mama whose curiosity knows no bounds

Archive for the ‘Sewing’ Category

Easy peasy leggings

My daughter S is in the 7th grade. In her PE class, girls are divided into groups, they decide on movements they use in 5 minutes, choreograph a dance using only those movements. They also get to choose a costume. S’s group chose “80’s style” and each girl will wear different color of shirt, leggings, and tutu. S is assigned “light blue”. S, a frugal girl, chose to wear a blue printed t-shirt inside-out. Still she needs tutu and leggings. 

We at first looked for one on wal-mart but there wasn’t. So we decided to make and headed for JoAnn. We found a nice leggings and jacket pattern from McCall’s, but I knew  on Dec 4, McCall’s pattern will go on sale. So we bought swimsuit fabric, tulle and elastic a and went home.

Then I started searching for a pattern and came across this wonderful page!

This page provides YouTube video to explain how to measure for leggings, an Excel spreadsheet to automatically calculate numbers needed for drafting based on each person’s measurement, and how to draft a pattern. So I took advantage of it and draft a pattern.


 Then I set to sew. I was so lazy that I didn’t want to cover stitch the hem. The conversion between the regular overlock and cover stitch is so cumbersome. Without hem, I sewed crotch and inseam, adding a stay tape in the crotch. 

Wow, it fits perfectly! Of course the fact that I used swimsuit fabric helped a bit. But how few those passage of seams and I’m almost done! But because it is so tight fitting, she refused to pose for photo.

I installed an elastic by zigzag and that’s it. For costume, that’s good enough. And I think she will be able to use that as a warm-up during gymnastics practice. I even made a matching hairband.  I see lots of stretch jersey headband recently.

I’m not sure if I will wear leggings, but I don’t have to buy a pattern! I’m impressed how easy it was to draft.






my failed attempt to draft a pattern

I fell in love when I saw this coat on the cover of a tailoring textbook in

So I asked my husband last summer to buy this book. I’ve always wanted a long coat. Especially the nasty winter last time. And longer version of this coat looked perfect.

This book comes with the actual size pattern. BUT I’m “super-sized” when Japanese pattern making is concerned.  My bust is 4″ bigger than the Large of the attached pattern.

However, kindly, this book comes with how to draft the pattern from scratch. First, we draft the “Bunka-style sloper”. 

In Japan, there are two major schools of pattern drafting -“Bunka-style” or “Dre-me (short for ‘dressmaking’)-style”. This book is published by the Bunka-style design. The sloper used is an old version, which use only bust and back length measurement to draft the sloper. The current version is a lot more complicated but that was not the version used in this book.

Ever a computer lover, and I had a good experience with some drawing software (Now defunct Micrografix Designer and Adobe illustrator), I wanted to draw on computer. But of course Adobe illustrator is way too expensive for just trying out drafting pattern. I found an iPad app, iDesign. This is a reasonably good app. It can have layers (big plus!), can export to jpeg or PDF or illustrator format. Although it didn’t have the sophistication of illustrator, it did the job. I successfully draw my sloper.


Then I had to to a rather complicated manipulation so I wanted to deal with front and back in separate file.

Only then I realized that iDesign’s maximum EXPORTABLE board size is smaller than the board I created. I think it’s a sort of bug that allowed me to create that big board I needed for sloper. And this app doesn’t allow me to hop between two separate files, copy and paste as we usually do on any apps on PC.  At this point, it really doesn’t make sense to keep going with this route. I might try getting the illustrator later on, though.

Then the next thing I tried was Microsoft Publisher, which I have used a lot for poster making. The problem with this is that I cannot tell where the printer splits the big drawing so I can place a registration marks for future matching. Besides, it doesn’t allow to make LAYERS. Layers are a MUST for any drawing software.

So until I learn the AutoCAD (I am lucky that I have access to free educational edition), I should stick with paper and pencil.  I have done that about 25 years ago, only my size has changed drastically.

I had a freezer paper taped to have enough space. Then I had to face the inevitable – my rulers are in INCHES, not in metric! Converting centimeters to inches are not too hard, thanks to the online unit converter. I also installed a fraction calculator app on my iPhone. This was great. The only problem is that I no longer have the ability to understand  22 175/192 inches is close enough in sixteenth (or eighth) of an inch.  I was very irritated that I don’t have that sense. It used to be automatic to find the nearest sixteenth. This is what ageing means. Sigh. Still, after a lots of hair-pulling, I managed to draw the real size sloper.

Since the actual drafting of the coat is in centimeters, I had a few options: buy all rulers in metric; or calculate very patiently; wait until I am fluent enough in AutoCAD.  I chose none. I chose BUYING A PATTERN. I need a coat for THIS winter. All forecasts say that this winter is as bad as the last one. I don’t want to survive in LL Bean parka, the warmest coat I have. It had been great until last, awful winter.

Thankfully, I found something that look good at Burda though it is tailored and therefore a bit difficult. Well, I’m ready for that challenge. I’ve taken enough Craftsy courses! And I can knit an accompanying infinit scarf.

I don’t know how Americans can design or draft a pattern. They must be a genius in fractions. Seriously, I hope Americans will adopt metric system soon that I can get all rulers in metric by default. I still hasn’t given up with that coat. So classy, isn’t it?  I might make in jacket length.




lapped seam

I was making an Anna costume from Frozen for my friend’s daughter. The pattern has two inset corners and instruction says to reinforce the corner of the inside cut (e.g., skirt center front) reinforced and clip almost to the point, then sew to the point and pivot. Well, I tried but it really didn’t work.  I couldn’t get the sharp point that makes the dress princess-y.

For another corner, on yoke front pointing to the front bodice center, I tried a different method I found online. It worked pretty well, I think.

1) stitch the seam line of the front yoke point.

2) turn at the seam line of the point and press (well the steam holes was a bit dirty in my case…another reminder to use a press cloth).

3) apply basting tape along the seam allowance of the bodice center front.  I used Wonder Tape here. But the video used Steam-A-Seam 2 . For some reason, I can no longer find locally and I ran out of mine a couple projects ago. But Wonder Tape worked.

4) peel the covering tape and apply the yoke, machine seamed line. Then edge-stitched.

Now I got a nice-looking pointed seam!


my first sewing machine repair

Oh, there are lots of firsts, recently. I think it’s a good thing.

I’ve been frustrated by the quality of sewing machine service. It’s expensive (about $90+tax), and the dealer is at least two hours away. Then I have that bird’s nest problem, soon after I resumed using it. When I bring to a dealer, I expect the real fix, and I don’t think it’s wrong.

So, I decided to learn to repair myself. I bought a text online, at $99. It’s not the easiest read, but at least contains information I need.

I needed a machine to play with. I don’t want to sacrifice my Brother or Bernina for the practice. I still have things to sew.

Then I got this old old machine at a yard sale. It was $20. The lady told me that it was functional.

Well, if functional means that needles goes up and down, yes. But I couldn’t do the initial sewing test (according to my text book, that’s the first thing to do). Presser foot didn’t go down.

Now I started to explore the cause. I opened the side panel.


It seems like the Presser foot bar is stuck. I used the everyone’s trick: soaked in WD-40.

While soaking, I cleaned the other part. I used WD-40 to clean any metal part. At first I used it for the outside casing (painted cast iron) but I found that glass cleaner with ammonia worked better. It seemed like the previous owner was a smoker. 

After several minutes, it started moving! I moved up and down, cleaning with old toothbrush while moving. The reset the height and put things back after lubricating everywhere I can reach. I inserted the needle – it was a sheer luck that I had a needle for this machine. It is not standard household machine needle (also called 130/705H), but some industrial or serger one called (EL x 705). I think I bought this needle when I bought my brother serger some 11 years ago, without knowing that my serger takes regular household needle. Anyway, it took some cleaning to insert the needle, and threaded. There were several bobbins that came with it, so I used them.

Voila! It sewed! I had to lower the upper thread tension to minimum to get the right balance (of course bobbin tension was balanced correctly) so I think there is some problem in the tension disks. I haven’t got it yet, as this is my “initial sewing test!”.

I tested how thick it can go.


Great, it can go 6 layers of 12 oz.(for men’s jeans) denim! 

But when I switched the upper thread to jean thread, it stopped working. I guess this is tension problem. And the discs can’t take thicker thread.

This machine has other stitches like zig zag, button hole, stretch stitch, etc. none of them worked. Gear problem, maybe?

At least I managed to fix the Presser foot, so I should think it’s a good start! I can spend as long as I want to fix and then sell or disassemble apart and save the parts. That sounds fun.


my first T-shirt – continued

Now I figured that size XL of Angela Wolf’s pattern was too big, I switched to size L and sew another fitting muslin.

Here’s the overall view:

Tummy area is a lot better. Ruching makes crosswise wrinkles to hide my protruding belly to a certain extent. Also improved is the sleeve fit. Learned from the first muslin, 3/4 sleeve pattern should not be used even if that fit my length. Instead, I draw a parallel line from long sleeve’ send point to 3/4 end point then draw a straight line to the armpit point.

Yet it’s not really a problem free.

As you can see, my shoulder is definitely bigger for this shirt. I didn’t realize until now that my upper arm, especially near shoulder is really big. It’s mostly fat, but probably there once were muscles below. I used to lap swim and my specialty was butterfly stroke!

So the next one – I plan to use one of three fashion fabrics I already bought – I will increase my bodice’s shoulder a little bit, just 1/4″ for both front and back. I glued a small piece of paper and increase the shoulder seam by 1/4″ then turned the line to arm hole about 4″ below.

I hope the. Next one will be a real good one!


my first T-shirt

I always had a hard time finding the right T-shirt, mostly because my arms are too short. Now with my renewed interest I sewing, I can alter it, but then why not making it from scratch? I can use much better fabrics than ready-to-wears. Very often, my ready-to-wear T-shirt worn out from the waist, as belt or jean buttons rubs the belly area. Probably, just probably, I mightbe able to make a longer lasting T-shirt by higher quality fabric.

So I started out. I chose Angela Wolf’s Ruched-T patternngela Wolf’s Ruched-T pattern. She always wears it in her Craftsy classes and it looked great. Based on my bust measurement, I was kind of between size L and XL. If I inhale, I’m XL but if I exhale, I’m L.  So I picked size XL and traced pattern (I never cut out the pattern. I simply hate it.).  I realized that 3/4 sleeve length is just perfect as my long sleeve, so I used that pattern instead.

Like I learned recently, I needed to make a muslin before I cut the fashion, $8-10 per yard fabric. I went to local fabric store and bought a cheapest Lycra/polyester knit. It was $3 per yd!

First I leaned a lesson: Use a large enough cutting mat if you are using rotary cutter!

I had 24″ x 18″ mat and that was far from enough. In the middle of the cutting, I had to move the mat, shifting everything. But I found rotary cutting easier and most knit sewing sites and classes recommends it over shears. I bought a larger mat, though it costed a fortune, even after 40% off coupon.

Then I did stay stitch. This was the hard one. I couldn’t keep it from stretching, even though I used a walking foot. I think I need more practice or some sort of stabilizer underneath.

The next step was shoulder. For this muslin, I used stretched out selvage. I think it was fine.

Then I sewed on sleeve.this was easier than I thought. I didn’t need to have a gathering stitch as the fabric stretched.

The next instruction was…for whatever reason, press the hems.  Well I did.

Then sew the sleeve and side seams in one stitch. Again, this wasn’t too hard. I’m getting better at slightly stretching while sewing.

Then I tried on. It looked good, actually, except for sleeve hem. It looked too wide. Of course, it was for 3/4 sleeve! 

So the second lesson: Don’t use 3/4 sleeve as long sleeve end. I need to correct the sleeve seam line.

Here comes the ruching. I set the stitch length at 5 mm and sewed as instructed. I couldn’t pull. Though it wasn’t in the instruction, I should have changed the tension, as I always do for gathering. Anyway, after additional stitch. I set the length. At first attempt it was hard to keep the length right. But second attempt I got better. 

Then time to stitch the hem. I found it too hard and after all it was muslin. Later I learned that it is indeed really hard.

I attached the tall collar and tried it on!

Well, doesn’t look too bad but found loads of problems. Bust area is okay. Shoulder looks okay, too. But torso is too loose. Way too lose that I can’t see the ruching! The whole point of ruching is to hide my prominent belly by having horizontal folds. Not it doesn’t. And sleeve is too loose, too.

I think not just hems, but overall sleeve should be tighter.

Since shoulder had enough room, I decided to go one side down to size L. I ran to the fabric store and bought another cheap knit. This time total (1 3/4 yds) costed $9, so I was hoping I can finish wearable one.

To be continued. B.

Big fall sale on Craftsy!

I’ve been waiting for this. I already bought 4 classes today.

Decadent Chocolate Cakes 

Marcy and Katherine Tilton – The Ultimate T-Shirt: Fitting & Construction Craftsy 

Creative Serging: Beyond the Basics Class 

Online Beginner Serging Class

I also highly recommend these classes as well.

Bag-Making Basics: Drawstring Bag & Bucket Bag

Underneath It All with Linda Lee

Sewing Designer Jeans, Angela Wolf

Tailoring Ready-to-Wear

Craftsy Mastering Zipper Techniques Class

Pant Fitting Techniques

Free Sewing Pattern at Craftsy

Perfect Pizza at Home

French Pastry Shop Classics, by Colette Christian

These are classes I have taken (I’ve taken more, but some boring class I omitted from this list)

For more, like knitting and crocheting, see below. It really is a huge sale (that’s why I usually wait)



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Have you heard Craftsy’s BIG Fall Course Sale is happening now? Learn from the world’s best instructors in the comfort of your home, when you shop up to 50% off ALL online classes! Once you enroll you can watch your classes anytime, anywhere, forever. Hurry, offer expires September 22, 2014 at 11:59 PM MT. Shop Craftsy‘s BIG Fall Course Sale and save.


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