The Finished Skirt

Just for you, Samina! The skirt is finished, and was super comfy to wear on my recent vacation – no, no photos – sorry! I didn’t bring my camera, and I don’t think to take them with my phone.

It has pockets of course…

But here it is, finished. It’s that same ol’ Kwik Sew 3877. But wait, that’s not an elastic waist pattern you say? You are correct. I converted it to an elasticized waist, and very easily too. The first thing is to make sure your pattern has a waist band, so you have someplace to put the elastic.

It is hard to see, but I topstitched in the ditch

Then, leave the darts out; make up a muslin or baste your skirt together, and make sure you can get it over the widest part of your body – for me, the hips. Extend your waistband to match the new waistline circumference, then instead of sewing in a zipper, just sew up all the seams. If your waist isn’t smaller (or smaller enough) than your hips to pull it up, you’ll need to add some width. You can probably do it at either the center front or back, or at the sides – or a little bit all over, I don’t think it matters much where for most people.

Getting the length of the elastic can be a bit tricky; my skirt was a bit loose so I shortened the elastic by an inch and half when I got home. It stayed up fine before that, I just couldn’t put anything heavy in my pockets or it would get dragged down.

I used the serger to finish all the edges, then topstitched the waistband on my sewing machine, and did a blind hem which disappears beautifully in this scuba knit. It was a roll end I got from Mr. Halpern a couple of years ago, so no longer available I’m afraid.

See you here next time and happy sewing!

Altering a Pattern – Knit Tops, Part 2

I’m back with the finished top; here are my notes about the rest of the process.

I’ve extended the back shoulder seam line on the pattern, and used my curve ruler to match the outer edge of the sleeve. (I keep calling it a sleeve; it’s more of a dropped shoulder, but you know what I mean.) You can also see through the paper that I marked the location for a dart (two short lines on either side of a longer line perpendicular to the shoulder seam.) When I sew up the top with a dart, I’ll drape the pattern piece on my dress form, angling it towards the bust point, and deciding on the length at that time.

For now I’ve chosen to sew the top with a tuck, and to leave the back sleeve the original length. You can see the tuck in this close-up:

The finished top is looser than I would like, so I may remove one of the inches I added to my bodice front. The fabric drapes nicely, a cuddly, cotton-bamboo blend French terry. It’s a little sheer in this off-white color, so you’ll have to admire it on Duplicate O’Neill instead of me, but maybe I’ll remember to model the next one.

As for finishing the edges, I just folded them over as per the instructions, using my coverstitch set to narrow. I did find with this fabric being so light, it made a better stitch to sew just beneath the edge of the fabric instead of catching the edge between the rows of stitching. I also used a bit of stay tape in the shoulder back neck seams for stability.

Now I just need to pick a fabric for my next muslin – I certainly have several to choose from!

Working with Waffle

My new robe for hangin’ ’round the house

I recently made myself a new robe; you may recall my previous one from here. While it was lovely, it was made from velour and was rather heavy – good for hot-tubbing in winter, no so much for around the house use.

I got this waffle weave cotton from our local heirloom shop, Buttons’n’Bows; I don’t know if they still have it, but I’m sure you can call to ask. (Actually, they just might – here, in 1/4 and 1/8 inch.)

I’ve never used waffle weave before, and I have a few tips to share if you haven’t either! In no particular order:

  • Finish the fabric edges. Like bouclé, it ravels. Not as badly as bouclé, but enough to be annoying. Use your serger or overcast stitch if you have one.
  • Cut in a single layer. It’s kinda fluffy, and that makes for a thick double layer, so try to cut out as a single layer. I did a double layer layout and while one piece would come out well, the other one would be rather wonky.
  • You might want to cut on the waffles. In general it’s going to be on grain, but it is fabric, which moves, and this is a very loose weave, so it can move a lot. While I cut straight – or mostly straight – because of the weave it’s very obvious where I went off-grain. There are little winding ridges along edges, and topstitching goes across rows. Nothing terrible, or very obvious, but when you look that long that closely at a project, you can see it.
  • It’s got a lot of body, so some design elements may need to be changed. For instance, I realized after making this pattern the first time, I need a bust dart. Now, a bust dart in this thick fluffy stuff wasn’t going to look well, but I got lucky. Where the dart fell out, it was right next to the low, oversized armscye, so I just rotated the dart to the armscye, and luckily it fell out along a bias area of the sleeve head, so I was able to ease the dart uptake in the seam, no big bulky darts needed.
  • It presses well, but don’t expect a crease. As I said, it’s got a lot of body, so it doesn’t necessarily look pressed, but do press as there will be a difference in how it handles if you don’t.
  • Get a bit extra yardage. It’s cotton, and a funny weave, so it’s gonna pucker up on you after you wash it. And I do highly recommend washing it before you cut – you don’t want to have it shrink after you sew your project. I myself could have used an extra half yard or so.

Well those are my tips on waffle weave for now – stay tuned for part 2.

Curtains and Other Window Treatments, Part 1

One thing you have to think about when you move into a new home is, how are you gonna cover the windows? If you’re lucky, the house comes with blinds or draperies. If you’re lucky enough, the new windows are roughly the same size and number as your old home, and you can just move the old treatments to the new home. If you’re me, then you wind up with a new house that has twice as many windows as the old house, almost none of which are the same size as any of the old windows….

The old house had one sky light in the kitchen (which I miss so dearly!), and twelve other windows: eleven floor-to-ceiling and one high up with privacy glass, so no curtain needed. The new house has, let’s see… twenty-six – no, twenty-seve… no! oh my, twenty-nine! – and of varying sizes. I not only used up every curtain from the old house, but has to scramble to get rods, curtains and sheers for many of the remaining windows. I say scramble because: why are curtains and rods never anywhere near the size of the windows you have? But I made do, and now we get to the mend part – shortening curtains and sheers for windows that are shorter than my old house. Not to mention making tie-backs as well.

For sheers, I really like to use the rolled hem – also called merrowed hem – on my serger. It’s a three-thread stitch, and when you use wooly nylon, you get a lovely finished edge all in one pass.

Since most of these sheers are quite a lot longer than I need, I will be cutting the excess before going to my serger. If it were only a couple of inches, then I would just cut and hem at once. But twelve inches or more is a lot to keep a straight line on the serger, so two steps give a more even hem.

It’s OK to fold it up to cut, it’d be too wide otherwise

After cutting off the excess length at my cutting mat, I fed one end of the curtain into my serger. To get a clean start to the hem, I slowly worked the leading edge up to the needles, and just as the fabric caught, I pulled the chain of thread straight back to clear the stitch fingers, then pulled it forward and across so the end would be caught in the hem.

See? Nice clean start.

If you have speed control on your serger, now’s the time to crank it all the way up, especially if you have 20-plus panels to get through!

Now we’re at the other end: how to finish? First, run your thumbnail along the entire length of the hem. This will help redistribute the stitches, and cover any little bald spots you have. There’s nothing wrong with your machine, it’s just the nature of the rolled hem, especially when you use woolly nylon. This fabric is a polyester, about the same weight as organza, so the fibers are bit stiff, and can make little “pokies” if the fabric is off grain (it’s a store-bought panel, it’s definitely off-grain.) If running your thumbnail along the hem doesn’t fix all the little pokies and bald spots, grab the hem on either side of the spot and circle them gently, that’ll work any fibers back in.

To finish the other end of the hem, I like to use Fray Check or something similar. I put a small dot right at the edge of the fabric, letting it absorb into the threads. After it dries enough in a few minutes, I clip the thread right at the edge of the fabric – you’ll never see it. You could otherwise try to turn the project over and capture the end of the thread tail as for the beginning, or you can knot it or use a needle to run the tail back under the stitching, but I find the fray check method is the simplest.

Now I have lovely sheers in all my windows, that float just above the sill.

I like to use a contrasting color for the wooly nylon, I think it adds a nice pop. And yes, I do use a while needle thread, and yes, you can see it in the hem; but I like the looks it gives, a small bit of white against the color. It’s not really noticeable, but you can always match your thread colors of course!

That’s all for part 1; join me next time for part 2 where I discuss hemming curtain panels.

Crawfish for a Cutie Pie

crawfish dress-1

My adorable little niece G turned two this February. Living in Texas, I thought she could use more crawfish in her life (my husband and I are from New Orleans.)

I made this quick little dress for her; I found the fabric at All Stitched Up by Angela in Slidell, LA.

crawfish dress-4
Technically, it’s crawfish, shrimp and lobsters, but they are all delicious!

I added some big pockets so she can fill them with leaves, rocks, frogs – whatever she finds!

crawfish dress-2

I used my Sashiko machine to topstitch the pockets, and embroidered a double-G on one side.

crawfish dress-3

I even got to use a fun tool – a ruffler foot! A quick hint about the ruffler; you really need to do a lot of practice runs with your fabric to make sure you get the size and spacing right on your ruffle. In addition to the adjustments you can make on the ruffler foot itself, the stitch length you set on the machine also affects the results. So test, test, and test some more until you find the right combination of settings.

crawfish dress trim-1

If you look at the edge, you can see I also got to use another fun setting: the rolled hem on my serger.

So have fun with quick projects, they’re often the best place to try new techniques, new accessories and your specialty machines.

Your Serger is Not for Sewing Knits




serger pillows-1
The pillow on the left uses a Baby Lock Wave Stitch to make flat tucks; the other pillow is featured below

When I first started sewing, I didn’t really see the need for a serger – many sewers don’t. I constructed knits just fine on my sewing machine with its variety of “lightning” and triple-stretch stitches. I was finally sold on sergers though when I went to a demo and saw what they could really do – decorate! And they certainly do it well.

You know all those fancy threads that would never fit into a needle for sewing with? Yup, your serger can use them just fine. Because sergers have loopers they can use much larger diameter threads than a traditional sewing machine. Your coverstitch can use these threads too, as it has a lower looper. I happen to have a combo machine, which converts from serger to coverstitch.

serger threads and ribbons_2019 02 16_0070
Yes, all of that goes in your serger – the pearls and rhinestones are used with a beading foot, the lace and wide ribbons with a lace foot, the fishing line and beads with no foot(!) and the rest goes into your loopers

I think the most fun part of a new decorative serger project is auditioning all my decorative threads – I have dozens and dozens! And not just dozens of colors, but dozens of types; silk ribbon, pearl crown, décor 6, 12wt cotton, 30wt in cotton and rayon, candlelight, Cotona, decora 8 and 12, serger ribbon, variegated, glamour… not to mention crochet yarn, embroidery floss, hemp and linen cord, and basically anything you can get through your looper.

A while back I wanted to do something fancy for my bedroom, and got some nice silk dupioni to make boudoir pillows. (I’m not sure why I call them that, I just always have for as long as I can remember; maybe because they’re usually frilly and satiny.) Vogue Fabrics Store has silk dupioni that’s great for garments and home décor; it washes well and irons just fine.

2019 07 08_0322

The fun part starts with choosing colors – I just lay out the fabric and start piling on the threads.

Here I’ve cut a strip so I can sample my threads: what type, which color, which stitch do I want to use? I started with a three-thread wide, but something is up…

2019 07 08_0327
That is an ugly stitch as Ms. Joan would say… and she knows a lot about sergers!

Aha, I left the differential feed on from the last project! Let’s fix that and we get – still something funky.

2019 07 08_0328

Ok, let’s try again with different settings and – still not great. What do we need? Interfacing! Or underlining as some may think of it. In this case I reach for my tried and true home décor interfacing, fusible tricot. Our wonderful local fabric lady Roz carries it in white and black, and at $6 a yard for 60” wide, there’s no reason not to have this in your sewing room at all times. This interfacing gives just enough weight and body to a variety of fabrics: dupioni, linen, light canvas, quilting cotton, and many other fabrics you might consider for your home décor. Unlike most stabilizers, interfacing stays with your project, providing support for your stitches after you’ve finished it.

2019 07 08_0330

So much better!

You will want to sample different interfacings and maybe even stabilizers or underlining; you never know what’s going to give you the look you’re going for. Always try out exactly the combination of fabric, interfacing/ stabilizer/ lining/ underlining, threads and stitching that you want for your project.

2019 07 08_0332

I re-threaded and ran several rows of test stitches, and in the end I chose a narrow hem (as opposed to a rolled hem) with a silver white décor 6 in the upper looper, and a dark grey 12 wt cotton for the lower looper (it wasn’t going to show, so it didn’t really matter much.) I also decided on a 60° diamond pattern, in which I did not use the knife; this allows the thread to bunch up a bit at the intersections and gives this nifty scaled look.

pillow close up

serger pillows-2

I also used a flatlock stitch on the back side of the pillow, and wove those fun threads in and out like ribbon insertion.

I did not come up with these ideas on my own; I got them from several Craftsy classes I watched on sergers. (Craftsy is now bluprint but I understand these classes are still available on subscription.)

Here are a couple of tips for using decorative threads in your serger:

You may need a thread cradle – a loop of serger thread that you pull through first, then put the end of the thicker thread into so you can pull it through the looper.

Also, your decorative threads may need different support from regular serger threads, like spool caps and holders

2019 07 08_0326

Or thread nets.

2019 07 08_0333

Have fun decorating your next project!

Do Your Machines Play Nicely Together?

2019 05 09_0171

Do all your machines play nicely together? I heard this phrase from Evy Hawkins of Bit of Stitch. I was watching her in a Sashiko machine video on Sew at Home Classes, and she described her use of multiple machines in a project as her “machines playing nicely together.” I thought that was a fun way to remember that we often have more than one machine in our sewing room, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to one machine or technique for each project.

I’m lucky enough to have a Sashiko machine; it only does one stitch but it’s a fun stitch you can use in a variety of ways. You can use it for quilting of course, but also for applying binding and other decorative tasks.

2019 05 09_0162

I found this fun citrus print from a favorite shop when I visit back home, Sew This! in Abita Springs. As soon as I saw it I knew it’d make great place mats and napkins.

2019 05 09_0174

I quilted the place mats with the Sashiko, and then used it to apply the binding. How fun is that tiny pick stitch? The body of the mat is done with a stitch length of 2mm and a space of 5mm, and the binding is done with a stitch of 5mm and a space of 2mm.

2019 05 09_0163
It’s almost more fun choosing the threads and finish for a project!

I also have a very nice serger, and it makes quick work of napkins with a variety of decorative stitches. In this project I used a three-thread wide stitch with 12-wt thread in the upper and lower loopers.

2019 05 09_0166
Sometimes when you serge around a curve, the stitching is a little uneven


2019 05 09_0167
Just a wiggle of the threads and a quick press later and you have flat, even stitches

2019 05 09_0168
To finish, run of the edge, tie a knot and weave the tail into the back threads

2019 05 09_0165
All layered and lined up for quilting

How did I come up with the shape for my place mats? I got the idea from Sew 4, a website that has lots of great home décor projects and ideas. The original project is here, but something wasn’t quite to my taste with the trapezoids.

Then I thought I’d like it a lot better with rounded corners, so out came the trusty lid from my faux malachite box.

2019 05 09_0160

And I rounded the corners of the napkins too.

2019 05 09_0161
Hmm, maybe I don’t like this binding as much as I thought

2019 05 09_0164
Making new binding – I love my AccuQuilt® for cutting binding if nothing else!


2019 05 09_0173

I cut my bias binding a bit too small, and probably should have trimmed down the seam allowance, but I did a pretty good job and it turned out OK. In one small area I didn’t catch the under-lap, but a few fell stitches with a needle fixed it fine.

2019 05 09_0172
This shape fits much more nicely than traditional rectangular mats

A little while later – and lots of fun stitching! – and I had a lovely new set of place mats and napkins.

What to Do with Leftovers

What do you do with your leftovers and scraps? Generally, if I have enough left over for another project I hold onto them; but if it’s not enough or I don’t want to do another project with that fabric I cut it down into quilt blocks (if they’re cotton) or I just toss them.

Velour Robe and Extras-1

I recently made myself this lovely, rather luxurious robe from a terry velour, here from Vogue Fabrics, in this pattern from Butterick. There was a bit left over, not enough for anything much, but I wanted to play with some decorative threads I recently purchased for my serger – pearl crown rayon and décor 6 from Uncommon Thread. They were just enough though to make some nice face cloths for myself, and I got to play with fun thread!

Velour Robe and Extras-2

I used a three thread overlock narrow stitch, with pearl crown or décor 6 in both loopers, and a white polyester serger thread in the needle.

Velour Robe and Extras-3

Velour Robe and Extras-4

What’s on the pockets? I tried out my Sashiko machine just to see what it would do on terry – turns out not much. It’s pretty fluffy fabric, so the Sashiko stitches get lost. But, that’s why we try out new things, to see what else we can do, what we can create next. What are your sewing plans for Spring?

velour robe_2019 02 22_0078
A tatami-style stitch with a topper helps keep the velour down and improves the stitch out

Crimes Against Couture?

chanel boucle 6
Can you tell there are serged seams?

For those who are not familiar, couture sewing has some expected (or antiquated) techniques and parameters: multiple muslins and fittings, generous seam allowances, using the stitching line as opposed to the cutting line, and a lot of hand sewing. A LOT of hand sewing…. This makes couture sewing unappealing to many modern sewers; no short cuts, no new techniques, and definitely no sergers.

But I really enjoy couture sewing, there’s something almost meditative about the process. And of course, not every garment has to be full on couture all the time. Some of my fellow Fashionista’s and I do what we call “demi-couture”: we use the techniques that we find most enjoyable, give the best finish or are the most practical – and couture sewing is nothing if not practical.

So what to do when your designer bouclé remnant leaves you with scant 5/8-inch seam allowances (and I mean scant as in more like 3/8-inch) and the edges are raveling faster than you can sew them? You bust out the serger. Yup, there are serged edges in my mostly couture a-line skirt. I stabilized not only the edges of my pattern pieces with the serger, I cleaned up the hem as well. This to me is not much different than whip-stitching the entire edge to stabilize it; I just did it by machine instead of by hand.

fixing the skirt-4
Hot off the serger – the edge is now being held securely

The most fervent adherents will claim that Madame C is now rolling over in her grave, but I think if she had a serger she’d’ve used it if she needed to. Because you see, couture also teaches us to do what is needed when it’s needed. For instance, I wound up with a strange hole in one of my side seams; it looks like a little notch was cut out of the hem allowance – I’ll blame it on a gremlin. But my otherwise nice and even 2-inch hem has a very shallow spot; what to do?

fixing the skirt-1

I took a scrap of organza and zig-zagged it to the wrong side of the hem, then folded it over and zig-zagged it down. I now have a lovely stabilized edge to catch-stitch down with the rest of the hem. Won’t it show? It shouldn’t, especially with the lining in place. Only someone being nosy would see it, and if someone is that nosy then I have way more to worry about than them seeing my little organza bandage….

fixing the skirt-3
All Patched!

Chanel Boucle Skirt-1
A silk lining is lovely and hides all the stitching