Tutorial: shirring with elastic thread

I know that a number of you out there are terrified by the concept of shirring with elastic thread. You Fear the Shirr.

Shirring is sewing with elastic thread in the bobbin of your sewing machine to create a “smocked” appearance on your fabric (it’s not actually smocking, though; true smocking is a decorative stitching technique done on pleated fabric…my grandma used to hand-smock dresses for me back in the seventies and eighties).

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I completely sympathize with those of you who are intimidated by shirring, because when the shirring trend started to get really hot a few years ago I just could NOT get it to work on my machine — and, after attempting it a few times, I just about threw my sewing machine out the window. Eventually I figured it out, and now I use it all the time! It’s great for simple sundresses, and as many of you know, the back of the my Washi Dress Pattern is shirred, giving it a fantastic, comfortable fit and preempting the need for a zipper. The ability to shirr (I just had to look up that word to make sure it existed) is an excellent skill to have in your sewing arsenal, so I thought I’d put together a little tutorial for you today! Soon you’ll be shirring like a pro!!

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I use a Bernina Activa 220, which has a front-loading bobbin. I’ll address the top-loading bobbin, too, but be aware that each machine will be a little different, and you might find that you need to make an adjustment or two in order to find the perfect technique for you. I’ve included some links to other tutorials at the bottom of this post, so if you find that this method doesn’t work well on your machine, you may want to check out some of those.

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First, let’s talk about elastic thread. You can find elastic thread in the notions aisle of any sewing superstore next to the other elastics, but I’d recommend that you skip the store brand or Dritz brand elastic threads (I’ve had mediocre results with those) and look instead for the Gutermann brand, which I’ve heard has a higher quality elastic than the cheaper brands. At some point, I decided just to invest in the giant cone of elastic thread from CTS, and I’m so glad I did. Trust me, at $30 a cone, it’s definitely easier than going back and forth to the store 10 times, and you get about a million times more thread.

Okay, grab your elastic thread, and let’s get started! Slowly wind a bobbin with elastic thread by hand. You’ll want to be careful not to pull or stretch the thread as you wind.

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Now place the bobbin in the bobbin case, pulling the thread through the hole that the thread would normally go through. The key is to do everything the same as if you were threading it with regular machine thread.

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Place the bobbin case in your machine. You’ll be using regular thread in the top of your machine. Increase the stitch length so that it’s slightly longer than usual; for me that’s a length of about 3.5-4 (on a scale of 1 to 5, where 2.5 is normal stitch length). I do NOT adjust the tension on my machine at all; I’ve tried that, but I’ve never found it helpful.

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If you have a top-loading bobbin, it is really REALLY important to make sure that the thread goes through that little thread-guide notchy thing (see arrow in picture below). This is what gives the elastic thread its tension so that it doesn’t make spaghetti squiggles on the back side of your fabric.

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Now put the presser foot down, and just start sewing across your fabric. It’s a good idea to try this on a scrap of fabric before attempting shirring on a garment. You know…because it’s the responsible thing to do.

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When you get to the other side, lift up the presser foot and your needle, and sew another row, about 1/2″ away from the first line. Leave a loop of elastic thread on the edge of your fabric every time you start a new row. Note: you will eventually have to trim these loops, but to hold each line of shirring in place, stitch forward and backward over each elastic thread as you sew the side seams together. This will secure those ends so that they won’t pull out.

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Each row of shirring should seem fairly loose and stretchy, but as you add rows they will work together to gather your fabric. The elastic thread should not squiggle or bubble on the back of the fabric, and it shouldn’t be so tight that it feels like it’s going to break if you stretch the fabric to its original size.

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Once you have sewn all of your rows of shirring, use an iron to blast the stitches with lots of steam on both sides of the fabric. This will help gather your shirring even more. If you have a spray bottle, it may also help to spritz the fabric with a bit of water.

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This is what it should look like after you’ve finished steam-blasting it:

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Let me share one last thing that’s really helped me: on my Bernina (which has the front-loading bobbin), the stitches come out too tight when I’m shirring lightweight fabrics like voile or double gauze (it’s fine when I shirr cottons, though). To fix this, I loosen the bobbin screw slightly (a quarter- or half-turn is usually enough). Don’t forget how much you turned the screw though — you’ll want to turn it back when you’re ready to sew with regular thread again.

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You’ll find that the amount of stretchiness you end up with really depends on the type of fabric you use, so trying it out on a sample first is really important! Play around with ONE variable at a time (don’t change three things at once), sew a couple rows, blast it with steam, and if that doesn’t work, change something else. It may take some persistence to figure out what works best for your machine, but if you are patient and figure it out, you’ll be really glad you did!!!

Further Reading:
Jamie Christina’s Shirring Tutorial (drop-in bobbin)
Flossie Teacake’s Shirring Tutorial (front-load bobbin)
Heather Ross’ Troubleshooting with elastic thread

If you’re intrigued by shirring but don’t have a project picked out yet, here are a few easy practice shirring projects:
Rainbow Dress Tutorial
Baby Sunsuit Tutorial
Heather Ross’s Mendocino Sundress Pattern/Tutorial

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City Pants

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I fell in love with this cityscape fabric at Dry Goods Design in Seattle last December; it was the end of the bolt, and I immediately thought of boy pants. When I realized that it matched the jersey fabric that I used for this hoodie, I was all over it.

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Here’s the problem with me and fabric: I get distracted by these lighter “quilting” cottons that look awesome because of their prints. I know I should be making pants with bottomweight fabrics like twill or denim, but it’s so hard when there are so many great prints out there!

As a result, I definitely had to add kneepads to them (again). But I wanted a kneepad different from the one on yesterday’s pant, so I went with a more classic oval shape. And then I wanted some pouch pockets on the front. And then I thought, why not use the tuxedo stripe to cover up the side of the pocket? And then…well, they ended up a bit short, so I added cuffs, too.

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These pants should really be called “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” pants, not City Pants. Seriously, Rae. They are a little Crazytown. But strangely, because the print is so subtle, all the “extras” I added blend in pretty well!

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Pattern: I made these pants with the same pattern that I used for both the brown pants with the tuxedo stripe and the Saffron Pant, and I am making good progress on getting this pant pattern ready for the pattern shop. It will come in nine different sizes (2-10) and has a ton of options for customizing, as you can already see. No surprise, since I can never do a pattern the same way twice. Rae-DD. It’ll be a good staple. Sign up for the newsletter on the sidebar if you want an update when it’s ready.

Let’s talk about pant patterns. This pant pattern is a TWO-piece pant, meaning there are two main pieces, a left and a right. The Big Butt Baby Pants and my free Newborn Pant pattern both fall into the TWO-piece pant pattern category, as well (though the B3Ps have an extra rear diaper panel). The other kind of pant pattern you see most frequently is a FOUR-piece pant (2 fronts, 2 backs), like Dana’s Kid Pant (a pattern which I know she also hopes to develop in multiple sizes, for sale eventually. Yay!! You can never have too many good pant patterns, I say!).

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Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages, to be sure. You can’t put certain kinds of pockets (like the side pockets you might find on a pair of jeans) on a two-piece pattern, and it is more difficult to get a flared shape without a side seam. But my big love affair with the two-piece pattern stems from the fact that it’s super fast. Since I make a TON of clothing for my kids, that counts for a lot. You can still do fun things like tuxedo stripes and pintucks and pockets with a two-piece. But I like a four-piece pattern to really be able to play with the shape of a pant (like a skinny jean, for instance), so having both types in your pattern collection comes in really handy.

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Anyway, these pants were made with a two-piece pattern, which is really very simple. But it’s also very easy just to add things to make them more interesting. To illustrate, here’s how I added the pouch pockets (see also yesterday’s post on adding the tuxedo stripe):

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(1) Cut two pocket pieces (mirror image) and two pocket linings.
(2) Pin each pocket piece to its lining, right sides facing. Sew together along the curved edges only (BUT! if you won’t be able to cover up the side edge with a tuxedo stripe or side seam, sew that side too, leaving just the top open).
(3) Turn it right side out.
(4) Press and add stitches along the top curve (optional).
(5) Pin it to the pant leg so that the side will be covered by the tuxedo stripe piece (sneaky, right?!?!). Then sew the pocket to the pant leg along the bottom curve.
(6) Sew the tuxedo stripe down, and finish the pants. You can fold up the top of the pocket right into the waistband to finish the top edge!

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Here’s my little rock star, rocking his new pants.

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Celebrate the BOY 2013

This post is part of Celebrate the BOY, a series of boy sewing posts hosted by me and Dana of MADE. Check out my Celebrate the BOY archives for more boy sewing posts.  Here’s what we’ve done so far:

DAY 1: Rae: Saffron Pants and Color Roundup / Dana: 5 Steps to the Basic Tee
DAY 2: Rae: Little Bit of Color Hoodie / Dana: Pants Roundup
DAY 3: Rae: Hoodie Tutorial / Dana: Kids Shorts/Pants with Back Pocket Tutorial
DAY 4: Rae: Show your Stripes Turtleneck / Dana: 13 DIY Fabrics
DAY 5: Rae: Stripes Roundup and Celebration Garland / Dana: Favorite Tee Shirt Buddy Toys
DAY 6: Rae: Fox Tee / Dana: Big Stick Jammies
DAY 7: Rae: Bold Prints Roundup / Dana: Beach Robe to House Robe Remix
DAY 8: Rae: City Pants / Dana: we be jammin PJ roundup

Tuxedo Stripe Pant

A tuxedo stripe is a a great way to feature a bold print in a fun way! Take these pants I made for Elliot:

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I put a little piece of the print on the patch pockets for another fun pop of print.

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Shown here with a Flashback Skinny Tee-turned-henley — another easy modification on the basic tee that I hope to show you how to do at some point.

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Tuxedo Stripe pant

These pants also look really great with the white and orange hoodie I made last week for this tutorial!

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But today let’s focus on the pants…they’re just a simple two-piece pant (so two main pieces; one for each leg) with a tuxedo stripe topstitched on the side. I also sewed the waistband with a flat-front (just like I did with the heart pants for Clementine; Dana has a great flat-front pant tutorial here that’s pretty similar to the way I do mine, if you’d like to give it a try). Here’s a basic how-to for the tuxedo stripe:

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If you use ribbon or a piece of bias tape that already had the edges folded under, you could skip the “fold and press under” part of Step 2, and just pin and stitch it down. But basically, you just topstitch the stripe onto the side of your pant, then fold up the ends of the stripe into the waistband and hems.

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As you can see, I also added kneepads. This fabric is a medium-weight cotton and is therefore prone to holes at the knees, so beefing up the knees will hopefully help these last longer; plus, I like how they look! Since there’s no side seam on these pants I just “hid” the edge of the kneepad under the tuxedo stripe, if that makes sense. I hope to share a more thorough how-to for this kneepad as well, but of course, there’s only so much time for this busy mama. Realistically, what I want to post and what I actually have time to post are two very different things, as I’m sure you all know. Such is life, right?

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You’re going to really miss this guy when Celebrate the BOY is over, aren’t you? Just a few more days left!

Updated: OH! Totally forgot to tell you: if you’re interested in purchasing the fabric that I designed for the stripe, you can find it on Spoonflower, right here.

Celebrate the BOY 2013

This post is part of Celebrate the BOY, a series of boy sewing posts hosted by me and Dana of MADE. Check out my Celebrate the BOY archives for more boy sewing posts.  Here’s what we’ve done so far:

DAY 1: Rae: Saffron Pants and Color Roundup / Dana: 5 Steps to the Basic Tee
DAY 2: Rae: Little Bit of Color Hoodie / Dana: Pants Roundup
DAY 3: Rae: Hoodie Tutorial / Dana: Kids Shorts/Pants with Back Pocket Tutorial
DAY 4: Rae: Show your Stripes Turtleneck / Dana: 13 DIY Fabrics
DAY 5: Rae: Stripes Roundup and Celebration Garland / Dana: Favorite Tee Shirt Buddy Toys
DAY 6: Rae: Fox Tee / Dana: Big Stick Jammies
DAY 7: Rae: Bold Prints Roundup / Dana: Beach Robe to House Robe Remix

Adding Trim to the Geranium Dress

I’ve made quite a few versions of the Geranium Dress for Clementine that feature trim along the armholes and bottom of the bodice (here, here, and here), and I wanted to show you how! It’s super easy and it really looks great. My favorite trims for necklines are ricrac and pompons, and lace or piping would be really sweet as well.

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Note: This tutorial assumes you already have the Geranium Dress pattern, which you can buy here (or download the free Little Geranium pattern if you want to try it out in the 0-3 month size)!

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree Shorts

OK, so it’s a long name, but it’s fitting: You take a bunch of shirts or boxers from dad’s closet and chop them up, then put them back together to make a great pair kid shorts. I should have posted this eons ago, but honestly I just plain forgot about it *facepalm*. Sometimes that just happens around here. You know what made me think of it? The fact that he’s wearing them, today, in Florida (we’re here on our annual family vacay). He loves these shorts, mostly because everything in them used to be his daddy’s. Plus they’re supercomfy. Double yay.

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This tutorial was previously published as part of the Fall 2012 Issue of Petit Purls, a great online kids’ knitting mag (this was their Sewing Issue) and it’s still fall, so in a sense it isn’t late at all. But in the sense that it’s just now starting to snow in the Midwest, maybe not so much. Ack. Oh well, perfect timing for those of you in Australia, who are just now starting your summer sewing, right? By the way, that will never not be weird to me.

I should also point out that if you followed the tutorial but used a pair of pants for your pattern instead, you could make a seriously cute pair of pants for winter!! Flannel plaids would be SO GREAT for this pattern. One last thought: if you’re cleaning out the husbeast’s summer clothes drawer to make room for sweaters now, start saving a few shirts for a pair of shorts next spring. OK, I’m finished trying to convince you that you need this now. If it’s snowing by you, save it for later.

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So the tutorial consists of three parts (SCROLL DOOOWN FOR THE FULL TUTORIAL!). First you trace a pattern (you could do this with shorts or pants):

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And then you make the “fabric:”

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Then you turn them into cute shorts! (or pants!)

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Did you catch the incorporation of shirt-pockets to shorts-pockets? Clever, eh?? Can I get an Upcycling high-five?

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And of course, you could use the basic instructions with any fabric, even if it’s not pieced. I think you’ll find this tutorial to be really useful!!

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Here’s the full tutorial, as it previously appeared on Petit Purls:

This snazzy pair of shorts is a great way to reuse old grown-up shirts or boxer shorts! We always have a pile at our house that my husband has tossed aside for various reasons, and I save them when I like the print and the fabric is still in good shape. You could also pick up a pile of shirts at the thrift store or use new fabric if you like (just remember to pre-wash and dry your fabric if you do this). This tutorial shows you how to reuse the finished edges of the older garment as hems for the shorts, making them a nice quick project. Your boy will enjoy knowing that his new pair of shorts came “from daddy’s shirts!”


PatternSIZE
Any size, made to size.

MATERIALS
men’s shirts or boxers (I used four old shirts and two pairs of boxers)

1” wide elastic

Tools and notions
clear quilter’s ruler, rotary cutter, and mat
sewing machine with size 14/90 ruler
matching thread
white butcher paper or large-sheet packing paper
marker
seam ripper
safety pin

PATTERN NOTES
This tutorial shows you how to make a basic 1-piece shorts pattern from an existing garment, and then shows you how to construct the shorts. You could use the same techniques to make a really great pair of PANTS too!


INSTRUCTIONS

Make your pattern
First we’re going to make a simple shorts pattern that will allow you to make a great pair of shorts with just one pattern piece! I think you’ll find that you can also use it for more than just this tutorial — I’ve found mine to be incredibly versatile and since it’s based on a pair of shorts that already fit, there’s no guessing on the size you need!

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Step 1: Find a pair of shorts
Find a pair of shorts that fit your child. The shorts should have elastic either halfway or all the way around the waist. Flat-front shorts with elastic in the back are fine.

Step 2: Trace the back of the shorts
Fold the shorts in half down the center so that the back side of the shorts is facing out. Place the shorts on a large piece of butcher or packing paper, and overlap the halves of the shorts as evenly as possible, lining up edges carefully and flattening the shorts as best you can. Take a marker and trace as closely around the bottom, center, and top edge of the shorts as possible, stretching out the elastic as much as you can to get the true shape of the shorts along the top. Make marks at the side so you’ll know where to place the shorts on the paper when you trace the other side.

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Step 3: Trace the front of the shorts
Now fold the shorts down the center so that the front side is facing out. Line the sides of the shorts up with the marks you just made. Repeat the tracing steps for the back.

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Step 4: Check that the pattern is wide enough at the waist
Before we move on, we’re going to do a little size-check. Measure across the top of the shorts, double that number, and make sure that it’s at least 2” bigger than the hip measurement of your child (measure with a flexible measuring tape around the widest part of their bum). If the waist width is too close to their hip measurement, it’s going to be a squeeze to pull it on, so if it’s too small, draw the pattern wider at the center front or center back until it’s large enough.

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Example (above): I measured the waist edge on the pattern to be about 13” wide, so the finished shorts will measure twice that, or 26” around the waist before the elastic goes in. Since my son’s hip measurement is 24,” there will be 2” of extra room.

Step 5: Make sure the inseam is the same length on both front and back
The shorts have to match up along the inside of the leg (inseam), so measure that distance on both sides and make sure it’s the same. If it’s not, lengthen one of the sides to match the length of the other.

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When you’re finished you should have something similar to the outline below. The taller side is the back of the shorts.

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Step 6: Add seam allowances to the pattern
Take your ruler and add ½” around the outside of the center and inseam edges of the pattern. Add 1 1/2” to the top for the waistband casing.

Note: You won’t need to add a hem allowance to the bottom edge of the pattern since we’ll be using the finished edges from the shirts for the hem. If you want to use this pattern to make additional pairs of shorts or you are using new fabric for this tutorial, you should add a 1” hem allowance to the bottom of the pattern.

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Make your “fabric”
Now it’s time to chop up those old shirts and boxers and piece them together to make the fabric for the shorts.

Step 1: Cut your old garments into 4” strips
Cut your garments along side seams, press them flat, and use a rotary cutter, mat and ruler to cut them into 4” strips that are as long as the pattern is wide. For the top and bottom of the shorts, they can be a little shorter because the pattern piece is narrower at the waist and leg.

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Hints:
– For my shorts (about size 5 / 6), I needed six strips for each side of the shorts, 12 strips total.
– Use existing hems whenever possible
– Cut a couple strips from the button plackets of a shirt and use a seam ripper to take off the buttons (below left). These finished edges can become the bottom hem of your shorts.
– Save a couple of shirt pockets by cutting ½” around the outside of each pocket (below right). You can use these as pockets for your shorts if you like.
– As you cut the strips, line them up over your pattern piece to see how many strips you’ll need total. Keep in mind that the strips will lose ½” on each side for seams.

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Step 2: Sew the 4” strips together

Here is a quick overview of how all of the seams on the shorts were sewn, both when piecing the strips to make the fabric AND when sewing the shorts together:

– Sew the long edges of the two strips together with a ½” seam (a).
– Press the seam to one side (b).
– Zig-zag stitch over the raw seam edges to tack them down and so that they won’t fray (c). This will make all of your seams extra strong. You will be able to see the zig-zag stitch through the fabric, which adds a nice effect (d).

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Now sew enough strips together to cover the entire pattern piece (I sewed my strips WRONG sides together for this part):

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Then press the seam allowances down and zig-zag stitch over the raw edges:

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Repeat for the other leg of the shorts.

Construct the shorts

Step 1: Cut out your fabric
Place your pattern piece over the shorts and cut out the fabric. The rulers in the photo below were used to hold the pattern piece flat.

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Flip the pattern piece over and repeat for the other side of the shorts. VERY IMPORTANT: Your two shorts panels must be mirror images so check carefully before cutting into your fabric!

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Step 2: Attach the pockets (optional)
Press the edges of the pocket pieces under towards the wrong side.

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Pin each pocket to the center of each of the shorts panels, and sew carefully around the edges to attach. BE CAREFUL not to sew the pocket shut when you sew across the top edge!

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Step 3: Sew the center seams together
Place your two shorts panels with right sides facing, and sew the center seams together with a ½” seam allowance.

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Recommended: Trim seam allowances to ¼”, press to one side, and zig-zag the raw edges down to make this seam extra-strong.

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Step 4: Sew the inseam
Open up your shorts and line up the inseam edges with right sides together. Sew with a ½” seam.

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Recommended: Trim the seam allowance to ¼”, press to one side, and zig-zag the raw edges down to make this seam extra strong.

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Step 5: Make waistband casing
Fold ¼” along top edge of shorts toward wrong side and press. Fold over an additional 1 ¼” and press down. This will become the waistband casing.

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Starting at the back center seam, sew along the lower folded edge of the waistband casing, being careful to leave a 2” hole at the back to insert the elastic. I sewed a little piece of ribbon under the casing at the back to help my son tell front from back.

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Take a piece of 1” wide elastic and cut it 1” shorter than your child’s waist measurement. Thread it through the casing using a safety pin. Overlap the ends by at least one inch, and zig-zag stitch back and forth a few times across the ends to secure them.

Hint: Cut the elastic a couple inches longer than needed (as shown below) and overlap the ends by 2” instead of 1” so that you can let out the waist as your child grows.

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Now sew the waistband casing opening shut along the folded edge, and you’re finished!

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Tutorial + Pattern: Long Sleeve for Washi Dress

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I’m so excited to show you how to add a longer sleeve to the Washi Dress as shown in the Ruby Star Washi Dress post! I’ve made a pattern piece that you may download for free (yay!!). For your convenience, the instructions for sewing the sleeve are printed on the pattern piece in addition to this tutorial. Please note that the various sizes of this pattern are UNTESTED, so you use at your own risk. Feel free to email me if you have feedback. Thanks!

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This pattern piece is provided with the understanding that it will be used in conjunction with the Washi Dress Sewing Pattern. All files and images are protected by copyright law. You may not distribute or reproduce this file. Please link to this post and not directly to the file itself when referencing this file. Thanks!

Download, print, and tape together the sleeve pattern piece
You will first need to download the sleeve pattern piece and print it out (at 100%, remember to check your scale, people!!) and tape the three pages together.  (If you’re having trouble controlling the scale, save the file as a PDF, then you should be able to adjust your print settings more easily from there.)

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Adjust size of the pattern if needed
The sleeve piece is for a size Medium, but as you will see, the pattern piece is marked with a line that will allow you to size up/down the pattern piece quite easily just by sliding the two pieces apart/together.

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For the larger sizes, where you slide the pieces apart, I would redraw the curve to smooth it out:

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And for the smaller sizes, you can just slide the pieces so that the curve overlaps at top:

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(but don’t forget to add length at the bottom then!)

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It should be noted that the length of this sleeve pattern piece is long enough to come to about elbow length on me when my arms are bent. I have long monkey arms, but even so you may want to add a couple inches to the length of the sleeve if you want it to be a 3/4-length sleeve, just to be on the safe side!

Cut out sleeve pieces

Place sleeve pattern piece along the fold and cut out two sleeves. Transfer dots to fabric with a marking pen.

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Gather sleeves

Using a long stitch length and high tension on your sewing machine, stitch between the two dots along the top of the sleeve

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Pull threads to gather

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Repeat for the other sleeve

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Attach sleeve to dress

You’ll need to sew your shoulder seam (front bodice to back) before you attach your sleeve, so do that first:

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Then, with the right side of the sleeve facing the right side of the dress, pin the sleeve to the armhole curve, starting at the armpits and moving toward the center. When you get to the gathered part, adjust the gathers as needed and pin excessively to keep your gathers evenly spaced at the shoulder seam. Once you have it pinned, sew the sleeve to the armhole with a 1/2″ seam.

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HINT: I like to first machine baste (don’t forget to reset your tension) the sleeve to the armhole, check my gathering, then re-sew with a normal stitch length just to make sure my gathers look the way I want them to.

Now your sleeve should look like this:

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Now continue the dress construction by adding the neckline facings (or a lining — check out the video series I made).

THIS PART IS TOTALLY OPTIONAL:
I chose to do a lining, so the next step for me was attaching the lining to the neckline. I used an off-white voile lining and cut out an extra bodice front and bodice back. I also made this neckhole slightly larger by stitching with about a 1″ seam allowance at the base of the neck to lower and widen the neckline slightly and about 1/2″ at the shoulders instead of the normal 1/4″ neckline seam allowance called for in the pattern.

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In this version I also added an elastic casing to substitute for the shirring in the back. I cut the back lining piece 1/2″ below the lowest shirring line, then folded that extra 1/2″ under and stitched it down to make an elastic casing that ended where the lowest shirring line would have been):

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Then I did the armholes using the lining trick shown in the videos, first rolling up the sleeves and sewing very carefully to keep them out of the way.

When it’s time to sew your side seams, you’ll want to sew up the side seam of the sleeve (in the picture below you can see my finished back lining with the elastic casing; if you go with facings you would see shirring there instead):

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Once your side seams are finished, you’ll want to make a casing: fold and press under 1/4″ and then again 1/2″ at the ends of each sleeve. Stitch along the second fold, leaving 1″ open to thread the elastic through. Then cut a piece of elastic long enough to circle your forearm + 1″ and thread that through your casing. Overlap the ends of the elastic and stitch together, then stitch your casing shut.

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OK, I really hope that makes sense! ENJOY!!!

Puff-sleeve flashback tee + tutorial

Want an easy way to “girl up” your Flashback Tees? How about a puff sleeve? It’s so easy, it’s crazy. Here’s what I’m talking about:

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(she’s wearing a basic rectangle skirt that we sewed together, by the way…I put the elastic in and did all the pressing, but she sewed the side seam, the elastic casing, and the hem, with my help of course. It’s a nice quick project to sew with your kid!)

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I made this tee with my Flashback Skinny Tee pattern but you can do this with any sleeve really. Here’s a quick how-to:

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First, cut your sleeve pieces, but move the sleeve pattern piece at least 1″ away from the fold, keeping the edge parallel to the fold (this will add 2″ to your sleeve width, because the fold doubles everything).

  • If you don’t want your sleeve to have 2″ added to the entire width, tilt the pattern pieces so that the top of the sleeve is 1″ away from the fold, and keep the bottom of the sleeve right at the fold.
  • If the sleeve pattern piece is full-width rather than a half pattern piece like the one shown, just fold the sleeve pattern piece in half to create an edge to place along the fold.

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Gather the top of the sleeves. I use a long stitch length and high tension on my machine, and I sew about 1/4″ away from the edge. I usually cheat and do just one row of stitches. One other thing: you know how the top of a sleeve kind of looks like a hill? I only stitch along the “top of the hill,” not the entire curved top edge of the sleeve. If you want to get technical: I only gather the top of the sleeve where it’s convex, not where it’s concave.

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Pin and sew the sleeve to the armhole.

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Repeat for the other sleeve. Then sew the side seams and finish up the hems!

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A couple other things. First, you can do this with long sleeves too!

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Second, if you don’t like how wide the sleeve is at the bottom, you can sew an elastic casing or a line of elastic shirring at the bottom of the sleeve to gather it, like I did with this top (can’t wait to show you more of this top!!):

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Just in case you missed it, the tutorial on turning the flashback tee into a short-sleeve tee is here:

and the Flashback Tee can be found here:

Ship Shape Button Placket Tutorial

OUT TO SEA DIY BLOG TOURsmallbutton

I’m so excited to be part of Sarah Jane’s Out to Sea Blog Tour today! I’m going to show you the adorable Charlie Tunic I made for Elliot with two of the Out to Sea prints, along with a tutorial on how to add the button placket.

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The Out to Sea collection is absolutely stunning. Sarah is so talented! We met last Spring at Quilt Market and got to see this collection first hand in all of its glory. I also really love her first line, Children at Play, with sweet illustrations that show the carefree days of childhood. I think it’s great that her fabric collections have both featured a number of designs for BOYS!

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Don’t worry though, still plenty of prints for girls as you can see below (see more here). Sarah has designed a lovely collection of Wall Art prints to go with the Out to Sea fabrics as well.

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One of the best things about this collection for me (besides the amazing designs that Sarah draws) is the fact that this line is printed on the cotton couture substrate from Michael Miller. Translation: totally soft, lovely, lightweight cottons perfect for not only quilting, but many types of garments as well. I just had to try it out on a Charlie Tunic for Elliot!

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I thought it would be so clever to have him pose with his Playmobil ship, which goes PERFECTLY with this fabric. For some reason he did not find this as clever as I did.

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He was more about putting the ship in front of his face.

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Then I asked him what his favorite part of the ship was. Guess.

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That’s right, the cannon. He then proceeded to shoot the little spring-loaded cannonball at my head, which made contact with my forehead about the exact same time I took this shot.

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He thought that was pretty clever.

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For this tutorial, I thought I’d show you how to add a cute little button placket that extends across the gap that gets created when you add the neck facings on the outside of the Charlie Tunic. This is a nice way to finish the neckline that doesn’t require button loops!

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Note: I used my Charlie Tunic Sewing Pattern for this one, but really you could add reverse facings to ANY pullover pattern with a simple neckline like Charlie – just trace around the neckline and shoulders and add 2-3″ around the outside and down the center to make a the facing pieces.

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Step 1: Cut out all your pieces.

You’ll need a front and back, two sleeves, a front facing, a back facing, and a placket piece. Cut your placket piece 3″ wide and plenty long so you can trim it down later. The length really depends on the size of your tunic, but 10″ long is PLENTY. I chose to interface my facings but it’s completely optional.

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Step 2: Sew the shoulder seams

I used a 1/2″ seam here. It’s really important to finish these seams with a serger, a french seam, or a flat-felled seam; if it frays, it will show at the neckline!

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Step 3: Mark placket location and measure how big your placket needs to be

Make two marks along the center line of the front facing: one where the neckline seam allowance hits (dotted line) and another where the bottom of the slit will be (the black dot on the pattern piece). Measure between these marks.

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Step 4: Cut your placket piece to size

Add 1/2″ to the measurement you found in Step 3 and cut the placket strip that new length.

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Step 5: Sew the placket piece together

Fold the placket piece in half lengthwise with its wrong side facing out. Sew the ends together with 1/4″ seams. Turn it right-side out and press.

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Step 6: Baste the placket to the front facing

Now place the placket piece between the two marks you made, just over the center line, and machine baste in place along the center line Don’t skip this step. I’m talking to you, Basting Skippers!!

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Step 7: Get the facings ready

Use the same seam allowance you used for the shoulder seams in Step 2 (1/2″) to sew the front facing and back facing together. Press the seams apart. Then press 1/4″ under around the entire outside edge of the facing. Clip the front curves to make this easier.

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Step 8: Pin the facings to the neckline

Be very careful to keep the facing perfectly centered on both the front and back; then pin all the way around the facings.

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Then go ahead and draw where you are going to stitch — around the neck, down the middle of the placket, and up the other side — with a fabric pen and ruler. I draw my lines just over 1/8″ away from the center line (use the basting stitches as a guide).

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Step 9: Sew the facings around the neckline and down/up the center.

Now you’re going to sew all the way around the neckline with a 1/2″ seam, then pivot on your needle and sew down the center line, pivot again and sew a few stitches across, and then pivot again and go back up the center line, etc, until you have sewn around the entire facing/neckline. You want to be SURE that you are sewing through the placket on one side, but not on the other, so stick to those marks you made. Be careful when you turn the corner closest to the placket — you want to make sure that you don’t accidentally sew it down!

Then trim the neckline to 1/4″ and cut right down the middle of the center front stitch lines. Clip to the corners at the bottom of the placket as close as you can without going through the stitching.

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Step 10: Turn the facings to the outside and stitch down

This is the fun part. Press the entire neckline and then flip the facings all the way around to the outside. Press the seams again so the facings lay flat, and pin them in place.

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Nice right? Now edgestitch around the outside of the facings to stitch them down. A double row of stitches looks nice here.

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Step 11: Complete the rest of the top

Start by attaching the sleeves:

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and then sewing the side seams, hemming the bottom, and finishing the cuffs. I used a contrast cuff as shown in the Charlie Tunic instructions.

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Then it’s time to play with button placement! There are so many options…you can keep the button flap on the outside and put the buttonholes on it as shown above, or even put buttons on both sides with the button placket underneath:

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I decided to put the buttons on the placket underneath and sew some buttonholes in the facing right along the center. You could also sew on snaps or even velcro, but I personally like the buttons more.

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So sew those buttons and buttonholes, and your top is finished!

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Thanks for having me as part of the tour, Sarah! Click over to the Sarah Jane blog to see more of her designs and snap up a coupon code for $2 off the Charlie Tunic Sewing Pattern that’s good until Friday.

OUT TO SEA DIY BLOG TOURsmallbutton

You can see all of the posts in the Out to Sea blog tour by clicking on the image above

Washi Maxi Dress Tutorial

You are going to laugh that I am even calling this a “tutorial,” it’s so campy. But that’s how this one is happening. It’s been campified. New word. You would rather that I spent my time cooking up more new and exciting things for you rather than making my tutorials look more profesh, right? If not, now’s the time to speak up. S’all I’m saying.

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So before I give you a detailed how-to, here are the key speaking points for making a Washi Dress into a maxi (floor-length dress):

  • Lengthen the skirt pieces so they are long enough
  • Widen the skirt pieces so they don’t trip you when you walk

The key points to remember if you want it fully lined:

  • the lining does not need pockets
  • the front skirt of the lining does not need to be pleated (that adds bulk at your waist, NO GOOD), so you must trim the sides to make the front skirt the same width as the front bodice
  • if you make the lining the same length as the dress, you can hem the dress over the bottom of the lining
  • if you make the lining shorter than the dress (eg knee-length like I did), you need to finish the bottom edge of the lining and then hand-stitch the bottom corners of the lining to the side seam allowances of the dress so that it stays put.
  • you do not need to do the shirring in the back for the lining, but I like to do just one line of shirring so that it gathers a little
  • it may still help to cut a small piece of interfacing and attach it to the back of the front bodice around that little “U” shape to help keep that looking spiffy, as shown in this pic:

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  • for the fully lined version, you need to sew the neckline, armholes and side seams in the exact same way as I sewed the bodice lining in my Bodice Lining Video Series (specifically, you should watch videos III, IV, V)

Finally, if you want to make it sleeveless:

  • I usually trim 1/2″ off of the outside of the shoulder along the armhole (front and back, and linings) to make a narrower width over the shoulder. I think this looks better and is quite easy to do. Here’s a picture:

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Are you ready for some diagrams? Here are my notes on how I made the maxi version, including fabulous hand-drawn illustrations to amaze and amuse you (click on the images to view larger).

Step 1: Cut out your dress pieces, the bodice, front skirt, and back dress with the following modifications:

Maxi Dress Notes 1

Just in case you can’t read that hint, it says: “I used a tape measure to find the distance from my bra band to the floor, then added 2″ = 48″ total (but I am 5’8″)”

Step 2: Cut out and assemble your lining

Maxi Dress Notes 2

Step 3: Assemble the outside of the dress, and attach to lining

Maxi Dress Notes 3

Any questions? I’d be happy to answer any in the comments section (or update the post as needed), so let me know if I can clarify anything!

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In other Washi-related news: The Washi Dress Photo Pool is filling up with amazing Washi Dresses! If you’ve finished your very own Washi Dress be sure to add your photos so we can all admire them. I’ll be doing a round-up post soon!

New Washi dress.bigbluedotwashi_frontWashi dressWashiDressWashi tunic complete!IMG_2131IMG_2125Tomorrow's the last full day for voting!Double gauze washi dress#Sewing Back of washi dress, made in tunic length.#Sewing Enjoying the sun in my new handmade top (washi dress by Made by Rae pattern).washi top #3Newest washi top!Newest washi top!washi dress hello bear fabricweb4washi dress hello bear fabricweb6washi dress hello bear fabricweb9#washidress #madebyraegnome pants washi dressWashi dress with bow and long sleeves- made with double gauzeRare appearance of my face to share the festive mistletoe #washidress I'm very pleased with :) #tvhhaul #memade #sewing #dashwoodstudioMy neapolitan ice cream washi dress.Washi Dress in Liberty for my sister's wedding!

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