Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tricks of the Trade – A Pocket Flaps Tutorial

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Making An Invisible Pocket Flap Lining

I’m working on a tailored jacket that has welt pockets with flaps and I’m going to show you how to make a lining that will roll under and be completely hidden from view.  (I apologize for the poor quality of some of my photos…  think my camera battery may be going).

1.  Sometimes pattern guides will instruct you to cut four pocket flaps from the face fabric.  I prefer to cut two in lining instead, because lining adds less bulk allowing the finished flaps to be molded into place more easily.  This is an individual decision based on whatever fabric you are using and the look you prefer.  I have a thing about stiff pocket flaps that flare out… dont’ like that look.

2.  Once the lining is cut, trim away the edge at 1/16 inch on three sides making the lining slightly smaller than the face fabric.  Do no trim the top edge.

3.  Apply light interfacing to face fabric and pin to lining, right sides together.  Begin the pinning at the top corners first and then work down the sides and lower edge.

4.  Once pinned together there will be a slight bubbling effect caused by the variation in size of the two pieces.  This is to be expected and will self-correct when pieces are turned right side out.

5.  Stitch the two pieces together, slightly stretching when necessary.  Use small stitches as the points for added strength.  The small stitched also protect the fabric from fraying in the trimming process.

6. Grade away excess seam line leaving face side of fabric slightly longer than the lining side.

7.  Once excess seam allowance is trimmed away, trim corners to a point and clip off the end.  This will make it easier to turn and give a sharper finished point.

8.  Turn right side out and press.  You may understitch at this point if you wish.  I generally don’t understitch flaps unless the fabric calls for it (with a heavier coatings, perhaps).   I prefer to hand-roll and work the edges under by shaping with steam.

9. Press and shape, rolling face fabric slightly toward the back side.  Lining will not show on the front side (see photo 10).

10.   Baste across the top of the flap.  At this point, if you wish, you may apply top stitching.

11.  Finished pocket flap is ready for application to pocket.

I hope this is helpful and if you  have any questions, please ask away.

Creative Collaboration

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Show and Tell

I’ve decided to start a new section of my blog called, “Tricks of the Trade” where I can share tips on finishing details and methods I’ve learned that have helped me achieve good results.  Mastery of the smallest details are what add up to creating the perfect garment.  Ah… perfection, that worthy and elusive goal so difficult to achieve.  Sewing can be hard!  And yet, for me, contained within that sometimes irksome and painful striving for perfection is the creative satisfaction that keeps me interested and wanting to stay with it.
Everything I know about sewing, I learned from someone else; in homage to creative collaboration I happily share with you.

Sewing – New Season, New Skirt

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Fall Fashion

I love this time of year…  the week or so between the last dog-days of summer and the first prickle in the morning air which heralds the changing of the season.  As much as I enjoy summer, I’m always ready for transitioning into my fall wardrobe with all the bold and beautiful colors of the harvest, the earthy reds and golds and green the speak of hearth and home and bounty.  Oh my, I might have to burst into song if I go on, so let it suffice to say that I’m happy to carry on with my fall sewing.

Being seriously committed to not buying any new fabric until I’ve worked through a portion of my backlog, I went to my existing fabric stash for inspiration and came up with a great remnant of wool twill in, you guessed it, a rich autumnal gold.   I adore this color and twill texture;  I’ve used it in several suits in the past.  I’ve been sitting on it for quite some time waiting for just the right pattern to come along.   This week, inspiration finally arrived and here it the happy result.

I used Vogue 8363 skirt pattern view D.  I prefer skirts without waistbands, because I find them to be more comfortable.  Eliminating the waistband requires the creation of front and back waistline facings.  The pattern is unlined, so I also created a lining to attach to the facings.

I always line wool skirts both for giving shape and support to the wool and also for comfort.  A nicely constructed lining helps the skirt slide over the body and is more flattering, not to mention it just looks better to have the seams and interior work hidden from view in.  My feeling is that when working with quality fabrics, it’s worth the extra cost and effort to create a beautiful interior finish.

Once the lining was attached it was time to select buttons.  I have a rather large collection of vintage buttons inherited from a Great Aunt.  I used some of her buttons for this skirt.  I carefully measured and marked the buttonhole placement with basting thread and machine stitched the buttonholes.

After buttonholes were stitched, I clipped them open and sewing buttons in place being mindful of proper alignment.

As with all wool garments, I will take this in for a professional press which will put a nice finish on it.  But until then, I’m publishing several pictures to show you how versatile it will be in my fall wardrobe.  And best of all, it didn’t cost me a dime… it all came from what I had on had and that’s a great feeling.

Handcrafted Jewelry – Totally Gaudacious

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Gaud-awful Good!

I  made a new necklace this weekend.  The local bead store was having a sale and I found this sparkling pendant that I simply had to have.  Sometimes gaudy is good… or if not good, at least fun.  So here is it strung with some pretty pink beads along with some baubles I salvaged from an old Chico’s necklace  that I wasn’t wearing very much.   Since discovering jewelry making, I’ve taken to prying apart old necklaces and reworking them into new necklaces.  It kind of reminds me of playing with pop-beads when I was a little girl, remember  pop-beads?  It was great fun then and it still is!

Coat Making Tutorial – part 4 coat linings

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A Classic Pea Coat

Lining and Interior Finish

I selected a polyester fabric with a satin finish for my lining.   I actually prefer rayon linings especially when working with natural fibers, but I wasn’t able to find  the color I needed to complement the face fabric, so I opted for a synthetic.  In this tutorial, I will go over how to put in a lining with emphasis on  finishing details.

Step 1.  Once the lining is assembled, top stitch the seam line of the sleeve sewing on the sleeve piece (not the body of the lining) catching the seam allowance underneath.

Step 2.  With stitching completed,  turn to the inside and trim away the excess seam allowance.

Step 3.  On right side of fabric, pinch press seam and roll stitched line into sleeve.

Step 4.  Press entire seam to encourage the sleeve to roll towards the sleeve edge to create a smooth interior finish.  This helps the lining “ride” over the interior seam of the coat sleeve.

This shows the nice clean line you will get once it has been pressed.

Step 5.  Double breasted garments often include interior buttonholes on the inside facing to hold the front of coat in place.  Sew in buttonholes before attaching lining (it’s a lot easier before than after).  I use my machine for  buttonholes, because they will not be seen when wearing.Careful measuring for proper alignment is very important in this step.  

Step 6.  Attach back facing to collar at the neckline edge using hand stitching.

Step 7.  Insert shoulder pads and hand stitch into position.

Step 8.  Press 5/8 inch seam allowance under on sleeve edges and at the bottom of the lining before attaching it to the coat.

Step 9.  Pin lining to interior front and neck facings and stitch into position.

Step 10.  Use a machine basting stitch to sew in the lining in.  A long stitch is easier to remove for alterations or lining replacement. Leave an opening near the bottom of the front facing as shown below.

Step 11.  Turn lining to right side out and lightly press edges down, being careful not to over press.  Stitch lining at hem edge first and press, Then slip stitch down on both front facings as shown below.

Step 12.  Sew interior buttons into position using a flat button utility button.

Step 11.  Sew fashion buttons on front of coat paying careful attention to alignment.

Step 12.  Take to dry cleaners for a final press.  A professional press really adds to the look of the garment by smoothing out all construction wrinkles.  It is a must for any tailored garment.

So, it’s off to the cleaners.  Until next time, Happy Sewing!

Coat Making Tutorial – part 3 Bound Buttonhole

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Bound Buttonhole Finish

Now that I’ve completed my buttonholes I need to finish them on the inside of the garment.  Again, there are a couple of ways that I know of to accomplish this, and I will show you the method that works best for me.

Step 1.  Match up the front inside facing with the buttonholes and mark their positions.  I always do this by lining up the facing to the buttonholes, because there can be slight variations between the pattern markings and your actual buttonhole.  Once marked, cut a piece of silk organza in a strip (or if you prefer individual pieces) and pin it to the right side of the coat front.

2.  On the wrong side of the coat front, stitch in small stitch length a box the length and width of the buttonhole.

3.  Once stitched, cut through the organza and coat fabric down the center of the box creating a triangle cut at each end of the buttonhole.

4.  Cut through the organza strip which will allow you to turn the fabric through the buttonhole to the inside.

5.  Press organza away from opening to create a window and baste into position creating a firm rectangular opening.

6.  Once windows are completed, line the facing up with coat front to make sure windows line up with buttonholes.

7.  When front facing has been applied, stitch window to the back of the buttonhole with tiny hand stitching.  I like to go around twice, just to make sure the facing is secured firmly in place.  Steam lightly, being careful not to over press.  Overpressing will cause the inner work to show through on the front side and should be avoided.

8.  The hand stitching takes a little patience, but the result is well worth the time.  It almost looks nice enough to be on the outside.

close-up view

Voila – done!

I hope this tutorial was helpful.

Now it is on to completing the lining and inserting shoulder pads.  Then to the cleaners for a final press ( a must with all tailored garments).  I can’t wait to finish it and show you the final product.  Until then,  Happy Sewing!

Coat Making Tutorial – part 2 Bound Buttonholes

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Tales from the Bound Buttonhole

The first bound buttonhole I ever attempted was in a Clothing and Textiles class my freshman year in college.  It was, as they say, an exercise in futility, as my 18-year-old brain was simply not geared for the rigors of buttonhole science .   That early experience caused me to avoid the dreaded things for years to come; I was convinced I wasn’t up to the job.   Not so, as I shall now show you.

A great lesson I learned from my college experience is that there are alternative methods to getting a desired result.  If one method doesn’t work for you, try another until you find one that does.  The method I will demonstrate here works for me and I hope it will give those of you who may like to learn the art of creating a beautiful couture buttonhole some tips for success.

1.  I begin the process by carefully marking the button layout.  Always make your buttonhole 1/8 inch larger than your button measurement. Some button styles require more ease, but 1/8 is adequate for most buttons.

2.   Machine (or hand) baste over buttonhole width so that placement line shows through to front side of fabric.  Cut a 2″ x 2″ bias square for each buttonhole.  The bias creates the piping in the buttonhole and can be in a contrasting fabric if desired.

3.   Steam and stretch bias strips in both directions to eliminate the “give” in the fabric.

4.  Place bias strips on the right side of the garment over the basting lines and pin in place.  Be sure to have right side of garment and bias strips facing each other.

5.  On the wrong side, machine baste on the buttonhole line as originally marked in step 1.  Once basted, shorten stitch and sew 1/8 inch on either side of basting line being very careful to keep both lines even at buttonhole end.  Good markings really help with accuracy in this step.  Once stitched, remove basting thread on bias strip and cut through the center of strip.

6.  On wrong side, cut down center line, carefully snip to left and right corner creating a triangle at both ends.


7.  Turn the bias strip through the hole to create piping edges.

8.  Hand stitch piping into place being sure to catch inside edges within the piping.  Conceal stitches in the “ditch” of the seam line.

9.  Once piping has been stitched into position, baste the piped edged together to secure for next step.

10.  When piping is secured, turn to inside and machine stitch the triangles created in step 6 at each end with a small stitch.  This is an important step both for creating a nice clean edge on the end of the buttonhole and also for giving strength and durability.

When triagles on both ends are stitched, remove basting stitches on piped edges.  Trim excess from bias strip and lightly tack down.

trim and tack

Voila!  There you have it… a bound buttonhole.

Here are the four that I made for my coat.  As you can see, each one has its own personality, and that’s the beauty of a handmade garment.

Next time I will show you how to complete an interior finish for your buttonhole.  Until then, happy sewing!

Coat Making Tutorial – part 1

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Yes Virginia, making a coat is really simple!

I sat on my patio this afternoon completing the handwork on four bound button holes that I am putting in on a wool coat.  I finally had to stop, because it was so hot I was melting all over my melton.  (That’s a sewing joke for those of you who didn’t quite catch it).  🙂
Making a tailored coat has so many steps that I couldn’t possibly keep your interest showing all of them, so I have picked out a couple of areas to focus on and will do so over the next couple of entries.

I’ve had this Donna Karan pattern for a long time and really like it.  It’s a classic pea coat... you know, one of those things that’s always “in” even when it’s not.   I’ve always wanted to make it, but never quite got around to it until now.


My next step was a visit to the fabric inventory I have in my sewing room; I’ve vowed to make a sincere effort to try to use up some of my on-hand stock, before buying any more… as painful as that is.   Much to my delight,  I found a luscious vermillion coating measuring 1 3/4 yards.  The pattern required 2 yards and I knew it would be a squeeze, but figuring in the old addage,  If there’s a will, there’s a way, I proceeded.

When making tailored garments, I like to interface the entire body when possible.  I like soft and supple interfacing that will give body without being rigid.  I prefer iron to sew-in types, but it wholly depends on the fashion fabric you are working with.

I had made some adjustments to the waist and hip area and wanted to be sure that it was going to be roomy enough before moving to the next stage.  The fit turned out to be fine, which was a relief.  A too tight jacket is not a good thing!

I had to make a quick trip to the fabric store to find lining, but it was well worth it, because I found the exact color match and perfect top stitching thread.

I needed the lining to complete the pockets which turned out quite nicely.  It’s a nice heavy lining and will had good warmth as well as add body to the finished coat.

The pocket is soft and snug and will be very nice on frosty mornings.

The sleeves are a two piece design with a center seamline and decorative stitching along the sleeve cap.  They went in without much trouble.

And then it was on to creating and applying the collar.  All the stitching you see is on the under collar and give support to the collar stand.

Once the under collar is sewn on, trim away the excess seam edges,

and hand-stitch the edges to flatten and secure in place.  This same technique is applied to the facing and upper collar at a later stage.

Next time I will show you how I made my bound buttonholes.  Until then…. happy sewing!

Welcome To My Garden

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Summer Garden

in the Pacific Northwest

Today is Labor Day and I’ plan to spend some time working in the garden.  The season is winding down here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and I have some clean-up to do, although there is still quite a bit of color left to enjoy.  I have found that many creative people are also avid gardeners; I think this may be related to the shared elements of color, design and hands-on work that are common to both pursuits.

Last year I created a video of my summer garden.  I had a particularly nice garden (some years are better than others) and wanted to be able to remember it during the nine months of gray we tend to have in this part of the world… and thus my video was born. I hope you enjoy watching it, too.  Happy Summer!