Sunday, April 1, 2001

Tutorial: Serging Inside Corners

Serging inside corners doesn't have to be impossible. I learned this trick from the Palmer/Pletsch Serger Basics DVD. I'm illustrating it with a sample fly piece because that's usually one of the more difficult places to serge in one pass.

Pretend this is your fly piece (or just any other inside corner).


The trick to serging the inside corner in one pass is to pleat or fold at the inside corner, as shown in the pic below, so that the serging can be done in one smooth action. I'll show you how to do this on a serger in the next photos.


Here is the fly piece and I'm coming up on that inside corner.


I've pinched the fabric so that the inside corner is pulled into a straight line. It's kind of like making a dart, with the dart point ending at the inside corner.


I keep the fabric pinched as it passes through the blades and needles.


I'm past the inside corner at this point and am going to round the curve of the fly extension.


You can start from either end. I just happened to choose this end because it was a sample and the rest of the pants leg wasn't attached.

If you start at the other end (the top of the pants), you'll round the curve first and then make the pleat/dart at the inside corner.

This is how the inside corner looks immediately after being serged.


Unfold the pleat/dart and lay the fabric flat. If you're like me, you'll be smacking your forehead wondering why you didn't think of this before.

Techniques: Remaking a Man's Tee for Your Female Shape



How many bad-fitting men's tees like this do you have in YOUR dresser drawers?? (No comments please about the groovey PJ pants!)

It's time to remake them into something a little more flattering on a woman's body

If you have a choice, buy the men's tee 2-3 sizes larger than you would wear. This gives you some wiggle room for placing the front pictures, etc.

First, cut apart the tee.

1. Cut off the sleeves at the seam attaching them to the tee. Cut apart the underarm seam so the sleeve lays flat. Keep the sleeve hem intact for later.

2. Cut the sides of the tee where sideseams would be.

3. Cut off the neckband. Save for another project or toss it.

4. Cut apart the shoulder seams.

When you're done cutting, you should have 5 pieces which look similar to this:



Next, fold the front of the tee in half vertically and lay your front pattern piece on the fold, and cut.





You may need to redraw or reshape the pattern neckline if the tee's original front picture/design is in the way. Since all logo tees are different, this step may take a bit of fiddling to get both the best picture placement and pattern placement where the fabric is.

My original pattern neckline is shown in pink in the photo to the right. In order to be able to include all of the tee's front design, I had to cut this neckline as shown by the blue line. Don't forget to include seam allowances if you're planning to turn the neckline under. I bound my neckline so my tee remake was cut without neckline seam allowances.



What helps to make the remakes more flattering — besides the overall better fit — are (1) the lower neckline, (2) the shaped sideseams, and (3) the shaped hemline. All of these features can easily be incorporated into the tee pattern you use for the remake.

Next, fold the back of the tee in half vertically and place the back pattern piece on the fold and cut.





I like shortcuts whenever they make the most sense. So, I lay my sleeve pattern on the tee sleeve pieces so that I can keep the hems. If your sleeve pieces allow enough room for you to do this, don't pass up the opportunity to save the step of hemming later!

(Those yellow and pink tabs you see are stickers I use to mark the front and back of the sleeve piece.)





Sew your "new" tee pieces together as instructed by your pattern, or using your favorite method.

Here's a close-up of my bound neckline, applied using my coverstitch machine.



Below are more football tees I've remade.

Before:



After:



Comparison:



Another After:



Another After:



Before/Comparison:



After/Comparison:



Back, After:

Techniques: Flat Elastic (when wearing) Waistband

Since my tummy is decidedly *not* flat, I've found that I really like the firmness and "hold-in power" of taut waistbands. I love how my jeans feel when I first put them on, but after an hour the waistband is stretched out and the tummy is flopping. On my last few pairs of pants (even non-jeans), I've been adding wide elastic to my waistbands and I love the result.

In Power Sewing Step-By-Step, Sandra Betzina shows a similar method. Mine differs, however, because I do not change the length of the original waistband. My waistband would still fit me without the elastic. The elastic is really just a very firm interfacing which acts to snug in both the waistband and my tummy. Sandra's method allows you to feast at the Thanksgiving table without undoing your pants. Mine probably doesn't. Keep that in mind in November.

To begin, I sew the waistband to the top of the pants as usual, and then press the seam allowances up toward the waistband, as shown in the photo below. This particular waistband will be folded over, but this method will also work with straight waistbands which have separate front and back pieces. The key is to cut (or finish) the waistband so that it is 2x the width of the elastic, plus seam allowances.

I used a fold-over waistband because I was also trying out Sandra Betzina's tip for cutting the waistband with the selvege as one of the long sides. If you're not using the selvege, overcast this inside edge of your waistband.



With the waistband attached to the top of the pants, it's now time to attach the elastic. I'm using 1-1/4" elastic. I have a 50 yd bolt of this stuff so you can guess that nearly all of my finished waistbands are 1-1/4" wide.

You can also see a bit of fusible interfacing in the photo below. I stop the elastic at the button/buttonhole areas because buttonholes are bad enough without contemplating making one through elastic! The fusible is to add body and stability for the buttonhole and button to be added later.

Pre-stretch the elastic 2-3 times and then cut it the length of your waistband minus buttonhole areas and then minus 3-5 additional inches depending on what's comfortable for you.

Slide the elastic behind the seam allowance as shown below. This is just so you know where I'm talking about. Once you know where the elastic sits and is stitched, you can skip to the next step.



Zigzag the elastic to the seam allowance as shown in the 2 photos below. Do not sew through the waistband, only through the seam allowance. Stretch the elastic as you sew. You may wish to quarter mark and pin it. I pin, but I just eyeball the quarters -- no marking.

To sew, flip the waistband down toward the pants so that both are on your left with the waistband on top. Then align the long edge of the elastic just inside the seam stitches and zigzag. This way the bulk of the pants are to the left of the needle, the elastic is to the right and on top so you can see where you're stitching in the seam allowance. Neatness doesn't count because no one (even you) will ever see this stitching when the waistband is finished.





This waistband has a center back seam and the resulting intersection of those seam allowances so I just skipped over that area, which allows the waistband to still fold down neatly in the next step.



Next, fold the waistband toward the inside *snugly* over the elastic and press. Although this is not hard, this is probably the trickiest part because you're going to be fighting the elastic wanting to gather up. Just fold over and press a few inches at a time. Again, the waistband police will not be ringing your doorbell.

Finish the ends of the waistband around the fly (or other) opening per your usual method, trim seam allowances and corners, turn, press and slipstitch closed. Then fold under the "seam allowance" of each end of the waistband at the top of the zipper and press. (I forgot to take a pic of this, but I will add one when I make my next pair of pants.) The goal is to clear the waistband long edge seam allowances away from the top of the zipper while also catching the top of the zipper inside.



From the right side, stitch in the ditch between the waistband and pants, catching the inside edge of the waistband. Use thread that very closely matches your pants, and start and stop stitching where you pressed the seam allowance under at the zipper in the previous step.

You can pin the waistband down in a few key areas or you can just stretch the elastic as you sew. I find it easy enough to stretch as I go.

Below is what the stitching looks like from the right side. It's more visible in this photo than in real life because the light of the flash is bouncing off the shine of the thread. Trust me, no one is going to be inspecting your waistband seam so even if your stitching *does* show a little bit, don't worry about it.



This is what the stitching in the ditch looks like from the wrong side. Notice that the seam allowance is *not* turned under. How fast and easy is that?? (Remember, it *is* turned under on the wrong side at the top of the zipper -- I just don't have a pic yet.)



This is the waistband off of my body. It looks like your regular bulky gathered waistband, doesn't it? Well, look at the next pic ...



This is that waistband on me. It's flat when I'm wearing it. My waistbands don't stretch out and become too loose because the elastic is keeping it snug, and my tummy gets a bit of restraint in the process. If only I could exhibit such restraint around the cookies and chocolate!

Techniques: Adding Seam Allowances to Burda WOF/Style Patterns

(For anyone without a tracing "accessory" who traces patterns w/o seam allowances.)

While thinking about sewing a pair of Burda WOF pants for my DS and before I actually started, I had an epiphanal moment. I don't mind tracing patterns, but it's always a bit more tedious to add the seam allowances to Burda WOF patterns which are printed w/o any. The epiphany was when I thought of adding the seam allowances with my sewing machine!

I traced the patterns onto Swedish Tracing Paper and then rough cut them, leaving about an inch around each pattern piece.

I measured out 1/2" in a small spot on one piece, brought that piece to my machine and using my widest foot, I aligned the left edge of the foot with the sewing line of the pattern piece and moved my needle to match the 1/2" mark. I saved this stitch setting to my machine's memory.

With my machine loaded up with really cheap thread and one of my leftover bobbins of an odd color from another project, I sewed around the pattern piece, which had the effect of adding a 1/2" seam allowance marking. I can sew a whole lot faster than I can measure and add a uniform seam allowance to a traced pattern, so I am definitely going to use this method from now on. It's so fast, and completely brainless!

I also tried it without any thread and I like that method too, although it wouldn't be as visible on light colored fabric.

Swedish Tracing Paper is my usual medium for tracing patterns because it's sewable, and it "sticks" to the fabric when cutting out. I didn't fine-cut the pattern pieces after adding seam allowances until I had the pattern on the fabric, which is my usual method.

Don't forget you may need to add in extra allowance for hems manually. But for adding seam allowance around curves and other tricky areas, this method is so fast and accurate.

You can also use any width for the seam allowances as long as you're consistent and use this same width when sewing the garment.

Add'l hints:

1. Use a longer than normal stitch length, and maybe loosen your tension depending on your machine.

2. If the stitching puckers after you're done, use a seam zipper and just break the top thread every few inches. This will relax the thread so the tracing paper lays perfectly flat again.

With Thread:



Without Thread:



Close-up:

Techniques: Applying Picot Elastic for Lingerie

After cutting the elastic to length, I overlap the ends about 3/8" and loosely join them with a zigzag. This creates very little bulk at the join.



Next, quarter-mark the elastic …



… and the waist (or leg openings).



If you're new to sewing elastic while trying to stretch it at the same time, you might want to mark in 1/8 intervals instead so you have less to stretch between pins as you sew. Remember to take it easy, go slow, rearrange as necessary, and do not stretch so much that it puts stress on your needle or you will bend/break the needle. One hand behind the needle stretching from that side helps to avoid too much pressure on the needle.

Also, many times you will want more stretch in elastic in the backs of leg openings and less stretch at the front. Just remember adjust your marks to compensate for that.


Match your quartermarks from above and pin the elastic to the opening with elastic wrong side (non-plush) to fabric right side, and the picot edge away from the fabric edge.

Gently stretch the elastic between the pins as you sew (with one hand in back of the needle and the other in front).

Attach the elastic with a very narrow zigzag, close the picot edge, as shown below.



Turn the fabric over and trim anything that sticks out past the edge of the elastic. Even if nothing is sticking out past the elastic, you may want to trim to reduce bulk — your preference. When I'm sewing assembly-line style, my preference is to trim as little as possible so I only trim what's sticking out. ;-)



After trimming, fold the elastic in toward the fabric wrong side.

Gently stretch the elastic as you stitch using a very wide 3-step zigzag. Stitch at the edge of the elastic opposite to the picot edge to catch the un-picot edge of the elastic, as show below.

This is what it looks like from the right side.



The farther from the picot edge you stitch the first line of small zigzags, the more the edge of the elastic will show when you fold it inside the waist/leg, as shown below.



This is what the inside looks like when you're done (my sample is sewn 1:1 with no stretch just for clarity). Remember, if you're using bobbin thread to match the elastic instead of contrast like this, it won't show.



When you're done, the elastic may be stretched out and a bit flat, but it will snap back after a run through the laundry, or a few blasts of steam. The panties on the left below were just finished and the elastic is pretty darn flat after sewing it on. Those on the right (same size) have been through the laundry. You can see how the elastic shrunk back to size. In other words, toss what you've done into the washer/dryer first before thinking you haven't done it right. ;-)

Techniques: Jeans Fly

This is how I make fly fronts on jeans, merging together methods originally learned from Betzina, Kwik Sew, and Palmer/Pletsch. I've had requests to make a tutorial and, well … here it is.

Finished view on actual jeans. The rest of the photos were taken using sample pieces so proportions will not be accurate. Also, these steps will result in a fly that opens like men's pants (left over right), which is common for jeans for both sexes.



1. Front pants pieces with extended pocket facings in place. The shape of these facings isn't exactly right so I hope you can use your imagination for that. I extend the section of the facings that meets the center front so that it covers most of the vertical fly facing area. I prefer this for stabilization instead of fusible interfacing on the fly facings. The edges of the fly facings, front crotch curve and pocket facings should be overlocked (or otherwise edge-finished) before starting. The pocket facings and fly facings are not serged together even though they sort of look like it here.



2. Baste from the waist to the red dot where the fly facing starts to curve. Lock stitches and then straight stitch between the dots using a regular stitch length. Stop about 1 inch from the inseam.



3. Clip the fly facings at the bottom of the curve. I clip diagonally so the cut is on the bias and won't fray.



4. Press fly facings open from both wrong side and right side to create a crisp fold.



5. Use a big jeans/denim needle. For heavy denim, I use 110/18.



6. After pressing, the first step is to top/edgestitch the center front of the fly. I use my center rudder (stitch in the ditch) foot with the needle in the far right position. Don't forget to increase your stitch length for topstitching, especially with heavy thread.



The completed edgestitching.



7. Now for the zipper. Use a zipper that is longer than the fly opening. It will be cut off at the top after the waistband is applied (not covered in this tutorial). I also never insert a zipper without Collins Wonder Tape. Apply a strip of Wonder Tape on each top side of the zipper tape, starting at the bottom metal stop and for as long as the fly opening. Do not peel off the paper yet.



8. Peel off the Wonder Tape paper on the left (as you're looking at it face up) side only. Turn the zipper right side down and align the now left edge of the zipper with the center front seam. Finger press on the right side of the zipper to stick it onto the fly shield. The only part of the zipper which should be stuck is shown by the red line below.



9. Move all layers to the left, except for the zipper and the fly facing it's stuck to, as shown below.



10. With a zipper foot, stitch close to the zipper and again close to the edge of the zipper tape. I swear, I usually sew straighter than this but I was hurrying to make this sample and so it is what it is.



11. Turn zipper over and remove the paper from the other strip of Wonder Tape.



12. Turn the assembly face down again and pull the zipper over to the other fly facing as far as it can go without rippling. Because denim is thick, the fly facings won't lay flat at this point. Just keep things even and neat and you'll be OK.



13. Move all layers to one side, except the zipper and the remaining fly facing. Stitch close to the zipper and again near the edge of the zipper tape. I stitch bottom to top for this side.



14. Turn the assembly over and remove the center front basting. Stop ripping when you get to the regular length stitches!



15. Unzip the zipper and press the underlayer flat. Steam/press out the fold from the basting seam and press in a crease next to the zipper.



16. Use a template to chalk in a guideline for topstitching the fly. Unfortunately, I think the templates I use aren't being made anymore. A piece of oaktag or the back of a zipper packet will work too. Be careful that your chalk line doesn't cross the zipper stop or you'll break a needle when you're topstitching.





17. Topstitch along the chalked line. I use the ditch foot for this too, as the rudder stitcks up and makes it easier for me to see where I'm going. An applique foot would work too, but this foot would already be out and I'm lazy.





18. Fly shield. (If you don't want a fly shield, skip to Step 20.) I use good quality cotton for my pocket bags and fly shields. It holds up well, doesn't get all wrinkly in the laundry and doesn't add the bulk that the same pieces in denim would

For the fly shield, cut a piece of fabric the length of the zipper facing and twice the width. Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and press. Zip the zipper and then place the raw edges of the shield over the overlocked edge of the fly facing. The fold of the fly shield is being pointed to by the red lines in the photo below.



19. Overlock the raw edges of the fly shield to the zipper facing. You can include, or not, the pocket facing (the section behind the fly facing) in the overlocking. Next, overlock just the bottom edge of the fly shield. I missed getting that in the photo.



20. Open the pants front to expose the fly shield.



Using the ditch foot and left needle position, stitch to the left of the zipper coil from waist down as far as you can before hitting the zipper tab. See the red line in the photo below.





21. With all layers smooth and flat below, bartack from the top as shown below. You are trying to catch the flyshield with the bartacks. See the photo below with the bartacks circled in red.





Voila! You're done. Don't cut off the top of the zipper until after you've sewn on the waistband so that you don't accidentally zip the tab right off the top of the zipper coils.



When you are edge/topstitching along the Center Back and crotch curve seam, use the ditch foot with the same needle position as in Step 6 above and all the stitching will line up perfectly. With the jeans inside out, start at the CB and stitch along the seam, catching the seam allowances underneath. Stop at the front where your fly topstitching ended, pull the threads to the back and secure them.