June 25, 2011

quiet time

I feel like it's been pretty quiet on here lately. The truth is, there's not really that much for me to report this week. I did get the bag for my laptop cut out, and I've done some preparatory hand-sewing, which I'll explain later. For the last two days, I intended to start sewing it, but things keep getting in the way--yesterday, it took me so long to get through some necessary chores that it was kind of late to start by the time I got done, and today my brother and sis-in-law ended up coming over because the water at their place wasn't working.

Today, I ended up knitting instead, since aside from grilling up a delicious dinner, my hang-out time with my siblings pretty much consisted of a mini-marathon of a tv series, and my sis was crocheting as we watched anyway. I actually made some pretty decent progress on the tank top. The only problem is, I ended up having to rip out all but three rows of what I knit today--my first time making a split for a neckline/using a stitch holder, and while I followed the pattern directions, the number of stitches called for ended up making the pattern end at a weird place right next to the neckline. So I had to rip out a couple of inches to take it back to the beginning of that so I could pick up one more stitch and give it a bit more stability. *sigh* Kind of frustrating, but I guess it's all part of the learning process, right? And since it has an odd number of stitches, this will make it a bit more centered (originally, the eventual right side had 3 stitches more than the left part, which is what I was working on.

Things will continue to stay quiet around here for a bit. I'm going on a brief vacation at the beginning of the week, and between packing, having to work tomorrow, and various prior social/musical/church-related activities, I really doubt I'm going to get any crafting in unless it's just re-knitting a row or two. Hopefully later next week, I'll have time to pick something up again-- I miss sewing!

June 21, 2011

First summer essential: done at last!

Ok, technically I finished these last Thursday. But I haven't had a chance to actually post until today.

They're rather wrinkled-looking in this pic, which doesn't really do much to show the fit. This was after wearing them for the entire day on Friday, both to work at my retail job (mental note to self: not the best shorts for clipping the 2-way radio to) and for helping my brother with a project that involved sitting down at a keyboard and banging out chords for an hour or so.

To help offset the welt pocket gapping problem, I took Joy's suggestion and made some buttoned flaps to cover them up. I think they would have looked better if the pockets had been at an angle, or if I'd been able to sew them into the pocket and not just topstitch them onto the existing welt, but hey, it worked. And it looks a lot better than the gappy pockets! So thanks, Joy!

I've mostly gotten the pants pieces traced out and altered now, though I ran out of time on Saturday and haven't been able to get back to it yet. I have an idea for how to handle the pleat, and hope it's going to work. But I'm going to put that on hold for a little bit, because I have another project I'd like to knock out first-- a laptop bag! My computer's a desktop, and I'm still going to be using it as my main computer, but I thought it would be nice to have something a little more portable--I do need that at times, and my phone isn't always the best option. I need to get that done by mid-July since I'll be away from home for a dogsitting job and need to transport it safely! And I'm excited, because this project will allow me to use up a chunk of some stash fabric that I have been stumped on for quite some time. More details to come, since I have some students on vacation and therefore some time to get started tonight...

Also, thanks for the feedback so far on the random question in the last post. If anyone else has anything to add to that discussion, I'm all ears!

June 13, 2011

Good news, bad news (and a random question)

The good news: The test shorts are basically done. I finished sewing in the waistband facing today, did the button and buttonhole, and hemmed them.
I like the way the facing turned out--I was able to use up a nice chunk of a "fat quarter" piece in my scrap bin. I think I got these Celtic knot pieces in my Christmas stocking several years ago, and I'm finally finding ways to use them! I decided to hand-stitch it in, because I figured it would look nicer than topstitching it from the other side.


The fit is pretty good. Not too many wrinkles in the front...


...and though this picture is terribly blurry because the lighting in here kind of sucks for photos and I was holding the camera behind my back and taking the picture in the mirror, hardly any wrinkles at all in the back. And no gapping at the waistband! This is huge for me!

But the reason these aren't the final photos yet is this:
I had an unforeseen problem with the welt pockets: I underestimated my hips. :-P I wasn't expecting them to pull apart quite this much, and frankly, the inside of the pockets just looks bad. To the point where, as it stands now, this is only wearable with the longest shirts I own, and I don't think that would necessarily look good with such a long pair of shorts. I think I can salvage these so I can actually wear them (I mean, shorts that fit!)-- I have fabric left, and I'm going to try hand-stitching a patch into each of the pocket linings so that the outer fabric is showing instead of the wrong side of the pocket lining fabric. But this also means I have to rethink my pockets a bit before I can do the pants. So here's what options I'm looking at:

  • I can change the placement of the pockets, perhaps moving them a bit more off my hips and more onto my thighs. (But then, my upper thighs do tend to protrude a bit too, as I learned from the many, many jeans muslin fitting issues I had. So this may just move the problem elsewhere, rather than fix it.)
  • Theoretically, I could change the pockets to horizontal welts. Except that would pretty much kill both the lacing and the pleat, which is what makes these pants awesome.
  • I could eliminate the welt altogether, at least for side pockets, and instead just do regular side-seam pockets. Right now, this is looking like the safest, and therefore the most likely, option. And if I really want to do the welts, I could add a back horizontal welt pocket or two.
  • Theoretically, I could also eliminate the pockets altogether. But pants without pockets are dumb, IMO.
  • I could leave the pockets as is, and cut the back side of the pocket out of the linen so that all you see But I don't think that will eliminate the gapping problem (unless adding the pleat adds enough fullness back in that it closes it up.) Part of whether I consider this is going to depend on how my patch job looks, I think.
  • I'm not sure that widening the welts themselves will help. That might just make it harder to sew in.
So perhaps the lesson here is that curvy girls shouldn't have vertical welts on their pants?  I'm sure there's got to be a way to make this work...

Ok, random question time. I'm thinking it's about time that I did another blog giveaway. So I'm wondering, what sort of thing would you all like to see? Something handmade by me? A book? A gift certificate? Some kind of craft supply? I know the focus has changed a bit this year--still primarily a sewing blog, but I seem to have picked up some knitting bloggy friends since I picked that up. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

June 11, 2011

Ah, my sewing nemesis, we meet again.

Do you ever run into a technique that you just don't seem to get, no matter how you try? I've been sewing for most of my life, and I still have trouble with zippers. By this point, I've gotten regular centered zippers and invisible zippers down pretty well, with special thanks to handbasting. Lapped zippers are a little trickier, since I don't use them very often.

And then there's the fly-front zipper. I don't know what it is about them, but they just are ridiculously hard for me for some reason. It must have something to do with my horrendous lack of direction.

The last time I tackled one of these was about 2 years ago, with the ill-fated jeans. And admittedly, it wasn't the best zipper job ever. (None of my fly-front zippers have been so far.) And it was very, VERY tempting for me to just stick with the side zipper that the original pants pattern had. But I wanted those welt pockets, and wasn't sure if a zipper would interfere with those. Or the fit at the side, for that matter. And since a successful pair of well-fitting jeans is pretty much my search-for-the-Holy-Grail project, I have to learn it sometime, right? The most annoying thing about it is, it seems like I always make the exact same mistakes.

So my process today went something like this:
1. Sew the facing that's supposed to go on the right side on, trim excess fabric out of corner, and press.
2. Realize that I actually sewed this onto the left side, despite having held the leg up to myself to double-check before sewing. (Which is "mistake I always make" #1-- apparently, I still can't tell left from right.)
3. Re-cut and re-interface the piece, repeat with the opposite side.
4. Realize that I don't actually have a zipper that's the right color. Grab the closest one I have anyway so I don't have to run out to Joann's while I could be sewing. (Truth be told, I think this might be the zipper I originally got to go with this fabric anyway--my original plan was the Nichola pants. Guessing the right color just wasn't there.)
5. Start sewing in the zipper. Wonder what on earth possessed me to follow Burda's instructions for doing so, since it involved trying to accurately stitch the zipper from the wrong side for half of it.
6. Be pleasantly surprised at how well the zipper went in, and proceed to sew the left side backing piece in with renewed confidence.
7. Draw in and then stitch the fly front topstitching.

8, Realize that, once again, I've done "mistake I always make" #2: Stitch the entire opening closed. Face, meet palm.

I did rip it out and restitch it with better results. But this is the other reason I wanted to make a full wearable test version of these pants first!

Aside from that, I did get the waistband sewed on, as well as getting the facing partially sewed in. I was hoping to get a little further today, but the zipper slowed me down quite a bit. Oh well-- assuming all goes well with the buttonhole, I should be able to knock the rest of these shorts off in an hour or two!

I did another quick project yesterday as well, this one a refashion. On my last Goodwill excursion, I found this top:
(Picture lightened quite a bit to show what's going on.) This top had a lot going for it-- it fits great, I really liked the print mix, and I found out belatedly that it's silk instead of polyester like I thought. Of course, the way I found that out was that after I took it out of the dryer, I found out that the outside had shrunk about an inch shorter, while the synthetic lining had stayed the same length. (Thus the lighter brown band at the bottom in this pic.) It also had some awkward flutter sleeves--I do like interesting sleeves, but these were just a little weird. And then the little panel in the front of the V-neck was still too low-cut to really function well for hiding cleavage.

I got the urge while I was at work yesterday to have something new to wear for going out to a local festival with some friends last night, so I pulled this one out and got it all fixed up just in time. I didn't really feel like rethreading the machine, and didn't want to mess up the outside with obvious stitching lines so I did it all by hand. I took the sleeves off, cut the panel out, and then hemmed up the lining about 1 1/4":. And ended up with this:
Not the best pic-- I was hoping to get one at the festival, but it didn't happen. So this was me using the self-timer with the camera sitting on the trunk of my car just after it got dark. Anyway, I think it's much cuter as a sleeveless shirt, and will function much better layering over various tank tops, like the brown one I'm wearing here.

June 8, 2011

How to (possibly not) put pockets into vertical welts.

It's been a rather experimental week here at Casa de Sew-and-So. First up was trying to get the pocket bags into the shorts, which I'll go into more detail with in a moment. I've also got a yarn-dying experiment going on as I type, and my wrap that I finished a month or two ago (finally) blocked and drying out in the yard. So hopefully those will turn out well.

I found it surprisingly difficult to find suggestions and/or tutorials for getting the pocket bags into vertical welt pockets! It seems like everything I checked out--books, blogs, Google--was geared more towards the little rectangular ones that get attached to horizontal jacket pockets and such. Nothing on pants pockets. And BurdaStyle instructions being what they are...yeah. No help there. So here's a little mini-tutorial on how I did it-- both so I can remember it once I get to the pants, and so if anyone out there is having a similar problem, hopefully I can help you out a bit. (Note: This is not a tutorial on making the actual welt part of it, because there's a bajillion tutorials on that already, and this was only my first set. And therefore not as clean a finish as I'd ideally like--hoping I can avoid the corner puckers next time!)

(Second note: With everything being dark on dark, this isn't the best tutorial pictorally. But if people are interested, I can redo this later with more and better pictures once I get to the pants. Since they'll be lighter, things might be easier to see.)



So here's one half of the front of my shorts, with the welts all sewn in and basted shut and ready to go. The first thing I did was to pin one half of the pocket (not sewn together yet) onto the shorts, wrong sides together. (In retrospect, I probably should have done the right side of the pocket to the wrong side of the shorts, so it would look a little better inside the pocket. Oh well, you live, you learn.) I pinned all around the welt to hold it in place as firmly as possible.

The next thing I did was to baste along all of the long edges of the pocket-- both the outer edges where they joined the shorts, and the inner edge where the two welts meet--through to the pocket layer. This was to hold it in place, and to give me a cut line. (No picture of this step, sorry!) I did it by hand since I'd have better control that way, and the longer stitches would be easier to rip out later.

Then I cut on the wrong side of the pocket--first along that center basted line, and then the two little triangular snips at either end, just like for making the welts. So it looked kind of like this:

>-----<

Again, you can't really see the basting, since I used light blue thread against that mottled green background. But I promise you that it's there.

The next thing was to fold the cut edges back along the basting, like I'm doing here. Not quite all the way to the stitching, since I did my basting right up along the edge, because you want the machine to catch the stitches. (Otherwise, it'll be like the second pocket I did, when it was much later at night and I was just trying to get this step done, where I almost entirely missed it and had to hand-sew things.)

I pinned from the right side of the shorts, just to make it easier to get them out--you just have to check to make sure the fabric is being caught by the pins underneath. Then I just did a basic "stitch in the ditch" all around the pocket.

This is where I should have taken a picture of the underside with everything stitched up. But I didn't. Again, sorry.
Next step was to layer the outer pocket on top and stitch it up. I did regular stitching on the curved edge, followed by a zig-zag right on the edge to give it a nicer finish. And then I just machine-basted it to the top and sides, a little within the seam allowance.

Then I undid all of the basting that was holding the welt edges closed, and was left with this. (See what I mean about the puckers? But at least I have a nice pocket to shove my hand into now.)

So there you have it. There's probably a better way to do this, and if anyone knows of one and wouldn't mind sharing, I'm all ears! Otherwise, again, if this is something people are interested in, I'll redo the tutorial with more pictures when I make the pants. Just let me know.

June 1, 2011

90 degrees and rising...

...makes it a good day for sewing shorts! Especially since I actually had some time to sew today! And the Summer Essentials Sew-along officially starts today!

First thing I did today was trim those seam allowances down to my usual 5/8". This picture is the center back seam, and you can see what a drastic change I had to make here! For the majority of the rest of it, though, it was just a case of trimming off the extra 3/8" I added to get a full inch seam.

Once those were all trimmed down, I took off what was left of the waistband seam (had to undo it partially already for the trimming), then the side, inseam and crotch seams. Next thing I did was sew the darts and the seams that run down the middle of the front legs. The twill seems more prone to fraying than I thought it would, so I'm edge-finishing the seams with the overlocker-esque stitch on my machine. I don't have anything close to the right color thread for my serger anyway, and was feeling too lazy to bother setting it up and rethreading it as a result. Plus this twill also seems to show marks when pressed, if the back darts are any indication, so it's probably just as well that I give it a lighter finish. Incidentally, this has me thinking that for the linen pants, I may Hong Kong-finish the seams on that, since linen will fray even worse. But I'd rather save such a time-consuming process for the pants.

Next thing I decided to do was tackle the welt pockets. A first for me! I marked the pocket on one side of the shorts, and then decided it looked like it was awfully low. So after holding it up to myself to confirm this,I ended up moving the welt about 2" higher. (The red line is the new one.)

Then once I had the new pocket line marked, I interfaced where the opening was supposed to go. The tutorial recommended pinking the interfacing, but I decided to use some really lightweight stuff so I just tore it. I didn't want to mark the actual cut line on the outside (not sure how well this chalk pencil will wash off), so I hand-basted the line instead, using the pattern as a guide.

Next up was doing the actual welts. Which turned out to be much more simple than I thought, thanks to some nice instructions in one of the books I have here. So here they are, all basted shut and pressed and everything. I wish the corners were laying just a bit flatter, but overall, I'm thinking not bad for a first attempt. (And that I maybe need to press the one on the right a bit more.)

The only thing is, I'm not entirely sure how I'm supposed to put the actual pocket pieces in! Burda's directions are being typically hard to decipher, and all of my on-hand resources seem to focus more on welt pockets for jackets, so they just have small rectangular ones. So this is going to be my stopping point for the night, in order for me to do some more internet research. I need to switch to knitting now anyway, since I'm going to be hanging out with my crocheting friends all weekend and would like to get a few more rows done on the tank top first. That way I can just do a more brainless pattern and be social!