Vogue 1247

Sounds impressive, right?  I think the word “Vogue” anything conjures something fashionable and current.  Since I started making my own clothes and using all kinds of patterns,  Vogue Patterns has become synonymous with “pretty nice design” and “unnecessarily convoluted directions”.  Sheesh.  Luckily all turned out well in the end with Vogue 1247.  Here’s the pattern (which they tell you is “cutting edge” in case you aren’t sure):

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I made the skirt, which is oh-so mini in this photo.  I probably wouldn’t have considered this pattern except that it is universally loved by so many pattern reviewers on patternreview.com, my go-to site for the inside scoop on patterns.  The tips received there are invaluable and help save time and money.  On this one,  most people  added lots of length to make it wearable.  I did the same, and here’s my version:

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I really like it!  The fabric I chose is a stretch denim from Joann’s.  I wanted something with some darker colors that could also transition into fall in Arizona (warm, not hot).  I can imagine wearing this with a denim jacket and tank or three-quarter sleeve tee.  Here’s a close-up of the fabric:DSCN1791

This is the back of the skirt which has an invisible zipper.  I finally bought an invisible zipper foot and used it for the first time on this skirt.  Technically you shouldn’t see the zipper at all when it’s done exactly right but this wasn’t bad for the first time.

As I mentioned, the Vogue directions are notoriously convoluted and often inaccurate.  I’m glad that I have enough experience at this point to do my own thing at times.  This pattern calls for using bias binding to enclose inner seams.  I went along with that here:


and here:


I guess some people find this to be an appealing design element (on the inside??) but I kind of thought it was a waste of time.  I finished the rest of the seams with my serger.

I do really like the design of the low pockets in the front of this skirt:


It’s a little like a tool belt for the gals.  NOT.  Now that I think about it though, it’s not a bad place for my i-phone.

Well that’s all she wrote for Vogue 1247.  I’m off to add my two cents on Pattern Review…

A Grown-Up Robe (Sort Of)

I think there are robe people and non-robe people.  I’m the latter. In my house growing up we didn’t even use the word “robe”, rather, that article of clothing was a “housecoat”.  It didn’t matter.  I don’t remember ever owning one (although I’m pretty sure I must have).  I think we dutifully packed white terry robes when I went off to sleep-away camp every summer but I’m certain those never got worn.  I was completely baffled by scenes in television shows when bleary-eyed folks slipped on the robes sitting at the end of the bed (really, people do that?) before checking out a suspicious noise or tending to a crying baby.

For me, “loungewear”  usually means some comfy cotton slip-on pants and whatever tank top I shouldn’t be wearing in public any longer.  Well, this all works out fine until David and I have overnight guests, and we’ve had several of late.  Totally embarrassed to be seen in these get-ups over the morning coffee, I knew it was time to take action.  And for me that means, sew it up!   I remember being very impressed when my friend Nancy spent a night at our house and she emerged in the morning wearing a lovely kimono-type robe.  I was thinking about this when I planned and shopped for my next sewing project.  I chose this one:


This has that kimono vibe.  I’m not sure what’s up with those pants but I wasn’t planning on making any so it was all good.

When I went looking for fabric I knew I wanted a soft cotton knit rather than a stiff woven.  If I’m going to do the robe thing I may as well be comfy.  As I wandered around Joann’s I came across some fun “juvenile” prints.  Yes, that’s what they call them.  I think, in this case, “juvenile” means brightly colored, polka dots, flowers, etc.  Since I was not planning on leaving the house in my robe I settled on this bold “flower power” print:


Admittedly I can envision this fabric as cute PJ’s for a seven year old girl, and I had a fleeting “god I’m too old for this” moment, but then I thought “robe” not “evening gown”.  I was excited to get started today.  Turns out this was a one-day project and here it is:


Well, that’ll wake you up in the morning!

I will say right off the bat, that this is not my most stellar make technically but I get a real kick out of how it turned out.   Construction was actually very very simple but I had to change up some of the instructions because I was using knit fabric.  I serged most of the seams and used my twin needle to hem the sleeves and bottom:


My twin needle wasn’t loving this fabric hence the wavy and uneven stitches.

For this project I experimented with not using pins.  Very good sewists often skip pins because of their tendency to distort the seams and ruin the fabric.  Well, I’m not there yet but this fabric was heavy enough and I was impatient enough that I just kind of went for it.  This time I weighted down the pattern and  and just cut away:


Snip snip…very speedy.  I didn’t have quite enough fabric so I needed to shorten up the sleeves by a good three inches to make it work.   The sleeves still reach my wrists so unless you are an orangutan this is probably a necessary pattern change.  I do think the band around the neck is a nice finish:


This is actually a very good beginner’s project.  A bit of variety technique-wise, some set-in sleeves, minimal fitting and no pesky closures.

While my new robe doesn’t compare to the five-star hotel variety (I seldom wear those either!) with this in my closet I know I can avoid embarrassment in the future and maybe even bring a little zip to my mornings.

Happy in Ikat

So it finally happened.  Some time this summer I slipped on my favorite khaki shorts, looked in the mirror, and realized that it was time to stop wearing shorts.  This doesn’t mean that I never wear them, particularly when I’m out walking or hiking, but they no longer (to my eye anyway) do anything for me.  And given the weather here in hot, hot Arizona, pants for me are a complete no-go.  Enter skirts.  Lots and lots of skirts.

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy sewing skirts–a great opportunity to trot out some fun prints and few fitting issues.  For my “instead of shorts” pattern though I’m loving this one, the aptly named Everyday Skirt:DSCN1506

Admittedly I got sucked in by the easy breezy model, but I could see how this pattern could work in lots of fabrics and pair up with all my summer tanks and tees.  Um, no sweaters in August.

This is the second time I’ve made this skirt.  Here’s me wearing the first version:


This is the dotted chambray version (where would I be without the ever-present black tank!) which I love, except that it’s too sheer to wear without a slip.  The slippery nylon clinging in the summer…well you know.

So I set off to Joann’s to find a more opaque, slightly “crisper” fabric.  Joann’s is a real hit or miss affair for me, but this time I got lucky and found this wonderful Ikat chambray:


My love affair with Ikat patterns started a long time ago and I’ve slipped them into my environment like here:


and here:


But this is the first time I’ve used an Ikat pattern for an article of clothing.  Here’s the finished skirt:


The designers of this skirt have only recently branched out from designing children’s patterns.  No wonder they understand comfort!  Some of the features that make this such a great “throw on skirt” include the elastic waist in the back:

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From a styling perspective, the smooth front waistband keeps the look more modern and less “Home Ec”. And the pockets are a must for me in terms of function:

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The construction is simple throughout right down to the turned up and top-stitched hem:


I’m really pleased with how this skirt turned out.  Here’s me wearing it, and enjoying the full-on sunny day:DSCN1489

Hope your day is making you smile (even if you’re not wearing Ikat)!



When the Cameras Aren’t Rolling

It’s been days since I posted.  A change from the every-other-day pace that I had settled into.  We spent a long weekend up in Prescott on a mini family getaway (so cool and piney) and I “forgot” my camera.  And my knitting.  I think I was needing to just be present in my weekend without documenting it all.   Consequently I have little to “report”.  In addition, I didn’t have too many projects in the pipeline so most everything right now is a work in progress.  And that’s okay, except that I was in touch with feeling like I really wanted to be done with something so that I could present it–you know, “voila!”  All wrapped up.

Let’s face it–blogging gives us the opportunity to neaten it up, tidy it up and present ourselves in whatever light we choose.  I’m not on Facebook but blogging has plenty to do with image management no matter how “real” we profess to be.  And I have hundreds of discarded photographs to prove it.   In general I don’t struggle with the fact of this much, but today, I’d like to formally honor “the process” and the time before and after the tidy wrap-up.  In no particular order…


This is the shawl-in-progress occupying a place of honor on my chair in the kitchen.  The dimensions of this shawl are really big so it will likely remain in this spot for weeks.


This is my skirt-in-progress plopped on my messy sewing table awaiting waistband and hem finishing.  I’m resisting the urge to post a completed “tada” photo from another version of this skirt I made a while ago.  I say “no” today to image management!!


This is a photo of my next Kumihimo project.  I’m just in the contemplation (i.e. I haven’t gotten the materials yet) stage, but I’m wanting to make a double strand necklace using variegated fiber.


This is Audrey 2 still doing her thing.  There’s one zucchini left on the plant and the bed needs to get cleaned up and prepped for the fall planting.  And speaking of the garden:


Yeah, we’re done here.  Ready for the new seedlings (which we haven’t bought yet).  And then there’s this:

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The site of our new beds.  Our plans are ambitious but we probably won’t get to this until next weekend.

And on the food front, after a flurry of cooking and baking, we are starting to break into all the goodies we froze.  Today we are snacking on this:


Yummy banana bread that’s as good the second time around.

And after the debacle with the flies (there were more of them out there this morning), the weather here has been doing its summer rainy thing and our usual breathtaking views are just, well, so-so:


So there you have it.  Life moving as it does between the ooh and aah moments.  I know that accompanying photos of me in my “not ready for primetime” attire might be an appropriate ending for this post.  You know, the anti-voila! moment.  But we all have our limits.

Can This Skirt Be Saved?

Or at least brought into the twenty-first century??  You be the judge…


This summer skirt has been hanging unfinished on the door to my sewing room for months now.  Today I woke up determined to finish it.  I find that having unfinished stuff around drags down my energy.  I’m a firm believer that wearing our garments infuses them with life.  If I’m on the fence about something I’ve made I need to either finish it (and keep it or donate it),  repurpose it (find a new home for those notions), or toss it out if it is truly unwearable for me or anyone else.

For those who know their patterns you will recognize Colette’s Zinnia skirt, a flowy waist-hugging design with 16 (count ’em, 16) pleats.  I really don’t do pleats, not since middle school anyway.  When this pattern came out one look was a layered chiffon for day time that I thought was lovely.  Never mind that I have never sewn with chiffon.  Instead I decided to break into my stash of rayon challis, and I had been saving this fabric for the right project.  It was clear from pretty early on that this was probably not the “right project”. Anyway, here’s a close-up of the print:


The construction of this gave me fits, although I can’t say that the instructions didn’t warn me.  If the pleats are even the teeniest bit off that teeny bit multiplied by 16 makes for some ill-fitting garments.  In my case, even after measuring exactly, the waist was about four inches too big.  I actually think that I might have been off in my scaling of the PDF pattern I printed rather than in my sewing, but whatever I did wrong, I needed to cinch an additional 1/8 inch off of each pleat to lose that extra four inches.  Ugh.  The good news was that after all that the waist fit was perfect.

Upon returning to this project today I was reminded that it wasn’t all bad.  The waistband looked ok…


in the front at least.  The back had some issues:


Oh dear.  The invisible zipper (actually pretty well-inserted) was placed too far down in the seam, and the overlap is clearly misplaced and wonky, and I still don’t know where I went wrong with the construction.  Today, I just needed to hem the skirt, and since it’s such a full skirt I took the easy way out and did a blind hem stitch on my machine.  This is a great option, especially for a busy print, and it’s fast.  Here’s a look at the inside hem stitching:


One of the reasons I undoubtedly was dragging my feet with this skirt was that (per usual) I didn’t think I was going to like it on me.  As I said I am not partial to pleats (does anyone need more bulk around the hips?) plus this has side pockets in the side seams (i.e. more bulk).  But, one of the reasons I went back to the skirt today was because of an episode of Project Runway that I was watching yesterday.  In the first episode of the new season one of the contestants made a skirt that looked exactly like the Zinnia, also in a busy print.  It looked cute on her 5’10” model who wore it with a blousy tucked-in shirt, platform shoes and (of course) perfect hair and make up.  While none of that would work for me it started me thinking about what would.

First of all, no more pouf.   I needed a very fitted top to offset the fullness from the pleating, otherwise I was going to look like I was ready to fly off somewhere.  Next, while I don’t have an “Aldo Accessory Wall” I do own some belts and jewelry:


This fabulous Anthropology belt has saved many an outfit from dowdyland.  Finally I scrounged up a fitted black knit top that I thought might work because you can’t really ever go wrong with black.  Oh, and I found these earrings which have been out of circulation lately:


And here’s my finished look:



I like it, and I feel proud of myself for “‘making it work”.  Plus I shopped in my own closet for the other pieces I needed to pull it together.

I can be creative in many ways, but I’ve never been very creative about accessorizing and styling.  Some people throw things together effortlessly and I admire them, but for me it’s a bit of work.  And it doesn’t take much to send me back to the khaki shorts, white tank and flip flops.   But I will try.  After all,

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”.

-Steel Magnolias


Mixing it Up

With no preamble or sewing story set-up I give you today’s project:


Now I’m sure you get the title of the post.

This version of this dress is what in the sewing world is called a “wearable” muslin.  A muslin refers to the trial run on a pattern done with inexpensive fabric or even the actual beige cotton “muslin”.  The purpose of the muslin is to work out fitting and construction kinks before cutting into an expensive piece of fabric.  Because I find working with beige muslin deadly dull, and frankly it’s useless for a knit garment, I tend to make muslins that I could potentially wear.  That doesn’t mean I always do.

In terms of finding inexpensive fabric, we have in Tucson a store called SAS fabric which is a warehouse filled with remnants, casts-offs, discontinued bolts and lots of other trims and notions.  It’s wearable muslin heaven because I’ll give anything a go at $2.99 or $3.99 a yard.  Sometimes you can even get a yard or two of something really nice if you know what you’re looking at.

I was thrilled last week to find this lovely soft knit made of some poly blend.  They had several yards available so I grabbed it with a muslin for this project in mind:


I washed the fabric like I always do and then I discovered that part of my yardage looked like this:


and part looked like this:


Oops.  I guess I know now why it landed at SAS.  But I was undaunted, and  I decided to do the bodice with the top fabric and the skirt part with the bottom.  The fabric is so busy anyway I actually thought at the outset that it might not be so noticeable.  Uh, maybe not.

Anyway this pattern provided me with a few ways to stretch my sewing skills, which is a good thing no matter what the outcome.  The bodice of this dress is self-lined with the main fabric which enables the neckline and armholes to have a clean finish.  It’s not super easy to see with the busy pattern but here’s a close-up of the neckline finish:


I tried this on midway and took my first ever selfie in the mirror:


I knew from that point that the top was going to be a little big on me but I pressed on anyway.  This dress also used clear elastic to create gathers on the skirt without having to actually gather.  You stretch the clear elastic as you sew, and if you space it right the end length of the waist mirrors the length of the bodice.  It took some time futzing with it and one wholesale rip-out before I got the hang of it.  I actually like this technique and here’s a look at how the clear elastic looks on the inside (before finishing the seam).


I have to say that many times as I was constructing I said “I’m going to hate this”.  This is common chatter for me when I’m trying something new before the whole thing comes together.  As is the case with each project, at some point I just have to conjure my inner Tim Gunn and “keep going”.  I’ve had experiences being pleasantly surprised, moderately surprised and not at all surprised at the various final outcomes.  In this case as soon as I slid the finished garment over my head I was shocked by how super comfortable it was.  For that reason alone I will definitely give it another go with a better quality fabric.

Regarding this wearable muslin, though, there’s lots of room for improvement.  First of all the fit is a little loose around the neckline. It’s hard to know if that’s a pattern issue or construction issue because knit necklines frequently stretch out. Whatever the reason it needs to get fixed.  Next, I had a mystery “bump” on the shoulder here:


When I joined the bodice lining to the shell I got a little hung up on the seam and I think that’s where it got a little bunched.  I figured out how to do it better on the other side.  And finally there’s this:


Nothing to do about that, but I’ll let David tell me how noticeable it really is (and he’ll be honest).

So that’s the dress.

And if you’re wondering about the new hairdo, it’s actually my “hanging around, no one is going to see me” look. The problem was the flash.   Not the camera flash, the hot flash.   I just had to get the hair out of the way.  And you know,  I’m glad I did because the dress has enough pattern all by itself, and I like this look better with this dress.  Like I said, sometimes you just gotta mix it up (and take a picture).



So Chic

Capital Chic that is!


Capital chic is a brand new indie designer out of London with a cute line of sewing patterns.  You can read more about them here.  I’ve been on the hunt for a simple blouse that had potential to be a versatile TNT (that’s “tried-n-true”) pattern, and I decided to try their Bellini pattern.  Here’s a look at the line drawing of this very simple pattern:


That little scalloped collar was a no-go for my fifty-something sensibility so I went with View A.  I particularly like this design because the cap sleeves are designed as part of the blouse rather than as a set-in addition. I had any number of fabrics in my stash that this would work for (hence the versatility) but I settled on a Robert Kaufman dark blue chambray.  Here are the four pattern pieces laid out and ready for cutting:


Yep, that’s it.  What also makes this pattern really nice is that the designers included directions for inside finishes like french seams and a rolled hem


Again a moment of thanks for the edging foot that makes these tiny hems possible.  This pattern uses bias binding to finish the armholes.  I decided to dig into my old quilting cotton pile to find something complementary rather than cut into my extra yard of chambray.  Here’s a look:


Anyone who has stayed in my guest room would recognize this tan fabric from the quilt on that bed.  I really like the contrasting fabric peeking out.

In the interest of keeping it real, I did have a bit of a fiddly (sewing term!) time with the collar, and after reading reviews from a few pattern testers I think it was a mix of pattern glitch and my inexperience that resulted in this:


Not terrible, but the little puckers up there are a result of a less than perfect fit between the collar piece and shirt opening.  A better sewist might have been able to do better with it but I decided to just iron it out.  Not a huge issue.

On a final note regarding the pattern, this was the first time that the pattern directions were entirely metric!  I grumbled about this a bit and then  googled a conversion program.  All of my measuring tools have both inches and centimeters but the hem was measured in millimeters.  I was surprised that the designers didn’t include both kinds of measurements.  Guess I’m just one of those  Americans.

But that bit of grumbling aside I can’t complain because this is easily the best-fitting blouse I have made.  Spot on without even one adjustment.  For me anyway the design and proportions are perfect.


I’m thinking that version two will be a rayon challis leopard print.  Hmmm.  I can hear Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage” saying  “What? No good?“.  We shall see.

And on another note, if you’re wondering about that goldish aura around me that’s the beautiful brown/gold paint that is the backdrop of our cavernous bedroom.  I really need to call a decorator 🙂

The Little Denim Skirt

And My First “Refashion”

So we all know about the “little black dress”, right?  You know, the one that you can dress up, dress down, wear to a wedding, cocktail party or funeral?  Well, I’ve had one of those in my closet for years and it’s collecting dust.  I don’t need a LBD.  I need a LDS or little denim skirt!  Here in Arizona life is so casual that one could easily live in jeans and almost always be dressed appropriately.  Trouble is that when temperatures start to climb jeans get way hot very quickly.  Enter the little denim skirt.  Dress it up, dress it down and a little air circulation. Yes, please!

About a year ago I thought that I had found my perfect LDS at Ann Taylor-good length. dark blue denim (we 50-somethings are not supposed to wear the washed out kind anymore, right?), form-fitting but not too tight and cute detailing.  Here’s the skirt:



Unfortunately this skirt is made of stretch denim and what began as a neatly-fitting skirt grew and grew when I wore it.  And no amount of washing was going to help.   I’ve been keeping my eye out for another skirt like this one and have been unable to find it.  So, it was time to take my refashion/tailoring skills out for a spin.  I’ve seen many sewing blogs featuring refashioning of ill-fitting or out-of-date clothing,  I’ve been wanting to try it but haven’t really had the right project.  I had nothing to lose so I got out my seam ripper and started tearing the skirt apart.

As with my cooking posts I’m still getting the hang of taking pictures in process so I don’t have any photos of the skirt in pieces with swirls of thread on the kitchen floor.  Actually the process was far simpler than I had imagined it to be.  It’s funny how I can create a skirt from scratch but wondered about taking this RTW one apart!  Because this skirt has a back zipper this was simply a matter of taking in the side seams.  In order to do that though I had to free the side seams from the waistband (with a plan to take that in too) and the hem.  Easy.

I intended to take the skirt in one inch on each side, however I got sloppy cutting open one side seam and took off more fabric than I had intended (oy!) so I ended up taking in each side one and a half inches (glad the denim is stretch!)  Here’s a look at my new seams:


This is the one at the hem with the hem resewn over it. This is the seam up at the waistband with the waistband sewn back down:


Not perfection, but the dark denim and thread hides a multitude of sins!  Having a serger to finish the seams really makes the repair job look professional.  Here’s a seam with the original finishing:


Surprisingly easy to duplicate!

And here is me wearing my “new” well-fitting (if a wee bit snug!) LDS:

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I’ll take it!  Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to rummage around in my closet to see what else I can tear apart…

“The Things I Did Not Know At First…

…I learned by doing twice”.

Billy Joel fans might recognize this line from “The Entertainer”.

I grew up with Billy Joel and his lyrics speak to me in all kinds of ways.  I love this one.  There’s a hopeful vibe that reminds me that mastery happens over time, and no matter what we think we know sometimes there’s no substitute for getting out there and doing it.  Messing up on the first go-round is almost a given.   This lyric pops into my head so much these days, undoubtedly because I’ve been trying so many new things.  I’m a relative newcomer to all of my creative hobbies.

Which brings me to this:


This was a summer bag I made about a year ago.  I had only been sewing for a few months and trying to make a bag felt like a relief after struggling with fitting garments.  I picked up a remnant of home decorating fabric at a salvage place (no investment!), tracked down the hardware (where do they even sell that stuff?) and started cutting and sewing as I pored over pages and pages of single-spaced instructions printed off the internet.  What I thought would be an easy project completely kicked my butt!

BUT, when it was finished I loved it.  It was roomy and fun and summery.  Even my hairdresser, Ron, commented (unsolicited) that it looked like an Anthropology bag.  High praise!  Sadly though my newbie construction was no match for the daily abuse routinely inflicted on my handbags.  Little by little the bag started falling apart. Here:


and here:


Up close it didn’t look so hot:


Plus, the straps were too short and I couldn’t get my hand into it without sliding it off my shoulder.  Not so good.

I can never find a summer everyday bag that I like and this year was no exception, so (with Billy’s encouragement) I decided to try this one again.   I have to say that even a year later the bag kicked my butt, however, this time in the debacle that was Lisa versus bag, Lisa won:


Yay!  Since this is so much better constructed I don’t mind showing off some of the details.  Like I said, the design of the bag is fantastic (can’t take the credit there) with an outside zipped pocket perfect for sunglasses and phone:


And an inside pocket to hold lipstick, pens and other junk:


The bag can also be “cinched up” like this, giving it a different shape


Some of the “things I didn’t know at first” were that I needed to use a special edging foot to do the topstitching by the zipper:


and I needed to use a wider seam allowance to catch all the layers in the corners:


So now I can say goodbye to my first bag, knowing that the experience of making it taught me exactly what I needed to know to get it right the second time.

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I’m off!  Catch you later…

Getting My (Ersatz) Ready-to-Wear On


So yesterday I finished sewing this knit skirt.  I LOVE this thing.  Think yoga pants in skirt form.  It’s actually easier to see the details this way:


While I have sewn a few knit things it feels like I’m wading into unfamiliar territory each time.  I think the idea of S-T-R-E-T-C-H has something to do with it.  The stretch in a knit fabric that makes it more forgiving in terms of fit (you sew up a size too small in a woven fabric and it’s a wadder) also gives the fabric potential to stretch out while you’re sewing it.  I have had necklines almost double in size just from sewing them.  Of course as technique improves so do the results.

Sewing with knits takes very little time and also produces garments that closely resemble ready-to-wear.  Since most of my readers have never sewn their own clothes I thought it might be fun to share (i.e. demystify) the process.  So here it goes…

Selecting a Pattern and Fabric


Once upon a time (like when we 50-somethings were in home-ec) there were a few large pattern-makers who are still around–Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue.  But in recent years young design-oriented twenty-somethings have begun offering modern wearable patterns with a much more hip vibe.  I love these “indie” designers although not all of their designs work for me at this stage of my life.  The pattern above is made by Colette Patterns and while the mini, mini versions on top won’t cut it the bottom version looked perfect for me.  Plus notice the words “beginner”.  I’m not really a beginner but with knits I need all the help I can get.  OK, pattern selected.


The back of the pattern tells you everything you need to know about what type and how much fabric to buy.  But first you do need to get comfortable with that tape measure, and fudging the numbers will not make for a successful project 🙂  They suggest a pretty thick type of knit and given the cling factor of knits I was all in with that.  I chose a pretty heavy weight ponte knit in black.  My measurements were a size S so I was ready to go.


Cutting Out a Pattern

Patterns come with multiple sizes marked on tissue paper.  I found the outside markings for my size and cut on these lines.  Here are most of the pieces that I needed. The stripe in the center of each piece is where I adjusted the pattern for length.  In most patterns a shorten/lengthen line is provided.  Shortening from the bottom may work but it can also ruin the line of the hem.  The manufacturers help with this by showing the best place to make that adjustment.  These pieces are laid atop a folded piece of fabric (since you need doubles of most pieces), secured with pins and/or pattern weights (those preppy looking things in the corner) and cut out with either a rotary cutter or fabric shears.

Sewing It Up

The pattern directions will offer step-by-step instructions on which seams to sew when. How to sew the seams is up to you. There are basically two ways to sew up a knit garment.  One is to use a conventional sewing machine like this:


and the other is use an overlock machine (also known as a serger) like this:


I imagine most people have a sense of what the conventional machine can do.  When sewing with knits on a regular sewing machine you use a small zig-zag stitch rather than a straight stitch for seaming so that when the knit stretches the stitches don’t pop.  Makes sense, right?

Using a serger (if you are lucky enough to own one) makes the garment not only more sturdy, but more “ready-to-wear”.   The idea is that as you join pieces the seams are sewn, trimmed and “finished” all in one fell swoop.  Here’s a look at the inside of this skirt:


and here’s a close-up of the overlock stitch:


If you look at the inside of your t-shirts, pajamas and activewear it will probably look like this.  So once the seams are all sewn there’s the hemming to do.  This is another area where technique can impact how professional a garment looks.  For hemming with knits the recommendation is to use a coverstitch machine which creates that double row of stitching on the outside and a neat finish on the inside.  Again look at your t-shirts and you’ll see this.  My serger converts to a coverstitch machine but it’s a bit of a job to change it over.  The poor man’s (or lazy-woman’s!) version of this is to use a twin needle on your regular sewing machine:


This involves adding a second spool of thread to your sewing machine which is a snap.  Here’s what the hem looks like:


Pretty spiffy.  And we’re done!

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’d love to inspire others to give this a try.  If you have an old sewing machine floating around maybe you’d like to dust it off and see what it (and you) can do.  If you do, I promise to make myself available to offer tips, hand-holding and cheerleading.  If not, I’m happy to introduce you to sewing as a spectator sport 🙂