Friday, April 8, 2011


My "Yoga" top is finally done.  Butterick 5495 

I have had nothing but problems with the top, and I'm glad to be done with it.  Bear in mind, it was not the pattern's fault.  Most of the problems came from my needing to know a lot more about fit and ease.  It's not what I wanted it to be, but I can say I learned a TON sewing this one.  And, I will still wear it under a jacket.

Ease and Fit Issues:  I sewed this with a rayon/cotton blend with moderate stretch, my first recent foray into knits (remember I'm coming back to sewing after a long time away).  I bought the 16 & above pattern, based on my measurements and had to go back to the store for the smaller size, when I realized how long it would take me to alter the pattern.  There is so much ease in this pattern that the 16 would have been huge.  It's described as a "loose fitting top," so I should have known, but the pattern illustration just doesn't show that.  At least, I figured that out before cutting and sewing the 16.  Then, I cut an 8 in the bust and a 10 in the waist and hip, based on finished garment measurements listed on the pattern pieces.  I increased the length above the waist by an inch or so.  HOWEVER, I didn't do a muslin or pin fit the pattern.  #%$(&.  It sewed up easily and beautifully, and I ended up with a top so tight it look like it was sprayed on!!!

So, I cut open the underarm and side seams and sewed in a 1-2 inch gusset.  You can see the gusset seams at the garment sides above and in the close up below.  Great idea!  Except, it turned out that I needed an additional 1 inch more than I sewed in!!!  #%$(&

So, this morning, I ripped out the gusset seams, re-cut new larger gussets (from fabric I had to buy yesterday, because I used the last of the original fabric cutting the original gussets!) and sewed them in.  It fits now, but the lines would have been cleaner sans gusset.

Sewing Construction Issues:  I learned to use a double sewing needle on this project!  For years, that extra spindle on the top of the machine has baffled me.  LOL!  Now I know.

I threaded both spools into the machine, one thread on each side of the tension disk, and made sure the left spool went into the left needle, etc.  Worked like a charm.  Super fun!  The results are great, but I accidentally sewed over a pin and broke the needle - TWICE!  Of course, I had only bought 1 needle the first time, so I had to run out to get more during my lunch hour the next day.  Having learned my lesson, this time I bought an extra.  The lesson I learned was to have a backup, not to stop sewing over pins!  When I broke the second needle, I was glad I'd bought 2 the second time.  These suckers are so delicate! 
Mind you, I'm not sewing over pins intentionally.  I'm really taking them out.  I just got distracting making sure the raw edge on the underside was being fed into the needle properly so the bobbin thread would cover the raw edge.  It was an accident both times.  Cross my heart, I will not sew over pins.  I will not sew over pins.  I will not sew over pins.  : )

Here are some closeups of the right and wrong sides of the hem.

 It puts a nice zigzag on the bobbin side that catches the raw edge if you aim it right!  Mostly, my aim was right on!

All in all, I'm glad it's finished.  I'll wear it, and I'll be better next time when I tackle these issues.  I bought the Palmer/Pletsch Fit for Real People book, and I'm determined to learn how to fit my patterns.  Thanks for reading!  Happy Spring!  (Pssst - I will not sew over pins.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Over the Top April - First Top Completed!

So, my first top for Over the Top April is done.  Check out my post there.  Here are some photos:

More later!  Today, we're headed to Hopscotch in Fremont.  Hopefully, it won't rain!  Have a great weekend everyone!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blue Cheetah Update

A day ago, I was defeated by the unruly ruffle for my Blue Cheetah Blouse.  Today, I have a beautiful cheetah ruffle!  

You will recall that my first attempts at finishing the ruffle edges and attaching it to the blouse were disastrous.  After sleeping on it, I did some online research and came up with the suggestions that I use a Sharp needle (instead of the topstitch needle that was suggested by the Superior Threads speaker at the SewExpo in Puyallup) and water-soluble fabric glue for help turning the ruffle edge.  After consulting with the fabric store clerk, I switched from Mettler thread to regular Coats and Clark thread.  The Mettler doesn't feed well in my machine and the bobbin doesn't wind well with it either.  (Oh - the biggest piece of information you need is that I DON'T have a serger!  I'm learning that a serger would have made quick work of this ruffle edge.  Maybe someday!)

I happened to have a second front neck ruffle piece because, at the outset, I was too lazy to reposition the slippery fabric to cut only one piece!  So, I only had to cut out new back ruffle pieces.  Good thing, because this was the end of my fabric, aside from some scraps for testing thread tension.  Adjusting the thread tension may have been the biggest help.  I tested with the new thread and needle on scraps in the different thickness I needed (in other words, one layer for the ruffle gathering, three layers for sewing it on the blouse and stitching the hemmed edge).  This fixed the bobbin thread bunching problem I was having.

My first thought was to use the hemmer foot I found in my accessories stash.  I practiced and felt reasonably okay with trying it, but I really didn't want to mess up this last attempt.  It's tricky, but I'll probably use it on a cotton woven project where I'll have more control.  The finished edge is beautiful.

Instead I opted to hand turn the edge, using the fabric glue.  I stitched about 1/4 inch. from the edge all the way around the ruffle.  Then, I folded on the stitchline, pressed and trimmed to 1/8 inch.  Next, I used the fabric glue and pins to turn the edge under again and hold it until I stitched it.  It was still difficult and took forever, but it worked!!  Here's the finished ruffle on the blouse.

The irony of it is that the finished blouse is almost too snug.  In the muslin, I took up the shoulder seams slightly and narrowed the back just a hair.  Really not much.  The muslin fit perfectly, but the polyester version is tight in the armholes and the darts are a smidge too high.  Either this fabric reacts differently than the muslin, or because, it's slippery, I cut it smaller than the muslin was cut.  Rats.  It's still wearable under a jacket.  And, I learned a TON!

What worked:   Water-soluble fabric glue!  Doing some research instead of giving up.  Learning how to use the hemmer foot.  Using a Sharp needle on polyester.

What didn't work:  Cutting the muslin out of different fabric.  Possibly how I sewed the darts.

Next project:  Buying fabric for Over the Top April!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Progress on the Blue Cheetah Top

"Blue Cheetah" sounds cheesy, but the fabric is actually really pretty.  But, it is really slippery!!!  First I straightened the grain, using this Threads tutorial.  This fabric ripped pretty easily, but straightening it was a bear.  I used my Wiggle Weights, which I bought at the SewExpo in Puyallup a couple of weekends ago (if you're not from the Northwest, say "Peeyou-ollop" - if you are from the Northwest, you know how to "Do the Puyallup!"). 

 Cutting was equally tricky.  The two layers move against each other, so I used lots of pins and the weights.  I cleaned up some of the straight edges with a rotary cutter.

Here's my sewing machine, which I hauled out of storage a while ago and used the manual to open it up and clean it out.  When I get around to it, I'll have it serviced to make sure it's oiled up right and running properly.  after my experience with this fabric, I think that may be sooner rather than later.


Okay - here's the scoop on sewing this pattern.  What I ended up with was a very nice shell. 

The ruffle never worked - or I couldn't get a nice enough final product to want to sew it onto the neckline.  The first version was a single layer with baby hems.  Either my technique or my machine created wads of bobbin thread on the underside.  If I can figure this out, I will do a new ruffle.  It may be the tension, or may be that I need a stabilizer. If anyone has suggestions, I would welcome them.  I liked the overall look, but the end product was so unsightly that I just threw it away.  I don't know if you'll be able to see it in this photo:

Also, because the ruffle is sewn to the neckline with a seam through the gathering line, the thread shows.  It may have been better to use a brown thread to match the cheetah, but that would have shown against the ligh blue!  In the second version, I doubled up the ruffle, so it was sewn with a 3/8 in. seam all around and then turned and pressed.  It seemed like a good idea, but I couldn't get it to gather.

So, I've decided to wear it as a plain shell and attempt the pattern again with a lightweight cotton woven.  I think I need to get better at working with slippery fabrics!  And, learn a little more about adjusting tension, thread weight and needle size.

What worked:  Learned how to do French Seams (on side, shoulder and back seams).  Learned how to do Baby Hem (on bottom hem).  Did a good job on straightening the grain.  Bias self-binding on armholes looks wonderful. 

What didn't work:  Ruffle!  Ironing (there was a small disaster on the first ruffle, when I reached the melting point on the fabric).

Next project - pleated skirt for Spring/Summer, using a mid-weight woven!  No slipping!  Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Simplicity 2599

Today I learned how to post a pattern image and a link to the pattern website on my blog!  This is remedial blogging" for everyone else, but for me, it's a giant leap forward.  Instructions for this on the Google blogger website are easy to understand.  You have to understand that I made it almost all the way through college before computers were available mainstream.  I remember writing a term paper on an ancient Mac and printing it out on dot matrix paper!

Anyway, here's what I'm working on right now: Simplicity 2599:

I found a lovely sky-blue lightweight poly "jacquard" with a caramel/brown cheetah print.  As soon as I learn how to post photos - next on my list! - I'll post a photo.  I'm waffling between Views A and F.  I probably don't need extra ruffles on the bust area, but they're so pretty.  I'll probably go with F, but omit the bow.  That looks tough to wear under a jacket.  And, I'm pretty sure I'll add waist darts to give the body some shape.  From the pictures on Pattern Review, this looks like a very boxy top.  More later as I get going.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Post - New Blogger - New Blog!

Here's my new blog and first post ever - I'm a brand new blogger!  No prior experience.  So it's bound to be pretty dismal at the outset.  I got inspired in a major way by all the wonderful sewing blogs out there, and I thought I would like to capture my experiences returning to sewing after more than 20 years away.  Bear with me while I get up and running.  This should be fun!  For me at least!  Not so sure about for you!  Thanks!