Everyday French Seams

Normally, we think of French seams as a technique to use with sheer fabrics. However, because I like the clean interior finish of a French seam, I do a modified French seam wherever I can on a wide range of light woven fabrics, sheer or not. My modified version of the French seam accounts for the standard 5/8″ seam allowance in commercial patterns, and ends up around a quarter inch wide instead of the 1/8″ or narrower seam we would hope to achieve on a sheer fabric. Here’s how I do it.

Step One.

With wrong sides together, stitch a 3/8″ seam.


Step Two.

Trim the seam to about half its width (so between an eighth and a quarter inch).


Here’s a view of the trimming without the scissors in the way.


Step Three.

Press this seam three times.

First, press it flat to set the stitches. (Because we always do this, with all seams, to set the stitches.)

Second, open out the fabric and press the seam allowance to one side, like so. This is optional, but it opens up the seam and makes it much easier to do the next (third) press.


Third, flip the fabric around so that right sides are together and press the seam flat. This preps it for the final stitching.


Step Four.

Stitch this beautifully pressed piece using a 1/4″ seam. This, plus the 3/8″ from the first stitching line, equals the standard 5/8″ seam allowance. Because you trimmed the seam allowance in Step Two, no bits of seam allowance should poke through to the right side after this seam is sewn.


Step Five.

More pressing! But you know the old saying — good pressing makes good sewing. First, press the seam flat to set the stitches. Then, press the encased French seam bit to the back from the wrong side. Then, just because I am a bit nutty about a perfect press, I press again from the right side to ensure a smooth, even seam.


And that’s it. For this pair of blue broadcloth pajama pants (McCall’s 6249, same pattern and mods as the voile pair in the previous post, with fabric from The Needle Shop), I used this seaming method on inner and outer leg seams. It gives a clean, durable seam. For the crotch seam, I used a standard plain seam with a zigzag overcast on the raw edges. Because these ordinary, everyday, 5/8″ French seams are a little bulkier than their trimmer (and, let’s admit it, more professional) cousin, they’re not so nice in a crotch seam. Ahem. No further information needed on that one.

Here are the finished pajama pants. I am now the proud owner of two whole entire pairs of pajama pants that fit. So now, if I decide to be a lazy bum on both weekend days and not really get dressed or leave the house, I can do that. Go, me?


What do you like to wear on your at-home, too-lazy-to-dress days?



Lawn Pajama Pants

I’m in a weird limbo state with my size right now. I’m about 14 pounds from goal weight, which is enough to make a difference in the way fitted clothes will fit. But it’s also close enough that I can start making some items in my goal-weight size and wear them now. Anything that’s fairly loose or flowing, anything that requires only minimal fitting and tailoring, can work now. Sort of.

Which leads to this pair of pajama pants. Until I made these, I had zero pairs of pajama pants in an appropriate size. Now I have one.

018The fabric is a gorgeous, lightweight, smooth-as-glass lawn purchased a year or two ago from The Needle Shop. I was browsing their inventory, brushed my hand across this bolt, and had to have a couple of yards. I wasn’t sure what I would make with it — the print is a little too loud for ordinary day wear, but it worked out perfectly for pajama pants. I tend not to actually sleep in pajama pants, but I like to have a couple of pairs on hand for at-home days. They’re comfortable and relaxed, and sometimes we all need a day where we lounge around in lazy clothing. Now I can do that again, with my one and only pair of pajama pants that fit. lol

Here’s one of my favorite tips for working with a very light cotton such as lawn, voile, or batiste. Pretreat the fabric twice. In this case, because I plan to wash and dry the pants in the machines, I ran the fabric through the washer, then the dryer, then the washer again, then the dryer again. Light cottons sometimes need the double treatment to complete any preshrinking. That was certainly the case with this fabric. It shrunk pretty well on the first washing, but it came out of the dryer off-grain. The second trip through the laundry room shrunk another inch out of the overall yardage and restored perfect grain.

The pattern is McCall’s 6249, a very basic pajama set. I made minimal changes to the full-length pants — shortening 3/4″ above the hip and 1-3/4″ below the hip. It has a cut-on waistband, and ordinarily, I refuse to use a pattern with a cut-on waistband. I mean, I’m not making RTW in a third-world factory. I don’t need to rely on cheap shortcuts that prioritize corporate profits over quality and wearability. (Not that I have strong opinions on the current state of RTW offerings, cough cough.) I can use a sewn-on waistband and get a better fit and finish. So I debated altering the pattern to create a true waistband, but in the end, I just went with the pattern as drafted. I will have to take in the waistband elastic around the time I reach goal, and I’m probably going to regret this waistband decision right around the time I have to use my seam ripper on this delicate, perfect lawn. A sewn-on waistband just stands up better to this kind of repair.




Little Feet

When we gain or lose weight, we know that our waistbands might get tighter or our shirts might gap at the button band. But if your weight changes a lot, as mine did from the thyroid problem, your feet can also change sizes. I’m thrilled to report that I’m back in my proper shoe size. This means buying all new shoes — such a hardship! *grin*

But the best part is that I can wear heels again. I lived in heels before my thyroid broke. Two inches was an everyday kind of walking-around shoe, and three inches was more likely. Four inches? You bet, especially for dates with tall men. So it’s probably no surprise that the first shoes I bought were all heels and platforms. As soon as I realized I could wear heels in a 7.5 again, I darted to DSW and splurged on some celebration heels.

These were the very first pair I bought, four-inch lace-ups with a sturdy stacked heel and just the right vibe to wear with jeans and pants.


I love these shoes so much I can’t even stand it. I’ve always been a big fan of this kind of oxford-with-heels shoe, and the meshy pierced leather puts an extra smile on my face. Right after that trip to DSW for these, I ended up at the outlet mall with a friend, where I found these Naturalizers for almost no money. Honestly, I think they were around twelve or thirteen dollars. And in my three favorite shades of gray, gray, and gray? Yeah, they had to come home with me.


They almost look like booties when you wear them. They’re suede, not summer shoes, and I was only able to wear them twice before the weather shifted. Rainy spring is not so good for suede! But I will wear these frequently in the fall, and I can’t wait. Despite the four-inch heel, these are about as comfortable as sneakers, the kind of heels you really can walk in all day.

Then, when the suede had to go into hibernation until fall, I went back to DSW for two pairs of summer sandals. I wear these black ones almost every day now.


The cork platforms are so lightweight! And I love the gladiator look to the straps. Even though these are about 3.5″ in heel height, the platform makes them feel like they’re about two inches, easy enough for shopping all day. The only thing I don’t like about these shoes is the brass buckle — I’m a silver/pewter girl — but I think the buckle is almost invisible here. I found a similar pair in white by a different maker.


I’m not ordinarily a big fan of white shoes, not even for summer. White shoes tend to look old-ladyish to me, especially if the white has any kind of shine to it. But this is a flat white leather, and the cork sole balances it out enough to keep it looking fresh instead of fussy. I wear these pretty frequently, too, and even wore them for a spontaneous afternoon at the mall last week. By the end of the afternoon, my feet were a touch tired, but really, not as bad as you would think. A sturdy platform is so much kinder to the feet than a spiky stiletto, even at nearly four inches.

I think these shoes overall reflect my personal style better than anything else I’ve posted so far. They all have just a whiff of that urban edge that I am so drawn to, and almost everything else I’ve posted so far has been super casual, everyday sorts of clothes, even a bit on the sweet side. I do like the sweet things, too, but I think they work best when there’s a bit of toughness thrown into the mix. These shoes help with that.

On a scale from edgy to sweet, where does your personal style fall?




Oh, happy day!

My mail carrier is one of my favorite people on the planet because he brings me things like this:


Check out the return address. We all know that logo, right? Opening a package from Mood Fabrics always feels like an event. First, there’s the thrill of finding the package on your doorstep. Yay! Then there’s that inevitable moment when I try to remember what I ordered as I open the package and withdraw this:


I love those shiny black Mood bags. They’re great for storing works-in-progress in my sewing room and for protecting folded fabric in my dresser drawers. When I cut out a new pattern, I store all the pieces, pattern, thread, and other notions together in one of these bags. It just makes it easier to find what I need as I sew. So the bag always makes me happy! But what’s inside the bag is the best treat of all:


Oh, right! I remember now! I ordered some red ponte knit to make these wonderful pants. As soon as I spotted this pattern, with the interesting seaming on the legs (think riding pants, but with a different fit), I knew I had to make them in red. Why red? Why not? These will have to wait until I’m at goal weight, though, because they require some precise fitting. But that won’t take long — I’m almost at goal now.

The other piece of fabric I bought was actually the main reason for the purchase. Are you tempted by the Mood flash sales? I am tempted by them, and I’m not always good at resisting temptation when the flash sale is for a sweet dotted swiss in my beloved gray.


This is going to be a summer dress, but I haven’t quite decided which pattern to use. I’m thinking something a little retro, a little mid-century, fitted through the torso, a little volume in the skirt, maybe some white piping somewhere along the way. I think that could be fun! The fabric has a crisp hand like so many shirtings, so this is one that can handle a bit of structure. We’ll see! I have a couple of patterns in the stash that might just do….


Speaking of jade…

On a recent fabric stash-dive for cotton prints to make pajama pants, I spotted a 2-yard cut of a simple cotton broadcloth with red flowers on a jade background. Out of curiosity, I pulled out my jade wrap cardigan to see how these might look together.

005I like that. I tend to be a little hesitant about mixing prints and textures, but I think that lace and that particular print read pretty well together.

Now, I have only to decide which shirt pattern to make from that cotton. Or should I make a sleeveless dress? Is that too much print for a dress? I recently picked up this Butterick 6066 pattern and could make this sleeveless dress:


If that print is too much for a dress, I might make this Simplicity 1590 retro shirt instead.


Decisions, decisions. One thing is for sure, though. I appear to like this particular jade green more than I was ever aware! Who knew!





My first goal cardigan

When it came time to start knitting in my goal-weight size, I was thrilled. I love to knit, but I’ve primarily knit accessories for the past several years because the few sweaters I made seemed like too much work for a body that needed to change. But when I was within about 35 pounds of goal weight, I could start to see the finish line and hit on an idea: a wrap cardigan. I could knit a wrap cardigan in my goal size right then and there, and the criss-crossing fronts would make it easier to wear as my body continued to change.

003 The green doesn’t photograph very well. I’ve tried in several different kinds of lighting, and it always looks too mossy when it is truly a jade with blue undertones. I chose this pattern, Veronik Avery’s Strawberry Lace Wrap Cardigan (ravlink — all links in this post connect to ravelry) from Knitting Classic Style because I’ve always had good luck with her patterns in the past. She started her career as a costume designer and dressmaker, which tends to provide a good foundation for knitwear design. Her attention to detail is fantastic, and the wrap front was just what I wanted.

I opted to use some Classic Elite Attitude, a cotton-silk blend, that had been marinating in my stash for quite some time. I’d bought enough of this to make a roomy sweater in my former plus size, and I quickly realized that meant I could make both the cardigan and a fitted pullover, too, in the same yarn. A quick rummage through the stash turned up some sock yarn with the same shade of green (plus some cadet blue) to make a striped tee later. And just by pure coincidence, I had just picked up some Berrocco Ultra Alpaca Fine to make a Laneway minidress that just happened to incorporate this same shade of green. That would give me three pieces, eventually, to wear with this cardigan. So this seemed like a good place to start.

I did modify the pattern. (I almost always modify the pattern.) I added waist shaping at the side seams to eliminate some of the bulk under the belt. This yarn is an aran weight and knits to a gauge of 18st/4″ in stockinette, which is already pretty bulky without adding volume. I also added grosgrain ribbon ties to the inside wrap to keep it from drooping across the front. If I had to do it over again, I might use a picot edge on the turned hems at the hip and cuffs, but that is a personal preference rather than a real pattern adjustment.

It was a great pattern to knit, and I wear this cardigan all the time. It looks equally well with blue jeans or a skirt. The green mixes particularly well with gray, white, or blue. I’m less thrilled with it against black, which seems to take some of the luster away from the yarn. Jade and black never did seem like a good combination to me, in any case.

What’s your favorite style for a cardigan? Do you have one particular cardigan that you can throw on over everything, or do you collect them?


Inspired by Ungaro

I pay attention to runway fashion shows because it’s a great source of inspiration. Resort 2015 wrapped up recently, and I’ve made a couple of items inspired by pieces I saw there. The first I’ll show you came from Emmanuel Ungaro’s collection (photo courtesy of Vogue.com).

emanuel-ungaro-resort-2015-daisy-skirt I noticed two things right away about this skirt. First,the skirt is not a mini and it has a flounce at the knee. I just happen to have a pattern like that, and I think flounced skirts are a good summer option, a little casual, a little playful. So right away, I started thinking about a riff on this skirt.

The second thing I noticed was the print — white daisies on a blue background. Fausto Puglisi, the new Ungaro designer, also used a similar print in black daisies on a white background. He’s also continuing the Ungaro tradition of mixed prints, which is not something I wear but it intrigues me. Here is some of the black daisy print.

emanuel-ungaro-resort-2015-runway-black daisies Mixed with zebra print — there was a lot of animal and floral mixing in this set. But I really liked the mood of the daisy print, so I made a flounced skirt in the spirit of the flounced skirt above, but in the black and white palette.

003 I didn’t have enough fabric to add a waterfall flounce down the front, but the hem is flounced and the length is just below the knee. It’s a lightweight cotton, so I underlined it with some plain white cotton shirting that I keep in my stash for just such needs. I use Simplicity 1807 as my base pattern, but I modified it.  I started with view A, the shorter view, and I removed three inches at the waistband seam. Then I added four darts, two front and two back, to taper the hip area to the waistband. This removed some of the extra fullness at the hips but left enough for the elastic and drawstring waistband to gather slightly. This also shortened the skirt without requiring me to redraft the flounce — this waist modification was definitely easier than redrafting the flounce would have been. The flounce came from view B-C (the midi lengths), and I did have to remove about 4″ in width to fit this flounce to the view A knee-length hem, but that did not compromise the shape of the flounce. I ended up with a shape that approximates the inspiration piece but is not an exact clone. I’m happy with it.

My Sewing Pattern Review can be found here.