and since the band is up, you can see to make a more even seam allowance, which will visibly give you a more consistent band. Important if your band is a contrast.

You may choose to pin at more spots than just the center front. In the photo below, I stretched the band to meet the fabric of the body. You can see my center front pin at the very bottom of the photo. Just be sure your raw edges are together and all will be fine. More wobble stitch!

Front is sewn, ready to sew the back.

Take the time to top stitch neatly. Press first. I started at the center back, and using the open toed embroidery foot as my guide, I top stitched with a wobble stitch. A triple stitch works well too. Take that top stitch to the seam line. Sink your needle, lift pressure foot and turn the corner. If you are using a triple stitch, and do not want to over shoot your mark, try switching to a straight stitch for this last few stitches, turn the corner and switch back to the triple stitch.

Below is a photo of the thick ribbing I used on my first version. It has a smoother side I used for the bands. I bought some rayon spandex to make this top, but do not think it will work well for bands. Bands should be beefy and elastic, with great recovery. A substantial cotton lycra would work. Stay stitching the raw edges of the bands together with a triple stitch would provide a stretchy yet stable band.

Super glad I tested this pattern. I feel like it is a nice tribute to my mother who encouraged and taught me so much about sewing. One of the reasons I write these posts, is for my daughter, who also sews, and may want to know about a particular technique when I may not be available to answer. Excited that she can pass the love of sewing down to her children.

This post may contain affiliate links. The links cost you nothing more to use, however I may receive a small commission if you purchase a pattern using my link. Thank you! For those who would rather see a video on this process, here is a great one!

For a traditional V neck with a mitered vee, check out this post.

Bethany shorts

Are you a toddler? Do you chase a toddler, or more than one? These may be your perfect summer shorts. All the vibes of gym shorts we wore in the 70’s meet today’s modern fabrics!

Bethany comes in a bundle with both kids and adults sizes.
The orange is a 14 oz cotton lycra with matching trim. Don’t let the trim scare you, it is easy. Rather like bias tape, but knit. An open toe embroidery foot and moving the needle right or left can make a difference! This was paired with the Jenny top. Love how the bands can bounce off each other and make an outfit sing. If you look closely, you can see that I folded under the binding on both the inside and outside. I cut the binding on this pair 1.5 inches wide. Serged the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the shorts and wrapped it around, folded under and top stitched from the front of the garment. This is different than the pattern instructions, and makes for a bulkier binding. Best to use a thinner fabric for this construction method.
This is a rayon spandex stripe on a nylon spandex short. I used the pattern’s method to make this binding. Love how it looks and how sleek it is. Bernina feet have this version and a wider version. Other machines may call it an open toed embroidery foot.

What about swim shorts? These are the same nylon lycra as above with one inch wide Fold Over Elastic to match a Key West swim top. At this point in my life, I am happy for a bit more coverage. Love the built in shelf bra of the Key West. There is an optional liner included with the pattern! Instant swim bottoms, with different length options give you so many choices.

Try a cotton lycra with one inch FOE! Bar tack not included in the pattern. I think I remember seeing them on the 70’s versions. I veered from the pattern and zig zagged the elastic to the back side of the shorts, then wrapped round to the front.

A lightweight wicking fabric for under summer dress kind of shorts.

They are perfect for driving to the store. While your family builds you a playset.
I made the polka dot pair at my daughters house on her machines and fabrics while the family was building this play structure. They are fairly fast and easy, and were ready for her to model once she got up from her nap.

And tending the garden… I know I will be wearing mine in the garden.

Maternity options include a below the bump waistband. Good news! The above the bump waistband from the Candy Pants is a perfect fit! Choices are great!

Athletic knits are perfect for wildlife observation. Note that this was an early version. The kids waist band has since been lowered, and the opening on the side leg is more narrow. Here I used a narrow fold over elastic to add a pop of color.

The shorts with the hot pink binding were made from the very last of the fabric that the Escapade and Candy pants were made from a few weeks back. More on the Escapade here and here.

Momma needs maternity shorts and has been wanting matching outfits, so I made her a pair of polka dot shorts. She gets pockets. I upsized them a little, and hope her phone fits! When she tried on the first version, she immediately folded them under to make them shorter. This is the 1.5 inch inseam. Excited to see her wear them!

While I had orange thread in the machine, I added pockets to my orange version. Also phone sized, cause functional pockets work for me. If you plan to make yours for swim, you may want to add water drainage, in the form of grommets or buttonholes to the bottom of the pockets, and add the inside brief. There is a cool video about that here.

Last night I stitched up a medium in a high and low rise. You can see the difference here.

My sweetie likes his pair!

Much appreciation for the versatility of these patterns! To make in swim or not in swim, to add a liner, or not add a liner, lengths, rise heights, maternity, a world of choices. I made 10 pair in testing, with more planned, and my family will enjoy them all summer!

There is a video here and here.

A note about the binding, a lighter weight fabric for the binding seemed to work better for me, than a heavier weight.

-Take a moment, or ten, and practice making the curves with the binding on scraps, till you get the feel of it. Just like bias binding in woven, a 1:1 ratio on the straight parts worked great for me, and going round the curves, stretching the shorts to match up with a little extra binding will help to make them lay flatter once completed.

-Maybe loosen the pressure on your pressure foot, and try wash away basting tape or the like.

-Experiment with different stretch stitches. Basting will be your friend here. Totally worth a few minutes basting to save ten times that time ripping.

-Matching thread camouflages wonky stitching. Matching trim also helps minimize tiny sewing imperfections. Try that for your first few goes. When you feel good about your efforts, then try something more bold.

I sure enjoyed making all the summer shorts in this pattern. I hope you do too. This post contains many affiliate links. I appreciate your use of them. At no cost to you, I may receive a small commission from the designer when you do. Thank you!

Happy Sewing! Joan

The many faces of Escapade

After I retired from the corporate world, I had a lot of fun testing sewing patterns. One that really caught my attention is the Escapade from 5 out of 4 patterns. It is simple, and very cleverly designed. Sews up quickly and is pretty fabric conservative. Swim top, casual bra (or both) nightgown, dress (or both) or cami/tank top, love the versatility that this pattern offers. You can have fun with the straps too. What follows are a lot of photos of me in the variations of escapade. You’ve been warned!

5 out of 4 Patterns Escapade info

The first one I made in testing was from a thrifted jersey sheet and a bit of polka dot cotton lycra I had in my stash. This is a very casual fit photo of that one. I wear it as a night gown. Turns out the Flamingo print is from a sought after print designer. I often water the garden first thing in the summer. Hope that the neighbors assume this is a cute summer dress.

In keeping with the night gown theme, I used Tricot to make this blue one, with a slightly fuller skirt. Just added a few inches to the front and back of the skirt and pleated center front and either side of the back.

Nylon Tricot Escapade with additional width added to “skirt” to form pleats. I need more colors of this style!

With a little more length in a light weight cotton lycra and contrast ties, a fun summer dress. There is a light purple athletic knit dress version somewhere in the closet.

Nick of Time Fabrics has a 92/8 Cotton Lycra that made a great layering/set with the Ultimate Bikini Bottoms. I like the upward curve of the bikini bottoms for extra tummy coverage. I modified the top to have just elastic shirring, without ties, and fixed straps. I bought a few colors to make this with, and could only find this photo. There is a hot pink version that saw a lot of wear with Annabeth over when the weather was cooler.

This is a simple version with elastic shirring made from supplex perfect under summer whites.

Inspired by the Ultimate Bikini Bottoms that are reversible, I wrote about making this Nylon Spandex Tricot Version reversible too.

I stitched up some matching tricot Lola shorts to wear as a coverup to the pool.

And a Nylon Spandex Tricot version for more summer white tops.

The swim version made in testing from purple black and red swim scraps.

With a reversible top.

The Cotton Lycra Tardis version with Rad Panel Undies for fun.

And most recently, an athletic space dyed knit to go with Candy Shorts. As a mothers day gift for my daughter. Cause hanging out at the pool in an escapade and Candy Shorts will be the thing to do once school is out.

I sure have had fun making and wearing my Escapades since testing. You should try one too! The links in this post are my affiliate links. I may receive a small commission from the pattern designer if you use them to purchase a pattern. I appreciate your support, and happy sewing!

A Word (or two) on Wanda

I had so much fun testing the Jackie Jumpsuit from 5 out of 4 patterns, I jumped on board with testing the Wanda with all its puffed sleeve glory that would even please Anne Shirley. Truth told, I have been wanting to make puffed sleeves for a while and even tried some modifications on the Easy Tee. The adult version of Wanda is here.

Wanda #1

The pattern calls for a four way stretch. The first version I made used a vintage striped jersey to go with the vintage feel of the pattern. Plus the fabric was sitting there. I have a sweatshirt fleece that matches the lavender stripe, and may make some Jason Joggers from that, or an Adventure skort.

The stripes stretch, but without lycra, only moderately so. The bands are cotton lycra. Next time I will use a more narrow band to go with the delicate puff of sleeve.

Sleeves. I am an avid top stitcher. I like to install knit sleeves flat and top stitch around the armscye. First, for the look and secondly for more durability. 5 out of 4 patterns call for sleeves to be sewn in the round. I found a happy medium with the method of sewing partial seams.

I had a little left of the leopard and stripes, and used it for my second version. It is a European organic cotton I bought for making capsule outfits for this little one. Excited to try it on next time we get together. In the meantime, here is a Flatlay.

This is part of an order from Bow Button Fabrics last fall.

First the sleeve. I was over the moon that it had notches. Notches are often an overlooked key in getting a garment put together nicely. There is a front and back notch as well as one at the top of the sleeve. I marked the back notch with a red dot. There are corresponding notches on the bodice front and back.

Cut out with scissors, please pardon the less than smooth edges. Don’t quite trust myself with a rotary cutter yet. The sewing coach in me assured the concerned photographer that it will all be serged off anyway, so don’t fret the small stuff.

There are many ways to gather. I was taught to sew two parallel lines of stitching (between the notches) on the longest stitch. I started with the deeper basting seam, then had trouble sewing the narrower basting seam. Sleeve on left. Going forward I will sew the more narrow seam first. Sleeve on right.

Sew and top stitch shoulder seams. Then pin or clip the notches of the sleeve to the notches of the bodice. Front back and center.
Pull the gathering threads so that the fullness is evenly distributed between the pins. In the photo above, you can see the two straight gathering stitches, with my zig zag basting of the sleeve puff between the straight stitches. This is the partial seam method. Just sew this from front to back notch. After this was sewn, I was able to remove the exposed gathering stitch line. It just zipped right out!

After both sleeves are partially sewn in with a zig zag baste. Clean finish the bottom sleeve and bodice edges. Open up the top and stitch side seams of sleeves and bodice. Photo below, shows the right side seams finished. Be sure to sew both. I snuck the neckband on in this step. More on that below.

Tuck the sleeves inside the body of the garment, pin or clip the underarm seams (facing different directions for less bulk). then serge around the armscye. Since 2/3 of this seam has already been sewn, this part is easy. Pay attention that the two layers of fabric are smooth at the beginning and end of the zig zag baste, so you do not get puckers.

About neckbands. One of my favorite tips is to zig zag baste the raw edges of the seamed neckband together before attaching. If you want less bulk at the seam of the neckband, use your regular machine with a triple stitch to sew it in the round. The neckband is edge basted, and quartered, ready to attach.

Prepare your bodice the same by marking quarter marks. Wait, you say, there are more than four pins in this neckband! In order to have a smoother neckband, I like to pin about an inch for a child, maybe two for an adult on either side of the side pin. Keep this ratio closer to a one to one ratio, so that there is more neckband stretch at the center front and back curves. It helps to keep the dreaded shoulder puff on a tank or sleeveless top at bay, and helps to curve the center front and back just a little bit more.

Speaking of tanks. Here is a photo of the Virginia Tank and Stella Shorts that are part of this little capsule. I used the same method around the armscye and neckline to make for a smooth shoulder line, and curved neck and underarm.

My adorable little garden helper in a retro stripe Wanda. Planning more solids, and maybe a dress to go with all the summer outfits.

So many different and fun patterns to make up a great collection of summer play clothes. This post is filled with *affiliate links for favorite versions I have tested and wear in regular rotation. It is quite fulfilling to be able to make my favorite patterns for the newest generation in the family.

*Much appreciation for those that use my affiliate links. It costs you nothing and might generate a small commission from the designer to me. Thanks and Happy sewing!

Shenanigans – Plays well with others

I love the Shenanigans from 5 out of 4 patterns for a quick getting dressed in the summer when you want to step up your shorts game. The ruffle at the hem is optional, and gives it a little kick. Also provides a bit of modesty. I made this one a little extra fun by binding the hem with a tiny stripe instead of hemming the circular ruffle. A rolled hem would be fun as would just serging it.

This is the kids version. Shenanigans plays well with other favorites from 5 out of 4. Here it is paired with the kids Stella. Stella’s strength is that she is also a romper and has a great shorts pattern. They can be made separately, or as a one piece. I used the solid from Shenanigans to make the bands for Stella. For myself, I was able to lengthen the top on Stella and if I seamed the back, could make a nightgown length dress from one yard of non directional fabric. Favorites since I tested them a couple summers ago. I did not make the romper, but am considering making it for sleepwear.

Shenanigans with Stella

If you are like me and live in the desert where it starts out chilly in the morning, or gets chilly in the evening, then add a Rocket Raglan with a hood option to the mix and you are covered for the day. Worn alone or layered, Rocket gets along with everyone. For an adult size raglan, Annabeth and Nancy are both awesome.

Now that Rocket and Shenanigans are friends, they may approach Rachel for a game of tag. Seriously, I believe that there is a pair of Rachel pants in this red solid.

Located said Rachel pants!

Been working on capsule sewing for my grand child, and it has been a blast! Sadly there is no adult version of Rachel….. yet.

Shenanigans is getting a little flirtatious in this photo. I love using the larger gusset for a cloth bummed baby. Gives a little extra space where it is needed. For the hem binding, I cut a 1.75 inch strip of knit the length of the hemline – about 45 inches for a size 3. Used the serger to stitch it to the back of the hem (with the right sides of the fabrics both facing up). Then wrapped that around, folded the raw edge under and top stitched with a small zig zag to the front. Covering my previous serged stitches. I believe I have written more about that process here

I have made many leggings based shorts over the years, and last summer made just the skirt part of the Shenanigans to toss on over my shorts when we are going out. Remember that, going out?

The shorts under Shenanigan’s are basically the Ninjas, or little Ninjas. If you are on a budget or just want to give this designer a go, they are both free patterns, and worth trying.

This post is riddled with affiliate links. If you use them, I may receive a small commission from the pattern designer at no cost to you. You will receive much gratitude from me, and a super cute well designed tried and true tested pattern. Happy sewing! Joan

Cat-Dog method to reduce bulk.

Modified Resolution sports bra

After learning to make my own sports bras, I tried all the patterns. I like the Resolution for its simplicity. I modified this one to have about a 1 inch lower back neck and the back arms to be cut about 1 inch less deep. It works great under the tops that need this cut. The pattern calls for a single layer to be finished with binding, and an elastic under bust that is folded up and top stitched. It might have been the Agility that I made in a heavier weight fabric, and self lined. With 4 layers of thick fabric plus elastic things got pretty bulky. Not what I wanted in summer, so I made some changes.

I folded my fabric vertically and horizontally, so that there were four layers. Then placed the pattern on the vertical fold and one inch higher than the normal cut line on the horizontal fold. Hang tight, it will become more clear in the next photo. ** Alternatively, you could cut a new pattern piece on both folds which may make things easier.

Note the cut line of the pattern extends 1 inch longer that the fold line of the fabric. The dotted line is where the elastic would normally be folded up and top stitched. On the flip side of the pattern is the date, name of the person, name of the pattern and size. Band measurements would be handy too.

This method of cutting results in this shape. My husband laughed when he walked by and asked if I was making a shirt for CatDog. Repeat the same for the back piece.

With right sides facing, stitch the shoulder seams and side seams of the front and back together. Very often the front may be longer than the back piece, just ease that extra amount in. If needed, pin two underarms and center to get the easing to be more even.

Bring bottom up to meet the top at the shoulder seams.

Flip one layer, just the very top layer over to the back side, and your cat-dog bra will start to take shape.

Using a stretch stitch, baste your neck opening and most of the arm openings. I used a 2.5 x 2.5 zig zag on the very edge of this sample.

Be sure to leave about an inch of either side of a side seam not basted. This is how we will get the under bust elastic in.

You can tell by the easing that the left side is the front. It is subtle shaping that acts like a dart.

After you have pre stretched and exercised your elastic, wrap it around your body, and see how long it will be to be snug and supportive. Cut your elastic 1/2 inch bigger than that, and attach a large safety pin to one end and snake it into the opening of your cat-dog bra. Non roll, braided, what ever you prefer best in a 3/4 to 1 inch size. For larger busted folk, a wider elastic, and longer cut front may add more support.

Once you are 100 percent sure you have the elastic all the way through without twisting, bring the ends together, overlap that 1/2 inch and stitch securely.

Hang your bra on a hanger or just hold by the straps, to be sure the elastic is not twisted. Then let gravity help that elastic fall to the lowest point (remember the horizontal fold). Distribute any fullness, and pin at the sides and centers to hold the elastic in place.

Stitch that elastic into place. Non roll elastic will work well with a lightening stitch. An elastic that rolls may work better with a serpentine stitch to hold the majority of it in place. Just be sure that the stitch is sufficiently stretchy.

Cut your binding strips as the pattern directs. and bind the openings. There are lots of binding options. This is a 1 inch wide fold over elastic. I really like the elastic from here.

You can apply a decorative elastic like this scalloped elastic, which is sadly out of stock.

Then flip and top stitch the elastic for a picot edge.

This is picot elastic on a breathe mesh from Discovery Fabrics that is not super supportive but enough and very lightweight for a summer bra. this is a Cecilia that is modified the same way.

And here is a fun binding tutorial.

** Alternatively, you could fold tracing paper in half vertically and horizontally to create your pattern pieces. Important is to keep the fold line of the pattern the same as the fold line for the elastic, not the cut line, or your bra will be too long.

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase with those links I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I appreciate your support!

Happy sewing! Joan

Molly with double fold neck binding, a double sewn curved hem, and a splash of color.

In December, I made a Molly PJ top as part of a promotion for 5 out of 4 patterns. I used some very thin cotton jersey from Kathy’s Lace and Elastic, and ended up dyeing the fabric. It started out in a sweet baby pink. I like purchasing deadstock fabric (or using from my stash) something that I would not be heartbroken if the pattern did not fit. Since this was my first attempt at this pattern, I would call it a wearable muslin.

There is no lycra in this fabric, and being thin, I found that holding the threads when sewing the short band seams was critical. Also not cutting the thread in between sewing the pieces helped to keep the fabric from meandering its way down below the feed dogs. This is called chain stitching. It is often used in quilting small pieces together. Saves thread and frustration in garment sewing too. Just leave 1/8 to 1/4 inch between pieces and clip them apart later.

Short band seams being chain stitched.

I lengthened the top. The lower edge of the ruler shows where the pattern stops. I had planned for a solid tunic length top that I could wear over my crazy patterned leggings. This ended up being 8 inches longer in the center and curved up to where the original hem line ended. At first I thought it was too long, but this has quickly become one of my favorite tops. I added this length to the front and the back.

Used differential feed. As part of hemming, I serged around the hemline. By using this setting, I slightly gathered one curved edge of my hem. I switched the differential feed to neutral for all the other parts.

The portion of the hem that was serged with the differential feed naturally wants to roll up into position.

This makes hemming so much easier. If your fabric has lycra or a greater stretch, I would recommend testing your stitches on scraps, till you are comfortable that you have a good match. Pin, clip, press or use the guides on your machine to make this hem as even as you possibly can (or wish to) sew. Since this fabric has little stretch, a slight zig zag worked well.

The thing about curved hems is that they want to twist like the photo below. I solved this by edge stitching with a teflon coated open toed embroidery foot, and edge stitching the front side of the hem. The teflon was not necessary, but this is my favorite type of foot. Other machines call it an open toe embroidery foot. It was easier than I expected to manipulate the fabric by finger pressing from left to right just before the foot to eliminate this wrinkle that wants to form. The edge stitching keeps everything in place. You may have another foot with a guide that will help sew a straighter seam.

This is fast and easy and flat. A cover stitch machine or double needle could be fun to try too.

What about the other openings? The pattern calls for a neck band, which normally I love, but this fabric did not have the recovery that I like in a band, so I used a double fold binding. Cut the band length along the stretch, at 1.75 inch wide. You saw that I chain stitched the ends earlier. I may have needed to piece this one, as I see seams on either side of the neck. Double fold bindings work nicely with thinner fabrics. I like that you can see where you are sewing and make sure your edges are covered. Pins, clips or wonder tape can help tame fabrics that tend to slide.

  1. To double fold band, sew right side of the band to the wrong side of the neck opening. If you need to baste first on a sewing machine that is great, you will ultimately want a serged edge here.

2. Double fold part two. Wrap the binding up and around that firm serged edge. Have the raw edge of the binding meet the finished edge of the serging and fold over the binding to fully cover the serged seam. In this photo, I moved the needle to the left and top stitched with a slight zig zag. This is a good time to start in the back and test the first few inches for stretch. Widen or shorten the stitch for more stretch. I finished the sleeves this way too.

Did you notice my fatal error yet? Ouch! I realized that I had sewn the front on inside out. Hard to tell. Solved this by adding a little color.

And done. Up close you can tell that this is a tiny zig zag. A cover stitch might be fun here.

First time ice dyeing. In this batch are some Penny PJ’s for my grand child too!

This post contains affiliate links that cost you nothing, but may net me a small commission from the pattern designer if you purchase their pattern with my link. I thank you if you do!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing! Joan

A twist on the racerback.

Note: This post is only for those adventurous or curious sewists who are adept at making this kind of bra. If you are new to sewing please, just look away, or skip to the bottom for links to other bra posts. This one gets complex. No whining allowed. Alternatively, you can follow to step #2 and add binding.

It all started with some Rambouillet wool a friend found on line. I bought all three colors, cause 92 percent wool and 8 percent lycra should be washable, and it is and very very comfortable. I also found some ready to dye white cotton ribbing fabric. I cut out my favorite Raglan and favorite Tank, which happen to both be in the same pattern. Spent a good deal of a morning cutting out 8 tops for me. The wool was to keep me warm or cool, wool is awesome that way. The white was to dye later, but that is totally another rabbit hole to fall into. When I tried on the white ribbing tank, I realized that since the back has a slight racer back cut, I needed some skin toned racerback bras to go under. So I hopped into my fabric stash, and pulled out some of this that I bought for the higher Lycra content.

I had made the Resolution bra and tank from 5 out of 4 patterns before as a reversible bra in a Nylon Spandex Tricot to go with the reversible Ultimate Bikini Bottoms . So I knew where I was in the fit.

  1. I started by printing and gluing the pattern. Scotch quick drying glue is really a special glue. Use what makes you happy. Then traced it onto a larger page of news print, so that I could get a full pattern piece without the vertical fold. The next step was to locate the normal cut line for me. There are several cup sizes, each with different cut lines. Then I backed that up to 3/4 inch shorter. Since there is no extra to turn under -being two layers. Made that my new horizontal fold line. And cut these crazy cat dog tee shirt pieces of bra parts. Below the back is on top of the front with all four shoulder seams sewn, one side seam sewn, and the other side seam sewn only for one inch at the arm pits. leaving a huge opening on that side to manipulate this while sewing. Use a stretch stitch. I used a triple stitch here. Pro Tip: Make a notch in the center front and center back of your neckline. And if you are cooler than me, you will make a notch or marking on the edge of somewhere center on those arm openings too.

2. Reconfigure your bra so it is wrong sides together. At this point, you could finish that side seam, pop a you sized under bust elastic band in there, top stitch that, bind away and be quite happy with your bra. Did I do that? Hardly. I had this idea in my head that needed to be executed. So I started with the neckline. At the center back take both pieces and flip them so that just they are Right sides facing. . A twist of each piece away from each other, then back together RSF. clip that. Imagine couples dancing in the Regency era. He turns left, she turns right, and they are facing each other again. However we are only doing a half turn here. We start with backs facing. He turns left a half turn, she turns right half turn and suddenly they are right sides facing. There will be a clear direction to sew, and one that looks like an up hill battle. Take the easy road.

3. Apologies that I was more into sewing than taking photos here. With the majority of the bra wrong sides together and just the center back, zig zag baste the edges of the two right sides together. Sew a few inches, then re-arrange the piece, then sew a few more inches, then re-arrange. you will end up meeting yourself back at the start, and turning the bra completely inside out again. That is how it works. If you followed my direction and marked centers, then you have nice road signs to tell you that you are on the right track!

Then take this to your serger and add some clear elastic to that seam. Since you have already zig zag basted it in place, this part is fairly easy. Keep your elastic firm, but not too stretched. You just want to firm up the edges. Go all the way round. Push any fabric inside the bra away from the seam. Pull this right sides out.

4 Align arm holes wrong sides together. Flip at the arm pit, so that right sides are facing. Zig zag baste from arm pit to shoulder seam. Due to the narrowness of the shoulder seam, you will not be able to go all the way round. So get that far, then cut threads and start the process and go from the arm pit to the other side, to meet previous stitches at the top of the shoulder seam. Then pull this out. In the photo above one arm seam had been zig zag basted. The neck has the elastic serged.

To finish the arm opening, start at the top of the shoulder and serge clear elastic on top of that basting seam all the way round till you meet or come really close to the top of the shoulder from the other side. Repeat for the other arm.

I generally cut my sports bra fronts 3/4 inch to an inch longer in front than back, and ease the difference in the side seam. Giving me more bust room.

5. Mark the center of the side seams that were left open. Sew that side seam closed from the center up to one side, easing as you go, then from the other side as far as you can get to the center also easing as you go. This can be done by hand too. Cut your you sized elastic band. 3/4 inch is what the pattern uses. Snake it through the bra and stitch it closed. Arrange it so that it is fitting snugly into the bottom of the bra. Clip in a few places, then top stitch.

6. I used a wide serpentine stitch on my 9 mm Bernina and hardly needed to stretch as I stitched. With a #20 coded foot, and my needle halfway to the left I triple stitched the open arm and neck edges.

And done. Halfway through I thought it would be easier to just do bands. but this worked out nicely. My first attempt was a hot mess and I had to cut the shoulder seams more than once. This one fits better. Although I am not sure how “invisible” it worked out to be. It will be great under all the Taylors I made in testing.

After being diagnosed with Costrochondritis, many years ago, I resolved to making my own bra and swim tops. I write about my journey in these other posts.

This post includes affiliate links. By using those links, when purchasing the seller (at no cost to you) may compensate me with a very small commission. These add up, and I appreciate any support you show.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Sewing! Joan