Sewing Vloggers

Saturday, March 30, 2019

NLS 7.1 , Seam Secrets and Understanding Understitching

This post was prompted by some very frustrated newer sewists. I'm here to help. In the period of a week and a half I saw 4 separate posts by newer sewists on various forums, all tanking and trashing the Big Four patterns. All four posts were accompanied by pictures of their problem. Each photo was followed by an in depth rant of everything wrong with Big Four "tissue" patterns. One complainer did actually add indie patterns into her complaint as well. Then the pile on began. You know how the internet is. No one knows you, sees you, works with you, lives with you and everyone feels they can say anything. I thanked my lucky stars I did not own the business they were trashing. Let's stop there and back up a bit. I saw the first photo and before I even read the first sentence from the poster I knew what the problem was. The photo was an awful mess of unmatched seams that the sewist had ripped and sewn several times  and they never matched, ever! Disgusting, awful tissue patterns!!! All their fault!!!

Well, no. Immediately, the photo showed me that the sewist, in every case, matched the cutting lines  and not the seam lines. In three of the four the sewist never eased where they were told to ease on the tissue. Experience can be a tough teacher but I think our sewists have now learned what their issue was and I will go over it here in more depth. Before you cut into any fabric, before you pin any pattern to fabric, there is work to do, "Pattern Work". This is standard operating procedure. I am not going to go into all of that here but Threads Magazine, in issue #200, January, 2019 has a superb article on Pattern Work by Sara Veblen illustrating 10 necessary skills and how to do them. I highly recommend reading this for more in depth understanding of the Pattern Work necessary every time you want to cut a new pattern. Let's look at the photo above in the meantime.

Bodice front on the left, bodice back on the right. They are different, aren't they? This is a pattern with the front bodice on its own tissue for each size. The back bodice has all the sizes on one tissue. This is the same pattern. Look closely at your pattern pieces. Make sure you are cutting the correct pieces. You can't see it, but on the shoulder of the back bodice is printed EASE. So you need to ease. That means making a larger pattern piece match up to a smaller pattern piece.
Let's put this shoulder seam together.

Pieces are matched AT SEAMLINES, not at cutting lines. This means a starting match point needs to be established. On the wrong side measure in from each corner 5/8ths of an inch or whatever size is specified. You can see it's easy to do with a gridded ruler. I just put the dot in the corner. Why? They have to match perfectly.

Crap, the back is longer than the front. We need to pin.

Stick a pin in that dot we made at the corner and match it to the dot we made on the opposing piece.  Pin. Do the same to the opposite side.

Oh, no, there is a big blop of fabric on one side. It doesn't match. Well, it is not supposed to. You will find on nearly all well drafted patterns certain areas almost always are eased in. Back shoulder seams are eased into the front should seams. Upper inseams on pants are often eased into their opposing seam and on and on. You will learn this as you sew more but for now be really critical in looking at your pattern pieces to make sure you don't miss little words like "ease". Why are we easing the back shoulder seam? Because we all have shoulder blades and this allows them to have the extra room they need to function. They are not flat and the easing accommodates them .

Now you will very slightly stretch the seam out on the table  until it is flat and put a pin in the middle of the seamline. You will put a couple more between that one and the end pins. This spreads out the fabric to be eased equally into the front shoulder seam. Now let's sew the seam. Go to the machine and sew, with the larger piece on the bottom, touching the feed dogs. This way the machine will do the work for you and the feed dog will ease in the extra fabric, really, and do a nice job of it. If you have IDT on your machine, this is when you disengage it.

Now we will head to the iron. Press it as sewn. Press it open on the wrong side. Press it open from the right side and voila, above. We have a seam that appeared to the unknowing to be "cut wrong, doesn't match, no good" matching beautifully and providing space for those lovely angel wings on our backs. On to the next phase.

The next problem that kept appearing among newer sewists in my visits around the web were lots of complaints about facings and bindings rolling out despite all effort to keep them inside the garment. Let's talk about the "U" word.


There were a lot of misconceptions about understitching. It is necessary, friends, and a well done understitch is a joy to behold and a sign that you may not be a newbie sewist. I learned this way from the late, great Nancy Zieman and am pleased to pass it along to you. Let's start at the beginning. We will put a facing on the armhole of this polka dot bodice. 

Above you see a seam sewn on the facing that matches the shoulder seam. Notice how it is trimmed. One of the big rules of sewing that I actually try and always follow is "reduce bulk whenever possible". This facing seam is sewn and then trimmed back to the 5/8th seam line. You should be trimming back any seam that will cross any other seam before sewing it, back to the 5/8 seam line as you see above. press this open. 

Next we will stitch the facing to the armscye seam. We will then grade the seam.

Grading is trimming back the seam, usually on enclosed seams, to reduce bulk and facilitate movement. Above you can see the facing is trimmed back to 1/8th inch. The bodice/armscye is trimmed back to a 1/4 inch with pinking shears (not necessary but nice). The seam allowance that is on the PUBLIC side of the garment is the one that stays the longest. This helps pad out the rest of the seams from the public eye, real important when tailoring. The graded seam is then clipped to prevent lumping when the seam is turned in and pressed.

Press the seams toward the facing. Now go to the machine. Put your fabric under the presser foot so that the facing is on your right and ALL the seam allowances are under it, facing right as well. The bodice side of the seam is only one layer, the bodice, and on your left. Set your machine up for a triple zigzag stitch. This stitch really flattens the bulk of those seam allowances  and they will not be flopping out at all when complete. I used a 4.5 width and a .7 length. I stitched all around the facing on the facing side, catching in the trimmed seam allowances all along the way. Once stitched go back to the iron and press your facing as sewn. Using a ham helps hold the curve on this but not a must do.

But we're not done yet. We have one more bit of work to do to insure this facing never turns out. The red arrow is pointing at the shoulder seam. Once your facing is pressed into place find where it lays under the shoulder seam and pin. Go to the machine. Set  your machine at 1.5. Put in a matching thread. I did not do matching thread here. If you have an edge stitching foot or blade type foot, put it on the machine with the blade in the well of the seam. Put your shoulder seam under the presser foot with the neck edge about a 1/4 inch in. Stitch for about an inch and a half in the well of the seamline, where the red arrow is pointing. Try and spread the seam apart as you sew. When you reach the end remove the fabric from the machine leaving long threads. Pull your threads to the inside of the garment and tie them off and cut. This will insure your facing will not turn out. I used white thread in mine but covered it up with Derwent Inktense pencils. Love them.  You dip them into a bit of water and they turn to paint. Then you heat set with an iron and they are permanent. My Inktense pencils have hidden a lot of mistakes, a lot! I used the pink pencil on the white thread in the ditch to show you.

Give  your facing a good press over a soft surface and a ham for the best results. Pretty professional, eh?

This lesson has aimed to help those I saw struggling and ranting last week and all others who need to understand how you match seamlines, not cutting lines and for those who may miss the "ease" directions on the pattern tissue and think their pattern is poorly designed because their seamlines don't match. This post is also dedicated to those who just could not get their facings to lay down and stay inside their garments, very nice garments and were also blaming it on the pattern. I hope this Nancy Zieman method of understitching give you that professional touch and saves you some aggravation.

Please forgive all the Sharpie marks, the better for you to see what was going on here and for me to keep track. Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated. I will keep monitoring the web for those techniques that are driving our beloved new sewists up the walls of their sewing spaces. We are all here to encourage and help you along.........Bunny

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Announcement - Next Level Sewing Series

I have spent the last couple weeks refreshing photos and updating text in my Next Level Sewing Series. This series was written and directed for the newer or returning sewist who is ready for the mentoring that can provide a strong foundation to their next level of sewing skills and challenges. We don't have these mentors any more. I was blessed to have an amazing Grandmother and Mom, both of whom taught me and inspired me to sew. They gave me support as well as knowledge and skill and an "eye". I also had many years of schooling  with Carmelite nuns who taught me lovely hand sewing skills. In the one year I attended a public, unisex school, Mrs. Townsend was my Home-Ec teacher. I could write a few posts just on Mrs. Townsend! She was an awesome teacher, very encouraging and knew how to open the doors of our mind. These mentors were truly a blessing. Newer sewists today don't have these mentors. They do have videos, forums, chats and insta, most of which are fairly shallow on the skillset and there is no way of really knowing if they really know what they are doing. Anyone can say they do. Some are very good. Some are far from it.

It was along that vein that I decided I needed to do something about the lack of in depth, experienced sewing knowledge. I certainly don't have all the answers but I felt with blog posts on various subjects and the wide skill set of my readers commenting we could all help each other out. In the Next Level Sewing Series you will find information, links and photos of things you won't generally learn on the web or in school. Please read the comments as our readers are amazing with their knowledge and so generous to share it.

It is the end of March of 2019 and all the series have been updated. I have mentally committed to writing several new blogposts for the series as a result of numerous repetitive discussion I see out on the web. These are frustrations newer sewists are having with the same techniques, fabrics, etc. Stay tuned for those and if you have any topics you would like covered, let me know. Happy Learning!.....Bunny

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Top of Many Colors is finished!

It's a simple little tee top and I love it. Here are the details.


I used as a base Vogue 9305, a tunic with a long hi lo hem, split front and drapey flounce.  I really like the way the bodice fit on that pattern  and was hoping to morph it into a plain tee. I wanted to come up with a pattern that I could use over and over again, something that could lend itself to lots of interpretation. I was also inspired by the work of designer  Susan Eastman. She uses various fabrics in simple classic designs like tees and kimonos. I got out the pattern, played around, and came up with a muslin.  I made so many changes I am not sure it is even the pattern any more. Here are the changes I made:

* Made the neckline wider and lower all around.
* Widened the bodice to near the width of the hips.
* Used one side of the pattern bodice on the fold to make a solid front.
* Eliminated the split and flounce.
* Shortened to make an upper hip length.
* Added the pocket and decorative strip.
*Added a sleeveless lining.
*I did use the sleeve extension exactly as the pattern spec'd. I think it is the only part of the pattern that remains untouched.


This was made with a combination of woven fabrics, the turquoise is 100% linen and the navy and  aqua are Kaufman yarn dyeds of linen and cotton blend. I absolutely love that fabric and have used it many times in other colorways. The vertical strip on the bodice is a batik leftover and the sleeves and pocket are a hand dyed silk I dyed many moons ago. I loved the process of pulling the fabrics and see ing what worked together, sewing heaven!


To start I needed a full pattern of the front bodice to work from. With that on the table I could manipulate the size and placement of my fabrics. I pieced them together with straight stitching and triple zigzaging the edges. For some reason I just couldn't get into my serger for this. I kept envisioning lots of color changes and it took the fun out of that prospect for me. The triple zigzag worked just fine. The edges were enclosed in that stitch.

 After the bodice was pieced I attached the tiny pocket and the vertical strip, doing both with an obvious blind hem stitch for a bit of interest.

 I worked out the sleeve pieces and added them on.

The cuff part of the sleeve were the silk hand dyeds. On them I used a classic "baby hem". You can see here that I actually pieced the fabric used for this section of cuff. You would never even notice. If you have ever dyed your own fabrics you will understand how you feel that you must use every single inch of them so when I didn't have enough length for the second cuff I simply pieced it from some odd scraps. It works.

I knew I wanted this lined to cover up all those stitched seams. However, I did not want lined sleeves. I took out the pattern I made and cut the sleeve area back to the armscye. I stitched this up at the side seams with French seams. I stitched the edges of the armholes with a shell stitch. My plan was to do a shell stitch on the bottom edge as well but in the end I decided to make the hem of the top a couple inches longer, totally forgetting my lining would now be too short. Once I realized that mistake, surely there would be leftover lining fabric for me to just add a band for the hem, right? No right! The best I could do was come up with a close match but when this was all that was holding up completion of the top, I went with it and I think it is just fine. I added on the hem band and the length was now spot on. The lining was done!

Above you can see how I did the hem, it's become a signature with nearly all the past couple year's garments. I do a 1/8th or even 1/16th inch topstitch  right on the hem edge, by machine, and then another row of topstitching 1 and 1/4 inch away from the bottom to secure the rest of the hem. You can also see how the blind stitch secured the vertical band. There was no intention to make it "blind", just a bit decorative.

I really didn't want any topstitching on this top other than the hem edge. I was afraid it would look too "quilt-y"  if I did that. In the pic above you can see how I triple zigzagged the understitching to the seam allowances to keep it tamed and I also ditch stitched in the well of the  two seam lines, where the red arrows are pointing, to further secure the lining. This should not turn to the outside.


I now have a tried and true top that I can see being made in wools for winter, knits, and summery wovens. I think I can creatively change it up a lot and already have ideas swimming around for the next one. My husband absolutely loved this one, particularly the colors and said to keep them coming! I will commit it to oak tag, and the Tried and True file and really look forward to making it again. I feel like I worked out the kinks on this one and the next one should be smooth sailing.

Bottom line, if you have a pattern that you like the fit of but don't want to make that design over and over again, give it a good look. Does it have the basics of a classic bodice, sleeve, hemline? If it fits that great, it is well worth taking the time to work out a new pattern from that original. You won't regret it. Is this Vogue 9305, or my own design, Bunny 1001? 

Friday, March 22, 2019


courtesy impact branding and design

There is a different look to the blog. I never could get a good contrast to the text on the last theme used so it was time to move on. I went to fix it just one more time and decided to just try something new instead. I wanted simplicity and clarity of text. I've just moved things over so there is definite tweaking still  to be done. 

Another bit of housekeeping I have been working on is updating the Next Level Sewing Series as well as the Tutorials. I am giving some of them fresh photos and a bit of updating to their texts to keep them relevant. I also plan on expanding the Next Level Sewing series with some more posts. I frequent various platforms and often find what I call "cluster flusters", bouts of total frustration by sewists, usually those who have been sewing not that long, and they really don't have the mentors or knowledge to understand the problem they are having.  Sorry to say this but what often happens is a massacre of the pattern company or the designer ensues and the fact is the issue is one of  user error and/or inexperience. I am not judging here because you just don't know what you don't know. In that vein, I will monitor these cluster flusters and try to publish posts on them for the Next Level Sewing Series. Most are pretty basic issues but the type of thing no one really teaches you. As always with NLS, I love the comments as all of you have such varied backgrounds, skill sets, and contribute so much to the conversation. I am looking forward to these posts. 

All that remains on the Top of Many Colors is the lining hem. I believe my shell stitched hem has gone out the window. For several reasons, I decided to have my hem a bit longer and finished it that way, topstitching and all. Then I went to finish the lining hem and realized that now it was not long enough. Then I searched for the fabric I used for the lining and bought probably ten years ago and there was none left anywhere! So I have a solution, not the greatest, but my top will be nice enough in the lining area, the outside will be awesome I hope and it will be done soon as I get a few moments to finish that and do some modeling. Then it may be on to an easy Faux Roman Shade!...Bunny

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Top of Many Colors Part One

Yesterday I spent 7 glorious hours working on the Top of Many Colors. I made my muslin first. Let's get a few things out there about muslin making. First, it is to establish fit, and maybe, just maybe, pocket placement and such, but really the focus is fit and not much else.  Because you are making the muslin all about the fit, it doesn't need collars, facings, buttons, zippers and other extraneous details. So don't do them. Pin it shut, don't do a zip! Don't stitch a hem, just pin. For this muslin, I did a front and a back, baboom! The whole process took way less than an hour and when it was complete I knew the length I wanted and the neckline changes, for the most part. I made my pattern and away I went. I did not muslin my sleeve, but simply measured from my shoulder bone to where I wanted the sleeve to end. When I tried on the muslin I measured where on the muslin that shoulder bone would be and figured the length from there. I proceeded to put the front and back of the top together. My muslin also told me that the neckline would fit over my head, a big concern. Now I knew I didn't need any closure and my top just got a bit quicker to make.

The next challenge was figuring out how to finish the neckline as well as how far I wanted to go with a lining. I definitely wanted some sort of lining but really wanted to keep it light. In her latest post here, Tany of Couture and Tricot makes a beautiful rendition of the latest pattern from BCN - Paco Peralta.  Her lining treatment really inspired me and I sort of replicated it here in my own fashion. Tany lined her top but simply left the sleeves unlined and the armholes beautifully bound and unattached.. The link will show you how she did that. I am going to do similar. The lining will be connected at the neck, I think, understitched, and hang freely in the bodice with thread chains in the side seams to keep everything secure. The armscye and hem will be finished with a shell stitched finish, a technique often used in heirloom sewing and great on lingerie. Here is a pic of the lining all cut and ready to go.  I've been using clips for a while but just started using them for patterns and really like them for that.

You've hear me many times talk about making samples. If there ever was a case for sampling, it is the shell stitch in combo with the poly anti static lining. Here you can see my beginning attempts. They are horrid, I agree. But, with sampling you keep playing until you get it right and eventually I did.

You can see some rows just aren't doing a "shell" effect. That is the work of the tension and to make this work I used a tension setting of 8. Other rows have me fiddling with width and length, just nasty, but I kept at it. I  eventually got it and when I did, I tried it out with matching fine machine embroidery thread as used in heirloom machine sewing.

You can see the pretty little shell effect in the row the arrow and the scissors are pointing to. It has a stitch width of 4.0, a stitch length of 1.5 and a tension setting of 8. The fine thread disappears into the fabric so prettily. The shoulder seam of the lining will be sewn  first. Then the armscyes  will be the shell stitched and once those are stitched the side seams will get a French seam. Last but not least the hem edge will get the shell stitch treatment, all a light and lovely secret hiding under the top.

My next session will have me making the lining, connecting it to the neckline and re-cutting the neckline a bit for a more attractive curve. The back neckline is very horizontal and needs a bit more shaping, IMO. I have really been enjoying this project and sharing it with you! I bet we all have lots of 1/4 and half yard pieces we could put to good use this way!............Bunny

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Top of Many Colors

Courtesy Susan Eastman

The work of fiber artist Susan Eastman  caught my eye when it popped up in my Pinterest boards. 

I think what appeals to me is the short length. I  like tops that just skim the top of my hips, making my legs look longer!  I have loads of linens and lots of hand dyeds that I've done over the years. It's time to put them to use. As many are small pieces, this sort of patch work-y garment could really make great use of their uniqueness. I can also see this style in some woolens for winter with a black turtleneck, sort of sweater style but we're moving into Spring now so linens and cottons are my focus.  

I've started working out the pattern. I really liked the way Vogue 9305 fit me, but I had to get rid of the big slit and bias drape. I worked on that today and think I may have it. The other change I wanted was a wider, higher neckline, as you see in the two examples above. I've marked one out but I'm not sure where it will land. A muslin is in order to get this all right. A muslin for what's basically a fat tee shirt out of patches? Well, I figure if I can work this out well enough I will make it numerous times so a muslin is definitely in order. I also don't want to waste any of my hand dyeds on a garment I won't wear because the fit is off. The original 9305 has cut on sleeves as do many of the Eastman designs and the pattern also provides an extension for full 3/4 length sleeves as well. I will probably use three fabrics in the sleeves. Here are my fabric choices. 

Clockwise from 9 o'clock is a Kaufman linen/cotton yard dyed, a silk hand dyed by myself at 12, a 100% home dec linen in turquoise, a 100% cotton batik, and a gorgeous periwinkle Kaufmann yarn dyed. My dominant color, I think, will be the navy but we will see how it all lays out. The batik will be just a tiny accent as it is quite bold. 

I am debating exactly how to construct this. I really don't want exposed seams inside so a lining is in order but I've been pondering the "stitch and flip" technique. I get the idea, just have to work it all out in my head first so I have no surprises or I may just do a traditional lining. I am keeping this simple, no topstitching of the pieces or neckline, I think. I don't want this to look like a quilt. This shouldn't take long once I get going. 


Also in the queue are some desperately needed window treatments for our guest room. I haven't been fabric searching for that yet, time, and all, but that will happen right after the top. 


Portrait update:  It's coming along. It's a project that really requires unbroken extended time once I get into it so it's good to have this simple top to work on in between. The top is a project good for "spurt" work, which I have more of than uninterrupted time work right now. I've worked out my fourth mouth at this point and figured out that the dimension I was seeking for the teeth comes later in the process. I was fraught trying to get the fabric to do what a combination of techniques is really going to do later in the process. Sometimes we learn slowly and stubbornly and that applies here. What's interesting is the feeling I get when working on the tee top by vivid comparison. It was as if I could do it blindfolded, manipulating pattern paper, adjusting for design, arranging limited fabrics to their best advantage, etc. it went quickly,my hands flitting around the cutting table and with fingertip muscle memory just moving unencumbered, great fun. Whereas the portrait really takes  a learning mindset, with muscle memory not even existing yet but trying to be imprinted. It can feel awkward. I do like the idea of having these two distinctly different projects going. They enhance each other's process. I should get a lot done this weekend. I think I'll hit the top first!.........................Bunny

Friday, March 1, 2019

This is what I have been working on. Please don't judge. It is in the most basic of many stages and far from having even that part complete, but I did want to share. It's been an interesting ride. I do think seeing it as a photo solidifies what I was seeing in my mind and will make it that much easier to correct issues I am seeing.  At this point, if you squint, it definitelylooks like my daughter. I loved working on her hair. At this point fabric pieces are laid down and secured with a bit of glue. Here's a closeup of the hair.

Every piece will be zigzagged down, then quilted and embroidered. I will probably add some angelina to the hair and embellish other parts of the portrait as well.

The bug to try this hit me when I saw a Sewing with Nancy Video entitled Sewing Art.   It snagged me right in. I started looking for photos and shopping for my 8 fabrics. I luckily have Photo Shop so proceeded as instructed with getting everything in order on PS to get this project going. While doing that I was so smitten with the technique that I started researching other books and found this one on Amazon.

Wiener's book took a totally different approach that appealed to me more than the first technique. Hmmmm,,,,,I think I'll go her way! And then, I kept searching.........


Each artist has a different method for accomplishing their work. I will give in depth reviews when my project is done. Susan Carlson's book to me is more my style. She takes a free form approach but one requiring specific skill which she teaches in depth. I've seen her work in person and it is spectacular. She has a "no rules" sort of ease to her teaching and art and I really like that. By now my project is where you see it and I have confusingly employed techniques from all three artists. While this has made me feel awkward it has been a terrific learning experience. I've learned for my approach, Carlson's methods are the way to go and the next portrait, yes, there will be a next one, will be strictly using Carlson's methods. It is just so uncomplicated compared to the other two.

I have seen Susan Carlson's work up close and personal. At one time she owned a fabric shop in New Hampshire but long sold it to pursue her art. I took classes there, but not from her. She has an amazing sense of color that that really appeals to me and that the other two artists approached differently. I prefer her approach. This project has been very challenging and I am really enjoying it. There are so many layers to the process, much like making a tailored coat. So first I have to get all the fabric down the way I want. Then it will be glue it all down, then stitch it all down, then quilt it with free motion techniques, so not quite an overnight project. I really want to get a garment project going at the same time but this one and all its messy pieces of fabric, glues, etc, has taken over my work table for now. As soon as I can I will start a garment. There is much I need for the warm weather so I may even make a plan, not usually my style! So go back to the first picture, squint a bit, and you will see my daughter. Tomorrow I will redo all of the mouth area and start on her ear and clothing. .......Bunny

Who owned this pattern?

Recently I've had the opportunity to charge ahead on a long anticipated project, searching down some great thrift shops. This has not be...