joaninstitcheshttps://joaninstitches.wordpress.comI am an avid sewist and gardner. It is fun to do either, and combining the two makes me very happy. Love to share my experiences and crazy innovations in hopes that someone else may have an “aha” moment or find another path to investigate in their own sewing/sowing journey. I currently teach sewing in the desert southwest.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 and Annabeth over when the weather was cooler.
This is a simple version with elastic shirring made from supplex perfect under summer whites.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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 lineon 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.
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.
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.
** 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
I tried out a new to me pattern last year. It has been in my collection for a while. The cover photo is super cute, and I decided to style it a tad differently. I modified it in a couple places for a better fit, and an easier to sew neckline. What I loved was the option to color block. It is fun to make a statement top with two different prints. One print may be overwhelming. Tone it down with some stripes. Or you may love a certain print, but that print, or the colors in it may not love you back as much. Easy, color block the part closest to your face in a color that suits, and pick up that color in the print. Also a great use for scraps. I ended up making three modified Merryweathers for me and wear them often.
A recent photo of me and my grand daughter wearing pants from the same fabric provided me some inspiration. I was wearing the Merryweather made with a Bicycle print from Art Gallery, and she was wearing her Piscean pants made from scraps of my Sculthorpe pants. It was when she noticed the print and said the word bicycle, grandma mode took over. That is three syllables! I checked to see if there was more of that fabric. Sadly that one was gone, but this one is still available. Love the weight and wearability of these fabrics. While I am waiting for the bicycle, taco and tiger fabric, I put together a top with cars.
I projected the size 3 Neverland tee onto my pattern paper and traced. Picked a spot about 3/4 inch below the arm pit and made that my seam line. The cut line is 1/2 inch above that as marked with the dashes and scissor icon. Pro tip: Write the measurements of your bands on the pattern pieces. You will thank yourself later. I had previously made the Neverland tee in scraps from a white shirt for her uncle. Love how it fits.
To get the top yoke of the Mini Merryweather, I traced the top of the Neverland Tee down to my seam line or stitch line, then added half an inch for the seam allowance. Easy Peasy! On the photo below, I added a notch to the center front of the top, and the center of the sleeve and I should have added one to the center back, for ease in stitching. This fabric is an interlock and worked really well. I planned this top to use the cotton lycra print for the bands, so these pieces worked fine in interlock.
Yokes made from stripes. I cut the stripes by hand with scissors so the bottom of the stripe would be perfectly even.
Note for adult sizes. This color blocking is an awesome spot to add some shaping. Add a slight downward curve on the yoke front and a slight upward curve on the body front, ending up with 1/2 to 3/4 more at the center to create a subtle dart like seam, that no one will notice, but you when you try it on and it fits great, and doesn’t pull up in the front!
The toile I made before Christmas used a cotton lycra doodles from Joann, and a cotton interlock from Kathy’s Lace and Elastic. I like to use dead stock and deep stash/destash fabric for my first try.
Do all the sewing, just as the Merryweather pattern instructs. Topstitching adds a professional touch, keeps the serged seams flat, and makes for a sturdier garment. It is fun to play with colorblock options. I often let the type and amount of fabric I have available determine what goes where. Just use the fabric with best recovery and lycra content in bands.
And here is the same photo with the wonderful Art Gallery fabric, and stripes from the SUAT site. Have fun playing with different prints in the sleeves/yoke/body/bands.
I chose to make cuffs from the stripes to help push up too long sleeves that will grow with the baby. When I cut the stripe to straighten the fabric along the stripe, I cut close to the previously cut spot, which rolled a bit. To solve that, I could have cut off an additional couple of stripes, but I am too frugal to waste fabric. I used an overcast foot here to pre baste with a wide zig zag, which will seal the edges of the cuff together, and make for an easier time attaching the cuff to the sleeve. This basting if close enough to the edge will not need to be removed later and will stretch beautifully.
Clips can help get started and are useful if the roll is particularly strong. Pro tip: When using a foot like this that has a finger to keep the stitch from tunneling, walk the first stitches by hand to be sure the needle easily clears all metal parts of the foot.
The question is to stitch with the bands up, or with the bands down. Here is one way. I clip the seam line and the opposite point around the circle and start in the middle of the clips. Serge or use a stretch stitch. Wow, you can see the tiny clip in the band in this photo.
This illustrates the waistband of the matching joggers, which is made quite stable by zig zag basting first, can be stitched on the bottom. A stabilized band can be sewn on the bottom since it will behave itself a bit better. Place the main fabric, which may still want to roll, on the top where it can be seen and controlled. Clip in several places and start stitching in the middle of a pair of clips. Bands can be attached either way. Try both and see what works best for you.
Two finished Mini Merryweathers with different color block options, and either cuffed or hemmed sleeves. Both were made with pants to match/coordinate. More on those later.
This post is filled to the brim with affiliate links. If you purchase a pattern or fabric with these links, it will cost you nothing extra, and the seller of those items may pay me a small commission, which is greatly appreciated. Thank you, and Happy sewing! – Joan
At a request for zoom friendly tops that feel like sweatshirts, and have pockets, I experimented with the Leslie from 5 out of 4 patterns. The pattern is fabulous as is. My husband found this textured fleece in my stash and suggested our daughter would love it. A lighter weight fleece is a great way to start with this pattern due to the square neckline, corners and lots of layers. I skipped the zip for two reasons. 1. She is a fiddler. The last thing she needs to be doing is fiddling with the zipper on her collar during a work meeting, and 2. Despite the massive amount of zippers I have in my stash, there were none this color. Turns out that made things even more simple to put together. This is a great way to try out the pattern for fit and style before attempting a zipper. A confidence builder.
Print and cut your size. Read through the tutorial that comes with the pattern. There are some really nice videos that are super helpful.
Cut out the following:
Front, back, sleeves, pocket, hood center back, and most critically, two mirror image side A hood pieces. The side B was designed to use the additional width that the zipper supplies to fit within the neckline. Don’t use that one for this project. Mark the center back neckline, and center back of the hood piece to help align them when sewing.
2. Sew the three piece hood together. Topstitch if you like, makes the inside a bit cleaner. Finish the edge with binding. I used fold over elastic.
3. Sew shoulder seams.
4. Prep the neckline. Staystitch the lower square neckline of the front piece. Use matching thread and with a shorter stitch length of 2, stitch from an inch above the inside corner of the neckline across the bottom and back up an inch. If you look closely, you can see my stay stitching on the wrong side of the front. It is sewn at a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance, so I do not have to remove it later.
5. Clip corners of the stay stitched neckline. Use your sharpest scissors to clip diagonally into the corners.
6. Pin the collar overlap. Baste the three lower edges together from pin to pin in the photo below at a scant 1/4 inch seam.
7. Attach the hood/collar to the body. Pin the right side of the lower edge of the hood/collar to the right side of the open neck edge.I pinned just outside the diagonal cuts. Double check to be sure you have the 1/4 inch of the hood/collar free on either edge, outside of the pin. With your work placed so that the hood collar is underneath, and the body is on top, we can begin sewing. the designer recommends basting this in place with a longer stitch. A stitch length of 3 is good, as it can be fairly easily removed, but will still hold and with this much loft you would want a longer stitch. Place the needle down at one corner, just inside the pin, and right on top of your stay stitching or basting stitches. Sew at this precise corner spot with a zero stitch length for a few stitches. Then stitch across the straight portion to the next corner, as pictured below. Stop precisely at the corner and make one or two stitches in place.
8. Stopped at the corner. Since I pinned just outside the corners. I could sew right up to my pin. Once I had made a few stitches in place, I removed the pin, and with the needle still firmly sunk into my fabric, I lifted the presser foot to pivot. There is a lot of excess fabric in the foreground of the below photo. We will deal with it in the next photos.
9 Sink that needle. All the way down.
10. Time to Twist and Shout! Needle still firmly sunk, lift your presser foot. Leave the bottom layers of the hood/collar as they are, arrange the top layers of the body of your sweatshirt, so that they are now swung around to the left and behind the presser foot. You can see a tiny bit of the staystitching in the photo below. Align the raw edges here, lower the presser foot, and stitch to the next spot where the notch in the hood/collar meets up with the shoulder seam. Next stop center backs, and after that the other shoulder seam and notch. You may want to switch to a stitch with more stretch to to around the sides and back of the neckline.
11. Almost there! In the photo below, we are getting back to where we started. You can see the initial stay stitches in the photo below. There will be excess fabric here just like there was at the first corner. Just manipulate it out of the way, so that you can minimize any puckering or tucks. When you get to that precise corner spot where you started, you can back tack or make a few stitches in place. Cut your threads and inspect your work! If you see puckers or tucks, now would be the time to correct them.
12. Neaten your stitches. The photo below is the inside of the neckline after serging around the sides and back only. It is optional. I left the straight part of the neckline without serging, because it was already pretty bulky with those layers. To tame the layers, you could stitch across that straight edge a second time.
13. Topstitch the neckline. This is optional. From the right side of the garment, I started at the back of the neck in the photo below. You can see the seams of my center hood on the left side of the photo, and a shoulder seam in the foreground. The seam is pressed towards the body and I am sewing just to the right of my seam, using the inside of my foot as a guide to keep my stitches even.
Close up of neckline finished and top stitched. I am happy with the outcome!
Add the pocket, sleeves, and finish the rest the sweatshirt. Now that you have conquered the zipless version, go forth and be the boss of the zipper! And then maybe the welt pockets.
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Eternally grateful for the opportunity to teach sewing. One of the interesting parts of that is how much I learn from my students. A year ago, I met a woman who was instrumental in getting the ban on plastic bags in our city. That has all taken a big back seat since the pandemic, but it really made me think about what is truly important. And what kind of a footprint I want to leave behind. I love to sew, truly, I do, but how many garments do I really need? Luckily, I have a grand child, who is growing and actually needs clothing, so I am having fun with sewing kids clothing. Another student, introduced me to dyeing fabric. She is a proficient seamstress, and really wanted to learn better finishing techniques. We were able to (pre pandemic) meet for sewing get togethers, which was great therapy for all who attended. Everyone worked on their own project and were inspired by each other to learn more and become better, both as people and as sewists. So this is some of the reasoning behind why I spent a lot of time stitching up a pair of PJ pants from a cotton LLBean sheet that I rescued from my parents linen closet. Plus, I have a newly refurbished treadle and wanted to practice.
If you have left this to the 11th hour,are making a bunch in a hurry, are impatient to get this done, or ended up using a scrap that does not leave room for pockets, skip to this method.
The sheet – wow, they still make them, and they are nice with a high thread count and pretty pricey. This one had lived a long and happy life. The center parts were tissue thin, but the edges, were still solid, with more wear to give. I washed it and set it in the bottom of this tub, where I ice dyed some rescued rayon gauze that I recently found. She sheet, old, and torn in a spot, just caught the drippings of the dye intended for the newer focus fabric in this ice dye experiment. Double left overs happening here.
You can see below the rack, said sheet, which surprisingly picked up mostly the blue, maybe turquoise. This is my second try at ice dyeing. Fun to experiment. I purchased a small amount from my local fabric shop, then went on to Dharma to purchase larger quantities. I have had the dye materials since summer, and was worried about doing it “correctly” so put it off. Then I remembered a lesson I learned in learning to teach art. Sometimes it is more about the “process than the project”. A valuable lesson that enabled me to experiment with things that may “fail” but are worthwhile in doing for the learning opportunity. A recent snow inspired me to give it a try. This is what it looks like after the ice melts.
The pattern calls for a 3/8 inch seam on woven, quilting cotton or flannel. After serging around a garment my daughter made in flannel, in which the edges frayed so badly, she was going to pitch it, I decided that this one was going to get a clean finish. Here is an extreme close up of the beginning of a flat felled seam. Normally, one would stitch at 1/2 inch seam allowance, then trim off 1/4 inch of one side. I offset the two pieces by 1/4 inch. and sewed a seam 1/2 inch on the back piece, and 1/4 inch away from the edge of the front piece. The 1/2 and 1/4 total the same amount of fabric in the seam allowance as both pieces being 3/8. If you are more about cutting quickly than perfectly smooth, you can cut a generous 1/8 inch bigger and trim later.
Stitch both front and back crotch curves.
Fell that seam. What I love about a flat felled seam is that it is finished on either side. One side will have the double rows of stitching, the other will have a single row. On fabric that is a looser weave, and may stretch more on the bias, like crotch curves for me, I will not sew with a straight stitch but a very slight zig zag, .5 wide. Not noticeably zig zag, but with enough give that your seams do not pop. See more about seam finishing here. If you want to go for really slow sewing, you can press that larger seam allowance first. These pants were sewn in the wee hours of a December morning, so I was trying to sew quietly – on the treadle. The crisp sheeting finger pressed really nicely.
Finished flat felled back crotch curve. It is not completely perfect, so I decided that this could go on the inside. Perfection takes loads of practice, and I am really enjoying re-learning to sew on the treadle.
The other side will do nicely, thank you! Since there is no right or wrong side to this hand dyed sheeting, it will work either way.
Pockets. I firmly believe they are worth the effort. You can see that I traced out the pocket a tad bigger than the pattern. I had plans for that little #extra. Matched up the notches and stitched the pockets right sides together. One thing. Since this machine, a 1920 Singer Red Eye has no reverse stitch, I have been playing around with how to nicely end my stitching so that it stays put. While sewing on what was once a sheet that my mother slept on, I could hear her stories about how they would leave tails and pull the threads to one side to tie square knots to finish each seam. Well, I was slow sewing, but maybe not that slow.
Under stitch the pocket. So after I under stitched a pocket or two. I realized something.
You don’t have to cut every thread. Sewing a single layer made this bunch up a tad – on the dark blue piece. It smoothed out easily, since the threads were not secured. If you look closely, you can see the initial seam where I attached the pocket bag, continued stitching 2-3 stitches, then turned the work around to go back and under stitch. The extra stitches will remain in the seam allowance, so that works. I realized I could do this on my electric machines too. Slow sewing time saver, yay! I love learning.
French seam the pockets. After I flat felled the inside leg, and created a narrow hem at the bottom of each leg – who wants a smoother inside leg in their pants, right? But did not get photos, I opted to French seam the side seams. With wrong sides together, sew the side legs and around that pocket bag with an 1/8 inch seam. With the pockets cut a little larger, I had more wiggle room to line them up. This may have been sewn with a generous 1/8 inch seam then trimmed.
Clip diagonally into the top and bottom of the pockets, where marked below. Do not clip your seam.
Sew each side. Pants with side seams sewn and ready to trim. Notice that a narrow hem is already done, and the top edge was basted 1/4 inch to the wrong side. I used to shun basting as a waste of my precious sewing time. After teaching new students, I am now a basting fan. I would much prefer to spend 2 minutes basting than 10 ripping. Basting is also faster than waiting for the iron to heat up. And another chance to practice sewing a straight seam.
Flip the pants wrong side out, and sew a slightly deeper seam. If you trimmed to 1/8 inch, then a 1/4 inch seam will do nicely here. I was able to get my hand in the pocket to smooth out the edges before sewing. The clipped tops and bottoms of the pocket bag make it easy to get around those areas, and keep them smooth.
With side seams pressed towards the front, make a casing, and insert your elastic. Try on the pants and hem to the length you need now. For kids being able to let this hem out in 6 months will allow these pants to be worn longer.
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Oh, if you are wondering what I plan to to with the rest of that king sized sheet? Reusable gift bags, of course! I hope my kids get as much of a kick out of receiving and reusing these as I did making them. It will allow a “presence” of great grand parents at the celebration too.