I had thought this garment would be done and blogged Monday or Tuesday, but I ended up in the hospital quite suddenly early this week. No need to worry. I’m going to be fine once we stabilize things, and there aren’t any new problems here, just old symptoms and old problems. I lost a bit of time this week and am still moving sort of slowly, but I’ll be fine.
And one of the side effects right now is that I am always freezing. Brr! Chicago isn’t exactly tropical this time of year. So when I saw this Warm Thing from DKNY, you can bet I gazed longingly at the picture.
I’ll take one in every color, please
Ok, so, yeah, I admit my first thought was that I’ve seen muumuus with more bodycon. This isn’t anyone’s idea of a date dress. Or if it is, I don’t want to know your other ideas about what’s sexy! Yikes. But after I got over the lumpy shapeless sack effect, I knew I had to have this garment.
Actually, after a bit of pondering, I decided to make several variations on this garment. I knew I would want a big, roomy, ankle-length one just like this to throw on over my clothes on a cold day. But then I thought, I might as well make a shorter one with a bit of body shaping, something like a more fitted tunic version of this garment. And guess what new pattern was issued just as I was having that thought?
That’s a nightgown pattern for a knee-length hoodie with some waist shaping and a kangaroo pocket on the front. Some years ago, I made a similar nightgown (shaped hem, pouch pocket) for myself out of some cheap printed sweatshirt fleece bought from the clearance bins at a chain store that doesn’t even exist anymore. Cloth World, you guys. Remember that place? Anyway, I have fond memories of that nightgown and wore it like a sweatshirt over everything on cold days. It was, like the DKNY Warm Thing, definitely not sexy, but I wore it around the house all the time, to the point that family members started to ask me to make the same thing for them. If I wore it that much, it had to be good — that was their thinking, and they were dead right. It was good. Super cozy and warm. I wore it until it was in shreds.
So I figured my first iteration of the DKNY Warm Thing knock-off would be made from this McCall’s pattern. I briefly toyed with the idea of doing side seam pockets instead of the kangaroo pouch, but I wanted this first one to be fitted, and side seam pockets would disrupt the line. So I stuck with the pouch idea and headed to JoAnn’s for some polar fleece. Their fleece isn’t top quality, but it’s cheap and it’s good enough for a garment that I’ll never wear outside the house.
Around this time every year, as people switch to cold-weather sewing, the boards and blogs start talking about how to sew fleece. It’s a surprisingly tricky fabric because of three factors: bulk, curl, and heat intolerance. Bulk — the textile is very thick, and seams can be lofty and unwieldy, particularly at crossing points like crotch/leg joins. Curl — it’s a knit, and like many knits, it curls up along a horizontal raw edge and inward along a vertical raw edge, which can make it a bit hard to control and can prevent the seams from laying flat. Heat intolerance — we might ordinarily use steam pressing to flatten bulk and curl, but this stuff can’t handle an iron hot enough to make steam. The fiber will melt. Some people advocate using the point of the iron to briefly press a seam, but the fabric is so thick that the heat cannot penetrate the inner layers before it has melted the outer layers. I haven’t had good luck using that point pressing technique.
Instead, I use stitched seams to control and flatten the bulk, prevent curl, and create a neat finish. This works for me, but as with any technique I discuss here, you might prefer a different method.
So, first, I just sew a standard 5/8 seam, except I try to keep the fabric just a mite inside that 5/8 marking on my sewing machine template. This is because the loft and curl along that cut edge can mask the actual dimensions of the seam allowance. Yes, commercial sewing patterns are designed with a 1/8″ tolerance in the seams, but I’ve just learned through past fleece adventures that this tolerance is not enough with a very bulky fabric. So 5/8 minus just a smidgen is what I am for, like so.
The raw edge isn’t quite flush with the 5/8 line
Then, I trim one of the seam allowances — just one — to about half its width. This smaller seam allowance will be hidden under its partner soon. Trimming reduces bulk in the seam, and that’s the sole purpose of this particular step.
Then, I fold both seam allowances to one side so that the trimmed seam allowance is sandwiched between the untrimmed seam allowance and the garment fabric. On the right side, I topstitch the seam allowances to the garment fabric, using my presser foot as a gauge. The right side of the presser foot is aligned with the seam itself.
This can be tricky on sleeves and other tight tubes!
And that’s it. This second line of stitching/topstitching flattens the bulk and holds the fabric so that it won’t curl. This is what it looks like from the right side.
And this is what it looks like from the wrong side. Notice that you only see one raw edge. This is because the second raw edge is encased inside the stitching rows.
Also, on the kangaroo pouch, I used two lines of stitching everywhere the pattern called for one line. I’ve just found that two lines of stitching cuts down on the fabric’s tendency to curl, and it compresses the fabric to reduce bulk, and it substitutes for a pressing by holding the fabric in place. It doesn’t seem to matter if the two lines of stitches are very close (a scant 1/8″) or relatively far apart (a generous 3/8″). But I don’t use a twin needle for this — I sew each line separately — because the underside of a twin needle stitch can bubble a bit and add bulk right where we’re trying to reduce bulk. It can also encourage the fabric to curl if the twin needle stitching is parallel to the fabric’s natural curl direction.
This is a close up of part of the pouch pocket showing the stitching.
This picture really shows how the stitching compresses the fabric. Just look at either side of the stitching lines, and you can see how the fabric puffs up away from the stitches. But along those lines, at least, the fabric is compressed enough that the bulk won’t be uncomfortable.
Here’s the final garment. It’s definitely shapelier than the DKNY Warm Thing, but it’s still not exactly bodycon. But for something to wear around the house in the cold dark winter? It’s just what I need.
I’m already at work on a giant, roomy, raglan-sleeved version of the DKNY Warm Thing and should have it done in the next day or two. And I had enough of the dark gray stuff from this first version to make a pair of matching pants in a pattern designed specifically for this textile, so we’ll see how that goes!
How do you wrangle your fleece into submission?