Neck Ties

A while ago I made a bunch of ties and never got around to blogging about them. Here they are. Details on pattern below.

I previously had commissioned a tie-seller on Etsy to make some ties out of my bad passwords fabric. But she isn’t on Etsy any more so I decided to try sewing some times myself. There are lots of tie patterns available online, some of them free. Most require a main fabric, interfacing, and lining, and require some hand sewing along the center back seam. So I was excited to find Bryanna’ Free Neck Tie Pattern and Tutorial that was super easy and can be made without any interfacing or hand sewing (except for tacking down the tie keeper ribbon on the back). I tried it and it was great, but when I came back later to find it I saw that Bryanna had taken down her sewing site some time in 2023. Fortunately, you can still view her tutorial using the Wayback Machine. Unfortunately, you cannot view her pattern. But I had previously saved it and hacked it a bit. So I will share my hacked version of it here.

First I merged the multi-page file into a single page, suitable for projector sewing. For those of you who are printing out your patterns on 8.5×11 pages, sorry this may not work for you. You may be able to print it tiled. The pattern calls for cutting the tie in two long strips diagonally (on the bias). The front is much longer than the back and requires a really long piece. This minimizes the number of ties you can get out of a yard of fabric. The long front piece is also too long to easily project. So I took a segment of the tie front and moved it to the tie back. In my hacked pattern you can see the segment and you can put it on the front or the back as you see fit. Just don’t put it in both places or you will end up with an extra long tie. You do end up with a seam where the front and back connect, but in my experience, even in my hacked short front, the seam does not end up in a visible part of the tie when being worn.

The great part about this pattern is you layer your main fabric and your lining, fold them, and sew the whole thing together in one long seam on your sewing machine. You then turn the whole thing inside out in step 7 and you are basically done. The tricky part, is in the turning the whole thing inside out with a safety pin. You have to feed the thick part of the tie through the narrow neck, and that is not all that easy to do. Just take it slowly and you’ll get there eventually.

Bryanna suggests folding the ends of a 3″ tie keeper and hand sewing them in place. Instead I recommend cutting a 4.5″ tie keeper, folding it in half, and sewing it into the main seam of the tie as part of step 6 (just the ends will be sticking out of the seam at the end of step 6). After the tie is turned right side out in step 7, you will have a tie keeper tucked into the seam, with no raw edges. At that point you just need to flatten it out and stitch down the sides. I think it looks a little neater this way.

After I made a few password ties, I found the cookie fabric and decided to make a tie for my student who was presenting our research paper on cookie consent banners at a conference.

Pietra pants

Back in August I tried out the Pietra Pants and Shorts pattern from Closet Core Patterns. A friend made a couple of pairs of these pants and the pocket design immediately caught my eye.

Closet Core does not seem to offer projector files, so I used their copyshop pattern, designed to be printed on two A0 pages. I used Affinity Designer to select the layer for the size I wanted, thicken the lines, copy and paste the pieces onto one large page, and rotate them all in the correct direction for cutting. This was pretty easy to do.

The pattern did not come in a petite size, but as I like high-rise pants, the only modification I thought would be needed for my short stature was to shorten the pants. I cut out size 6, but shortened the bottom hem of all the pieces by 4.5 inches. I made view A, the wide leg pants. There are also instructions for tapered leg pants and shorts.

Although the pattern was designed for lightweight woven fabrics, I used Pylos Liknit fabric, which is actually a knit fabric. But having used Liknit for two other pairs of pants, I knew it doesn’t stretch a lot and is fairly stable, so I decided to treat it as if it was woven. I used the linen colorway. The main part of the Pietra pants that you don’t want to stretch is the front waist band, and since that is interfaced, there wasn’t any issue with unwanted stretching. I think this fabric worked out well for this pattern. But I had a lot of trouble with the back of the waist band and it is possible the fact that it wasn’t actually a woven contributed to the difficulties I had, but I’m not sure.

The instructions were clear and easy to follow for the most part and the pattern is nicely drafted. The pocket and waistband are a bit tricky, and some of the construction is not completely intuitive. However, I found if I carefully followed the instructions, used the diagrams, basted all the seams where the instructions recommended basting, and matched all the notches (I marked the notches on my fabric with my trusty Crayola washable fine-point markers), it all came together the way it was supposed to. The result is a very clean and professional look in the front. I topstitched the front leg seams, which was optional, but I thought it gave a nice finished look.

I sewed all the seams with my regular sewing machine at 5/8 inch as instructed, and trimmed to 3/8 inch and serged in one step with my serger. This is only my second serger project and the first one with any major amount of trimming, so I’m still fascinated by watching the trimmings slide into the bucket. The pattern didn’t specify trimming on the inner our outer leg seams but I went ahead with that as I had for the other seams.

Everything went really well until I got to installing the waist elastic. For a size 6, the instructions said to use 12 inches of 2-inch wide elastic. I attached one side and pinned the other and tried on the pants. The waist was way too big. I pinned the elastic shorter, but the front of the pants pulled to the back. I decided some grading was in order. I unpicked part of the inner waistband seam so I could grade both sides of the waist by .75 inches, bringing the new line of stitching down about 6 inches to right above the pockets. I probably could have graded it even more. Then I shortened the elastic to 10.5 inches and sewed it into the waistband. The instructions direct you to sew two parallel rows of stitching in the back waistband, through the elastic, while stretching the elastic. This was easier said than done. I could have used some more hints about how to achieve this. In the end I got it done, but my back waistband looks messy. That said, even if I had sewn it well, I think this style of gathered waistband would look messy, and it pulls the front more than I would like, which is not very flattering. With an untucked shirt it looks much better.

The instructions call for a 2-inch hem, but I ended up doing a 2.5-inch hem to get it to the right length. Of course, I could have trimmed .5 inches off before I hemmed it.

The pants didn’t take that long to make and they are very comfortable to wear. I love the fit of the high waist, but I really don’t like the look of the back waistband, and the way the elastic pulls the front in, it ends up not being all that flattering against my tummy. As long as I keep my shirt tucked in, I think the pants look pretty good.

I’m apparently not the only one who has had some trouble with the elastic waist. Closet Core offers instructions for adding a zipper, and other bloggers have reported having to redo the waist with darts. I think the elastic works better on some figures than others, and may also work better with some types of fabric. I considered adding a zipper, as suggested for those with smaller waists in proportion to hips, but figured it would make these otherwise comfy pants less comfortable. So Instead I decided to unpick the back waistband and chop off the top 2 inches of the pants so I could add a yoga waistband. It was a shame to cut into the beautiful finished front panel, but this seemed like the best way to turn these into pants I would actually wear.

I constructed a 3-inch yoga waistband using the Sinclair Cleo pattern I have used successfully for other Liknit pants. Since the Liknit has some stretch to it I was able to make the outside of the yoga waistband in the same fabric as the rest of the pants. I used beige QUAD Performance Jersey Knit for the inside of the waistband for a nice snug fit and didn’t add any elastic. I basted the waistband in place, tried it on, unbasted, made some adjustments, rebasted, tried it on again, and then surged the waistband to the pants. I topstitched the seam in place.

I think the pants look a lot better now. I still love the Pietra pockets and the front leg seam, but now the waistband looks good too. I might make another pair in another fabric (maybe a ponte) with the yoga waistband modification, perhaps only 2 inches next time. By the time I got around to doing this modification the Fall weather had kicked in so it is getting a bit chilly here for such light weight pants, but I expect I will wear them a lot next summer.

Modern approach to sewing a vintage sundress

I asked my 17-year-old daughter what she would like me to sew for her. After perusing some patterns I suggested she told me what she really wanted was a vintage sundress in a woven fabric with a full-circle poofy, twirly skirt, perhaps like the one she had recently seen worn as a costume in Carnegie Mellon’s student production of Godspell. (See photo below of said costume on display at the CMU carnival.)

So I visited all my favorite PDF pattern websites and found some candidate patterns, but none were quite what she was looking for. I searched the Internet for vintage sundress patters with circle skirts and found a number of patterns from the 1950s that were available from resellers as classic paper patterns. And then I stumbled upon McCall’s M7599, which has been reissued as a PDF pattern. I found some reviews of the pattern, and even a how-to video (and I found another video after I finished sewing that might have been useful to watch too). My daughter examined M7599 and decided that view A was almost perfect. Except she wanted it without the contrast band, above knee length, and, of course, with pockets. These seemed like doable modifications, so I bought the pattern and downloaded the PDF.

The PDF pattern came with a fairly terse set of instructions and was basically a scan of the original pattern with all the layers on one sheet, tiled into 8.5×11 pages, not a convenient modern PDF layered pattern. I was able to assemble the pages into one giant PDF using PDFStitcher, an awesome free tool developed by a sewist. Then I loaded the resulting PDF into Affinity Designer (AD) on my iPad and traced the pattern pieces I was going to use in the correct sizes with a nice thick red line that would show up well when projected onto fabric (see photo below of skirt gores projected on fabric, held in place with magnets, ready for cutting with rotary cutter).

The sizing of vintage patterns is strange. My daughter normally wears a 2 or 4 dress size but according to the size chart she needed a 12. Ultimately after making a muslin and futzing with the pattern I ended up making a size 10 with parts graded to a size 8.

Inspired by the Godspell costume, my daughter searched online for fabric with pages of text, and ultimately settled on the Filigree Zen Chic Newsprint Text and Words fabric from Moda Fabrics in the white colorway. It is a lovely quilter’s cotton fabric, but it occurred to me that it is quite directional and the circle skirt would result in some of the design being upside down. To compensate I divided the full circle into six gores so that I could cut them each right-side up. I drafted the gores directly on the PDF pattern in AD. Of course, this increased the amount of fabric I would need — I ended up using six yards!

Removing the band from the bodice was straightforward — I basically just sewed the pattern as written but without attaching a band. I decided to also leave off the petticoat so that my daughter would have the option of wearing the dress either with or without a petticoat (she can wear a separate petticoat). Since I wasn’t attaching a petticoat I decided the yoke under the petticoat wasn’t needed either so I left that out as well.

I made a muslin of just the bodice so I could adjust the fit. I reduced the size of the bust darts, and brought the straps in a bit. It was also a good opportunity to practice using my zipper foot, which I haven’t used in many years (and zippers kind of scare me). It turned out to be a nice enough crop top that my daughter decided to wear the muslin outside in public. In fact she even wore it to perform with her rock band. She requested thinner straps for the dress and I decided to continue futzing with the bust darts, and ultimately just removed them altogether for the dress.

Figuring out how to implement side-seam pockets was another challenge, as the pattern includes a side zipper, which means the zipper has to attach to the pocket. Fortunately I have a RTW dress with pockets sewn this way so I used it as a model. I drafted pockets in AD and then reverse engineered how to sew it all together. (There are actually instructions online for sewing a pocket in a zipper and a nice video that I will probably watch if I ever attempt something like this again.) This isn’t the most beautiful invisible zipper job, but it doesn’t look terrible, and both the zipper and the pockets are fully functional so I consider it a win.

The penultimate step in the pattern involved slip stitching the bodice lining to the zipper and then to the skirt. Until I reached that step I didn’t fully comprehend how that final finishing would be done or realize how much hand sewing was involved, but I got through it and it turned out fine. The final step was the hem. I knew my daughter wanted the skirt quite a bit shorter than the pattern called for so I had cut it shorter in anticipation. But I hadn’t cut it short enough and it would have required a 2.5 inch hem, which was going to be hard to sew on a circle. So I folded the skirt into quarters and carefully lopped off 1.5 inches with my rotary cutter. Then I sewed a line .5 inch from the edge of the circle all the way round. This allowed me to easily fold the skirt on the stitch line and then fold it again and press to form a 1-inch hem. I stitched the hem down with a straight stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge of the hem. All this was reasonably straight forward but I would like to point out that the circumference of this skirt was about 12 feet, which means that each step (stitching, folding, folding, pressing, stitching again) has to be done over a distance of 12 feet, so it takes a while.

Other than figuring out the bodice fit adjustments, sewing the zipper pocket, and all that hemming, the dress actually came together pretty quickly and wasn’t that difficult to make. And the results are pretty nice. Here it is modeled without a petticoat. (And below that, while performing at her music recital.)

And here it is with petticoat, in full 1950s glory!