So, You Think All Interfacing is the Same?

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Hey, I’ll just use whatever interfacing is on sale, or cheapest. It doesn’t matter, right?”


Here’s a graphic example. For a super-triple-secret project I’m working on, I needed to apply interfacing to the back of a pattern piece. My thought process was, “I need to apply it to a paper piece, so a non-woven interfacing should do the trick.” I went to the local JoAnn and picked up a yard and a half of Pellon non-woven interfacing and applied it to my pattern piece.

To say it was a disaster would be kind. The Pellon wrinkled immediately, even though I had the heat set properly and I didn’t over-fuse. I pulled a piece of Fashion Sewing Supply’s Pro-Sheer Elegance Interfacing out of my stash, and applied it to another pattern piece (I had two copies of the pattern just in case, thank goodness!). I used the Exact Same (correct) Settings for both interfacings.

The wrinkled mess on top is Pellon. The smooth piece on the bottom is Fashion Sewing Supply.

The difference between the cheap Pellon and the professional grade Fashion Sewing Supply is stark. Imagine, if cheap interfacing gives you that kind of result on paper, what will it do to your garment? Kittens, you deserve better than a wrinkly mess. Make sure you use good interfacings. You’re worth it!

I was not solicited, paid for or compensated in any way for this post. I was just appalled at the results I got from the Pellon, and pleased with those from Fashion Sewing Supply.

Happy sewing!

Quick Tip: Color Code Your Thread Markers

Here’s one that I do as a matter of course. I don’t think I learned it anywhere, just one day I had an “aha” moment. When using tailor’s tacks, if two different markings are very close, I use different colored threads so I can easily differentiate between them. As an example here, in the Butterick 5250 pants that I just finished, the belt loops sit right next to the darts – almost on top of them. So to make sure I follow the correct markings, I use a different color for the dart than I do for the belt loops. In this case, the dart legs are marked in white thread, and the belt loops in blue. It makes it easier to discern between different pattern markings, and it doesn’t take any more time. Win win!

Pardon the crappy cell phone picture, but I think you get the point
Pardon the crappy cell phone picture, but I think you get the point

Happy sewing!

Tip: Clip the Selvages Before Laying Out Your Pattern

I’m taking part (albeit quite late to the party) in the McCalls Pattern Shirtdress Sew-Along. I’m making Kwik Sew 4155, from a lovely lightweight shirting from Gorgeous Fabrics (of course). After pre-washing my fabric, I saw that it was puckery along the selvages. That’s not at all unusual with woven fabrics. Because of the finishing of the fabric at the edges (to keep it from unraveling), the tension on the selvage threads is higher, which can cause some puckering:

Puckered edges before clipping

Well, at a sit and sew with the wonderful couture teacher Susan Khalje, I learned a little trick to release that tension.

Simply make small cuts along the selvages. These cuts are about 1/4 inch deep in the case of this fabric, and spaced about every 2-3 inches. I did make a cut right at a pucker if it seemed pretty tight. I cut on a diagonal, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference if you cut perpendicular to the selvage. The picture below shows what it looks like after snipping, and I didn’t press it or otherwise flatten it out, so you can see what a difference it makes.

It only takes a few seconds to do, and it will make sure your fabric lays flat so you get an accurate cut close to the selvage.

Same section after clipping. Much better!

This is closely related to the tip I wrote a while back on Trimming Your Knit Selvages. Same principle, and it will make your life a lot easier.

Shameless Plug Time: Speaking of Susan Khalje, if you ever have the opportunity to take a class with her, do it! Susan is a delightful person, a wonderful teacher and, as a professor at FIT said, “She sews a mean stitch.” One of my bucket list items is to go on her Paris Tour. I can’t do it this year because of a very big (!) family commitment at the end of the year, but hopefully soon! Full disclosure: Susan is a dear friend of mine, but she is one of the BEST sewing teachers out there, bar none.

HTH and happy sewing!

Tips and Hints for Working with Sequins

One of the dresses I just completed is made with our Sequined Designer Mesh – Gunmetal. I don’t work too often with sequined fabrics; my lifestyle doesn’t call for them with any regularity. But I do love them so! The bling appeals to the Jamaica Plain girl in me, and there is nothing like walking across a stage, or across a room, and having the light catch just so on the sequins. Swoon!

Sequined fabrics can be a hard sell. Customers have told me in the past that they find them intimidating. They also can be tricky to work with. In the olden days, sequins were made of hard plastic or glass, and would break most needles if you sewed through them. These days though, the plastic used for sequins (usually mylar) is more pliable and you can sew through it. So here are a few practical tips for working with this type of fabric…

1 – Work in an area without carpeting
The upside of sequins? Glamour!  The downside?  Your work area will look like a unicorn farted all over it. If you can work in an area with tiled or hardwood floors, you will have a much easier time cleaning up afterward. There will be little sequin shards everywhere.

Fortunately, unicorn farts vacuum up readily.
Fortunately, unicorn farts vacuum up readily.

And because of those shards…

2 – Wear safety glasses
It’s true in woodworking; it’s true when working with beaded or sequined fabrics. Pieces of sequins can go flying if you cut them with scissors or stitch through them with your sewing machine or serger. Don’t take a chance. Wear safety glasses. Cheater glasses will do the trick in most cases, too.

Safety Glasses
Always better to be safe than sorry

3 – Secure your seam allowances after cutting
That’s what I’m doing in the picture above. After cutting out each piece, run a line of stitching just inside the seam allowance. I use a stitch length of 2.5mm or 3mm. This will keep your sequins from coming off while you work. If you have an area, like say, a pleated back drape, where you’ll be sewing through several layers, you can pull the sequins out of the seam allowance before you sew, thus avoiding needle breakage.

As an aside – the tips I’m giving you here are not couture. I know that some folks will say, “But, Ann – you’re supposed to remove the sequins beyond the seam allowances into the garment, stitch your seams and then hand sew the sequins back on along the seams!”

I know, so sue me. Let’s face it – we’ll know it’s a bit of a cheat, but 99% of the world won’t. And besides, if anyone gets close enough to you to examine your seams for couture techniques, you have the right to slap them. Now, where were we? Ah yes…

4 – Make a full-size pattern piece and use a single layer layout

Single Layer Layout
Trust me, this will make your life so much easier.

It is so much less work and hassle in the long run to make a full-sized pattern piece. You can get the layout just right, you don’t have to worry about sequins catching on each other or the fabric sliding around. The few extra minutes it takes are well worth it.

5 – Use painters tape or masking tape to mark notches, darts etc.

I like painters tape because it comes off easily.
I like painters tape because it comes off easily.

I’ve done a blog post on this before, and it is really handy for sequined fabrics. For delicate fabric I prefer painters tape to masking tape. It comes off easier.

6 – Use a soft knit to bind exposed seam allowances

I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit
I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit

The dress I made is lined, except for the sleeves. I’ve owned sequined dresses that had the seams bound with organza. I find that very itchy – the sequins poke through the organza. So I prefer to bind the edges with a soft knit. In this case, I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit in Black to bind the edges. It is much softer against the skin.

I hope those tips take some of the fear factor of working with sequins away for you. It really is a fun fabric to sew with, and heaven knows the results are stunning. I’ll post more about the dress itself once the photo shoot is complete. In the meanwhile,

Happy sewing!

Tip: Easy Way to Keep Track of Pattern Pieces

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, if you celebrate it!

I posted this photograph on Facebook of my Lori Jacket pieces the other day after I cut them out

Lori Pieces Parts

and a reader exclaimed that keeping track of all the pattern pieces could be quite confusing, which is true. Who here has ever lost track of which little facing pieces are which? (raises hand) Well, hopefully this can help.

When I use patterns with lots of pieces, especially when I use patterns that have pieces that can easily be confused with one another, I simply keep the paper (or muslin) pattern pinned to its corresponding fabric/lining/interfacing until I sew them. If I’m sewing with leather or something else that won’t be pinned, I use a binder clip to clip them all together.

Lori Pieces 1
Pins or binder clips work great – your choice

This eliminates any confusion and saves me many hours of frustration. I keep them pinned to their pattern pieces after I’ve applied interfacing, as well

Lori Pieces 2
I keep all the pieces pinned to their pattern pieces, until I am ready to sew them

That’s one of those little things that makes life easier, and who doesn’t like to make their lives easier?

Happy sewing!

The Great Thing About Sewing… (a repost from 2013)

… is that you have things in your stash that have uses way beyond the sewing room.

Case in point: We have two Christmas trees in our house. We have a live tree, which we keep in the family room, and Skippy, the Emergency Backup Artificial Tree, which this year we put on a table in the living room. I made a tree skirt years ago for the the big tree. But Skippy has been skirtless. And let’s face it, while artificial trees are pretty, the bottoms of them look, well, industrial.

But today I had a bit of a “eureka!” moment. I always have several yards of white silk organza in my stash for all sorts of sewing applications. The tree is covered in white/clear/silver decorations, so I brought down the organza, wrapped it around the bottom of the tree, and voila! A cloudy, pretty tree skirt. After the holidays are over, I’ll iron the organza and put it back in the sewing room to be used in sewing projects.

I just LOVE having a stash, don't you?
I just LOVE having a stash, don’t you?

So next time you need a specialty item, maybe your stash can solve the problem.

Happy sewing!

Quick Tip – Using Pins to Mark Start/Stop Points

While sewing my Paco Peralta Cassock Coat, I was reminded of a tip that I find very useful. Frequently, when sewing things like in-seam pockets and linings, I need to mark the points where the stitching starts and stops. To do this, I put two pins right next to each other at the point where I want to start or stop sewing. The double-pin gives me a very distinct visual cue. And the nice thing is that I can use this with any type of pin I have on hand – glass-head or steel.

The two pins right next to each other show where the stitching line begins and/or ends.
The two pins right next to each other show where the stitching line begins and/or ends.

Happy sewing!

Tip: Easy and Quick Way to Mark the Back

If you ever made a pair of yoga pants, or other type of pull-on pants or skirt whose front and back are not easy to distinguish from each other, here’s a simple trick to keep your sanity. Run a very short length of zigzag stitching in a brightly contrasting color along the waistband facing or waistband seam at the center back. Ta daaa! Easy peasy and no bulk.

Just a few millimeters in a contrasting thread will do the trick

A Quick Way to Add Coverage to a Wide Bateau Neckline

In my review of New Look 6838, Tina commented,

I am intrigued with this modification of using the piece of fabric across the shoulder. How & where would I attach that fabric insertion?

I had already started on a sleeveless version of the top with the extra striped fabric, so I figured I would do a quick version to show you. This is more brute force than elegant. But in the words of Jim Blinn at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “Brute force is a wonderful methodology.” So here’s what I did.

  1. Cut two rectangles of fabric, measuring 3 inches by 5 inches.
  2. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise, so you have a 1.5 inch by 5 inch strip.
  3. Stitch or serge the long raw edge.
  4. Turn and baste your neckline hem, then position the fabric strips underneath at the shoulders, and pin them to the garment, having the serged edges even with the edge of your neckline hem, and the folded edge extending out about 1 inch from the shoulder seam.

    6838 Shoulder Strip 1
    This is after it’s been sewn in, but you get the idea.
  5. Stitch the neckline hem down, catching the fabric strips in the stitching
  6. Trim away any excess fabric.

    Trim any excess strip fabric underneath.
    Trim any excess strip fabric underneath.


Ideally, you should insert these and finish the neckline right after sewing the shoulder seams, but before attaching sleeves or sewing the side seams. If I do it again, I would probably draft a pattern piece, but this works in a pinch. Here’s a view of the finished front:

Look ma, no straps!
Look ma, no straps!

This keeps those pesky bra straps under wraps! Hope that helps and…

Happy sewing!

ETA 6-9-15: Dear Simplicity, Leaving sleeves off a sleeved top does NOT magically make it a well-drafted sleeveless pattern. Take a clue from StyleArc and give different front and back pattern pieces. #lazydrafting #grrrrr #thatgoesforyoutoomcvoguerick

Tip: Bottom Up Buttons

Here’s a quick one that will make your life easier in some cases. Certain garments, like a Tuxedo Vest with pointed hems for example, really need careful placement of the buttons to make sure that those points stay even. When making my son’s prom vest, I sewed the buttons on the front from the top down. I did a great job spacing them, but when I got to the bottom I saw that they were placed so the points were just slightly askew. He probably wouldn’t notice, but it made my eye twitch, and I’m sure it would cause my sewing friends to give me side eye. So here’s a quick solution: sew the buttons from the bottom up!

First, of course, I sew the button holes. Then I lay the piece on a flat surface like an ironing board and using a ruler, “level” the points:
Level the Points
Position your bottom button based on this, and sew it on the garment. Then you can move up the garment and sew your buttons on. Ta daa! Points are aligned!
After the Buttons are Sewn

Now obviously, this works best on a garment, like a vest, that has a v-neck. It’s not meant to replace precise cutting and sewing, but it will make it less likely that you come to the end of the buttons and discover that you’re off by a minute but irritatingly visible amount.

Happy sewing!