So guys…I don’t think I’ve had so many comments on a post – ever – as I had last week ?
(If I haven’t responded to you yet – soz! I’m getting there. We had a power cut in our building at work overnight on Wednesday, so when I arrived at work sweaty in my cycle-lycra and clipless shoes ready for a shower and some clean clothes (and actual shoes) I was told I could have neither. I had to park my bike in another building (to which my pass didn’t work on one door and I almost got stuck) and negotiate the escorted retrieval of my bike lock and clean clothes from said building-that-had-been-plunged-into-darkness, I showered at the gym (whose showers are nowhere near as nice, in fact they were pretty gross), and then sit in the canteen with at least a thousand (no lie) other people who had been displaced from my building while we played the will-we-won’t-we-be-allowed-back-in-the-office-game. I ended up working from home that day but it totes messed up my flow for the week so I’m a bit behind) ?
That gathered dress huh. The husbeast wasn’t keen on it, I was on the fence but kinda thought I liked it – a lot of you guys here on the blog said yes, some said no bloody way, and three of ya were unsure. The response on Instagram was positive too, with more ‘yas’ responses than no ?
Because I’m finance and I loveeeee shiz like this, let’s show this in a graph:
When so many of you said it wasn’t ‘me’, I sat down and really thought about this. What had gone wrong? How had I so badly strayed from my style? And then it hit me. Well, to be more accurate, something else hit me. I bought this dress pattern at the start of March 2018 – about eight weeks after I suffered a head injury. There were a lot of ways, shall we say, that I was not myself during this time, and I’m wondering whether this pattern is an expression of that. (I’m also wondering what other patterns I have that I might have bought around that same time, that I should perhaps cleanse myself of ?). When I linked up the timeline in my head, it all kind of made sense. It’s funny what being smacked on the noggin can do to you ??♀️
Even though I was loosely thinking of making a second autumnal version of the dress, I’m gonna scrap that idea. I don’t love that one enough to try again – and I’m not even sure a corduroy version would work. I mean, it’d be heavy, for one, and I might spend all that time making it only to hate it – which would mean I’d have made not one, but two dresses that took ages and would not get worn.
I emailed Trend Patterns and explained the many, many errors in the pattern, and the omission of the sleeve finishing instructions. They didn’t respond.
It’s fine, I just won’t buy any of their patterns again, and if I see them at a Knitting and Stitching show perhaps I’ll loudly ask (in front of other customers, obvs) why my email was ignored and wait for the awkward silence.
But anyway – it was a good learning experience, even if what I learned was what not to make ??♀️? So I pledge to listen to my spidey sense more attentively in future. Unless I get super excited from the get-go about a pattern, it doesn’t get bought. Especially for £25, that’s for sure.
So let’s move on from that shambles, shall we? ? This week I have something (two things, actually!) that isn’t an overbearing solid colour and instead has cute little foxes and sloths. Sloths are the best! ??
Last year, in a bid to make the husbeast something other than shirts, I made him some boxer shorts. The Comox Trunks by Thread Theory, to be precise. Remember ’em? It was the first time I’d ever made men’s underwear – I hadn’t sewn a lot with jersey fabric (the Kielo dress is the exception, obvs), and I’d never used waistband elastic either. The twin needle was a new experience for me as well – I’d looked at it/thought about using it for a couple of years, but never really found
the enthusiasm to figure out how it worked the right time to use it. I decided the Comox Trunks were the garment destined for the very first twin needle adventure, so had a bash. They turned out… alright.
(I’m pleased to confirm that I’ve also now made the husbeast a T-shirt, and some jeans are in progress too, so we’re well and truly in things-other-than-shirts territory ??)
Here’s a little refresher of what those Panda Pants looked like ?
(and the full blog post can be read here, if you missed it!)
The trunks actually fitted well, for a first attempt. They’ve been worn a fair bit, which is actually starting to show – the elastic has rippled a little bit (only at the centre back ? ) and the jersey has faded with washing. But you can still see the cute panda print ? The husbeast requested a couple of changes for the next pair(s) I was to make him – mainly the waistband elastic to be a bit shorter/tighter (I think I erred on the side of caution and made the waistband a little long), and the back panel to have a little bit more height to it. Apparently, there wasn’t enough fabric to get round his bum ?
I bought a coverstitch machine last year (which I will tell you all about in another post, I promise), with the intention of using it on some more Comox Trunks. I even cut out a pair straight away in my excitement, but then I sort of procrastinated over starting them. For a really long time.
I wasn’t quite sure how to replicate the flat seams of his RTW underwear on this shiny new coverstitch machine (spoiler: you can’t, and need a flat seamer for that ??♀️) and given that you seemed to have to bribe the machine with the blood of a firstborn and a griffin feather dipped in enchanted water to actually get it to sew an even seam where the thread didn’t snap or the feed dogs didn’t eat the fabric, I decided not to try and run before I could even crawl. Baby steps.
For that first pair of panda Comox’s, my plan of attack was to sew the seams with a stretch stitch and then finish the edges (together) with the overlocker, and then topstitch to hold the overlocked seam flat against the fabric. This seemed to work and looked ok, and the husband didn’t report that it was uncomfortable – but my pair still looked a bit rookie compared to store-bought ones. This time around, I decided that I’d sew the seams, the same as before, but then skip the overlocking and go straight to the topstitching with the coverstitch machine – catching the raw edges underneath the loopy bit on the inside. It sort of worked… but I feel like the machine struggled to get through four layers of jersey, and the thread broke a few times. And I swore a lot. I’ll be honest and say that I gave up on these, and they got put away in the ‘in progress’ box (aka the box of shame) for a few months.
Here’s the inside of the first pair (with overlocker + topstitch), compared to the second pair (coverstitch):
Looks better, doesn’t it? That one seam took me a shed load of attempts ? (which is why they ended up half-finished in the Box Of Shame).
But then a few months later, I wanted to make myself a new Watson bra, and again had the bright idea that I could use the coverstitch instead of the overlocker. Long story short (the long story to eventually be told – scouts honour) the bra turned out alright – the machine appeared to be behaving itself ?. The unfinished Comox’s called to me from the box of shame, and their cry for forgiveness was answered. They once again saw the light of day. I was going to win against this machine and FINISH THEM IF IT KILLED ME ??
The thread broke on me again. FFS. Threading and re-threading followed. I then discovered – by pure accident – that it is VITALLY IMPORTANT that when you thread the needles, you pass them behind the thread guide. Otherwise, they get caught on this arm that swings backwards and forwards in front of the needle:
I’m assuming that ‘catching threads’ is the one job of that little arm, but perhaps when you’re doing the five thread stitch with the loopy bit on the top as well as the bottom. Anyways, it ain’t meant for the stitch I was doing, that’s for sure. (I tried to disconnect that arm, but it appears that it possibly doesn’t come off – which is strange, given that you can loosen the screw that holds it in place… perhaps I just wasn’t yanking it hard enough ?)
Once I got the threads behind the guide, the stitching went a lot more smoothly – no breakages (yay! ??). I’m still working on getting it to stop bunching up at the start of a seam – hand cranking the first little bit seems to help for a while, but I also tried butting up a scrap piece of fabric against the real deal and sewing along the scrap first, and transferring on to the real fabric seamlessly. This seems to allow it to get over its waking-up hissy fit on the scrap rather than the good stuff, and even though I feel like I really shouldn’t have to do that, from YouTube videos and blog posts that are out there, it seems to be a common thing. So meh. For now, until I find an alternative, I’ll carry on with it.
I also want to mention that for these trunks, I used a soft, wooly thread called Seraflock instead of regular polyester thread – it’s used in athletic wear because it’s softer against the skin, and therefore presents less chafing issues, if you know what I mean. It says on the packet that you can use it in pretty much any machine, so I tried it in the overlocker – with little success.
I’m sure there’s some ultra-extra needle/tension combo needed in order to get this to work properly, and since I was already fighting with the coverstitch, I’d just about had my fill of stroppy machinery so decided to leave it alone. I rethreaded the coverstitch and tried to appease the Machine Gods to let me go on my way.
Both of these new pairs of Comox trunks are cut with a bigger size for the back panel (size 32 back panel and size 30 for all other pieces), and that seems to have improved the fit sufficiently for the husbeast. Although now we’re cycling to work, if he gets a big ol’ cycling booty I might have to size up again ? These two pairs still use that same elastic as the first pair (which has now rippled at the top edge quite considerably), but I’ve just ordered some Prym waistband elastic which looks a lot smoother and a bit more tightly knit – I’ll use this for the next pair and hopefully it’ll withstand the washing a bit better. I mean, it’s not like I’m boil-washing them or anything, just regular ol’ 30 degrees ??♀️
You can see that even after just a handful of washes on this new pair, the rippling has already started ?
I realised that the zig zag stitch I’d used in the photo above wasn’t enough to keep the raw ends of the elastic nice and secure – they frayed a bit with washing. You gotta really cover them up – so I essentially went with a mental long bar tack for the third pair.
Good luck fraying through that ?
The leg hems were much improved with the coverstitch compared to the twin needle. I mean, you totally don’t have to use a coverstitch machine for this – the twin needle (or even a zig-zag stitch) would also do the job, but if you’re looking for something that mimics ready-to-wear, then this is it.
So long as you catch the entire seam and don’t miss bits ?
I figured out that it was better to use the wider coverstitch setting rather than the narrower one – it gives you a bigger margin for error and doesn’t look too wide. You can see on the vertical seam on the fox pair, I used the narrow stitch, but switched to the wider one for the third sloth pair:
It gave me a neater finish and an easier time making sure that the raw edge of the fabric fell between the two needles.
For the final pair, I took a different approach to the (extremely long) method I used on the waistband of the first two – and I’m pleased to report that it’s a success! For the first couple of pairs, I basted the raw edge of the jersey to the back of the elastic and then used the twin needle/coverstitch to sew the two together. This method relied on me getting that raw edge exactly where it needed to be, to make sure it fell in between the two needles (because the elastic is on top when you’re sewing, so you can’t see where the jersey edge is), and it was a really long and fiddly process. Here’s the second pair, which were the first attempt with the coverstitch. It looks a PROPER STATE.
The thread kept breaking, the tension was all over the show, and it was – to be honest – way more of a shitshow than the first pair that I did with the twin needle. I got there in the end but was convinced there must be a better way.
For the third pair, I had the bright idea of lining up the raw edge of the fabric with the edge of the elastic – right sides together – and then overlocking the two together (without catching the edge of the elastic with the overlocker knife).
I then folded the jersey back in on itself, laying the elastic flat again, and went over it with the coverstitch. This method was about a hundred times quicker and a LOT neater!
Well, it’s quicker so long as you catch the fabric correctly at the first pass, unlike me ?
Everyone loves unpicking overlocked edges, right? ?
When I’d sorted that out and it was time for the coverstitch, I placed one needle on the edge of the elastic and one on just the jersey. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to have both of the needles on the elastic because on the back of the fabric, the looper thread is a bit uneven where it’s trying to cover the little hump between the jersey and the elastic which are two very different surfaces (and very different thicknesses, too). I’ll try that on the next pair and report back.
Also for future pairs, I think I’ll swap out the black looper thread for a white one – I mean, it’s just a bit of an eyesore isn’t it? ? Or, I could *actually* start matching threads to the colour of the fabric… I’ve always been a black-thread-for-everything kinda girl when it comes to the overlocker, but I’m now seeing the appeal of buying threads to match. But… where do you store all of these cones? Does that mean I have to give up some of my fabric stash space to make room for threads?!
I learned a lot from the first pair of trunks (the pandas), and I learned even more from the second pair. The third pair were an improvement still, but there’s still a few bits that could be done differently I think.
I know that nobody wants a wardrobe full of multiples of the same item, but it’s when you make more than one of something that you really start to figure out little adjustments you could make, or different ways of doing things. Even though I have a ridiculous amount of handmade coats, I still make more – and I’m genuinely convinced that with each one, my techniques and finishing gets better. It might be a little thing here or there, but by the time you’ve got a handful of those little things you’ve all of a sudden got a next-level garment compared to the first attempt. These trunks are such a good example – the elastic was so much better by the time I’d made the third pair.
If I could go back to past-me and give one piece of advice, it’d be to not get disheartened if something I’ve made looks a bit shabby. Practice is EVERYTHING and I genuinely have seen the improvements in my makes. Had something turn out a bit ‘meh’? Keep sewing. Struggled with a complicated placket? JUST. KEEP. SEWING.
Speaking of sewing multiples, I actually have lotttttsss of coats planned for the rest of the year – so many that I’m gonna do a little roundup of my plans to share with you because I’m proper excited to make these! Look out for that in a couple of weeks ?
Meanwhile, feast your eyes on some pants.
Happy Sewing Sunday guys ✌?
Next week on the blog… another one ticked off the Make Nine list! The Megan Nielsen Rowan t-shirt. All the deets and the full lowdown can be delivered straight to your inbox, via the box below??
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