July 30, 2012

...it's coming!


I feel I must apologize for my infrequent posting but I'm in the middle of what seems too many projects at once.

One of those projects is the Swimsuit sew-along and the other is my new pattern that I hope to release next week.

I'm doing a test printing now. I still have much to tweak but luckily the bulk of the work is done.

The pattern will be a pair of shorts so us in the northern hemisphere have a few months left of summer to wear them and all you Aussies can wear then with tights or wait to whip them up in spring. ;)

This pattern will feature plenty of illustrated instructions and measurements will be listed in both imperial and metric!

In the mean time while you're all waiting patiently I have the sew-along to finish and a few more projects to share. One of which will be the basis for my next pattern after these shorts! The work never ends, does it?

July 29, 2012

DixieDIY's Summer Swimsuit Sew-along Pt 5: Bust and Back

Today we're working on steps 4-7 of the pattern - prepping the bust and back pieces.

For the bust triangles you have to baste the lining together. Since we're adding bust cups (if you're not go ahead and follow the instructions exactly) we won't baste all the way around.

We'll leave the inner edge un-basted from about 4 in from the top and slip in our cups.

If your bust cups are too big you can trim them to size with scissors. I'm leaving the bust gathering portion of this step for after we've encased the cups.

The kind I'm using fit perfectly inside my bust pieces so I don't even have to stitch them down and they stay in place well after we add the neck and arm elastic, and they're very flexible. (That's why I love these cups for this pattern!)

Once you slip those cups in you can baste that edge closed.

If you're not using this pattern and don't have an easy way to encase your cups you can also stitch them to the lining. It's very easy with these cups.

Find the are you want to put your cup and place it face down on your lining and "smush" the cup until it's mostly flat. Pin in a couple places near the edge of the cup.

When you "un-smush" the cup it will bounce back to it's original shape.

Take the cup and lining to the machine and stitch a small zig zag around the entire cup, smushing the cup flat to keep the fabric from wrinkling. Backstitch at the ends.

When you are finished the lining will gently stretch over the curve of the cup.

If your lining makes the cups buckle you can un-pick one side and stitch again. These cups are really forgiving when it comes to repeated seam ripping.

I like this method more than this one by SewStylish which has you cut out a hole for the cups, which sucks because if you mess up you're left with two big holes in your lining!

Next stitch the center back seam closed.

Now we'll stitch our bust pieces to the shoulders.

Oooh, now comes the fun part - adding some elastic to the edges! The pattern tells you what length to cut your swim elastic. Since I lengthened by back pieces by 1/4" above the dip in the back I need to add a total of 1/2" to my elastic.

The instructions tell you to mark the elastic into fourths and mark the neckline to match. These are the only places where I pin. It is easier for me to feed in the elastic by hand rather than pinning.

Here's where that negative ease thing comes in.

Remember how our body has to "fill out" the swimsuit? The curves of our body help to keep the suit in place. Since the swimsuit pieces are already slightly smaller than our body measurements the elastic is cut nearly as long (or slightly smaller) than the length of the openings. That means that you won't be stretching the elastic very much to fit into the openings but there are places you'll want to stretch a little more than others.

Think about the areas on your body that "fill out" space and other places that "dip in." On this back-to-center-chest elastic piece "fill out" places are the tops of your shoulders, upper back and bust mounds. "Dip in" places are the curve at your mid to lower back and your high bust area.

Those "Dip in" places need more stretching to pull the fabric closer to your body. Stretching slightly around the high bust area prevents gaping and stretching around the low back area prevents sagging. For the other places you don't need to stretch the elastic much at all - all that negative ease will stretch to fit you.

Lay the elastic down on the wrong side of the fabric and use a zig zag stitch or a serger to sew right over the elastic and fabric edge, stretching in those "dip in" places.

Once that's done you'll fold the elastic under and stitch over again using a zig zag or a twin needle. My old machine that I'm using while my good one is getting serviced can't even use a twin needle so it's zig zag for me!

When you stitch the folded over elastic try not to stretch the fabric out but at least make sure the fabric is flat and not wrinkled. This is important around the lower back curve. You don't want to accidentally stitch over a big batch of wrinkles.

If your machine has a hard time moving all those layers you can gently pull from behind the needle to help guide it through, you just don't want to over stretch from the front.

I'm going to seam rip out any basting stitches visible from the outside but I think these stitches look pretty good.

Look at you with your new-found swimsuit skillzzzz. ;) Next time we'll stitch the back and bust pieces to our gathered front.

Pt 2: Supplies
Pt 3: Cutting

July 20, 2012

DixieDIY's Summer Swimsuit Sew-along Pt 4: Gathering

This looks like it's going to be a leisurely sew-along. I just got my serger back from being serviced and now my sewing machine is in the shop for the same reason. I couldn't be without both machines at the same time!

For now I've brought out my old blue Kenmore I bought in high school and I'm amazed it still works (mostly...). It's quite an adjustment, though - no thread clipper or drop in bobbin or needle threader on this one, but I can survive. ;)

Today we're working on the front gathers of our swimsuit.

The pattern pieces for the front (Piece #6) have notches toward the bottom for the end of the gathers. I've marked my notches with pins but you could use clips or chalk or whatever you prefer.

This part is pretty simple - stitch two lines of stitches (long stitch length), one along the seam line (3/8") and another within the seam allowance.

Kwik Sew gives a great tip that I'm surprised I never learned before - to keep your gathering stitches in place wrap the the thread tails around pins in a figure 8 pattern


Once you've made all four sections of gathering stitches we'll work on the center gathers. You'll need a ruler to measure from top to the lower notch. Remember how I added 1/2" in length to my pattern pieces? Well, I'll have to factor that into these gathers.


Kwik Sew says my measurement for size S should be 8" so with 1/2" added to that it comes to 8 1/2". (The gathers make the fabric ripple a bit but trust me, laid flat my measurements are correct.)


Next we cut a piece of clear elastic the same length as that previous measurement (which in my case is 8 1/2"). Clear elastic is important because it is less stretchy than regular elastic. This means the gathers will stay in place but stretch just enough to adapt to your body. Places like armholes and legholes deal with a lot more movement so they need stretchier elastic while this center line needs more stability.

Kwik Sew says to stitch these two pieces together and then attach the elastic separately in the next step.

I combined these steps and pinned the two pieces right sides together and serged them. I didn't pin my elastic to the fabric. Instead I just fed it through by hand which worked just fine.

If you think the elastic plus bunches of gathers will be to unruly for your machine go ahead and do the two step system.

Originally I planned on doing this center seam with a zig zag stitch but after a couple tests on my old Kenmore I realized that wasn't going to work. The tension was off and the machine kept skipping stitches (I haven't used this machine in almost 5 years so I can't expect it to work perfectly). So zig zaging was out. Instead I used my serger which works just as well.

Alright, it's starting to resemble a real swimsuit now... sort of.


I'll seam rip out those gathering stitches and we'll be ready to move on to more sewing later. Next post we'll do the bust pieces, stitch up the back and and do neckline elastic!

Pt 2: Supplies

July 17, 2012

Travel Sewing: Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

Something about this last vacation made me interested in sewing useful things for travelling. Maybe it's because I finally got to use my travel pillow I made months ago (and it was amazing! I could actually sleep on a plane! AH-mazing!!).

I've even been making a list of my ultimate travel sewing projects (because why buy luggage when you can make it!). You can read my ever expanding list after the review.

(source: u-handbag)

This bag definitely fills a need both at home and while jet-setting. The Train-Style Vanity Case comes from Lisa Lam's new bag-making book, A Bag for All Reasons, that we used for last month's Bibliostyles meeting.

I don't often make too many bags as they're not as exciting to me as clothes but this book really piqued my interest, mainly because I thought so many designs were clever and useful. There's a tri-fold wallet, a convertible backpack, a snazzy iPad case (if I had an iPad), a compact grocery tote, this stand-up make-up bag and more.

I borrowed the book from Susan so I didn't take many pictures but I did find this website, Cut out and Keep.net, where the publishers posted three projects from the book for free! Pictures and all!

Speaking of my last plane trip, this case would have been perfect on that vacation. Normally I carry a couple smaller make-up bags but I never had anything big enough for all my toiletries - until now!

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Goal: My recent vacay got me all excited about travel sewing (too bad I couldn't have been more interested before I left so I could have used my creations) and I loved how this design stood upright on it's own for easy access to the contents.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All

The Pattern: I felt that the pattern pieces were pretty accurate and I liked Lisa Lam's casual style of teaching. It really felt like I was taking a class with her. In the end I didn't like the look of the raw edges at the inside lid and base. They just looked sloppy with piping covering them. I would have preferred a different construction method to clean that up (even if it was a structural decision to do it that way).

I think the fabric-tie handles are super cute! And I loved the addition of the elastic brush holders in the lid. So useful!

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Fabric: Quilting cotton for the outside and a chambray for the handles lining. I also used pink piping and pink bias tape to cover the raw edges on the inside. I also used a boat load of different interfacings including fusible fleece which makes the sides soft but stable.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Changes: I added 3/4" to the overall height of the bag. It's not that large to begin with but you could easily change the proportions to make it even bigger if you needed.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

I also added a couple beads to the zippers to make zipper pulls. Look, ma! I'm embellishing!

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Conclusion: This is a really practical bag that I'm going to get so much use out of at home and on the road. If I were to ever make it again I might try using dec weight fabric for the outside to make the sides even more stiff. Even though the bag stands up on its own, it is very easily smushed and I find myself poking at the edges to keep it looking straight and tall.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

Ok, I was saying earlier how I'm making a master list of awesome travel sewing projects. The vanity case is obviously on there. Imagine how cute that bag would look on the counter of some five star hotel bathroom (as if I stayed at five star hotels...).

Here are the others on my list:

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

Travel neck pillow from the "Work in comfort" Travel Set from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders (which I've made).

The Bag Tag, Cheery Passport Cover, Travel Tissue Pack and Vacation Valet Travel Tray from the Jet Set from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders.

My friend Susan made most of this set for our first Bibliostyles meeting and I thought the travel tray was such a cute idea! It folds up flat and when you take it out you snap the corners together to make a tray. What a great way to keep keys, cards, tickets, brochures and receipts in one place in your hotel room (rather than have them scattered all over the place).

I definitely need a bag tag because after a couple layovers those paper tags the airlines give you look a little worse for the wear. The passport cover could double as a boarding pass holder and I'd love to figure out a way to make the tissue pack cover work for my make-up remover wipes.

Sunglasses case and phone case/wallet from the Smart Girl's Set from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders (the book is proving to be very useful). I'm always worried about my sunglasses getting scratched out in the open in my purse and the phone case doubles as a wallet for credit cards and ID. When I travel I always try to downside the essentials and I often don't even carry a big wallet so this little pouch is a perfect alternative.

(source: a handmade tale)

Amy Butler's Weekender Travel Bag. I've never been a heavy packer. Often when we travel Justin and I can fit all of our stuff in one carry-on size bag not much bigger than the Weekender Bag.

I'd make a version out of vinyl to make it extra heavy duty (and curse myself as I try to sew through all the layers...) but a fun fabric print might be too irresistible.

***Can you think of any other patterns I should add to my travel sewing list?

July 14, 2012

DixieDIY's Summer Swimsuit Sew-along Pt 3: Cutting

Wow guys, my bad. I realize it's Saturday and not Friday so I'm a day late on the next sew-along post. Oh, well, I just gave you an extra day in case you were waiting for fabric in the mail or something like that...

Anyway - onward!

(If you're just joining us be sure to read Pt 1: Supplies)

Picking a Size

Swimwear and activewear patterns have this strange phenomenon called "negative ease" which is a fancy way of saying your body has to fill out the garment rather than hanging loosely on your body like, say, a t-shirt. So the final measurements of the swimsuit will be slightly smaller than your body measurements.

The pattern comes in five sizes, XS-XL and in my experience Kwik Sew sizing is pretty accurate. I'd say pick the size closest to your measurements. If you are smack dab right in the middle of two sizes you can cut in between those sizes on the pattern pieces. That might be easier to deal with than having a slightly too big or two small suit later if you go up or down a size.

One change I'll make this time -  I'll need to lengthen the body of the suit by about 1/2". The pattern gives you lengthen and shorten lines on almost all the pieces. Compare your shoulder to waist measurement to what's listed on the envelope if you think you might need to do this adjustment. I'm adding 1/4" to both the higher line and lower line.

If you need to do an FBA, you can! Snug Bug's tutorial is great because the bust piece is a similar design to the front bodice piece in our swimsuit. Just bear in mind that because of that "negative ease" thing, you won't need to add as much to your FBA as you normally would. Try adding 1/2" less in the length and width. They idea is the same (yet opposite) for SBAs. Here's another tutorial from Lazy Stitching for a gathered, under the bust, empire style pattern piece which is similar to our swimsuit piece. You'll end up with more fabric to gather at the bottom seam.

Cutting the Fabric

I don't pre-wash my fabric because it tends to curl at the edges and becomes unruly. Since your fabric doesn't have natural fibers it won't shrink much, anyway. If you have to iron use a low setting and a press cloth.

The pattern pieces usually have two lines drawn labeled "Grain of Fabric" and "Greatest Degree of Stretch."


The GDoS is usually on the cross grain for most knits. The fabric rquirements state that you need a 2-way stretch fabric with 75% stretch. (There's a guide on the back envelope flap to use). My fabric is four way stretch (common for swim fabrics) which is totally fine for this pattern

Remember that for knits the front side has predominately vertical ridges and the back has horizontal. The selvedges may curl towards the back.

If you remember from the Never Fear Knits sew-along it's best to use pattern weights and a rotary cutter and mat to cut out pieces to prevent the fabric from stretching with shears. If it helps you can trace a full size piece for the front lining rather than placing it on the fold.

Now I've cut out my pieces and I'm ready for stitching!

In the next installment we'll work on piecing together the lower, gathered part of the suit.

Pt 2: Supplies
Pt 3: Cutting