Archives for category: Sewing general

I just had to share this post from Colette Patterns, in which Sarai talks about how she organizes her fabric stash.  If you’re a fabric-holic, you understand the need to have smart storage, while being able to see at a glance what fabrics you have available for projects.


To date, my attempts haven’t been that successful.

  • First, I tried sorting my fabrics by season, then putting them into large plastic bins.  But fabrics are so seasonal, that doesn’t always work.  I’d have to fish through up to 4 or 5 large bins to find a specific piece of fabric…and if you have fabric in a large bin, it is HEAVY!  So you don’t want to be hauling those bins about any more than necessary.
  • Then I tried sorting by colour, but it still meant that I would have 2 or 2 1/2 bins of a specific colour, so I still didn’t know where my fabrics lived.
  • Then, I just hauled everything out, picked what I thought I would use for the season, and stuck it on the shelf under my sewing table.  The rest went back into the bins for another half year.  That sort of works, but can take a week or more each time the season changes.  So still not a great way of doing things.


Instead, Sarai creates swatch sets of fabrics, based on the bin or box in which they are stored.  It’s easy to grab the swatch tag to put it into your wardrobe plan, plus you know exactly where the fabric lives, and how much you have.  Genius!

If you have an unmanageable fabric stash, this might be your saving grace.  It’s certainly something I’m going to start working on right away!


Last winter, I started working on Vogue 1277 using a selection of boiled wool fabric.  I created piping out of a lightweight faux suede fabric and put the coat V1277 together. At that point, I realized it was not a good choice for me – the coat was massive, and the way it’s constructed, it was virtually impossible to make it smaller.  The style does have the back flaring out away from the body, and the stand-up neck was quite high.  I’m only 5’4″ and chunky, so it didn’t work on me.  I think if you are tall with long legs, this would be amazing! So this December, I re-cut the existing shell into a new shape based on a old jacket pattern I had.  This is the result.   013


Many sport pants have zippers or other treatments at the hem line, making it very difficult to shorten the pants to fit – so much so, that many people don’t buy the pants they want. Here’s a simple method to shorten sports pants, which will work for men, women and children.

Here are running pants with far too much length.


To establish how much the pants need to be taken
up, find a spot above the zipper, and pinch the fabric until the hem is pulled
up to where you want it. Make sure you wear your sports shoes when you do this.


Mark the pinch with a pin that goes through both
layers of fabric.  The entire pinched
section of fabric is above the zipper, but still below your knee.  This is the section we’re going to sew out.


Here’s how the pant leg looks with the pinched fabric. I tried to keep it relatively low on the pant leg, just a couple of inches above the zipper, so about mid-calf.


I measured from the edge of the fold to the pin
position – it shows 1 ½” which means the total amount I’m taking up is 3”.


Then I measured from the existing hemline to the
pin mark, which measured at 11”.  That
means my stitching line will be at 11”, the fold line for stitching will be at
12 ½”.


With the pants now inside out, I mark 3 measurements from the existing hemline:

11”, which is where the stitching line will show on the outside

12 ½” which is where the fabric will be folded back on itself for stitching

14” which is the other stitching line once the fabric is folded. This identifies how much of the fabric is being taken up – in my case it is 3”.


The 3 lines – I marked them with tailor’s chalk
all around the leg.  This makes it easier
to ensure a straight seam line and consistent length of the pant leg.


Using the 12 ½” line as your guide, slide the
hemline end of the pant leg back inside the pant leg (remember your pants are
inside out), which puts the right sides of the pant together, folded at the 12 ½”
line.  The 14” and 11” lines will line up.  Stitch on the 14” line as shown.


Here’s the stitched line on the inside of the
pants.  It could be trimmed and serged or
zig-zagged to remove the bulk, or it can be left in case you think you’ll ever
pass the pants on to someone else.


Here’s how the seam looks on the outside.  Many sport pants have these vertical seams as
style lines.


You can apply this method of shortening to many sport pants, although you might need to think a bit more about where the seam should be on form-fitting running pants.  Keep it on your calf – if it’s above the knee there’s always a chance it will chafe your skin.

This same approach can also be used to shorten sleeves on sports jackets, or even shirts that have a shaped or fitted hem.

This year I decided to make aprons as gifts.  Our niece has 3 girls aged 7, 8, and 16.  It started as something to do for the 4 of them – so I did aprons for the big and little girls out of coordinating fabrics. (Click on the pictures for larger versions).

apron5 apron4 apron3 apron2

The aprons with the rick-rack and frills are for the younger girls (it’s a bit misleading as they’re posing on my adult dress form).  They’re from McCall’s 5720.

Then, I thought, I’d better do an apron for the grandmother, who lives in a separate apartment in the house, but who is very much a part of the family.  So I did something a bit different – she loves chocolate, so I found some great fabric… It’s also McCall’s 5720, but I added a bib to it.  The flared flounces are really pretty, and very feminine.


Then my husband said, “Why not do one for my mom too?”  So I did this one in a more retro style fabric… This one is McCall’s 6366 and is also very feminine.


Then I started second-guessing myself about our niece’s husband, and their 5-year old boy.  So I did camo aprons for the two of them.  Both the same, one just a bit bigger than the other. I did McCall’s 6476 for the boy’s apron, and copied a man’s apron we had at home for his dad.  Each apron has several pockets – for the dad, they’ll conveniently hold 2 to 3 beer, for the boy, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles water bottle.

apron7 (This one would look more masculine if the dress form didn’t have boobs!)

Lessons learned from this project:

  1. Use a top stitching foot and it will help keep all your top stitching nice and straight, making for a really professional looking garment.
  2. Try to avoid making your apron with a fixed loop that goes around the neck – they’re either too long or too short.  Opt for ties instead which allows you to customize the sizing a bit more.
  3. You really do need a bodkin or other tool that will allow you to turn the ties, as they get realllllllllly long!
  4. Good quality cotton (like the beautiful quilting cotton I used) is really a treat to work with.  Everything folds so nicely and stitches up so well.
  5. If you do things as a production line, it can go quite quickly.
  6. Don’t be afraid of aprons – they aren’t at all difficult.  And almost no-one has them these days, so they do make great gifts.

It was a fun project and I loved the finished results.  Although they aprons didn’t get really high billing on Christmas morning, they will last longer than toys, so I’m sure sooner or later everyone will discover a good use for them.

In a previous post, I introduced the plaid Chanel jacket that provided inspiration for my jacket, given that I had some very similar fabric.  Here are a few pictures of the finished product, but I wanted to share some great things I learned about being creative when you really don’t have enough fabric for the project.

  1. Cut your facings from a complimentary fabric.  Make sure the colour matches, and make sure that the facing is in the same, or similar fabric.
  2. Break your pattern pieces into blocks.  In my case, I didn’t have enough length for my pattern pieces, so first I found a pattern that had lower front pieces (see previous post).  I cut them on the bias as I couldn’t match the plaids on the lengthwise grain.  Then I duplicated this on the arms by creating a lower piece to the sleeve.  In addition, because I was running short on continuous pieces of fabric, I cut the lower sleeve into fronts and backs.  This gave me a seam at the underarm, plus one on the outside.  I shaped the outside seam to match the curve on the lower jacket front, then ensured I ran the trim all around it. A telltale sign of a Chanel jacket is a 3-piece sleeve that allows for a split and trim on the outside of the sleeve, so I reasoned that this was a good design element to add.
  3. Cut pieces on the bias if needed.  In a plaid, it’s fairly obvious that pieces are cut on the bias, but there’s no reason you can’t do it with a plainer fabric as well – even a striped fabric!  Just make sure that you interface your pieces to avoid bias stretch. So for my jacket front pieces, I interfaced them, but cut the interfacing on the straight grain, so the bias doesn’t come into play.
  4. Use facing creatively.  I used a colour facing for the sleeve pieces and for the jacket body.  On the back body, I had to cut leftover pieces of fabric to face it as well, as I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the body back longer and hem it up.  As a result, I ran the lining down to 1″ from the hem, as the facing pieces did not match the plaids – at that point, I was using scrap pieces to create a hem facing for the back. What I should have done was cut facing for the back out of the same red, but I ran out of that as well!

finished facing_lining sleeve2 sleevel1 bottom

Other things I learned (in the “don’t do this again” category)

  1. I didn’t do formal full bust adjustment – just tried to use two pattern sizes.  Never works as nicely.
  2. I could have used red thread in my bobbin when making the buttonholes, or could have been less lazy and made bound buttonholes.
  3. You really do need the scotch tape on the end of braided trim – without it, you will have all kinds of unravelling happen!

Hope my hits and misses give you some food for thought.  Happy sewing!

Spent all of Friday at the Creativ Festival.  Did a bit of shopping and 2 classes.

First class was with Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems, called “Kick it up a Notch.”  She presented info to help improve your sewing, and covered things like understanding how the feed dogs on your sewing machine affect your seam, great top stitching, and no-gap fronts on V-neck tops.  Most of it I had learned in the Craftsy class she does, called Sew Better, Sew Faster.  Her techniques are really good, especially if you’re ready to start improving your sewing skills.

Second class was “Pants: No Fail Front Fly Zipper” with Maria Calautti.  She called it her “goof proof” method of zippers, but I was half brain dead so goofed at all 6 steps.  Got the gist, though.

Every year, Creativ Festival offers workshops in all kinds of creative arts including knitting, beadwork, fiber arts, scrapbooking, sewing and more.  The value is that you can immerse yourself in your favorite craft, and expand your learning in a short period of time. It’s a great way to pick up hints and tips, and to create samples of specific techniques.

The other reason I go is for the trade show.  There’s a pretty extensive list of vendors with booths at the show, so you get a chance to find out who sells the supplies you need for your hobby.  Over the years, the makeup of the vendors has changed:  when I started going in 1989, sewing was much more popular.  Now, beading, quilting and scrapbooking are very popular, although knitting is holding its own.  Sewing, not as much, but it’s hanging in there.

Many vendors offer hands-on experiences in their booths, which is a great way to try things out.  Of course the sewing machine manufacturers are there, so you can try every type of machine imaginable.  Some of the big names in yarn were there (think Rowan), plus big stores like Michaels.  You could try beading, knitting, soap making, scrapbooking, weaving, spinning (my head is spinning!).

Needless to say, I think it’s a pretty good event.  If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to visit and see what’s coming up next spring, or fall.

I have been trying on and off for about the last 5 years to make a pair of pants that fit.  For me, fit means the front is smooth, and the back of the pants fits smoothly, then hangs straight off my derriere, with no wrinkles.  It was easy in my 20’s, but now that I’m in my 50’s, my shape has changed to the point where fitting is a much bigger challenge.

I always ended up with wrinkles in the back, horizontal wrinkles under my bumb, and sometimes angled wrinkles radiating from the top inside of my back leg, down towards my knee.  What I eventually learned was that I need a “dropped seat” adjustment, along with an adjustment for larger inner thighs.  I’ve spent about 8 hours over the past couple of days, and have drafted a pants pattern that’s the closest I’ve ever been – I’ll use it to sew up a pair of golf pants.

Here’s a list of the resources that I used to learn everything I could find about fitting:

CraftsyOne Pattern, Many Looks: Pants.  This class really did it for me – Kathy is an excellent teacher and she gave me hope that I’d get it.

Threads Magazine online:  I used Draft Your Own Pattern for Pants that Fit to create a pants pattern from scratch – it’s a bit easier for me to do it this way, than trying to modify an existing pattern with my measurements (although I’m doing that next).  Adjusting Pants from Waist to Seat really helped me get my head around the concept of body “depth”.  We always look at length, plus width for measurements, but depth is a big factor.  It became key for me.  *Note, these were articles from previous issues of Threads Magazine that are available online for people who have an “Insider” subscription.  This subscription gives you access to a wealth of articles and video’s plus an electronic version of the magazine, and it not at all expensive.

Pants for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto also helped a lot, especially with larger thigh adjustment.

Peggy Sager’s video on The Ultimate Pant Fit also helped me look at wrinkles and figure out what they were telling me.

The message here is that we can all get pants that fit – it might take a big dose of frustration, and some time, but it does eventually come. For me, it was reading and watching everything I could get my hands on. I’m not completely there yet, but I’m very hopeful.  I’m booked into Achieve a Better Fit: Pants at the upcoming Creativ Festival in Toronto in October, which is a full-day workshop on pants fitting.  I’ll report back on that in another post.

In my first post, I lamented the fact that my blazer didn’t fit.  In addition to making a toile or muslin to fit the garment, I did learn a couple of other things:

1.  You need to take good measurements and compare them to the pattern – for instance, the shoulder extended a bit farther than I was comfortable with, which was just part of the pattern design.  Second, the pattern specified a 1″ shoulder pad.  On a 5’4″ frame, that could be a bit overwhelming when combined with the shoulder extension – it looked a little like a football outfit to me.  You should be armed with as many measurements as possible, including shoulder, full bust, high bust, bust point, back neck to waist and so on.  Compare these to the paper pattern as part of your decision about whether it’s the right pattern in the first place.

2.  You need to know what you want in a garment in terms of fit – how much height in the shoulder pad, how much extension in the shoulder, how long the garment should be.  What I should have done was look to a few ready-to-wear garments I have, and take some measurements from them to determine what I feel suits my eye.  Another good idea is to go shopping and look at the type of blazers that look best on you – are they a princess seam or just a waistline dart?  If a princess seam, does it go through the shoulder, or curve over to the armscythe?  How many buttons down the front of the blazer?  How long is the blazer?  What’s the shoulder length?  All of these elements then become the things you look for in a pattern.

3. You should know what suits you.  Study your body shape and investigate the best silhouettes. The shapeliness of the blazer and the 2-button stance were ok for my short & busty figure, but the shoulder made the top of the jacket a bit too big for me.  There are a lot of resources on the web and many great books written on developing your style, and understanding what clothes look best on your shape.  It’s well worth investigating (more on this in a future post).

Much as it’s painful, I’ll keep posting my failures, in the hopes that others can learn from them.  But along the way, there will also be some successes to celebrate as I continue learn from my mistakes, but more importantly from other people.

Happy sewing!


I was anxious to get started on my beautiful chartreuse stretch cotton sateen blazer – so anxious that I pattern fit and cut the fabric without a toile. My bad!
I used Simplicity 2446, which has princess seams that go up through the shoulder. This pattern fits everywhere except around the shoulder and arm (think big shoulder pads). The shoulder extends out quite a bit, and there are wrinkles all around the arm as well as the underarm. Plus the sleeve cap didn’t sit nicely in the arm. I couldn’t for the life of me adjust to my satisfaction, even though the pattern provides 1″ seam allowances. With a wool tweed I might have got away with some mis-fitting, but the cotton sateen just accentuates problems.

So I’ve decided to re-cut using Vogue 8087, which is a Claire Shaeffer pattern. When I measured the shoulders on the 2 patterns, the Simplicity shoulder measurement is 6 1/2 while the Vogue is about 5 3/4. Hopefully this pattern will fit better – before I re-cut, I will do a toile to ensure the fit.

Lesson? Always do a fitting shell on pieces that matter.

Like this t-shirt a lot – thinking of making something similar. Have several different colours of cotton/poly knit that would look great together.

Laid back summer

Laid back summer by melaniemac featuring a floppy hat



Bangle bracelet
$5.37 –

Silver charm

Floppy hat


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