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Sew Along Boxers: Week 3

Video editing is a strange, and not always cooperative, beast. I was able to get most of my video for this week’s Sew Along created, but the conversion inexplicably cut out the first step, so I hope you’ll forgive if Step 1 is in text form.

Welcome back to January’s Sew Along, Boxers! This week we’ll actually start the sewing. In this post, we’ll cover steps 1-7 in your Simplicity pattern, and then cover finishing touches, elastic insertion, and hemming next week.

Step 1 calls for us to add a stitching line to the right (fabric) side of the Left Front boxer piece. In order to figure out which piece is your left and which is your right, hold the pieces up as if you were wearing them. The flap should be in the front. Take the piece that is on your left, and lay it right (fabric) side facing you.

Now, place your pattern right side (the side with the actual print) onto the fabric. (Right sides together.) The edges should match. Find a line near the flap marked “Left Stitching Line.” This line will differ depending on what size you are sewing, so make sure you choose the correct stitching line for your size!

I am sewing a small size. In order to correctly draw the line, I fold the flap pattern piece back, so I can mark right along the edge of the pattern paper onto the fabric. If you are marking, make sure you use water-solvable markers/pencils! These will disappear once you wash the fabric so you won’t need to worry about unsightly lines on the nice, right side of the fabric.

You can also hand-baste the stitching line, but where’s the fun in that?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Sew Along Boxers: Week 2

TERMS AND CONCEPTS

Welcome to the second week of my January Sew-Along; boxers! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

IRONING

FABRIC LAYOUT

selvage is the edge of the fabric that comes off the loom. Usually companies will print white bars along the selvages. An easy way to spot the selvage, without the white bars, is to look for tiny little holes where the fabric was held to the loom.

Lengthwise grain runs perpendicular to the selvage. The lengthwise grain is what fabric stores will cut your fabric on.

READING PATTERNS

PINING

CUTTING

Prep for Week 3: Find the correct needles for your machine and fabric, and the correct color thread.

Next Week: Sewing Part 1

-Thwarted Needle

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Sew Along Boxers: Week 1

TERMS AND CONCEPTS

Welcome to my first-ever Sew Along Blog, where I sew it and screw it up, so you don’t have to!

I actually got this idea from the fantastic website Male Pattern Boldness, where the author would invite readers to sew a project along with him, providing pictures and his own flair for the instructions. I loved this idea, and got a lot out of it… the only issue I ran into was, I’m still such a novice sewer, I could have really used a way to see his instructions in action.

That’s where I came up with the idea of a video Sew-Along.

Without further ado, let me welcome you to the very first week of January’s Sew Along: Boxers!

SELECTING A PATTERN

... supposedly.

One Hour Boxer Project

I had a surprisingly hard time finding a pattern for male boxers (female lingerie is worse!) At this point in time, I’ve used the pattern brands Simplicity and See and Sew the most, and I wanted to stick with what I’m familiar with for now. With that in mind, I finally selected on Simplicity #9958. You can use any pattern you’d like, as the basic concepts should be the same. If you run into any difficulties or differences, let us know in the comments and hopefully I can try to help you out!

SELECTING YOUR FABRIC

Fabric TypeOnce you’ve gotten your hands on a pattern, you’ll want to select your fabric. Selecting your fabric is VERY important; the pattern is the blueprint, and the fabric is the building materials. Just like you wouldn’t build a long-term beach front property out of sand, you don’t want to select an inappropriate fabric type. Occasionally, I’ve found gorgeous fabric that I just had to buy (darn you, regional warehouse with half-off silk sales!) without having a pattern in mind, and tried to just use one of the patterns I have on hand. It… did not go well, so I can tell you from personal experience to stick to the recommended fabrics!

Luckily, most patterns help you out by suggesting the type of fabric you should use. Flip your pattern envelope over, and look for a section called “Fabric.” On Simplicity patterns, this is near the top. For my pattern, it suggests cottons and cotton blends, laundered cottons, flannel, gingham and an assortment of others. As you can see, you don’t have to worry TOO much about being restricted by the type of fabric, as the patterns usually offer a wide selection of options!

Since I’m making boxers, I decided to go with something sensual, a cotton-silk blend I bought off of the custom-fabric website Spoonflower. There’s only one small problem;I think of boxers, and go to Dr. Who... doesn't everybody? the fabric, while gorgeous and exactly the feel I like, is over $25 a yard! Not an obstacle for a nice set of boxers, but a major obstacle for a beginner sewer who doesn’t want to mess up her nice expensive material!

That is why while at the fabric store last week, pursuing their sales, I picked up 2 yards of cheap cotton fabric. This is what I will use for my muslin. Muslin is a mock-up of a pattern, used to get the fix of a garment correct. Usually it is made out of cheap muslin, thus the name; however, since my final project will be in cotton-blend, I’ve chosen a cotton to make my muslin out of, so I can make sure to drape of the fabric is generally the same. You can make your muslin out of anything you like (even muslin!), but try to match the fabric types as exactly as you can. Don’t make a muslin out of woven linen for a project that will be in knit cotton, for example.

(That’s because knits…. say it with me… stretch! Second verse, same as the first!)

Muslins are particularly useful in situations where you’re not sure about the sizing of the garment. Now that we’ve determined the type of fabric we’re grabbing, let’s discuss how to determine what size of fabric to get.

PREPARING FABRIC

Take a look at the back of your pattern envelope again. On Simplicity patterns, the Body Measurement section will be below the fabric type. The Body Measurement table will tell you how much fabric you will need, depending on the size of the garment you’re making (and the size of the body you’re putting it on!)

In my experience, pattern sizing can be very wonky. Since I’m such good friends with everyone here on the Internet, I don’t mind telling you that my measurements are 36-32-37.  According to most Simplicity patterns, this puts me in the size 10 range, even though in most stores I wear somewhere between a 4 and an 8. (Don’t worry, I plan on doing a whole blog on how to determine your measurements, and why pattern sizing and store sizing are so different!) Once I actually stick the pattern on my body though, I find that I’m a 10 in one place, but a 6 in another.

Finding out your body is different sizes in different places, or that your body doesn’t align with the Size on the pattern exactly, is a-okay. If you’re anything like me, part of the reason you got into sewing was to make clothes that actually fit to your body’s particular idiosyncratic. That is also the beauty of a muslin… the pattern will give you a general Size guide, and using the muslin you can correctly adjust where needed and make your very own custom-fit pattern!

Let’s go back to our pattern envelope. My model’s measurements are a chest width of 37″, waist 34″, and hips 38″. I’ll go ahead and ignore the chest, since I’m making bottoms, and focus on just the waist and hips.  According to the Body Measurement chart, that puts my model in the range of a Medium for his waist, and a Small for his hips.

Knowing that the patterns tend to run a little big, I have decided to take a gamble and go with the Small pattern size. Once you have decided what size garment you will need, go down to the next table on the pattern envelope.

Look at the end of your bolt of fabric. Does it have a width of 45″, or 60″? Is it a consistent pattern (repeating both vertically and horizontally), or does it seem to have aBolt of Fabric direction to it? Nap is when a pattern only repeats in one direction, has a texture in only one direction, or is striped/plaid in an uneven way. Be careful about nap fabrics… they can be a royal pain to align in your pattern (so you don’t accidentally have flowers pointing up on one leg, and down on the other leg) and you will need more fabric to lay everything out correctly.

Once you have determined the width of your bolt of fabric, whether it had nap or not, and its size, you are ready to cut! The amount of fabric recommended to me is is 1 3/8 but I’ll hedge my bets a bit, and say 1 1/2 yards. That way, I also have some extra fabric left over to play with thread length and tension (even if you don’t try, you will have LOTS of left-over fabric scraps after 6 months.)

Care InstructionsBefore you leave the store, there’s one more thing you want to check about your fabric. Look at the bolt label again, and make note of the fabric care requirements. You will want to prepare (ie, wash and dry) your fabric exactly as if it was already a finished garment, before you sew and iron the thing.

Why is washing the fabric so important? Nearly all fabrics shrink when washed and dried. If the first time you wash your fabric is after you’ve already cut and sewn it, there’s a very good chance your stitches will break, and your pieces won’t fit together anymore. Unless you’re making something that is never going to be washed (I usually skip the washing step on things like wallets or purses), wash your fabric exactly as it says to do on the bolt label.

SEWING TOOLS

Sewing tools differ from person to person. Below I’ll outline the very basics that you’ll need.

  • Good pair of sewing scissors. Don’t skimp here, and DON’T use the scissors on anything but fabric and thread. Nothing dulls scissors faster than cutting paper or other surfaces. A dull scissors means a frayed cut edge, which means a lot of headache for you down the road.
  • A seam ripper. Man, do I wish I didn’t need this tool as often as I do, but it’s become an essential part of my kit. 
  • Pins and pin cushion. I use pins with a glass-head, so that I can accidentally iron over them without melting the head into my fabric. Not that I, ahem, do that a lot…
  • Marking tool. You can use dressmaker’s chalk, wash-out pencil or marker, whatever. I use Crayola colored pencils, though I’m more and more tempted by sewing tape.
  • Tape Measure. If you’re making a muslin, this tool is indispensable. It is your new mother-in-law; invaluable, utilized often, and bound to indefinitely whether you like it or not.
  • Ironing board and iron. Sorry, you can’t escape using these. I iron almost as much as I sew. Learn to love ironing. (Sew-Along Part 2 will discuss proper ironing technique.)
  • Thread for your machine. Here’s where you can get creative. I love sewing because of all the pretty colors, and I love matching the color thread to my fabric (I usually go just an inch lighter or darker than the overall color of the pattern.) If I’m top-stitching, sometimes I choose a vibrant contrasting color to draw interest to my oh-so-lovely stitching. Ah, so much fun. Dual Duty has done well for me so far.
  • Sewing needles. You will want to match the needle to your sewing machine. I have a 1970’s Singer, and the Singer needles still fit it perfectly.
    • Pay special attention to the size of the needle you get. Choose the size of the needle based on the weight of fabric. You’ll probably be sewing either lightweight or medium weight fabric, so choose either a 11/80 or 14/90 needle size. Unless you’re sewing a knit (knit boxers? Well, go on with you, you Individual), choose the Regular Point.

OPTIONAL TOOLS

  •  Seam Gauge. I usually end up using my tape measure if I need to hem something. I’m sure a seam gauge is handy, I just haven’t figured out how yet.
  • Rotary cuter and cutting mat. My quilting friends swear by these, but I don’t have a surface large enough in my house that I could use a decent-sized mat on. Hopes to use this in the future, though.
  • Thimbles. I don’t use these when hand sewing, because I take the saying “put blood, sweat and tears into your sewing projects” literally. Especially the tears part.

RIGHT/WRONG SIDE

Right SideYou’ve got your pattern, your gorgeous and well-cut fabric, and your sewing tools. You’re all set for Week 1!Wrong Side

The very last thing we’ll discuss is the Right/Wrong side of fabric. This is something we’ll be coming back to over and over again, so best cram this last term into your head before we turn our gaze to next week, when we’ll start laying out the pattern and cutting.

When looking at a piece of fabric, you’ll notice that it has a pretty side, and a less-vibrant side. The right side of the fabric is the side with the strongest colors, where the pattern is clearest. The wrong side is the duller side of the fabric.

Well I believe that about does it for this week! Next week we’ll start with the actual video. See you then, my fellow sewers!

Prep for Week 2: Buy your pattern and fabric, wash your fabric, and assemble your sewing tools.

Next Week: Ironing, Laying Out The Pattern, Pinning and Cutting

-Thwarted Needle

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Pants Hemming Adventure

I have never hemmed a pair of pants. My excuse is I thought bottoms dragging on the ground was the style. Nothing says sexy like dirty, frayed hems!

Overly long pants proves a problem in the gym, however. I’ve actually knocked my head on the bench press bar because I tripped over my sagging bottoms.  Since it’s the first week of January, my New Years resolution obviously involves going to the gym more (or, in my case, going to the gym at all) which meant a new pair of pants to potentially trip on. Time to embark on my first hemming adventure!

I tried looking up hemming tutorials online, but found them absurdly complicated. Use measuring tools to cut the material to the exact length? Whaaat? Aw, who needs em-I’ll just wing it!

My current nemisis

It…. went about as well as you’d expect. See if you can spot the mistakes below!

1) Put on the pants (will probably require removing current pants. Get a friend to help!)

2) With the help of your new pants-friend, roll the bottom of the pants to the desired length. Mark with pins… I would suggest pins placed horizontally, parallel to the floor, so you don’t prick yourself while removing the pants.

3) Turn the pants inside out.

Here’s where I decided to march to my own drum. Most tutorials suggested ripping out the seam of the previous hem, ironing the new crease, and then measuring the distance from the end of the fabric to the new turned hem, to make sure the hem is even.

But geez louise, who has time for all of that? Ironing, schmaerning, let’s just get on with it! I attempted a different technique on each leg, to see which one looked better.

RIGHT LEG

4) Fold over the extra material so the top of the fabric lays right alongside the bottom of the hem. A double hem! That way, I only have to sew once, right? Genius.

I quickly discovered the problem with this was two-fold: it made the material thicker, and thus more difficult to feed through my machine. My yoga pants are knits: knits are made different than woven fabrics, so that they stretch. They usually stretch more in one direction, and can be made of the same material as woven; the major difference is in how they are processed. I’ll cover knits more in depth later, but the most important thing to remember about them is that:

  • Knits stretch, thus requiring different sewing methods including a zig-zag stitch and a ballpoint needle

And I… totally forgot to use a ball point needle. A-whoops.

Anyway, since my yoga pants are stretchy, and thus a knit, I switched my sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch. If you use a straight stitch on knits, when the fabric stretches, the thread will break because there is no give in the stitching.

Behold the glory

My genius idea of using a double-hem turned out to be not the best, so I tried something different on the left leg.

LEFT LEG

4) Using a zig-zag stitch, I sewed along the hem. Since it’s a knit and stretches (yes, there will be a quiz at the end), I pulled the fabric at both ends while I fed it through my machine. This caused the fabric to stretch while being sewn into, (hopefully) making the stitches stronger.

5) I then cut off a lot of the excess fabric, and using the same technique sewed 1/4 inches from the top of the fabric.

Overall, I like this technique much better. The only downside is that I have two rows of stitching on the outside of the pants, which doesn’t look as neat. Okay for gym-going yoga pants, but not desirable for Grown Up Work pants. (I also only had dark purple thread, not black. Generally speaking, you should match your thread color to your fabric.)

Double hemmed for your pleasureSo, my first Pants Hemming adventure didn’t go off as well as I’d hoped. Serves me right for trying to be all individual and I-totally-know-what-I’m-doing. I wonder if next time I’ll try hemming the pants, cutting off the excess fabric, and then only sewing along the cut edge, instead of along both the hem and the cut edge. That’s… probably what I should have done in the first place.

But I’m still using purple thread, cause I’m a rebel. And cheap.

-Thwarted Needles

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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