Back to Basics: How to Sew in a Straight Line

My friend Katie (hey girl!), from my hometown, just got her first sewing machine. YAY!!!! I love hearing about other people getting into this hobby, that I find so rewarding. She sent me a message on Facebook asking me for advice, because she found sewing in a straight line to be harder than she thought.

This post is for you Katie, and all the beginner stitchers out there. I don’t remember where I got this idea, but it was very helpful to me when I was just starting.

Lay a piece of masking tape along the 5/8″ line (or whatever seam allowance you are sewing with) and extend it . This gives you a much easier to see point of reference, to keep your seams even and your stitching straight.


xx, Cynthia

Tutorial: No Hand-Sewing Waistband

Forgive me if this tutorial seems to be too basic. My 1950’s playsuit pattern had instructions on how to insert the waistband in a way that required no hand sewing. All of the modern patterns and books I’ve used have you stitch half of the waistband down then slipstitch it in the inside. I find that to be tedious. I don’t mind catch-stitching a hem invisible or tacking down a facing. But when there is no real benefit to all that hand sewing I don’t see the point.

First thing you need to do is press your waistband in half and then press the seam allowance up on one side of it (this will be the front).

Next,  flip it inside out and stitch on both ends of your waistband from the fold in the middle up to the fold of the seam allowance . Turn your waistband right side out. Line the unfolded edge up with the inside of your skirt or pant. Stitch, trim the seam allowance, and press up towards the waistband.

Now simply top-stitch the part of the waistband you folded in place and you are done! I think I would only do the slipstitch routine on only the most formal of skirts. Otherwise this is neat, tidy, and fast.

xx, Cynthia

How I Gather: Dental Floss Edition

I got a lot of questions on my preferred gathering technique so I decided to post a quick tutorial. I tried this out the first time when I needed to gather some heavy weight denim. I did three rows of basting stitches per Sarai’s instuctions in the Colette Sewing Handbook. but my bobbin threads kept breaking and the gathers were not coming out evenly. That’s when I remembered hearing about this dental floss technique and tried it out.

Dental floss is not required. Any thin, strong thread should work (such as embroidery floss or fishing line. All you need to do is place it in the seam allowance and set your machine to a wide zigzag. Then you simply stitch over your floss being careful not to stitch the floss itself. Then you just pull on both ends of the dental floss and gather. Voilà, a quick and easy method to adjust gathers.

Tutorial: How to Cut Fabric to Make Chevrons

When I was making my Playing with Stripes dress, I had a hard time figuring out how to cut the fabric to ensure that the stripes would be on the bias and that they would match up and make a chevron. The first two bodice pieces I cut out were actually oriented the same way and made a long diagonal stripe. It took me the first 2/3 of watching My Week with Marilyn to figure out a quick and dirty way to do this, and imagonna show you how. May you have an easier time than I did.

First I marked a new grain line on my pattern piece. I used my cutting mat to do this. It has a 45 degree line printed on it. I lined up the straight grain line with one of the vertical lines on my mat and traced the 45 degree line. Easy peasy. This photo was taken after the fact and I didn’t properly line up the straight grain. Ooops. Do as I say, not as I do.

With printed fabrics, it is not a guarantee that the design is printed on the grain. Since it was important to me that my stripes be at a 45 degree angle, I used them instead of the true bias grainline (speaking of true bias, Kelli won my giveaway). I simply lined up my new 45 degree grainline on the pattern piece with the edge of one of my stripes. I don’t have a photo of this so I hope that makes sense. If it doesn’t leave a comment and I’ll clarify.

To get the accuracy needed to match up stripes, it’s best to cut fabric in a single thickness, instead of doubled over. After the first half (e.g. the bodice front or bodice back) is cut use the piece you just cut as the pattern piece. This is what will make it easy for you. I was doing all sorts of crazy things trying to line things up right.

Simply flip the piece you just cut right side down, line up the stripes that way (this only works if you can make out the stripes on the wrong side of your fabric). Voila, when you stitch the center seam they will form a chevron.

I hope this will help someone out and happy stitching! I want to see more cute chevron dresses.

Tutorial: How to Insert Piping on a Western Shirt

I’ve begun work on my mister’s Christmas gift and I thought I would put together a quick how-to. I had originally planned on adding black piping, but I realized with the orange and black fabric and the “spider-webiness”  of the yoke design it would look Halloweenie. And by realize, I mean that I woke up in a panic thinking about how I was making a Halloween shirt for Christmas. What would Michael Kors say? Oh the horror!! The solution was simple, switch to white piping.

When you purchase store bought piping there are two sides. One that is flat and one that sticks out. You want the part that sticks out to be on the right side of your fabric. The best way to attach the piping is to hand baste it to your fabric. I have used machine basting as well as tried Wonder Tape and you just don’t have the control you need to get around tight curves. Hand stitching is the only way to have total control of where your piping will lay on the finished garment. I like to use an obvious mismatched color so that it can be removed easily later.

Once your piping is basted on and you’re ready to start sewing on your machine. It’s easiest if you switch to your zipper foot. This foot allows you to get as close as possible to the piping. Go slowly around the curves, and make sure that you always leave the needle in it’s down position whenever you lift the presser foot.

As soon as you’re are finished sewing your piping in with the machine, it’s time to pull out your handy dandy seam ripper.  I’m intimately acquainted with mine. Get to work removing your hand basting. Go slowly and try to not catch any of the fibers of your fabric.

Voilà, you have perfectly placed piping.

In sad news when I got around to basting the front band to the sew-in interfacing this is what I saw. Yikes! The bias really is stretchy. Now the band is about 2 inches longer than the pattern piece and about half an inch too thin. It’s now too skinny to work as the front band so I will have to recut those pieces tomorrow morning (yuck! I *hate* cuting). Good thing I bought a little extra fabric. I definately reached the end of my sewing patience when I saw that. Adios!