Extend the season – start early with Winter Sowing.

Three years ago I found out about a practice called Winter Sowing. The premise is that you start seeds in specially prepared milk jugs in winter, and let nature take over.

Start with clean milk jugs that are translucent or clear. These held distilled water at one point. Drill 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of each jug. A large awl, Phillips screwdriver or sharp scissors will work too. 6-8 holes is usually sufficient.

Last year I drilled a hole in the lid, and used them as plant labels. It is important that the lids are removed for ventilation purposes.

Leave a 1-2 inch “hinge” about 5 or 6 inches up from the bottom of the jug. And cut a horizontal opening almost all the way around. I leave my hinge at the bottom of the handle.

Last year I drilled holes across from the handles so I could use wire, string, or in this case a paper clip to hold the jug closed. Duct tape also works.

Fill your jug with moistened potting soil. I use Happy Frog potting soil. It contains what seedlings need to grow. The plants can be in these containers for months.

Larger seeds – like sunflower or cucumber will need spacing, so maybe 6 to 9 seeds per jug. Smaller seeds like lettuce can be scattered across the top. You can likely get a 4×4 or 5×5 grid of spinach, beet, radish seed in each jug.

I particularly like planting seeds that require cold stratification, like native perennials, or things that take a while, like parsley or coriander. Cold hardy plants are especially suited for Winter Sowing!

Be sure to label the inside and outside of your jugs. Sharpie will fade in the sun. Paint pens or China Markers have worked for me.


Here in the high desert precipitation can be sparse in the winter. I got a pair of galvanized tubs from our farm store. In the winter, they hold my jugs, summer – grow bags. For drainage, there are 1/2 inch holes drilled about 2 inches up from the sides. 2 or 4 holes will work.

This allows rainwater (or hose water) to gather at the bottom, so that the soil in the jugs can wick it up. This is called bottom watering. I check them a couple times a week. If there is condensation on the inside of the jugs, and they are heavier, then great. If the jugs are light, and no condensation, time to water.

Watering from the top tends to swoop the seeds to the lowest point in the jug, and crowd them. Some folks use spray bottles and a fine mist.

This photo shows a bus box that also has holes drilled on the sides, an inch or two from the bottom. Empty Happy Frog bags are the perfect size to line the bottom of these crates from the garden center. They only come up a few inches from the bottom, allowing water to be absorbed by the soil in the jugs, without overwatering them.

In this photo, Collards, Hyssop, Hollyhocks, and native perennials are getting used to being in the open air before transplanting.

a friend gave me a quantity of ripple bottles that work well.

While these plants have never been indoors, they still need hardening off. In a spot that is protected from intense sun and wind leave the cover off for a week or so, then carefully divide and plant out when the soil temperature and weather is appropriate. Anise Hyssop in this jug enjoying the dappled shade of a leafing out apple tree.

Snow is a great insulator! If you are expecting single digit temperatures and are concerned about sprouted jugs, a frost blanket is a good idea. Just be sure to secure it against the wind.

One year a polar vortex brought temps down close to zero. I brought sprouted jugs into my garage at night, then back out during the day. Never bring them into a heated space.

Heat loving plants, like pole beans should be easy enough to direct sow. Hungry birds and rodents enjoy them. I like to plant out the perennials and cold hardy seedlings in late April, or early May. Then reuse the containers to start pole beans, okra and cucurbits.It helps to get them past the “tasty morsel” stage.

Since beans are picky about germination temperatures, I set the jugs in dappled shade, plant seeds as densely as I would if direct sowing. When they are ready, I dig a trench at the base of the trellis that is as wide as the jugs. Then plop the whole contents of the jug upside down in one hand then flip that over into the pre-dampened trench. Stack the contents of each jug side by side, water well, provide some shade and keep on.

Cucurbits are more agreeable to being separated for planting.

Hope this helps you get an early start with your garden. Happy growing! Joan

Basic Bodice Back Hack

Grounded by a recent ankle injury and a need to ice and elevate, I was looking for something to pass the time. I had been wanting to make some clothes to fit an 18 inch doll I gave to my grand daughter last year.

This is the Fair & Square Dress from Tie Dye Diva, who has a shop on Etsy. I made a few child size dresses and adore the pattern.

The trick is to cut both the front and back yokes on the fold. Since I was using the main bodice fabric as a lining, I folded the seam allowance of the back bodice out of the way and cut two of each on the fold.

Stitch one front to two backs at the shoulder seams and press (I finger pressed) the seams open. Then stitch the second front shoulder seams to the remaining back shoulder seams. In the photo above, the narrow front openings are top and bottom and the backs are either side.

Place the two front bodices right sides together. You can see that I gave myself a center front notch. Sew the neck opening seam. I found I could get a smaller stitch with a between needles and single thread. Pinning the shoulder seams open helped.

This photo shows the neckline seam sewn and two of the four inside corners clipped.

As an option, understitching is IMHO understated. It helps to roll the seam allowance to the back and crisp up the edges.

Under stitches from wrong side.

And top stitched! Who would have guessed top stitching by hand would bring me this much joy?

I have several garments hand stitched by my mother’s grandmother, so that hand stitching bar was set pretty high over 100 years ago!

Also in this photo, the armscyes were also sewn, not yet under or top stitched.

Sew the side seams of the skirts, on a couple, they were straight seams, so I overlapped pattern pieces, eliminating the need for a side seam. Finish the underarm. Gather and attach the skirts to the bodice front, stitch down the linings and add closures.

Here, I added sew in snaps to help build up fine motor skills. The absence of the seam allowance in the back bodice reduces the bulk. In the pink bodice below, I enclosed a strip of selvage to give me a second layer to stitch the snaps to. For a human garment that may get more wear, a strip of fusible interfacing is recommended to stabilize the area.

Kam Snaps, buttons and buttonholes or Velcro would work too!

Happy Sewing! Joan

Thank Jen from Tie Dye Diva Patterns, for outfitting my granddaughters and now their Dollys♥️

pictured: Fair & Square, Butterfly, One and Done and Lemon Drop.

Quick shortcuts for woven shorts

I recently tested a pattern for woven shorts/pants, and employed some shortcuts to help with the process. Perhaps these will encourage you to push your sewing skills a bit too?

There are so many variables with pants fitting, that it is easy to fall back on knits for an easy fit. I loved the details included in 5oo4’s latest, Chelsea Chinos. I took some shortcuts with the details for my first pair. Just so I could get a super quick fit photo, or two.

The Fly. Some kind of zip opening is needed to get a woven pair off and on. Love the fly extension or fly shield. This is a detail seen on higher end garments. I added a bar tack to the end of the fly in this pair.

The Fly Shield adds a really nice upscale touch and weight to the Chelsea Chinos. Take it slow and read through the directions a few times before hopping to it.

I chose to fall back on a fast fly insertion for my first pair. Sandra Betzina is a big name in garment design and construction. One of my favorite sewing gurus! She made this video for threads magazine. I used this technique on many pair of pants I made in college (without fusible interfacing). If the thought of a more detailed fly overwhelms you, try this one out.

Love the look of a slash pocket. Since this is not on the straight grain of the fabric, I stabilize the seam with seam tape or a strip of selvage, under stitch and top stitch to make it a sturdy opening that will not stretch out or go baggy. Three passes on this seam may seem like a lot of work but it pays off in durability. In the purple pair, I added a bias flat piping to the seam of the slash pocket to go with the contrast of the back pocket. The top I am wearing is quilting cotton cut on the bias, so I took advantage and made lots of bias strips. Hong Kong finish anyone?

Front Pockets – The front slash pocket has the upscale detail of extending all the way to the fly. If you choose this option, be sure to stitch the zipper after you have inserted the pockets. I remember owning stretch denim jeans where this front panel was made from power mesh, food for thought. On my first super quick pair, I skipped all pockets, but ended up adding a patch pocket to the outside leg, after getting the fit as good as I could.
Most of my favorite pants patterns have pockets that do not extend this far to the front. Those would work too.

There is a sneaky phone sized patch pocket just about where my right hand is. These shorts have the fast fly version.

Back Pockets – I wrote a blog post for Stitch Upon A Time about inserting a double welt pocket in the side of one of their sweat pant patterns. I love this pocket, it fits my phone perfectly. I personally prefer to make it one long rectangle that is folded up at the bottom, so there is a smidgen less bulk of a seam at the bottom of the pocket. If this pocket gapes open, you will see the fabric of the pocket lining. Since my fabrics were lightweight, I used the same fabric for the pockets.

Finished back pocket.

I added the pocket after the pants were completed. Best practice, once the fit is nailed down, is to work on pockets (front and back) before side seams, fly or waistband.

In the last pair, I had only enough fabric for patch pockets on the back. They still function as pockets, and are less noticed on this wild print. Planning to hone my skills and try a narrower welt – maybe contrasting on the next pair!

Darts, full belly adjustment and waistband. Since I need more space for my tummy, I bypassed the front dart. I added 1/4 to 1/2 to the center front for a full belly adjustment. My waistline varies a lot (thanks food sensitivities). So I questioned having a fixed waistband. What was I thinking? The shaped waistband worked out to be pretty comfy in a stretch woven. I only interfaced the front sections. On the non-stretch pairs, I opted to cut the waistbands as rectangles, using the wider line as my guide. When stitching the side seams, I left an inch of the inner waistband unsewn. That allows for elastic insertion at a later point. This also could work for someone with a swayback. Since the elastic does the same job as a dart, I opted not to stitch the back darts on some pairs, and lengthen that portion of the waistband accordingly. Since I rarely tuck in my shirts, this is not an issue.

Elastic in the back of this seersucker pair. Allows for breathing room.

Serging or clean finishing the inside edge of the waistband allows for a different technique, and tidy top stitching. More on that in a later post.

Oh, fit! 5oo4’s tinfoil method is genius. There are flexible rulers that are also helpful in determining your personal crotch curve, then adjusting out from there. I projected the curve from some favorite pants on to this pattern, and made those adjustments to my Chelsea’s. Plan on making a couple practice pairs. Both for the fit and trying out some of the cool details.

Small tweaks make a difference. On the fourth pair, I ended up shortening the front leg about 3/8 inch in the center, tapering to zero at the side and inside leg. They do not have the front pulling that this pair does.

In summary, I completely recommend this pattern. Once you pin down your fit, you can make them in different lengths, add belt loops, choose your options. A classic well fitting trouser? Yes please!

This post contains affiliate links, your purchase means the pattern designer may send me a small monetary thank you. I appreciate your support. Happy sewing! Joan

Gardening in the margins

Ever notice that some beds just leak? After learning more about Integrated Weed Management and the concept of planting things that can out compete the weeds, as well as Permaculture and the concept of planting things where the water is already, I experimented.

Years ago I planted Salad Burnet in a small bed next to a bigger one. I have since moved that frame to a different spot, but the Burnet still grows. Year after year. I do nothing. It is a quiet companion.

I since laid out a soaker hose in that bed to simplify my watering routine. I noticed that the ground around the bed gets damp before I am finished watering all the things on that “system”. Started Salad Burnet by seed with this year’s veggies. It seems quite happy along the side of the bed, and in future may save me a little weeding, and could end up in salads.

Calendula sprouts

Tried this concept last week with another 3 x 8 tomato bed with a soaker hose. Dug a tiny trench, and generously scattered saved calendula seeds in the trench, covered it and within a few days, Calendula sprouts! I am hopeful they will flourish, ward off hornworms and come back for years. They also might find themselves in salads or tea.

A friend told me about Tree Guilds years ago. I set up a series of pots along the path and drip line of purple plum trees. The holes in the pots are drilled in the sides (not the bottom) about an inch up. That allows for a little sub irrigation, and for me to know when the pot is “full”. The water coming out the low side hole is my clue, and this year there is creeping thyme waiting, ready to catch that excess. And down below are tree roots, also happy for the moisture. And happy to return the favor and provide a bit of shade to the pots below.

Creeping time under a purple plum tree, and potted parsley and tarragon.

Lastly is a Jaune Flamme – Yellow Flame tomato plant. It is in a huge nursery pot that had the bottom removed. Dug into the soil so about half the pot is exposed. The pot was filled with happy frog, and the tomatoes growing in these pots do significantly better than the adjacent raised bed.

Chard volunteers next to nursery pot with tomato plant, creeping thyme in the margins.

The soil around them is often damp, so I planted more creeping thyme in the corners, and Swiss chard has stepped up and volunteered in the center front. That area is next on my weeding list. But these plants can stay!

How do you make your gardening life simpler?

Above two photos taken about 6 weeks later.

Reversible Shorts

The last 7-8 years our local sewing guild has been sewing outfits for the first day of school for local first graders who are experiencing homelessness. This year, I had a mind explosion about sewing reversible shorts.

It took one late night/early morning thinking, a lot of seam ripping and looking on line, but I came up with a plan for me to sew multiple pair of reversible shorts with quilting fabric and novelty fabrics in my collection.

I will try to show you how I made them here.

About pattern choice: Simple is better. For your first pair, skip the pockets. On this pair of size 5 shorts, I eliminated the side seam by overlapping the pattern at that point by the amount of the seam allowance. I used the free kids woven PJ pants pattern from 5 out of 4. The adult pattern is here. I have not tried it “reversible” yet, but love the regular version.

Fabric Choice: Choose two similar weight fabrics that are fairly light weight, opaque, and work well together if the inside shows a bit. If you use a fabric that is the same on both sides, take extra care to make one left and one right leg. It would be really easy to end up with two left legs with a solid or yarn dyed fabric. A print that is clear on one side will make it simple for your first pair. Fold each fabric right sides facing in, and stack them, so that you cut all four layers at one time. Having the pieces as close as the same as possible will give you a better end product.

Pattern alterations: No casing to fold over and sew means that we need to fold over the casing amount less a seam allowance all along the top of the pattern.


1. Sew the inseams of all four legs first. Press one set to the front leg, and the other set to the back leg. That way these seams can nest both at the crotch curve and at the hem.

2. Sew the crotch curve of the inside layer. Starting at the top of the backs, mark 1/4 inch from the top, and an inch from that. Sew the first quarter inch. Skip the inch, then sew the remaining crotch curve. Take care to secure the end and beginning of your stitches here. The skipped inch will be the opening that we later use to thread the elastic. A note about crotch curves: sew this area with a shorter, or more secure stitch. Triple stitch or wobble stitch (zig zag set at 2 long and 1 wide) will bear the stretch of the fabric at the bias points, and prevent popped stitches. You can also sew this seam twice if desired. Since the shorts will be “lined” it will be hard to get to this seam later.

3. Reinforce the opening, by pressing open the seam at the back. Top stitch down one side, just past the opening, and back up. This will keep raw edges from popping out of the opening later. In the photo, we have sewn down one side, over and are just ready to sew back up to the top.
4. If you plan to insert a label, now is the time.
5. Opening from the right side of the shorts with the tag tucked inside the opening.
6. Peek-a-boo tag!

Leg Hems – two at a time.

7. Leave the crotch curve sewn shorts right side out. Slip the corresponding leg of the other side right sides in over the first. Nest the inside leg seams and sew the circumference of the hem. Repeat for the next leg.
8. With the sewn set left as is, pull each leg away from the main shorts body. Press the seams you just made to one side or the other.

9. Tuck the loose leg inside the shorts, press the hemline so that the seam you just made is on the edge.

10. Edge stitch around each leg to secure the hemline.

Hems – one leg at a time. Further clarification.

Left photo, Flames are right side out, tools are right side in. Slip corresponding leg over so that right sides are facing, and you are sure front is matched up to front. The crotch curve is a great indicator. Sew the circumference of the hem line. Bring the single leg around so that wrong sides are facing, carefully press the seam you just made to the very edge of the inside of the hem, and top stitch.

Second Crotch Curve – two ways.

11. Pull the layers apart so that the right sides are facing. Pin the front and back crotch curves. Sew, with a secure stitch (remember that crotch curve bias) the front crotch curve then the back crotch curve. Make sure your seams overlap nicely at the inseam. Alternatively, I start the crotch curve at the center back, and just pull the fabric through, making sure to not stitch any additional layers, just the the crotch curve. When you are making these in multiples, or this is your 3rd of 4th pair you may feel more comfortable with just starting at one edge of the crotch curve and sewing. See photo below.

Who is ready to sew the waist seam?

After your shorts are straightened out so that wrong sides are facing, and they begin to look like a real pair of wearable shorts, we will sew the waist seam. I will show you two ways.

Burrito Method

12. Roll up the legs of the shorts and wrap the back of one layer around to meet the back of the second layer. Pin the centers together, with seams open and as far as you can to either side. Make double sure that all the extra layers are pushed down and out of the way of your seam.

13. Start sewing just before the intersection of the seams, so that they are included in this waist line seam. It will seem like you can only sew a few inches before you run out of fabric. Unfurl the rest of the shorts as you go. The remainder of the waist line will reveal itself as you go. Sew across the front crotch seams on the waist either opening those seams as you go, or nesting them.

As you get to where you can see the point where you started, stop sewing about 3-4 inches before that spot to leave an opening to turn your shorts right sides out. The right two photos are an “L” seam. It makes for a super sturdy opening for turning and eliminates those loose threads.

Waist seam Alternate Method.

13. If you do not want to take the time to burrito your shorts, and your shorts are still wrong sides together, you can just flip the back sections. One clock wise and the other counter clockwise so that the right sides of that section are facing each other. There will only be a few inches that seem to work to sew together. Sew those, then pull the fabric from the center of the shorts, exposing more raw seams to sew together along the waist line. Be the boss of the fabric here. Consider sewing this seam with a longer stitch in case you need to remove it later. Half way around, you will run into the front seams. .

14. Match them up right sides together and either nest them or open both and keep sewing. You are able to sew the entire circumference of the waist seam in this fashion. Please stop short of doing that – about 3-4 inches short of completing the circle. This way you will have an opening to turn the shorts right sides out.

15. After you have turned your shorts right sides out, edge stitch around the top waist band. Pressing might be your friend here. Tuck in the raw edges of the opening and align them as close as you can. This seals the opening, and no one will notice it. Then make another seam one inch away from the edge. This forms your casing. Using the opening you created in step #2, slip the elastic through the casing and secure. A heavy duty safety pin or bodkin is useful here. I used 3/4 inch elastic for kids size 5 shorts. You can slip stitch the elastic opening closed if desired.

Think about top stitching with coordinating threads in the top and bobbin.

16. Congrats! You did it!

Tips: Start simple with a kid size and quilting fabric in similar hues, so that the thread in your top and bobbin will work with either fabric. Be sure to prewash and dry all fabrics used. Use single side printed fabrics for your first pair. Try a longer stitch length of 3. That is easier to take out than 2.5. Add strength to your crotch curve. Triple stitch or add a little width to the seam at the bias edges.

Want more reversible clothing? We sewed Tie Dye Diva’s Potato Chip Skirt pattern a couple years ago, that lead many of us making Chocolate Chip Skirts for our selves, and Puperita’s Baa Baa dress the year before that. I love sewing reversible!

This post may contain affiliate links. I thank you for using them. Happy sewing! Joan

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! https://youtu.be/QZ9l6OZk3xU

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!