Hemming woes

Hemming is my absolute least favourite part of sewing clothes. I get the impression that most people don’t mind it too much because they can do something else at the same time, but not me. I have to concentrate carefully on my stitching and even then my hems are never invisible. And that’s not even thinking about the annoying process of pinning them up and trying to get them roughly level.

I’ve tried machine blind hems and they’re great when you have an underlining to hem onto, but I can’t usually get them to vanish when I’m hemming fashion fabric to itself. The machine stitching is even more obvious than my hand sewn hems.

When I was making my Vivienne Westwood skirt knockoff I noticed that the original had the fashion fabric hemmed onto the lining, so that the lining didn’t hang free. I thought this was a great idea – has the same effect as hemming onto underlining and avoids having to hem the lining! It worked pretty well but the lining tends to bag a bit above the fashion fabric on my skirt which is annoying.

I’ve just finished a Burda skirt in red wool (pictures to follow I hope) and as this was lined I had another go at that method of finishing the hem. Here’s the inside. It doesn’t look beautiful but it’s OK. I deliberately sewed through the lining and caught the odd thread from the outer fashion fabric because I want the hem to keep its shape and the wool hides stitches brilliantly.

I sewed the hem with a catch stitch (sorry about the very blurry photo, this was the best one I could get!)

I have wondered if my visible hems are because I pull the stitches too tight, but I left these ones really loose and you can still somehow see the line of the hem on the outside even though the individual stitches don’t show when you look for them.

It’s all a bit of a mystery to me. My sewing books haven’t been much help. I’m just hoping my hems will eventually improve with practice!

Indefensible style

I can’t remember where I came across this quote:

Style can only be created at a risk, it’s a form of courage, it is an exposed and often indefensible position.

I couldn’t find it in my dictionary of quotations, but Google (after a lot of searching) tells me it’s from Edwin Denby, a poet and critic who I hadn’t heard of before. He has another good line:

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.

While I was searching for the original quote I came across this:

Style is the man himself.

which is from Buffon, a French naturalist.

Which is all rather a roundabout way of saying I haven’t had time to do any actual sewing this week, but there has been a good deal of thinking about sewing and style in between the day job and the marking.

I think Denby and Buffon make excellent points. But I’m still not quite brave enough to wear silver lamé to work!

Self sabotage

After my last couple of projects I thought I’d go for something really quick and simple. Ideally a pattern that could be cut and sewn in a weekend. I need some more skirts and I have a yard of red wool left over from my Vogue 8667 dress.

I went though all my Burdas in search of a pattern and found number 124 from February 2010. Perfect: it’s unlined, needs less than a yard of fabric, and is just my style. You have to trace Burda magazine patterns so that adds a bit of time, but not too much. Right?

The first problem was that it’s a petite size and I’m not. But how
hard can it be to add a bit of length to a straight skirt? Burda’s otherwise comprehensive sizing chart doesn’t give skirt length or hip depth numbers, but I measured myself and the pattern and worked something out. That and the tracing took an evening.

Then I realised I’d really have to line the skirt because my wool is itchy. But I don’t have enough lining fabric left over to make the skirt up as-is in lining fabric, so I had to go back to the pattern and turn the insets into darts to make a lining pattern that would fit onto my fabric. That and cutting out took another evening.

Now it’s the weekend but I’m not sewing this weekend because I have other things on. At this rate the simple skirt is probably going to take longer than the rather more involved jumpsuit project, even though the actual sewing part of it will be quick. I hope I’ve not just jinxed that too!

When it’s finished I am going to revisit the jumpsuit, having got some great advice from Inkstain and Elizabeth on how to alter and style it – thanks both!

Attack of the not quite 50 foot woman


Here is my finished 1971 jumpsuit pattern in all its glory, next to the original. It’s Simplicity 9369. Simplicity’s model looks like she’s nine feet tall; just compare her with me (a mere 5 feet ten inches). The fact that the picture on the envelope photo seems to have been taken from knee height is probably helping her a bit. That’s my excuse anyway.

And here is the back view:


I’m glad I made this because it was fun, and I’m very pleased I managed to finish it despite the fitting problems, but it hasn’t turned out as glamorous as I’d hoped. I think I’ll keep it for lounging around the house on very lazy weekends!

Full throttle

I have finally finished the Simplicity 9369 jumpsuit. Unfortunately there are no pictures yet because it’s too dark. Hopefully I’ll have some for next time, if hopefully is the right word to use about images of me completely failing to look like a Charlie’s Angel.

I was really surprised to get it finished this weekend. Sometimes a project seem to drag on forever (hello, Vogue 8667) and others just fly by. I think the fact that this one was clearly never going to be perfect caused me to throw caution to the winds and jam the sewing machine pedal firmly to the floor. Normally when I do this disaster strikes, but apart from sewing the centre back to the zip at one point I got away with it. This started me thinking about ways to go even faster.

My machine is no slouch but I am starting to wonder if the time has come to buy an overlocker (serger for non-Brits) for knits. The jumpsuit fabric is a fairly heavy cotton jersey. My machine has got a ‘super-stretch’ stitch which gives a sort of overlocked finish. It is great for knits, but you have to go round afterwards with scissors and trim the seam allowances up to the outside of the stitch. That’s slow and often leads to accidentally cutting things I don’t mean to. But then I’d have to thread the overlocker and find somewhere to keep it so it would have to be a big improvement to be worth it.

I often sew things slightly out of order, or don’t press every seam immediately after I sew it, in order to reduce trips to the ironing board. I figure that as long as I can reach the seam when I do press it, and I haven’t crossed it with another seam in the meantime, it doesn’t matter how soon I press it.

I also often don’t finish seam allowances on lined garments. If they’re going to be enclosed why bother? It does depend on the fabric. If it looks like it’s going to fray I will at least pink it.

I read somewhere (probably Kathleen Fasanella’s blog) that in industry they don’t sew facings or linings on with a 1.5cm seam allowance and then trim, they just cut the pieces with a smaller seam allowance in the first place so no trimming is required. That sounds like a great optimisation to me, but I suspect I’d forget I’d changed the seam allowance when I actually came to sew the seam.

Finally I suppose the key is to practice. I’ve certainly got a lot faster since I started sewing.

Anyone got any other ideas for speeding things up?

Hack and slash

At the weekend I was wondering what to do about my jumpsuit that had come out hugely too long in the torso. After sleeping on it I decided to go with cutting it in half at the waist and lifting up the bottom half. It’s not brilliant but it seems to have worked well enough that the results will be wearable. Here it is before the adjustments:

And here it is after. Chopping the whole thing in half was quite fun once I’d convinced myself it was the only possible fix.

Sorry about the photo by the way. We tried and tried but they all came out pretty badly. This one had to be lightened a huge amount to show the detail which I think is why the colour is off.

It still needs to come in a bit at the side seams. You can see there are some gathers under the sash at the waist. I’ve already taken about two inches out from the centre back seam at the waist and pulled the front up nearly three inches! Thank goodness it’s black fabric so the strange distortions of the grain aren’t too obvious.

It’s all just basted together at the moment, and you can probably see the pins holding the end of the zip if you look hard in the photo. I need to take it apart and sew things like the darts and zip in properly now, then do another fitting. However I’ve tried it on about ten times tonight already so I’m stopping for the moment. I’ll have another go at it in a few days.

Fitting puzzle

On Saturday I basted together the pieces for my jumpsuit project to check the fit (with the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack playing for extra inspiration!) This is my first attempt at trousers. However I’d measured and adjusted the pattern really carefully, and I don’t think I have any huge fitting issues with RTW trousers other than length – at least I can usually find jeans that fit me. So I figured it would probably work OK and so didn’t take extra large seam allowances. You can guess what’s coming. Here’s what it’s meant to look like:

Imagine my complete amazement when the crotch curve of the jumpsuit turned out to be about four inches too low – but only at the front! The back was a little low but nothing compared to the front. I should not only not have lengthened the front pattern pieces, I probably should have shortened them a bit. Here it is on me:

I am really failing to understand how this happened. I don’t have this problem with dresses. I’m sure I’d have noticed my hems being four inches too long in front. The fit on the jumpsuit shoulders seems OK, which was where I was expecting problems. And other than being a bit big on the waist (which I expected) it seems to fit OK elsewhere too.

I think the situation might be savable by cutting the jumpsuit in half and creating a waist seam. Then I can lift the front more than the back. I’m not sure what that’s going to do to the grain, but since I appear to have cut the back slightly off-grain anyway I guess it can’t hurt too much. And if all else fails I can probably make the top half into a wearable tracksuit top.

I’m definitely going to sleep on this before taking the scissors to it though. Maybe I’m missing something here!