Category Archives: Tutorials

Banded Surplice Neckline Tutorial

The banded surplice neckline tutorial for the HP Cosmopolitan Dress is up at The Sewing Divas! Here’s the LINK.

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Elasticated Blindstitched Neckline

The tutorial is up! Here’s a link: TSD tutorial.


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Tutorial: Convertible Collar with Yoke

A few days ago I was asked to republish the convertible collar tutorial that I had on my now-defunct site – here it is! As always, it’s so much easier to use 1/4″ seam allowances in this area. Your stitching will be easier, more accurate and you won’t have to trim. Here, I am using Kwik-Sew 2935 which includes 1/4″ seam allowances throughout.

I’ve increased the seam allowances in some areas (the side seams and sometimes the armscye) to give me the option of using flat-felled seams or even plain seams, depending on the project. There’s nothing wrong with using a 1/4″ throughout but I think that larger seam allowances and other seam finishes add more perceived value to the garment. Still, all of your enclosed seams should be 1/4″ – always, IMO.

With the exception of the collar, do not press anything until the end.

Step 1: Construct the collar. I always put a large X with chalk on the undercollar so as not to mix them up.

Step 2: Construct the inner yoke/front facing unit. The inner edges of your facings should be finished in some manner. Here, I’ve simply turned in 1/4″ and edgestitched.

Step 3: Attach the outer yoke to the front and back sections.

Step 4: Sew the collar into the neckline with a 1/8″ seam (so that you won’t have to remove any stitching later). Once you get the hang of this you may be able to skip this step. I still do it because I’m not a big fan of pinning. Having the collar sewn into position gives me one less piece to keep an eye on. Make sure the under collar is next to the outer yoke before sewing.

Step 5: Attach the inner yoke/front facing unit to the shirt/collar unit. I often sew this in two steps, first stitching across the neckline/collar and then down the facings/front edges.

Step 6: Now you’ll need to sew the front yoke seam. Many pattern directions will tell you to slipstitch or topstitch this seam. I sew it by machine from the inside. Hold the raw edges together as they should be sewn and fold the shirt inside. The outer edges will be easy, it gets trickier as you get close to the neckline. You only need to concern yourself with stitching just past the facing edge – don’t worry about getting right up to the neckline because you won’t be able to.

Step 7: I’m sorry (again) for the blurriness of this photo. This is the front yoke seam pinned and ready to sew.

Step 8: Once this seam is sewn you will have a small unsewn area next to the collar. I just leave it as is. If it bothers you, you can certainly sew it up by hand – if you’ll be edgestitching the yoke that will take care of it as well.

Step 9: Lay the shirt out flat, right side up, with the front facing you. Roll the back of the shirt up into the outer yoke area.

Step 10: Pull the fronts off to the side and bring the inner yoke around to meet the outer yoke.

Step 11: Here’s what it will look like – ready to be sewn.

Step 12: Turn everything right side out. Now you can press!

Finished! A nice, neat collar/yoke area completely finished by machine.

Notice that the design matches across the button opening. I always think that’s a nice touch – and it’s so very easy. Material for a future tutorial?


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Coverstitching over serged seams

Coverhemming over a bulky serged seam is easy! I’ve been using this method for years. Don’t be afraid to clip close to the seamline – I haven’t lost a seam yet. 🙂

Before turning up the hem, clip to the seamline at the foldline.

Then, turn the hem seam allowance in the opposite direction of the garment seam allowance before turning up the hem.

This will give you a nice smooth seam to stitch over.

Best of all, you won’t have all of those tiny, crooked stitches on either side of the seamline!


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Block fusing

I have been block fusing my interfacing for years – ever since I bought my first press about ten years ago. Six years ago, I purchased an industrial heat press for my business and became spoiled by it’s large 16×20 fusing area. You certainly don’t need a press for fusing but it does make the job easier and faster.

Why block fuse? I think it’s easier, faster and more accurate. No more fiddling with wiggly facing pieces and comparing them to the pattern to make sure they haven’t been stretched or distorted. I also always hate cutting out the interfacing pieces, blech. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about whether the interfacing shrunk during the fusing process.

To begin, I lay a Teflon sheet over my pressing surface. If my interfacing is a little larger than my fabric I don’t have to worry about getting the glue on my silicone pad.

Next, I lay the fabric face down on the Teflon sheet making sure the fabric is on grain. The rectangular surface helps me line everything up. I then lay the interfacing glue side down onto the fabric and mist the interfacing lightly with water.

Lastly, I cover the interfacing with another Teflon sheet and close the press for 10 seconds. Once the fabric has cooled, I turn the fabric over and repeat this process.

Then, I am ready to cut!


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Decorative Elastic Finish

Now that so many of you have coverstitch machines, I thought I’d rerun this tutorial from 2001. This is a very easy and neat (yes, I love my sewing to be neat and tidy!) way to finish a knit. I’d originally titled this the Picot Elastic Finish but there are so many types of decorative elastic available today that I felt it necessary to change the title. We normally think of this finish as being used in lingerie but it works equally well on the necklines and armholes of street clothes. Here I’ve used a ruffled elastic to finish the edges of the Loes Hinse Tank. Not only does it look nice it’s also very quick and easy!

The first thing you’ll want to do is check the seam allowances. They should be equal to the width of your elastic (not counting the decorative edge). If your elastic has a very wide decorative edge, you might consider trimming the neckline down. Otherwise, the finished opening will be a bit smaller – not really a problem on a deep neckline but it could be uncomfortable on a jewel neck or at the underarm.

Next, you’ll need to sew up one shoulder seam – I usually sew up the right side first. Then you will serge the elastic to the edge right sides together. It isn’t necessary to stretch the elastic. Instead, apply it in a 1:1 ratio. When you turn the elastic inside you will be turning a smaller circle (the cut edge) into a larger one (the body of the garment) so gaping will not be a problem.

Then, simply turn the elastic to the inside and coverstitch along the edge from the right side.
Lastly, you will sew up the remaining shoulder seam. I also like to tack the seam allowance down with a few straight stitches to keep it in place.

The finished product:

If you are finishing armholes on a sleeveless garment you will go ahead and do that now while the side seams are unsewn.


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Collar on stand – Part 2

Today we are going to finish up the band. Pin the outer band onto the inner band, right sides together. As you can see in the photograph, I have carefully tucked the front edge of the shirt up into the bands. This will allow me to stitch around for a nice neat front edge. I’m normally not big on pinning but, in this case, it helps to keep the layers in position.

Here is where your accuracy in attaching the inner band will pay off. I begin my stitching about 3/4″ in from the front edge (or as much as the fabric will allow – sometimes more, sometimes a little less) and pivot exactly where my previous stitching ends.

Always check to make sure you haven’t accidentally caught anything you shouldn’t have in your stitching before trimming.

I simply cut across the corner and then trim the curve with pinking shears. When using 1/4″ seam allowances, it isn’t necessary to do any additional trimming.

The front edge is nice and neat from the outside.

And from the inside.

The last step is to edge stitch around the band, closing up the remaining neck edge at the same time.

That’s it! This entire process, with practice, should take you no more than a few minutes and will give you a great result every time. I hope you’ll give it a try.


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Collar on Stand – Part 1

I published this tutorial on my site a few years ago and thought that perhaps it was time to revisit the collar on stand. So many sewers seem to have trouble with this (especially the stand/band) but it’s actually quite easy. I recommend you use 1/4″ seam allowances in the collar, stand and neck edge of the garment. You can use 3/8″ but I find 1/4″ so easy to sew with a patchwork or 1/4″ foot. The main thing is NOT to use 5/8″ seam allowances. If you are new to shirtmaking, I really recommend that you try a Kwik-Sew pattern to start. Kwik-Sew always includes separate under- and upper-collar pieces so that you can educate yourself on the differences between the two. This will make it easier to modify patterns that only include one collar pattern piece later on. I will show you my super-easy cheater method next week!

Interfacing: I like to use fusible interfacing on both collar and stand pieces. My favorite interfacing is Palmer/Pletsch Sheer. It is lightweight yet crisp and bonds extremely well. If you are making a dress shirt and desire a very stiff collar you may want to use something like ShirTailor. I’m not fond of an overly stiff collar and prefer to use collar stays instead. This is a matter of personal preference.

Collar construction: Complete the collar. Go ahead and topstitch the edges and baste the neck edges together at 1/8″ (you don’t want to have to remove any visible stitching later).

Step 1 The first step is to attach the inner band to the garment using (in this case) a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Notice that I have stopped and started exactly at the shirt front edge – this is
imperative. Do not stop one stitch short or sew one stitch too many as this will be your pivot point when attaching the outer band. It is more important to stop exactly at the front edge than it is to have an exact 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step 2: Attach the completed collar to the inner band using an 1/8″ seam. Again, you’ll want to use the 1/8″ seam to avoid having to remove any stitching later. Use a regular stitch length to hold the collar securely. Note that the upper collar will be against the inner band.

Tune in tomorrow for more!


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Finished collar

You can see how the collar stays and additional fabric in the undercollar points (from the patch described below) give a nice appearance to the collar – no more curling collar tips! I’m pleased with the way this turned out. I used Palmer/Pletsch Sheer interfacing on both collars and bands. The end result is crisp without being boardy. I’ve had excellent results with this interfacing over the years. I only wish it were available by the bolt.


Filed under Fabric, Patterns, vintage, Tutorials

Collar stays

My vintage pattern calls for buttonholes in the under collar to accommodate the collar stays. I really don’t like that idea. Instead I like to use what I refer to as the patch method. It is neat, easy and adds more body and weight to the points of the collar – especially helpful in a large collar such as this. What I do is fold a piece of the fashion fabric in half on grain. I then place it across the under collar with the fold at the stay opening, trimming away any excess around the collar. To reduce some of the bulk in the very tip of the point I trim about 3/4″ across the point from the underlayer only. Do not trim anything from the upper layer. If you do, it will show later. After stitching the channels for the stays, the under collar is ready to be sewn to the upper collar.

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Filed under Fabric, Patterns, vintage, Tutorials