Thursday, October 4, 2018

Random Threads # 33: hand sewing, 1 yard wonders, and inside the garment

Time for another Random Threads post where I write about stuff that has made it's way to my notebook page. This week everyone is ready for fall and winter sewing, and exclaiming happily that it's the best time of year. Oh no, I beg to differ - the best sewing time of year for me is springtime when we can push away the layers and get started on fun floral and floaty fabrics, plus shorts and sandals (my preferred daily uniform)  But I will concede that the change of season does mean it's time to sew a jacket or two. What a mass of contradictions I am - when it comes to wardrobe I love to make jackets but only want to wear summer dresses. Oh well....

In retail news - look what I saw on the shelf at Joann's.  They have these magazines which I thought were only available in the UK. At least that's where I've seen various people post about them.


And note the values mentioned in British pounds. I didn't buy either of them and couldn't find what they were being sold for. I'm guessing around $10-12. They both had 2 patterns so if I come across a future issue with patterns inside that I'm interested it perhaps I will buy one just to check it out. Any recommendations on magazine content between the two choices?

I think most everyone listens to podcasts while they sew, at least some of the time. It's like someone invented a perfect medium for those of us who sew. I do watch tv or movies a lot when I sew also, but really it's more like listening than watching, so podcasts are ideal. Plus so many interesting subjects out there. I particularly like history podcasts as well as my bi-monthly dose of How Did This Get Made? where they review bad movies, so funny!
This month one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible, is doing a series on clothing. So far they have discussed kid's clothes, plaid (or tartan) and pockets. Super interesting and I can't wait to hear what the next topic will be. If you like design, inventions, history, or quirky facts then this is the podcast for you. Also it is made in Oakland - #bayarealife and the host's voice is so soothing but not sleepy. I had the habit of listening to a lot of news, politics and current events podcasts but I have to step away from that genre for my sanity!  although still loyal to Pod Save America 😊

A little RTW inspiration.  One of my friends asked me to take up the hem a bit as she is quite short and it was too long for her. Cute, huh?

denim tank dress

I think it's from The Gap? or somewhere similar. So simple, a V-neck chambray dress, with shoulder yokes and a tiny bit of gathering which take the place of a bust dart, and then the low v-neck in the back. Plus the tie element to keep it from falling off your shoulders. I really liked it and took pictures to remember this for next summer. Would work as a top or a dress. Someone remind me when May arrives to do this one!

Which brings me to the next topic, do you have any qualms about copying RTW? or recreating a sewing pattern and making it up on your own? I have no qualms about either, as I think fashion is so repetitive, there are not really any new ideas per se. A garment design or a sewing pattern is a compilation of various elements which all exist already. I can't remember where but I saw a discussion about someone wanting to make their own version of a pattern because the one available was not in the person's size range, and whether that would be problematic. I don't see any problem with that, and I venture to say that with a bit of searching the same pattern could probably be found in any size range. Perhaps an out of print or sort-of vintage. I love the IG @paperbagwaist as she shows how a current style can be found in a pattern. Her tag line is "There's a pattern for that!" and I couldn't agree more. This is where the line drawings are so helpful. It also makes me smile to see how many of the current garments she pairs with '70's and 80's patterns. I need to rummage through that box of old patterns in my spare bedroom to see what gems might be hidden in there!

Speaking of patterns - why are there so many sweatshirt patterns? File that under things I don't get. If I'm going to sew something it's not going to be a sweatshirt. I can see doing it for variety and utility but there are so many patterns for the same thing.  I suppose it's like t-shirts, a lot of patterns and you can choose the pattern company that suits you best.

1 Yard wonders: a silly but catchy description of these dresses. For the last few dresses that I made this summer I happened to mention that I made them from 1 yard of fabric and got a few comments that people were surprised at this.

1 yard dresses

I think all these dresses were sewn with 1 yard of fabric. Note that this is for 60" wide fabric. And these are all sleeveless dresses. Sometimes maybe 1 yard plus whatever extra gets thrown in with the cutting out at generous places. For me a relatively straight skirted dress is a length of about 35" from neck to hemline but most dresses aren't continuous pieces in that length. My hip measure is 42" so that means each front and back skirt piece is approximately 22" wide. You can see that if you fold the fabric with selvedges towards the center you can get the skirt pieces cut out with plenty of fabric remaining to cut out the bodice pieces.  The dress in the 2nd and 5th photo are my beloved Butterick 5455. The first dress is a recent Burda magazine pattern, the middle one is a older Burda magazine pattern which I just made last month, and the 4th one is a Marfy pattern.  I really enjoy the pattern puzzle of squeezing a pattern onto a small piece of fabric, although 1 yard is not small for me (note I'm relatively short and the fabric is 60" wide).

Someone else asked "why shoulder princess seams" on a recent project which was a dress which I made for my muse, Heather. I have started calling her my muse as I think more lately about what I can make for her - always on the lookout for a pattern that suits her shape and her lifestyle. We have a great symbiotic relationship - I like making more formal and business-y clothes and she needs them for her job and her life. I certainly don't need any more things like that in my wardrobe so it's fun to do them for her. Anyway - back to shoulder princess seams. If you look at that post linked here you will see that I used a basic Simplicity armhole princess seam pattern but changed it to shoulder princess seams. I find they offer more adjustability over the bust, as well as being able to narrow the shoulders. Rather like this example.

shoulder seam change

I find that women who are full busted and need more room in the chest don't necessarily also have width in the upper chest. In fact often to fit the bust then the neck and shoulders are swimming on them. So a shoulder princess seam gives you the opportunity to narrow that area and have a nicer and more comfortable fit. Of course you need to start with the right size (use high bust measure) and also add a bit on the shoulder seam. Because when you narrow the princess seam you will probably need a bit of extra seam allowance on the shoulder seam to get everything smooth.

Inside the garment - do you care how it looks? I am constantly amazed at how much people stress over how the inside of the garment looks. Also a lot of people seem to get a great deal of pleasure over the inside, be it a cute fabric used for the lining or facings, or contrast seam binding covering every seam. While I want my garments to wear and wash well, the more important feature to me and the reason for every sewing technique I use is that they look perfect (or as near as I can get) from the outside!!! Now that I've been teaching a lot of classes I think that the slight fixation on how the inside looks could be due to the fact that when you are making a garment you are looking at the inside, and that's the focus of your attention. So a relatively new sewer sees the seam allowances and compares to their store bought clothes and wants them to be similar. But accurate sewing and good pressing at every step will do far more for the final result than worrying about the seam finishes. Admittedly it is fun to do a lovely french seam and a nice tidy row of serger stitches looks good and wears well but suggest thinking about the outside more than the inside.

Hand sewing - love it or hate it? I guess this goes along with feelings about the inside of the garment. I happen to like hand sewing and don't have any issue with visible hand sewing on the inside. In fact I kind of like seeing it.

saler sewing in lining closeup

Her I sewed the lining into the jacket by hand.  This fabric hides a lot which in a solid color would probably show more. The thing about hand sewing is like anything else, it takes practice to get it just right. It gives you a different type of control than when you sew by machine so I think that's why I like to use it, for hems, putting in linings. etc. Anyway, give some hand sewing a try and you might really enjoy the feeling of needle and thread in your hand.

That's all of my topics today, I didn't even mention the new fall patterns, because I haven't seen anything that really jumped out at me at first look. Which if history is any guide in about a month I will have a couple of things I absolutely must make!

Up next, I just finished a blouse in Liberty cotton/silk lawn, it's quite nice but I don't get the fuss about Liberty. More in that upcoming post. And then onwards to jacket and coat making. A new wool jacket for me (OK I did see a pattern in my Oct. Burda I must sew) and a blazer jacket for Heather.
My weekend coat/jacket making class at Hello Stitch on Nov 3-4 is filling up,  here's the link. We have the last Pattern Fitting class for 2018 coming up on Oct. 14, with a few spots still open. In December we added another Lander Pants class as well as a Kimono jacket - here's the page for all the classes at Hello Stitch Studio.  

Happy October Sewing,  Beth

Today's garden photo, another dahlia before the summer weather ends.



  1. RE: Sewing with podcasts (or the radio/TV) - I'm so envious. The only time I can do that is with something relatively mindless like sewing on buttons or ripping out or handsewing something simple. The ole (literally "old"!) brain cells just can't listen to rich content and stay focused on task. Sigh.

    RE: shoulder princess - Heather and I are both deeper than we are wide, and I think that is a key factor in shoulder princess being a better design line for us and our sisters. I just finished a Tilton armhole princess hoodie and though cute, it is going into the donate box. The sideways swoop of the armhole princess line, together with the necessary depth of the side panel, just makes me look disproportinate, especially 3/4 view. (Body-positivity note here - I'm fine with how I look...I just prefer proportionality.)

    I'm also narrow in the upper chest and shoulders, and I agree...shoulder princess offers much more adjustability.

    Can't wait to see your winter-time makes!

  2. Hi Beth! Your comment about the inside of garments being perfect reminded me of a Dior dress that I saw at a museum once. The curators had left the zipper open so if you could peek inside. The inside looked relatively “messy”. The fabric edges were clipped in lots of places to allow the seams to curve nicely, and they were left raw except on the long straight stretches towards the bottom of the skirt. Clearly Dior agreed with you! Whatever he did on the inside was to make the outside look as perfect as possible.

  3. So much about this post made me nod my head in agreement. As a plus size woman with a nice size bust I prefer shoulder princess seams exactly for the reason you mentioned. Fitting Opportunities that give me the ability to get a closer fit in the upper chest and bustline area yet have enough ease for my expanding abdomen.

    I understand wanting to have clean insides on a garment but it’s not necessary to French seam every seam, or serge off all the seam allowances. You’ve gotten rid of any space for future opportunities to refit a garment. Doesn’t seem to go with the slow and sustainable sewing that’s being touted now to me.

    Finally, I’ve come to enjoy hand sewing and the control it provides. Thanks for another very interesting post!

  4. I love hand sewing, I've always sewn my linings by hand but after reading one of your articles I also started catchstiching the facings to the outside before adding the lining.

    Re insides - someone recently told me they can't bear using a different/contrasting thread in the serger. I rarely change the thread unless it would be visible and unpleasant, like dark thread shwoing through a light coloured blouse.

    I like it quite when sewing, I can't focus on anything else.

    I started following @paperbagwaist and will listen to 99% invisible on my way back from work. I plan to trace a coat from the october issue of Burda tonight, the 107. I really like the hooded jacket too, I might make it before spring. Which one are you making? There are so many nice patterns in this isssue, I'm currently working on a blouse version of the dress with the billowy sleeves and there are quite a few more I'd like to make.


    1. Forgot to say - I thought you were in the UK when I saw the picture of the magazines :)

    2. Hi Geo, I'm planning to make the jacket 108 from the October Burda, which is the same? as the coat 107, just the shorter version. I might even make it red just like the photo. What I'm liking about the Burda patterns is that they come up with unique details on a lot of their items, like darts or interesting collars.

  5. I tend to listen to music while I sew. I am a bonafide rap/hip-hop head and the tempo and bass keeps me going.

    I listened to my first podcast, ever, a few weeks ago! Just not something I ever got into!! Unfortunately(?) it was Dr. Death. And that just made me sad and ragey. Then I listened to Dirty John and got sadder and ragier! LOL!!!! I'll take a listen to the couple mentioned here.

    Hand sewing is definitely important to learn and has it's place. I don't mind it now. WHen I first started sewing, hated it. Then I came around...then I broke my hand. So I've been using the machine for most everything for the past 15 months and doing less hand sewing.

    I love fun fabrics for pockets and sometimes using a contrasting facing. I serge the vast majority of my seams and will only do french seams if the fabric+pattern combo really calls for it. I used flat-felled seams on a shirt once and vowed NEVER AGAIN! I would consider it if I were sewing a shirt for my husband or son but...pfft. So much work and the payoff isn't great enough for me.

    I've made unlined jackets and bound the CB seam but when I see interiors where every.single.seam is bias or HongKong bound, I just shrug and say...well...I guess. Serged seams are nice enough for me!

  6. I’m in the uk and I had Sew for years, personally I prefer Simply Sewing magazine but it is dependent on what patterns are being given away 😊 I will say the English magazines are very different to the American ones I’ve seen. Hop this helps x

  7. Beth, I have purchased those magazines at Barnes and Noble for the past year. Sometimes I got patterns from the Big 4 and sometimes for Indie pattern company. Many of the articles give one ideas about using certain fabrics to make the patterns included and sometimes it discusses making other garments. I have to admit that many times I purchased the magazine because of the patterns. How they can afford to include 2 or 3 patterns plus magazine at a fairly decent price is surprising to me. As to listening to podcasts, I can not seem to focus on what they are saying. I listen for a little bit but then mind wonders and have to go back to some point in the podcast to see what I missed. That is the reason I don't do audible books either, if the voice is unappealing to me, my mind wanders and truly even if voice is appealing I just can't stay focused. I prefer to read. I do love to listen to music while I am sewing and I have such an eclectic taste in music that I never get bored when listening to music, it energizes me while sewing.

  8. I am based in the UK and I have bought some of those magazines that have taken my fancy and have made a couple of items from the indie patterns. With regards to the presentation of the inside of a handmade garment, I am inclined to think it depends on the item that is being made. If it is a pair of pyjamas, sundress, etc., then overlocked/serged seams will suffice. However if it is a jacket, coat, evening gown, then I believe that the extra effort into making the inside look good is warranted. I suppose at the end of the day the person who is making (and wearing) the outfit, has to a)be comfortable with how it looks on the inside, b) can they live with it and c)feel they will wear the garment repeatedly or leave it on an unused pile.


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