Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Wobbly Necks and Two Right Legs Leggings

I know I said I’d do the iguana skirt next but it’s gonna have to wait, sorry.  So in the meantime here’s the T-shirt and leggings.

I am somewhat abashed by the compliments and the comments about how I sewed 6 items for Jungle January – but I’ll let you in on the secret – the T-shirts take 45 mins each and the leggings 30 mins! So that’s a grand total of 2 1/2 hrs for 4 things – not so impressive now, huh?


If I can do this in a few hours, then so can you. Both patterns are easy to cut out and sew and of course, sewing with knits makes them even easier. And while your machine is threaded with the same the colour thread you may as well use it!


Let’s start at the top.

Pattern is Katherine Tilton for Vogue 8793. Four pieces – front & back on the fold, sleeves and a neckband. The pattern comes with instructions for contrasts and bands and zip embellished necklines but you can keep it simple if you want to. I just used the front, back and sleeve bits.

When sewing with knits I always sew the shoulders first, then attach the neckband, sew the sleeves in – all while the garment is flat and then finish with a continuous side seam – all along the sleeve and down to the hem. Hem the sleeves and body and it’s ready to wear.

Nothing new there but does this ever happen with your T-shirt neckbands?


Too long and too loose? And the only fix is to rip it all out and start again – but wait……. don’t be too hasty with that ol’ seam ripper-outer.

Dig through your bits and bobs box and see if can’t collect together some sequins, small buttons, beads and other assorted glittery things. Failing that, spend 50p on a tube of such like at your local craft shop.

Let the neckband fall naturally where it is apparently comfortable, while you gently coerce it into folds and pleats all the way around. Secure these artistic flourishes with pins. Using old fashioned needle and thread, hand sew the pleats in place, adding the shiny things as you go.

DSC00775 DSC00776

Now you not only have a neat and well fitting neckband, but you’ve got embellishment too! Oh, and sew the shiny things ALL the way around the neck (including the back) – this isn’t RTW, you know. I hate that! You pick up a top in a shop and admire the embroidery or whatever on the front only to turn it around and the back is plain – plain cheap!

Pattern adjustments made on this version include:

5″ added to length to make more a tunic than a T-shirt

6″ added to sleeve length – the sleeves are really long but I wear them pushed up for a scrunched up (ruched) sort of look.

Neckline is lowered 1.5″ at the centre front.


For this one’s sister there were no fancy adjustments or embellishments but I did learn how to sew the neckband properly. Measure the neck opening, subtract 2″ and that’s the ideal neckband length!

I suppose this might vary depending on fabric and stretchability but it worked a treat on this version. My preferred method of attaching the neckband is to sew the ends, fold wrong sides together and either overlock or zig zag the folded band to the neck of the T-shirt. A good pressing turning the seam in works great.

I was running out of fabric by the time I got round to sewing this one, so the sleeves are somewhat shorter than they should be – heck – just an excuse to show off bangles!

OK OK I agree – a middle aged woman in leggings *%!&* but if you’re interested for teenage daughters (or sons) here it is…..


McCalls 6173 view B.


And what’s so brilliant about view B?

Well, there’s only ONE piece!

Yep, one. A whole leg with a fold over waistband.

Pattern reviewers recommend cutting a size smaller than usual – so I did. Don’t you just love it when someone else has made the mistakes for you?

My animal print ones were made from leftover scraps from the T-shirt. There wasn’t a lot to play with and that one leg pattern piece is fairly wide (at least my size is!). I twisted and turned and pulled and flipped and eventually I could just about place the single pattern piece on two bits of fabric. Hurray!

Got the serger (overlocker) out and whizzed up the single inside seam in about 3 mins flat. Turned one leg right sides out to stuff it down the other one getting ready to line up and sew the single centre crotch seam and then I realised………..can you?


Two right legs! In all my efforts to make sure I had enough fabric, I cut the two pieces of fabric both facing up. I carried on sewing regardless – but my centre seam veers off at an angle. Believe me, no-one is ever going to see these leggings without voluminous hip and thigh coverings, so I’m not that bothered.


Having learned this valuable lesson, the black pair sewed up just fine. The instructions tell you to sew the waistband down and thread the elastic though. I always seem to lose my safety pin though. This method is quicker and neater:

1. Measure your waist with the elastic, stretch gently as you do this (not too tight though) and add 1″ for overlapping the ends. Cut to the required length.

2. Fold the elastic in half and mark with a pin; fold in half again and mark the quarters with pins. Pin the overlapping ends at the centre back seam; the half-way pin at the centre front and the two quarters at either side.

3. Stitch with a zig-zag or overlock the elastic directly to the inside edge of the waistband, gently stretching as you sew to ensure the quarters are evenly distributed.


4. Trim off any floppy bits of fabric. Fold the waistband over enclosing the elastic and zig-zag closed.

Job done and no lost safety pins!

Next time, I promise without fail – the iguana skirt and manipulation to Vogue 1247. Until then…….. Roarrrrr on!


Mix ‘n’ Match

This is part of my recent Vogue $3.99 sale mass pattern purchase and I have been thinking long and hard about the mix and match fabrics that I could use. I finally decided and selected a range of black and whites and a few greys – all stretch, some cotton, some lycra – all from Tissu.  

The pattern is Katherine Tilton V8817 classified as easy and comes with 2 distinct tops each with 2 variations. I made view C: a tunic with asymmetric hem line, and three different fabrics.
It is an easy and quick tunic to make although I have written some alternative cutting and construction instructions below to make it even easier and more economical. So far I’ve made 2.
This is the black and white zebra tunic. The body and lower sleeves were cut in a solid black 4-way stretch lycra; the middle sleeves and top were cut in in black & white polka dot cotton stretch; the top and upper sleeves cut in a lycra zebra print.
The instructions with the pattern tell you explicitly which bits to cut in what fabric so it’s not that difficult – the hard part is choosing the fabrics! I tried this version with black leggings – not something I would normally wear but the long tunic covers all the areas that you would rather the public don’t see. I asked DH if I looked like I should be in Las Vegas – but he said it looked alright – yeah but we know what he has said about other things too!

The first one I actually made was the grey version.

Again a solid fabric for the main body with a patterned lycra for the uppers. However I didn’t buy a third grey – I got confused when ordering – but did think the greys were rather dull when put together. I had this bit of orange cotton jersey in the box which wasn’t used for the Stash Attack and used it to lift the colours. I like grey with bright colours like lime green, pink and, of course, orange.

There is no contrast middle bit in the pattern so I added a folded piece of orange and sewed it in between the upper and lower back to create a continuity from front to back.

With clever cutting of your fabric you can get tonnes out of this pattern. When ordering from Tissu you have to buy full metres, no halves allowed, so I bought 2m of the solid grey (the pattern calls for 1.4m for size 14).
I had enough left over to make a matching pair of pull on simple, simple trousers.

This pattern is McCalls M6247 by Nancy Zieman and each item in the envelope only takes 30mins to sew (give or take). Great, step by step instructions with tips and tricks thrown in. There’s no tailoring or fitting with these pants – they are really just two tubes sewed together in the middle with an elastic waist. Again this something I wouldn’t normally wear but once again a long tunic covers a multitude of sins. I cut a 14 in the trousers but really could have gone down a size – the crotch hangs a bit low!

Now onto the nitty gritty and possibly some good advice if you plan to make this tunic.

The pattern calls for
1.4m of fabric
0.6m contrast 1
0.5m contrast 2

All pieces are cut on the fold except for middle and lower sleeves and the neck band.
Now look at the layout recommendation……
There’s a lot of wasted fabric there.

So here’s what I did. Firstly I could only order full metre lengths so I got in total:
2m fabric grey
2m fabric black
2m fabric fine B&W stripes
1m contrast zebra
1m contrast grey leaves
1m contrast broad B& W stripes
1m contrast B&W polka dots

I placed the lower front on the fold but reversed the lower back pattern piece (heads to tails) and so that the fold edge was 1.5cm from the selvedge. This meant I had a centre back seam but that’s OK especially as I was saving so much fabric.
I placed all the other pieces for the contrasts making sure of straight of grains and cut these into tight ‘squares’ but not cutting the pieces out yet.

Then I positioned these prepared bits on top of the remaining contrasts lining up the folds, hence knowing that the grains were straight. Pinned through all thicknesses and cut the two fabrics in one go.

In reality, for a few pennies more and a few extra cms, I get two tunics for the price and effort of one.

Now the alternative construction technique. We are using the properties of the fabric here as it is stretch to make sewing much easier and quicker. As always – press as you go.

1. Sew the middle front to the upper front as per instructions. You can either topstitch or serge the seam.

2. Sew the shoulder seams – upper front to back. Finish this seam with a zig-zag or serge.

3. Attach the neck band. Either use your preferred method or follow the pattern instructions. Doing this now instead of at the end means you are working with a much smaller item and so it is easier to manipulate and you get the hardest part of sewing out of the way early.

4. Now sew the upper sleeves to the upper top. Use the shirt method – keep the whole thing flat – no need to ease the sleeve heads – just match the centres with the shoulder seams and the edges with the edges and gently stretch the sleeve into place.
Do not sew the sides yet.

This is what the upper half looks like at this stage – and lying flat on the table.

5. Sew the sleeve bands to each other and then to the upper sleeves, finishing the seams in your usual way.

6. Sew the centre back seam – if you cut out like I did. I didn’t bother to finish this seam as it was cut on the selvedges and won’t fray.

7. Sew the lower front to the front.

8. If you wish to use a contrast strip at the back, cut 1″ wide long enough to fit the back and press in two lengthwise. Position the raw edges to the raw edges of the upper back – place the lower back piece on the top and sew in place. Finish the seam.

9. Now you can sew the sides in one go – starting a the sleeve hem and finishing at the tunic hem. Take extra care at the contrast joins. Pin perpendicular to the seam to hold the fabric together so that you get a nice even join at the sides.

Sew side seam again from upper arm to upper body for extra strength under the arm.

10. Finally hem the sleeves and the tunic.

With this cutting method I have enough plain black left over to make another pair of speedy trousers to wear with the zebra tunic.

And this one is ready to go. I now have 1m of fine striped black & white,  a 0.5m of zebra, a little bit of polka dot and 0.6m of thick striped black and white leftover – I’m thinking of making a cardigan based on this pattern but instead of cutting the fronts on the fold, cut them on the selvedge edge and then simply turn in the selvedge as the front opening.  I’ll keep you posted.

Hope this has been of help.

Thanks for reading. Ruth

PS – I’ve completed this tunic now – go to Parallel Lines posting for the finished view. 13th June 2012