sewing underwear: adding lace inserts

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I have a long-standing love affair with sewing underwear, as shown from my first post on making underwear (6 years ago!) and the several more I’ve posted specifically since then. The little mini-series with my underwear free pattern and the how-tos of sewing them are the posts with the most traffic here on the blog.

I’ve made many more pairs of underwear than has made it on the blog (really, they all look the same after a while!), but some experiments have turned out so well I want to share them. I’ll call this the fourth installment in the underwear series, and this is on inserting lace in a pair of stretch fabric undies. Note! I use a length of stretch lace ribbon, not a piece of cut lace fabric. Just so we’re all on the same page!

1. Take your front (or back) piece and mark where you want the lace to go. I like mine on a slight angle, almost parallel with the side seam but quite as steep. Mark a line on the outside of where you want your ribbon to be. I mark not the center, but to the side so I can more easily line up the lace ribbon. If you know where you want the center of the lace to be, just make another line *half the width of the lace* towards the side seam.

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Cut the length of lace with a bit of overhang – this makes it easier during the sewing process. I actually don’t cut off the excess until after I’ve sewed across it however I’m finishing the leg hole openings and waist seam. I find this makes for a sturdier construction.

2. Use thread that matches the lace on top, and a bobbin thread that matches your fabric color. Sew down the ribbon with a zig-zag stitch on each edge. If the scallops are deep and pronounced, you might want to follow them exactly. Otherwise, just make sure you securely fasten the lace to the fabric on both sides. I sewed with a width of 3 mm, and stitchlength of just over 1 mm – at least the numbers on my sewing machine was 3 and 1! If the stitchlength is too short you’ll get wavy seams, so adjust to a longer stitchlength if that happens. 

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3. If you want appliquéd lace ‎and like the look of what’s going on, stop here! Assemble the rest of the undies as you would normally – check out my tutorial on sewing underwear for help with that. Continue with the steps if you want to insert a piece of lace, meaning you’ll see the skin through the lace when you wear the underwear.

3. Give the stitched on lace ribbon a good press. The elastic is made of synthetic materials, so you might want to use a presscloth. From the wrong side, cut down the middle of the fabric only, between the two rows of stitches. Cut carefully – you don’t want to accidentally cut your lace at this point!

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4. Press the excess fabric between the two rows of stitches to either side.

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5. Stitch another row of zig-zag stitches right on top of the first one, catching the folded layer of fabric underneath. If your lace is 1″ wide or more, you could also position the second row of zig-zag stitches to the outside of the lace, sewing only through two layers of fabric and avoiding the lace altogether. This makes for a little less bulk and secures more of the fabric excess on the inside.

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6. Finish constructing the underwear. I have several posts on sewing underwear with different types of elastics and other tips and suggestions, definitely check those out.

These pairs are actually made from a swapped tunic I shortened to a t-shirt. On the one I kept the finishing super simple and just overlocked all outer edges. For the waist I threaded a thin round elastic through the overlocked loops on the back and tied a knot to secure. For the second pair I went on lace elastic overload and just used it everywhere! For the leg hole openings I overlapped most of the elastic with the fabric, and did two rows of zig-zag stitches to secure it down, while for the waist I overlapped just about 1/3 of the elastic, and sewed just the one row of stitches.

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*     *     *

Did you miss a post in this underwear-making adventure?

• Sewing underwear: the (free) pattern
• Sewing underwear: the basics
• Sewing underwear: the extras

If you make a pair (or five?) from this pattern, please share! Comment, link back, and show off!

how to take in a dress shirt, part 2

I’m back with part two of how to take in a shirt! This post is a little more specific to dress shirts and their construction than my previous post on measuring and marking. I hope you guys find it useful!

howto_shirt_hemBefore we get going, make a note of how the seams are constructed. We’ll be putting everything back in the same way, so we want to note down how big the seam allowance is, if the seams are pressed to the front or the back, if one layer of fabric has been trimmed back or not. Jot it all down! This will be happening both before you start seam-ripping, and during.

Now we’re on to cutting, seam-ripping and re-assembling the shirt. Making sure you’ve removed all the pins, go ahead and seam-rip the side seams to within 3 or 4 inches of the cuff seam on the sleeves. Trust me when I say it’s super difficult to get close to that cuff seam on a sewing machine! The topstitching can be seam-ripped back a little further, as we need the fabric to lay flat to join the old and new stitching, and the topstitching is in the way of doing that.

howto_shirt_sleeveYou can see with my sleeve that the two layers have been cut to the same width, and folded under before topstitching. You can also see I’ve put my final pin right where I’ve stopped ripping the structural seam, while the topstitching is undone a good inch or two further.

Oh, the fun part! We are going to do the whole business with the pins one more time, just in reverse. Mark every two inches as before, and measure in at each point the amount you determined in the last round of measuring and note-taking. I like to pin with the pins pointing towards me, so that when I’m cutting the head of the pin isn’t in the way of the scissors and I can cut just on the inside of where the pin is. When I get to the point in the picture below I pull out the pin and aim for the next one. Try to maintain a smooth cutting line. If you’d rather use chalk or something instead of the pins, that’s totally fine.

howto_shirt_cutBut wait, I hear you say, what about the seam allowance? What if it isn’t the same as the shirt I’m showing you? Actually, it doesn’t matter one bit! As long as you resew with the same seam allowance as the original was done, you’re good. Since the original measurement was from the sewn edge to where we want the new sewn edge to be, that exact measurement still holds true when we measure from the original cut edge to the new cut edge.

By the way, in the picture above you can see that I move the pins marking the 2 inch points to the new cut edge after I’ve cut each section. I still need to keep my layers together when I sew the side seams!

howto_shirt_dart2At some point you’ll need to sew the two darts in the back. I don’t have a strong preference on when I do this; as the first thing; after seamripping; after sewing the side seam… Whenever you want to is fine – shirts are big enough that it’s not too much easier to do this flat than when the shirt is sewn up. Same procedure here as earlier – re-mark the measurements you calculated earlier, and sew.

howto_shirt_flatfelled_downloadBack to the side seam! I’m demonstrating how I’m folding my seam allowance in half and pressing under, in preparation for the flat felled seam to come. The picture isn’t quite accurate, as I went back and trimmed down that inner layer to about half the width. I found it difficult and lumpy to do both layers! I know that’s the way it was sewn originally, but factories have special machinery that does all the work, and I don’t. So I just find a way that gives as similar as a result as possible.howto_shirt_armpit-e1392730229537

If the shirt has a staggered seams (as in, one seam has already been trimmed before being sewn) you can either trim each layer independently the same amount, and then layer them staggered before sewing again, or you can measure in from the outermost cut edge, trim away the excess, sew, and trim down the inner layer before continuing with the flat-felled seam.Here is a tip, which is related to not having factory-style equipment as home sewers: Trim away a triangle from the inner layer, right at the underarm seam. There are so many layers of fabric at this intersection of seams, that trimming away one of them allows the other to fold over much more neatly. This is a matter of “turn of cloth”-allowance, which Sherry has written about on her blog.

howto_shirt_sewWhen you’ve pressed under the seam allowance you can take your nearly finished shirt to the sewing machine, and edgestitch the pressed under edge. You should be sewing this from the inside of the shirt, at least with traditional flat felled seam construction. The final step will be to resew the hem across the side seams – same goes here as with everywhere else, which is to sew it back the way it was done originally.

Step back and enjoy the results of your hard work! Model checking himself in the mirror optional…

john_shirt_front_after3I’d like to add on a “part 3″ to this at some point, showing how to deal with the shoulder if it needs to be moved up. I’m not sure when that would be – John and I will have to inventory his shirt-collection and see if we find a candidate.

I hope this is useful information to those of you wanting to make this kind of alteration, and please do ask if you have any questions!

how to take in a dress shirt, part 1

As I mentioned, here is the first part of my tutorial on how to take in a dress shirt! At least, the methods and tricks that have worked for me the last few times I have taken in John’s shirts. I’ve separated this into two posts; this one on pinning and measuring, and the next on cutting and general tips.

Let’s start! You can kind of tell that I’ve pinned in the sides in the picture below, but I also added another to show where the pins are. I pin the shirt in while on the person of course, making sure to make it as even as possible from side to side. For the sleeves I taper from the elbow down to a point 3-4″ up from the cuff seam, since it is very difficult to get close to that seam with a sewing machine. Make sure to always put the pins in pointing to the floor – it’ll reduce the chance of the person wearing the shirt pricking themselves! The whole point of taking in a shirt is of course to make it slimmer, but keep an eye on draglines.

There is a limit to how much you can take in without distorting the fit, so I’d recommend not taking in much more than 4 inches total at the armpit / side seam intersection. If you need to take in more, you might want to think about reshaping the armscye and sleeve head (not covered here).

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I find that the biggest job in taking in (or letting out) any garment is this next step of recording the points you’ve pinned, then averaging those numbers out. This is the same technique I used when working in the bridal shop, and in pretty much any setting where I need to let out or take in seams equally on both sides of a garment. It makes sure you get a smooth line from top to bottom, and of course – being the same on both sides!

You’ll need:
- your pinned shirt
- pen and paper
- measuring tape or ruler


I start by measuring out every 2 inches (or every 5 cm if you think in metric) starting from the hem and working my way upwards. I mark each point by a pin perpendicular to the stitching line. When I get to the armpit I mark that seam with a pin even if it isn’t quite at the 2″ mark from the previous one. I start counting from zero at the armhole, moving towards the sleeve cuff. Repeat this for the other side.


Next I revisit all the 2″ marks and measure how far in the pins are from the original side seam. If the 2″ mark is between two pins, just eyeball it the best you can. Note down the distance for each point, first for one side and then the other. As you can see, I curiously marked points in 2-inch segments, but I measured from the side seam in centimeters! I find centimetres much more accurate for smaller distances, but whatever floats your boat works.

Now get in touch with your mathy side. Again, I find the next step easier to do in centimetres, mostly because I can so easily see where the midpoint between two numbers should be. For example, if I’ve measured a particular point on the left side to 2.4 cm and 2.8 cm on the other side, I average it out to 2.6 cm.


I average out each point individually first, and then I work my way down and make sure my new line won’t resemble a zig-zag, darting in and out. You can maybe make out in the picture above that I changed the average number for the 8″ mark from 1.9 cm to 2.0 cm. Looking at the big picture I can tell that the amount taken in increases steadily from the hem to the armpit, and then back down, so it makes no sense to dip down at the 8″ mark when the big picture tells me otherwise. So I changed it! This is the time to smooth out all these lines, and to trust your eye, your gut and your experience.


The process is pretty much the same for the darts I took in. The darts are more freestanding in the middle of the shirt back piece, so you’ll have to get some important measurements recorded and evened out. They include how far up from the hem you start the dart, the length of the dart, the deepest point of the dart, and the distance from the side seam to the bottom of the dart. You can see my drawing in the picture below. As with the side seams, I measured out 2″ distances, recorded the pinned in amount at those points, then figured out the averages.

howto_shirt_notesThat’s it for today! And quite honestly, it’s the part requiring the most concentration, and is the groundwork for everything coming after. The hard part is now done! I’ll have the next post on cutting, sewing and general tips up later in the week.

a reversible knitting hat Q&A


I recently checked in to my patternpage on ravelry, and saw my Reversible Biking Hat has passed 100 projects! Yey! I thought it could be nice to collect the questions I’ve gotten since releasing the pattern all in one place, so here we go – a little reversible biking hat Q&A. I’ll add to it as there are more questions, and hopefully it can be a resource! Follow this link for the actual Reversible Biking hat pattern.

What are the sizes?
They are Small, and Medium. The first hat was made to fit my boyfriends head and appearently it’s really small! I kept getting feedback from knitters about the hat ending up too small, so I added another larger size. Since the original wasn’t very big for men’s heads, I called the original size S, and the larger size M.

… and the stats?
The size S measures 16″ (41 cm) around, is 8″ (20 cm) tall, starts with 96 stitches, and counts 24 repeats.
The size M measures 18″ (46 cm) around, is 9″ (23 cm) tall, starts with 112 stitches, and counts 28 repeats.

Well, I’m making a hat for a *really* big head… how do I make a size L?
For the next step up, I’d reccomend casting on 128 sts. Here is why: The difference between the S and M sizes, are (112 sts – 96 sts =) 16 sts. The reason for adding 16 stitches between the sizes has to do with the decreasing pattern, so to keep that in check, add another 16 stitches on to the M size stitch count (112 sts + 16 sts), totaling 128 sts.

And, to get a little technical about the decreasing: This setup will give you 32 pattern repeats, which will decrease with 16 sts per decrease round until decrease row 6. Decrease row 6 has you halve the stitches, so at the end of row 6 you should have 32 stitches. For the final decrease row (decrease row 9) you’ll halve the stitches again, for a total of 16 stitches. You might want to do another round of decreasing half the stitches if you prefer ending with 8 stitches instead.

I’m going rouge and using a totally different gauge yarn than recommended. Any comments?
Yes! Do it! I love knitting based on what I have on hand, and I’ve never been very good at matching yarn and pattern perfectly. So, I’ve learned to adjust the pattern according to my yarn. It’s not that hard, I promise. I wrote about that in this post on alterations to the biking hat pattern, so be sure to read that too.

The general gist of it is this: you take the finished measurement of the project, multiply it with the gauge you get with the yarn you’re using, and that is the total number of stitches you need. Let’s do an example. The circumference of the Reversible Knitting Hat in size is 16″. My hypothetical gauge with my hypothetical yarn is 3,25 sts pr inch. 16 ” x 3,25 sts pr inch = 52 sts. So, I need to cast on 52 sts to achieve the goal of 16″ finished measurement.

In other words, goal # of inches x your stitches pr inch = amount to cast on.

Great. What about row gauge?
Yep, my example didn’t address row gauge. But for simple objects like hats, knitting until indicated length will be fine. However – if you use yarn that is way thicker, or way thinner than the original, you’ll probably have to adjust the number of rows to decrease over. Thinner yarn will need more rows to get enough height, and thicker yarn needs fewer rows. If you’ve knit until the decreasing starts, you can just measure your rows to see how many you get pr inch, and multiply by how many inches you’re doing the decreasing over – which for this particular hat is around 1 1/2″ – 2″.

And repeat patterns?
You also going to need to check that your new number works with any repeat pattern! The repeat pattern in the Reversible Biking Hat is 4 (k3, p1), which means any total number of stiches you get after doing our fancy math, should be divisible by 4. If it isn’t, round up or down to the nearest multiple of 4.

That was easy. To make it a little harder, let’s look at the decreasing again. This pattern is set up to work best with an even number of repeats. In the example above, I’m starting with 52 stitches, which is divisible by 4, producing 13 repeats. That’s not an even number. What is going to happen, is this: I start with 52 stitches, and decrease 1 sts pr repeat for half of the repeats, including the first and the last repeat, so 7 sts (now 45 sts total). Then I decrease 1 sts pr repeat for the other half of the repeats, 6 sts (39 sts total). I do that one more time, reducing first to 32 sts, then 26 sts. This number now gets halved at least once, to 13 sts, or alternatively another time if your stitch number at this point is above 15-ish, but this is depending on the thickness of your yarn.

Now, what has happened is that instead of each 4-stitch repeat section being combined neatly with its neighbour several times over for a wedge-like finish towards the crown in tidy pairs, you have one little section left over, and an odd number of stitches to pull the loop through. Most likely *nobody* will ever notice, but it doesn’t decrease as neatly as with an even number.

I want to make spirals like that picture up there.
Easy! I covered that in this post, so be sure to read that. Basically, you stagger the repeated section every yo-row by one stitch. So at the beginning of every yo-row, knit 1 stitch (or 2 if you’re into steeper diagonals!), *then* knit the rest of the section as normal. You’ve effectively just nudged the pattern over by one stitch, and when you keep nudging at the beginning of every repeat, you get diagonal lines!

Phew. I’m glad we’re done with all those numbers. Let’s look at some pictures.

image credit alois

image credit manosa

image credit kellys

Any recommendations for picking a good fiber? Something that won’t get too hot, but stay warm and keep its shape for cyclists biking in the cold.
I enlisted the help of my boyfriend – the handsome man in the pattern pictures – for an answer to these, since he’s the cyclist in our household. This is what I learned from him:
•  The version I made in a wool/cotton mix (the dark grey hat in the pattern pictures) is his lightweight version. I’ve also noticed it’s not as good at keeping it’s shape, I suspect the cotton does that. He doesn’t really use that one below freezing.
•  The sports wool version I made in brown, no pictures of that unfortunately (like a sock yarn with some poly I think) is what he uses when it’s cold.
•  Neither are enough for bitter cold (from -5 celsius or around 20 degrees fahrenheit), and he has a lined fleece earflap hat he uses for that, as well as one of those microfiber things that almost totally covers his face.
•  He says the eyelets means that neither of the biking hats never really get too warm, since they sort of self-ventilate!

And in conclusion, I admit to being very much partial to wool, just because I think cotton is more uncomfortable when it gets damp or wet. So my suggestion is a sports-weight wool (eg sock) yarn.

I like seeing this hat on men with beards.
I do too. Check out the ravelry project page for even more men with facial hairs wearing this hat.

image credit © lngom

I want to see this project mentioned elsewhere!
Aren’t you lucky? I’ve collected them right here!
•  Allergic to wool’s post on Winter cycle chic (Meghan is also the co-editor of Pom Pom!)
•  My own post on gauge, alterations, and potential design changes of the hat
• Ariane of Falling Stitches with her fabulous taste in knitting, featured the hat in a Ravelry round-up on her blog.
•  And of course, on ravelry! The project page have some really fun hats on there, like one made for running, with a hole in the back for a ponytail (!), people’s first go at eyelets, or knitting in the round (with success!), a whole lot of men, and a whole lot of bearded men (I honestly didn’t expect this to be so popular with the male demographic, but I’m thrilled! I’m sure the bearded boyfriend model helped in that regards!), and my favorite… a husband who had added the hat to his lady knitter’s queue and added “Make this for hubban since I love him“. How adorable!

Any questions out there about the pattern? Let me know! Also, find the pattern for the Reversible Biking hat right here!

trick: anchoring seam-allowances

Remember my printed dress that I fixed up? It’s only been a few days, so I’m assuming yes. I mentioned that I anchored the seam-allowances together, and I wanted to expand on that!


This is a technique I’m finding myself using more and more – most recently in this printed friday-fixed dress, and also the gathered sundress from before Christmas. Basically, it is sewing the seam-allowances together at strategic points to keep the lining (or some other layer, like an inner structural bodice for example) in place.

I find I use this trick when the lining is hanging free, sewn together to the outside fabric only at the neckline (and sometimes at the sleeve hems). This construction method means that the lining moves pretty independently of the outside fabric at many points, and that’s not always something I want. For example, I really like the waist-seams to be attached to each other and move as one, and not start bunching or twisting!

Ok, let’s do some visuals:


This is the side-seam of the skirt, where I attached the seam-allowances of the skirt and the lining together. It’s a good idea to make sure the seam allowances are facing the same direction (usually towards the back) on both layers. Hang the dress up, or lay it out as it would normally hand, and then reach in and pinch the seam-allowance where you’re sewing it together before turning it inside out.


This is the side-seam of the skirt again, just a larger view. After pinching the seam-allowance together, you’ll have the lining to one side and the outside fabric to the other. It might look a little strange, but as long as you did the pinching while the garment was hanging like normal, it’ll be fine. Do keep an eye out for draglines  – I like to sew the one side, pin the other, then hang it up to see if something weird is going on. Fix, and proceed.


I didn’t sew the seam-allowances together all the way down, since I want the hem to be moving on its own. Also, notice how I stitched pretty much in the middle of the seam-allowance (which is a lot narrower for the lining that I just overlocked, but same principle!).


I also did the waist-seam. In this picture we’re looking at the skirt lining at the top, and the inside of the self-faced bodice closest to us. I made sure all the waist seam- allowances faced down, then stitched for a few centimeters right at the middle, center front and center back. The lining layer was slightly smaller than the outside, so I only did a small section so they wouldn’t pull and make draglines. In a sturdier fabric where the lining matches perfectly, I’d go ahead and sew a larger section.


I made a little illustration to further show where I’d use this technique (at least on a dress – a tailored jacket uses this many places, but that’s a post of its own!). I used it two places on this dress; at the side seam and the waist seam. If the lining layer had sleeves attached to it, like a fully lined jacket for example would have, I would also want to attach the seam-allowances at the top of the shoulders. With this particular printed dress I actually sandwiched the sleeves between the outer fabric and the lining layer, so they were all anchored and secured by that.

I hope this made sense, and can be helpful – feel free to ask any questions!

how I dress for my strong shoulders

Me-Made-May is right around the corner, and as I mentioned in my last post on MMM, this excersise is more of a personal style challenge for me than anything. This has got me thinking about how I put together outfits, and what I’ve discovered and learned from that.

So, here’s the deal: my shoulders are prominent. They’re wider than my hips (for those who use those things to categorize), and they are angular. They are one of my most pronounced features, but quite honestly, sometimes I don’t want them to be quite so much. That’s when I do one of the following things:

• Duck and run for cover

Cheat. Blur the lines of where your shoulders actually ends. I tell you, this is my most used trick. Usually, tops and shirts and jackets should have their sleeve seam hit right at the tip of your shoulder, but if I followed that, the fit would be too big elsewhere. This means the seam is further in on my shoulder, but that’s ok! It actually hides my wide shoulders through an optical illusion (or the power of social norms – take your pick!). A yoked dress or cap-sleeve shirt are other examples for big-shoulder hiding.

• Vertical lines 

Vertical lines take attention away from horizontal lines – at least that is my reasoning and experience! I love wearing cardigans for this reason, and deep v-necks as well.

• Balancing out the hips

By creating volume at the hips, the shoulders don’t look as wide in comparison. There is a reason I love my Marie-skirts! Another way to do this is to wear a layer (like the outfit with the cardigan in this post) ending at the widest point of your hips to emphasize them, or to wear brightly colored shorts.

• Flaunt it!

They’re there, make them the focal point! By the way, the type of sleeve that this top has will work to hide the real width of your shoulders as well, oddly enough.

Now finally, part of me struggles a bit with this – there is a constant battle between the part of me that wants to feel like I look nice, and the part of me that feels I should be accepting of what my body looks like, and not try to “hide” any parts of it. I don’t know if I’ve come to any conclusions, but I’d love to hear other people’s comments. Is it possible to hide things in a “good” way?

how to sew opposing curves (without pins!)

I meant to make the Colette Patterns Beignet skirt for the button-themed challenge over at SewWeekly (where I’m a contributor!), but my planned bound buttonholes got the best of me, and I decided buttonholes made in a rush was not worth meeting a deadline. So, it’s lying in pieces around the apartment; the lining by the iron on top of the washing machine, the skirt-parts slung over the chair by the sewing machine, and the pattern on the sofa in the living room. Tell me I’m not the only one leaving her sewing projects all over her house?

Anyways, the Beignet skirt! I’ve seen that quite a few people have had trouble with sewing the lining to the facing, where one concave piece has to be joined to a convex one.  I’ve been meaning to do a tutorial on that, so here it is! (It’s also handy for setting in shirt-sleeves, where the sleeve seams are done “flat” before the side-seams are sewn.)

A major thing to keep in mind about joining opposite curves is the seam allowance. Let’s draw some circles:

So, circle #1 is just a circle, with the black line representing the sewing line of any piece. Let’s add pink seam allowance to the inside of the circle (this is to represent any piece of fabric where the curves goes into the patternpiece, like a neckline), we shall call that circle #2. Circle #3 has green seam allowance on the outside of the circle (outward curves, like sleevecaps).

So – if we look at circle #4 and compare the colored lines, they are obviously not the same length. This means that the cut edges of your fabric pattern pieces that you are sewing together, are not necessarily the same length. This is important to take note of because when we are sewing, we don’t want to try to match up the edges of our fabric (the seam allowance) – we want to match up the seam-lines. The seam-lines should be the exact same length, and this, my friends, is step one in avoiding puckers when joining these inverse lines together.

I don’t use pins when I sew these curves. If you’ve ever marked your seam-line, and then pinned the heck out of your fabric, I think you know what I mean. Pins pull the fabric, and it creates an object the sewing foot has to get over. While it’s traveling over that pin, the foot can’t hold the fabric in place against the feed-dog, and things start slipping, the stitches don’t end up on the seam-line, and the tension gets wonky. So, no pins.

Notches however, are good things. Match up any notches the pattern gives you. Additionally, you can measure the pieces of fabric you’re sewing together, and mark the half-way point – maybe even the quarter-points too, or more, depending on how curvy the pieces are, how long they are, and how novice you’re feeling.

I’ve taped on a piece of artist’s tape to indicate where my ½” mark is, so I can line up the fabric to the left side of the tape and sew consistently at that width.

Let’s move over to the sewing machine. If you don’t have a guideline for your seam allowance on your throat-plate, give yourself one. Masking tape or artist’s tape works just fine. And the bigger the seam allowance, the harder this is going to be to sew. If you have the option of grading down the seam allowance before sewing, you might want to consider that – though you have to grade down very accurately and consistently.

When I sew opposite curves together, I like to keep the piece of fabric with the inwards curve on the bottom, and the piece with the outwards curve on the top.

When lining up curved pieces, you want to line up the edges for the first inch or so, and also line up the top edge where they intersect at the seam-allowance point (in my case, ½” in from the edge).

Line up the two pieces of fabric, and sew a couple of stitches. With the needle in the down position, lift the foot, and reposition the edge of the under-fabric along the seam allowance guide. Rotate the top layer to match. Lower the foot and continue.

The fabrics need to be adjusted, since they don’t line up with each other or the guide any longer.

The bottom layer is shifted so the edge is parallel to the guide as far as possible.

The top layer is repositioned to match the bottom layer as far as possible.

Don’t worry if the two layers don’t match for more than a few stitches – we’ll readjust often. Also, remember that we’re matching up the seam lines, not the cut edge of the seam allowances, so the fabric is going to bunch in the seam allowance, and where we’ve already sewn. That’s ok.

Notice the rippling of the green fabric’s seam-allowance where I’ve already sewn? That’s because the cut line is longer than the seam-line (circle #3 in the illustrations), and it needs more space than at the seam-line.

The point where the two layers diverge is usually a little further down than you think, so I stitch a couple of extra stitches before I readjust. Also, this needs to be done with the two layers moving freely and not being attached to anything at either end. Trust me – I tried otherwise, and it didn’t work nearly as well!

Try really hard not to pull on the fabrics. Smooth out the fabric where the seam will go, and watch out for the notches. You might find that you do have to coax the layers a little to make the notches match up (roughly), but the point is to not pull on the fabric all the time. As you get more comfortable with sewing without pins, and stopping often to correct the positions of the two layers, your opposing curves will just get better, smoother, and easier to sew.

Unclipped and rippling seam allowance.

Notch/clip/grade the seam allowance…

… press…


Any questions? Confusion? Relief? Comment away!

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