Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tutorial: Attaching binding to a knit cami

Binding pattern instructions

Pattern instructions from McCalls 6225 childrens sleepwear pattern

I hope you can read these %$*#) worthless pattern instructions. Worse than worthless. And that kind of nonsense from the McCalls pattern company makes me hopping mad. Pure, unadulterated laziness.

“Turn right side out.” Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I am hardly new to working with knits, and thirty minutes later all I had was a hole in the middle of the binding strap that was stuck part way thru the “turn right side out” step. Lots of bad words spewed cuz I was in a hurry, as usual, trying to get samples made up for a camp fair I am exhibiting in on Saturday. OK, throw these %$*#) worthless pattern instructions away and see what I did instead.

Cut binding strips

1. Cut out your binding strips using the pattern piece. That much is OK.

2. Stitch short ends together using seam allowance on your pattern (mine was 3/8″).

Binding pinned to cami armhole

3. Pin the binding to the armhole of your cami, matching the binding seam to the armhole seam and the binding notches to the armhole notches. I notched the binding where it was supposed to meet the hem edge of the cami front and back. Instead of drawing a stupid little dot on the fabric I snipped. Faster and easier!

Binding stitched to cami

4. Stitch the binding to the armhole only, backstitching at both ends. Use the seam allowance indicated (again, 3/8″ on my pattern). Good Lord, I could use a manicure!

Pressed binding

5. Press the seam allowance around the armhole toward the binding and press both edges of the shoulder strap area toward the center.

Pinned binding

6.Fold and pin the unstitched edge of the binding to meet the stitching line on the underarm area, and on the shoulder strap make the 2 pressed folds meet.

Binding stitched around armhole

7. Starting at the underarm area, using a zig-zag stitch, stitch around the entire binding.

Stretched binding compared to unsewn binding

Holy crap. Look how much the stitched binding stretched out compared to the original binding. On the second strap I tried technique # 2. Follow steps 1-3 as above, but then:

Clear elastic application to a cami binding

4 revised. Starting at the underarm, apply 1/4″ clear elastic with a zig-zag stitch around the ENTIRE binding. Yes, even around the shoulder strap section that you did NOT stitch on above.

Then follow steps 5-7 as before, pressing and stitching down.

Comparing elastic binding to non-elastic binding

Elastic in the binding version #2 is on the left, and the no-elastic first attempt is on the right. Big difference, huh?

Measuring completed binding with elastic

The elastic version measures almost 8 1/2 inches folded.

easuring a completed cami strap

The no-elastic version measures pretty close to 10 inches – if you add a little for the wavy wonky way it is on laid the mat.

Before you all start adding a bunch of comments about why didn’t I use the coverstitch on my serger, I was trying this for a Kids Sew Camp project. None of the kids I sew with own sergers, so I need techniques that work on regular sewing machines, and in some cases, pretty crappy machines. I might need to start/help them with the elastic step, but I think the outcome will be decent if we use these steps instead.

How about you? Do you have any other tips that might help in applying binding to a knit cami on a sewing machine? Shout ’em out!

Happy sewing!






Quick Tip Tuesday: Dust + Oil

Bernina 1260

One simple way to help prolong the life of your sewing machine is to dust your machine out after every project. Dust is really the enemy of sewing machines, and a good brushing under the stitch plate and behind the bobbin case will get those pesky dustballs out before they become a problem. And if you have a rotary bobbin case, you should also add a teensy drop of oil every few hours of sewing.

Tell the truth now – how often do you clean out your sewing machine?

Happy sewing!


Ready for a Ziggi sew-along?

You might know that I am currently slightly totally-over-the-top obsessed with Style Arc patterns. Can’t get enough of their great design details as well as awesome fit. My first venture into their patterns was the Claudia Stretch Woven Pant, and second was the Lorie Jacket (not yet finished because of zipper indecision).

Fabulous fully lined biker jacket with zip features

It’s time for the big leagues, sisters. That’s right, the Ziggi jacket! Lots of zippers, lots of details, lots of fun. So to help spread more Ziggi-ness around the universe, the super-awesome Stacy Sews and I are planning a Ziggi sew-along for you! If you have been toying with the idea of trying a Style Arc pattern, this would be a great time to jump in. We promise to give you loads of help along the way, so no more excuses. Just.Do.It.

Here’s the down-lo on our sew-along plan:

  • Currently scheduled to start in late February, which gives you a month to order your pattern and collect supplies.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to order your pattern. Shipping from Australia is snail-slow. Today is a good day to order.
  • Take your body measurements carefully before ordering; Style Arc does not provide multi-sizes. My experience is they run very true to measurements, but be sure to contact them if you have questions or concerns.
  • Thinking about purchasing or ordering your supplies early, too. To get the moto look, you will want to use all metal zips, specifically:
  •     1 x 20″ separating metal front zip
  •     2 x 6” metal zips for the sleeves
  •     2 x 6” metal zips for the pockets
  •     2 x 1/2″ studs for the lapels
  • If you have never sewn on leather or pleather, this may not be the best time to experiment. Pick wool, denim, linen, or some other firmly woven fabric.
  • Style Arc’s free January pattern is the Rosie top. Don’t forget to ask for it like I did when I originally placed my order, cuz then you will have to email them and look like a loser.

I am not gonna lie. This pattern is probably not best for  absolute beginners. With all the topstitching and zipper insertions it is definitely going to take some attention to detail and precision. BUT. Don’t be a chicken. You can do more than you think you can. And so what if it doesn’t turn out perfect? You are going to have fun in the sew-along anyway and push yourself to learn some new techniques. Time for the big leagues, right?

Happy sewing!


What is the right sewing machine for you?

The short answer: the best one you can afford to buy. Good engineering costs money, plain and simple. If you really want to learn how to sew, you are going to need to invest in a piece of equipment that will make your new hobby enjoyable rather than an exercise in frustration. If you buy a machine for less than $100 don’t complain about it to me. I warned you. Also, buying a sewing machine is like buying a car – it’s personal. I like touch screens and push buttons and hate rollerballs and dial-a-stitch controls, while you might prefer them.

First, let’s talk about some things that make my top 10 7 essential features list for a sewing machine:

  1. Needle up/down control. This is a button that causes your needle to always stop in the “up” or “down” position when you stop pressing on the foot pedal.
  2. Needle position control. If there is one thing I really despise in a sewing machine, it is a couple of stitch selections with preset needle positions (left, center, or right) rather than the ability to move the needle to 5, 7 or 9 different needle positions during sewing.
  3. Automatic buttonhole. One that looks decent, please.
  4. Stitch length adjustment. Another “feature” that makes me scream is a bunch of pre-set stitch lengths. Let me control my own stitch length, puh-leeze.
  5. Stitch width adjustment. Read #4. Ditto.
  6. A motor that is strong enough to stitch through at least 4 layers of heavy denim. I like to make jeans, after all.
  7. Loads of accessory presser feet.

OK, now we can talk about sewing machine manufacturers. Bernina. I like Berninas. I think Berninas are best. I have owned Berninas for almost 40 years. Couldn’t be happier. So that’s my BEST advice. But if you don’t want to spend upwards of $1000 for a sewing machine, here are a couple of other options that might take you a long ways on your sewing journey.

  1. Pfaff and Viking are also premium brands, and there are loads if my friends in ASG who happily own these machines.
  2. Brother is the brand I most often see kids bring into my sewing studio. I am not in love with Brother machines. At all. They are not nearly heavy-duty enough for my needs, BUT if you are willing to spend at least a few hundred bucks, and preferably $300-$400, you can get something serviceable. ***UPDATE 1/21*** One of my most awesome sewing-student-moms informed me that you MUST ask your Brother dealer whether the model you are looking at has internal METAL moving parts. Thank you, HeathC. 😉 Metal moving parts = better engineering = less likely to fail/cause stitch problems = happier sewing student = happier sewing instructor. One quick test for metal – pick up the machine. Metal machines are heavier. Duh.
  3. Janome and Babylock are similar to Brother, but I have way less experience with them.
  4. Singer. Generally I don’t allow Singers to fraternize with my Berninas.
  5. Toy machines for kids. My comment on those machines cannot be published.

Where should you purchase a sewing machine?

  1. For gawd’s sake do not order a machine on the inter-net. Would you order a car you had never driven from an online source?
  2. Find a great dealer and test drive LOTS of different models. And manufacturers.
  3. Be sure to also test used machines. People trade up for new features, so it is easy to find good quality, used machines from reputable dealers that have been completely serviced.
  4. Craig’s list. NOT! Unless you are really familiar with sewing machine functionality (which you aren’t because you are reading this), you don’t know enough to buy a used machine from someone on Craig’s list.

Oh wait. You want to know SPECIFICALLY what machine to buy? And where?

  1. Pick something in the 3xx series or higher from Sewing Machine Service, also known as Bernina of Renton. Notice in the lower right corner they were just awarded Dealer of the Year for the western district. Those are MY guys.
  2. I have heard mixed results about Quality Sew and Vac dealers, but I think they might be the only option in our area for Brother. Go in and try out a few different models, and definitely have them sew through 4 layers of heavy denim. Pretty much any motor can sew through quilting cotton. Try to avoid the Project Runway/Hello Kitty/ or any other co-branded machines. You are paying something for that licensing, and it is not reflected in better engineering.
  3. There is a Viking dealership in Renton, so you could check out Viking and Janome there. No inside info on their customer service tho, sorry.

Good luck, and happy sewing!


An actual Oona sighting!

DGD wearing her new leggings

Looks to me like some little mischievous imp is ready to cause trouble at daycare, but at least she is wearing her new leggings Nana made for her. I think the bows on the back (the ones that aren’t visible!) are adding that special feminine touch to her ensemble today. Don’t you agree?

Still. Cutest. Best. 2-year-old. Ever.

Love you, goofball!

Happy sewing, and have a great weekend!



Toddler leggings are fast and easy

Blue and black leggings for a toddler

It seems my darling granddaughter is low on leggings that fit, so you can bet I jumped on that task immediately! Thank you, Oliver and S for the cute Playtime Tunic & Leggings pattern.

The best part about leggings for little ones is you can make them out of remnants from other garments. Yep, that’s exactly what these leggings are made from – remnants. I am pretty sure that qualifies as stash-busting, right?

One pair of very plain, and very versatile, black leggings. One pair of hootchy, black lace leggings. NOT! Think of them as tights to be worn under dresses. Oh, wait. Oona isn’t wearing dresses these days. Well, maybe these tights will spur her to don a dress. Or not. And finally a pair of blue leggings with striped blue bows on the back. Someday there will be a Oliver & S Playtime tunic made out of the same blue striped fabric that can be worn with these leggings. Hopefully this tunic will magically appear before DGD falls down and rips a big hole in the knee of said leggings.

serger elastic casing

I didn’t pay any attention to the instructions. These are leggings for gawd’s sake – one pattern piece. Serge the inside leg seams, the crotch seam, apply elastic with the serger using the 3-thread overlock stitch, and finally coverstitch the elastic waist and those teeny little leg openings. DONE! People who think sergers are optional really must be living on another planet, IMHO. Could.Not.Sew.Without.A.Serger.

I know, I know. You want to see a picture of DGD in these leggings. Have you ever tried to take a picture of a 2 year-old whose favorite word is “NO!”? Wish me luck, but don’t hold your breath.

Happy sewing!



McCalls 5974: First dress of 2014


Yep, I finished my first dress for 2014! I fell in love with this black, grey and white knit fabric on a recent shopping trip to District Fabrics, and it seemed just perfect for McCall’s 5974. I have had this pattern in my stash for a while, and thought it had some cute design lines that were a little different than my TNT knit dress, Simplicity 3775 (OOP).

Well, I think the fabric saves the dress. I like it, but I don’t LOVE it. It is comfy to wear, and of course, is in my most-often-worn color palette, so I know it will come up in the rotation frequently.


The problem is that it has that slight maternity-dress vibe. It is less noticeable with the wrap ties, for sure, but there is still of whiff of impending birth about it.


Or maybe it is the ties in the back that make it seem a little more juvenile than I want. I’m not sure. Like I said, I do LIKE it, but I haven’t totally warmed up to it yet. Maybe after a few more wearings…

And the construction directions. Can you say STOO-pid? I paid no attention to them, and used knit construction techniques that made sense for the fabric and design. Specifically:

  1. eliminated the back zipper
  2. set the sleeves in flat before stitching up the side seams
  3. lined the entire dress, but that was due to my slightly sheer fabric
  4. serged the entire dress
  5. sandwiched the front bodice between the midriff layers
  6. eliminated the midriff interfacing
  7. applied 1/4″ clear elastic around the entire neckline to help hold the neckline against the body more securely

Toby and Black Dot Knit Dress

The dress does go with Toby’s attire, although he doesn’t seem that enthusiastic about the dress either. The best part is I finished a dress in the first week of January!

Happy sewing!


Throw down the resolution gauntlet for 2014

Do you make sewing resolutions? It seems like just one more thing to keep track of, and in my case, feel bad about because I can never even find my list live up to them. And right now I am particularly not in the mood for a bunch of lofty goals.


But one thing that has really intrigued me this year is the crazy sewing bloggers who have photographic evidence of their sewn creations from 2013. Really! How in the Sam hell do people keep track of every flippin’ item they sew for an entire friggin’ year?!?!? I bet you guys are making half of it up. I can barely remember what I sewed yesterday, never mind a year ago. I don’t blog about everything I make, so my posts are not a complete record. If you have ever seen my sewing desk you know any project list started in January would be long-buried by March. Seriously, how do YOU do it? Spreadsheet? Journal? Sticky notes? Inquiring minds want to know!

Happy sewing in 2014!