Garment Sewing Mania

So, as you know, I’ve been sewing a lot of t-shirts for fun. I’ve basically created my own casual wardrobe this year…but only of shirts. I balance it out with a lot of stretchy pants I already own.

It’s not ideal, but it’s the thing I’m loving right now. Especially since I’m not going out and purchasing new clothes. These days I get excited when a new shipment of fabric comes in.

My next effort? A pair of stretchy pants. I know. I should aim a little higher. But I’ve never made a pair of pants. Seriously. And I’m not about to start with a pair of jeans which would be a tremendous amount of effort and I have no idea where my weaknesses are.

Well, OK, I know that I sit on my biggest weakness, but that doesn’t mean I know how to fit it. So I’m starting with something forgiving. I’ll let you know how it goes.(I’m not terribly optimistic.)

But just to give you a bit more information on my process: As many of you know, I have resolved to only purchase organic fabric for the foreseeable future. As time has gone on, I have only furthered my resolve in this area. The good news, is that the industry is slowly moving in that direction, since traditional cotton-growing is proving unsustainable to even the most stalwart purchasers. We’re talking about Levi’s and Lee and H&M and folks who are serious purchasers of cotton.

I wrote about organic cotton in detail here.

But another big concern of mine as I’ve been sewing, has been the amount of waste…fabric waste, that goes into garment sewing. Making a t-shirt requires the front and back of the pattern to be cut on the fold.

But that leaves a large amount of fabric untouched above the fold. Like half of it.

So I started something new. Of course I started editing the pattern. Instead of laying fabric on the fold, I placed it higher up on the fabric to make two pieces instead of one. I added a quarter inch to the area that would normally be placed on the fold to compensate for the additional seam allowance.

This gave me the ability to make a whole other shirt from leftover fabric. A few more seams, yes. But more clothes, yay! But what about the sleeves? What I found with the sleeves was that I often did not have enough width of my leftover fabric to accommodate the width of the sleeve pattern.

So I folded the pattern in half. I laid it out on the fabric and added the quarter inch seam allowance. I found that the slim line of the sleeve usually left me with enough fabric to make the sleeves with a seam. Instead of two pieces of sleeve fabric, I ended up with four pieces, two each per sleeve. One seam up the middle is barely noticeable.

These additional seams turned out to look structural on the garment. Before assembling, I gave them a topstitch over the side where the serger seam allowance rested. It holds the extra seam allowance in place perfectly, and adds a bit of interest. Voila!

I found that the looser tees left me with enough fabric to make a v-neck closer fitting tee, and the opposite was true of the cut of the v-necks.

Then I feel absolutely no guilt throwing away the remnants after that. they are just tiny bits and pieces.

Bit by agonizing bit, I’m learning about garment construction. And it’s only agonizing because I am not a perfect beautiful, lovely size. Well, actually, I am. But I’m just not what would be considered a model size. So I modify everything to fit in a comfortable way.

And I’m having fun playing with the absolute simplest of patterns. I invite you to try it. It’s fun, entertaining, creative, and most of all, utilitarian. It’s empowering.

Everyone, stay calm and sew on. These are crazy, unsteady times. Do something that steadies you.

(Pattern from Grainline studio. V-neck tee is my own pattern. Fabrics are from Hawthorne Supply Co., various lines, but all organic cotton interlock.)

Cotton Knit Serging

So this is the easiest garment pattern you will ever see. It works with knits, wovens, tissue knits, you name it.

It’s from Grainline Studio and if you’ve never heard of it, you might have been under a rock.or maybe just busy quilting. The name of the pattern is the Hemlock Tee. It’s available for free if you sign up for their newsletter.

I am not the fondest of pdf patterns but I managed to assemble this one without much trouble, and then used 810 gridded interfacing to trace the pattern. I got the interfacing at Joann’s with several coupons and spent, I don’t know, less than $2 for 6 yards. Seriously.

I went a size or two larger than normal, because I wanted a really comfy, swingy fit, but I think I’ll try it smaller as well.

The whole pattern is really 5 seams and then hemming. That’s it. So the fun is all in the fabric, the variations, the sizing, the sleeve length, cropped, long, whatever you want.

As far as the hemming, I was so thrilled. I have never owned a machine that does a cover stitch, and I never really thought I needed one. Until I started to use it.

This particular shirt is made from 100% organic cotton knit from Hawthorne Supply Co. The fabric is from a line called Redwood, which I just loved. I can’t pass up anything with trees on it. Honestly, the knit was a dream to work with and feels like pajamas when you are wearing it.

I used a narrow cover stitch on both the sleeves and the hem. Yes, there’s a bit of fiddling with the thread and needles on the serger, but really not bad at all to switch from overlock (which I used on all the other seams) to cover stitch and back. After having switched back and forth a few times now, it’s like changing from sewing to embroidery. Switch a few things around, change a nob or button…done.

Wrong side sleeve hem.
Right side hem, bottom and sleeves.

I have a number of patterns to work on next, but I stepped outside yesterday, and GAHH. It seems too early for this! The daffies are coming! Anyway, happy first signs of spring.

Serger Dreams

I did it.

I bought a new serger. I am not very good at videos, so here’s an unboxing blog. But before I get into that, let me tell you why I purchased what I did.

This is a Babylock. Babylock sergers have been the best in the industry for years. They lead the way in “air puff” technology, making it easy to thread those loopers. I trust that they know more about sergers than basically anyone else in the industry.

My all-time most popular blog post is about where sewing machines are made. You can check it out here.

This Babylock serger is made in Japan, where Babylock actually owns factories.

I already own a Babylock Imagine serger. It’s a solid machine, still has a great stitch, and will become my back-up serger. But it’s well over 20 years old.

The new machine is an Accolade, which as I understand it, is the updated model of the Evolve. It has a cover stitch and that was the main selling point for me. I have never owned a serger with a cover stitch. On top of that, I got a promotion that included 15 different serger feet, handling everything from beading to ruffling to binding. To be honest, I have no idea how to use most of these features, so it will be an interesting learning curve for me. A real growth opportunity!

Of course, I purchased from a reputable dealer with a series of classes available. This is something I recommend to anyone purchasing any machine.

I was also given limited-time access to a full range of Babylock online classes, including all the instructions for my serger PLUS lots of technique and project classes.

Serger instructions are terrifying. They will frighten you. But you cannot let fear guide you. It’s just a mechanical machine, and it works more mechanically than any sewing machine you have ever used. That’s all. Mechanical machines like things done in a certain order. You can do this. Before I did anything, I watched the online video for the Accolade on Babylock SewEd. I have guide classes set up for next Saturday. But in fairness, I’ve owned a serger and after the video I only glanced at the instructions once.

It’s not as difficult as the instructions make it look. I promise.

I immediately set it up for a 4 thread overlock, my go-to stitch. I wanted to hem my husband’s pants, which were frayed from dragging on the ground. But first, a test stitch.

Ladies and gentlemen. Perfection right out of the box.

And that, my friends, is why I purchased a Babylock serger.

I went ahead and did the finishing stitch on my husband’s pants before I hemmed them on my Bernina. Could I have finished them on the serger with a cover stitch?

I think so, but danged if I know how yet.

Something exciting to learn!

In this time of slow fashion, slow food and environmental awareness, making one’s clothes is coming back around to be a thoughtful move toward sustainable living. I don’t want to throw everything in the garbage any more.

These pants and others now have new life. And I know that doesn’t change the world.

But it’s a step in the right direction.