Category Archives: Tutorials

Printing with wooden stamps

After the huge project that was my bedroom curtains, I didn’t want to pleat anything else for a long time. So for my living room curtains I bought cheap plain white curtains and stamped them using carved wooden blocks and fabric paint.

The first curtain didn’t come out all that well, but as I went along I came up with a system that works well. Here are some tips:

  • put a rag directly under the fabric you’re printing – the paint leaks through a bit
  • put a folded towel under the rag – wooden blocks are hard, and they don’t print well if they’re pushing against an equally hard table (this is probably less important if you’re using rubber or linoleum stamps)
  • run the roller through the paint after every swipe across the stamp – running it back and forth over the block takes off the paint you’ve just put on
  • if you don’t have a roller you can dip the block into the paint, but be sure to keep the layer of paint very thin- you don’t want to fill in the holes of your stamp
  • push down firmly and wiggle the block around slightly to get the paint off onto the fabric
  • it’s fine to mix different brands of fabric paint – I made the pink I used out of three colors made by three brands and had no problems

Posted in Home, Tutorials | Leave a comment

How to make inverted pleat curtains

I haven’t made any clothes recently, but it’s not because I haven’t been sewing. I’ve been busy working on my new apartment. By far the biggest apartment project was curtains.

Curtains are a great thing to make yourself, as store bought versions just can’t fit your windows as neatly as something you made to measure. They are fairly time consuming and require a lot of fabric, but their mass-produced cousins are so expensive anyway, it’s worth the trouble.

Continue reading

Posted in Home, Sewing, Tutorials | Leave a comment

How to add front jeans pockets

To make front pockets for jeans, first cut out two pieces of fabric in each of these three shapes:

Next sew down the small denim piece to the round white piece using a zig zag stitch so the edges won’t fray.

Cut out a 2″ square with a pointed end (like a mini version of the back patch pocket). Fold and iron all sides and stitch down the top edge, using a double line of stitching.

Sew the mini patch pocket to the right hand front pocket.

Take the remaining white pocket pieces (the ones with the cut out in the top) and pin it at the corner the front of the pants. Sew the pocket piece to the front of the pants, then trim the pants along the curve of the pocket. Turn the pocket inside out and top stitch it in place.

Sew the two pieces of the pocket together, in standard pocket making fashion. Your pockets are done!

Posted in Sewing, Tutorials | 1 Comment

Back patch pockets

The first step in sewing together a pair of jeans is to sew down the patch pockets in back. You just cut out the shape of a pocket, leaving your standard seam allowance on the sides and bottom and double allowance on top. Fold the top of the pocket over twice, press, and sew down. Fold over the sides and edges and press. Pin the pockets to the back of the pants, being careful to line them up so the two sides are symmetric. Sew along the edges.

Posted in Photography, Sewing, Tutorials | 2 Comments

How to put in an invisible zipper

I’ve had a lot of trouble with zippers. They buckle, the two sides don’t come out even so seams and stripes don’t line up the way they should, and I can never figure out what to do with that little extra bit at the top. But I’ve been getting better at them. It’s been a few years since I had any really lumpy zippers (if your zippers are lumpy, you’re pulling on the fabric too much), and I’m getting better at lining up the two sides. And recently I learned how to put in an invisible zipper correctly.

The trick to getting your invisible zipper to actually be invisible is to press it out first. The invisible zipper folds over when it’s zipped, pulling the teeth behind the fabric. If you sew it in folded up, you can’t sew very close to the edge, because the teeth get in the way. But if you unzip the zipper, you can turn the teeth toward the center. This lets you sew right up at the edge of the fabric part of the zipper, so when you close the zipper and the teeth spring back, the fabric comes all the way to the edge and looks like a seam.

This means you really can’t sew in the zipper when it’s closed, so you’re not going to be able to sew to the very bottom of the zipper (because the bit you pull on to close it will get in the way). Just get one that’s a little longer than you need and add a stitch where you want the bottom of the zipper to be.

If that doesn’t make sense, here are step by step directions.

1) Unzip the zipper and press the teeth toward the center

2) Sew your fabric to the zipper, as close to the teeth as you can get (if you have a zipper foot, this is easy. If you lost your zipper foot and never think to buy another when you’re in the store, be careful not to sew over the teeth). Sew as far down as you can before you hit the bit that closes the zipper, then stop.

3) Sew the other side the same way.

4) Close the zipper and sew up the rest of the seam.

5) Sew around the zipper where the bottom of the zipper meets the seam.

Posted in Sewing, Tutorials | 1 Comment

Another easy shirt

I found this linen knit at the fabric store on Tuesday. It’s the most comfortable hot day fabric I’ve ever felt. Any breeze goes right through it, even walking cools you off. I went for a long hike in it yesterday, and it’s like not wearing a shirt at all, only you don’t get sunburned. Perfect. The bad news is, it’s a stretchy fabric with no memory. The edges unravel and have to be properly finished. It stretches as you sew it until every sewn edge is pulled to it’s longest possible length. I did my best with rolled edges and the loosest, drapiest, simplest design I could come up with, but it was still a pain to work with.

I wouldn’t go hunting down a linen knit if I were you, but the style of top is really easy to make and nice on a hot day in any fabric. Buy 3/4 of a yard of fabric and wash it. Cut it lengthwise so that one piece is a few inches longer than the other. I used about an 8 inch difference, which made for a very low neckline. Finish all the edges if the fabric you’re using needs it. Pin the two rectangles together so all the corners line up. One piece will have a bit of extra fabric in the middle. This is fine. Sew up the short sides a bit more than half way. These are the sides of your top. Sew up the top of the shirt (the long side that does not share corners with your side seams) From each corner. Leave a 5-10″ neck hole in the middle. Wear your shirt!

An entirely different set of photos from later in the afternoon can be seen in the Etsy listing.

Posted in Sewing, Tutorials | 11 Comments

How I made my summer pants

Someone asked how I made my new pants. I wouldn’t recommend trying to follow these instructions unless you’ve made pants before and have a pattern for them (or are comfortable making your own pattern, but in that case you should use these instructions).

Trace the crotch and waist from the front and back pieces of your pattern. For each piece, draw a slightly angled straight line down from the outside edge of the waist. This line should be as long as the outer leg seam on your pattern. Draw a line at the same angle from the edge of the crotch. This line should be as long as the inseam on your pattern. Draw a curve connecting the two lines.

Cut out two front pieces, two back pieces, and the waistband (details here). Sew the two front pieces together at the crotch. Sew the two back pieces together in the same way. Sew the front to the back along the inseam and one outer seam. Put an invisible zipper into the remaining outer leg seam (I just learned how to do this right! I’m very excited and will be sharing a tutorial soon), and sew up the rest of the seam. Sew the waistband to the top. Hem the leg openings.

ETA: Invisible zipper tutorial is up.

Posted in Sewing, Tutorials | 2 Comments

Swimsuits part 7: How to make a one piece swimsuit

Now that you know how to make a two piece swimsuit, it is very easy to add a little extra fabric and sew it together into a one piece.

Begin with your pattern for bikini bottoms. Measure your side from your bra band to just bellow your hip. Extend the pattern for the bottoms up until both sides are this length. For the back, draw a line straight across connecting these sides. In the front, connect the two sides with a peak in the middle.

Cut out the front, lining, and one strap like you would for a bikini top. You will not need a second strap. This swimsuit only ties at the neck, not at the back, so the single strap loops around and ties to itself (it’ll make sense when we get there).

Gather the center of the top front (like for the bikini top), pin this piece to its lining with the right sides facing in, and sew along the top edge. Turn right side out and, holding the main fabric and the lining together, sew the bottom edge of this piece to the top edge of the front bottom piece. The front of your swimsuit is now complete! Pin the front to the back with the right sides facing in, and sew up the sides and the crotch.

Following the instructions for bikini bottoms, put in the lining and add elastic to the leg holes.

Fold the straps in half with the right side facing in, and sew up each side, leaving enough space in the center for the sides and back. Sew the unfinished edge of the strap to the swimsuit along one side, across the back, and up the other side.

Take your new swimsuit to the beach!

Posted in Sewing, Swimsuits, Tutorials | 3 Comments

Swimsuits part 6: variations on the bikini top

There are way too many styles of bikini top to describe them all here. I’ll stick to some simple variations of the gathered bikini I described yesterday.

Perhaps the easiest thing to add is a small strip of fabric covering the gathers. This gives the top a sort of bow shape. Cut a piece of fabric twice as wide and twice as long as you want the center of your bow to be. Fold it in half lengthwise with the right side facing in and sew up the side. Fold it right side out, wrap it around the gathers in the middle of the top, and sew up the other end.

Another easy modification is to add a more substantial back. Cut a rectangle of fabric as long as your back (accounting for the fabric stretch), and sew it to both sides of the front. Shown above with elastic straps attached in front and in back and bellow with the usual straps sewn on in front and tied as a halter. The swimsuit bellow has a tapered band (smaller in the middle, larger at the sides) rather than a simple rectangle.

IMG_5937 (1) 

A tie front is a slightly more complicated modification, but still quite manageable. I’ve sketched the shape of the front pieces. Cut two pieces in this shape from the main fabric and two more from the lining. Sew the lining to the main fabric, turn right side out, and sew to the back (or straps) as usual. Tie the front.


Next week: How to make a one piece.

Posted in Sewing, Swimsuits, Tutorials | 10 Comments

Swimsuits part 5: How to make a gathered bikini top

The simplest of the tops I make is the gathered one you’ve seen in most of the swimsuit tutorial posts so far. It is made from two straps, a rectangle for the front, a matching rectangle of lining fabric, and optional molded cups. The first step, of course, is making a pattern. For this swimsuit the pattern is so simple I won’t give you anything to print out. Just take a ruler and start measuring.

You only need one measurement to make this swimsuit: the distance between your arm pits, measured over your breasts. Subtract 2-4″ inches from this, depending on your size and how tightly you want the swimsuit to fit, and you have the length of your front piece. Measure out this length along the edge of your fabric. Measure up 5-7 inches, depending on your size and how much coverage you want. Cut out a rectangle with these dimensions (2-4″ less than your armpit to armpit measurement X 5-7″).

For the lining, cut a bow tie shape that is as long as your rectangle and has the same height sides, but dips in at the center. If you don’t have lining material, cut this out of your main fabric

For the straps, cut two strips of fabric 3″ wide and as long as your fabric (45″-60″). You can taper the ends if you want, or leave them square. Place two marks 5-7″ apart (the width of your center piece) near the middle of each strip. This is where you will sew in the front of the swimsuit.

The first step in sewing up your swimsuit is to gather the center front. Using a long stitch length, sew a line down the center of the rectangle. Tie together the two threads at one end. At the other end, pull on one thread and push back the fabric so it gathers. When the gathered center is the same length as the center of the lining, tie together the two threads on this side. Sew over your gathers a couple of times to reinforce them.

I strongly recommend you sew in some sort of padding. They give the swimsuit a bit of structure and hold the edges right where you want them. You can do this with elastic instead, but reinforcing the fabric with pads makes for a much more comfortable swimsuit. Removable pads don’t really do this. They have a terrible habit of trying to remove themselves while you’re swimming, and you don’t really want to be standing on the beach rearranging them. Make sure you’re using something that can go through the washing machine and dryer of course, but anything that goes in a swimming pool should be washable. I cut out an appropriate shape from a sheet of bra-making fabric, but if you’re only making one suit it makes a lot more sense to buy molded cups.

If I’ve convinced you that you need to sew in molded cups, this will be the next step in making your swimsuit top. Sew the cups to the lining using an 1/8 inch zig zag.

Next, pin the lining to the front with the right sides facing in (for the lining, the cups are sewn to the wrong side). Sew along the top and bottom (the long sides) and turn right side out.

Fold the straps in half lengthwise with the right sides facing in. Sew up each end of each strap up to the marks you made using a slight zig zag stitch. Turn right side out.

Sew the front of the bikini to the straps between the marks. To make this look tidy, sew the back of the strap down first, then fold over the front and carefully top stitch. If that doesn’t make any sense, just sew them together. It will look good on, and that’s all that really matters.

Next: other bikini top styles.


Posted in Sewing, Swimsuits, Tutorials | 7 Comments