Monthly Archives: January 2011

Lapped zipper tutorial, part 1

Thank you, Louise Cutting. She wrote a great article for Threads on inserting a lapped zipper into a garment with a facing for Threads magazine (issue 145). If you have the Threads Archive DVD you can easily find it…but if not….here is my slightly altered version of her process. For this process I am using my faced skirt as an example, but you could apply the same technique to a garment with a neckline facing.

Best practices:

  1. Cut the seam allowances where the zipper will be inserted at least 3/4 of an inch –  and 1 inch is better.
  2. Interface the underlap seam allowance with a strip of interfacing 1/4 inch wider than the seam allowance you have allowed (for a 3/4 inch seam allowance cut a 1 inch strip of interfacing).
  3. If you are going to handpick the overlap side of the zipper, interface the overlap seam allowance with a strip of interfacing equal to the seam allowance cut. (So a 3/4 inch seam allowance would have a 3/4 inch strip of interfacing applied.)
  4. If you are going to machine stitch the overlap side of the zipper, interface the overlap seam allowance with a strip of interfacing equal to the seam allowance cut plus 1/2 inch. (So a 3/4 inch seam allowance would have a 1 1/4 inch strip of interfacing applied.)
  5. Use 1/4 inch Steam-a-seam (or similar product) to “glue” the zipper into place prior to stitching.

OK, let’s do it. Start by sewing the seam allowance up to the point where the bottom of the zipper will be placed. Press open. Apply your interfacing strips following “best practices” above. So far so good! Now press the underlap side of the zipper so seam allowance is 1/8 of an inch smaller than the seam allowance you cut, and press the overlap seam allowance equal to the cut seam allowance. For example, if you allowed a 3/4 inch seam allowances, press back the underlap seam allowance 5/8 of an inch and the overlap seam allowance 3/4 of an inch.  The white pin head in the photo below shows where the bottom of the zipper will be placed on my skirt, and how the underlap will be 1/8 of an inch under the overlap. The whole point is to make the zipper teeth fit completely under the overlap , and by pressing the underlap seam allowance a bit narrower than the overlap side, it guarantees complete zipper coverage. Sweet!


Now stitch your facing pieces together. Turn the underlap side of the facing to the inside 5/8 of an inch and press. Turn the overlap side of the facing to the inside 1 inch and press. (This 1 inch turnback is brilliant, as you will see later!!) 


Pin or baste your facing to your garment, turning the garment seam allowances over the turned back facing allowances (1 inch for overlap side and 5/8 for your underlap side) and stitch. It is a little hard to see in the photo below because my black skirt is underlined with black silk organza, but the little green strip of paper shows you the “gap” where the overlap facing that was turned back 1 inch does not butt up against the turned back skirt seam allowance – there is a gap that is about 3/8 of an inch or a bit less. 


Stitch the facing to the garment. Trim the seam allowances, press them open, and then press the facing to the inside of the garment. Understitching is always good. 🙂  In my next post I will cover the actual zipper insertion, now that all the prep work has been done.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

SALE alert!

JoAnn’s sale flyer came today, and if you are in the market for sewing supplies there are some good deals to be had, especially over the “Super Weekend” February 4- 6. Full disclosure: Joann’s is my least favorite fabric store, but I do like their sale on tools and notions.

Some of my favorite deals for the Super Weekend are:

  1. Butterick patterns $1.99 each. Limit 10. (I need mroe patterns like another hole in my head…but $1.99!!!)
  2. Vogue patterns $3.99 each. Limit 10. (Repeat above; insert $3.99!!!!!!)
  3. Ott lights 50% off.
  4. Olfa rotary cutting supplies 50% off
  5. Gutermann thread 50% off

Other items on sale January 30 – February 12 you might be interested in:

  1. Lotsa different fabrics from 30% off or more. 
  2. Gingher scissors 30% off.
  3. Warm and Natural cotton quilt batting

Of course I am going to need a pattern or two! And probably a little fabric, which is VERY hard to believe if you could see my complete fabric stash.  At any rate, there are plenty more items available than those I listed, so happy shopping and as always, happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Stitch magazine commentary

Have you taken a look at Stitch, a fairly new (Nov 2008) magazine published by Interweave? I can say it is fairly new since it is only published twice a year, so their spring 2011 issue is their sixth publication.  They are switching to a quarterly publication schedule tho – which is a win for us readers IMHO!

I seriously heart this magazine. There is a LOT of eye candy project inspiration for designer types, and I was able to get a mini-sewing fix reading this magazine when I was too tired to actually sew.  I think my favorite project was the Chipmunk Hot Pad designed by Ayumi Takahashi – too much cuteness! I also loved the recycled asymmetrical sweater by Kirsten Coplans – very simple and achievable – but also nicely designed.

The project article format is nice – usually a single page with a short description of the item and the name of the designer. Great photography, and I like the way the designers are always highlighted. There is a good variety of projects – from home dec to sewn jewelry to inspired clothing. Most projects are quite appealing, and I could either envision making it for myself or using the technique in another application. I really like seeing what other designers are doing with fabric and thread – some serious fun going on here! 

The technique articles are a little ho-hum if you are a Threads reader and a more advanced sewist, but I think for a beginning sewist they may be just right.  Overall, this magazine is definitely worth the money in my book. Check it out, and tell me what you think!

Happy sewing,

Maris Olsen

Sewing marathon report

Well, predictably I did not get 5 garments completed in one weekend, but I am still pretty happy about how much I got done. Here’s the final report!

Pajama pants: DONE. I even managed to remember to interface the buttonhole area and clip the side seam about an inch or so below the waistband so I could fold back the waistband seam allowance nicely. Yay for me! I love it when I remember those little details. Shows not all my brain cells have died, eh? 😉 These are all ready to pop in the mail to my favorite SIL. Merry Christmas Mat!

        PJ_ties        Serging_side_seam_waistband

Uniform pants for my favorite 9 year-old: DONE. I am super happy with this pair. I used the TNT Sandra Betzina fly front zipper installation process – awesome! Dead simple and foolproof.


The first pair I made for her did not turn out as professional as I wanted, especially the waistband/back elastic. Guess that was because I winged it a little. Maybe a lot! Anyway, pair one is coming back for a little R & R (repair and resuscitation) and pair 2 (completed this weekend) is heading to said 9 year old tomorrow. Hope the waistband fit is perfect on this pair!

Uniform pants

Knit dress pour moi. Nada. Zip. Zero progress. Didn’t even get the instructions out of the envelope. Meh.

Black wool crepe skirt number 1, using Vogue pattern 7937. For this skirt, I am making view A but without any tabs. Not done and wearable, but lotsa progress!!! Really!!

Vogue7937 ViewA

To be fair, all the skirt panels were stitched together sometime last spring when I started on these 2 skirts. This weekend I put in a lapped zipper using a very cool tutorial from Louise Cutting.  The tutorial is on the 10 Years Threads magazine archive, so if you don’t have the DVD, the link I could share won’t help you, but I will add a tutorial on this process later this week. I LOVE learning new techniques, and this one was a real winner.  Next I got all fancy-pants and decided to hand overcast the seam allowances to the silk organza underlining to control raveling and keep everything in place. Very couture! I really enjoy hand sewing, but 6 seams equals 12 seam allowances to overcast. By hand. Did I mention I overcast them ALL BY HAND??

Lapped zipper inside

Black wool crepe skirt number 2, also using Vogue pattern 7937, but this time making view D. Prior to the marathon, the skirt and underlining was only cut out. So I basted the silk organza underlining to each piece, stitched all the panels together, and tried on for fit. Yeah, even tho the other one fit I did double-check the fit of this new view. I also did the hand overcast, only for this version there are 9 x 2 seams because of all the back panels. I watched Radio on Netflix while getting this task done!  I ran out of steam before getting the waistband on the skirt… it is now ready for the facing and zipper installation. I love the straight front and swooshy back on this skirt!! I know the pix is not perfect – but go ahead and use your imagination a little. Someday I might post a pix of me IN the skirt.


I didn’t meet all my weekend goals, but I definitely moved a few projects off the “staging area” in my sewing room. Hope you had a great weekend – I did!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

New Olympic sport

It takes endurance, discipline, and focus, and only the most seasoned have the strength and commitment to participate in what gets my vote for the newest Olympic sport: marathon sewing! My goal for this weekend is to win a gold medal by completing 5 articles of clothing that are in various stages of completion at this very moment.

Item number 1: pajama pants for adorable SIL. The inside leg seam is stitched and the crotch seam is stitched, leaving the outer leg seam, waistband ties, waistband elastic, and hems to be done. Getting them packaged to ship to Brooklyn is not part of this event.


Item number 2: Second pair of uniform pants for my favorite nine year-old. This project is cut out, markings added, and interfacing applied. Waistband facing fabric has not been purchased or discovered in stash. She likes having a contrast fabric here, and I do too! I am going to try to remember to actually time this event.


Item number 3: Knit dress pour moi. I cut this out last spring, but that is as far as I got. I am getting tired of wearing the knit dresses I have and am looking for a new favorite. This could be it! The fabric is a buttery soft rayon lycra knit, and just feels luscious. One of the gals in my local ASG group has made 3 or 4 different versions of this same pattern – all adorable BTW. Hoping mine is equally adorable!


Items number 4 and 5: Black wool crepe skirts. Honestly, I am not sure what state these 2 items are in. They are cut out. I think one has the silk organza underlining basted and is partially completed. The other….hmmmm. I think (hope!) I made 2 different views of this pattern…but I will let you know on Monday. I am not sure if I have lining for these or not….this will be my mystery project for the weekend.


Wish me luck! Monday’s post will provide full disclosure on my progress!

Happy sewing!


Spring Look Book for Vogue


Ooooh, the new spring patterns for Vogue are out, and I think there are some real gems in this collection. I LOVE this fresh, very feminine dress from Tracy Reese.  It incorporates the “bohemian” trend that is so big for spring with the soft, full sleeves, but it also retains a feminine silhouette in the skirt.


I adore shirtdresses, and this one by Pamella Roland is a winner IMHO. I like the princess seaming that gives shaping and controls fullness around the upper body, and the collar and sleeve treatment makes the look a little interesting and different, too. 


This tee-shirt by Katherine Tilton has an interesting side treatment that provide bust fullness and also waist shaping. (I am not a fan of the boxy tee-shirt look…just saying.) It looks very comfortable and easy to wear, and I am definitely going to give it a try for spring.

V8711[1]     V1221[2]   

V1226[3]   V1217[1]  


Here are a few more of my favorites designs from the newest Vogue collection. I am a big Vogue fan. I think they have the best designers, and their pattern collection spans the full range from “very easy” to “advanced” to accomodate all levels of sewists. I am also really pleased to see new names featured in recent years – it gives me hope for new designers trying to make it in the tough world of fashion. Check out the full spring 2011 collection here and tell me what YOU think.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Exercising my left brain


I LOVE pattern-making and adjusting. The left side of my brain gets a real kick out of doing some math once in a while, and the precision appeals to me as well.  I am making some pants for a young friend of mine, and like most of us, she doesn’t fit a pattern straight out of the envelope. So I gathered up my tools: painter’s tape, tracing paper, marking pencils and pens,  curved and straight rulers, tracing wheel, tracing paper, scissors, etc. I needed to shorten the crotch depth, shorten the leg length, and add a bit to the waist. I folded out 3/8″ on the crotch depth line, and 2 inches on the leg length. I also slashed and spread the waist on the front, and decreased the dart width in the back. Of course I used my favorite blue painters tape to hold all my adjustments while I traced off the pattern onto Swedish tracing paper!


I have to say, I am not really a fan of tracing patterns most of the time. I really prefer to just cut out the tissue since I consider my time more valuable than the cost of most patterns, but since I know I will be re-using this same pattern for some years to come, it is worth a few minutes to trace it off (sort of, anyway!). You can see in the pix above that I have a layer of white Swedish tracing paper on the bottom, and then a large sheet of red carbon tracing paper face down on the Swedish paper, and the adjusted pattern on top. 

Below, I used my wheel to trace around the new cutting lines and all pertinent markings. This “layered sandwich” technique is pretty much the fastest way I have found to make a clean, adjusted pattern.


Here is the set of finished pattern pieces – all ready for a new pair of pants for a wonderful young lady. I think she deserves pants that fit correctly too, don’t you?


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

WANTED: sewing fairy

Sometimes I wish I had a sewing fairy. One who would pick up all the threads I drop on the floor. And I wouldn’t mind if she cut out all my patterns and did all the “marking” for me, too. Maybe I could persuade her to put all my tools away after I am finished with them. You know, so I could find them quickly and easily tomorrow. She could do the pressing for me, too. (Notice I say “she”, because I would really prefer a girl sewing fairy. A boy fairy would get all bossy, and I get plenty of that already!)

 I would spend all my time shopping for fabric, designing new garments, and sewing! Actually sitting at my sewing machine, feeling the cloth between my fingers, and watching the garment take shape.

What would your sewing fairy do for you? (And when you find one, please give her my name and number!!)

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Painters tape – a sewing notion?


Sometimes the most unlikely things in your household can become useful sewing notions.  Painters tape, for example! I am constantly stealing rolls from my husband’s stash in the garage to use in my sewing room. Some of the  ways I use it include:

  1. Marking the wrong (or right!) side of your fabric. Either way is fine, as long as you are consistent!
  2. Marking a stitching line on your sewing machine. This is very helpful when are you stitching a non-standard distance (like an inch or two), or you are a new sewist and need a longer line to help keep your stitching straight.
  3. Pattern tissue adjustments. I prefer using painters tape to Scotch tape because it is much easier to re-position. And I hardly ever get it in the correct spot the first time!
  4. “Grabbing” loose threads from unpicked stitches. Depending on the fabric, this doesn’t always work too well, but it is worth a try!

Any other ways that you use this handy “notion”?



Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Tidyness report: week 1


Hmmm, I think this room would probably get a C- on the tidiness grading scale. Books, scissors, and leftover bias tape on the serger sewing table, and partially completed pajama pants and instructions on the sewing machine table. Not to mention the assortment of tools and notions between  the tables. On the plus side, I did manage to get the covers on both machines every day last week! And yes, both of them were off several times for actual sewing work. AND the floor is free of pins, thread and dust.  Not too bad actually, considering I taught for 26 hours this week. I am going for positive self-talk, and am counting this as progress.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, stay dry and warm this weekend, and happy sewing!

Maris Olsen