Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sewing the Striped Tee Shirt

I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to duplicate a fancy tee shirt I saw on Pinterest: I described "designing" the fabric and creating it on Spoonflower. I ordered two yarns of the fabric. The fabric arrived. I waited for a good weekend to sew the new shirt.

In the meantime I added "take apart a shirt that fits well" to the giant stack of projects that I work on while we watch TV at night. We watch a lot of TV, and this is the only way I can feel like I'm not wasting my allotted life span sitting and staring at a glowing box. (It's bad enough that I sit all the damn time.) I found a shirt that I liked but that got oil spattered on it so it was going in the rag box anyway, and I used a seam ripper and took it apart into its component parts. Which are very simple, for a simple tee: a front, a back, and two sleeves. 

A simple tee is the easiest garment there is to sew.

Thursday night Adam hosted the D&D game, so I had already cleared the dining table of its usual four-inch layer of stacks of things. (We don't use the dining table to dine except on holidays where we host dinner for more than just ourselves.) I laid out the shirt pieces on the fabric and drew around them. Later it occurred to me that I might want to make this shirt again, so I laid out the shirt pieces on newsprint and drew around them again. In order to get symmetrical pieces I folded each vertically, including the sleeves. I cut the front and the back in halves along the fold. In fact, because usually you cut out sleeves unfolded, I made the newsprint pattern piece of the sleeve before I cut it out of the fabric. Then I laid it out on the fabric and cut out two.

I pinned the front to the back (right sides together) at the sides and the shoulders. I sewed the shoulders and then I sewed the sides. I pinned each sleeve folded lengthwise, right sides together, and sewed the arm-length seam. 

I decided to finish the sleeve hems before attaching them to the bodice, so I wouldn't have the whole shirt flopping around as I sewed the hems. I have to admit that I cheated. I know that knit fabric isn't ever going to fray much, so I didn't even turn under the edge of the hem; I just folded it toward the inside about 5/8", ironed it, and sewed it with a straight stitch. I did pull the threads to the inside and tied them together, to neaten things up. 
I pinned each sleeve to the armscye and sewed it in. To seat the sleeve properly, I located the center point at the top of the sleeve piece, and pinned that to the shoulder at the seam. I briefly debated basting it in, then decided I could do fine without it. I went slowly and carefully - and each seam turned out about as well as I've ever sewed an armhole seam.

This left the neckline and the bottom hem of the bodice to finish. The shirt I was copying was a J.Jill simple long sleeve tee, and they use a stretchy shiny ribbon to edge their necklines, but I didn't have any of that. I was planning to cut a piece of the fabric and self-finish it so that the stripes would run perpendicular to the neckline all the way round; but I showed a test strip in place to Adam and he suggested using the stripe lengthwise so there would just be a half inch wide strip of the dark gray around instead. I felt mutinous and vaguely irritated because I suspected his was a better idea.

So I took a break and went to the Fairway because we were basically out of food in the house except for some canned salmon and kippers. I could subsist for a long time on canned fish (as long as there was coffee and half and half), but Adam detests the stuff so it was just time to get some food.

When I came back, having had a little time to consider my options, I conceded that the lengthwise strip would possibly be better for structural reasons. But I went with the cream stripe showing on the outside instead. I cut a piece of fabric 1 5/8" x 21" for the self-edging. I ironed a 3/8" fold along the inner length. Then I sewed the ends together using about a 1/4" seam (I was able to get this to fit along the neckline, but would use a 3/8" seam next time). I pinned it and sewed carefully using a 3/8" seam, having cut the piece so this would result in the seam running exactly along the edge between the stripes. I felt that the 3/8" seam was a little bulky, so I trimmed about 1/8" or maybe 3/32" ;) along the edge. Then I turned the neckband inside and pinned it in place. I hand-sewed the edge down all around the inner edge.

Finally, I hemmed the bottom edge using the same method I used to hem the sleeves. 

Some notes

I don't have a ton of experience sewing knit fabric (excluding hand-knit fabric of course), and the thing I was worried about was how the fabric is stretchy, but the stitch line is not. So I found a kind of forward zigzag stitch that had lengthwise stretchiness, and I used that for all the seams. If you look closely at the pic to the right you can see it. But when I tried it on a piece folded, to see how it would work for the hem, it tended to make the fabric pucker. So for the hems I used a straight stitch. 

To finish the seams, I used regular zig zag stitch, then trimmed the seam edge close.

I pressed all seams toward the back, and the armscye seam toward the arm. For the sleeves this meant that when I hemmed them I turned them opposite directions, and then I was careful to put each into the armscye that would result with the seam pressed back. I was quite careful about this. It doesn't mean anything and I didn't win any prizes for doing it this way. It was just a little bit of OCD rearing its head. 

I added my name to the inside collar.
I wasn't 100% thrilled about how a printed stripe (rather than one dyed into the fabric) showed itself when sewn across, e.g., at the hems. You can see the white of the base fabric peeking through where the stitches pierce the fabric. I also noted that the print can be picked off, if one thinks one has a piece of fluff attached and pulls at it and discovers it wasn't fluff, it was a bit of print lifting up off the material. So probably one would want to wash these prints the same way one would wash any print they didn't want to degrade over time: Turn it inside out before laundering.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

DIY gift bottle carrier

I won't mince words: This is not an easy sewing project, despite being mostly a rectangular, open top box. It's the oval opening that makes it more challenging. I think you could make an easier version of it with handles, and I'm going to work on that, but for now we have this somewhat advanced project.

The outer fabric I used is this sweet Prince Charming laminate by Tula Pink. I used this a while back to make a messenger bag for my niece Amanda, and I had enough left over for this project. The lining is just some flowery cotton I had in my stash.

The pieces are easy: just three rectangular pieces. The front and back are 5.25 x 16.25", the sides are 5.25 x 11.25, and the bottom is 5.25 square. These dimensions include a 5/8" seam allowance all around. I used newsprint for my pattern pieces. For the oval, I used a honey jar and traced around it. You could also do a rectangular cut-out if you prefer the look, or a circle, or something you drew freehand, if that pleases you. I'm going to refer to it as the oval, here, to keep it simple.

Cut 2 of the front/back, 2 of the sides, and 1 of the bottom piece from each of your exterior fabric, your lining fabric, and heavy interfacing (I used Timtex that turned out to be double-sided iron-on, though I did not iron it on until after I sewed). For interfacing, I tend to cut out pieces without the seam allowance, in this case 4x15, 4x10, and 4x4.

The only marking that needs to be transferred to the fabric is the oval, and you put the marks on the wrong side of the lining. I used marking paper. First I used my tracing wheel, but that leaves dotted lines, and the lining was so busy it was impossible to see the marks, plus it basically cut through the paper of my pattern piece. So (after taping the oval in place) I used an unclicked ball point to press a more solid line of marking. Here you see. It's still pretty faint, but visible enough. I ended up going over that with a pencil to make sure I could see it when I started sewing.

I started the sewing part with this oval, as one of the harder parts of the project. You place the lining and the exterior with right sides together, and sew along the marked line. After you sew, you need to cut out the interior of the oval, and clip (carefully!) to give ease along the entire oval edge.

If you click to enlarge this picture at left, you can see that I cut little triangles out all along that edge. (I am still finding tiny fabric triangles all over my house.) After clipping, pull the piece inside out, and iron the edge. If you are using _____ fabric, you'll want to use an ironing cloth to protect the surface. See this pic at right? It looks great once it's ironed, but the clipping is required to allow it to bend enough and not pucker.

The next few steps are what you would probably expect. I sewed the fronts, backs, and sides together, and then that combined unit to the bottom piece, for both outside fabric and lining.

Here is the second hard part: Before you sew the lining pieces together, you will need to flip them through one side (between the outside and lining connections at the ovals) so you can sew together inside out. Then you pull back through.

Third hard part: inserting the interfacing. This was my first time using Timtex. Since it was heavy, I didn't iron it to the lining before sewing, but the next time I used the iron-on type I definitely will. It just eliminates a whole step and all the fiddly business of inserting the pieces into a sewn-together, tight space. I had to cut a little extra out of the hole to get it to fit, and also I had to slice through the top (as you see in the third pic above) to put it into place. Meh. So, yeah, next time, attach to fabric before sewing fabric together.

As you see, I left the top edges for last, and they had to be whipstitched together by hand. To make a sharp corner, see below. Fold the corner across at 45°, then the top across that, and then the side across, and it makes a nice angle between the two folded edges. Here you can see I did that process using the Timtex as a guide. Then, because the Timtex was iron-on, I was able to iron these edges onto it, which helped a lot when trying to keep everything together with the outside fabric.

I repeated that corner folding with the outside edges, pinned, and whipstitched all along the edge between the lining and the outside fabric. If you click to enlarge this photo at left, you can see my whipstitching at the very top. You try not to make it obvious, but it's hard to make it absolutely invisible.

You can also see I added a snap.