with Di Kendall

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Blog Archive

By Di, May 14 2021 04:01PM

There's a new article on my Tutorials page all about Interfacings.

For most dresmaking projects I usually keep just two Vlieseline products ready to use. It's only when I venture into shirt making, tailoring and couture I use different products,

Take a peak at the different interfacings that are out there and when I use them.

By Di, Jan 1 2021 11:39AM

Only available from Sew-It With Di

Always know how stretchy your knit fabric is wether it's in your stash or in the fabric shop.

There's so many different types of knit fabrics and they all stretch different amounts. Patterns are designed to work with fabric that has a specific amount of stretch so choosing the right fabric is really important. Knit fabrics can also stretch different amounts across its width and its length.

Buy my Stretch Fabric Ruler that comes with a guide about how to use it and help you make decisions about the best use for your fabric.

Shipping rates available to Europe, Canada, USA Australia and New Zealand. Please ask for rates to other countries.

Click here to go to my SHOP

By Di, Jul 20 2020 02:36PM

There's quite a few ways of adding a pocket to a side seam.

I like this method because the opening doesn't stretch and the pocket bag doesn't sag.

The easiest thing is to use a pocket bag from a pattern you already have or you can draw your own.

1. Extend the top of the pocket bag so it overlaps the waist seam by 15mm.


if your garment doesn't have a waist seam extend the top of the bag about 10 cm and gradually taper it to join the edge of a the pocket. This pic isn't to scale!

2. Cut 2 pocket bags and mark the opening on both the bag and the garment side seam. If you're using a fabric with vertical stretch fuse a narrow strip of interfacing on the wrong side of the pocket bag opening.

3. Place one pocket bag RS down against the RS of the garment. If it has a waist seam the seam allowances should be level at the waist. Make sure you can see exactly where the pocket opening will be.

4. You're going to machine 3 side of a rectangle, pivoting exactly at the top and bottom of the pocket opening. Start at the cut edge, put the needle down at the top of the opening, pivot, continue 15mm from the edge, pivot at the bottom of the opening and stitch to the edge.

5. Trim to approx 6mm from the stitching.

6. Snip very close to the sticthing at the corners.

7. Press the trimmed allowances towards the pocket bag. Understitch through the pocket and the allowances.

8. Turn the pocket bag so it's against the wrong side of the garment and press.

9. With the wrong side of the garment on top, put the second pocket bag on top of the first one. Machine the pocket bags together around the outer edge. Use you preferred method to neaten the edge. You could do a french seam if you wanted to.

8. On the right side you've made the pocket.

9. Place the garment back right sides together on top of the front. Pin carefully at the top and bottom of the pocket opening. Machine the side seam. Try to sticth exactly over the right angle formed by the pocket opening, but keeping the front pocket area away from the seam.

10. Neaten the side seam using your preferred method. You can press the seam open if you want.

11. Now finish the waist seam attaching the pocket bag into the seam. If the waist has gathers or tucks keep the pocket bag out of the way whilst sewing them. Then lay the pocket flat over the top before attaching the bodice or waistband.

If your garment doesn't have a waist seam a side seam pocket often drops, distrorting the line of the garment because they don't lie flat underneath it. Extending the pocket as I described in step 1 means the top of the pocket is supported by the side seam.

By Di, Feb 10 2020 04:08PM

September 2019 I was asked if I'd like to be one of the bloggers featured in the Simplicity Hack along.

This is an extended version of my article that was published in the December issue of Sew Today magazine.

Simplicity are using the Hackalong to help raise awareness of female cancers by supporting the Eve Appeal along with some amazing prizes from Janome.

There were 9 patterns to choose from to adapt to create your own individual outfits.

If you're on social media you can see some of the great creations by using #hackalongday #hackalongparty #hackalongvintage

I chose to combine Simplicity 8992 and 8701 to create a unique jumpsuit.

I know rules are there for a reason, but with years of experience I do like to break them! It's important to understand why a rule exists and to appreciate the impact your choices can make to the outcome. 8992 is designed for knit fabrics, but I was fairly certain I wanted to use a woven fabric for my jumpsuit. I decided to make a cardigan from fabric I'd had since last year to give me the opportunity to asses the fit, especially across the shoulders and bust areas.

My cardigan has been worn a lot, both as a tunic and for layering on colder days. I was happy with the amount of ease and the set in sleeve seam sat well on my shoulder. However the sleeve pattern is slim fitting, but not tight. This made me wonder how I could design a sleeve that would give just a bit more movement in a woven fabric.

The trousers are close fitting round the hips with a curved waistband and wide legs. I usually wear narrow trousers as they make me look taller. If I was going to wear a wide leg I needed a fabric that drapes well and has flow.

I headed to an area just out of the city centre that has many multi cultural influences and shops specialising in fabrics for traditional Asian clothing. My favourite shop prices their fabrics to make a suit consisting of 3x2m coordinating pieces of 115cm wide fabric. Now I had my fabric my challenge was to combine the two patterns whilst making the best use of my fabric, one with a border down both selvedge edges.

I cut the trousers first creating a wrap around style using the border down the front edge. I wanted a soft elasticated waist that would pull on without a fastening. To achieve this I joined the pattern pieces together at the side seam and extended the top edge so the crotch depth was slightly longer than I use for fitted pants. This will allow enough room for the elastic casing. I then cut the front legs again out of plain fabric. Once I'd stitched the body seams I overlaid the two fabrics, stitching the two layers together at the side seam down to about knee level to stop them opening up when worn.

The bodice was cut to make best use of the border design with a seam down the centre back. I also straightened the side seams from the underarm to the waist as I needed to be able to pull it on over my hips.

I made the sleeve pattern by joining the underarm seam and copying the centre area so they over lap at the sleeve head to make what I call a tulip sleeve.

The sleeves were cut from plain fabric and another part of the border design that was left over, the seam isn't on the original underarm seam, its where made the best use of the fabric. This created movement room as it can open up over the biceps.

Before joining the two pieces together I felt the trousers would benefit from pockets, however I'd omitted the side seams. I cut a pocket bag and used it to make a faced opening, reinforced by lightweight fusible interfacing. The pocket bag extends up so its stitched in with the elastic casing.

The waist seam was stitched using a 15mm seam allowance on the trousers and 3cm on the bodice. The longer allowance was pressed down and used to make the elastic casing.

I'd originally intended the trousers to have the same hem shape as the sleeves, however I felt that it would spoil the border print so I let the wrapover fall vertically whilst shaping the under layer. I feel this jumpsuit can be worn as casual wear, but also has elegance for more formal situations.

I still had 2.5m of fabric left over so i used it to make Vogue 1642

By Di, Jan 16 2020 02:47PM

I've been writing a series of short articles for Sew Today magazine about hacking their patterns. I don't know who popularised the term, but to me it means doing something illegal or cutting into something in a rough manner .... I like to think adapting patterns is done with thought and care....

For a long time I'd wanted a bra slip with underwired cups. They used to be a thing in the shops when I was a teenager, but I guess the wide range of cup sizes needed makes them an unviable thing to stock.

I've used Vogue 9218

with the bra from Simplicity 8229

To make a wearable toile I bought some very cheap stretch lace fabric with scalloped edges to see if my idea was going to work.

Having made bras before my only concern was achieving a good fit. The instructions for choosing the size were easy to follow and advise buying underwires in different sizes to help find the right ones. I lined the cups with Duoplex to give more support; it encased the seams and is soft so there's nothing to irritate soft breast tissue. I underlined the back band with a strong power net for added support and treated it as a single layer.

The lace edge was appliquéd to the top of the cups with zig zag. I used hooks so the straps can be worn as a halter neck or crossed at the back and I also strengthened where the straps attach to the back by extending them into the lower elastic as well as the top. For larger cup sizes this area takes a lot of strain and a bra pattern where the straps extend round to the hook and eye fastening will be stronger and more supportive.

I stitched the front and back skirt together and appliquéd the scalloped edge to the bottom, leaving the top edge unfinished. Using my ironing board I positioned the bra and skirt together and then attached the elastic to the bottom of the bra.

This is a wearable toile so I used some lace I already had that doesn't stretch to stabilise the top edge. I pinned one motif at the centre front then worked round to the back in both directions and pinned it to my ironing board, to help pattern match the lace accurately at the seam. Finally I zig zag stitched the lace to the main fabric.

I'll wear it a few more times to check the fit before making in charmeuse and lace. As this article was commissioned I was gifted the patterns from Sew Direct, however you could use any bra pattern that fits you.

By Di, Dec 11 2019 11:20AM

Advances in sewing machine technology are making it so much easier to produce quality buttonholes. A button fastening is often on the centre front putting it directly in the eye line of anyone admiring your garment. Whether you want to make a buttonhole a design feature or an understated necessity it's essential they are positioned carefully.

When a button and buttonhole is fastened the two layers of the garment should line up perfectly, usually with the centre front or back lines sitting on top of each other. A cuff or waistband usually has the buttonhole on the top layer with the edge lined up with the opening and the button underneath on the extension. Whichever the position the edge of the button shouldn't be over the edge of the fabric, preferably there should be a 3mm space.

The position of the buttonhole is marked on the pattern piece by an elongated capitol I and the button with a X.

You might want to change the spacing between the buttonholes if you are using different sized buttons, want to group them in clusters and especially if you have altered the body length of the garment as the lengthen and shorten line will fall between button placement marks. I like to use a buttonhole gauge to set even spacing. The Simflex Buttonhole Guage is available from Sew Essential

Should the buttonhole be horizontal or vertical?

The general rule is buttonholes should be horizontal so the shank that holds the button on pulls against the end of the buttonhole. If it pulls against the side the buttonhole will begin to gape and eventually come undone. A jacket or coat always has horizontal buttonholes as they're often worn over other clothes causing strain. Likewise nightwear has horizontal ones because involuntary movement puts strain on the fastening.

McCall's 7513
McCall's 7513

Like lots of rules there are exceptions! These are mainly dictated by the design of the garment. Vertical buttonholes work well on loose fitting garments. Blouses and shirts with a front band always have vertical buttonholes made on the centre front line. However; the bottom buttonhole of a good quality man's shirt is often horizontal to stop it pulling open when sitting down.

The buttonhole on a collar band is horizontal even though the ones below it are vertical.

McCall's 7890 has a front band attached to an asymmetric front opening. The buttonholes aren't vertical or horizontal, but made parallel to the edges of the band.

McCall's 7890
McCall's 7890

Whichever type of buttonhole you choose to make getting the size right is really important. Many modern machines make a buttonhole to fit your button using its diameter. However if you're using a domed button the buttonhole may be too short due to the added depth of the button. If your machine has a four step buttonhole or you want to make bound or handmade ones you need to mark not just the position, but also the length of the buttonhole so that the button passes through easily.

The size of the opening should be the same as the diameter of the button plus it's thickness. This is perfect for a bound buttonhole. For a machine or hand worked one the total length needs to be 3mm longer than the opening to allow for the bars at each end.

For a domed or spherical button measure the size by wrapping a piece of ribbon round the widest part and measure the length of the ribbon.

A buttonhole should start 3mm over the button placement line so when it's fastened the button shank sits against the end of the hole allowing the placement lines sit on top of each other.

It's always worth making a practise buttonhole using exactly the same fabrics and stabiliser to check it's the right size.

Marking Buttonholes on your fabric

Marking the position of a buttonhole is essential for accurate placement. You always mark the right side of your fabric, so you need to be really sure the method you choose is going to permanently disappear. I always thread trace the button placement line(often the centre front line) on both pieces of fabric. If I'm using an automatic buttonhole I use my Simflex gauge and pins to mark the buttonhole position. For any other buttonhole I thread trace both ends and the middle of the buttonhole. As I start to stitch I pull out the horizontal tacking so it doesn't get caught in the machine stitch.

Do you place a button at the fullest part of the bust?

There are different opinions about where to place a button in relation to the bust points. This might depend on how tightly fitting the garment is and how full the wearers bust is. My opinion is this: if the button is level with the fullest point of the bust the buttonhole will take a lot of stress, but if it's evenly spaced above and below bust level the front is going to gape. Neither option is aesthetically pleasing. I prefer to place a button 2.5cm above bust level and then distribute the others evenly.

When you're making buttonholes on the sleeve of a jacket they should be horizontal to the hem.

Vogue 8991
Vogue 8991

If you want to make a buttonhole a specific size, you can set the desired length on the foot between the two prongs.

Occasionally you need a buttonhole larger than the foot allows, it's possible to use the embroidery foot and activate the buttonhole sensor by hand. I explain how to do this on my machine on my tutorials page, click here

This article first appeared in Sew Today magazine It's available along with all of the pattern from Sew Direct.

By Di, Aug 9 2019 01:52PM

If you own clothes that you know fit you it's not difficult to measure them and compare these sizes to your dressmaking patterns.

Download my chart to keep a record of measurements of different items from my Tutorials page.

Different types of clothes need more room, often called EASE, than others.

eg coats are larger than tops because they fit over the top of everyday wear. Knit garments are often smaller because they rely on the fabric to stretch.

Use my chart to guide you through which areas to measure.

How to Measure Your Pattern

Most patterns have some finished sizes printed on the pattern tissue, envelope or in the introduction section of the instructions.

Measure each pattern piece remembering to subtract the seam allowances.

Add the measurements together.

Multiply by 2.

This isn't a perfect answer to fitting patterns, but it can help with deciding which size pattern to begin with

By Di, Jul 9 2019 12:33PM

Last year I made a silk dupion dress. The design was very simple, but it threw up a few challenges.

The whole dress is underlined with silk organza and lined with silk habotai.

I needed a row of buttons down the back purly as a design feature, however the dress needed a zip. I could have put it in the side seam, but the neck opening was only just large enough to get on without opening, so I needed to put it in the back. I worked out how to add preformed elastic bridal loops as well as the zip.

The neck band fastened with a rouleau loop, but the zip pull interferred with the next button.

Having solved the problem by hiding the zip pull inside the neck band I wrote to Threads Magazine with a proposal for an article. I received the standard automatic response thanking me and explaining it might be a while before hearing if my idea will be commissioned as it would be circulated to all their editors. Knowing the caliber of Threads contributors, Claire Shaeffer, Kathryn Brenne, Sandra Betzina, Kenneth D King, I certainly wasn't holding my breath!

Move on about 6 months and imagine opening my emails to find one from Carol Fresia, Senior Technical Editor at Threads Magazine! Could I write a 2 page spread?

My first thought was ' I can't remember how I did it'!

However; as a writer passionate about developing and passing on garment making techniques this was the opportunity I couldn't turn down.

It was an interesting experience and very different from working with UK magazines. They do all their own photography and have colour themes for each magazine. I chose a fabric and had to make 6 samples to show each stage of the process.

I received some very complimentary emails and was overwhelmed to be asked to send my bio and profile pic. I'd been chosen as one of four featured contributors for the September issue which has arrived in the UK this week.

They even included me as their Instagram story!

Now I'm going to share a different technique I developed on the sleeves of the dress.

First of all, I don't like making covered buttons and buckles. My go to solution is Harlequin They use your own fabric to create all sorts of accessories at great prices and with such professional results really quickly.

The problem I had was the shank buttons wouldn't sit flat as a decorative feature on the sleeves. Here's my soloution.

The sleeves were marked with thread tracing where I wanted the buttons to be. It's worth noting that I'd never use any colour on silk, white or other expensie fabric. Even coloured thread can leave fibres that are impossible to remove.

I worked machine made eyelets exactly where the buttons would be. I could have done them by hand, but the only peron who'd ever see them was me!

The button shanks were pushed through the eyelets and hand stitched in place using a fine John James between needle and Gutermann silk thread. The stitches were worked through the eyelet. Silk Thread is available from Sew Essential

The buttons sit really flat aginst the fabric.

By Di, Jun 11 2019 02:20PM

Have you ever wondered how a garment pattern gets to the point when we can buy it either as a paper copy or a pdf? There are many stages from a design concept through drafting, redrafting, sampling, grading, writing instructions, drawing, photographing through to merchandising.

A good company will want to involve other makers in the process to test the pattern to provide an objective view of all aspects. To do this well they need testers from a broad spectrum of society including a range of ages, sizes, heights etc.

How to get involved.

The way companies source pattern testers varies, but it’s often via their newsletter, website and frequently on social media. An internet search will throw up some interesting results. I’ve even been known to contact companies and ask.

Things to consider

There are many great quality pattern companies, however there are also some who lack the necessary experience in an important element of creating a quality pattern with easy to follow instructions.

There's often quite a fast turn around so be sure you have the time, especially if you have to order fabric and wait for it to arrive.

> You normally get a free copy of the pattern, but it might not be the finished version. As a reward some companies offer discounts on other patterns in their range.

> You usually have to use your own fabric and notions which can be expensive if you don’t like the finished garment, the pattern is badly drafted or the instructions difficult to follow ending up with an unwearable garment.

> There’s no monetary renumeration.

> You may have to give permission for the company to use photographs of your finished item and they expect you to post and tag them on your own social media accounts .

> You’re providing free advertising.

> As you’ve been gifted the pattern you legally have to say so in your social media posts.

That does all sound potentially negative, however it’s important to enter into the process with your eyes open and possibly only sign up to test patterns from trusted companies you’re prepared to promote and ones who’s style you like to wear.

One of the positives of the social media coverage is that it not only raises your own profile, perhaps more importantly if you don’t fit the usual ‘model’ profile you’ll be raising the visibility of different age groups, cultures, body types etc. Hopefully companies will see the benefit of this diversity and be encouraged to widen their horizons in their marketing strategy. I'm involved with SewOver50 and we're working to see greater representation of garment makers in this age group used in pattern merchandising.

I’ve enjoyed pattern testing as it uses my dressmaking and professional skills. It helps to slow down my sewing output which is a positive thing as I’m determined to only make things that I’m going to wear often, otherwise I’m just contributing to the over production of clothing.

What will you be expected to do?

What's expected will vary between companies, some provide a questionnaire to help you focus on specific issues.

Here's a list of things to consider to help to make pattern testing a positive experience.

Make notes as you go along and take pictures of things you want to remember or you think might help the company.

If you've been sent the illustrations that will advertise the pattern consider if they're appealing, will they encourage you to buy the pattern? Are they accurate, are all the features obvious? Is there an accurate description of the garment including terms to describe the fit, length and all of the design features?

I have a particular interest in ensuring text and garment patterns are accessible to all, taking into account the different ways people learn, the need for them to be dyslexia friendly and considering the needs of those with English as a second language. Which means I look carefully at whether the font is easy to read and if it prints at an accessible size.

Some fonts are easier to read than others.
Some fonts are easier to read than others.

I like to print the instructions because some people will prefer a paper copy, so it’s important to see if they’re formatted correctly. Do the instructions display on screen accurately? I like to read the instructions at this point to get an overview of what I'm making.

Are the instructions easy to understand?

> The introductory instructions, are they clear and in a logical order?

> Do the technical drawings show the design features like darts, gathers etc clear, especially if there is more than one version of the garment, are the differences clear?.

> Size charts and any additional sizing information, are there finished measurements?

> Meterage and other items you need to buy.

> Is the size of the seam allowances clear. I like to know the seam allowance early on as I don’t often follow instructions! It’s important to find the info quickly if I’m teaching and I’m presented with the pattern.

> Instructions for printing the pattern, are there options for different print formats?

It’s at this stage I print the pattern and check it thoroughly before buying fabric.

> Is there a test square?

> How easy is it to match the pages, what points of reference are there?

> Have all the pieces printed?

> Are any of the pieces printed so they overlap? If so this is a good thing to photo as it explains the problem easily.

> Does the position of the pieces make the best use of the paper, could slight repositioning eliminate a complete row of A4 sheets?

> Is each size clearly identified either by colour or different line styles?

> Does each piece have a grain line or fold line marked?

> Is each piece cleary labelled, does it tell you how many pieces to cut?

You can either cut out your size or cut round the individual pieces. This might depend on how confident you are about the sizing. Like any pattern you might need to merge sizes and make basic alterations like body length. I’d want to check hem lengths to be sure I end up with a wearable item.

I like to check the pattern carefully.

> I measure the finished measurements.

> Make sure seams are the same length

> Are the facings the same shape as the area they’ll be stitched to.

> This will help avoiding a potential disaster and provide essential feedback to the company.

Next I follow the cutting layout on my table without fabric.

> Does the layout work? Is the layout easy to understand?

> How much fabric does it require?

> Are the fabric requirements in the instructions accurate? If you can make better use of the fabric take a picture of how you achieved it.

I’m now ready to select my fabric and cut it out as I’m sure I have the right amount.

Be sure to mark all notches, dots, triangles etc so you can comment on whether they match up as you sew.

Follow the step by step instructions carefully.

> Do they make sense?

> Are they easy to follow?

> Is there anything missing?

> Are there any terms you don't understand?

> Is there a glossary of terms?

> Are any pictures or diagrams easy to understand?

> Are the illustrations in the right place to go with the written instructions?

> If you printed the instructions is an illustration and its instruction all on one side of the paper or do you have to turn over to find more information? This is really important in helping people understand what to do, it's much easier to understand if all the information is visible at the same time.

> Check for spelling mistakes.

> Did you have to buy anything else to complete the garment?

Most important is do you end up with a wearable garment if you follow the instructions?

Giving feedback

Try to respond to any questions the company has asked about.

You might not want to respond to all the things I've listed. If you choose to focus on a specific issue make it clear that's what you've done.

If you find a problem try to explain what you've discovered rather than just stating it doesn't work.

If possible offer a solution.

Be kind even if something isn't accurate or you don't like the pattern. Someone has put a lot of work into the project.

By Di, May 19 2019 03:58PM

Have you ever wondered if you can make your own Pilates, yoga, running, cycle and swimwear? I started making aerobics wear in the days when Olivia Newton-John wowed the world in her black Lycra one piece in Grease! I began making leaotards, tights and costumes for out dance troupe.

The only pic I have from that time is this one taken in about 1984 at Derby Carnival.

Making clothes for exercising in needs fabric and techniques that are going to be put under much more stress than most casualwear. However, it's much easier than many people think. An overlocker is useful, but not essential and a coverstitch machine might be considered an expensive luxury.

I'm going to explain techniques that can be achieved using any machine with a zig zag stitch, plus those with built in stretch stitches and an overlocker.

Let's discuss fabric

As I'm focussing on clothing for cycling, Pilates, Yoga, dance, swimming, running and similar activities, you'll need a fabric with at least 60% stretch both horizontally and vertically. 10 cm of folded fabric needs to stretch to at least 16cm and return to it's original size.

In the UK this type of knit fabric is referred to as 4 way stretch. The density of the fabric is important as you don't want an embarrassing experience when the fabric is stretched. For swimwear light colours aren't as opaque as stronger colours and for dry clothing white underwear can show through some plain dark colours. It can be difficult to work all this out if you're buying online, so purchasing samples is a good idea.

Most 4 way stretch fabric is knitted nylon, polyester or cotton blended with Lycra™, Spandex™ or elastane. Elastane is the generic term whilst Lycra and Spandex are UK and US trade names. Elastane can stretch to 7 times its length and immediately return to it's original length, a small amount when blended with other fibres means a knitted fabric will keep it's shape during exercise and let garments stretch when bending.

Technical/performance textiles that actively keep us cool, protect from UV rays etc are a major area of development, but mainly restricted to the major sports brands who have their own trademarked fabrics. If you're lucky you can find fabrics left over from manufacturing, but they're unlikely to be labelled.

Although many people will feel cotton/elastane to be superior to synthetic blends it's really only suitable for short periods of indoor exercise. Cotton is naturally absorbent, meaning it holds onto moisture and doesn't dry quickly. This makes it very heavy, causing chaffing and it can also cause the body can cool down too much in cold weather, ultimately contributing to hypothermia.

Supplex® is quite easy to find in the UK, but in a limited range of colours. It's a nylon Lycra® that has a soft 'cotton feel', it wicks moisture and dries quickly, is fully breathable keeping you cool and dry. Supplex® also offers excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays. Easy care Supplex® maintains its properties wash after wash. Tia Knight have one of the best colour ranges at the best price I'm aware of.

Considerably easier to find in a wide range of weights, colours and designs is nylon/lycra The down side is that it doesn't breathe, but is widely used in a whole host of garments. Contrado and Funki Fabrics can print fabric especially for you. If you're close to south Yorkshire Walton's in Goldthorpe have a great selection of Lycra fabrics and power net. Tia Knight has a great selection as well.

Power net is available in different colours, weights and stability. It's widely used in bra making and dancewear. Its has great stretch characteristics and is great for ventilation in active wear like behind the knees in leggings.

Fleece backed nylon Lycra is great if you want a warmer fabric for leggings. It's available as the Thermo range from Funki Fabrics

My local pool is selling swimwear made from recycled ocean plastics. The fibre is produced by Econyl. Let's hope this is something that makes it way into our fabric shops.The closest I've found is this recycled cloth from Funki Fabrics

Patterns for Activewear

For menswear patterns take a look in the Pattern Finder section of Bartack where you'll find a Sportswear category with plenty of choice. Jalie have a good range of patterns as well as Sew Direct Garments are often quite simple shapes with only a few seams. Different sports have different needs making the positioning of seams an important factor in your choice. 4 way stretch fabric is really forgiving so if you make a garment and decide you need to move a seam it's really quite easy as the fabric is going to stretch to your body shape.

Sewing 4 Way Stretch Fabric.

For years I made and sold dancewear using an overlocker and a zig zag industrial machine. However, domestic machines have moved on and offer a range of stitches you can use, but you can still make your own work out gear if you only have straight stitch and zig zag. Nylon fabrics can slip on each other, you can use pins or wonder clips to hold the fabric together at regular intervals. Wonder clips are good when overlocking, it's too easy to damage the cutting blade by letting a pin get under it!

Use any offcuts to experiment with, give them a really good pull in both directions to make sure the seams aren't going to pop.

Which Stitches to Use

Stitching Seams

Overlocking is my preferred method. You need a balanced stitch, with the widest seam width. It's the needle threads that are most likely to snap so it's important to do a sample on the same number of layers of your fabric. I sometimes have to adjust the right needle tension when I move on to stitching a single layer before hemming.

Domestic Machine Seams.

Your options will depend on the make and model of your machine. I can make almost anything with the stitches on this key pad. The one useful exception is a lightning stitch.

All my suggested settings can be adjusted to get the effect you prefer.

Numbers in brackets will refer to this picture.
Numbers in brackets will refer to this picture.

1.A small zig zag stitch(05), width 1 length 2. Top seam in the picture.

2. Lightning stitch I use the default setting.

The stitch goes backwards on alternate stitches creating slightly more stretch than zig zag and I find it lies flatter. Bottom seam in picture.

3. I like to add strength by using either a bigger zig zag or a 3 step zig zag(06) next to the first line of machining. Stitch through both layers parallel to the seam and trim off the excess fabric close to the stitching.

that helps to stop the fabric scrunching up. On soft fabrics, including 4 way stretch, I prefer to stitch the seam and then trim off the excess fabric as it makes a much flatter finish.

4. Many machines have an overcast stitch(07) and a foot that helps to stop the fabric scrunching up. On soft fabrics, including 4 way stretch, I prefer to stitch the seam and then trim off the excess fabric as it makes a much flatter finish.

Flat Finishes

1. Flat locking using an overlocker is the closest stitch to one made by a coverstitchmachine, however it only uses one needle thread, so isn't as strong. I've used it on seams that don't take excessive strain. Check out the tutorial on my website.

2. Mock coverstitch has to be my favourite flat seam.

Stitch an overlocked seam with wrong sides together. Lay the seam flat and topstitch with a twin needle. This is really strong for seams that take a lot of strain like the centre back body seam on swimwear and leggings.

3. There a couple of options using a domestic machine.

Stitch the seam with either a small zig zag or lightning stitch. Topstitch from the right side through the body fabric and the seam allowances.

3a 3 step zig zag

3b Twin needle

On the wrong side you can trim the seam allowances close to the stitching.

Finishing waists and edges

I use elastic to stop the edges from over stretching. There are 4 main types of elastic:

Braided is probably the most common where the ribs run along the length of the elastic. It gets narrower when stretched and can roll inside casings. However it's strong and has good recoil.

Knitted is softer and smoother and stretches more than braided elastic making it best on lightweight fabrics. It doesn’t get narrower when stretched and stands up to being stitched through. It has to be cut considerably shorter than finished size to its high stretch.

Woven is a much thicker elastic with much less stretch and is good for waists as it doesn’t roll, but tends to be bulky.

Solid this is either rubber or clear. Both are advertised as swimwear elastic, but I find the clear perishes and is too stretchy. Also stitching through this solid elastic perforates it. If you have to undo stitching you need to use new elastic. It's available from English Couture

I prefer braided elastic for active wear as it holds edges and waist lines in shape and leggings feel safe without too much bulk.

Neck and armholes

The elastic is going to be stitched onto the edge of the fabric so it's important to trim the seam allowances to the width of your elastic, I use 8mm wide braid elastic.

The elastic needs to be stretched slightly as you stitch it onto the wrong side of the fabric. It’s important to keep the fabric moving smoothly through your machine otherwise just pulling the elastic will break the needle.

Hold the fabric behind the foot and with your other hand stretch about 10cm of elastic to approx 12cm, I like to tension it around my fingers, see picture. Keep your hands an even distance apart as you sew, this means the fabric and elastic move through the machine at the same speed. Rather like having your fabric in an embroidery hoop.

With an overlocker keep the edge of the fabric and elastic level with the edge of the plate, you might want to disengage the knife to avoid cutting the edge off the elastic.

Using a sewing machine select either a zig zag or 3 step zig zag to stitch the elastic to the fabric.

Turn the elastic over so the fabric wraps tightly round the edge.

Topstitch from the right side. I use a twin needle, but a zig zag or 3 step zig zag works really well.

Fold Over Elastic FOE

This gives a decorative edge, but some FOE can be a bit rough against the skin especially ones with metallic threads in them.

Trim the seam allowance off the edge of the garment as the folded edge of the elastic makes the finished edge so should line up with the original stitching line.

Put the wrong side of the fabric against the wrong side of the elastic with the cut edge against the inside fold of the elastic. Don't fold the elastic over. Stretch the elastic slightly, use a small zig zag stitch to machine the edge of the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric.

Fold the elastic over to the right side and machine from the right side. Use either a small zig zag or twin needle.

Finishing the tops of Leggings.

One of the easiest and best finishes is to use a wider braid elastic and attach it in the same way as I neaten armholes. I use approximately 2.5cm/1" wide elastic.

One commercial pattern I've used relied on a very tight fitting band of fabric at the top. This does work, but probably relies on the wearer's waist being considerably smaller than their hips!

If you prefer a deep band this method uses a separate band with a wide braid elastic inside.

I use 7.5cm/3" wide elastic. Cut the band twice the width of the elastic plus seam allowances (18cm) and the length of the top of the leggings.

Cut the elastic so it fits snuggly round the waist.

To join the elastic bring the cut edges together on top of a piece of tape. Use a 3 step zig zag to stitch the elastic to the tape. This makes a strong and flat join.

Divide the elastic into 4 equal parts and do the same with the band, match these points to evenly distribute the elastic. Put one edge of the elastic onto the wrong side of the band lined up with the middle.

To stop the elastic rolling inside the casing stretch the elastic and stitch both edges to the fabric with a very small zig zag stitch. This stitching will be on the inside when wearing.

Fold the band in half over the elastic and machine baste the edges together.

Put the right side of the band against the right side of the leggings, matching back seams and centre fronts. Stitch together with a stretch stitch and overlock or zig zag in the seam allowances.

If you want to add a cord for extra security make two buttonholes just either side of the centre front before stitching in the elastic.

I like to reinforce the buttonholes with a piece of woven fabric. This will be inside the casing so won't show. To make a small buttonhole measure between the two plastic pieces on the side of your automatic buttonhole foot. The distance needs to be the size you want the buttonhole to be. You don't need a button, but you do still need to pull down the buttonhole sensor lever on your machine.


You can make a flatlock hem if you have an overlocker, I explain how to do that here

I think a twin needle hem looks professional, however a zig zag or overcast stitch is just as good.

Use your sewing machine to create a hem using either a twin needle, zig zag or overcast stitch. I like to overlock the edge first, but check your tension to make sure the fabric stretches enough.

Its always easier to stitch a deep hem on knitted fabric, at least 2.5cm/1" and pin at right angles to the edge. Machine from the right side stitching on top of the neatened edge as the bulk helps to stop tunnelling.

Always do a sample, especially using a twin needle to check the tension allows the fabric to stretch.

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