Category Archives: Techniques

The Pressinatrix would be proud, I hope

My coral polka dot skirt from Simplicity 3688 is the first project for which I could fully incorporate the pressing techniques of the Pressinatrix as discussed in a post on her blog.

I am happy to report that I think I did a pretty good job of pressing, and her techniques made a noticeable difference.

When pressing the seams open, I used my June Tailor Tailor Board without the padding. It has several pressing surface to match pretty much any detail you need to press. I used the skinny straight edge to press my seams open. I decided to do that because I didn’t want to take the chance that the impression of my overcasting stitches might be pressed into the fabric if I used a wider surface. Turns out, pressing against the hard surface seemed to really improved my results.

While there is a stuffed seam roll to use for this very task, a number of people have found success with half a large wooden dowel. Believe me, on my next trip to the hardware store, I’ll be looking for one.

I figured I must be doing something right with my technique when I had finished pressing and realized that I couldn’t really feel the line of stitching in the seam. It was perfectly flat and smooth. By the time I’d sewn the three front panels together, I didn’t seem to have three pieces, just one big one.

Now the coral polka dot is a quilting cotton, not terribly challenging as far as pressing goes. But once I finish the matching top for this skirt, I’ll be moving on to a silk top, Colette Patterns’ Sencha, which is one of my projects in the Fall Palette Challenge. (At the rate I sew, it may be the only one!) Sewing silk will be challenging in many ways, not the least of which is pressing.

With silk, there’s just nowhere to hide.

Tomorrow, the finished skirt, which ended up just as pretty on the inside as on the outside.

Underlining — right idea, wrong fabric

With encouragement from Corinne in Sewtopia, I’m back on track to underline my cotton blouse. She suggested batiste, the idea being that my inclination to underline wasn’t off base, just my fabric choice. A little research showed that batiste is also good for underlining silk, and the next project is a silk top that I wanted to underline so no hemstitches would show.

The idea of hemstitches that might show on the right side of either the current project or the upcoming silk project was making me queasy. I figured I’d better try out the underlining on the cotton project before tackling the silk.

So, tonight (after dropping off my daughter and her friend at a Girl Scout event and before picking them up again), I had just enough time to scoot over to JoAnn’s and track down the one bolt of white cotton-poly batiste hiding within the muslins. There was five yards left, so I took the whole darn thing. Batiste is a really lightweight fabric, handkerchief weight, I’d say. It shouldn’t add too much body to the main fabric, but will give me that all-important additional layer to hide my stitches in. My polka dot fabric is coral with white dots. I couldn’t find a thread to match the coral color, so I went with a slightly darker, almost rust, color. With the batiste being white, I may change my mind on thread color.

Of course the lining for the skirt is off-white, but I’m not back-tracking on that. I just can’t face the idea!

I think I spend at least as much time strategizing my projects as I do actually making them. But then I tend to overthink thoroughly think through everything.

How some people sew one or more garments in a week is beyond me!

Muslin construction tips

I make a muslin for each new pattern I sew to make sure it fits and that the various elements are flattering in length and placement. (Some garments never make it past the muslin stage.) Making a muslin is not as involved as sewing the garment itself. There are plenty of shortcuts you can take, and a few you shouldn’t. Here are my tips:

❦ A muslin is called a muslin because that is the fabric traditionally used. It’s main advantage is that it’s inexpensive, but it’s not the only fabric suitable for testing a pattern. Some people like to use gingham because the woven check makes the grainline easy to see, which can be important as alterations are made. Free fabric options include “What was I thinking?” fabric from your stash, and old sheets from your linen cupboard.

❦ Take the time to iron your pattern pieces. You are making a muslin to check the fit, and using wrinkled patterns can affect the results. Besides, you’ll need to iron them before cutting your fashion fabric anyway.

❦ Don’t bother to cut out the facings, unless you need to check them specifically. Facings are not generally critical to the fit.

❦ Don’t waste your good marking pens on your muslin! No. 2 pencils work just fine.

❦ Use contrasting thread. It will be much easier to see when you need to rip a seam apart, and it’s a good way to use up the weird colors on your thread rack and your half-empty bobbins.

❦ Use a basting stitch (long stitch length). You will be glad you did when you need to pull apart a seam; but use a backstitch or lockstitch to start and end each seam, or they will pull apart as you try the muslin on.

❦ Take the time to match and sew your seams accurately. This is one area where you shouldn’t take shortcuts. You are checking the fit, and inaccurate seams defeat this purpose.

❦ Don’t bother to iron your seams. Finger pressing (running the back of your thumbnail or the blunt end of a point turner along a seam to open the seam allowance) will work fine for a muslin.

❦ Don’t cut full-length patterns if you don’t need to. For example, If you only need to check the fit on a skirt from waist to hip, there’s no need to cut the entire pattern in muslin.

If you minimize the time and resources used in making a muslin, you may find that the confidence you get from taking a pattern for a test drive will be well worth the extra effort.

Stealing construction techniques from J.Crew

A friend of mine needs the kick pleat of a skirt mended, so she has turned to me for help. The pink cotton twill skirt is from J.Crew. I’ve never purchased anything from there, so I was not familiar with the quality of the garments. I took a look at the ripped seam from the inside and found lots of interesting construction details:

❦ The contour waistband is faced with a completely different material: a satin polka dot. The seam was offset, so there is no chance of the facing showing on the right side. It appears the facing was attached the same way as in this tutorial on the Coletterie blog. I love the use of the contrasting fabric. It’s pretty, and it saves the fashion fabric.

Contour waistband facing on a J.Crew skirt

The contour waistband has a contrast facing. Note that the area for the zipper insertion is interfaced.

❦ The zipper area and kick pleat are interfaced with fusible tricot. After putting a zipper in rayon recently, I thought a fusible interfacing might be a good idea to stabilize the fabric and eliminate unraveling. I’ll definitely do this for the next zipper I put in.

The interfaced kickpleat of a J.Crew skirt

The kick pleat has also been interfaced.

❦ The pocket pieces are joined with a French seam. The seam was first sewn with a serger, then turned to do the French seam; however, the edges of the seam allowance stick out of the second stitching. This is inside the pocket, so no one will see it; but a French seam that actually fully encloses the first seam allowance would be nicer.

The french seam on the construction of a pocket in a J.Crew skirt

The pocket pieces have been joined with a French seam. The first seam was overlocked.

The inside of a pocket on a J.Crew skirt.

The inside of the pocket shows that the first seam allowance isn't fully enclosed by the second stitching of the French seam.

Better ready-to-wear garments can be the source of good construction techniques. In this case, there are some great ideas that I intend to incorporate into my sewing. All for the price of a little mending for a friend.

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