Category Archives: Tutorials

Pattern Matching Tutorial

We interrupt the faux mink jacket to bring you – by popular request – a pattern matching tutorial! Many of you are participating in the 2011 Men’s Shirt Sew-Along over at Male Pattern Boldness and a couple of my readers asked me to write about matching patterns across the front opening. It’s easy, easy, easy!

I am using a small-scale pattern to better illustrate the process. Note that I have marked the center front (and the foldline but we don’t care about that at this point) on the front of the pattern,


and the back (very important!).


Step I: With fabric single-layer, cut your right shirt front. Make small clips at the top and bottom of the center front line (the most important step!). I have marked the center fronts with chalk for visibility.


Step II: Remove pattern and lay the newly cut front section (right side up) onto your yardage, matching the pattern exactly (can you even see it?). Put a pin at the CF clips you made earlier.


Step III: Turning your pattern piece over, align the center front line with the pins (be precise!) and cut out your 2nd piece.


Voila, that’s all there is to it! And, as you can see here, the pattern will match whether the garment will be buttoned right over left (for women),


or left over right (for men or unisex garments).



Filed under Tutorials

Duffle Coat – Final

I spent most of yesterday experimenting with different ways to make the toggles (good thing I had lots of leather in my stash!). I finally decided to copy the toggles from Burda Style.

First, I made my own leather cording. I cut 1″ wide strips of leather with a rotary cutter and quilting ruler.


I folded them in half and edgestitched along the fold before trimming away the excess (oops, I forgot to photograph that step but you get the idea).



For the patch (I’m sure it has a name but I don’t know what it is), I cut a 1.75″ by 3″ piece of leather and punched a hole in the center of one side with my trusty old revolving leather punch.


Thread the toggles onto the cord and pull the cord ends through the hole of the patch. Secure the cord ends to the back of the patch and then trim off the excess.



For extra security and to make them easier to handle during sewing, I glued the patch together with Tandy leather glue (my favorite!). Lastly, I coated all of the raw edges with Edgekote. The Edgekote isn’t a must but I like the way it finishes the edges.



It’s a beautiful, crisp winter’s day here in Florida so I thought I’d photograph the coat outside. I love this coat so much that I definitely want to make another, shorter version.


Here’s the back of the lining,


and the front. This lining is very pretty (and Burberry-esque!) but it was awful to work with – soooo ravelly.


My next project is a lambskin jacket but I don’t know how much, if anything, I will get done this week. I’ll feel great if I get the pattern fitted and maybe cut out a test garment but I’m not going to stress about it.

Parting shot: Bryan insists on trying to dress up the kitties. Last year, he put a doggie Christmas dress on Ricki! Mrs. Whiskers is here to tell you she doesn’t like it. Silly man!


Merry Christmas!


Filed under Burda WOF, Tutorials, Year of the Jacket

Duffle Coat – Part IV

Everything is finished except for the toggles and I don’t think I’ll get to them tonight. I started feeling a little under the weather this afternoon and then traffic was a nightmare so I got home a bit later than expected – 45 minutes to drive 6.5 miles, argh! I don’t feel alert enough to work on the most important part of the coat (the toggles!) so I’ll save that for Saturday. And I promise I’ll post the steps!

Instead, I thought I’d write a quick post about bagging a lining. Lots of books cover bagging but most of them don’t ever mention how to properly deal with that little bit of unfinished facing where it meets the hem. So you try to make it look okay with handsewing but it never really does. I’m going to show you how to finish that area easily and neatly by machine. Now, I’m not a technical writer so I just sewed it and took photos of the steps – hopefully the steps are clear. For more professional instructions please refer to Palmer/Pletsch’s jacket book and/or DVD (I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this technique covered in any other home sewing/tailoring book).

To use this technique, partially sew the facing/lining seam (leaving at least a few inches unsewn at the bottom) and press up the jacket hem (but do not stitch). Leave a large opening in one of your sleeve lining seams so that the jacket may be turned right side out later.

Step 1 Turn the facing back and stitch, stopping 5/8″ from the edge (or whatever your facing/lining seam allowance is).


Step 2 Trim the seam allowance.


Step 3 Right sides together, stitch lining and hem allowance together. I used a 1/2″ seam allowance in this instance. This lining was a ravelly nightmare!


Step 4 Clip jacket front ONLY to the point where you ended your stitching. The wonkiness you see is the hem being pulled up by the lining – pay no attention to that. 🙂


Step 5 Turn hem allowance up (right sides together) tucking lining inside.


Step 6 Fold facing back out of the way exposing lining/facing seam.


Step 7 Stitch remaining lining/facing seam down to the hemline.


Step 8 Turn RS out and Voila! even before pressing it looks good.


Step 9 After pressing.


Step 10 The jump hem is formed automatically.


At this point, I hand stitch the hem, attach the sleeve linings to the hems by machine and then turn the jacket right side out through the opening in the sleeve. Stitch the sleeve opening closed either by hand or by machine (my preferred method). If your sleeves have vents, it is easier to hand stitch the lining to the hems after turning the jacket right side out.

ETA: I originally learned this technique from Kathleen at Fashion-Incubator. I’ve been using it for awhile and couldn’t remember where I learned it until I was reminded today. Once you do it once or twice it will just stay with you! Here’s the original link, part of the Nameless Tutorial series: Bagging a Lining. Enjoy!


Filed under Burda WOF, Tutorials, Year of the Jacket

Perfect topstitching – How to get it

A few of you have asked how I get my topstitching to look so perfect. First, it’s not always perfect (in RTW either!) but thank you for thinking so!

Almost always, I use a straight-stitch foot for topstitching. I like the sort of foot that has a slot where I can see straight up to the needle. I guide my fabric right along the inner edge of the right toe so that I’m stitching about 1/16″ away from the edge (if I want to stitch about 1/4″ away from the edge, I use the outer edge of the toe as my guide). Yes, this does take practice but having the proper foot really helps – you cannot do this with a zigzag foot!



There are also specialty feet available for my commercial machines that work very well if I am in a hurry or tired. This first set is unique to the commercial world. These are compensating feet in various widths. These are available with the spring toe on the right or on the left (mine are all right except for the first one).


Here you can see the right toe rides lower than the stationary left toe so the edge of the fabric butts up against it.




You can see here that the stitches on the left are a little longer (around 2.5) than the ones on the right. The thread I am using is heavier than what I’d normally choose for a silk crepe de chine so it looks better at a slightly longer length. Always run a couple of samples before you get started.


Next is a raising foot which is more similar to what is available for domestic machines. Raising feet also come in various widths, this particular one is a right 1/16 (these also come in left). A comparable domestic foot would be an edge foot or edge guide foot which typically comes in one width only but you can move the needle to topstitch further away.




Whichever type of foot you feel the most comfortable with, the key is to just do it and practice, practice, practice (a smooth, precision sewing machine is a huge help as well). Also notice that I like a shorter stitch length. To my eye, a long stitch length on a fine fabric looks cheap so I use a length of 2 to 2.5, depending on the fabric and the thickness of thread I am using. A longer length would be used on heavier fabrics.


Filed under Tutorials

Hong Kong Finish – Part II

Linda posed the following question about the HK tutorial:

“Thanks Gigi for the tutorial, when you bind both seams together like this , I used to see it done separate, is it your choice of SA or is there a standard . Looking at your red jacket in Part 3, the close up of hood ,you must bind close to your SA I don’t see a trace of it and are your SA about 3/8″ they are just beautiful.”

On the hood seam (as well as the side, sleeve and underarm seams) I used a binding. I used a 1 1/4″ binding plate as I did in this POST. The binding is finished on both sides. It is bulkier but also more durable. Here’s a closeup of the hood seam:


When I am binding a seam allowance together, it is usually because it’s curved (as in a Princess seam or this hood seam) so I like the SAS to be as narrow as possible – usually around 3/8″.

The hems, facings and shoulder seams were finished with the Hong Kong finish. Here’s a shot of the shoulder seams which were sewn before the SAS were finished.


These seam allowances are not trimmed.


Filed under Tutorials, Year of the Jacket

Hong Kong Finish Tutorial

Since some of you have asked I thought I’d put up a quickie how-to. The HK finish is one of the easiest “couture” finishes you will ever learn. It looks like a million bucks but even a beginning sewist can master it.

First, cut true bias strips using a rotary cutter. I generally cut my strips 1.25″ to 1.5″ wide, depending on the fabric. Unless you have long seams or a full hem to finish (or are short on fabric), it’s not usually necessary to piece your strips.

Place your bias strip RS together with your seam allowance or hem edge and stitch. You can use a 1/4″ foot for this but you can also use the edge of a straight stitch foot as I’m doing here. Press the strip away from the seam. Confession: A lot of times I simply finger-press because I’m too lazy to get up and go to the iron.



Wrap the strip around the raw edge of the seam allowance and stitch in the well of the seam (i.e. “stitch in the ditch”). If you can’t quite stay in the well of the seam, it’s perfectly okay to stitch on the binding itself or on the seam allowance.


Trim away any excess fabric from the underside using trimmers or applique shears.


Voila, you are done! It’s so simple yet gives the inside of your garments a beautiful high-end look.


As an aside, I’d love to hear from anyone who has made Silhouettes Barbara’s Trench, which I am considering. Likes? Dislikes? Comparisons to other patterns?



Filed under Tutorials, Year of the Jacket

McCall’s 5984 – Tweaking the Pleat

After conferring with Els about my inverted pleat, she directed me to an old post at The Sewing Divas. How could I have forgotten that?!?!? Brilliant, right? Els recommended that I stitch the diagonal line about 5″ down from the top of the opening. As you can see, she’s not only a master tailor, she is also the Queen of Photoshop (the yellow stitching is from the skirt post, the red is the jacket stitching)!


I took these photos after doing a little hand basting with silk thread – it shows up much better than the permanent stitching does. You can see that I started the stitching at the top of the opening and angled it out to the fold. I had originally intended to stitch the pleat closed a bit more but decided against it once I saw that this method would give me the look I wanted.

The stitching is only done on the inside of the pleat and does not show on the outside of the garment. This would all have been much easier to do had I done it before attaching the collar! Believe me, I won’t forget to do it on my next version.


You can see how much more nicely the pleat lays without taking away the swinginess at the lower edge. I have to say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this jacket and will definitely make another. Thank you, dear Els, for teaching me something new!



Filed under McCall's, Tutorials, Year of the Jacket

Dyeing MOP Buttons

When I wanted to try dyeing MOP buttons for my silk blouse the first person I called was my friend Sharon. Sharon is very experienced with dyes and paints and dyed a bunch of plastic buttons a couple of years ago – yes, you can dye some plastic buttons too! She recommended I use Rit dye and experiment first with one button to check the color and time.

I used one cup of water with four capfuls of liquid dye in a small Corningware dish. I prefer to use a glass dish because it’s non-reactive. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Thread the button(s) on a string (I used some topstitching thread) and put into the mixture. I looped the thread around one of the dish’s handles so it wouldn’t completely fall into the liquid. I checked my button every 5 minutes. After 20 minutes I realized that this was going to take a very long time! But, by then I could already see that the color was going to work, I just needed to simmer it for a long time to get the saturation I wanted. I strung up the rest of my buttons (make sure you dye a few spares!) and simmered them for three hours. I turned off the stove and left them overnight when I went to bed.

The next morning, I decided to try to get them a bit darker so I started with a fresh batch of undiluted dye. After a couple of hours they finally looked good to me so I rinsed and hung them to dry. I can’t imagine that they will fade but we’ll see. Due to all of the gathers on my blouse I will probably dry clean it so I’ll let you all know how they hold up to those chemicals. Hopefully, they’ll be fine because I have a ton of men’s MOP shirt buttons and plans to make a few more silk blouses.

Because MOP buttons require such a long cooking time, I really recommend you use a dish with a lid. Not only does this prevent all of your liquid from evaporating, it also prevents the dye from getting into the air. It’s not just a little stinky, it can’t be too good to breathe in either. If you are going to be standing over the pot a lot I’d recommend a mask of some sort too. Most of my dying consists of quick jobs like lingerie elastic (which dyes in mere minutes) so it’s not been a problem before. I just wanted to mention it to you so that you can be prepared.

PS: Don’t forget that anything you use for dyeing should never be used for food again. I’m you already knew that but it bears repeating.


Filed under This and that, Tutorials

New Look 6648

It’s done and I LOVE it! I think this is a great way for a petite to wear volume because it’s not too overwhelming. I cut my usual size 8 but may go down to a 6 next time depending on the fabric that I use. You just want to make sure the band is not snug because it will continually want to ride up your midriff. Other than that this top is generously sized. I did not need an FBA or any other alterations – what a luxury!


As you can see, I made a few changes from the pattern. I lowered the neckline a little in the front and added an exposed facing to mimic the designer top. Beware, the neckline is even wider than it appears in the pattern photo. I’ll definitely bring it in a little next time. Also, lingerie guards are a must with a top like this because it will want to slide off one shoulder all the time without them.

I also added some wide bands at the sleeve like the original. I cut my bands 6″ wide which gave me a 2.75″ finished width. I wanted them 3″ wide but this is all the fabric I had left due to a very stupid cutting error! Thank goodness I always buy plenty of fabric otherwise the whole thing would have ended up in the trash. Anyway, I trimmed 2.5″ off the sleeve (2.75″ finished band width minus 1/4″ seam allowance) to retain the original length.

Because there is so much volume on the top I wanted the fit around my waist and hip to be as trim as possible so I needed to eliminate the ruching on the band. This is a super-easy fix here as only the outer band is ruched, the inner band is flat. Simply measure the width of the inner band from the cut edge to the foldline marked on the pattern. Then draw a new line at the same width on the ruched section and fold (or cut) away the unwanted tissue.

Note the fold line towards the bottom of the pattern piece:


I drew a 2nd line the same distance away on the ruched side of the foldline:


New pattern piece:


Hop on over to The Sewing Divas to see how I sewed the facing and sleeve bands.


Filed under Fabric, New Look, Tutorials

Binding Mini-Tutorial

As promised, the mini-tutorial is up on the Sewing Divas site.

Comments Off on Binding Mini-Tutorial

Filed under Tutorials