Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stretch & Sew 1550: Fitted Basic Dress

Seriously, how could I resist this beauty? 10 darts - 6 on the bodice and 4 on the skirt. I think it was first released in 1967, but this is the 1974 version. 

I changed the neckline to make it more of a scoop, and finished it with French trim. I also swapped out the sleeves. This dress only went to size 40, and I wanted size 42 sleeves at elbow length. So, I used the sleeves from a different Stretch & Sew pattern. I've noticed that some of the earliest Stretch & Sew patterns max out at size 38 or size 40. Later ones tend to go higher. It's not a problem, but just something to keep in mind as you're browsing around for these patterns if you are in the higher size range.

I did a small FBA on the bust, which moved the front waist darts over a little. So, I moved the front darts on the skirt over, too, so that they would still line up. 

I'm really pleased with how well I put in the zipper. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. I love the 1974 instructions - which basically say, "Do whatever it says on the zipper package." I interfaced the edge with 1-inch-wide knit fusible interfacing, then basted the seam shut, used basting tape to connect the zipper to the seam allowance, and topstitched all of the way around the zipper.

Check out my awesome ponte knit! In some light, it looks purple. In some light, it looks royal blue. I love it all of the time!

I wanted to be able to fine-tune the fit, so I put the back together, the front together, and put the sleeves in, flat, before I basted the side seams and tried it on. I ended up leaving the top alone, but changing the side seams on the skirt from 5/8 of an inch to 3/8 of an inch, to get just a little more room in the hips. 

I used fusible web, for the first time, for the all of the lower hems. This is mostly because my fabric/thread match wasn't perfect, so I was afraid that even an "invisible" hem would show. I didn't think that a coverstitched hem would look right with a pattern this non-tee-shirt-ish. We'll see how it holds up, but I like it, so far. 

Looking at it on the dress form, I probably should have raised the waist a little bit. For my next version, I'll try to put it 1/2 an inch higher, and see how that goes. Otherwise, I'm very happy with the fit!

The bottom of the skirt hits me exactly at the middle of my knee. I'm only about 5'4", so a taller person might want to lengthen the skirt. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Darts in Knits and Stretch & Sew 1505

I had a little of that wonderful bird fabric left over, so I made a Stretch & Sew 1505.

It's a lovely pattern! I did a small FBA and lowered the bust dart a little bit, and ended up with this unholy mess of a pattern piece. I've become a bit stingy with my Swedish Tracing Paper, so I use scraps to fill in when I do pattern adjustments. 

I promised myself that, if this shirt came out well, I would retrace the pattern piece so that I would have a "clean" copy to use later. So, that's what I did before I put everything back in the package. 

I love the scoop neck on this one and the neck treatment is great. It's not just an attached knit band - it's what Ann Person calls a "French Trim." Or, rather, it looks like she had to start calling it a "French" trim after she couldn't call it Chanel Trim, anymore. 

A lot of people who sew seem to be shy about using darts in knit fabric. So far, I've had good results as long as the fabric is 100% cotton or a double knit. I've seen darts in higher-end polyester/spandex blends in ready to wear, though, too. If you snoop shop at White House, Black Market and St. John Knits, you'll see a lot of darts.

The main things that lead to successful darts in knits, it seems to me, are:

1) Use the "right" fabric. It would be asking a lot for a very slippery or thin knit to hold a dart. It's not impossible, I'm sure, but I would test, a lot, before I tried it. Right now I'm saving darted styles for more structured fabrics and dart-free styles for more floppy/stretchy fabrics.
2) Make sure the dart point isn't too close to the apex. This is always important, but looks extra-bad on knits, in my opinion. The dart is sometimes a little more stiff than the fabric around it, so instead of just crawling up the apex, it actually sticks out, away from the body! Not cute.
3) I use a stabilizer under the dart as I sew it, then tear it away after I'm done. This allows me to both  not worry about the dart stretching out as I sew and makes sure I can stitch off the end of the dart without worrying about the machine tangling up. I keep a big pile of 1-inch strips of stabilizer by the machine, to make this easier. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Stretch & Sew

I have a bunch of these patterns. So, I made a spreadsheet. As you do. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Butcher Apron

Just a reminder that the Textile Center's garage sale is coming up. I picked up this pattern at their smaller sale last Fall. Fair warning - I'll be the one elbow-deep in the vintage patterns. I really do use them, too. Take that, person who asked me if I do at that sale. Then, she called them "paper dolls." Weirdo. She was probably a crocheter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pink Out Day

I just found out that today is #pinkout day! The high temp. here today will be in the 50s, and, believe it or not, that's waaaay too hot for me to actually wear a hat. So, I'm sporting a little PussyHat pin on my bag. I designed it myself and I don't know if I can share too many details, yet, but you should be able to get the super-easy instructions for it soon.

There's more information on #pinkout day here and here.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Work Friend: You didn't make your own leggings, did you?

Me: Of course I did!

I used Stretch & Sew 313, which is barely even vintage, in my opinion, since I was 14 in 1993, but I digress. 

Which means that I remember stirrup pants and I still hate them, so I made my leggings/tights stirrup-free but pretty long. 

I found a fabric at JoAnn's that is pretty heavy, has amazing recovery and was marked "workout to weekend." The pattern uses a cut-on elastic waistband, where you stitch the elastic to the inside of the tights, then turn it down and topstitch it in place. 

I used a tip that I read in one of the Stretch & Sew books for this - instead of pinning the elastic in place before you topstitch, just baste it down at the center and back seams (and side seams, if your garment has them). Then, you don't have to try to pull pins out as you're stretching your elastic to fit. 

Ann Person was on record as hating the look of zig-zag stitches on the outside of the garment, but I see this A LOT in activewear, so when my coverstitch refused to cover the super-thick elastic plus two layers of fabric, I just used a fairly wide zig-zag to topstitch. 

I hemmed the legs using the coverstitch, though. The leg and crotch seams were serged, with an extra line of straight-stitching inside the seam allowance of the crotch seam. 

It really is a fast pattern to put together, since it only has the two inside leg seams, the crotch seam and the waistband. 

And, yes, leggings aren't pants. But, they aren't supposed to be. If you really want to complain about this "new" fashion, it's been growing on us, as a society, for about 900 years. They're just more comfortable now that we have spandex.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plain Black Skirt

Gym selfie, again. I know. 

This is Stretch & Sew 445, shortened quite a bit because I am short and I wanted it to hit around my knee and not mid-calf. It's a real workhorse pattern. There's probably a way to make the encased elastic waistband less bulky, but it doesn't bother me the way it is.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Old Rotary Cutter

One of my favorite sewing tips - use an old rotary cutter to cut out your patterns! I love tracing patterns, but I always kind of hated cutting them out with scissors. This is faster and also lets you see which areas might be a little tricky to cut without the help of shears. Nice! Thanks, Beverly Johnson!

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

They Don't Make Them Like They Used To

Proof. On the left, a sewing ham that smells like a 1970s basement. On the right, one that I bought online last year. The first one could seriously be used as a club. It weighs a ton! Bonus background cat.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Flannel Pillow Cases

I picked up about 2 yards of this awesome black and white flannel at SR Harris and knew I wanted to make pillowcases out of it. Pretty easy. I measured the existing pillowcases I had, then kind of copied them in the new fabric. I serged all of the seams and did a topstitched hem.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fabric Glue Stick For Basting Fleece

I read this in Making Trousers for Men and Women some time ago:

"Whenever I mention glue in a sewing workshop or class, everybody laughs, as if I’m cheating or something. Apparently, the word hasn’t yet gotten out: Adhesives are a sewer’s best friend! They’re the tiny fingers you don’t have and the invisible pins that don’t ever need to come out. Admittedly, I’m quite restrained here. I use only a water-soluble glue stick and, recently, a neat ultra-fine fusible basting tape —so far, no spray adhesives or glue guns—but, really, you have to try these things!

Three quick glue-stick tips: Don’t use more than you need, which is usually very little...Don’t use the glue if it’s dried out and shrunken in the tube. (You can often resuscitate a shriveled glue stick by spraying some water into the tube cover, snapping it on tight, and letting it sit overnight—but this stuff is cheap, so get a new tube now and again.)"

On the strength of that recommendation, I bought one, and haven't used it until I was thinking about how to baste the hems for more pussyhats. I thought, why not? If I waste one hat, I'll have at least learned something. 

I'm happy to report that the glue stick worked really well on fleece! I had no trouble with my hems wandering around on me. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Pussyhats From Shorter Pieces of Fleece

I'm basing these projects on this version of the fleece pussyhat. I was really happy with my results, but since I bought a yard (36 inches) of fabric, and the pieces for the hats are designed to be 20 inches long, that left me with a weird strip of leftover fabric, about 60 inches wide and 15 inches long. I always seem to lose at least an inch of fabric to the piece not being completely square, or because I sometimes cut too deep as I'm cutting, and I'm ok with that.

But I'm not really ok with that much waste. Anti-pill fleece isn't expensive, but it is 100% polyester, which doesn't biodegrade, and while it's not like I'm composting my cotton scraps, it bothers me a bit whenever I waste anything, but especially a synthetic fabric. 

I thought I'd try making a version of the hat with a cuff. I tried one where I only cut 11" pieces for the main part of the hat, and it came out really small, so I'm going to go ahead and suggest that 12" might be better. Test for yourself. The original pattern doesn't specify a seam allowance, so maybe she was working at a quarter inch, while I prefer a half inch, and that would make her finished hat an inch larger around than mine, which is quite a difference when it comes to hats. 

There's another reason to check your sizing before you cut out as many of these as possible - the cuffed edge seems to make the hat fit a little more snugly than the turned-and-stitched hem. That could be because of something I'm doing wrong, or it could be inherently less stretchy. I'm not sure. There are two lines of stitching instead of one, and maybe that is enough to make a difference.

This is how I did it. Cut one piece of fleece that is 12 inches wide and 15 inches long. This is the main hat. Cut another piece of fleece that is 23 inches wide and 4 inches long. This is for the cuff.

Once you have your sizing figured out, you can cut several hats at once from your theoretical scrap above: cut one piece that is 23 inches wide and then cut three 4-inch-long pieces from that. That leaves you with a piece that can be cut into 3 pieces for the main parts of hats. If your fleece turns out to be 59 inches wide when you trim the selvedges, you can always cheat a little bit and cut the main hats at, say, 11 and a half inches, then work with a smaller seam allowance. Or make two hats that are the size you want and a third that's a bit smaller, that may fit a child. You'll have to adjust the seam allowance for the cuff on the smaller hat, so that it will still fit nicely together.

Sew the side seams of the hats and sew the ends of the cuffs together so that they form a circle. Fold the cuffs, wrong sides together.


Pin or clip the cuffs to the hats, right sides together, lining up all raw edges with each other. Stitch with a half-inch seam. This makes for a really bulky seam, with three layers of fleece together, so go slowly and consider using a walking foot, if you have one. I don't have a free arm on my sewing machine, so I like to stitch anything to do with the hem or cuff from the inside of the work, as in this example and this one. You can serge this edge, too, but I would baste it on the sewing machine first, because it's so much bulk.

Flip the cuff down and look at which two seam allowances will be covered by the third one when the hat is worn. Trim the two that will be covered, to reduce bulk at the seam. Topstitch the cuff in place, using a stitch that stretches, like a zigzag or a three-step zigzag, if you feel fancy. Finish the "ears" of the hat by topstitching with a straight stitch.

To be honest, I like this method of construction more for two reasons - it uses up smaller bits of fabric and it's easier to make the bottom edge look really good. I struggled a bit with keeping the hem even on my other hats. I did my best, but I can see that they're not perfectly level. It's much easier to do this way, in my opinion. I know that some people use spray adhesive to stick their fleece hems in place before stitching, but I don't have any! Maybe someday, I'll try it.

I know I'm repeating myself, but when you are finished, clean your machine, even if you don't usually clean up after every project. Fleece tends to shed a bit and it can gum up your machine worse than most other fabrics.

More ideas for fleece scraps:

- piece them together and make a pet bed. Even if you don't have a pet, most shelters will accept beds/ blankets for their animals. Check with your local shelter before you sew!

- cut them into smaller strips/pieces and use them to stuff everything from pet beds to dolls.

- find a pattern that doesn't take a lot of yardage. Mittens and hats, especially for kids, are often really low-yardage. Again, just because you don't have a kid doesn't mean you can't sew for them. Check with a local charity to see what's needed.

- stuff them into a bag and feel guilty. This is my most common response to scraps, but it's not very fulfilling.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Making A Bunch of Pink Hats! + Tips for Working With Fleece

After the Women's March on Washington, my mama asked me to make her a pink hat, aka a pussyhat. * 

I'd already given away the extras I made before the march, so I needed to go buy some fleece. 

The waste I had left over the first time bothered me a bit. Each hat needs a strip that is 20 inches long and between 11 and 13 inches wide (I have a big noggin and I like to wear my hair in a bun, so, yes, my hat is 13 inches wide, when I cut it). 

If you take that out of 1 yard of fleece, you're left with weird scraps that are less than 16 inches long. Not good for a lot, although I may try piecing some scraps together into yardage.

So, I bought 1 and a quarter yards and cut it up like this: one strip that's 13 inches wide, 2 strips that are 12 inches wide and 2 strips that are 11 inches wide. Give or take. Fleece is bouncy, so cutting it is like corralling a wild animal that is made out of marshmallows. Checking the math: 13 + 24 + 22 is 59, so once you cut the selvedge off a piece of sold-as-60-inches fleece, you should have just enough. 

If the world were perfect, I would only need a piece of fabric 40 inches long to do this, but let's face it - I'm not perfect at cutting and neither are the ladies at the fabric store. So, that extra 5 inches is a little insurance for all of us, for shrinkage in the wash, and to give me something to test my machine with. 

So, I laid it all out, folded in half, and marked 6.5 inches in, 12 inches from that, and 11 inches from that, with chalk. 

This left me with 5 big strips that I then squared off and chopped into 20-inch-long pieces. I then folded them, right sides together, and stacked them to take upstairs and sew.

Folded in half. Ten pussyhats ready to sew!

Bonus Tips:

- When you're sewing a bunch of ears on hats, it can slow you down to mark where the ears should start and stop. Cut a post-it (or even just regular paper) into the size you want and use it as a template.

From the book, Wild and Wonderful Fleece Animals - "Fleece doesn’t ravel, so you don’t need any seam finishing. This fact alone makes fleece an easy and quick fabric to sew! Never press the seams with an iron, it could melt the fibers. Instead, finger-press the fabric to open the seams. You can also place a seam under a wooden block—or a heavy book, such as a dictionary—to smooth it and help it lie flat."

When you are finished, clean your machine, even if you don't usually clean up after every project. Fleece tends to shed a bit and it can gum up your machine worse than most other fabrics.

*She might not wear it now that she knows that, but I'm going to make her one, anyway.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Party Dress As Top

Love it. "Party Dress" from Stretch & Sew. But I made it as a top and without any ruffles. It's fine, but I did notice something strange - the front and back armholes are identical. I've seen this before in a Stretch & Sew Pattern for a tank top. I like the top and it fits fine, so I don't know what I'm complaining about. It just strikes me as a bit odd.

It could be an inch or so longer. I was just using up a scrap bit of fabric, so the top is a little short.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Step Up Socks, Top Down

Quick photos in my mudroom, because that's how I roll.

It's easy to add colorblocking on the heel - a photo of that is on yesterday's post. 

The pattern is for sale on Ravelry and on Craftsy.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Step Up Socks, Toe Up

Step Up Socks, Toe Up, Self-Striping Yarn

Step Up Socks, Top Down, with colorblocked, slipped-stitch heel

In her Encyclopedia of Needlework (I use the English edition, published in 1886), Therese de Dillmont calls this heel the "heel in steps."

Her heel is beautiful, but can be hard to work out, from her instructions. I agree with her verdict: "A heel made like this is no more trouble than the former one (a square heel, what she calls the Usual heel); it fits closely to the foot and consequently wears better than any other shape."

I designed a version of her heel, which was knit from the top down, and reverse-engineered it to also be worked from the toe up. I have been knitting and wearing them since 2013. I don't wear out a lot of my socks, but I do have to darn some of them, every once in awhile. None of the socks I have made with this heel have required darning. That’s the highest praise I can offer a sock heel!

If this heel was first published over 130 years ago and I, myself, have been walking in it for over 3 years, why am I publishing it now?

I guess I was waiting for the right name and inspiration to push me: The Step Up Heel.

Donna Druchunas’s voice, especially, has been calling to me, since the election. When she asked if I had anything to contribute to her Knitting as a Political Act e-book, I was at a loss, at first. Then, I remembered this heel, tucked away in my knitting notes and sock drawer, and thought: “maybe this is the time for this heel pattern to emerge back into the light of day.”

I’m self-publishing the Step Up Socks pattern, as quickly as I can. There will be two versions: toe up and top down. I’m publishing the toe up first, since, for me, political action comes from the ground up. Top down will follow, since we need that, too. We need it all. We need everyone. No matter how you feel about politics right now, I think we can all agree that we should be on our feet, stepping up to the challenges laid before us.

I care about freedom, democracy, women's rights, indigenous rights and LBGTQIA equality. I don’t have a lot to give, but I am doing this: I’ll donate 10% of my proceeds from selling these patterns to a charity that I think will have the most impact. I may chose a new one every month, or I may stick with the same one for a long time.

Both patterns include stitch-by-stitch instructions for set sizes, very short instructions for if you want to use a customized stitch count, and tips for changing the colors and texture of your heel.

Look for them on Ravelry: and Craftsy:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mitten Knitting

There's nothing quite like knitting mittens. Quick, relaxing and fun!

This is a simple mitten pattern from One-Skein Wonders

Monday, January 09, 2017

Victorian Knitting Manuals on

I included a link to Richard Rutt's collection of Victorian knitting manuals at the University of Southampton Library in my book. Sadly, pretty much right around the time that I published, they changed the way the collection was organized, which made it way less user-friendly!

They're now on, and it's a pretty awesome resource! Go forth and marvel at how far we have come, but also remember that a lot of this wonderful knowledge has been "unfairly forgotten," as Barbara Walker said about at least one of the knitting stitches in her extensive collections. Or was it, "unjustly forgotten?" I really must read through those again, some day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

New Serger Shopping List

I don't have a cute photo to go with this post, but I wanted to write it quickly because my darling sister received a serger this year as a gift!

So, this one is for all of you who either have a new serger or are new to using a serger. 

1. This should have come with it, but if your serger doesn't have its manual, Google around and find your manual. It really helps to have the manual for YOUR serger. If your serger is secondhand, ask how long it's been since it was used. If it's been more than a few months, consider getting it tuned up by a professional repairperson. The oil could have congealed while in storage, and it might lock up on you, which would require repair, anyway.

2. Buy this book. I've read a lot of serger books in the last year, and this one has the best troubleshooting information, in my opinion. I'll never pass up the adorably cheerful 1980s serger books when I see them at Goodwill, but I don't really use them in the same way. They're just so adorable.

3. Buy this book, too. It's not quite as great at troubleshooting when you have a problem, but it has lots of great tips for getting the most from your machine.

4. Get a cover for it. You could make one, but I just bought this one. I'm a little paranoid about dust getting into my tension disks and messing up my machine. I consider this especially important if your machine is stored in a basement or other area that maybe isn't cleaned/used a lot. If you think your machine will go longer than 1 week without use, you really should cover it. 

5. Buy a bunch of needles. If your machine takes regular machine needles, great! If not, buy the ones that your manual says you should have. If you're anything like me, when you're learning a machine, you're more likely to break needles.

6. Buy 1 cone of thread to match each of the tension disks on your machine. Ok, that's a weird sentence. What I mean is, if your machine takes up to 4 threads, each thread will have its own tension setting wheel. These are usually color-coded in some way. They might be yellow, pink, green and blue. My machine takes 5 threads, and I think they are blue, black, red, yellow and brown. When you're first threading up the machine, I think it's really helpful to thread each needle or looper with its own color, preferably matching the color on its tension wheel. It takes some practice to be able to see which thread is which, so if you already have it color coded, you'll be able to tell where the tension is off. I may never use up that yellow cone of thread, but it sure made my life easier when I was learning the machine. If your machine isn't color coded, just pick colors you like, but make sure they're easy for you tell apart.

7. Buy sets (3, 4, or however many your machine will take) of cones of thread in blendable colors. Unlike a regular sewing machine, all of the threads on a serger don't have to match. You can just use a matching thread in the left-most needle. I like to have black, grey, tan and peach in my arsenal. I've used Maxilock and Madeira Aerolock and I like them both. It's ok to look for deals, but cheapo thread is usually a false economy.

8. Buy these teeny vacuum attachments. If you're not perfect about cleaning a sewing machine, it's usually ok. If you're not at least good about cleaning your serger, it will break.

9. Get some oil. Now, you should have this, already, but see #8 for why I'm mentioning this. I have this one and I like it but if anyone has any tips for keeping it from leaking all over me when I use it, I'm all ears. As it is, I kind of swaddle it in a rag, but I still manage to drip on myself.

10. Buy some hemostats. It sounds weird, I know, but they're great for when you're threading the machine. Much better than tweezers. You can also use them to make grabbing short threads while seam ripping easier. 

One more general tip: Try to set up your space so that you can have both your sewing machine and your serger ready to go at the same time. Switching back and forth when you actually have to move the machines will really wear you out. 

Ok, still one more general tip: When you're getting to know your machine, just cut a bunch of fabric scraps into long strips, for practice. I try to cut myself strips to test stitches for every project. It really reduces my angst. 

Craftsy class recommendations: 

Sew With Your Serger: Quick & Easy Projects - If you haven't taken a Craftsy class with Angela Wolf, you are MISSING OUT! She's an absolute delight.
Coverstitch: Basics & Beyond - If your machine has coverstitch options, you don't want to miss this class. Gail has a lot of very useful tips.