Monday, July 30, 2012

Cuffed Pants Hem Tutorial

I bought some great pants from Ann Taylor recently, a rayon/cotton/spandex blend herringbone fully lined in poly, with cuffed hems.  For $40, thank you additional 40% off clearance rack. When taking them apart to re-hem, I really liked the way they did it, so here for your future assistance (or total confusion, we'll see) is the method.  This creates a 1 3/4" cuff, I'm sure you could modify the numbers to make it wider or narrower but I'll leave the math to you.

(If you're starting with already hemmed pants, you need to rip out all the previous stitching.  Yes it's a pain, just get it over with and then pretend it didn't happen.)

1.  You need a 3" hem allowance.  That means 3 inches of fabric below where you want the pants to stop.  Easiest way to figure this out is measure the inseam (inside leg seam from crotch to hem) on a pair of pants that is the length you want.  If you don't have any to measure, fold up a hem and secure with pins, then try on.  Repeat until you find the right length and then measure the inseam.   Once you've marked the length, measure 3" past that and cut off the excess fabric.

Pin is marking finished length, there is 3" of fabric past that.  See those previous fold lines?  I like my pants to be a little longer in back, so I altered the slope of the cut, which is why it isn't parallel to the old hem lines.
 2.  Finish the raw edge.  For this method you need 1/2" tape, preferably something soft like hem lace, rayon seam binding, etc.   All I had on hand in a lighter color was twill tape, which was a little too stiff for my taste but it got the job done.  Working from the right side of the pants, sew the tape to the edge leaving 1/2 the tape hanging over.  I sewed one pass right on the edge of the tape, then another down the middle.  This fabric was fraying like mad and the second pass helped hold it.  Doesn't really matter where you start sewing, and you don't need to precut the tape.  When you get back to where you started, cut it long enough to tuck the end under, then sew it down over the raw edge.

Tape attached to edge, with end folded over the raw edge and sewed down.  
 3.  Fold up 4" to the outside and press.  Don't ask why yet.  Just do.  The 4" includes the tape, you should have ~1/4" of tape hanging off the edge of the fabric.  The pants are right side out, and you flip the fabric out so the right sides are touching.
Pants are right side out, hem is flipped up.  Fold up 4" and press.

 4.  Sew a 1/4 inch seam.  Pants are still right side out, and you are sewing on the wrong side.  This is the cool part.  This seam will help hold the cuff in place later.
Sew 1/4" seam along pressed edge.
 5.  Fold the top of the cuff.  Turn the pants inside out.  A ham or sleeve roll will make it easier to press this, you'll need to do it in sections.  Fold the seam you just sewed towards the bottom of the pants, and leave 2 1/2" inches of fabric + tape hanging off the bottom.  Press into place.  You will not be pressing open that seam you sewed, there should be a ~ 1/2" fabric 'bump' to the left of it.  Do this all the way around the hem.
Pants inside out, fold seam towards bottom and leave 2 1/2" of fabric/tape.

 6.  Fold the bottom of the cuff.  Turn the pants right side out, and press again.  See that fabric bump now?   Fold the tape to the inside of the pants, creating a 1 3/4" cuff on the outside.  Press, repeat.  We're almost done.
Pants are right side out, fold tape hem to inside of pants.

Make a 1 3/4" cuff by folding the tape hem to the inside.

PRESS AGAIN.  Are you tired of this yet?
 7.  Sew the hem tape to the inside of the pants.  I totally cheated here, I used steam-a-seam.  But the nice thing about this method is you've got a little pad of fabric to sew (or glue) to, which won't be seen from the front because it's covered by the cuff.  You can hand sew this (easily, since you don't have to hide the stitches), use steam a seam or stitch witchery, or if you've got a blindstitch machine, have at it.
Sew hem tape to inside of pants.  There should be a nice fold of fabric to sew to that won't show on the cuff.

Cheater's best friend.

I worked in 3-4" sections, sticking down the tape and then ironing to fuse it.

Finished hem on the inside.  The tape is bunching up a bit, when I did the second side I pulled it taut while sewing to ease in the fabric.  Turned out much better, but I did not retake the photos so you get to look at my wonky tape.  Even so it still looks good from the outside, so I'd say this method is pretty forgiving.  However if you want it to look super purty from the inside, use a softer tape and tug on the tape slightly while sewing it to the raw edge.

And the outside!
8.  Stitch in the ditch along the two side seams.  You can do this on a regular machine, the stitches will be hidden in the 'ditch' of the seam.  This will help hold the cuff in place.  In case you happen to be walking down a hallway at work and catch your high heel in the cuff and go flying towards the floor.  Not that I've experienced that or anything.   But at least your hem won't come undone.

That's it!  I'd say the second leg only took me about 15 minutes to do, so it's not a huge amount of time for a professional looking hem.  Also, most of the other methods I've seen use a longer hem allowance (4"), so this one saves an inch of fabric.  Good ready-to-wear is chock full of great methods to learn.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A gown for a Vegas wedding

My husband and I were lucky enough (or unlucky, you choose) to be invited to 4 weddings this year, and every dress I wore was made by me, although that wasn't my intention.  Vegas in November was the last of them, and I was all set to go store bought for this one.  The only request was that it be floor-length.  I ordered a great dress online (navy one-shoulder with beading and a slit), it came and fit perfectly except for the length.  And the value.  

It was polyester jersey with a poly lining, no inner structure at all except for clear elastic applied to the neckline.  And $270.  No no no no no.  I just couldn't do it.  I had about 3 weeks to either hem it or come up with plan B.  So I ordered fabric swatches from Emma One Sock of this high-tech stretch matte crepe that was touted as a cross between 4-ply silk crepe and matte jersey.  They of course arrived in about 2 days, and I loved the color of the navy.  I could tell even from the swatch that it wasn't as drapey as the poly jersey, or even true matte jersey, but decided to work with it anyways.  More on that later.

I made a copy of the original dress, using a combination of laying the pieces flat over butcher paper and tracing, and measuring seam lengths and hem/strap width.  Since the dress is gathered along one side, it's pretty tricky, but I think I was able to get really close.  Paying attention to the grain will tell you how much you need to spread the pattern on the side to get the same amount of gathering.  It was the same front and back, if you can believe that.  I know, I tried it on both ways and it fit the same.

Yes I returned the dress.  Within a week's time, and it was no worse for the wear.  If you have a problem with this stop reading, obviously my moral compass is not the same as yours.  I don't plan to make a habit of this, or do anything else with the pattern.

The fabric was very substantial on it's own, so even though the original dress had a full poly lining (it seemed really flimsy to me, but actually did the job under the nicer poly jersey), I only used a partial lining to the waist.  For the beading, I found this gorgeous trim at Shine Trim's website.  I actually much prefer this to the one color seed beads sewn to the original dress, and I made mine go down all the way to the top of the slit.  Having it stop at the hip looked off to me.

My copy, and the original

When the fabric arrived from EOS, I was able to give it a better stretch test, and it had much less than the jersey.  Gathers also lay very different with drapey vs firm-bodied fabric.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but any time you change out one fabric for another with the same pattern, even just the color, the results can be unpredictable.  I think I added 2-3 inches to the pattern around the body to account for the decrease in stretch, and an inch in the bodice for the lack of drape.  I was in a time crunch so I did not make a muslin.  (GASP!  THE HORROR!) (I never do this, especially not with a brand new pattern).

Either my skills have increased or I got really lucky (probably both), because the fit was really good right off the bat.  I couldn't even try it on until I had most of it together anyways.  I ended up taking it in around the hip level and below, although the pattern of the jersey dress was straight down from the hip, on the body it curves in more due to the fabric drape.  Since mine didn't have the same drape (not that it was stiff at all, it just wasn't drapey jersey), I had to create that look by taking in the side seams.
Inside of dress showing neckline and lining

Inside of dress showing lining and armhole
My invisible zip came out great the first try, although I did make sure to interface the opening, and there's not much that isn't easier on an industrial machine with the right foot.  ( You haven't lived until you've inserted a zip with a real metal invisible zip foot instead of those flimsy plastic ones they usually sell for this purpose). 

Closeup of beading, and seam with invisible zipper

I applied the beading last, handstitching it down over the gathered side seam.  I finished the seams on my serger, and also serged a blind-stitched hem.  The fabric behaved beautifully on both the industrial straight stitch and the serger.


I got a lot of compliments on the dress, and spent about $130 total on the materials.  The fabric is so much nicer than the original dress, it feels substantial and has a lot less sheen.  The gathers don't lay as flat as the jersey though, and if the fabric were any stiffer I don't think they would have worked at all.  But I'm happy I was able to anticipate the differences and make allowances for them.

Original dress

My Copy

Monday, May 16, 2011

Karina Grimaldi maxi dress knockoff

I've been drooling over this Karina Grimaldi maxi dress on shopbop for awhile now, and finally decided to do something about it over the weekend.   Here is the description from's website.
This scoop-neck jersey maxi dress features a racer back and a striped skirt. Unfinished hem. 1.5" straps.

* 56" long, measured from shoulder.
* Fabrication: Jersey.
* 100% modal.
* Hand wash or dry clean.
* Made in the USA.

I started with my favorite tank top pattern, and changed the back to more of a racerback style.  I lowered the neckline as well.  For the skirt part I cut wide crosswise strips, then serged them together to make panels for the front and back.  The only tricky part was figuring out how wide to make them, I really liked the proportions on the model but seeing as I'm not 5'10" I wasn't sure it would work.  I tried to guess how long the skirt portion would be, divided that by 5, and came up with 7.2" based on my height.  I cut the strips 8" wide (including seam allowances), making them wider at the bottom.  I measured another maxi dress of mine to see how wide the bottom needed to be (~35"), and just made the strips narrower as I went up until it matched my hip measurement.   Once I had the front and back skirt panels, I pinned them together and serged straight a-line side seams, cutting off all the excess.  Even with good planning, I still had to make adjustments as I went along so it would hang parallel to the floor, pinning it to the tank top until I liked how it looked.
8" wide strips serged together
 I used 11oz rayon/lycra jersey from Emma One Sock.  Whenever I need a good quality knit I head straight for Linda's website.  I know her fabrics are always excellent quality and when I spend the time to sew something I don't want to run into pilly knits or poor recovery.  Not to mention the time saved not having to look all over the place for the right fabric.  I got a yard of the almond and 1.5 yards of the black, and had enough leftover for probably a tank top from each.  ~$50 in fabric, versus $196 for the RTW dress.  In addition I added a power mesh lining to the top part of the skirt, the 11oz weight isn't see through but in a light color it needs something.

Inside out: power mesh half lining

I did my usual neckline/armhole finishing using my right angle binder, I took some photos right after binding this time so you can see what it looks like before being turning to the inside and topstitched.  Depending on how much the strips get stretched when applying the binding, the fabric may look pretty puckered, but it usually turns out okay once it's on the body.  I always do a test run to see if the fabric will behave in the binder, some fabrics are just too thick or stretchy for it.

Top:  after binding  Bottom:  after topstitching binding to inside

 This is what the top of the dress looks like laying down, not too hot, right?  But when worn everything stretches out flat and those openings are nice and stable.

I spent about 8 hrs total on this, which would have been way faster with a full pattern but I do like the flexibility of the tweaking process.   Having a dressform to work on is a huge help when trying to picture proportions and lengths. 

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Yes I am a silk snob

I tried on this henley tank in Target the other day and loved the shape, but not the fabric.  It was polyester and already clinging to me in the dressing room.  Fortunately I've got a nice stash of silk prints, including this Cynthia Steffe print from Emma One Sock a few years ago.

I used some old poly to drape the shape on my dressform, cutting and pinning until I was happy with the neckline, armholes, and width.  Then I took it apart, traced the pieces onto butcher paper with my tracing wheel, and balanced the pattern so both sides would match.  I added seam and hem allowances and the pattern was ready to go.

I used my favorite neckline/armhole binding technique, applied with my industrial right angle double-fold clean finish binder, then turned to the inside and topstitched.  I chose not to staystitch the armholes, but ended up handling the fabric more than I usually do so I got some stretching in that area.  It's not horrible but usually this binding technique lies perfectly flat or even hugs the body, and it's standing away a bit in the armholes.   Lesson #1:  Always stabilize bias areas shortly after cutting to preserve the shape.

I used this method to make the neckline placket, I had used it before on the sleeves of one of DH's shirts and found it simple.  Not quite as accurate as I'd like, and I had issues with the dimensions given for the strip.  (I used a 2 inch strip to begin with).  One of these days I need to try two-piece plackets.  Also, I only used interfacing on 1/2 the strip, I was worried about making the placket too stiff in this lightweight silk.  However this wasn't enough stabilization, the buttonholes distorted the strip a bit.  I used the lightest weight interfacing I had, and it probably would have been fine interfacing the whole strip.  Lesson #2:  Always stabilize openings.

I used an industrial wire hemmer attachment to turn the 3/16" hem, I haven't perfected my technique with it yet but it's passable and so much faster than any other method that I just keep trying to do better each time.   

  Even with the issues listed, I still love the tank and will get a lot of use out of it this summer.  It's a great shape and length to go with skinny pants and jeans.

Here is the construction order (all done on Juki industrial straight stitch):
  1. French seam one shoulder seam.
  2. Bind sewn armhole and neckline. (right angle binder)
  3. French seam other shoulder seam. (on Janome machine to avoid taking binder off Juki)
  4. Bind other armhole
  5. French seam side seams.
  6. Hem (3/6" wire hemmer)
  7. Turn in and press neckline/armhole binding, topstitch.
  8. Mark and cut slit for placket
  9. Sew placket strip to opening, press into shape and topstich.
  10. Buttonholes (Janome)
  11. Buttons (Janome)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Leather Wrap Belt

I have been sewing on and off, but as you can see I haven't been blogging about it.  This is one of my more recent projects, after seeing this belt in a boutique on vacation I was inspired to go home and recreate it.  They wanted ~$200 for it in store, and I immediately thought of this piece of red leather I stashed at the PR weekend in LA that was sitting on my fabric shelf.

I'm not going to post any kind of tutorial, it's a small designer and if you're interested in purchasing one you can read about the company here.  There's not a lot of pictures online either, I did this mostly from memory since I didn't take pictures in the store.  If you have a chance to check one out instore, do it!  It's a great design, although not something I've never seen before.  It's easy enough to figure out.  There are velcro closures on the inside so it's continuously adjustable through about 5 inches of waist measurement.  

This was my first time sewing leather, and honestly it was a breeze on my industrial.  This is a lighter weight leather (lambskin I think) and it handled it just fine.  I broke one 90 needle when sewing through the velcro, but the rest was easy, and I sewed the lining to the leather with a sz 70 needle.  They make special leather point needles, but the regular/sharp point worked just fine. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Iterations and binding techniques

I made another DVF Julian a few weeks ago and already wore it to work, I was making this pattern for a friend of mine and while I had it out decided to cut one for myself. This fabric is a rayon/lycra print from Emma One Sock, my favorite fabric dealer, er, I mean supplier. :-)

Rayon/lycra 'leafy stalks' print in blue, black, and brown on cream

For this fabric I chose to finish the edges by serging 1/4" clear elastic to the neckline and front edges in one pass, then turning to the inside and topstitching. I use a special elasticator foot for my serger, which helps guide the elastic exactly on the seamline and has a tension screw to set how much I want the elastic stretched while it's being serged. Around the neckline I want enough stretch so the fabric puckers a bit when laying flat, when worn wrapped and tied it flattens out and prevents any gaping. When I get to the front edges of the skirt, I undo the tension on the elastic so it doesn't pucker.

The serged elastic provides a nice edge for turning under, it's super easy to get a 1/4" fold.

The dress I made for my friend is the same pattern, but I added some fun details: fake pockets, shoulder tabs, and buttons. Look familiar? She liked it so much I found some poly/rayon/lycra doubleknit that would look similar to the wool. She chose silver-tone metal buttons for hers.

For this fabric, I chose to use double fold binding, as far as I can tell it's exactly what DVF uses to finish the edges of her dresses. It's the same thing as bias binding, except it's done with a clean finish double fold binder for an industrial machine, and you don't preform the fabric. The binder I have takes a 1" strip of fabric, and forms a 1/4" binding. It's designed for light-medium weight fabrics, so when this doubleknit passes through it stretches it a bit, which accomplishes the same thing as stretching the elastic. I use crossgrain strips of fabric, and on the first pass bind the raw edge. Then I turn the whole thing, so the binding is completely on the inside, and topstitch. This edge is very stable and durable.

Industrial binder, it wraps a strip of fabric around a raw edge, making a clean finish.

Lying flat, the front also looks slightly puckered, which is a good thing.

This binding also provides a nice edge for turning under, and I usually topstitch from the inside to make sure I'm catching the binding. Make sure your stitch looks nice from the wrong side though, you may have to loosen up the top tension to be sure the thread is pulled into the fabric.