Friday, June 27, 2014

Britex Workshop Space Launch Par-tay!

I don't know why I haven't mentioned it until now, but tomorrow I'm heading up to The Big City to participate in the Britex Workshop Space Launch Party!  Five other illustrious area seamstresses and I will be giving talks about sewing in our lives.  Here's the line-up:

1:30 - Shams of Communing with Fabric
2:00 - Beth of Sunny Gal Studio
2:30 - Jacqui of Birds of a Thread
3:00 - Erin of Seamstress Erin3:30 - Nicole of Nicole at Home
4:00 - Laura Mae of Lilacs & Lace

There's still space for Laura Mae and my talks at the end of the day, so go register

After much thought and doubt that I could come up with 20 minutes of stuff worth listening to (but give me a biology topic and I routinely talk for 2 hours, and still run out of time!), I'll be focusing on how my motivation and purpose for sewing has changed over a lifetime of doing it, hitting the highlights of my failures (ugh, those lime green pants!), inspirations (mother and grandmothers) and future plans (pattern making!).  

If you're going to the event, please stop by and say hi! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tutorial: sewing picot elastic on underwear and camisoles

If you are here from the Britex blog, welcome!

I've been sewing a lot of silk underwear lately; I'm positively addicted.  There is something thoroughly satisfying about making something that is beautiful, useful and a quick sew.  And it might even be cost effective, considering how little fabric is needed.   In this post, I'll show how to sew the picot edging and straps to make camisole and panties.  For my matching set, I used this sophisticated tiny Houndstooth stretch silk charmeuse, with hot pink picot elastic and matching 1/2" lingerie strap elastic. For the patterns, I used the Clara camisole and Grace panties from Ohhh Lulu.

Just an FYI: if using stretch silk (which I highly recommend!), I would suggest going up one size.  The fabric is stretchy, but not to the same degree as a knit, so I found the garments more comfortable in a bigger-than-normal size.

I'll begin the tutorial after the main body of the panties have been sewn--all that is left is attaching the elastic to the legs and waistband.
First identify the "right" and "wrong" sides of the picot elastic--the right side is raised for this type, but other elastics might be the same on both sides. Measure the correct length of elastic: go ahead and wrap it around your waist or legs stretching until comfortable, then add 1/2". Stitch the ends together (overlapping by 1/4" or so) to create a loop.  Fold the loop in half and mark that point with a pin. Find the exact center of the back and front of your sewn panties and mark both with a pin.
With right sides together, position the elastic with the non-frilly edge aligned with the raw edge of the waist.  I usually position the seam of the elastic at the center back of the panties, with the other pin matching the center front.  The elastic will be shorter than the fabric, so stretch the elastic and pin at a few more locations around the waistband.  
Baste with a medium zigzag (on my machine: 2 width, 3 length) close to the picot edge, stretching the elastic evenly without stretching the fabric.  This take some coordination and practice, but I usually lightly pull the fabric from behind the foot to help the machine along, while stretching the elastic with the other hand in the front.  As you can see in the photo above, the elastic is not quite lined up with the fabric--with slippery fabrics, this happens, so sew slowly!
Next, turn the elastic to the inside.  Now the lacy picot edging should be visible from the right side of the garment.  Using the multi-stitch zigzag on your machine (or a regular zigzag if you don't have that feature, but either way set for length=2, width=3), topstitch close to the fabric fold to secure the elastic.  Again, stretch the elastic so that the fabric isn't gathered at all, sew carefully and slowly.  You may have to lightly pull the fabric from behind the foot to get it to sew evenly over seams (or maybe I just need a new machine!).
The best part about sewing your own panties is that you can make the elastic as tight or loose as you like!  And you can unevenly distribute the "stretch", if you want.  For instance, at the leg holes, I prefer that the elastic be tightest around the back (under my butt area :) and looser around the front and hip area, so I differentially stretch the elastic lightly or firmly in the correct area.
Here're my completed panties, with picot elastic edging!

This same technique can be used when fold over elastic (FOE) is suggested, too.  The Clara camisole has instructions for applying FOE, but for my matching set, I wanted to use the same picot elastic and 1/2" lingerie straps.   While a small change, this variation is not insignificant!  The order of attaching straps and picot are important, otherwise, the picot can't turn to the back properly.  So, here's the "big picture" summary of the following images and steps:  baste strap first, baste picot elastic along the "inside" edge of the camisole cups (toward center front), sew garment together, then baste picot elastic along the "side" edge of cups and back, and finally topstitching all around.  Okay, now for all that in more detail....
To start out, sew both of the two-piece camisole cups, then position a length of lingerie elastic with right sides facing as shown.  Baste across the strap to secure. Then, pin the picot elastic along the "inside" edge of the cup, stretching the elastic for a closer fit.  Make sure there is about 1/2-1" overlap at the point where the picot elastic meets the lingerie elastic (see below).  
With your machine set to a medium zigzag, baste close to the picot edge, stretching the elastic (but not the fabric!) as you go.  
Sew the other camisole cup in the same way, then sew the rest of the body of the garment.  

Measuring or estimating the length of elastic to finish the rest of the camisole is difficult.  Try on the camisole and see how the fabric sits around your body.  If the fabric around the top of the back is loose, you may want to stretch your elastic more as you pin it around your garment to create a snugger fit.  If the fabric is already snug around your body, you don't need as much stretch to hold it up.
So with an idea of how firmly you will stretch the elastic, and starting at one of the left strap, pin the elastic, right sides facing along the edge, stretching as you go.  Pin at the side seam.  Then, pulling the elastic, stretch to the other side seam of the camisole.  Continue around to the right strap and pin in place.  You may have to redistribute the elastic to ensure even gathering around.
Below, the elastic is pinned in place around the back of the garment.  
Baste with the same zigzag, close to the picot edging.
Now, turn the elastic to the inside.  At the strap-attachment point, tuck the loose ends of the picot elastic behind the straps to hide them and pin in place.  Topstitch around the entire edge with a multi-stitch zigzag, being sure to keep the strap and picot elastic ends in place.
 The unfinished reverse side is shown below:
Trim and handstitch the picot elastic ends to the strap to secure and hide the raw edges.  
And from the front:

The hardest part is determining the length and amount of stretch of the elastic, but once you get the hang of that, I can almost guarantee you'll be hooked on making your own fancy pants! 

Both the panties and the camisole are wonderful patterns--simple, yet comfortable and stylish.  The only major change I made was to do a small bust adjustment (using the method described in this post). I can also recommend the Betty High Waist Panties, which I sewed up here in this incredible navy dotted stretch silk.  Go sew your unmentionables!
Thank you to Britex for the fabric, elastics and silk thread (silk thread to sew silk underthings--does it get any better?!).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cowl neck top pattern (free!) and tutorial

Remember my cowl neck top from last week?  I finally finished drafting, grading and writing up the instructions for the pattern, and here it is, free (and in multiple sizes!).  In this post, I'm going to walk through the steps for sewing this very simple top, but please contact me if you have any questions (nicole[at]

Cowl Neck Top pattern and instructions.  (For best results when printing, download the file to your computer, then open in "Preview" or "Adobe Reader".)

Note: this is my very first go at pattern grading, and in the excitement to get it out, it has only been tested by me, so please check the final garment sizes, and make a muslin before cutting into your good fabric!
I'm going to skip the steps for assembling and cutting out the pattern--those are on the very first page of the instructions, and most people know the drill by now!  So let's pick it up after the fabric has been cut...

Apply interfacing to the wrong side of the Back Neck Facing.  I've used a lightweight, dark colored interfacing to be less conspicuous on the sheer viscose fabric.

Pin the Back Neck Facing to the Back at the neckline, with right sides facing. Sew with 1/4" seam allowance.  Clip curves.

Press the seam open, pressing seam allowance toward the Back Neck Facing.  Understitch 1/8" from the seam on the Back Neck Facing.

Match the notch on the Front to the just-sewn seam line on the Back.  Ease the curve of the Front to match and sew with 1/2" seam allowance.  Finish the raw edge with a zig-zag or overlock stitch.  Sew the other shoulder in the same way.
Finish the edge of the Back Neck Facing and the Front facing by zig-zag, overlock, or turning 1/4" and stitching close to the edge (as shown above).  Then, stitch the side seams with 1/2" seam allowance and finish the raw edges.
Turn and press the Back Neck Facing toward the inside of the garment.  This will draw the Front facing into place.  You may want to tack down the facing to the shoulder seam with a few stitches. 

For the armholes, sew the short ends of the Armhole Bias Binding with right sides facing to create a closed loop.  Press this seam open.  Fold in half, wrong sides facing to create a band 3/4" wide.

Pin the loop to the armhole opening on the right side of the garment, with raw edges matching.  Match up the bias binding seam with the side seam.  Stitch with a 1/4" seam allowance.  Press the seam open, then fold the bias binding to the inside of the garment and stitch close to the edge of the binding. Repeat for the other armhole.

For the hem, turn and press 1/4" and then turn and press 3/8" again.  You're done!

In the near future, I'd like to make and offer more patterns, so toward the goal of improvement, I completely welcome your feedback (good and not-so-good)!  Finally, after you've made your garment, please come back and link to photos of your finished tops!   

Thanks again to Britex for the fabric and the nudge into the world of pattern making!