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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Leggings sew-along: gussets, waistbands and finishing

I was asked recently why a gusset and what shape should it be?

Interesting question.

The most accurate answer would be that the gusset is the open space you see when you split your pants. In simple terms (unless you have been dancing really, really wildly and really, really split your pants) it would be about the length of the seam you open and about as wide apart as that the resulting opening would be.

A gusset is giving a particular garment what it needs anyway.

What is also interesting to me as someone who has sewn a number of different shaped gussets over the years is that the different shapes, most commonly a diamond about 3"+ long and about 2"+ at the widest part in the middle, and a V shape, all work in a similar way. But think about your own physiology and consider what shape you need and where.

What is common to them all is that one side is usually attached to a top of the leg seam (either to the crotch seam or inseam) first and then captured in the completion of the seam. We already talked about that in how I would put in the Peg Legs gusset a few posts back.

The Peg Legs gusset is set horizontally with the widest part of the diamond lined up with the crotch seams and the longer parts of the diamond extending down into each inseam:

I have also sewn in gussets in the past where the narrow ends of the gusset where lined up with the crotch seam and and widest parts at the inseam (imagine the image above with the diamond vertically). Unfortunately I can't show that to you as the pattern I used to use that had it done that way  was an old Kwik Sew that has vanished from my collection and their catalogue.

By contrast to the diamond shape the Clara by Jalie has a smaller gusset, a sort of triangle set as an extension of the back crotch:

You can see here how it was first stitched to the bottom of the back crotch (I used a lightening stitch to do that) and then how it is captured when the back crotch is finally stitched. I am pretty sure that the explanation for the shape of this gusset is that the Clara's do not have a front crotch seam. The gusset as placed this way is finally stitched in via the one long seam ankle to ankle.

If you look at these two gussets you can see how they both add three dimensional space to the leggings right at a place that would just be a stress/vulnerable to stitching breaking place otherwise.

It also explains why gussets make leggings more comfortable.

I am sure you will also notice too that the diamond gusset is a larger unit and for that reason I suspect might give a little more movement room for a larger person. For this reason I chose the Peg Legs for my maternity leggings when I knew give was going to be important.

Gusset seams need to be topstitched.

This can be done with a cover hem or twin needle (see the Peg Legs gusset above) or a triple zig-zag like I did here in my Clara's, note the seam allowances are folded to the garment side and top stitched that way:

Topstitching is also an option for all of the construction seams in leggings and something you see a lot in athletic wear for instance these made by Brit from Halo:

The point of this topstitching, here with a cover hem in a custom pattern (Greenstyle Creations and Jalie's Cora both have multiple seam options, is both to reinforce the seams (think of flat felling in jeans) as well as flatten the seams for comfort against the body.

A note here now about topstitching with a conventional machine. In the last post about seams we talked about wooly nylon in the loopers of a serger for more comfortable, stretchy seams. There is also the option of a stretch thread in the needles, I have used Euroflex with good results but the colour selection is limited, so I generally use a good polyester thread. I have some Maxi-lock stretch on order from Dry Cleaner's Supply and will talk about that when it arrives - not something I can get in local fabric stores.

But back to topstitching and conventional stitches. For topstitching gussets I always wind wooly nylon by hand onto a bobbin (a machine winds it too fast and stretches it out of shape) and this give wonderful stretch to any stitch.

For topstitching in a knit I generally like a multi-step zig zag rather than one that just zigs and zags because doing the zig in steps means there are not the long threads to catch.

Here is what a stitch made with the wooly nylon in the bobbin looks like, the underside of a three-step zig zag and both sides of a common utility stitch you could also use to topstitch seams if you really wanted to:

three step zig-zag showing the bobbin side, bobbin hand wound with wooly nylon

Utility stitch right side on Supplex

Bobbin side of the same stitch showing how the wooly nylon stretches when stitched

On the issue of whether or not to topstitch the seams, really don't feel you have to. I have made many pairs of leggings without and they have held out just fine. Then again I am not a marathon runner so chaffing from seams has not been an issue for me. And the cover hemming looks pretty cool.

If you do decide to cover hem I personally think that a good fluffy wooly nylon is essential in the loopers. I also shorten the stitch length to about a 3 (I know many folks do a 4 but I like the extra stitches). You can do a two needle cover hem or a three needle.

Generally this is done from stitching from the wrong side so the loopers show decoratively on the right side, aiming to situate the stitches so they cover the well of the seam on the right side. This can actually be tricky to do, as is any dominant stitching that you do blind from the wrong side while hoping for the best. I have found that rather than trying aim for the centre of the seam try to put the middle needle of a 3 needle stitch or the centre of the space between the two needles of a two needle cover hem so it stitches right on top of the right hand needle/seam line of the garment's serged seam. This really helps getting it right. 

3-needle cover hem from the right side:

And from the wrong side where hopefully you can see the middle needle set more or less to follow over the right hand needle seam thread of the serged seam:

To hem the leggings it is very important that they can be stretched to go over the foot without the stitches breaking, or, even more important in capri length leggings where the hem is over the large calf muscle that can expand with movement, without binding.

For this reason I always stretch a little while I topstitch the hems, to build in that extra stretch, whether I sew the hem with a 3 step zig zag with wooly nylon hand wound in the bobbin or with a narrow 2 needle cover hem, my preference to avoid tunnelling in these stretchy fabrics. 

Below are two samples. You will see that the stitches in both hems looks small - this is because they were stretched when sewn and the extra stitches got packed in - something I wouldn't worry about in a hem at this level.

Finally the last detail in the construction of the leggings is the yoga band waistband. 

There are several ways these can be done. 

Some folks when working with a firmer knit like Supplex actually just sew the band and stitch it right on to the top of the leggings, counting on the double layer of fabric to provide both the stretch and support they need in a waistband without elastic. Others, and suggested in both patterns, also add a row of elastic only lightly stretched, to the seam allowance at the top of the band and band facing.

I have seen clear elastic suggested for this step, some sewers serge this into the seam that attaches both band layers, but I don't personally find that is feels secure enough inside the band.

My own preference is for a 1 / 2 " bathing suit elastic (you can recognize this for its boring muslin colour) that I triple zig zag stitch down to the inside of the band, butting the elastic right up to the seam like this:

Well this wraps up our leggings sew-along. 

Not sure if I did this right. Suspect that there are more organized ways to run something like this so let me know if going through a garment type like this is helpful. 

In future I am going to forget about the Facebook page I think hoped that there would be some pictures of works in progress from readers, but that was probably spreading us all too thin.  I think this blog and my Instagram are more my own mediums in social media.

So for a bit the blog is going to resume regularly scheduled programming but watch this space once August kicks in for a bathing suit sew-along. Need to get that in before that awful moment when Nova Scotians start sniffing the air and saying things like " I can smell fall" and the back-to-school ads become depressingly frequent.

Around here we like to wring out every last drop of summer, and when we can't do that start packing the RV to head south!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Maternity sewing

Of the many pairs of leggings I have been making lately two of these have been for my DIL who is expecting in November.

I used the Pattern 4 Pirates add-ons (thank you P4P for not calling these hacks) for different styles of maternity waistbands that can be used in conjunction with the Peg Legs pattern. Note again both the Peg Legs and the add-on patterns are free.

Maddie liked the over the belly waist so these two pair, made in some lovely Supplex from Halo Fabric Addicts again, used that option.

I am going to show these out of interest for both those who might want to sew maternity leggings and for those who won't ,because the construction is interesting.

For a start the Peg Legs have a deep waist band, and like the Clara's really, have a short front crotch seam to accommodate that. Kind of weird when you are making both of these patterns up if you try them on before you have attached the waistband because it feels and looks at first as if these units aren't going to be high enough to cover anything much less a belly and the distance up to the waist.

But you attach the waistband and what do you know, they do.

Having this deep dip in the front means it is so easy to switch these up for maternity sewing. The Peg Legs maternity add-on is really a very deep front waistband with a little self fabric knit band stitched onto the top.

Now these look really weird I know, hanging on a barn door in the basement, and they will look better in pictures that Maddie has said she will send, but there is hopefully still some educational, and certainly some humour value in these shots.

Love this fabric, this is a side view so you can see how the front waist dips down and the wide overbelly waistband comes up. We will cut this down to make a postnatal pair later if we want.

Long and skinny but hopefully comfortable
And here is another pair in a lighter colour so you can see the waistband seam and the band at the top a little better:

I top stitched the seam allowances down with a triple zig zag on this pair more or less for my own entertainment

Now to go with the leggings I made some tops. 

I used Love Notions famous Laundry Day tee. I wanted to try this out for myself and figured doing a size small for Maddie would give me some sense of how it might look. This pattern has quite a swing to the hem, despite being fitted through the shoulders, which I thought would make it work for a maternity top basic.

I added 2" in length over all and an additional 2" to the centre front hem tapering that up to the side seams. As you get bigger that front hem pulls up and that centre front dip down in the hem is useful.

Here are the tops, it is interesting how they all look slightly different because they are each made in different fabrics. The grey one is cotton single knit, the white one bamboo, and the navy one is rayon knit:

Since I was on a sewing, neglecting all other aspects of life roll, I decided to also make a replacement skirt for one that got lost in Maddie's travels - the Jalie Lisette again lengthen to 30" with a centre back seam added and a 12" walking slit. I added a little to the width of the waist and left out the elastic in the front waistband and put it only in the back:

I have to give a shout out to Stonemountain in Berkeley for sending me the exact same fabric I made the original in. I sent them a picture of Maddie in the original skirt and they put the same fabric in the mail to me and I got it in a few days - pretty impressive I thought. Another reason why I love them.

I also played around with one more top, a striped cotton lycra knit (yes I know the stripes are not matched on the sleeves - I had to really scramble to find fabric to cut them out at all - the lower front of this pattern is doubled - a long gathered piece attached to a shorter under piece). I used this pattern, and added 2" to each side of the bottom of both bodice pieces and the 2" to the centre front of the hem like I did with the Laundry Day tee. I am completely enumerate and once I come up with a number I like to stick with it and apply it everywhere. 

This pattern also includes a modesty panel thing that I originally had made and was going to apply then I decided we didn't need it. I sewed in some clear elastic ever so slightly stretched along the sides of the V neckline under the binding and I felt that was enough to do to prevent gaping.

I also made Maddie a swimsuit using the First Crush pattern from Rad Patterns. Not a bad maternity pattern at all (they also sell a non maternity version) but the instructions were apparently written for Harry Houndini to execute so I sort of had to throw those out the window (sort of literally) and applied what I have learned from other swimsuit construction.

More on those details in next month's swimsuit sew-along.

Here is a front view and a side view, to show you how maternityesque it is, fabric again from my mega order from Halo:

Finally I even remembered that my daughter-in-law is married and who she is married to is my oldest son.

You know the one I promised I would make him a shirt for his birthday March 30.

So I finished that too and put it in the package to keep up appearances. 

So folks when this blog goes dark for a few days this is why. I made this batch of garments over about a 10 day period and sort of like living like that.

However if any of you would like to drop by however and fold a bit of laundry or do a few floors ... those jobs are still outstanding.

In the meantime more to say on sewing along leggings over the next few days!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Quick one

Oh my.

Busy week this last week.

Woke up Tuesday morning and realized that baby was going to be born on the West Coast before I did my promised maternity sewing. I had a lot of school work and other things going on but every minute I could, I sewed.

I got cracking and finished up one bathing maternity bathing suit, two pairs of leggings, four tops and replacement skirt, plus a shirt for my son. It will go in the mail tomorrow.

Will post some pretty hopeless pictures tomorrow of all of these garments hanging on hangers pending shots of Maddie wearing them in Berkeley.

I hope to do some more responsible blogging tomorrow when I catch my breath but in the meantime I want to share a picture of how I wrote my book and with whom:

This is Miss Daisy's favourite place in the world doing exactly what she loves most, pressed to my hip while I write. She has the sound of me sitting down in this chair down to an art and I even look at it and I can hear her tearing down the hall at top speed to get right up with me. 

She could literally spend her whole life like this if that's all we had to do.

So nice to be able to make someone happy with such a simple thing. I think this is probably why I have dogs, just to be able to do that.

So more later, but right now we girls are just chilling after a busy week.