Category Archives: Stretch fabric

Space Dyed Sloans

This pair of Sloan leggings were cut out soon after the first pair and also used fabric purchased in New York (yes I had a heavier suitcase on the way home!).

space dyed sloans 1

I made very minor tweaks to the fit, directly to the pattern pieces before cutting  out, and omitted the pocket for speed.

space dyed sloans 3

My first pair have a knit interfacing in the waistband that is too flimsy and hasn’t stabilised the waistband at all. I used an alternative knit interfacing for this pair and it’s much better. Sturdier but still stretchy – these leggings stay up! I plan to replace the waistband on the first pair soon.

space dyed sloans 2

So are there more Sloans coming soon? Yes, and absolutely I want to make the contrast fabric view.

Sloan District Leggings

There seemed to be a wave of UK sewing bloggers and Instagramers visiting New York back in the Spring, me included. The Garment District required some dedicated tourist time.

Top of my list was lycra for sportswear. It’s notoriously difficult to source good quality lycra (without an extortionate price tag) in the UK so I loaded up with two colourways of space dyed, some plains and a loud print. Of course the crazy print was the first one I wanted to sew with! I can’t remember if this was from Spandex World or Spandex House but definitely one of them.

sloan leggings NY 1

I was hoping the print wasn’t directional so that I could maximise fabric usage with creating pattern piece placement. After much staring, I confirmed it was directional. It’s hard to see the bubbles over the print in these photographs but there are bubbles and they’re shaded.

sloan leggings NY  3

The pattern is Sloan Leggings which I’d previously made both views of as toiles. Nevertheless, I had to take these in again right around the inseam because this lycra had more stretch than the cheap stuff I used for the toile.

sloan leggings NY  4

They have been dance class, gym and yoga tested with great success. A second pair is already in progress with more NY fabric.

What is is about sewing sportswear that brings out all the ridiculous poses I can muster!?

sloan leggings NY  2

Second Stripe Renfrew

This is my fourth Renfrew but my second in stripe fabric.

Sewaholic Renfrew Stripe Front

In fact it is the same fabric but reverse colorway as my other one. I loved the first fabric, predominantly navy with narrow white stripe version so much that I purchased a couple of meters (ebay seller brunswickmill2013) of the white with narrower navy stripes too.

Sewaholic Renfrew Cowl

I wear the first one weekly (or there about) and it is still going strong. The fabric washes so well and no bobbling over half a year later. With the fabric so similar, I attempted to keep it different by making the cowl neck Renfrew version this time. Do you ever worry people will ask why you have the same top (or any favourite sewing pattern garment) in multiple different colours?

Sewaholic Renfrew Stripe Shoulder

I really enjoy sewing with stripes, there are a lot of areas to pay attention to in order to get a really satisfying finish (check out my top ten tips here).

Sewaholic Renfrew Stripe  Side

On the plus side, pressing beyond the border of the stripe at the hem and cuffs and hiding the twin needle top stitching in the navy strip worked a dream.

Renfrew Twin Needle Top Stitching

Spring Sewing and Stabilising Shoulders

Nothing cheers me up after the dark and dreary winter months than sewing with all the colours of spring. Coral was my first cheery colour but I was a bit premature sewing in Feburary! At least I’m blogging at a seasonally appropriate time.

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Originally purchased for a Renfrew, I realised on delivery that this fabric wasn’t right for the pattern – just too fine and drapey. If only I had a local dressmaking fabric shop, I could avoid these dud online purchases. Instead I traced off a dolman sleeve RTW top that is a regularly worn favourite. As a first make from a rub-off pattern it’s not too bad but still room for improvement. A direction of stretch line on the sleeve pattern piece wouldn’t go amiss – I accidentally cut  in the wrong way on this one-way stretch fabric so the sleeves are a bit tight around the biceps and it’s not due to press ups!

I free-styled again with the colours of my looper threads – anything pink and orange went over those seam allowances. When I inherited four boxes of sewing paraphernalia, a vast majority of that was  thread and I’m feeling swamped by it.  Using regular thread in loopers is such a good way to use up thread reels and dispels the myth that you have to use overlocker thread in an overlocker. As long at the left needle thread is a good match to the fabric it won’t show on the outside. I wouldn’t necessarily go for contrasting thread but a few tones either way or a mix of the fabric colours looks good.

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I tried a bound neckline for this top using the instructions from Megan Neilsen’s Briar pattern. Previously I had iffy results with this and defaulted to my usual way but a bound stretch neckline is better for floppy knit fabric. Or a boat neckline – both feature in this top. It didn’t come out too badly this time but it’s still not that easy for me to get even a passable result. It looks fine till I top stitch and I can’t seem to get the stitch positioning in a place that looks right.

Lets talk stabilising shoulders: White organza ribbon is my favourite – it is sheer enough to go with all colours of fabric. I don’t have much left, probably not enough for two shoulders but I have added it to my sewing shopping list… to buy in bulk, well it is my favourite method.

Stabilising shoulder seams 1

I also managed to speed up the process of stabilising the shoulders. I put the organza ribbon under the presser foot first for a few stitches, then put the pinned shoulders under the ribbon – stabilising and seaming in one. I also chain stitched, so that both shoulder seams were stabilised without cutting the overlock threads between them. When I chained off after the second shoulder, I pulled the ribbon across to the right to cut it. Stabilising shoulder seams 2 Stabilising shoulder seams 3

What do you think? Lazy or efficient?

Sporty Summer Sewathon – Olivia who? Exercise Outfit

It was during Me Made May ’14 that I realised my good intentions to sew my own sportswear had gone wayward and Karen’s Sporty Summer Sewathon was all the motivation I need.


When I told Karen I’d be making an exercise outfit for the sewathon she gave an interesting reply…

Karen and Olivia

If like me, the only thing you remember Olivia Newton John for is Grease and, if like me, you’re wondering why Karen could possibly dream an exercise outfit out of a tight black shiny catsuit then let me enlighten you…

About 2 years before I was born, Olivia Newton John released a song called ‘Physical’ complete with an innuendo filled music video in which she wears traditional 80s exercise get-up.

Karen if you’re reading this then I’m happy to oblige with a blue top but please can I be forgiven for not providing pink leggings, white high-leg leotard, sweat band and legwarmers? And I ain’t doing this pose either!

Sewathon Exercise Outfit 1

With my printer broken I couldn’t print out the pattern I’d intended to use for the top so I returned to Kwik Sew 3672 which was a failed make of mine from last year. To fix the previous fit problems I graded in for waist and out for hips and fitted the neck and back straps on the fly. For both functional and aesthetic reasons I cut 4 back strap pieces, sewing two together then turning right sides out before attaching to the top.

Sewathon Exercise Outfit 4

The shelf bra was completely useless last time so I just omitted it this time and delegated bounce control to my tried and tested sports bras. It doesn’t look that bad underneath… does it? My fellow gym goers all seem to flash their sports undergarments so it doesn’t feel like I’m breaking the rules.

Sewathon Exercise Outfit 5

My other deviation from the pattern instructions was to three-step zig zag the elastic round the neckline which gives better retractable stretch of the elasticated edges than the recommended twin needle top stitch.

Oh and since I promised Karen a whole outfit… I made leggings too!

Sewathon Exercise Outfit 3

I copied my favourite RTW cropped leggings but I pattern hacked the cross-over waistband of the skirt from Kwik Sew 3672. I’m loving the v-waistline but it’s a little difficult to see in this print.

Sewathon Exercise Outfit 7

I need to make a few tweaks to perfect my leggings pattern but not bad for a first sew-up of a cloned and hacked pattern. Plus my imagination is running wild playing with colour in the waistband to highlight the cross-over… not to mention the growing inspiration I’m accumulating on my Pinterest ‘Workout Look Great’ board.

Having implied that Karen’s joke was way before my time, I’m outta here!

Sewathon Exercise Outfit 2

Striped Scoop

I’ll spare you a whole paragraph of waffle about stashed fabric, the length of my to sew queue and the Stash Diet… yadda yadda yadda.

Scoop Tee

Let’s talk about the pattern instead: The scoop top is generously available as a free download with instructions from lovely Kristin of Skirt as Top. I went for the speedy approach: no measurements, cut out the one size pattern and skipped the pocket. The only care I took over this make was to match the stripes at the side and shoulder seams – my photographer (not my usual one, so big thanks to my cameo photographer for this) insisted that I show this stripe matching off and came up with an appropriate pose.

Scoop Tee Stripe Matching

I didn’t have any stay tape, twill tape, white ribbon or clear elastic in my stash so I used Kristin’s suggestion of cutting narrow strips of white light weight fusible interfacing to stabilise the shoulder seams. It works… not that I ever doubted Kristin’s advice!

Did you notice my button hair grips? My tutorial for this was posted yesterday on Spread Your Wings and Craft.

Contribute SYWAC

Quantitative Ease

Disclaimer: Prepare yourself for another hideous toile fabric. I call this the silver stretch velvet monstrosity.

Here’s the toile for McCalls M6559 overlaid with a shop bought maxi dress that fits great in the bust and hips but a little loose in the waist. How much ease and with stretch fabric too?! But that excess ease is coupled with the smallest arm hole. The sizing results of Katie’s Big 4 Experiment were remarkably similar to the issues I experience. Experience… that word that if you have it, you feel confident enough to make a few adjustments to the pattern and perhaps wing it without a toile if you’re not too sentimental/bankrupt over your fashion fabric.

M6559 Sizing

I slimmed the originally cut size 12 right down to a size 6 in the hips/bust and off the pattern sizing scale at the waist. Then there’s the construction instructions with this pattern…

The pattern notes recommended folding the neckline over to finish it which resulted in stretched out rubbishness. My final toile followed the armhole line of my shop bought maxi dress… heck I should have just drafted a pattern from that dress instead of purchasing a commercial pattern!


As Katie discusses in her Big 4 Experiment post, it’s down to the experience of the sewer. I lack the confidence to ignore commercial pattern instructions at the toile stage. However, recently I’ve noticed that I’m staring to recognise when I know an alternative technique that will work better for my fashion fabric.

With my ‘ease’ issues out of the way I ploughed on to make a maxi dress that I’ve worn lots this summer and will be revealed in my next post.

Swimalong 2013: Jumping in at the deep end

Katie and Leila have been hosting Swimalong 2013. There has been plenty of inspiration, brilliant information and guides to choosing a pattern and swim-appropriate notions. Thank you ladies for being such excellent hosts.

I truly jumped in at the deep end with this one (excuse the pun). Here’s a pictorial overview of construction:


Cutting some tight curves with the rotary cutter but it’s ready to sew up,


Test stitch settings. The far right was the winner – a sewing machine faux overlock stitch. Bonus, no tidying seam allowances afterwards!


The pattern instructed straight stitch to baste the lining to the front piece. This reduced stretch and made attaching non-lined pieces a bit tricky.


I don’t remember the pattern instructions mentioning anything about a headless chicken!

After sewing up the back and crotch seams, I called an end to sewing for the day. But, I couldn’t resist this first opportunity to try it on. It was a bit wrinkly around the bottom but I thought the elastic around the legs would tighten that issue up (it did).


I used permanent pen to mark pattern notations onto the clear elastic (I checked it was dry before attaching to fabric). “SS” must match up to side seam but the whole piece of elastic runs from the halter neck right down to the centre back.


The elastic went in surprisingly easily but made the swimsuit look a raggedy. Twin needle stitching tidied everything up on the outside and I had the first inkling that this might be wearable!

Ta-da! Look how well it matches my swimming towel too (I borrowed hubby’s goggles to set the scene).

Swimsuit Front

The fit is great, the pattern provides extra measurement and fitting steps on the instructions and two places to lengthen or shorten. In addition to the usual circumference measurements, there’s no need for a poor fit.

Swimsuit Back

Right up to finishing the twin needle top stitching, I thought that I’d end up posting a failed attempt but a jolly good effort nonetheless. So I am pleasantly surprised that it’s completely wearable and I’ll be testing it out on Friday evening at the pool.

I may have jumped in at the deep end but I’ve paddled my way to the shallow end, climbed out and I want to do it again!

Two for one on experimental sewing

This post describes two of my latest sewing experiments; Pattern Drafting and Sewing with Stretchy Fabrics.

1. Pattern Drafting

I’m building my collection of purchased patterns (commercial and indie) but there’s more to sewing than tracing the lines someone else created. I needed a basic pattern as a first experiment so I followed Mad Mim’s tutorial on drafting and sewing a maxi skirt. The only change I made after sewing up was to shorten the length by 2 inches. I haven’t changed my pattern piece because I think the weight of this jersey pulls it down so it may not happen with a lighter weight jersey – better too long than too short.

Blue Maxi Skirt 1

2. Sewing with Stretchy Fabrics

I did plenty of reading up on sewing with stretch knits and many experienced sewing blog writers make a convincing point that an overlocker is not necessary. I followed much of this advice buying a middle price range stretch jersey, cutting out using a rotary cutter and cutting board, using a walking foot and investing in some ball point needles.

From all the tutorials I read there didn’t seem to be a consensus on which stitch setting to use so I guess it’s a combination of personal choice, fabric and sewing machine stitch options. I trialed a few stitches on fabric scraps first but it was hard to tell which would work out for the best. In the end I used stretch stitch down the side seams and zig zag stitch around the waist band. Honest confession: I was glad I chose this way round because unpicking zig zag stitch when I attached the waistband to the wrong side of the skirt was probably way easier than unpicking stretch stitch. No harm done, after an unpicking session with peppermint tea and a chocolate biscuit I couldn’t see any snags in the fabric (must be the magic of a ball point needle!).

Stretch stitch seems more secure in attaching two pieces of fabric together but my fabric doesn’t have much stretch in the direction of down the body so it’s hard to know how this stitch would hold up across the body where more stretching of the fabric occurs. Zigzag stitch was easier to unpick because it didn’t give as strong a seam or look as neat on the outside but maybe this could be overcome by shortening the stitch length. On scrap fabric, I also played around with two faux overlocking stitches on my sewing machine. One of them would also have been a viable option for this fabric. I guess I’ll just have to test a few stitches for each new stretchy fabric I use.

Blue Maxi Skirt 3

I already had a twin needle for hemming and knew that it worked best on a long stitch length with low tension. I always experiment on a scraps before sewing pattern pieces and, for this fabric, the automatic tension setting worked best.

Blue Maxi Skirt 2

As experiments go I’m satisfied with this one even though I didn’t come to a conclusion on stitch setting. There’s still much, much more for me to learn with both pattern drafting and stretchy fabrics. I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up with a wearable skirt from this experiment, I only wish I’d chosen a more interesting fabric.

Now that I’ve had a try at sewing in elastic and sewing stretch fabrics on my sewing machine, I’m ready to start making my swimsuit for the swimalong!