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Oh my goodness, selfish readers, I cannot believe the outpouring of warm wishes in the comments on my last post.  Thank you so very, very much for your many kind notes.  Reading them almost makes Selfish wish that she had even a tiny little heart instead of a hard lump of rock in her chest, because if she did, she would surely have been very moved by all of your touching sentiments and congratulatory wishes.  And so, as a gesture of something akin to gratitude, here’s a little present to you- a DIY project so quick, simple, and trendy, you’ll either say, “Now why didn’t I think of that” or “Duh, I already thought of that. You always think you’re so smart, Selfish Seamstress, but you’re really NOT.” (Also, there were some questions in the comments on my last post, so I’ll address them at the end of this post- stay tuned.)

While I was in New York, I happened upon these fantastic long leather and knit gloves at Kenneth Cole (I didn’t do much shopping on my last trip, but Kenneth Cole is so conveniently located in Grand Central that I can’t help but zip through from time to time.)

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Now, $128 is not sooooooo ridiculous for leather gloves, but these are not the most practical style for everyday wear, as they’re not that easy to wear with, oh, say…. sleeves.  So even with the 20% off everything sale they were having in the store, the math still wasn’t working for me:

$128.00 * 0.8 + NYC sales tax = still too expensive for novelty gloves

But I loved how edgy they were- a ladylike shape with a sort of urban industrial mix of materials.  Some other $$$ examples:

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A New York Times bit showcasing long gloves featured the Rochas pair (third from left) which retails for almost $1300 (undoubtedly looks much better with an arm in it)

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This pair of leather and cashmere cable knit gloves from Barney’s is $280.asos-220

And this pair from Asos can be yours for a mere $220.

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And a pair from Echo Design for a comparatively reasonable $98.

What’s funny in retrospect is how it *didn’t* immediately occur to me to DIY these.  I mean, “I’ll just make them” was my first thought when I saw the similarly mixed media Helmut Lang combo pants. Instead with the gloves I was all like, “Hmmm… how can I justify this purchase?” (In fact, perhaps the only thing that didn’t stop me from splurging on these at the Kenneth Cole store was the fact that I obviously had to splurge on this at the Kenneth Cole store:

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But that’s a story for another day.)

And what’s funnier still is how when it first occurred to me to DIY these gloves, my initial thought was “Oh!  All I have to do is knit a couple of long ribbed tubes and stitch them to a pair of RTW gloves!”  And it wasn’t until much later that it I thought to myself, “Or, duh, I could just use socks.  You always think you’re so smart, Selfish Seamstress, but you’re NOT.”

Okay, so by now most of you can probably take it from here.  But in case you want some step-by-step instructions, here you go.

First, you’ll need some gloves.  Leather or faux leather would be ideal for replicating the designer look, but I didn’t have any that I wanted to use for this project. I found an old pair of Totes smooth fabric gloves that my mom gave me but that I never wore much.  They have some faux leather accents on them, so I thought they’d work well:

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Then you’ll need some knee socks or over-the-knee if you want them really slouchy.  You could get creative here with cables or Fair Isle socks, stripes, whatever. You could also use leggings or heavy knit tights, kids’ leg warmers, or slim sweater sleeves. I first went digging through Dan’s sock drawer, but when I didn’t find anything I wanted (why doesn’t he ever buy anything that *I* want to cut up and wear??), I went out and got a pair of heavy knee-high black angora blend socks (came in a two-pack with a white pair so there’s some white lint on them):

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Now, measure a consistent length from the top edge of the sock to somewhere above the heel (I got 12.5″ out of mine) and mark them.  I used pins because I don’t think chalk was going to show up on this fuzzy knit:

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And cut at your marked line.  (Dan photographed my “action shots” which is why the pictures with my hands in them are so much nicer than the other ones!)

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Finish the cut edges to prevent fraying. I used a cover stitch on my machine.  You could also zigzag the edge or use some sort of Fray Check type product.

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My stitching caused the edge to ruffle a bit, but it shouldn’t matter.

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Now, if you want, you could also cut the glove to make it shorter, or you could angle it (in which case you’d probably want to angle the cut of the sock) but I went for the simplest option which was to leave the glove as is and just stitch the sock into it. If you do decide to cut the edge of the glove and you don’t want any raw edges to show, what you probably want to do is put the glove and the sock with their right sides facing each other and edges lined up (i.e. right-side-out glove inserted into inside-out sock) and then stitch and flip the sock right side out.  But since I wasn’t cutting the glove, I did the following:

Turn both the glove and the sock inside out:

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And insert the top of the glove into the sock.gloves-make08

Pin evenly all around:

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And baste, easing the sock and glove as necessary for a smooth join. Be sure when stitching that you’re not stitching through and picking up both the front and the back of the glove, thereby sewing the glove shut at the wrist.  Gloves that are closed at the wrist are not conducive to wearing.

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Now carefully turn the whole thing right side out:

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And stitch the glove to the sock.  If you have a sewing machine with a sufficiently skinny free arm you can do it on the machine using a zigzag stitch or a stretch stitch.  My machine’s free arm is a bit… how shall we say… “big boned” … so I did this stitching by hand. I didn’t stitch along my basting- I just used the basting to hold everything together.  Instead I stitched invisibly very close to the edge of the glove, just on the inside of the hem.  And the final product:

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A pair of socks and a pair of old gloves, frankened into a reasonable facsimile of super expensive long mixed media gloves! (Incidentally, does anyone remember that Halloween episode of Community in which Troy and Abed exchange Pierce’s hands with his feet and then he can’t grope the butt that they attached to his chest? So awesome. Creating hybrid sock-gloves made me think of that episode. Also, Community is back next week! Excited though tentatively so because of the changes in writing staff and showrunner. Digressed!)

Perfect accessory for your cape, three-quarter sleeve coat, or in my case a wrinkly knit poncho:

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And super quick to make too.  I think I have a pair of old tan leather gloves somewhere so I might try another pair with brown cable knit socks, though it’s not really the sort of thing one needs a lot of in one’s wardrobe. If you make any, come back and show me how they turned out.

Ok- and response to some of your questions and comments:

  • Hahah, I think it’s cute that some of you think wedding planning is what’s been keeping me from sewing and blogging :) Our wedding planning was pretty much just this: “Mommy, can you get some food for our wedding?” “Dan, go make some tissue paper flowers for the decorations.” “Make sure I get TWO slices of cake.  It’s MY WEDDING.”
  • @BMGM: I still don’t entirely know what skirt stiffener is, whether it was just a synonym for interfacing, or whether there was actually a product you could buy that was specifically referred to as “skirt stiffener” – but it definitely wasn’t horsehair braid.  The stiffener is cut from the same pattern as the skirt, basted to the skirt, and then the two layers are treated as one, like interlining.
  • @Jo: Glad to hear that you were able to make the kimono sleeve adjustments.  I don’t have any pictures, but I think I did the same thing as you- trial and error until it fit smoothly.  I’m sure there is a logical and correct way to do this fit adjustment, but I have no idea what it is!
  • @Isaspacey: Thanks for the terminology!  And I love that phrase- “mounting a skirt.”  Sounds like 1950s innuendo.
  • @Rena & Hellene:  I am a jerk.  I totally haven’t gotten the pictures of you guys and Desi and me from when we met at Metro!  Post is coming eventually, and yes, I am an a*hole for being so lax about it! Hugs to you guys!
  • @Phoebe:  YES!  Sharp eye there, sister!  Dan was wearing a barong for our reception, sent to us from my cousin in Manila.  Our reception food was Filipino and deli, a nod to our Philippine and Jewish roots :) Funny how non-Kosher a meal can become once you have a lechon in the mix, btw.

Thanks again, everyone for all of your kind wishes for our future and the compliments on the dress.  Now go make some gloves and come back with chic results!

The Selfish Seamstress has a disproportionately large waist. It’s nothing that can be corrected with crunches or dieting; I’m simply built like a cylinder. And before you make any diagnoses of body dysmorphic disorder, I’d like to point out that I’m basing this on (somewhat) empirical evidence. For example, according to the Big 4 size charts, I’m size 4 in the bust and hip, and between a 10 and 12 in the waist. Even as a scrawny, smallest-in-my-class kid in elementary school, and a 90-pound ballet dancer/cheerleader(!) in college, every time I had my measurements taken for a costume, the teacher or costumer would say, “Wait, that can’t be right,” and I would have to assure them that it was indeed, and that my waist really was that much larger than those of my dancer peers, and yes, that’s just my anatomy, and no, their expressions of shock at my huuuuge waist measurement were not doing wonders for my self-esteem. Smaller-than-average hips plus smaller-than-average bust plus larger-than-average waist is sort of the opposite of “curves.” Instead of of having “curves,” I have what could be referred to as “straights.” As one might phrase it nicely, “She’s not fat, she’s just big-waisted.”

And although I’m shaped like the world’s fastest hourglass, the only real inconvenience of this shape is the occasional need to alter patterns at the waist. Dresses, jackets, and tops are usually fine without alteration; wearing ease seems to accommodate me and my monstrous midriff just fine.  But skirts and pants occasionally need a little extra room, probably because the waist of skirts or pants need to be close fitting such that they actually stay up. I’m currently making slow progress (sewing time these days is very limited) on view B of Simplicity 2451, which is going fine construction-wise but is starting give off a vague air of frump:

After holding the tissue paper pieces of the yoke up to my waist, I could see that I was going to need to add a little room just to the waist edge and that the hip would be fine. No pics from the skirt, but here’s an example of how I did this on my Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants. I first traced the original yoke pieces onto scrap paper, made some slashes through the curved parts, and spread them at the waist edge to add about 1/4″ to each piece. If you slash each piece 4 times like I did, then you only need to spread the slashes open by 1/16″ at the waist edge.  Add all these tiny slashes together and that’s an extra inch added to the total circumference of the waistband (16 slashes of 1/16″ each.) Notice that the bottom hip edge of the yoke remains the same  because I didn’t need to add any extra at the hip. The purists would then trace the new shapes onto paper and work from those, but I just used the slashed pattern pieces and some scotch tape directly on my fabric.

Here you can see the difference between the original pattern pieces and the edited ones. It doesn’t look like much, but it makes a difference. You’ll also notice that a little bit of the curvature of the yoke is lost.  If your waist is large-ish in proportion to your hip, this is what you want.  Think about a making a cuff to go around a cylinder versus a funnel – you’d need a straight strip of paper to go around the cylinder, but a curved piece to go around a funnel. And if you’re closer to a cylinder than a funnel, then you need a straighter waistband.

Now that we’ve gone through the instructional portion of this post, I’d like to get to my real point. Much in the way that it didn’t exactly feel great when my dance teachers would stare in disbelief at the tape measure wrapped around my teenage midsection, I’m never exactly overjoyed to find that a pattern fits everywhere except for in the waist, where it is woefully small. Other deviations from the standard are addressed with names that sound somewhat flattering; you might need to alter your pattern to accommodate a “full bust” or a “swayback” or “sloping shoulders.” Or perhaps you are “petite” or “tall.” Nothing sounds good about having to alter a pattern on account of having a larger than average waist.

Obviously the Selfish Seamstress is about as perfect as one can be, physically and otherwise, so she sees no need to saddle herself with unflattering terminology. I’m therfore introducing… the FWA. Yes, I’m now going to refer to my pant and skirt edits as a “Full Waist Adjustment.” Doesn’t that sound all womanly and curvy and voluptuous? I want people to sigh with envy when they read that I had to alter a pattern by doing a 2″ FWA. People should read my blog entries, look down doubtfully at their own sad, deficient middles and wonder why they weren’t blessed by the gods with the kind of midriff endowment that the Selfish Seamstress has. Pre-teen girls should look at photos of me and wonder when their waists are going to develop. Guys should meet me at parties and then have this kind of conversation on the following day:

Guy 1: Dude, did you meet that Elaine chick last night?

Guy 2: Seriously, I know.  She was like [makes crude gesture of putting his hands in the space on either side of his waist] out to here. [Two older women at the next table look over disapprovingly]

Guy 1: Daaaamn, I could not stop staring at her waist. It was driving me crazy.  And she knew it too. She knew I was into it.

Guy 2: Whoa, dude, did you hit that?

Guy 1: Pfft, I WISH! Seriously, the last girl I went out with was, like, 23″ max. And that was AFTER eating. It was pathetic. Her face was okay though.

[Ugh, and for those of you who are about to comment something stupid like, "Haha, I have the exact opposite problem! Patterns are never small enough for my 22" waist! It's so inconvenient- I eat whatever I want, and my waist just stays tiny! Even my doctor says I have to gain weight, and I don't even exercise!" you should know that my eyeroll switch is always triggered well before my envy switch. First, allow me to congratulate you not only on your figure but also on your complete freedom from self-awareness; second, yes, you can use this trick to make the waist of a pattern smaller- just overlap the pieces slightly at the waist edge rather than spreading them apart; and third, I think there are some other, more interesting blogs waaaayyyyy over there that you might want to check out.]

Remember the Pants-with-a-bow crazypants from a couple of days back? Some of you asked for a tutorial on the waistband, which I will now condescend to sort of give to you, despite an extremely pathetic lack of offers of gifts in return. I do have to warn you, however, I stopped taking pictures partway through the sewing process, because honestly, I really can’t be bothered to think about your needs when I’m sewing.  Okay, let us begin.

This tutorial assumes that you have some knowledge of how to assemble a pair of pants or a skirt with a waistband and zipper. It also assumes you have a pant/skirt pattern with a curved waistband, or that you can draft a waistband from an existing pattern or sloper. I drafted a wide, 2.5″ waistband for my pants. You should have a front waistband and a back waistband. If your pattern has a waistband that has a seam in the center back, no seams at the side, and closes in the center front, you’ll need to create a front and back waistband from it. Create the back waistband by slashing the piece where it meets pant side seam, removing any seam allowance at the center back end, and mirroring it at the center back to create an arc that will go from one side of your waist to the other. Use the other piece to create a front waistband in the same fashion, remembering to remove anything that goes past the center front, such as extended tabs, etc. If you use seam allowances on your pattern, add them back in at the sides.

Okay, with me so far? Here’s what your back waistband will look like. See how it’s mirrored at the center back? Now first, (not pictured) MAKE A COPY of your front and back waistband patterns. They will be the patterns you use for the inner waistband. This is the outer waistband. Draw a line 2″ from side edge at one side (2 5/8″ inches if you’re using a 5/8″ seam allowance) like so. I should note that I actually did my waistband drafting backwards by accident. You’ll see here that I drew this slash line at the right side of the waistband, but it should actually be at the LEFT side if you want your the bow on your left hip (I fixed this when cutting my just flipping my pattern over.)

Ok, now slash at the line you just drew. This will create your back outer waistband and side-back outer waistband pieces:

And if you’re using seam allowances, don’t forget to add them back in to both pieces:

As you can maybe see, I drew in some notches for matching.

Then do the same thing to the front outer waistband (again, I did this backwards by slashing on the left side, but I should have slashed on the RIGHT side):

In the end, here are both outer waistbands and outer side waistband pieces:

The way the construction works is that you’re going to create two long sashes, and each of them will get “sandwiched” in that slash. Make sense?

Now we draft the bow. I made each of my sashes 32″ in length. I did this by tying a mini USB cable at my waist and determining how long I wanted it to be. You could make yours longer or shorter, as you like. The important thing is that the WIDTH at the end where it meets the waistband should be THE SAME AS THE WIDTH OF THE WAISTBAND.

Start drafting the bow by drawing a line the intended length of the bow, 32″ in my case:

Then at one end of the line you just drew, square off a line that the same length as the intended finished width of your waistband.  In my case, the waistband is intended to be 2.5 inches in width after sewing, so I drew a 2.5″ long line, with my original line meeting it at the center:

At the other end of the line, square off another line. For my sashes, I wanted them longer at the bottom than at the top, so I squared off a 5″ line:

Now, connect the ends of the short lines to form the seam lines of the sash.  If you would like the bottom edge of your sash to be angled, draw that angle in:

If you’re using seam allowance, add that in as well on all sides. Here is the finished sash pattern. The center line can serve as your grainline, unless you would prefer to cut the sash on the bias (I did not):

At this point, I stopped taking a lot of photos and you’re just going to have to rely on your mind’s eye and your smarts. Cut one inner front waistband and one inner back waistband (remember the original waistbands I asked you to put aside at the very beginning?) from your fabric. Also cut one outer waistband (front and back main pieces, and front and back side pieces) from your fabric. Cut the sash twice on doubled fabric (four sash pieces in total).

With the right sides facing, pin the sash pieces along three sides, excluding the top edge where the sash meets the waistband, and stitch. Ooh, sorry for the weird photo angle:

Trim the seam allowances along the three sides, clip the corners, turn the sashes right side out, and press. That’s it, now I’ve really run out of photos.

Interface all the waistband pieces.

Take the back outer waistband and pin it to the side back outer waistband right sides facing, with one of the sashes sandwiched in between. The edges should match up with the top edge of the sash, and the sash should be centered such that it does not extend between the top and bottom seam allowances of the waistband. Stitch. You should now have a complete back outer waistband with a sash coming out of it.

Repeat the process for the front outer waistband and front sash. You should now have a complete front outer waistband with a sash coming out of it.

Stitch the front outer waistband and back outer waistband together at the right side to form a complete outer waistband with sashes. Press.

Stitch the front inner waistband and back inner waistband together at right side to form a complete inner waistband (keep in mind that the inner waistband will be facing inwards towards your body when you are wearing it, so this will look like the reverse of the outer waistband).

Assemble your pants or skirt as desired or according to the pattern instructions, leaving an opening on the left side for your zipper.

Stitch lower edge of outer waistband to top edge of pants or skirt right sides facing, being careful not to catch the sashes in the stitching. Press.

Stitch inner waistband to outer waistband right sides facing at top edges. Turn inner waistband to inside of pants and press.

Install side zip and finish inner waistband as desired. (I usually turn the seam allowance of the inner waistband to the inside, and slip stitch it to hide the seam allowances of pants and the outer waistband.)

Okay, hope you could follow all that.  If so, ta-dah! Pants with a bow!

You all know by now that the #1 rule of Selfish Seamstressing is, “Don’t sew for others, only for yourself.” If you aspire to be a Selfish Seamstress and have managed to achieve this perfect equilibrium in which every item that passes under your presser foot goes straight into your closet, you should pat yourself on the back- you have reached an extremely high degree of proficiency in Selfish Seamstressing.

Of course, sewing only for oneself is often easier said than done. Perhaps you don’t want to make an enemy of the gossipy lady at work who really wants a pencil skirt “just like yours.” Maybe you don’t want to look like the b who can sew but is still too selfish too make something cute for her neighbor’s toddler, about whom you are SICK OF HEARING ALREADY. Or maybe you think your mom is the kind of person you don’t want to turn against you. For those of you who are still working on your Selfish Seamstressing skills, you might like to refer to my handy guide “Selfish Seamstressing for Beginners,” which I put together a few months ago, to help the novice avoid the most frustrating and hair-pulling-out experiences of sewing for others.

Today, however, for those of you with very high Selfish aspirations, or those who have mastered the art of sewing for oneself and are ready to move on, I offer up this guide to Selfish Seamstressing for Experts! What more is there when you’ve gotten to the point where everything you sew goes to you and you alone, and people know not to ask for fear of the eye daggers you will shoot them? It’s quite simple:

You can use sewing to exploit your friends to get stuff you want.

Oh yes.  Advanced Selfish Seamstressing moves beyond sewing things that you want to using sewing as a weapon to manipulate the people around you to do your bidding. Any hobby seamstress has been approached with a request like, “If you make me such-and-such, I will pay you back for the fabric,” or “If you sew some new pants for me, I’ll cook you dinner!” And any seamstress worth her salt knows that these are unfair trades through which she would undoubtedly get the shorter end of the stick unless the friend in question is Thomas Keller. And when faced with such a request, the natural response is annoyance. (Check out Carolyn’s brilliant and eloquent post on this topic!) But the truly truly selfish seamstress should regard this as an opportunity. After all, only the very feeble minded would assume that paying someone back for the fabric is somehow a square deal, right? And when you’re an expert Selfish Seamstress, the question should not be, “How do I get this person off of my back?” but rather, “How can I exploit this friend to my best advantage?

The secret is choosing the right friends. Like with fabric, patterns, tools, etc., if you can’t use them, lose them. Think of them as objects in your strategy to use sewing for world domination. Case in point:  my adorable friend Nienh:

Nienh is fantastic in her own right, no question. She’s smart and fun, always up for doing stuff, and has a brilliant sense of snark which puts the Selfish Seamstress to shame. She drinks tea with her dog, which is kind of awesome. But, more importantly, she serves as an excellent case study from which to draw lessons about picking your friends for selfish seamstressing purposes.

1) Choose friends who have excellent taste and really nice stuff. You’ll notice in the photo above that Nienh is wearing a Coffee Date Dress, sewn by yours truly. Now, before you gasp that the Selfish Seamstress actually sewed a whole dress for someone else, allow her to show you what Nienh gave her in return:

Oh yes. Nienh gave me those in return for a Coffee Date Dress, which at this point I can pretty much sew in my sleep. $10 worth of ivory stretch cotton sateen from Vogue and a couple of hours of easy sewing parlayed into a gorgeous pair of black patent Nine West wedges. Needless to say, Nienh has great taste. A win for the Selfish Seamstress!

2) Choose talented friends who can do awesome stuff for you. In exchange for the Coffee Date Dress, I got more than just shoes.  (Negotiation skills are crucial!  Who said trades have to be one-for-one? Always aim for at least two-for-one!) Nienh also painted me this cityscape of my favorite bridge in Chicago:

That’s right!  Shoes and a beautiful piece of original artwork, custom made for me! Are you starting to see the advantages of advanced selfish seamstressing? With a few more years of practice, I’m thinking I can easily parlay a half dozen basic sheath dresses into a chateau in the French countryside and a beach house in East Hampton.

3) Whenever possible, choose friends who are a convenient size. Sounds weird, right?  It’s not.  Advanced selfish seamstressing is all about minimizing your effort and maximizing your reward. Choose friends whose proportions don’t deviate from the back of the envelope or who are perfectly symmetrical or otherwise easy to fit. Case in point: Nienh is just about the same size as the Selfish Seamstress which means no tedious fitting! The Selfish Seamstress made up that Coffee Date Dress in her own size, handed it off to Nienh as is, and claimed her prizes. Easy! Another advantage of choosing friends who are exactly the same size as you?  If you make something for yourself and you don’t like it, you can pretend you made it for them and use that as yet another opportunity to wheedle shoes out of them.

See? It’s as simple as that. And with a little practice, you too can use your sewing skills to turn the tables and take advantage of the people around you.

As a final story to inspire you to reach ever higher in your Selfish Seamstressing aspirations, I’d like to share a tidbit from my recent surprise trip to Montreal in which I pulled off perhaps the greatest selfish seamstressing coup of my career. Dan arranged the surprise trip to celebrate four years together, Montreal being the city where he first told me he had a crush on me (aww!) back in 2006. In light of this anniversary, I had undertaken a simple S.W.A.G. project for Dan, using the secret fabric I alluded to buying at Whipstitch. Here is the fabric itself:

Sock monkeys and bananas! And here is the S.W.A.G. present, modeled by Dan himself, sporting a little bedhead on account of me dragging him out for a photo right after waking:

Super simple drawstring pajama pants! I sneaked a couple of early morning stitching sessions, and he was none the wiser.

And now you are probably nodding along in full understanding of these advanced concepts. After all, the Selfish Seamstress sewed up a quickie pair of jammy pants (which she has yet to hem), and in return was whisked off on a romantic surprise weekend trip to a beautiful city, put up in a beautiful hotel suite with a whirlpool tub, treated to dinner at a lovely French restaurant, and patiently accompanied to more than a few fabric stores in Montreal. Great deal, right?  She milked that boy for all he’s worth!

Except he had one more thing up his sleeve during that trip (remember what I told you about aiming for at least two-for-one?):

You know you’ve mastered Selfish Seamstressing when you manage to exchange a pair of sock monkey print pajama pants for a promise of lifetime commitment. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

It’s like the title says, I have a new best friend!  Now for those of you who have been thinking, “Wait  a sec… I thought the Selfish Seamstress was incapable of friendship,” you’re only partly correct.  The Selfish Seamstress indeed has no human friends, but she’s got her cat and as of today she also has double straight stitch.  Which one do you love more, Selfish Seamstress?  Neither. I love them both equally. Or maybe kitty just a smidge more. I have to admit, though, I’ve got quite the crush:

Yay! I thought last night that I was going to have to halt progress on my crafty McCall 5525 jacket because I decided I really wanted to topstitch it (to ward off some of the homemade look) and I didn’t have any topstitching thread. And today’s Easter which means lots of chocolate but no shopping. 

Then I noticed that wonderful little double topstitch icon on my machine, and just like that, the jacket was back on! 

As you can see, it’s a little tricky going around the sharp curves and corners because unlike with a regular straight stitch, the foot is going back and forth (imagine trying to drive in a smooth curve around a corner while simultaneously doing a 5-point turn.)  My stitching isn’t perfect, but overall, I’m pretty thrilled with the double straight stitch. Thank you, Husqvarna!

Luckily I had some matching lime green thread which I bought to use in a project for someone else which I never got around to doing. So double yay for a brand new spool of matching thread and the providence of selfishness! If I had my druthers, there’d be a fuchsia or tangerine lining for this jacket, but I don’t want to hold off until my next opportunity to go fabric shopping, which won’t be for days at this point. So I’ve got some blush pink in my stash which will do fine.  And when the outside is crazy polka dots, the fun lining becomes less of a priority.

And for those of you who are rolling your eyes that I actually bothered to write a post about double straight stitch?  Hush up, it’s new to me :) New best friend. Happy Easter and Passover, everyone!

I wasn’t planning on posting about my Jalie 2908 jeans again, but it seems that there are a lot of questions from my last couple of jeans posts, so I’m going to try to answer them all here, rather than dig back through all the comments and answer respond to them one by one.

The Open Letter to Jalie (OLtJ) jeans

The Holy Fecking Shet (HFS) jeans

Disclaimer: I am not a jeans sewing expert.  I have constructed two pairs of jeans, and the information I share here is from my experiences with them. It may not be indicative of the best way to do things, and certainly not indicative of the only way to do things, but it’s worked out pretty well for me so far. For tons more information, check out these two fantastic threads about sewing jeans on PatternReview.com, here and here. They are chock full of everything you’d ever want to know about sewing jeans at home.

Okay, let’s see what’s in the old Selfish Seamstress mailbag…

Q: What are your jeans made of and where did you get it? 
The Holy Fecking Shet jeans are made out of a stretch denim (96% cotton, 4% lycra) that I would characterize as being light-medium weight. 9oz perhaps?  I don’t know because it wasn’t labeled. It’s dark blue with white threads in the warp and the weft.  I purchased it from Fabric.com.  They no longer have that particular denim, but at the moment they have several others which appear to be about the same weight.

The Open Letter to Jalie jeans are made of a more substantial stretch denim (also 96% cotton, 4% lycra) that I picked up at my local Fabricland. I would guess it’s somewhere in the 10-12oz range (again, not labeled). It’s very dark blackish blue with no wash to it. You can purchase very similar denim online from Lura’s (more details in a previous post) – highly recommended for a great denim selection and wonderful, personal customer service.  

If I could only have one pair (why would I stop at one though??) I would pick to go with the more substantial denim. The lightweight one is nice and the fabric was very easy to work with, but it feels more like a “fashion” or “novelty” jean. The heavier denim feels somehow more authentic- more like real jeans than jean-styled trousers.

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot the underpants pockets!

Q: How about washing and shrinking?
I washed my fabric in hot water and dried it in the dryer to pre-shrink before cutting. The fabric shrank a fair bit in the width and a little in the length. I then cut and sewed everything except the hem.  I washed and dried them again to shrink them before finalizing the length, then trimmed off the fuzzy frayed raw edges and hemmed. As it turned out for me, the length after the second wash was perfect both times, so I guess I could probably hem them without a second wash, but I like to be careful. I have washed the HFS jeans subsequently and not had any problems with shrinkage.  BUT I should mention that I never put my clothes through the dryer, with the exception of when I’m sewing and intentionally want to pre-shrink things. Otherwise I always air dry my clothes so they’re already less prone to shrinkage. If you routinely put your jeans through the dryer, it may be in your best interest to do more extensive pre-shrinking than I did.

Q. Tell me about topstitching?
For both pairs I used Gutermann topstitching thread. I used navy for the HFS jeans and dark non-metallic gold for the OLtJ jeans. The HFS topstitching is relatively subtle but the OLtJ topstitching is pretty aggressively in-your-face because the topstitching thread is heavier than what I see on most RTW jeans. I think this is a cool look with the super dark denim, but it’s rather stylized (think early 80’s Jordache), so I probably won’t go with this eye-popping contrast for all of my future jeans. I may try heavy duty thread for the next pair. If you use the Gutermann thread, buy two spools (or if you think you’ll mess up a lot, buy three!), as each spool only has about 33 meters. 

When topstitching, I only used the topstitching thread on top, and I used regular all-purpose thread in the bobbin. I set the tension to the maximum for the topstitching. Even so it sometimes came out loopy and loose underneath. I didn’t figure out a better way to fix this than rethreading the top thread and seeing if it went better the next time. Oh, and I’m not using a double needle to topstitch. I’m just doing it in two rows.  Practice a bit, go slowly, and have a good “landmark” on your presser foot against which to line it up, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how not-wonky it will look.

Q: How’d it go with the denim needle?
I’m still on my first denim needle.  It has made it successfully through two pairs of jeans without any problem. And someone asked if the denim needle scars heavy denim if you have to rip out stitches- not that I’ve noticed.  The fabric is very forgiving.

Q: Is it hard to sew denim?
Surprisingly, I am finding that the denim is very well behaved. It cuts easily, it doesn’t slip and slide under the presser foot (I’m not using a special foot), it stays where I put it with a minimum number of pins, and it doesn’t seem to be putting up much of a fight with my machine (Husqvarna Platinum 770). I was expecting struggles, but really haven’t run into any. The only thing is that it frays a lot after a wash (the heavier denim in particular), so definitely finish your edges.  I don’t have a serger, so I’ve been doing this by running a zigzag over seam allowance edges after stitching but prior to topstitching.

Q. Where’d you get your rivets?
Ebay.  I search on “jeans rivets” and have found several sellers who sell them in small quantities (a dozen sets or so.)

Q. How do you install your rivets?
Haha. It required a little resourcefulness.  I now have three little “tools” that I keep with my rivets.  They are: a small nail (like for hanging photographs on the wall), a larger nail (for more serious woodworking), and a small screw. I use the small nail to make a hole where I want the rivet, then I use the larger nail to make the hole bigger, and finally I use the screw to enlarge it even further. Then I do the same thing from the other side. I then insert the rivet bottom from the back (even with the screw hole, this can still be a bit fiddly), place the cap on from the front, and press them together until they click. Then I place the jeans face down against a hard surface and give it a couple of hammer thwacks on the back side of the rivet until the cap can no longer rotate. Ta-da! 

Q. How have you veered from the pattern as written/drafted?
Several people have noted that the pattern gapes at the back waist for them.  A common solution is to make two little darts in the back yoke, which fixes the problem and results in a slight ‘V’ shape to the back waist.  I didn’t really want darts in my jeans so I’ve taken a bit out from the sides of the back yoke, removing about a half an inch from either side at the top of the yoke tapering down to nothing at the bottom.

I’ve also found that the jeans in size R (the smallest adult size) are still a bit too wide in the leg.  I took about a half inch from each of the front inseam, back inseam, front outseam, and back outseam at the knee, tapering to nothing at the hip and the hem. So in total, that removes about 2″ from the circumference of each leg at the knee. If you are very small you could just try to go with one of the kids’ sizes, but I understand that the proportions of the kid’s jeans are different, most notably that the waist is higher because the good folks at Jalie aren’t keen on little girls wearing pants with too low a rise. Makes sense :)

I took an inch of length out of the thigh, after which the jeans fit me perfectly with the knee in the right place and without me having to cut off any more at the hem. So if you go for the size R and are not ridiculously short, check the length to make sure they aren’t too short for you. 

Finally, I cut the waistband on the cross grain rather than on the bias, as several people have said the bias waistband is just too big.  Honestly, with both pairs I’m finding that the stretch in the cross grain is making the waistband too big also. I will probably do a curved waistband on the next pair, or cut the band lengthwise to eliminate stretch.

Another change that I have not yet made but will make in the future is to make the fly extensions wider. I’ve been using the fly interfacing piece as the template for the topstitching (as suggested by the pattern) and I like the subsequent shape of the fly topstitching. But it’s also too far to catch the fly extension, which is making the fly a little unstable and causing the zipper to want to peek out from behind the fly front.

Okay, I think that answers all the questions I remember.  Did I miss anyone or anything?  If so, post a comment because I’m not going to dig back and look for them all in the old posts :D

I’ve been wearing my Jalie 2908 holy fecking shet jeans way too much. They just fit me so much better than any of my RTW jeans that I’ve been wearing them tons and practically forgotten about any of my other jeans. We’re talking about a frequency of wear that is outside of the realm of socially acceptable.  Bordering on gross. Actually probably well into gross territory. (TMI!) So last night I decided it was time to start a new pair.

I got some new stretch denim which is heavier than what I used for the last pair (I love the last pair, but they do feel a little flimsier than I like for jeans) and in a darker, less blue wash. I’ve got dark gold (not metallic) Gutermann topstitching thread and a couple of rivets left over from the last pair, though I could stand to order some more. I cut out all the denim last night and then started thinking about what scraps of cotton to appropriate for pocket linings and facings. 

It’s really not worth getting new cotton for the pockets in my opinion because you really don’t see them (unlike a jacket lining) and it’s such a small amount of fabric. I guess if you decide to line the waistband it might be justifiable to go pick out some adorable new print, but I prefer my waistband to be all denim. For the last pair, which, if you recall, was actually supposed to be a muslin, I just snipped a bit of old bedsheet that I had previously used to muslin something else. But it wasn’t a particularly pretty bedsheet, and it has that wrinkly worn look of a very old, very nondescript bedsheet. So this time I wanted something prettier.  Here’s what I’m going with- some candystriped cuteness in varied shades of pink and brown:

HAHAHAHAHAHAH!

You saw England,
You saw France!
I made you look at Dan’s UNDERPANTS!

That’s right- I’ve decided that old boxer shorts are the BEST source for jeans pocket fabrics. You can easily get a whole matching set out of a single pair of underwear and the prints are just so darn cute. (Don’t worry, they’re clean, which is more than I can say for the Jalie jeans that I’ve worn for the last 3 days in a row.)

More TMI! This pair was wearing and tearing at the seams and I had even mended them once already (*gasp* Did I just publicly admit to mending something for someone else?  And someone’s UNDERWEAR, no less?? Guess whose internal filter is not working today.  Mine!) but despite the patching, the fabric was just so worn at the seams that they were falling apart.  Other than at the seams, however, the fabric is in great shape. And so cute and pink.

I’ve been hoarding several pairs of Dan’s falling-apart boxers (yeah, more TMI! The Selfish Seamstress is freaky!) because the fabric is good quality and adorable in cheerful stripes and mermaid prints and polka dots, but hadn’t really had a plan for them other than the vague and perverse idea of an eventual “Underpants Quilt,” as there didn’t seem to be enough fabric in a pair to make much else. But now that I’m making my own jeans and will probably make several more pairs in the future, I’m pretty thrilled with this use of the undies. 

But it sure makes you think twice about asking me if I can carry your lipstick in my pocket when we go out, huh?   

In general, the Selfish Seamstress thinks it’s pretty cool when people try to make their own clothes.  She’s all in favor of exercising creativity and being self-sufficient. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t mentally roll her eyes from time to time at some particularly homey-looking garments. You might not know this though, since the Selfish Seamstress is more is much more of a mock-you-behind-your back kind of person than an insult-you-to-your-face type.

Unless the person knows that you sometimes make  and wear your own clothes, it is generally NOT a compliment if someone asks you, “Did you make that dress you’re wearing?” :) So, I’m going to pass along a couple of handy tips to avoid that frumpy homemade look. Now, I’m not about to claim that my own creations can pass for store-bought, designer, or professionally made. I am, myself, something of a newbie at garment sewing. Even so, the Selfish Seamstress has strong opinions and is generally under the impression that she knows better than everyone else, and that that somehow gives her the right to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do.  Particularly what you shouldn’t.

The Selfish Seamstress’s Tips for Avoiding Cringe-Worthy, Mock-Inducing, Amateur-Looking Results:

1) Don’t make apparel out of quilting fabric
I know how hard it can be.  Your local fabric store is hit or miss with apparel fabric and sometimes you walk in and nothing looks good.  And then you wander over to the endless walls of calico and broadcloth, and everything just looks so pretty and the prints and colors are so tempting.  Do not do it!  Unless you have a very artistic plan for it, clothing made of quilting fabric screams dowdy!  The texture and drape of quilting fabric is very recognizable as not-garment fabric. So unless you’re making jammies or aprons, wander back over to the apparel side of the store.

2) Look beyond the print 
Don’t forget that fabric isn’t going to stay fabric; it’s going to become clothes.  Avoid being seduced by a print just because it looks great on the bolt. If you wouldn’t buy a garment with that print from a store, you’re not going to want to wear it just because you make it yourself. Seriously, before you pick out that dainty pattern of blue roses on a lavender ground, the cute poplin with frogs holding umbrellas, or the linen covered with romantic Victorian ivy vines, consider not just whether you like the print, consider whether you would like to wear a garment in that print.

3) Lining fabric goes on the inside
We’ve all been there.  You’re new at sewing, you don’t want to invest in expensive fabric, you’ve got a particular color in mind, you want to try something a little dressy… hmm, this lightweight satin looks good, and it’s cheap too!  No, no, no. Do not make dresses out of lining fabric. Why?  Because it’s going to look janky.  And if you don’t know what “janky” means, make yourself a dress out of lining fabric, put it on, and look in the mirror.  That is what janky looks like.  If you’re just getting started, find yourself an inexpensive fashion fabric.  There’s no point in putting in all the work for something that’s just going to gather dust in your closet because you feel weird if you wear it out of the house.

4) Say “no” to no-sew dresses
The Selfish Seamstress will readily admit that she has been known to cut a corner or two. She’s not proud of it, and she strives to be diligent, but we all have our weak moments.  Even so, no-sew dresses are a no-no.  If it seems too easy to be true, it’s going to look too easy to be true to everyone who sees you in it.  At the end of the day if all you have to do is wrap some raw-edged fabric around yourself in a certain way, you’re going to look like someone wrapped in fabric, not someone wearing real clothes.

5) Don’t skip the darts
We’ve all seen it done.  Someone cuts two pieces of fabric into a slim shape, stitches them together at the sides and calls the result a pencil skirt.   Or wraps a rectangle of fabric around the torso to form a tight bodice, and then fulls a skirt to the waist to make a strapless dress.  See all those weird horizontal wrinkles forming everywhere? Those wrinkles are the sartorial equivalent of scrawling, “I made this outfit and I didn’t know what I was doing” across your forehead. Unless your body is a perfect cylinder (in which case you have probably have bigger problems than dowdiness), fitted clothing needs darts (or some dart equivalent like princess seaming).  Darts are your friend.  Don’t be afraid to use them.  (Obviously this doesn’t apply to garments that are meant to be loose or to made from knit/very stretchy fabrics.)

To prove myself correct, as I often feel compelled to do, let’s see what happens when we violate some of these rules:

Quilting fabric?  Looks like it!  Fun print that doesn’t work for clothes?  Yep!  (Perhaps our very handsome president would have been better on a whimsical purse or a political button to accessorize a dress that is somewhat less…. nuts.) No-sew dress?  If there’s a seam in there, it’s certainly well hidden.  Badly in need of darts?  Oh yes. There you go.  Four out of five rules violated to disastrous results. I guess Ms. Victoria Rowell couldn’t find any Obama print lining to wear to the 2009 Emmy Awards. But she did break another rule which I thought was so obvious that it didn’t need articulation:  If you absolutely must wear a head-of-state-themed calico print, avoid laying it out in such a way that he’s grinning out of what looks like a window to your womb.  [Before you flip out for not having recognized this garment as a traditional Ghanian dress, read below where I apologize for having been culturally ignorant. My statement above was purely meant as a joke about sewing, and NOT intended as a slight on anyone's race, ethnicity, or traditions. And thank you to those who informed me of this type of dress with civility and understanding as opposed to retorting with comments about MY race and ethnicity.]

Obviously there are exceptions to any of the above rules, particularly if there’s something specific you’re trying to achieve and you want to emphasize certain aspects of the materials or construction for artistic effect. But if you just want to make a nice skirt or pretty dress that you will wear, adhering to those five things above will go a long way in making sure I don’t point and laugh when I see you walking down the street.  After you’ve got your back to me, of course.

How about you?  What are your homemade clothing pet peeves and tips for avoiding the frump?

UPDATE: Ericka kindly pointed out, “the dress that Victoria is wearing is by no means quilting fabric…this type of fabric is used often for dashikis and other garments in Ghana. the edges of the garments are usually ‘raw’ and they typically have positive african words on them, fruits, or faces of prominent people in Africa like this dress.” I apologize for my cultural ignorance!  Victoria Rowell: 1, Selfish Seamstress: 0.  But I guess some of it still holds– do not do this with a big length of flowery quilting calico :) I will laugh my ignorant butt off!

UPDATE #2: Ok, person who just left a very indignant comment (now trashed). I completely apologized for not having recognized Victoria’s dress as inspired by a particular traditional cultural dress.  Obviously I didn’t make fun of it BECAUSE it is African, and had I known that is what it was, I would not have (see update above).  Am I culturally ignorant?  Yes.  But to imply that I intentionally wrote this out of an desire to mock African culture or dress is simply ridiculous- as ridiculous as your insinuation that I did so as a result of my Asian decent.  Spreading hate is no better than spreading ignorance.

The Selfish Seamstress is feeling pretty smug because she’s come up with a foolproof way to do perfectly symmetrical plaid (and stripe) matching.  She has searched the web and a couple of sewing books for instructions on how to match plaids, and has yet to see this method. She’s therefore convinced that she came up with it herself, even though it’s so obvious that people have surely done this before. As you may know, I like to take credit even where no credit is due.

Plaid matching at seams can be one of the more frustrating aspects of sewing.  It’s no fun finding out that the two legs of your pants don’t match because you aligned something incorrectly. My little trick applies to situations when you want to cut two mirrored pieces, for example two pant fronts, two skirt side panels, two identical halves of a waistband. Essentially any situation when you want two identical pieces, with one of them flipped over. 

There seem to be two primary schools of thought on how to match plaids. The first school is to fold the fabric *very* carefully in half, making sure that the top layer and bottom layer are perfectly matched, then put your pattern piece on top and cut through the double thickness as usual.  I think this is really the worst way you can do it.  Even if you’re really careful, it is just too easy to have it slightly off somewhere.  And if you’re cutting a big piece, say two pant fronts, good luck being completely sure that your layers are aligned the whole way through. Once the fabric is folded in half, there’s really no good way to look at the bottom layer.

The second school of thought is to open the fabric out in a single layer, lay down your pattern piece, cut it out, and then flip the pattern piece over and find another spot on the fabric where you can match the notches to their location on the first piece you cut out. This method is conventionally accepted as the “right” way to do it, and this is what I had mostly been doing all along. This can, however, still lead to some imprecision. Particularly if you’re working with a large plaid in which small inaccuracies can be ridiculously noticeable.  Think about a Burberry type plaid.  You might estimate that a notch falls about 1/3 of the way between two stripes, but if you’re even just a couple of millimeters off, it’s going to be noticeable in the end.

And then I figured out this neat trick:

The Selfish Seamstress Method of Plaid (and Stripe) Matching

(Note: I will continue to take full credit for this until someone (probably soon) points me to a bunch of other folks that recommend doing this. The Selfish Seamstress needs to pat herself on the back a lot.)

I made a little “toy” skirt back pattern and am using a remnant to illustrate.

P1050720P1050722

First cut out your pattern piece and lay it on your fabric as desired:

P1050723

Cut out your piece as you normally would…

P1050724

Okay.  This is the point at which conventional wisdom would have you flip the pattern piece over and try to match the notches to the piece you just cut, like so:

P1050725

You can already see this is not so easy to do. It’s even harder if you don’t have that nice skirt-shaped hole to look at. AND it’s even harder still if you’re working on the bias.  Are those notches in the same place?  Close enough?  I’m getting an ulcer just thinking about it.

The Selfish Seamstress Method recommends that instead of using the pattern piece to cut the second skirt back, you instead use the skirt piece you just cut, remembering to flip it over for mirror symmetry, and match it to the plaid in the fabric:

P1050726

Oh my goodness, you can probably barely even see it. That’s because it’s SO MATCHED.  Don’t worry, it’s easier to see when you do it in real life.  Just use plenty of light. Here- maybe it’s easier to see once it’s pinned in place:

P1050729

Or maybe not.  But you should get the idea.  You can totally tell if your plaid is matching or not, and it’s easy to line up because you’re not just relying on the notches, you’re using the whole plaid as a grid you can match.  Now cut around the first piece, being careful not to cut into the first piece, and also being careful not to cut the second piece larger than the first piece. Snip snip snip and flip…

P1050730

Voila! Perfectly symmetrical left skirt back and right skirt back!  There’s no way that won’t match when you sew the center seam.

Of course, this isn’t the complete solution to all of your plaid and stripe matching woes. You’ll still need to match notches for other seams, such as matching the skirt front to the skirt back. But at least this way you’ll know that your right and left sides are the same. And that’s it!

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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