Archive | July 2015

Favorite Quilt Machine Binding Method

Unless I’m making a commissioned quilt, I bind my quilts by machine.  I’ve tried many methods but while watching The Machine Embroidered Quilt with Eileen Roche on Craftsy, she casually made mention of the method I show here.  She was like “blah, blah, I use this type of foot and no big deal…”  I was all, “WHAAAT?  SHUT UP! INGENIOUS!”  Totally changed my binding world.

Construction of the binding strip is the usual method.  I start with 2.5″ strips and sew them together, end-to-end, right sides together (RST), on a 90 degree angle. After the final strip is attached, as I pull them off the machine, I use scissors to trim the excess to a ¼” seam and trim the top dog ear. Then I fold the strip in half wrong sides together (WST) and iron. When I finish the last part of the binding to attach it to a quilt, I like to use The Binding Tool. I absolutely love that thing and it never fails me. The directions say to leave a 10″-12″ tail before you start sewing.WP_20150725_09_02_39_Pro I sew the binding to the front of the quilt with the raw edge on the outside edge, center fold toward the inside of the quilt, using a 3/8″ seam.WP_20150725_09_05_35_Pro I stop ¼” before the end of the quilt and do a couple of back-stitches. I usually put in a pin so I don’t go past the ¼” stopping point. The fabric in the image below is actually a bit short so I measured to the end of the batting. Not sure how that wonkiness happened.  Oh well, it won’t be seen once it’s bound.WP_20150725_09_10_06_Pro At the corners, I backstitch a couple of stitches 1/4″ from the end, remove it from the machine, and then I pull the end of the binding so it is horizontally straight out to the right side of the quilt.  I put my left fingers on the edge of the quilt and then fold the binding back over my fingers to continue down the next side.WP_20150725_09_11_50_Pro The fold creates the mitered corner. I normally start sewing about 3/8″ down with a backstitch and then continue down the side.  I usually put a pin over the fold on the corners to secure the binding so it doesn’t shift as I tack it down.WP_20150725_09_12_44_Pro As I near where I started sewing the binding on, I need to leave a 12″ opening and a 10-12″ tail at the end. It helps to use a pin to mark your stopping point. To use The Binding Tool, the instructions have you butt the straight edge up where you stopped sewing. Then fold the tail over the top of the tool and I use a Frixion pen to mark where it says to on the tool. This tool can be kind of confusing until you get the hang of it. You make a mark in the same spot where the tool says “Mark Here” regardless of which direction the tool is pointing, but where you continue the drawn line that you will cut on, is different depending on the direction the tool is pointing. When the flat end is to my right, I (point is pointing left) I leave the mark I made on the fabric under the mark line on the tool and draw the line I will cut on following the 90 degree angle. When I have the flat end of the tool on my left, (tool is pointing right) I put the point of the tool on the mark I made and then draw the rest of the line from there. If you put the mark you made on the fabric even with the mark on the tool again, your binding will be two inches too long.  Believe me!  I’ve done it many times.  It doesn’t matter which end does what, but they must be different with the tool’s tip on the mark on one side and the mark lines even on the other.  I hope that’s not too confusing.  For your first attempt, I suggest you make up a dummy first to get the hang of it. But once you do, you won’t go back. After I cut on the lines, I usually use a couple of pins to simulate the seam to make sure everything fits, isn’t twisted, etc. Once I’m happy and I think it will fit, I sew it together. The outer seam below is where I sewed the binding strips together (just so you don’t get confused). But the seam I’m sewing is the one to finish putting the binding together. It’s just a tad bigger than ¼” to make sure the binding fit perfectly without any ripples. I trim all the corners right next to the seam without cutting through it so the mitered corners will make a nice 45 degree angle when the binding is folded over. Sorry for the blur. I just couldn’t get the phone to focus for some reason. Before I fold the binding over the back, I iron it out on the front. I make sure the miters on the corners are nice and flat so they look great on the front. I have a couple of secret weapons for my machine binding method. One tool I use is either Heat and Bond or Steam-a-Seam. Either works well. I make sure to fold the binding over the back of the quilt so it just covers the original stitching line and the bond is hidden inside the fold.  Iron, stick, done. Boom. Seriously, you simply can’t get this great of a corner with pins. I refuse to use them any longer when I machine bind. The next secret weapon That I learned in my Craftsy class is …wait for it…a Blind Hem Foot!! I use the type of foot that has a little notched flange inside. That flange pushes the edge of the binding over just a tad so I can stitch in the ditch on the front with an invisible stitch. The toe of the foot is the guide to make sure you stay in the ditch. This works perfectly every time! Here’s the finished product, front and back! This whole process took about 2 hours to complete from start to finish.

Here’s my finished quilt!  It’s a Beach Party!
I hope you give this method a try and enjoy this finishing process as much as I do!

Easy Skirt Pattern Alteration

McCalls 2255Completed:  McCall’s 2255, View D. Skill Level – Beginner

One of the coolest things about being about being able to sew, is making your own clothes on-the-fly.  The other morning as I was getting ready for work, I discovered that I didn’t have a single dress in my closet that fit other than what I was wearing. Everything else was in the cleaners and I stood staring at a work wardrobe inventory that didn’t fit.  Seriously.  How did that happen?  I went from a size 10 to a 14-16 over the last 6-8 months.  Really?  Ugh.  Rats.  In my defense, I’m 5’9” so it sneaks up on me when I’m not looking.

In my stash I found this really fun woven print floral fabric I got eons ago from JoAnn’s and decided it would make a cute skirt with a solid top.  I went digging through my skirt patterns and found McCalls 2255 – it calls for a woven fabric and elastic waist. SCORE! Unfortunately, it was for sizes 8-12.  HA…Yeah right…not lately. I think I’ve had this pattern a very, very, very long time. So the first order of business was to grade out the pattern so it fit.

PATTERN GRADING WITH NO MATH: I wore a pair of shorts that had side seams. Gym shorts, jean shorts, it doesn’t matter. Using a tape measure, I measure the front of my hip line from side seam to side seam at the widest part and write the number down. Measure the rear, across the fullest part, from side seam to side seam and write the number down. Now take your tape measure and put your thumb on the front number (22.5 for me). Add one inch for ease (23.5), and add additional space for SA (I chose another one inch to 24.5). Hold your thumb on the last number. Fold up the end of the tape measure (starting at 0 inches) in half so the beginning of the tape measure meets your other thumb at that final number. Smooth out the dangle and crease the center.  Note the measurement.

Now put that center crease on the center seam (or fold line) of the pattern level with the matching marks at the hip line. Open up the tape measure from the half number to 0  (for me – from 12.25 to 0 in my case), stretch it out past the outer seam and grimace at how much bigger you are now  to determine the new side seam. Make a mark on the generous amount of extra paper that McCall’s was gracious enough to give you where the tape measure landed. If your skirt pattern has a center fold, only mark it on one side seam and decrease the ease and SA additions by half.WP_20150714_18_00_23_Pro

Take a ruler and figure out how much extra you need outside of the largest line drawn on the pattern from the mark you made. In my case, on the front, it was an extra 1.25”. I drew a straight line from top to bottom adding 1.25” all the way down on both sides (McCalls 2255 doesn’t use a center fold).

For the waist, that’s subjective according to your build. On the pattern, I noticed that the waist line dipped on the sides as the sizes got larger – like an 1/8” per size-ish. I kind of WAG’d it (“wild-ass guess”…that’s military lingo for those unaware) that my larger size would be 3/8” lower than the size 12 and then made a mark near the side seam 3/8” lower than the last line on the pattern.WP_20150714_17_58_40_Pro I used my tailor’s curve to draw the new waist line. You don’t need to get all crazy-exact on this…it’s not that important. What IS important is to make sure that both the front and back are the same height at the side seams. To do this, I measured up from the hip notch on the front to the waist which was 9.25”, and made sure the back was also 9.25” up from the hip notch to the waist so both pieces were the same height top to bottom.WP_20150714_18_18_04_Pro


Learning from my last mistake of my twin hurricane eyes on the back bodice of New Look 6184, I noted the large flowers on the fabric in relation to the center back of pattern. I didn’t want a bulls-eye in the center of my butt that screamed, “HELLOOO! LOOK AT ME!  READY-AIM-FIRE!”WP_20150714_18_07_22_Pro1

So I fiddled with the pattern until I found a look I could live with. The large floral pattern was off-set on both the front and back. Ready to cut.WP_20150714_18_08_50_Pro

The rest of the make was kind of a beginner’s blur.  Sew the side seams together, fold over the top of the waist a bit to hide the raw edge, fold it over again 1” deep so it’s larger than the ½” elastic and press, fold up the hem ½”, blah blah.WP_20150714_18_36_37_Pro

BUT!! What’s wrong with this picture? WHERE IS MY SEWING MACHINE? AND MY EMBROIDERY MACHINE? AND WHAT HAPPENDED TO MY SWIMMING POOL? This is my month for crap to break.WP_20150714_18_28_56_Pro

Pool-explosionSoooo…I was totally irresponsible and left my Brother PE-770 embroidery machine powered on during Tropical Storm Bill (late June 2015) and she suffered a mechanical breakdown and wouldn’t power up – much like me on Mondays. She was even plugged into a high grade surge suppressor but it didn’t matter.   She won’t power up. (sniff) I feel like that guy on the Nationwide Insurance commercial whose baby car hit a fire hydrant. The sweet Brother repair tech at the Creative Sewing Center in San Antonio called me today with the $150.00 repair news. Sigh. At least she can be fixed…we think.  Unlike my pool.  The exterior metal wall looks like a piece of paper completely torn in half, top to bottom, and we have no idea what happened to cause an 18,000 gallon tsunami in my backyard.  I literally stood on the deck with a glass of wine and cried.  It’s only 3 years old and Family Leisure is dancing around about the warranty.  They better make it right or I’m going to go all social media on them.

My Brother PC-420 sewing machine? She just got an attitude with a jammed bobbin all of a sudden. I replaced the needle, blew out the lint with an air can and no dice. Grrr. Off for a tune-up she goes. To be fair, it’s past time for a tune up with the amount I sew. So I serged the side seams with my Brother 1034D.WP_20150714_18_30_34_Pro

What to do with no sewing machine for the waist and hem? Tin Lizzie to the rescue!! WP_20150714_19_40_25_ProYes, I know she is for free-motion quilting and can’t spell Feed Dogs. But living by the motto of “Adapt and Overcome”, I sat down and had a long motivating talk with her and let her know that it’s the 4th down, we’re down by a waist and hem line, we’re on the ½” yard line, with seconds to go, and it’s all on her. I slapped her on the tension dial and she came through like a champ! Woo Hoo! And for you Tin Lizzie haters out there? The certified Brother Repair Tech told me he swears by the Tin Lizzie and they just bought his wife a new upgraded model and willed the original to their daughter – after 11 YEARS of continued use by momma! So there. Stuff it.

Here’s the final result. This skirt wore beautifully all day with minimal wrinkling. I was completely comfortable and received several compliments!WP_20150715_06_29_20_Pro WP_20150715_06_29_59_ProBut, I have no idea what I’m going to wear tomorrow…

Vogue Pattern Review, Fall 2015

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One of my absolute all time favorite sewing bloggers is Lauren from out of Nashville.  If you haven’t wandered her way yet, you should.  She comes up with the most off-the-wall thoughts and musings.  Oh, and she’s a pretty good seamstress too!  But brace yourself for the occasional f-bomb.  As they say, “If you can’t hang with the big dogs, stay on the porch!”

I’m really writing this post because Bloglovin wanted me to put some of their code into a new post so they could validate my new blog, but if you’re up for a laugh, take a gander over at Lauren’s review of the Vogue Patterns for Fall 2015.  Yeah, some of it you won’t get if you’re not into the sewing world like we are, but occasionally…18970486783_e35d478e86_o

…”eyebrows for your boobs”.  OMG, good thing I didn’t have a mouth full of coffee when I read that!  Honestly, where does she come up with this stuff?

The Shotgun Wedding Dress

One Sunday morning in 2013, my cell phone rang…
“Hi, this is Donna.”
“Oh hi!  How are you?”
“I’m sorry but I have an emergency and I need your help.”
“Sure.  What’s up?”
“My daughter is getting married in less than two weeks, she’s 5 1/2 months pregnant and the dress doesn’t fit anymore!  This is an $850 wedding gown that we bought back in May of 12 and it fit up until a week ago!  I’ve been to 3 seamstresses and none of them will touch it.  I’m so desperate, I nearly broke down and purchased another wedding dress last weekend but the ones on the rack that fit were horrible and it would take too long to order another.   This one took 6 weeks to come in and we don’t have that long!  Then I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought of you.  Do you think you can you help?”

Now this is a woman in sheer desperation!  How can I say no?  “Well, I can try.  We’re in Houston right now but we should be home in a couple of hours.”  “That’s OK.  Her shower is today from 2-4 so we’ll be by after that.”  “OK.  See you then.”  As I hang up, I wonder if it’s a bridal shower or a baby shower… 🙂

Funny thing about the pregnant body.  One day you’re one size, and the next you’re two sizes larger like someone took a bicycle pump to the girls overnight.  Which is fine, unless you’re hoping to fit into your pre-preggo size 4 wedding gown.

I know that wedding gowns come with an additional 3 inches in seam allowance on each side – that seems to be an industry standard.  I did some online homework before they arrived and found the perfect solution – the corset back wedding gown.  That would solve the problem of her possibly getting bigger before the wedding after the alteration.  When they arrived, I see why no seamstress will touch it.  This strapless dress is covered top to bottom in a layer of silk organza folds and ruffles.  Oh boy.  Fortunately, the bride wasn’t fussy and when I asked her about converting the back of the dress, she was good with it.  I mean really, what choice did she have?  When she put the dress on, the top of the zipper had a 5 inch gap and there was no way it was going to close.  Here is the front of the dress.dress front

And here is the back.dressBack

The first step was to match the fabric and no single fabric would work because of the organza overlay on the gown.   I had to haul this monster dress to the store to find fabrics that would work and I found them at #HancockFabrics.  While lighting can be a challenge with store fluorescents and incandescent lighting at home, I ended up choosing the wrong side of a candlelight organza (or the less-shiny side…it’s hard to tell) over the wrong side of white satin.  The effect was nearly identical.

Now to put them together.  If you’ve never done it, sewing slippery, shiny fabrics is an absolute nightmare.  So I reached into my Mad Quilting Skills part of my brain and hauled out the miracle of all miracles…Sullivan’s Quilt Basting Spray.

First to make the tie.  I read somewhere that the tie needed to be 3 yards long and I didn’t want a mid-seam which would create a stress point on satin fabric that shreds like crazy.  The LAST thing the bride needs is to have the tie holding in the girls to give out during the reception!  So I purchased a full 3 yards of both the satin and organza even though I didn’t need that much.  I know you’re supposed to sew sheers on tissue paper, and I didn’t have any, but I did have a huge roll of white plastic table cover left over from a company Christmas party.  (It’s always good to be on the decorating committee in case of any leftovers).    I’ve experienced pulling paper off the back of quilt pieces when paper piecing, so I thought, well – why not plastic too?   I swept off the screened-in back patio to get rid of the dog fur, locked the dogs into the house, and rolled it out.backPatio

I folded the fabric and cut the strip with a rotary cutter on my cutting mat.  It’s one, 3-yard long piece – not pieced together like custom bias binding.  I laid out a 3 3/4” wide strip of satin onto the plastic, sprayed it with quilt basting spray, and pressed and smoothed a 5” wide piece of organza over it using my Pampered Chef Baker’s Roller.  (Adapt and overcome amiright?)

The image below is the plastic (with CRAZY static cling [ugh! Major PITA], then satin, then organza.  bastingSpray

I pinned like crazy, cut it out with scissors at least an inch away from the edge of any fabric, and sewed a long basting stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge of the satin along both long sides.


To make the tie, I sewed the end of a piece of cording into the end of the tie for a tugging rope, and then right sides together using a tiny 1.8” stitch length, I sewed the cord within the length of the tie inside the basting stitch.  Then I inverted the tie by pulling on the loose end of the cord and coaxed the fabric to turn right side out as I tugged, and tugged, and stuffed, and tugged the opposite end through itself.  It was a total and complete pain and took me 45 minutes!  Check the shredding on the seam.  See why there cannot be a stress point via a center seam?  I know I could have simply folded the fabric WST and top stitched one side but…tacky.  I wanted this to look factory with no visible seams.  I mean, it’s a wedding gown and everyone will be staring at her back as she walks down the aisle.turningTie

The whole process of prepping, laying, spraying, laying, pinning, cutting, sewing, and turning took 2.5 hours.  But it turned out absolutely perfect.  I had a little happy dance!colorMatchTieToDress

See how the color matches nearly exactly?  And the outside fabrics are both organza so the texture is the same as well and there’s no seam on the tie.  Gorgeous.

Creating the corset loops was tricky.   I know you can order these online but I had little time and didn’t want to chance not matching the color correctly.  At Hancock Fabrics I found a close match of satin cording and my first attempt by sewing the cording to twill tape was a fail.  The twill tape wouldn’t stay straight which I anticipated would cause a wonky tug factor from one side or the other as the corset was pulled together.  The beauty of a corset back gown is the perfect serpentine that is created when the tie is run through the loops.  To get this effect, the loops must be the same distance apart on either side of the bodice and evenly spaced.  I decided on a stiff boning-by-the-yard to make the loop sets and broke out my heavy-duty machine needles.  The boning was perfect and stabilized the loop sets.  Again with my quilting skills, the loops were held in place until sewn with Clover Wonder Clips (‘cuz you CAN’T pin the cording into the boning evenly) and I attached the loops with a zipper foot straight stitch down the center of the boning.  Then I reinforced those babies with additional horizontal zigzag stitch on each loop end.  Those bad boys were NOT coming loose on my watch!makingLoops

I was hoping not to have to deconstruct the dress to remove the zipper.  So I sewed the boning by machine to the outside of the dress with the loops facing toward the side seam.   I left the top loop about 1/2 “ below the top edge of the dress.loopsOnDress


Once the loops were turned toward the inside of the dress, I stitched the folded portion by hand to the inside of the gown using a heavy upholstery thread and curved upholstery needle.  The top layer of the skirt’s organza ruffle came up over the bottom of the zipper.  It looked like I wouldn’t have to deconstruct the dress.  Yay!loopsInsideDress

Once both loop sets were installed, I had to make the modesty panel.  I read online somewhere the modesty panel had to be 10 inches wider than the final gap in the gown so the top of the panel needed to be 15 inches across.  (I’ve noticed in wedding gowns since this event that you barely get an inch on each side of the panel – cheapo manufacturers!) Again I used a spray basting method to adhere the organza to the satin and sew them. I drew my sewing line with a Frixion pen and left a small opening in the bottom so I could turn it right side out.  sewingPanelskeded

I trimmed up the panel, turned it, poked out the corners with a chop stick, gave the panel a good press and top stitched the opening closed.  Then I hand stitched it, using a strong polyester thread, to the left side of the gown right next to the left loop set.panelInstalled

Here’s the secret to a perfectly centered serpentine down the corset back gown.  Run the tie through the top two loops, then standing way back, hold the ends of the ties like reigns on a horse, to get them even and straight.  Then drop them, and run the right tie through the 2nd left loop on the left side so both ends hang on the left making sure there are NO twists in the tie as it goes through the loop.  Then take the tie in the top left loop and run it across from right and back to left inserting it into the 3rd left loop.  You always start with the top tie on the left side, over and back.  Don’t run the ties like a tennis shoe.  Continue this process down the dress, left to right to left, until it is completely tied.  When you get to the last right loop at the bottom, create a bow with the ends and tuck them down inside the dress.  Here is a pillow modeling the final effect.tiedUp

And Here Comes the Bride! (Not really.  This is a final fitting in my LR, not the actual ceremony!) ha  Seeing that I could have made the modesty panel a little longer, I advised the bride to ensure her undergarments were white for the ceremony.bride2

The corset back was the perfect choice for this bridal alteration.  Her mom told me the gap at the top of the gown the day of the wedding was even farther apart than it was when she brought the dress to me.  The bride was thrilled with the outcome and really, so was I.  I hear she was absolutely gorgeous at the wedding and the dress got rave reviews….And they lived happily ever after!

In case you are wondering, because I didn’t know what I was doing when I started, I was a sucker and did this for a case of beer + the cost of fabric ($75).  Mom offered more and I said no.  I know, I know… but I felt good about the outcome and told her to consider it my wedding gift to them.  Besides, her sister Dana and her hubs have done so much for us and that’s what friends are for, right?  🙂

Completed: New Look 6184

Supplies:  New Look 6184 – View C, 2.5 yards bottom weight woven fabric from Hancock Fabrics, 22” zipper, hook & eye.  Total investment:  Less than $20.00 with Hancock discounts and coupons.PatternEnvelope6184

I love this dress.  I’ve recently become obsessed with dresses and they are all I wear to work anymore because (read my Creative Fraud page) I don’t have to expend any energy attempting to match a skirt and top.  No deciding required…much like my military days!  Yay!  Just step in and zip.  Done.  I literally can wear just 4 items of clothing to work including shoes.  So no, I’m not going commando.  This dress style speaks to me because it doesn’t have my dreaded princess seaming.  I always require an FBA so I usually steer clear of princess seams or button downs.  If you’re a B cup or less, good for you and whoop-tee-doo.  But for the rest of us, the new style of tucks at the neck is Heaven sent!  And I’m all about anything sleeveless.  Since I had my plumbing removed in ’09, sleeves spell “roaster oven” to me.

I did make a major modification to the dress and that was to change the waistline to an empire waist.  Well, to be honest, I made a BUNCH of modifications to this dress.  But the empire waist was done because that style hides a multitude of sins.  I’ll admit it, I’m lumpy below the waist.  I’m not 25 anymore and when a garment waistline hits around my belly button, I have a tendency to balloon out just below the waist seam.  Muffin tops are not usually a problem for me since I have a naturally high waist anyway that is higher than midway between the girls and the hips.  So the empire looks the most flattering on me.  Whoever came up with that way back in-the-day should have been put up for sainthood!  I Franken-patterned the bodice by shortening it 2” and added the shortened amount to the waistline ensuring the new waist circumference matched that of the bodice.  I pattern-graded the difference to smooth out the join and adjusted the darts accordingly.  Wow, looking at this pic my co-worker took, I could stand to lose 10-15.  I’ll get right on that.6184-worn-front

Now, I did have one major screw up with this pattern.  It’s not the first go-round with this dress and I didn’t have the back bodice piece in the package.  ????  I have no idea why it wouldn’t be there but it wasn’t.  Not even a smaller one I could size up.  And I was at the coast doing this make and didn’t have resources to get another bodice piece to copy from.  Rats.  Can I create one from scratch?  Ha, that’s funny.  But check this out!  A few weeks ago I was wasting time and money in Barnes & Nobel and I picked up “Dressmaking Step by Step; Classic Patterns and Essential Techniques for a Range of Beautiful Garments” by Alison Smith (DK Publishing 2012).  This is an awesome book and one of the dresses in there is the classic Empire Waist dress.  And even better, there are patterns in the back of the book.  They are small but on a graded scale.  So I taped together some of my handy-dandy printer paper, drew a 2×2 grid on the paper and eyeballed it from the book to create the back bodice.   I was feeling pretty froggy after that save so I strutted around the rest of the afternoon telling hubs he could just call me Sewing Machine MacGyver.  He refused and went fishing.  Humph!

Dress Making Step by Step

EmpireDressPageBodice Back Pattern
Lesson Learned:  Careful on the cut or you’ll look like you’ve got the eyes of two hurricanes across your shoulders!  Note to self:  Wear your hair down next time.

Let me introduce Lance.  My Deaf Englishman co-worker.  Love him to death but I every time I say something he says, “Huh?”  Refuses to wear his hearing aids and it drives his British wife crazy.  You can see how enthusiastic he is about my sewing.WP_20150706_09_27_23_Pro

Next mod:  I despise chintz-y facings.  None of the quality dresses you find that are RTW have that crappy 1.5” facing around the neckline or arms.  No, they all have a hefty wide facing that spans both sides of the bodice.  So I re-drafted the facing pieces to mimic my RTW dresses so they span the arms-eye front and back and extend down the chest a bit.  Essentially the neck facing becomes a bodice facing and blends with the arm hole facing into a singular unit.  It’s fairly easy to do – just use the bodice pieces as patterns and match up all the edges.Facing with Captions

Next mod:  Widen the shoulders.  I know it’s cool in some circles to show bra/tank straps but that’s not me.  Especially not me at the office.  I HATE  to be self-conscious about my bra straps possibly showing while I’m at work so I normally make the shoulder seams a bit wider.  The facing has to be graded as well to make this work.  Also, I added ½” to the front armholes to keep any armpit pillows from escaping.

Next mod:  Lose the arm hole bias tape called for in the pattern.  Gag.  Again, following my RTW as a guide, they don’t use it.  To me, it looks less-professional than the clean finish without it.  The very best video to show this is by Colleen Lea found here. ( ) IMO, the bias tape method is ok in casual blouses/tops, but it’s really not what I’m looking for in a dress for the office.
The back facing combined with the back armseye.WP_20150706_18_50_06_Pro

The front facing combined into the front armseye. I probably could have deepened the center of the front facing but hey…it’s hot down here in South Texas.WP_20150706_18_50_24_Pro

In the video, she showed it using an entire lining, but I just treated the facing unit as the lining and went from there.  The results were EXCEPTIONAL!  I was absolutely giddy to learn this technique.  I have to admit to having to unpick the shoulder seams (because I was following the pattern until I recalled the video).  After I was finished, I performed an under-stitch on the graded facings as much as I could…where I could.

A 2.5” blind hem, hook and eye, and it was finished!  I’m looking forward to making a few more to work out those little kinks I see here and there.  This pattern is totally a work in progress and I know it looks too big on me.  But honestly, I was so comfortable all day.  Maybe I can perfect that feeling without the look of being a size too big.

Happy Sewing!

How to Girley-Up a Men’s T-Shirt

Supplies: Ugly T-shirt, Cute Tee to use as a pattern, Pins, Chalk, Seam Guide, Double Needle

Last February at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, hubs and I went with friends to see Little Big Town. I love them and wanted to get myself a really cute “Day Drinking” tee.   Although, I knew if they had a cute “Pontoon” shirt complete with double-decker, slide-wielding-grilling-fun, I knew I’d be in a pickle because, well, I’m not going to drop $60 on two t-shirts. I mean I can…but I’m not, ya know? So…I’m a bit of an audiophile and follow a lot of the new Country artists and I was having visions of looking super cool in a pink and white, LBT bedazzled, cap-sleeve, scoop neck, shapely, princess-cut cutie. Before the show, I went hunting around the booths for a shirt. And what do I find? IMG_3115The ugliest, most gawd-awful royal blue blah t-shirt known to man. The only other one they had was a black LBT shirt with concert dates on it. So it’s the royal blue or nothing. It wasn’t even in a ladies style. It looked like it was yanked from a Hanes bag in the WalMart men’s underwear aisle and run through the printer. Really? You want me to drop $30 on a piece of crap ugly tee just because it says, “This is my Day Drinking Shirt”?  OK. I’m in. The day after the concert, I got to work. First – WASH THE ORIGINAL SHIRT.   You want as much shrinkage out of the original as possible.  That, and you need to get the Bangladesh off of it.  I’m pretty sure those t-shirt factories don’t have signs that say “Employees must wash hands before returning to work” if you know what I mean.

The Pattern
I like the shape of my Bucky’s tee so I used it as my pattern. If you’ve ever driven the Texas highways, you understand Bucky’s. If you’ve never seen a Bucky’s, it’s literally a gas station that is bigger than some WalMart stores with the cleanest bathrooms you’ll ever find for a “pit stop”.  They have nearly 100 gas pumps, cheap ice, and cute stuff.  And I don’t care what time of day it is, those stores are PACKED! Now, you should know right off, there’s nothing to be done about the neckline. Just get over it and move on. If you can’t, don’t buy the ugly version to begin with. It’s virtually impossible to reconfigure a neckline on a pre-made t-shirt and have it come out looking right. I’ve tried and it sucks Turn the original tee inside out, fold it in half vertically, and then lay the pattern tee (also folded in half) on top of the original making sure the center folds are even.  Arrange the height of the pattern tee to the underarm seams so they match exactly as possible. Pinning them helps. Again, ignore the shoulders and neckline – there’s nothing for it. Take chalk and draw an outline of the pattern tee down the sides and be sure to use a seam guide to add hem length for the sleeves and bottom hem. Remember, you’re not going to do anything with the shoulders or neckline. I moved my pattern tee over a bit so you could see the chalk line.IMG_3120 The Sleeves
Using a seam guide on the sleeves, add a cuff length big enough to fold up as much as the original so it looks “factory”. You can true-up the line if you have a French curve and then cut on the hem line.IMG_3121 IMG_3122IMG_3124 On the side seams, use a boat-load of pins to pin exactly on the chalk line, (not perpendicular to it) almost to the point of creating a faux seam, and do this the entire length of the tee to include into the sleeves.IMG_3126 Flip the shirt over and draw another chalk line where your pins lead the way. This makes the shirt symmetrical and keeps it from shifting.IMG_3127 If you have a serger, you do not have to cut the sides. The blade will do that for you. If you don’t have a serger, cut the sides of the tee using the chalk line as a guide very close to the pins. Don’t take the pins out first or you’ll make yourself miserable.  Then look for an overlock stitch on your machine.  If it doesn’t have one, you can use a wide zig zag to finish the edges.IMG_3135 I used my serger to finish the sleeve edges and then folded them up and pinned a bunch to keep them straight.  Lots of steam in the iron helps with this. Do you love my ironing board cover?  I totally made that.  Fabric from WalMart.IMG_3129 The Side Seams
My serger cut and finished the sides for me (I was a by-stander) and I just followed the chalk line, pulling pins as I went.IMG_3128 If you don’t have a have a serger, use a very wide zig zag stitch (so it looks almost straight) down the sides of the shirt on the chalk line and then press with steam to set the stitches. After you’ve pressed, cut the excess fabric off the shirt (on the outside of the seam line!) and then use your machine’s overlock stitch to finish the side seam edges. I know it seems a little backwards to stitch and then cut, but believe me, your life will be much easier in the long run to do it this way. The Hem If you have a coverstitch machine, I’m green with envy. But for the rest of us that don’t… Once again, break out the seam guide and add length to the bottom for the hem (I didn’t because I’m tall so I just used the edge of the original hem as a guide) and then cut along that line. I know the image below looks out of order from the side seam images above.  It really doesn’t matter which order you do this in if you’re cutting off the bottom anyway.IMG_3125 If you have any stretch stay tape it would be good to use it to stabilize the hem but I didn’t have any. Just fold up the hem to the size you want (look at the original for a guide) and then pin, pin, pin and use steam from the iron to even out any ripples. Time to sew. Using a double needle is really easy and I recommend using a Stretch Twin Needle (ball point).  IMPORTANT!!  Set the needle position to CENTER!  If you skip this, the left needle will break if your machine defaults to a needle-left position. Of course, I didn’t learn this lesson from personal experience (ha-ha).  Also, you can’t use the auto-threader (duh).IMG_3131 A ball point (or Stretch) needle will not pierce the fibers of the fabric but instead move them out of the way as the needle goes up and down. If I don’t have two top threads of the same color, I’ll make a bobbin real quick and use that as my 2nd top thread. My machine says to thread both threads through the machine at the same time (check your manual for yours) and then thread the needles separately. Thread one needle completely first and then thread the second. Don’t worry about the threads getting tangled in the machine…they won’t.IMG_3132 Set your stitch length to 3.5 or 4.0 for a more factory look and then starting on a side seam, start sewing on the FRONT of the shirt. Right side up and you want to try to capture the underside edge of the hem between the two needles. Sew slowly and take your time. This ain’t NASCAR.IMG_3133 Use lots of steam for a final press and ta-da!  A super-cute, fitted, rockin’, “Day Drinkin” Tee!  IMG_3139