Inspiration No. 14: Mud Silk Adventures

Mud Silk Adventures

by Kathryn Brenne

p1030222aMud Silk has been produced in the Guangdong Province of China since the Ming Dynasty. Using natural resources of sun, water and silt from the river, the Chinese have perfected a technique for creating a fabric that is very comfortable to wear. It repels water, is breathable, anti-bacterial, quick drying and offers some UV protection making it particularly suitable for hot, humid climates.

The process involves dying a base fabric. Originally the color was obtained from a yam-like vegetable only found in this area of China. It produced an orange, umber color.  Today other tannin-rich vegetable dyes are used to give a wide range of color variations. The fabric can be dyed several times depending on the intensity of color desired. After dying, the fabric is laid out in fields to dry. One side mudsilk_026G004wineof the fabric is coated with silt from the nearby Pearl River delta. It is left to bake in the sun for up to a week.  Through a combination of heat from the sun, moisture from the dew, silt found in this portion of the river and tannins in the dye, a chemical reaction is created in which the silt binds itself to the fabric. These conditions are only found during a few months of the year so production is limited. After baking in the sun, the fabric is washed in the nearby river and then given a finish, which contains anthracite coal.

The finished fabric is two toned. One side usually has a black, glossy finish while the other side is colored. The coloring can be streaky, adding to its beauty. As the fabric is used, worn and washed it takes on a crinkly appearance. This characteristic is quite attractive as it allows the undertone or opposite side of the fabric to show through. Mud Silk lends itself well to reversible garments.

The process of making the fabric creates a crisp fabric with a slightly papery hand. It is suitable for jackets, pants, and loose fitting tops. Single layer and reversible garments are ideal. Bias bindings, Hong Kong and flat felled seam finishes allow the garment to be reversible.

The process of making Mud Silk had almost become obsolete during the Cultural Revolution, but luckily several designers with Asian roots have revived the fabric and its production continues. I designed Vogue V9217 with Mud Silk in mind. The sample garments for the pattern envelope were all sewn from Mud Silk.


Although most Mud Silk is lightweight and crisp, a thin layer of silt fills the weave of the fabric making it a challenge to sew at times. A very sharp Jeans needle in a size 70 is the best choice.  The shaft of a Jeans needle is strong and the size 70 leaves the smallest hole possible in the fabric.


A straight stitch foot and straight stitch throat plate will give you the best stitch quality. I used a 1/4” foot #57 on my Bernina sewing machine and 100% all-purpose Gutermann thread for this project. I chose two colors, one to match each side of the fabric.
A 1/2” binding tip was used to fold the bias binding.


Fine glass head pins are best for Mud Silk. Because the fabric is so dense, pins or incorrectly placed stitching can leave holes in the fabric, so take your time and doublecheck your work before sewing.

Reversible Garments

reversibleWhen planning a reversible garment, think of loose easy fitting styles. Seams need to be
finished so that they are attractive on both sides. Darts need to be stitched down. To keep the fabric lightweight and fluid, facings and hem allowances can be omitted. Edges can be finished instead with bias bindings.


V9217Vogue 9217 is a perfect choice to try sewing with Mud Silk. This simple camisole tank top
is loose fitting, the edges are trimmed in bias bindings and there are no neck or armhole
facings. There is a dart but it is sewed down so it becomes very flat and unnoticeable on either side of the garment.


Layout and Cutting

Mud Silk can be slightly streaky in appearance. Evaluate the fabric and decide where the
pattern pieces should be placed. The fabric can be cut on the fold as a double layer. I found it easiest to use weights and a sharp rotary cutter to cut through the dense fabric.


Cut strips of 1” bias to use as binding for the neck, armhole and hems. It’s best to make sure you have enough fabric to cut six individual strips, one for each armhole, one for each Front and Back hem, and one for each Front and Back neckline.



Chalk the dart stitching line.


Fold the dart in half. Insert pins on the stitching line aligning them with the chalk line on the underside. Too many pins placed beyond the stitching line may leave noticeable holes in the fabric.


Sew the dart, leaving long thread tails at the tip. Knot the thread tails, thread them into a self-threading needle and then weave them through stitches on the lower dart leg for approximately 1/2” before cutting them off.


Press the dart downward over a tailor’s ham. The tip of the dart should be quite narrow. Do not press beyond the tip.


Edge stitch the lower edge of the dart leaving long thread tails at the tip.


Knot off the thread tails, thread them into a self threading needle and bury them in the tip. Pull on the thread tails and the knot will disappear into the needle hole.



Finished dart


Bias Binding

Use a 1/2” binding tip to fold the 1” bias strips.


(If you are lucky enough to have a Simplicity Bias machine, which folds the binding for you, it works very well for this. It is a discontinued item, however. The machine has a heated plate, which presses the tape as a roller pulls it through.)


Once pressed the folded bias tape will look like this:


Press the folded bias in half with one side slightly longer than the other.

The neck, armhole and hems all have bias binding attached to them prior to sewing the seams.
Open out the shorter side of the bias tape and place it right sides together with the garment. On one side of a reversible garment the tape will match the fabric and on the other it will show as a contrast. Using a straight stitch foot, stitch in the fold of the strip. Ease the tape around curves ensuring it does not get narrower. (I did not pin the tape but instead just placed it and held it with my fingers as I sewed.) Take your time!


On the opposite side, the tape will look like this:p1030199

At the hem, stop stitching at the corner of the side seam extension. Fold the end of the tape back on itself. Wrap the tape around the seam allowance.


Stitch in the ditch catching the under side of the bias strip. I found I could feel the ridge of the folded edge and tell if I had folded it over enough to catch it in as I sewed. Press.



Finished hem binding.


Remember that the neck, armhole and hem edges are bound before the shoulder and side seams are sewn.

Here is a technique that is easy for making flat felled seams. On one side of the garment two rows of stitching will show while on the other side one row of stitching will show.
img_6312Sew the seam with 5/8” seam allowance. Press the seam three times, flat, open and then towards one side. By pressing the seam open before pressing to one side you will get a very flat seam. Shoulder and side seams can press towards the Back of the garment.

Trim the Back seam allowance to 1/4”.


Wrap the Front seam allowance around the Back and press.


Pin seam allowance in place. Edge stitch.



Mud Silk is relatively easy to care for. I recommend hand washing in cold water with a mild soap. Do not rub, wring or twist the fabric, which may damage the finish. Roll washed garments in a towel to remove excess water and hang to dry. Garments are best stored hung rather than folded to prevent permanent creases.



Inspiration No. 13: A Luxurious Silk Tee

A Luxurious Silk Tee

by Kathryn Brenne


Kathryn modeling her luxurious tee! Scroll down to the bottom of the article for more views.

After completing the Unlined Jacket inspiration article I had a nice piece of woven silk print left over that I had used to make the bias binding for the jacket seam finish. There was enough fabric to cut the front of a top and since I  loved the print,  I had an idea to combine the woven silk print with 100% silk jersey to make a luxurious, couture T-shirt.  The result feels wonderful on, and is the perfect garment to wear underneath the unlined jacket!

I loved the design so much that I made a second one using a blush-toned stretch sequin fabric (a remnant from a designer) with blush silk jersey, to go with a pleated chiffon skirt that I made for my recent teaching trip to Paris and London. Since the sequin fabric had stretch, there was no need for the pleats in this version. Before we get started on the tutorial, here are some photos from the Paris streets!peachIG



sideviewFor the T-shirt I wanted the garment to look harmonious from every angle. By cutting the Back, Sleeves and Neckband out of the silk jersey and the Front out of the woven silk I was able to achieve this, since the neckband and sleeves brought an element from the Back to the Front of the garment.

Silk jersey can be tricky to sew, and it is particularly difficult to stitch nice hems. To avoid messy, wavy stitching at the hems, I decided to double the silk jersey on the Back and Sleeves by cutting with a fold at the finished hemline. In order to do this, the finished length had to be decided upon ahead of time. This technique worked beautifully and added a bit more weight to the jersey. The T-shirt slides on easily and has such wonderful drape!

To compensate for the lack of stretch in the woven silk Front, I added two pleats to the Front at the neckline. This provided extra ease over the bust area tapering down to nothing at the hem.



I used my favorite TNT T-shirt pattern, The Classics Fearless T-shirt #109 by Cecelia Podolak, as the basis for my top, but any basic T-shirt pattern can be used.  Since the pattern was designed for knits and I was using a woven with no stretch, two pleats were added to the front at the neckline to allow for a bit more give across the Front.  I added a total of 1 1/2” to the front at the neck edge distributed between two pleats, each measuring 3/4”.  I positioned them 1 1/4” to either side of the center front, each pleat tapering down to nothing at the hem. This gave me two tucks placed 2 1/2” apart from each other.

  1. Trace off a full pattern piece for the Front and Back from the pattern that needs to be cut on the fold. Remove the seam allowances from the Front, Back and Sleeve pattern pieces as the fabric will be thread traced on the stitching line. Be sure to note what your seam allowance is on your Tee pattern, as they will vary, and you don’t want to cut away too much! Decide on your finished length for the hem and sleeves before you cut out your fabric, since the Front, Back and Sleeve hems will be cut on the fold.img_2937
  2. To create a Neckband pattern piece on my pattern, I cut the View B neckline. I put the T-shirt pattern on my dress stand and marked where I wanted the finished neckline to sit. From this point I made Neckband pattern pieces for the Front and Back that were 7/8” wide. I added a seam allowance to all edges of the new Neckband pattern pieces
  3. I added a 4” slit to the centre back, which makes it easy to fit over my head. The 4” slit includes the finished width of the Neckband.img_2939img_2938


The fabric used for the Front of the T-shirt was a printed silk charmeuse backed with silk chiffon.  I purchased 3/4 yard of silk chiffon. The Back and Sleeves were cut from 1 1/2 yards of silk jersey in color J196. The Neckband was interfaced with bias knit interfacing.

Layout and Cutting

To cut out the Front, layer the silk charmeuse over the silk chiffon. This helps to
tame the fly away chiffon.  Lay out the Front pattern piece using weights to hold it in place.
Thread-trace around the perimeter of the pattern piece. Remember that the seam allowance was removed from the pattern piece so the thread-tracing is your stitching line.
For the Back and Sleeves, lay out the silk jersey in a single layer. Thread-trace the Back and one Sleeve. Flip the pattern pieces over at the hemline and thread-trace them again. Repeat for the second sleeve.
Once all pattern pieces have been thread-traced rough cut a few inches away from the thread-traced stitching line. The Front is not cut on the fold, so be sure to allow a 2 1/2” hem allowance on the Front.


Use a warm iron and light pressure when pressing the silk fabrics. A heavy hand can mark the silk jersey.  Steam and finger pressing also works well.


To permanently hold the chiffon and silk charmeuse together, the layers are stab-stitched together at the hemline and along all stitching lines. If the garment is altered, the layers will remain together rather than shifting apart from each other.
Stab-stitch just to the outside of the thread-tracing. Stab-stitching is done with Tire 50 weight machine 100% silk thread. Stitches should be approximately 3/8” long.
Once the two pieces have been stab stitched together, they are treated as one.


Front Hem and Pleat

By backing the Front with silk chiffon it allows all stitching to be hidden. When the Front is hemmed, stitches will not show through to the good side of the fabric. The hem can be trimmed with pinking shears. I like to use scalloped pinking shears, which give a pretty, soft edge. Using silk thread, hand-overcast the edge. Take a stitch into each
peak of the scallop.


As you pull the thread through, it will fall into the valley of the scallop creating a nice even stitch. A hand overcast hem creates a much softer edge than serging. Turn up the Front hem along the hemline. Baste using silk thread to hold in place.


Thread tracing holding the layers together at the hem


Finished hem

Hem-stitch the Front hem in place catching only the chiffon as you take each stitch.



Hemming technique shown in sequin tee


Finished hem shown in sequin tee

Mark the edges of the pleat with thread tracing. Bring the layers together to form pleats.
Baste to hold. Do not press. These are meant to be soft folded pleats.


Outside view


Inside view

Center Back Slit

Fold the two Backs right sides together along the hemline. Stitch a narrow 3/8” x 3 1/2” V or dart along the center back. When nearing the bottom of the V shorten the stitch length to .5 mm to reinforce the point. Carefully cut down the centre of the V to the tip.
Turn the Back right side out and lightly press the slit.



I was able to sandwich all of the seam allowances between the garment and the double layer of the silk jersey to create a garment which is entirely self contained and cleanly finished on the inside. Other than the turned up hem at the Front, the entire garment could be reversible!

Insert the Front between the two layers of the Back. Stitch seam. Pink seam allowances down to 3/8”.


Sandwich the Front shoulder between the two layers of the Back shoulder. You can reach through the open armhole to do this step. Stitch. Pink seam allowance down to 3/8”.


Finish the neckband before inserting the sleeves. The neckband could affect the fit of the
shoulder slightly. It can be altered before putting in the sleeve if it is a bit too short.

Interface three scraps of pieces of fabric for the neckband. The Neckband Facing is not
interfaced. Thread trace the Neckband pattern pieces onto the fabric. Sew the pieces
together along the shoulder seams.


Trim the shoulder seams to 1/4” and press open. Prepare the Neckband Facing by sewing the shoulder seams, trimming and pressing open. Sew the Neckband and Facing together along the inside neckline the centre back edges. Trim the curve to a narrow 1/4”. Turn right side out and press. Under stitch the neck edge.


Lay the Neckband over the body of the T-shirt to check the fit. Join the Neckband to the neck edge. Trim seam down to 1/4”. Press seam towards the neckband. Turn under the seam allowance on the Neckband Facing and press. Trim to a narrow 1/4”. Pin Neckband Facing over seam. Slipstitch to finish.


Make a thread loop to close the back of the neckband. Stitch two strands of buttonhole silk thread back and forth across the left back neckband. Check to ensure that the loop is large enough to fit over a button with a shank.


Work buttonhole stitches over threads to complete the loop. Sew button to right back


Working the buttonhole stitch


Pulling up the purl stitch of the buttonhole stitch


Baste the seam of the sleeve together. Fold the seam along the hemline and test for length. At this point the sleeve length could be altered by moving the thread tracing.
Insert one layer of the sleeve into the armhole and baste. Test fit. Stitch and trim seam
allowance to 3/8”.


Fold the sleeve lining up along the hem line and baste.


This next step is a bit like doing a ‘burrito’ yoke on a shirt! Bring the sleeve lining up into
position. You will be able to get inside  the sleeve from the cap. Pin and baste the underarm section of the sleeve lining to the sewn sleeve seam allowance. Machine stitch. You should be able to get in and stitch from approximately the notch in the front to the notch in the back. Trim any excess seam allowance to match the sleeve.


Fold under the upper Sleeve cap seam allowance of the sleeve lining. Pin in place over the stitching line of the sleeve cap. Slip stitch to finish.



Inspiration No. 12: Drop Dead Gorgeous!

A Special Occasion Embroidered Mesh Dress

by Kathryn Brenne

Paris1A beautiful embroidered mesh fabric inspired this over the top dress that can be worn two different ways. Perfect for a special occasion, the mesh dress can slide over a bustier and crinoline for a dressy look or top a colored silk slip for a less formal look. A simple design is best suited for this fabric with enough embellishment to stand on its own. With its winning price point and a bit of time, you too can create a drop dead gorgeous look! (More photos at the bottom of this article!)



The embroidery on the 58” wide mesh fabric runs along the selvedge and tapers off into plain mesh along the opposite selvedge. I purchased 3 yards of this stunning fabric #60475 (also available in white and nude), which was enough to make a very full skirt that could be worn over a crinoline. (I wear approximately a size 12/14. If you are smaller or larger, you might consider adjusting the yardage, or having slightly more or less fullness at the waist.)


The skirt was cut along the heavily embroidered selvedge. The bodice was cut so that the top ran along the plain mesh selvedge.  And I still have enough fabric leftover to cut a little top with sleeves!

I debated whether to purchase a crinoline or build my own. I decided to build my own in order to get the correct fullness and length. To build the crinoline I used half a yard of black four way stretch spandex bathing suit fabric, 3/4 yard of black silk taffeta, ten yards of 72” black stiff crinoline netting and a length of 2” wide elastic for the waistband (these were all fabrics I had on hand and were not purchased from EOS).

Needles, Thread and Notions

To sew the embroidered mesh fabric I used a size 60 Universal needle and 50 weight 100% silk thread from Tire. To finish the neck and armhole edges by hand, I used a size 16 beading needle and 100 weight 100% silk “kimono silk” thread from Superior Threads.
A long darner size 12 was used to hand gather the mesh fabric.

I put a 14” invisible zipper with mesh tape in the side seam of the dress. (I purchased a 22” zipper and cut away the excess.) I inserted a length of 1/8” elastic through the waist of the dress.


All of the fabrics used in this project are very heat sensitive. Reduce the temperature of your iron to a Nylon setting and use steam sparingly. Test pressing techniques on a sample first before working on the project.


crinoline.jpgI built the crinoline before starting on the dress as this would determine the fullness and length of the overlay. I wanted the dress to look like it was floating atop the crinoline. The dress is actually a few inches shorter than the crinoline; the crinoline lifts the mesh fabric nicely and since the mesh of the dress is soft and the cut edge of the crinoline is stiff this also prevents the crinoline netting from catching the hem of the dress and snagging it.

Once the crinoline was built it was easy to lay the embroidered mesh fabric over the crinoline and decide on a finished length for the skirt of the dress.  Note: I am 5’9” tall and the suggested lengths given are appropriate for a tea length dress on me. They can be shortened or lengthened as required for your size.

Instructions for making a crinoline:

1. Finish both edges of the 3/4 yards of black silk taffeta with a serged rolled hem. Serge the selvedge edges of the silk taffeta as an edge finish for the seam that will be sewn later. Machine baste two rows of stitching 1/4” apart along the top edge of the silk taffeta. These rows of stitching will be pulled up (not yet though!) to gather the taffeta. I used contrasting thread and a very long stitch length. The contrasting thread will be a guideline for positioning my stitches later on.  Chalk and thread trace a straight line 5” down from the top edge of the taffeta.
Chalk and thread trace a straight line 10” up from the hem of the taffeta.
Sew the center back seam of the taffeta together. Press seam open.

2. For the bottom layer, cut long strips of crinoline netting 10” wide.  Use a Ruffler attachment (if you have one) to gather the crinoline netting. Experiment with the settings on the Ruffler, which affect the amount of fabric that is pushed into the gathers.  For the shortest layer of crinoline netting, which is placed at the bottom of the crinoline, I used the number 6 setting. This setting pushed a lot of fabric into each pleat. I wanted the bottom layer of netting to be quite stiff and full in order to hold up the other layers. From your samples you will get an idea of how many strips are required to create a finished gathered length to fit around the taffeta skirt, which is 54” in circumference.

Run the crinoline netting through the Ruffler attachment using a stitch length of 3 mm. When attaching a new length of netting, don’t bother to seam the netting. Instead overlap the cut ends and continue to feed them through the ruffler. The netting is so full that cut edges are not noticeable. I prepared a bit more netting than I needed and waited to cut the excess off until after it was attached to the skirt.
3. Position the gathered netting onto the taffeta skirt along the lower tack line. Pin in place. Using a stitch length of 3 mm and a stitch width of 3.5 mm, zig zag the netting to the skirt. As you stitch, smooth out the taffeta so it does not accidentally get tucked into the stitching.


Sewing the netting to the tack line

The next layer of netting is cut 22” wide. This layer is not as full as the bottom layer. Reduce the setting on the Ruffler to space out the gathers. Try moving it to a setting of 12.
Attach the second layer of netting to the taffeta skirt at the upper tack line.


4. The 1/2 yard bathing suit base layer holds everything in place and works almost as a shapewear garment. I cut the fabric with negative ease, a few inches smaller than my hip measurement and joined the cut edges together with one seam at center back using a four thread serge stitch. I curved the seam towards the waist to give it some shaping and left the lower edge unfinished.

Cut elastic to a comfortable waist measurement. Seam the elastic together with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press seam open. Cover the seam with a piece of bathing suit fabric. This creates a neat finish on the inside of the waistband and keeps the seam allowance flat making it comfortable to wear.elasticcover

Divide the elastic and spandex into quarters. Pin the elastic to the spandex skirt matching quarters.
Use a cover stitch or twin needle to sew the lower edge of the elastic to the bathing suit fabric.
Trim spandex close to cover stitching.

5. Mark a line 3” down from the lower edge of the elastic. Mark quarters on this line. Divide the upper edge of the silk taffeta skirt into quarters. Pin the quarters of the silk taffeta to the spandex. Pull up the basting threads and pin the remainder of the silk taffeta skirt to the spandex. Position your zig zag between the two rows of basting threads and zig zag the silk taffeta skirt to the spandex. . The zig zag stitch will allow the silk taffeta skirt to stretch with the negative ease of the spandex skirt.

6. A final layer of netting is sewn just below the waistband. This layer smooths all of the other layers and lifts the skirt away from the waist. Measure from the bottom of the waistband over all other layers to the bottom of the crinoline. This top layer of netting should be slightly longer because the previous layers will lift it.  For my crinoline I cut the final layer 32” long. As with the previous layer, run the netting through the ruffler at a setting of 12. Pin the netting just below the waistband and zig zag to the spandex. I staggered the cut ends of the netting from previous layers so that they would not all spread open at the same spot.

*Note: I purchased a black bustier to wear with the crinoline and sheer mesh dress but feel free to make your own!

Mesh Dress


With the crinoline finished you can now focus on the mesh dress! Using a rotary cutter and a long Olfa ruler remove the selvedge from the heavily embroidered side of the mesh fabric. The hem of the dress will be left as a raw edge so it is important that this job be done neatly and evenly.

Try on the bustier and crinoline. Lay a length of mesh embroidered fabric over the crinoline with the heavily embroidered selvage at the bottom. Position the edge of the mesh fabric approximately 2” above the longest layer of crinoline netting. Once you are happy with the look and length of the embroidered mesh, mark the waistline.
Cut the embroidered mesh, allowing for a 1” seam allowance above the waistline mark. The mesh is cut as one long strip of fabric. I found it helpful to lay the mesh flat on my big cutting mat. I could see the lines of the mat through the fabric and could simply follow a line along the entire length.


To create very soft gathers around the waist of the skirt, the mesh fabric was hand gathered. Although this seems like a daunting task, it moves along fairly quickly once you get started, and the result is worth the effort.

To hand gather, use a long darner size 12. Position a spool of contrasting 100% polyester
Gutermann thread on a thread stand. Rather than cutting a very, very long thread and trying to work it through the fabric, the thread can be held on the thread stand and more thread pulled off as needed, preventing the thread from tangling.


Working on a mat with lines, align the upper edge of the mesh along a line of the mat. Working 1” away from the cut edge, run a row of stitches spaced approximately 1/4” long and 1/4” apart along the edge of the fabric. Pull off thread as you need it and pull through the fabric. Leave long tails of thread on each end of the fabric when finished.


Reposition the fabric so that the cut edge is laying 1/2” above a line on the mat. Run a second row of stitching parallel to the first and 1/2” above. Once again I used the line of the mat as a guide to keep stitching straight. Divide the length of fabric into quarters and mark these sections with a short tack in the seam allowance of the waist.


Gently pull up the gathering threads. Place one hand over the fabric as you pull up the two rows of hand gathers.


Using the motifs of the embroidery as a guide, evenly distribute the gathers to a measurement that is slightly bigger than your waist measurement. I allowed a 1” seam allowance for the only seam in the skirt, which was placed on the left side.

Mark the lower position of the side zipper with a tack placed 7” below the waist seam. Stitch a french seam in the mesh from the tack to the hem. To make a french seam place fabric wrong sides together and stitch a 3/4” seam allowance. Trim close to stitching. Press seam to one side. Fold fabric back on itself right sides together. Stitch seam a second time using a narrow 1/4” seam allowance. Press seam flat and then toward the back. The mesh will have to be clipped carefully to allow the seam to lay towards the back and the seam allowance above the tack to open flat.  Set the skirt aside while you continue with the bodice.


The pattern for the bodice is a scoop neckline with a little cap shoulder line. I used Butterick B6166 as a guideline but any little top or simple dress pattern could be used. The neck opening needs to be scooped wide and low enough for your head to fit through. The little cap shoulder is an extension of the shoulder line. I fit the bodice loosely through the waist. Although this pattern called for moderate stretch knit fabrics, I omitted the back darts and cut the side seams a bit straighter and it worked well.
Hold up the remaining fabric to determine where to position the motifs. Avoid placing a flower or butterfly directly over the bust point. I found that a branch of flowers centered up nicely on the Front while a meandering path of green ferns worked well on the Back. I positioned the motifs with more flowers at the waist dispersing to nothing towards the shoulders.

Lay out the Front and Back pattern pieces. Thread trace the stitching lines. Rough cut 2” away from the stitching lines. This allows you to pin the bodice together, try on and adjust if needed.

Thread trace center Front and center Back.

Baste the bodice together and try it on to asses the fit, neckline scoop and shoulder line. I
didn’t over fit the bodice through the waist but put in small gathers for 2” at the waist below each bust point. Mark the waistline. Allow a few inches of ease around the waist. This is taken up with a bit of narrow elastic once the waist seam is finished.

Carefully trim Front and Back necklines 1/4” away from the stitching line.


Press 1/8” over around the neckline. It is helpful to anchor the fabric to the ironing board with a pin. This allows you to put a bit of tension on the fabric as you roll and press over the 1/8”. Roll the neckline over a second time another 1/8”. Pin.img_2893.jpgimg_2894.jpg

Using a fine beading needle and kimono silk thread use a running stitch to sew the neck in place. Position stitches close to the folded edge.img_2895.jpg

Stitches will disappear and not be visible from the right side of the garment.  img_2899.jpg

(I did try a slip stitch first, but the slight angle of the stitches was noticeable from the right side.)

The finished neckline should look narrow and lay flat.img_2898.jpg

Baste the shoulders wrong sides together. Sew 1/8” away from basting.img_2900.jpg

Trim close to stitching. Remove basting. Press seam towards Back and then fold right sides together.


Pin seam and stitch again using cut edges as a guide to stitch 1/8” away from edge.img_2902.jpg

Rather than backstitching, leave long thread tails, which can be knotted and buried in the seam allowance.img_2903.jpg

Trim 1/4” away from the thread tracing around the armholes. If there are any embroidered motifs laying within the seam allowance, carefully remove them by unpicking the threads.


On my bodice a bit of a fern leaf and butterfly had to be unpicked.
Finish armholes in the same manner as the neckline.


Before picking


After picking

Sew a french seam in the right side of the bodice.
Finish the 2” below the left armhole with a french seam. The remainder of the seam will be left open to insert the zipper.
Carefully clip the mesh to allow the lower portion of the seam to be opened while the french seam is pressed towards the Back.
Cut a 2” strip of plain mesh from the remaining fabric. This will be used to finish the waist seam. The length of the strip should be the waist measurement plus a few inches.
Baste the strip of mesh to the inside of the bodice. Position the mesh 1/2” below the waistline with the remainder laying above the waistline.
Pin the skirt to the bodice aligning the quarter markings with centre Front, centre Back and side seams. Adjust gathers if needed. Machine stitch using a straight stitch. Trim seam allowances to 3/8”.
Wrap binding over seam allowance and pin to hold. Baste. Machine stitch a second time over previous stitching. This will create a casing with the binding. Trim binding close to stitching.


Zipper insertion

Press seam allowance of left bodice and skirt open.
Use double sided Wonder Tape to position invisible zipper in place. The stop at the top of the zipper should be placed just below the end of the french seam of the bodice.
Machine stitch.
Close the zipper and tape the second side of the zipper to the seam allowance. Place a pin at the waist seam line to prevent it from shifting during stitching. Stitch.
Trim zipper tape to an even 1/4” width.
Stitch across the end of the zipper 1” below the end of the opening.
Using a stitch width of 2.2 mm and a stitch length of 1.5 mm zig zag over the edge of the
trimmed zipper tape attaching it the seam allowance of the mesh fabric.
Trim excess seam allowance close to stitching.
Use a tiny whipstitch to join the upper ends of the zipper tape together. Anchor the end of the zipper tape to the french seam allowance with a few stitches.
Cut away excess length from the end of the zipper. Finish the cut end with a piece of mesh fabric binding.
Sew the binding to the end of the zipper tape. Wrap binding around the end and stitch. Trim away extra width from binding.

Cut a tiny opening in the waist casing. Feed 1/8” black elastic through casing and adjust to fit. Secure ends of elastic with a few hand stitches. Tack edge of zipper tape and seam allowance to waist seam with a few hand stitches.



Inspiration No. 11: Ruffles, from Runway to Ready-to-wear

A Ruffle Wrap and Other Ruffle Techniques

by Kathryn Brenne

Spring always seems to bring pretty, feminine styles and this season is no exception with ruffles trending from runway to ready-to-wearP1010821. On a recent trip to London I was looking forward to spring weather and needed a garment to take the chill out of the evening air. I planned to wear Vogue 9168, my bias cut dress and slip pattern, in a floral print, and wanted something to coordinate with the red belt buckle and red shoes I planned to wear.  Emmaonesock’s soft and drapey sweater knit #58161 in deep red was the perfect choice. I designed this shawl/wrap with ruffled edges to wear to the Royal Opera House in London. The beautiful red color coordinated perfectly with the sumptuous interior of the Opera House and was the perfect accessory for my outfit.




I was looking for a soft knit that resembled something you might find in ready to wear.  Since a wrap is visible from both sides, it was also important that the wrong side of the fabric be attractive as well. Knitted on a fine gauge, #58161 doesn’t look noticeably different on the wrong side of the fabric. The knit has enough body and weight to offer warmth and stay in place when worn. I purchased 2 yards, which was enough for a wrap that measured approximately 72” in length by 24” in width; enough to wrap around myself to keep warm or drape comfortably across my back and over my arms.
I steamed the fabric to preshrink it.



The wrap is rectangular in shape with rounded corners. Ruffles on ready to wear wraps are often knit in a rib pattern to coordinate with the body of the wrap. Instead of a single layer ruffle, which would have been a bit floppy, I folded the ruffle in half lengthwise and pleated it. This gave the ruffle more body, similar to a rib knit finish. It also solved the problem of having to finish an outer edge as the fold became the edge. The ruffle was sewn to the right side of the fabric.  A binding made from self fabric finished the seam. It was pressed and sewn towards the wrong side of the fabric. This gave it a raised, rolled finish, similar to a rib finish found in ready to wear. This technique allowed the reverse side to look finished — not like the ‘wrong’ side of a garment.

Layout and Cutting

I laid out the fabric as a single layer on my cutting table. Using a rotary cutter and long metal yard stick, I removed the selvedge from one edge and squared up the ends. I cut the wrap 21” wide. Using a metal pocket template as a guide, I rounded the square corners.

I folded the wrap in half lengthwise to find the center and marked this with a thread tack. From the remaining fabric I cut six strips 3 3/4” wide to make the ruffle. I cut three strips 1 1/4” wide to make the binding. These strips were cut on the lengthwise grain.

Rather than trying to work out a ratio of how long to make the ruffle I tested out fullness on a sample.  To do this, cut a 10” strip of fabric.  Prepare a length of ruffle and baste the raw edges together.

Try pinning pleats in place until you are happy with the distance between the pleats and the amount of fullness folded into each pleat.  Continue to pleat a length of the ruffle and pin it to the 10” sample.

Hold up the sample and make adjustments until you are happy with the pleating.

Then measure the length of ruffle sample, the perimeter of your shawl, and figure out the ratio from there.

Example: The outside perimeter of my shawl measured approximately 192”. Once I knew how much fabric it took to create a ruffle for a 10” piece of fabric I could multiply that amount by 20 and be assured that I would have enough ruffle to go all the way around my shawl.


1. Join the six ruffle strips together with 1/4” seam allowances. Press the seams flat and
then open.
2. Fold the ruffle strip in half wrong sides together. Do not press to preserve the softness of the ruffle. Pressing would give a hard edge to the ruffle. Hand baste the raw edges together approximately 1/4” in from the edge.
3. Mark 1 1/8” intervals with chalk along the raw edge of the ruffle trim.
4. Pleat the ruffle by folding one of the chalk marks and bringing it over to meet the next chalk mark. Pin all of the pleats in place.


Machine baste 1/4” in from the edge using a stitch length of 4.5 mm.
5. Beginning at the center marking on the side of the wrap, pin the ruffle to the wrap right sides together. It is useful to leave a tail of a few inches at the beginning. Ease the ruffle in a bit around the curved corners.
Once you come around to the beginning again, try and align the pleats into the same spacing and pattern as the beginning of the ruffle. Mark where the ruffle needs to be joined with a couple of pins.
6. Unpin a bit of the ruffle from the wrap to make it easier to seam the ends together. Unpick some of the basting and seam the two ends together with a 1/4” seam allowance. Press the seam allowance flat and then open. Baste the pleats back in place. Pin the seamed join to the wrap.

7. Seam the three binding pieces together with 1/4” seam allowances. Press the seams open.


Press under 3/8” on one long edge of the binding.
8. Leaving a tail of the binding free and starting an inch away from the center, pin the binding to the pinned layers.


Sew the binding to the pinned layers with a 3/8” seam allowance.
As you approach the center marking , fold the beginning tail back on itself and overlap the end tail.

9. Press the seam allowance towards the wrong side of the wrap.

10. Roll the binding over the seam allowance. Steam, don’t press the binding. Pin, then baste the folded edge to the wrap. Smooth the binding around the curves.
11. Slip stitch the folded edge of the binding to the wrap to finish. Take a few stitches in the folded join where the two ends met.

Other types of Ruffles


The wrap I made used pleats to create a ruffle, but ruffles can be created in other ways as well. Rather than pleating fabric, ruffles can be created by gathering strips of fabric. When gathering up long lengths of fabric it can be difficult to pull up the gathers afterwards. Rather than sewing two rows of gathers 1/4” apart using a long stitch length, try zigzagging over a length of dental floss. Use a width of 2.5 to 3 mm and center the dental floss in the middle of the foot. Pull up the dental floss to create gathers and ruffles.



Fullness can be created by cutting ruffles as circles. The inside diameter of the circle equals the edge to which it will be sewn. The outer edge of the circle is much longer and will create a ruffle. Portions of the circle will be on the bias giving this type of ruffle a nice drape and softness.


Another popular technique this season is to create ruffles with an elastic casing. In the photo below the RTW top has sleeves that have been cut with extra length and width. A casing is sewn to the wrong side of the fabric and elastic is threaded through. Once the elastic is pulled tight, the fabric will gather up creating a ruffled cuff.


Off the shoulder blouses are popular this spring. This top from current/elliott can be created by seaming a wide piece of fabric to the upper edge of the top. The ruffle folds down and a casing is stitched. Once elastic is threaded through the casing a ruffle will be created.




Inspiration No. 10 (Part Two), Stretch Denim Ponte Trousers

Stretch Denim Ponte Trousers (two of two)

by Kathryn Brenne

img_2312After completing my new unlined jacket I wanted a pair of trousers that would be equally
comfortable. I came up with something that is dressier than leggings, in between a yoga
pant and a stretch jean. My new ponte knit pants are made with a heathery, twill weave patterned ponte very similar to a slightly faded pair of jeans. The fabric is firmer and more substantial than the rayon jersey knit I used for leggings.
It is a two way stretch fabric with about 20% stretch. Although I used some of the
same techniques that I use when making jeans, this stretch knit fabric needed a few different techniques due to the nature of the fabric.



I chose Jalie 2908 Women’s Stretch Jeans view B with the regular rise. The pattern is available in 27 sizes. Other than personal alterations for my height of 5’9” I did not make any fit alterations. I increased the seam allowances in the fly area from the included 3/8” to 5/8”.

I found that the pattern was easy to fit and sewed together well. Whenever I work with patterns designed for stretch fabrics I initially cut vertical seam allowances 1” wide and baste the garment together for a test fitting. Each knit stretches differently and the wider seam allowances makes it easy to adjust the fit through the side seams. For this pattern and fabric, the fit was perfect without having to use any of the extra seam allowance.


Ponte Knits are very easy to care for as they are machine washable. I preshrunk the fabric by machine, and then after putting it in the dryer for a couple of minutes to remove wrinkles I hung the fabric to finish drying.

I used a fusible all bias knit interfacing for the waistband, the center Right Front, the fly Facing, the fly front area of the left Front and the pocket edges.

Thread and Needles

For general construction I used Gutermann 100% polyester all purpose thread. For topstitching I used Quilter’s Silk  in color 114, which showed up nicely as a contrast and highlighted the jean look. To finish the seams I used wooly nylon in the upper and lower loopers of the serger.

Some experimentation with needles may be required. Although this denim ponte fabric has a knit construction, ballpoint needles were causing skipped stitches and shredded thread. So I had to go to a “Plan B” and try a stretch needle, which worked well on this particular fabric. Topstitching in any vertical direction was the most challenging. I found that a size 90 Stretch needle accommodated the thicker topstitching thread without skipping stitches or shredding the thread. A straight stitch throat plate and a 1/4” foot with small needle opening also helped, as well as running the machine at a slower speed.

Test your machine settings in both vertical and horizontal directions first before sewing your stretch jeans. For most of the topstitching I used a stitch length of 3.85 mm but this was adjusted slightly depending on the number of layers I was sewing through.

Construction Techniques


I used a four thread serge to sew and finish all seams. Wooly nylon in the loopers provided a
soft edge with a lot of stretch. All purpose thread was used in the two needles.



When making jeans I often make the western style front pocket bags out of contrasting cotton fabric. I extend the pocket bags to Center Front. The extension acts as a stay to keep everything flat. You can see the extension and construction techniques here.

Although this technique works well with traditional denim and stretch woven denim it was not suitable for the stretch ponte pants. Pocket bags that extend to Center Front limit the amount of stretch that has been built into the pattern. For these pants I wanted pocket bags that were very flat so that they would not show through as a ridge on the close fit.
To achieve this I omitted the pocket facing and instead cut the pocket bags in one piece. img_2109img_2110
Once the pocket bag was attached the Front, it folded to the inside and then folded back on itself. I sewed across the bottom of the pocket and serged the edge to finish.


For the back pockets I fused a strip of interfacing across the top edge to prevent them from stretching. Rather than turning the edge under twice, which was a bit bulky, I serged the edge, turned it down and added two rows of topstitching.

Positioning the back pockets is an important step in close fitting jeans. If the pockets are too low or too close together they can make your backside look wide. Using the pattern placement as a guideline pin the back pockets to the jeans and then have someone test pocket placement for you until the positioning is flattering. I attached the back pockets with two rows of topstitching. The second row was positioned a wide 3/8” away from the edge stitching at the top corners of the pocket and angled back down to a quarter of an inch. I didn’t add any embroidery or extra stitching to the back
pockets and instead kept a clean look.


Fly Front

I used the same techniques described in Perfect Jeans to insert a fly front


The waistband of this pattern is cut on the bias with a center back seam. Rather than
interfacing the waistband, which would have limited the stretch, I inserted 1 1/4” wide elastic inside the waistband to help hold its shape and snug it up. As the pants are close fitting, I found that they slipped down slightly on my figure. The addition of elastic helped to keep them where they were supposed to sit on my waist. I cut the elastic a few inches smaller than my waist measurement.

After attaching the belt loops and waistband to the pant,


I pinned the elastic to the seam allowance.


For the Fly extension I laid the elastic flat and did not stretch it. From Center Front to opposite Center Front, I stretched the elastic to fit the waistband seam allowance. Try to stretch the elastic evenly. Using a wide 4.5 mm zigzag, stitch the bottom edge of the elastic to the seam allowance. Note that the position of the elastic
is such that it lays against the outside layer of the waistband. The ridge of the seam allowance when finished will lay towards the inside of the garment.
To keep the waistband flat I serged the lower edge of the inside of the waistband. Once folded to the inside, I pinned it in place and caught it in with the final edge stitching. On the overlapping left Front I turned the inside of the waistband in for 2” to keep it out of the way of the zipper.


The waistband closes with a snap.



To secure the belt loops I used a bar tack stitch and all purpose thread. If your machine does not have a bar tacking stitch,  use a very narrow tight zig zag with a width of 1.5 mm and a length of .5 mm. The same bar tacks were added to the fly area to hold the fly guard in place.


Hems were serged, turned up once and topstitched.



Inspiration No. 10 (Part One), An Unlined Jacket for Comfort and Style

An Unlined Jacket for Comfort and Style (one of two)

by Kathryn Brenne

clearerA few years ago I made a dressy unlined knit jacket for my husband, which he absolutely loves. I’ve been wanting to make myself a similar jacket for travel and more everyday use since it does not wrinkle. While this type of jacket can be made to suit any occasion,  with its small amount of stretch it is super comfortable to wear, just like a favorite sweater!
To encourage those who are intimidated by the thought of tailoring a jacket, I have taken out most of the traditional tailoring techniques for this project and substituted them with fusible interfacings. By binding all of the seams with silk charmeuse, you’ll have a jacket that is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside!



One of the features that really makes this jacket work is the choice of fabric. I looked for a stable sweater knit fabric, and the fact that this one resembled a tweedy woven made it particularly suitable. A knit fabric with a bit of texture or a heathery look could also work well. These techniques could easily be applied to woven fabrics with or without stretch, but it is a definite plus for this style of jacket that the fabric has some stretch, making it very comfortable to wear.
I used silk charmeuse to bind all of the raw edges. This could be an opportunity to use a bright, fun print to jazz up the inside of a jacket.
Two types of interfacing were used; a lightweight woven fusible and an all bias knit. The woven fusible could be substituted with a fusible weft insertion depending upon the weight of your fabric. The woven fusible is used to give firm support where needed, whereas the all bias knit is used for soft support, to prevent seams from showing through and to give hems a soft roll. The weft insertion could be used on knits that require more support. Try test-fusing swatches and see if you like the results.



Look for a traditional jacket pattern. Vogue 9099, Butterick 6103, 5926, Kwik Sew 3715 or Simplicity 1421 would all be suitable. To keep the casual jacket feel, I omitted the sleeve vents, center back vent, lining pieces, back neck facing from my pattern, and converted pockets to patch pockets. Use the front facing pattern piece and if necessary add the following alterations. Widen the front facing to come across the full width of the front shoulder and down the front armhole. I extended it 7” below the armhole, following the princess seam line and then curving back to a 4” wide facing down the front of the jacket. Having a wider upper facing helps to fill in the hollow area above the bust.

The Under Collar was cut on the bias with a center back seam and the Upper Collar was cut in one piece on the cross grain.


To preshrink a fabric with some wool content place a damp cloth over the fabric, area by area, and then press using steam. The steam is forced through the fabric, which preshrinks it. Allow the fabric to dry completely.

Layout and Cutting

There was a definite pattern to my fabric that required matching. The pattern pieces were cut in a single layer to facilitate matching.


To learn more about matching visit the Tips for Matching section of the Tweed & Bouclé: The Classic Cardigan Jacket article.


I used a combination of two interfacings. The hem allowances were interfaced with strips of 2” all bias knit interfacing cut on the crosswise grain. The interior edge was pinked to prevent it from showing through as a line on the right side of the fabric.
The front Facing and both collars were fused with all bias interfacing. I used the front Facing pattern piece as a guide to cut a second piece of all bias fusible interfacing for the Fronts. This piece of interfacing was 4 1/2” wide and went from the front straight up to the shoulder. The inside edge of it was pinked and then fused to the Fronts. I cut a triangular shaped piece of woven interfacing that consisted of the lapel and upper Front area above the bust. This was used as a chest shield to give extra support to the hollow area above the bust. Pink the inside edge and then fuse it to the first layer of all bias interfacing.


A second layer of woven fusible for the stand of the Under Collar was fused to the all bias knit interfaced collar sections. The grain line for the Collar Stand was placed on the lengthwise grain of the interfacing. The Collar Stand should end at the roll line.

Proper fusing can take some time do. In order to get a good fuse, warm up the fabric by pressing. Position the interfacing, taking care that none of it extends beyond the fabric. Fusing should be done with a lift and press motion rather than a gliding motion. Test fuse a swatch first to determine how long the iron should be held in one spot in order to obtain a good fuse. Usually 15 seconds will do it. Lift the iron and reposition for another 15 seconds. Once the entire piece has been fused, turn the fabric over to the right side and do the same thing again, place a lightweight press cloth over the fabric to prevent it from marking. As the right side of the fabric is pressed the glue is drawn into the fabric.

Binding and Seams

To finish the seam allowances of the unlined jacket I used binding, which I cut from a silk charmeuse print. The strips were cut on the true bias. It is important that it is the true bias. If the strips are a bit off of true bias they will twist off grain as you work with them. For my print I cut the strips 2” wide and ran them through a 3/4” bias tape maker. The width of the strips will depend on the weight of your fabric. Always try a sample first, which is double the width of the finished strip. Try a 1 1/2” strip for a 3/4” bias tape maker and then go from there. If the strip is too narrow it will stretch out as you pull it through the bias tape maker and not have enough of a seam allowance. If the strip is too wide it will twist and buckle down the center.

All vertical seams, the shoulder seams, the edges of the Front Facing, the armholes and hems should all be bound. For best results, begin by binding all pieces, other than the armholes and hems, before assembling the jacket.

Use a bias tape maker tool to make the bias. To get the strip started, cut the end straight across creating a point. Place the strip into the tool and use a pin to pull the tip through the folder. With the iron held close to the tip of the tool press the strip as you pull the tool along. If the tool gets too far ahead of the iron the fabric will start to lose its folded edges. It takes some practice to get it just right!

To attach binding to fabric, open out one of the folds of the binding and pin it to the fabric.


Use a 1/4” foot to sew the binding to the fabric.

img_1862Press the sewn edge flat being careful not to flatten the opposite fold of the binding. Wrap the binding over the edge. Pin in place.

img_1858The binding should cover the row of stitching on the wrong side of the fabric. Stitch in the well of the seam (also known as “stitching in the ditch”).


Lightly press. Once the vertical seams have been bound, the jacket can be assembled. Chalk the stitching line onto the fabric. Baste the seams together. img_1863

Stitch. Press the seam flat and then open.


Patch Pockets

1.  Make a pattern piece for your pocket shape and size, and also cut a template of the finished pocket shape out of thing cardboard. Cut a piece of pocket fabric in a square that is larger than the pocket pattern piece. Interface with all bias interfacing. Thread trace the outline of the pocket pattern piece onto the square of fabric. Also thread trace the fold line along the upper edge of the pocket.

2. Cut a stay tape from the selvedge of the silk charmeuse. Pin the stay tape to the thread traced fold line.


Stab stitch the stay tape to the foldline of the pocket.

3. Position your cardboard template on the wrong side of fabric. Press the edges of the fabric over the template.


Trim the edges of the pocket down to 1/2”. Catch stitch the seam allowances to the interfacing using a loose tension to prevent the edge from showing through on the right side of the fabric.

Hem stitch the pocket facing to the pocket. Do not catch stitch the facing in
place as it tends to pull slightly and show through on the right side of the fabric.

4. Cut the pocket lining from silk charmeuse using the pocket pattern piece. Use the cardboard template to lightly press the seam allowances in. You do not want a hard press on the edges of the pocket lining. Pin the lining to the finished pocket allowing for a small amount of fullness. Baste to hold. Slip stitch the lining to the pocket.

5. Baste the pocket to the jacket.


Fell stitch the pocket to the garment working the stitch slightly to the underside of the seam allowance. The pockets should look like they are slightly floating and not hammered down or pulling on the jacket.


Collar and Front Facing

1. Sew the center back seam of the Under Collar.

2. Thread trace the roll line onto the Under Collar.


Fuse the Collar Stand interfacing to each side of the Under Collar separately. img_1886img_1887

3. Chalk the 5/8” stitching line onto the corners of the Under Collar.


4. Chalk the stitching line on the inner corner of the lapel of the jacket Fronts. Staystitch. Clip into the corner.


5. Attach the Under Collar to the jacket along the neck edge turning the corner into each lapel. The short seam, which attaches the collar to the lapel is known as the gorge. Stitching should end 5/8” in from the end of the gorge.

6. Press the seam flat and then open. Trim the seam allowance along the gorge down to 1/4”.


Clip the seam allowance just back of the shoulder seam on an angle.


Press the back neck seam allowance from clip to clip towards the Under Collar.


7. Chalk the 5/8” seam allowance on the outer three edges of the Under Collar. Trim away.


8. Attach the Upper Collar to the Front Facing. Bind the neck edge of the Upper Collar. I did not remove any seam allowance as I found the 5/8” seam allowance was taken up in the roll of the collar. Join the Front Facing to the garment. Press the seam allowance flat and then open. Grade the seam allowance along the front edge of jacket so that the public side is the longest. This will mean the Front Facing is trimmed shorter below the roll of the lapel while the jacket seam allowance is trimmed shortest around the lapel. Press front edges of the jacket. Use a wooden board and clapper to get the edges nice and flat.

9. Pin the gorge of the jacket to the gorge of the Front Facing and Upper Collar. The seam allowance of the Upper Collar will extend beyond the trimmed Under Collar.


Wrap the seam allowance of the Upper Collar around the Under Collar.



Use a very small catch stitch to sew the edge of the Upper Collar to the Under Collar.


10. Try the jacket on or place it on a dress stand. Pin just to the underside of the roll line along the lapel edge. Roll the Front Facing away and loosely catch stitch the Front Facing to the interfacing of the Fronts.


11. Hem stitch the Collars together along the neck edge.


1. Put two rows of gathering threads in the top of the sleeve cap. Pull up gathering threads and pin the sleeve into the armhole. Adjust gathers as needed. Remove sleeve from armhole.

2. Press and steam the gathers slightly to shrink out excess fullness. This is easy to do in a knit fabric. Use a mitt pressing aid inserted into the sleeve cap to steam the sleeve cap.

3. Working on a dress stand pin the sleeve into the armhole.


Check to see how the sleeve is hanging and adjust if needed. This is an opportunity to check how the sleeve matches the plaid of the garment.

Machine stitch sleeve into the armhole. Trim seam allowance down to 1/2”.

Shoulder Pads

I found the back of the jacket needed a small lift in the shoulder area. I created my own shoulder pad using the paper pattern. I drafted a shoulder pad pattern from the Back pattern piece.


This technique worked well and in the future the shoulder pad could be drafted onto the Front Facing pattern piece at the shoulder and cut as one.

To make the shoulder pads:
1. Cut 4 pieces of fabric. The shoulder pads are two layers thick. The inside layer is approximately 1/4” shorter than the outer edge to prevent a ridge from showing through on the outside of the jacket.
2. Fuse the two larger pieces of fabric with a woven fusible interfacing. Fuse ‘Steam a Seam Lite’ to the smaller pieces of fabric.

3. Working over a tailor’s ham fuse the two layers together.


Press over the ham to build in a curved shape.

4. Bind the lower edge of the pad.

5. Insert the pad under the shoulder seam of the Front Facing (this is where in the future the pad could be cut as one with the Front Facing.) Slipstich the pad to the edge of the bound shoulder seam.


Armhole Binding

To finish the armhole of the jacket, all of the edges including the shoulder pad were bound together. This created quite a thick seam allowance so I made wider (1″)  binding for the armhole. Sew the binding to the armhole. Wrap the binding around the seam allowance. The binding may seem a little too wide where there are only two layers of seam allowance in the underarm area. In this case fold the wrong side of the binding under a little more to match the width on the rest of the armhole. Slip stitch the binding to the seam allowance to finish.


Hems and Finishing

Trim the hem allowance at the bottom of the jacket to an even width of 1 1/2”. I left the sleeve hem allowances slightly wider at 2” so that more fabric is seen when the arm is lifted. Bind the hem allowances. Baste the hem in place and hem stitch.

Handworked Buttonholes

I finished the jacket with handworked keyhole buttonholes using silk buttonhole thread. For more information on making handworked buttonholes click here.

1. The center front and buttonhole placement were traced onto the Front of the jacket after it had been fused.


2. Once the jacket is complete baste around each buttonhole area to hold the Front Facing in place. Using a small machine stitch length of 1.5mm stitch a teardrop shape for the buttonhole.


3. Using a pair of sharp scissors cut down the center of the buttonhole.


4. Use a hole punch to punch a small hole in the keyhole end of the buttonhole. The rounded end sits toward the front edge of the jacket. Use gimp to strand the buttonhole.
Work a buttonhole stitch over the cut edges keeping stitches evenly spaced and an even depth from the cut edge. Fan stitches around the rounded end. Work a bartack across the end. Make 5 buttonhole stitches over the bartack to finish.


5. Catch stitch the buttonhole closed. Damp press. Use an awl to shape the rounded end of the buttonhole.


The jacket closes with natural horn buttons.





Inspiration No. 9 Diving into Scuba

Diving into Scuba

by Kathryn Brenne


Scuba/neoprene knit fabrics have become very popular in the past few years. Available in different weights and fiber contents, scuba/neoprene fabrics typically have a spongy feel similar to lightweight neoprene found in wetsuits but they are specifically made for womenswear. Most scuba/neoprene fabrics have a high content of polyester or nylon, but others can include rayon, cotton, wool, and almost all have lycra or spandex. Scuba has a doubleknit construction with varying amounts of stretch in both width and/or length but they are all quite stable. Because of its characteristics, it is best suited for simple, structured designs including dresses, jackets, skirts, leggings and jackets.

Linda was very excited when she found this Car0lina Herrera neoprene beauty and we felt is was perfect for this inspiration article. With several wedding-related events coming up, I chose to make a simple Ralph Rucci dress, V1404, which was perfectly suited to this beautiful fabric.

I chose V1404 because of its shape. The design is suitable for a fabric with some substance in order to maintain the shape of the skirt, and this scuba knit was the perfect choice. The finished garment has a smooth appearance and the skirt stands away nicely from the body. Scuba knit can be warm to wear but the short sleeve design has been quite comfortable in the heat of summer weather.

There are so many fun and interesting details in this dress pattern — pockets, tie belt and quilted hem band, and the combination of the fabric, print and design have created a winner. I can’t count the number of compliments I have received, and this has become my go-to summer dress!

[Linda’s note: scroll down past the photos for all the tips and techniques!]


Fabric Prep

Whenever working with a new fabric I always test a 6” swatch before deciding how to care for the fabric. I found that scuba knit is very easy to care for; simply toss it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. I put it in the dryer for a couple of minutes to remove a few wrinkles and then hung it to dry. A light pressing and it was ready to go. There was no shrinkage or change to the fabric.

Layout and Cutting

This particular scuba knit had a large floral print concentrated down the center of the fabric. The edges of the fabric were mostly off white and since stretch of the fabric was very stable, it allowed me to cut it on the crosswise grain and position the flowers through the waist and skirt of the dress. I used the plain edges of the fabric to cut the upper body and hem band pattern pieces which made very good use of the fabric. I cut the entire dress in a size 12 from two yards of fabric.


I used a single layer layout for cutting. After cutting one pattern piece the pattern was flipped over to cut the other piece. The print was large and varied so no matching was necessary. I made sure that no spot or leaf was placed directly over the bust point, to avoid a bulls eye effect. I used a rotary cutter with a new blade and weights to cut the fabric.


Notions, Thread and Needles

I had a pretty closed end white invisible zipper with lacy tape in my stash, which I used for the back closure. The pattern calls for a 22” zipper.

100% Polyester all purpose sewing thread is suitable for all construction. I used yellow thread, which matched the print but contrasted with the off white, to highlight all of the stitching and make it stand out.

A microtex size 70 needle was used throughout.

I used a hook and eye to close the top of the zipper.


No interfacing was used in this garment. The fabric is substantial on its own with limited stretch so no interfacing was required. All edges at the neck, sleeve and hem, which may have required interfacing, are finished with binding instead.

Machine Set Up

Straight stitching was used throughout for all of the construction. To obtain the best quality straight stitch, a straight stitch throat plate was used along with a 1/4” foot.


The needle can only be used in the center position but my foot has markings, which allow it to be matched up to edges as I am stitching. A stitch length of 3 mm highlights the stitching.


Scuba knit can be pressed with an iron on a nylon setting. It the heat is too high, it may damage the fabric, so please test a sample to avoid problems. Steam can be used.


Lapped Seams

Lapped seam construction is perfect for scuba knit and other non-raveling fabrics. Raw edges are exposed on the right side of the garment. I positioned the pattern pieces so that right Front overlapped left, left Back overlapped right, Side panel overlapped Front and Back, dress overlapped Hem Band and bodice overlapped sleeve.

To make a lapped seam remove the seam allowance from the overlapping garment piece. Chalk the 5/8” stitching line on the underlapping garment piece.


Pin the overlapping edge to the chalked stitching line of the underlapped section.


Baste the layers together.


Edge stitch and then topstitch the layers together. Topstitching is placed 1/4” away from edge stitching.


After lapped seams have been edge stitched and topstitched, use a pair of appliqué scissors to trim the underlap close to the stitching line (on the wrong side).



To sew a dart using lapped seam construction remove the seam allowance from the upper leg of the dart. Use a rotary cutter to get a nice straight, clean cut edge.


Then use a small, sharp scissors to cut all of the way to the tip of the dart.


Overlap and pin the upper edge of the dart to the stitching line of the underlap.


Stitch the dart all of the way to the tip.


Leave long thread tails, which can then be pulled to the inside of the garment and knotted off.


Weave the thread tails back into the stitching on the inside of the garment.


A small dab of Fray Check on the ends of the cut tails will prevent them from working their way out.


Trim the underlap to 1/4”.


Special note: The Front side seam of the bodice overlaps the Back bodice. The seam allowance on the Front at the side seam is removed. For this reason, stop stitching the dart a wide 5/8” back from the side seam. If you stitch to the end, the stitches will be cut when preparing the overlapping edge for the side seam.


Use a coordinating colored thread to hand sew the tip of the dart invisibly to the wrong side of the dress Front. The tip of the dart could be a weak point and this bit of extra stitching will reinforce the machine stitching.



To bind the neck, pocket, sleeve and hem bands, cut lengthwise strips of scuba knit 1 1/4” wide.  Cut these close to the selvedge, not on it, as sometimes the selvedge can be a bit distorted.  Using the pattern pieces as a guideline, cut lengths of binding for each edge allowing a little extra at the ends ‘just in case.’

Pin one edge of the binding  3/8” in from the raw edge of the fabric piece to be bound.  Baste.  Wrap the binding around the edge snuggly and pin to hold.

The binding should lay flat on the garment.  Around the neck edge it should pull in just a bit to form a smooth round curve.

Edge stitch.

Use a pair of appliqué scissors to trim the back of the binding close to the stitching.

Side Panel and Pocket

Prepare the Side panel by attaching the waistband using lapped seam construction. Pin and baste the Side panel to the Front and Back of the garment.


Edge stitch and topstitch the Side panel.


Prepare the upper edge of the Pocket by attaching the Pocket binding. Wrap the binding around the top edge of the Pocket and edge stitch. Use appliqué scissors to trim the back of the binding close to the stitching.


Position Pocket onto Side panel at markings. Baste. Edge stitch and top stitch.


When beginning to stitch on a thick area of the garment, the machine will sometimes take several small stitches. To prevent this from happening use a height compensator. The height compensator can be placed behind the foot to bring it to the same level as the thick area. Once the machine begins stitching and is over the thick part, the height compensator can be removed.


Neck Edge and Zipper

Remove the seam allowance from the neck edge after the shoulders have been sewn.


Stay stitch the neck edge 1/8” away from the cut edge.


Remove the seam allowance from the left Back garment.


Mark 21” down from the neck and remove an extra 1/4” from the left Back for the zipper. Remove the seam allowance from the right Back only in the zipper area.


As per previous instructions, lap the lower part of the Back seam.


My zipper had quite a bit of extra length beyond the zipper stop. I trimmed the excess away in a rounded shape, which matched the scalloped edge of the zipper tape.


Pin the zipper tape to the left Back opening, positioning the top of the zipper 3/8” from the cut neck edge.


On the inside of the garment the cut edge of the zipper opening will be positioned close to the zipper coil. Baste.


Pin and baste the other side of the zipper tape to the right Back paying particular attention when matching up the waistband from both sides of the Back.


Once the zipper has been basted in place, close the zipper and check the position of the waistband to ensure that everything looks straight.


Attach the zipper to the garment with two rows of stitching. Where you position the rows of stitching will depend on the design of your zipper tape. Two rows of stitching side by side are stronger and more secure than two rows on top of each other. Try and position stitching on a solid portion of the lacy tape.


Neck Binding

Pin one edge of the neck binding to the neck edge. Leave 1/2” extending beyond the zipper. Fold this back on itself to give a nice clean finish to the ends of the neck binding. Wrap the binding around the edge. Baste. Edge stitch the binding. Trim the inside of the binding close to the stitching.


There is a small opening on each end of the neck binding where it folds in on itself. Insert a hook into the left opening and an eye into the other. Take a few stitches by hand to sew the hook and eye to the binding. With the hook and eye sitting inside the binding, the metal closure does not dig into your neck when worn.



Prepare the sleeve by lapping the underarm seam and attaching the sleeve hem binding to the lower edge. Hand baste the stitching line along the upper edge of the sleeve.


Remove the seam allowance from the armsyce of the garment. Pin the sleeve into the armsyce aligning notches. The cut edge of the garment will sit on the line of hand basting. Edge stitch and top stitch.


Quilted Hem Band

Prepare the Hem Band for quilting by lapping seams to make one continuous long band. Baste the two layers of the Band together along the upper and lower edges. Thread trace the side seam markings.


Using the 1/4” foot as a guide randomly stitch rows of quilting at different angles covering the entire Band. I used the securing stitch feature on my machine, which anchors the stitch at the beginning and end of each row with a knot. If I was ending along the bottom edge of the Band, which is finished with binding, I didn’t bother knotting off the threads.

The process of quilting the Hem Band does take some time to do but it is fun and definitely becomes a feature of the dress. The quilting stiffens the Hem Band, giving it some weight and helping the hemline to stand away from the dress.


To make binding for the bottom of the dress, I cut strips of fabric 1 1/4” wide. Pin binding to lower edge of Hem Band.


When strips have to be pieced, cut the overlapping strip at a 45 degree angle and lap it over the under layer. Baste the binding to the bottom edge of the Hem Band. Wrap the binding around the edge, baste through all layers. Edge stitch. Trim the back of the binding close to the stitching.


Overlap the dress onto the prepared Hem Band. Baste. Edge stitch and top stitch.



The ties for the dress were made from two layers of fabric. Remove all seam allowances from the ties and baste the two layers together.

Pin the ties to the waistband stopping 3” back from either side of the zipper. Edge stitch the loose ends of the ties.


Edge stitch the ties to the waistband.


Having stopped the edge stitching of the ties to the waistband 3” back on either side of the zipper allows them to be tied in a bow at the back of the dress.