Monday, January 15, 2018

Corduroy Pants with a Lively Top

The idea for this particular top and pant combo has been simmering in my head for quite some time, since November 2016 to be exact!

The fabric for the top is a cotton jersey purchased at NY Elegant a couple of years ago.  It was the last on the bolt so I am happy to have snapped it up.  I love the colors.  I used my self-drafted knit top pattern.  For the neckband finish, I used the neckband technique I wrote about in a previous post.

For the pants, I used a very soft fine wale corduroy purchased at Mood Fabrics in NYC also purchased in 2016.   It feels so soft - I love the fabric.  I used the Closet Case Ginger Skinny Jeans pattern for the pants (View B).  I have used this pattern previously in a denim muslin (click here) and was overall happy with the fit.  However, each fabric has its own unique properties which cause it to behave and fit differently and thus was the case here.

While I know that slim fitting pants tend to have more wrinkles in the back, and you need some ease in order to walk, I think I have a little too much fabric in the back, particularly below the derrierre.      The corduroy fabric was softer and lighter in weight than the denim.  It also had slightly less stretch.  I also did not want the pants to be too snug.  I believe all of these characterics caused it to fit differently.

Also, I deliberately made the pants a little longer than I needed (which contributes to the wrinkling around the ankles) because I have discovered that even though I pre-shrink fabric, there sometimes occurs "residual shrinkage" once the garment is laundered again.  This is especially the case with cotton fabrics like this one.  Once I wash these a couple of times, I will determine whether I need to shorten the hem.

Despite the fit issues in the back (which is normal for me), I like the pants overall and will wear them.

I used a fun animal print cotton I had in my stash for the waistband facing and fly shield.

The zipper was longer than what I needed so I cut off the excess.

I usually just sew across the zipper tape (very carefully) but this time I wanted to try something different.  I did not want to have those metal zipper teeth inside the waistband so I decided to remove them and add stops at the end.  I purchased the tools at a sewing expo some years ago but you can find these supplies at or  Below on the left are the nippers and the zipper teeth I removed as well as the pliers I used to attach the zipper stops.

Based on my denim muslin, I discovered that I needed a full calf adjustment.  I also found that a curved waistband hugged my waist better and with no gaping.  I created the curved waistband by pinning a tuck on my muslin where I needed it to determine how much I needed to take in.   The tuck went from the top of the waistband to nothing at the seam where you sew the waistband to the pant.  I transferred this alteration to the waistband pattern.  These adjustments resulted with the waistband taking a curved shape which worked well for me.

Sewing tips:
When sewing with a napped fabric such as corduroy:

1.  Make sure you place the pattern pieces all in one direction so that the pieces all look the same.  If you do not, it will seem like the pieces on the finished garment are different colors because the light will hit the nap differently.

2.  Cut the pieces on a single layer of the fabric, particularly if the nap is prominent.  Don't forget to turn the pattern pieces over so you don't end up with 2 right sides for example.

3.  For pressing, I used a leftover piece of the same fabric so that I wouldn't flatten the nap.

4.  I used a walking foot to prevent the fabric from shifting.

Until next time....Happy Sewing!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Shades of Blue

For those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful joy-filled one with family, friends and lots of good food.

A couple of years ago, I took a Pattern-making for Knits class at FIT in NYC.  One of the homework assignments was to draft a pattern for a slouchy knit top with dropped shoulders and a turtleneck.  Back then, I made it in French terry and I love that top.  I wear it frequently because it is so comfy and cozy.  I decided to make it again in a different fabrication to wear for Thanksgiving.

I am wearing my new top with my Closet Case Ginger Skinny jeans which I wrote about it a previous post:

The top came together rather quickly.  I am a slow sewer and I was able to put it together in an afternoon.  That is rare for me.  I always find some way of making a fast project slow-going but since I had already worked with this pattern, the fitting issues had been worked out.

Here you can see the silhouette:

Here is a view of the back.  

I purchased the fabric at B&J Fabrics in NYC.  It is a rayon poly blend with a textured surface.  The interesting thing about the fabric, which I did not notice at the store, is that it is actually two knit fabrics woven together.  I realized this at home when I cut the fabric and noticed the cut edge.  Interesting, right?!:

I made sure to stabilize the shoulder seam with stay tape to prevent stretching.  For knit tops, I often use the coverstitch for the hem but in this case, I wanted a more formal look to the top so I serged the raw edge and topstitched it using a walking foot (to prevent stretching).  You can see the texture of the fabric in this photo:

If you would like to make a top with a silhouette similar to mine but don't want to draft the pattern, you can try Kwik Sew 4190 or Cutting Line Designs Fun with Fabrics pattern (the top).  

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It Ain't Over til It's Over

With the onset of the fall season, garment makers in the Northern Hemisphere have turned to making cardigans, jackets and clothing appropriate for cooler weather.  I, however, have just finished making this little white summer linen blouse.  I purchased the fabric at Gray Lines Linen in NYC (on 39th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues) back in June.  The idea of this blouse has been in my head for months and I intended to make it to wear for summer but oh well, I just couldn't get to it.  Add to that the fact that we have thus far had a warm fall here in the northeastern U.S. so I still wasn't in the mood for working with warm fabrics.  Summer just hasn't felt like it's been over!

The pattern is self-drafted.  It is another simple shape, a basic bodice, to which I drafted a little collar to add some interest.

Since I find the raw edge of linen scratchy against my skin, I decided to sew flat fell seams for the side seams.  For the armholes, I created bias tape from the same linen fabric.  White fabric tends to show the insides and I just didn't want a large dart take-up to show through to the outside so I trimmed the dart and finished the edges of the dart with a blanket stitch by hand.

I also decided to make the facings part of the design so I turned them to the outside and topstitched them.  The facing width is 1 inch plus 1/4 inch seam allowances.

It is amazing how hanging on the hanger, the neckline looks like it would be so much lower but on the body it is not.  I will be making this blouse again but next time, I will lower the V-neckline further to make it look more like what you see on the hanger.

Speaking of the neckline, the V-shape creates a bias edge that is prone to stretching while handling.  To prevent this from happening, I fused straight grain fusible tape along the edge as soon as I removed the garment sections from the pattern.  I did likewise with the armholes and the shoulder seams.  

With my next version, I will also bring the back darts closer to each other.  They look a little too far apart to me.

I am rather pleased with how the collar turned out.  It stands up as it curves around the neckline which you can see here:

If you would like to try your hand at drafting this collar, let me tell you it is the easiest collar ever to draft.  It was all straight lines and then I rounded the corners.  Measure from the center back to whatever point you decide you want it to end.  In my case it was 11 inches.  Then decide how wide you want it to be.  In my case, it is 1 inch.  As for the corners, I rounded them using a French curve but you can free hand the shape or use the edge of a can.  I added 1/4 inch seam allowances for the collar and neckline.

I find that using a small seam allowance does away with the need to trim.  With white clothes especially, you want a straight clean edge.  I find I can cut a straight edge when I am cutting out with the pattern but no so much when trimming.  I used lightweight fusible weft interfacing for the collar.

To attach the collar, make sure the center back of the garment neckline edge and the center back of the collar align.  Then sandwich the collar in between the garment and the facing, pin and sew.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Joining Instagram - For a Good Cause

Kyle from Vacuuming the Lawn has so generously donated her time and energy helping out those in need in her own special way.  She created a beautiful tote bag and held an auction on Instagram to help those in Texas who suffered the wrath of Hurricane Harvey.  I did not participate in the auction but did contribute via my church.  It was heartening to see that my local community center collected supplies from my neighborhood.  My employer also sent out a mass email providing links to organizations that were providing assistance.  It was heartening to see everyone coming together to help those in need.

Kyle did it again for Puerto Rico.  She took the time to make this beautiful floral bag and held an auction on Instagram to raise money to help our fellow U.S. citizens. With Puerto Rico, my church did not hold a fundraiser.  My local community center did not collect supplies.  My employer did not send out a mass email.  One can speculate as to why (I don't want to get into it here) but my heart sank as I made these observations.  I am of Puerto Rican descent so this disaster has had a personal element for me.

I have for the longest time resisted joining Instagram.  I felt like it would provide me with another avenue to spend the little spare time I have.  I would rather sew!  But when Kyle held this auction, I just had to participate.  I joined Instagram (my link: Instagram) just so I could participate in this auction and I placed the winning bid!  See the Instagram auction feed by clicking here.

This bag is of high quality professional workmanship and came beautifully wrapped with a fun card.
Thanks to the generosity of others in the sewing community, a total of $580 will be donated to the Hispanic Federation which is working tirelessly to help the residents of Puerto Rico.  One poster matched my bid while two others contributed as well.  So what this tells me is that there are so many different ways to help those in need.  And there are so many good people out there!

Sometimes it seems like the world is unraveling...with one disaster coming right after another.  It sometimes feels overwhelming and I often feel so helpless.  But what those in the sewing community have shown is that we can all chip in in our own special way.  Every little bit helps!  

If you wish to contribute, you can do so via the following organizations:

In addition to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other islands in the Caribbean also suffered extensive damage and the citizens of Texas and Florida still need our help:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I'll Wear it Next Year

Several weeks ago, I finished a little floral summer skirt made from a medium weight cotton/linen fabric purchased online from Michael Levine.  I purchased the fabric 2 years ago and it has since been sold out.

I love the "denimy" blue background color.  The roses remind me of my mother who loved all flowers but especially roses.  The motif also reminds me of a couch I once had - ha ha!

The skirt is self-drafted but you can find a similar pattern from one of the big pattern companies or independent pattern companies.  I am wearing it with a self-drafted knit top I made some time ago.  I would like to make a little woven top to go with it.  Maybe in a navy blue or perhaps I will pick up one of the colors from the print.  Anyway, I don't know when I will get around to making a top for it.  It has been so cool here in the Northeast U.S.  It feels like fall weather came way too early.  Unless we get a few hot days, I will wear the skirt next year.

Following is a close-up of the skirt.  The waistband seam sits at my natural waist.  The waistband width is 1 1/2 inches.  I was debating whether to make the skirt with chunky wooden buttons from my stash but after consultation with my daughter and with Kyle from Vacuuming the Lawn, I decided to go with the blue buttons.  I matched the motif along the center front fold:

But I did not have enough fabric to match the sides which I am ok with.  Below are views of the side and back.

Instead of folding the waistband under and slipstitching, I decided to finish the raw edge with a Hong Kong finish.  The inside side of the waistband is flat instead of folded under...

so I could stitch in the ditch from the right side.  I find this method reduces bulk and creates a polished treatment.

What do you think of the buttonholes?  Beautiful, yes indeed!!  I got them done at Jonathan's Embroidery, 256 W. 38th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.  You mark the buttonhole placement on the fabric and tell them what type of buttonhole you want.  You bring a button with you and a sample of the fabric so they can make a test buttonhole for you before they proceed with your garment.  They use industrial machines that create beautiful buttonholes.  They also use gimp to prevent the buttonhole from stretching over time.  The machines punch a hole (in the case of the keyhole buttonhole) and create a little slit.  You then finish opening the rest of the buttonhole at home.  They charged me $1 per buttonhole.

If you ever have the opportunity to get buttonholes done professionally, do it because it is definitely worth the effort.

Happy sewing!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Simple Knit Top

Honestly, I can't believe how fast time flies!  We have about 4 to 5 weeks left of summer weather here in the Northeastern U.S. before it starts cooling down.  I decided to make a simple knit T-shirt type of top which I can wear for the rest of the summer.  I almost did not blog about this top.  There really isn't very much to say about it.  The fabric is a medium weight cotton jersey from Mood Fabrics.

Due to my very busty figure, I usually make my tops a little long.  I find longer tops more flattering on me since a longer length creates a longer rectangle shape versus a boxy square.

The neckband is created from the same fabric using a technique I learned at FIT and described in a previous post.

For my figure, I need darts even in knits.  I made sure to match the stripes at the side seams all the way up to the dart.  I created the dart using the technique described in a previous post.  The stripes get distorted above the dart but that is OK with me since my arm is down most of the time.

Here is the back view.  Like I said, it is just a simple little top.  The pattern is self drafted.  If you want to make a similar top from a pattern, since it is so basic, you can find a similar silhouette by searching one of the major pattern companies or the independent pattern companies.

I hope you are enjoying the summer (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).  I will be savoring the rest of it.

Because I don't want to part with a photo of my back, here is a beautiful photo taken from a hike I went to in Northern New Jersey:

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve, Franklin Lakes, NJ
Happy Sewing!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hot Colors, Cool Dress and Lots of Work

Since summer is in full swing, I have been very much in the mood to sew with linen despite its tendency to wrinkle.  I find that if you wash linen in a washing machine and dry it on a hot setting, the linen still wrinkles but it does so softly so that is what I did.

McCall's 7562 was the inspiration for this dress.  I love the colors chosen for the sketch of View B.

However, I did not want the neckline and sleeves illustrated.  I also wanted the top orange section to be longer so that the style line did not cut me in half so to speak.

I recently received a fashion book as a gift that had pictures of shift dresses from the 1960's.  I was a toddler then but still remember my mother sewing shift dresses for me and my sister.  Nostalgia set in so I decided to make a 1960's inspired shift dress.  I drafted the top section and bottom section of the dress but I used the pockets from McCall's 7562.

I thought this dress would be one of those easy-to-make summer dresses...oh so carefree...comfortable and perfect for a hot summer day!

While the finished garment is certainly very comfortable and perfect for a hot day, it actually was a lot of work to put together.  Following is the saga...

For me, the raw edge of linen feels scratchy to my skin.  I have tried in the past finishing linen edges with a serger but it still feels scratchy.  I therefore decided to finish the edges using a Hong Kong finish.  It resulted in a beautiful finish in the inside but it did take some time to cut the bias strips (out of Bemberg lining fabric) and apply them.  Since the linen is lightweight, I also thought it would be a good idea to line the red bottom section to make sure there was no see-through.

Another issue I encountered was the bust darts.  Since I am a bit top heavy, the dress required that I make a huge dart for it to hang correctly.  However, no matter how carefully I sew a large bust dart, there is always a rather noticeable bubble that forms at the dart point.  In an effort to minimize the bubble, I tried using a technique suggested by Virginie of the blog Jazz Couture where she recommended that you fuse interfacing to the end of the dart.  I tried that but I still had a rather large bubble.  I also read in a Sandra Betzina book (don't know which one) that sewing a small piece of fabric to the end of the dart would eliminate the bubble.  I have tried that in the past as well and still got a large bubble.  I am sure each technique would work on its own were my dart not so massive.  So this time, I combined both techniques and had a much better result. Thank you Virginie and Sandra Betzina!

Now yet another issue was the large dart take-up which you can see in the above photo.  I did not want that large expanse of fabric to show on the right side so I trimmed the dart and finished the edges by hand with a blanket stitch.  I thought that serging the dart would result with a ridge showing on the right side so that is why I chose to do a hand blanket stitch.

Here is the right side of the dart freshly pressed.  In the wearing of the garment, I have noticed that the bubble has come back but it is small, not the huge bubble I had before combining the two techniques.

I noticed once I had the main pieces put together and the pockets sewn in, that the pockets flopped open.  Ugh!  What I did was fuse a piece of woven fusible stay tape along the pocket edge (the side that is facing outside).  That worked like a charm - whew!  So if any of you want to make View B of McCall's 7562, do stabilize the pocket edge along the top.  Since I wanted to make sure the tape would stay put in the washing machine, I decided to secure it with a catch stitch.  You can see I pinked the edges of the pockets...again, I did not want ridges to show through on the right side.

I did make a muslin of the dress to make sure the fit was just what I wanted.  Everything was A OK in the muslin.  I went ahead and cut out the garment and stay stitched the armholes.  I was going to use purchased pre-packaged bias tape turned to the inside because I like the clean finish it provides.  I used this technique on the neckline of my previous dress.  So I applied the bias tape, turned it to the inside and topstitched.  I tried the dress on and was horrified to discover that I had inadvertently stretched out the armholes.  You could see most of my bra!  Oh no!  What to do?


I was brainstorming with my dear sewing friend, Caryn.  (She makes the most beautiful garments.  She does couture level sewing.  She is so very talented and an inspiration to me).  She suggested using fold over elastic in red since it would pull in the armhole and add interest with the red color.  I thought it was a great idea except I was pretty sure I would not find the correct red.  Instead, I decided to pull in the armhole with basting stitches and make my own bias tape from some of the left over red fabric.  I proceeded to remove all of the bias tape I had applied, an arduous task indeed.

I fixed the stretched out armholes by sewing a running stitch by hand along the armhole edges.  You can faintly see the basting stitches in the below photos.  I then pulled the thread which created ripples (photo on the left).  I then steamed and pressed it to flatten the ripples as much as possible (photo on the right):

Then I applied the red bias tape to cover the ripples:

WooHoo!  I do love the effect of the contrast trim along the armholes (thank you Caryn!) so I applied it to the neckline as well.  I think that without the red trim, it would feel like something was missing.  It was one of those happy accidents!!

Here are the back and side views of the dress.  I used an invisible zipper at center back.

A shift dress is not the most flattering view from the side (thus the face) but overall, this dress is a great dress in vibrant colors that is cool and comfortable.  Its simple silhouette belies how much work it was to put together, but it was worth it!

Until next time, peace, love and happy sewing!