It can’t be. A Refashion Friday on time. The world must be ending. Or else I just really wanted a nice new pajama set and to practice all the techniques that I often skip and regret later.
I’m obsessed with pajamas lately. Working from home will do that to a person, as I’ve said in other posts. My mission lately has been to have several nice sets of lounge separates that I can throw on in the pre-dawn shuffly, groany, reluctant time, potentially wear until evening, and not scandalize company. Being able to mix and match everything is a bonus, but not a requirement.
A few years back, I received this oversized nightgown as a present. It’s not really my style, perhaps mostly because it’s too big and reminds me of a cross between a nightgown, housecoat and robe. (If the person who gave this to me ever reads this… I’m sorry!) But it’s incredibly soft, warm and fluffy. I couldn’t bear to give it away, so it sat in my steamer trunk of potential treasures for two or three years. (This always happens. I never throw anything away because I always need it within a few years. It’s a vicious cycle.)
There’s not enough fabric here to make knee-length pants, which is the minimum length that I wanted to pair with a long-sleeved shirt. So I settled on a short-sleeved collared shirt and shorts. I like the shirt in particular; it’s like a mockery of an office-appropriate collared button-down.
First, I put on the dress on inside-out and marked the sleeve and shirt length I wanted. (I took a picture but the chalk didn’t show up at all.) Then I took it off, evened up my lines with a tape measure, and cut.
I ended up with two half sleeve pieces, a top piece, a bottom piece, and a pocket piece. I removed the pockets because, as it turned out, I had already removed one at some point in the past. I think it was intended to be a mitten liner. And I didn’t really feel the need for side pockets on my shorts anyway. I set aside the top, sleeves and pocket, and got to work on the shorts.
The bottom half of the dress is made up of a single back piece, two front pieces, and button plackets. I first sewed up the spaces in the side seams where the slit pockets used to be. I already knew the side seams would be the same on the dress and shorts, so I sewed each side before even cutting the back in half.
Next, folded, snipped, and presto, two halves of a pair of shorts!
The very next thing I did was shoot myself in the foot. I cut WAY too much fabric out of both sides of the crotch on one leg. Luckily, I always check fit, even when I don’t actually measure, so I caught it and was able to compensate by cutting much less out of the other leg. However, that led to a diagonal seam. I mean design feature. Lucky me, the fabric has some stretch to it that I’d never noticed in the past, since it was so large.
I also noticed that the shorts were pulling really low in the center back (I have to cut a lot of fabric out of my shorts to accommodate my behind, ok?) so I decided to do something I’ve never done before: a yoke. How hard could it be? She asked, knowing full well she doesn’t own an iron and is working with fabric that flops and stretches and doesn’t hold its shape.
Luckily, the amount of fabric I took out of the front crotch on both sides turned out to be about the right length and about the right curved shape. Just turn them on their side, pin the short straight sides together, and hey, a yoke.
Hooray for small miracles. But wait. I had planned to seam bind all of the inside seams; while the fabric doesn’t really fray, it does pull and stretch and I didn’t want the seams to get all stretched out under stress. Reinforcement was necessary. But then I had a yoke, which was a few more fiddly seams to mess with.
The clear answer is to flat fell everything, right? I decided that the best way to learn to flat fell was to do so on a pair of stretchy, floppy shorts with a surprisingly fluffy pile. I’m the queen of good ideas, after all.
It actually didn’t turn out too badly; I had a few head scratchers concerning the order of seaming, especially flat felling the inseams and the crotch seams. (The inseams go first, otherwise the edges won’t be encased properly.) But it was fun, like a puzzle. Some of the stitching isn’t quite straight, and my sewing machine drops a lot of stitches, but overall I’m happy. One thing I learned; if you’re going to flat fell, take that into account BEFORE you cut things (duh, right?) and actually measure the seam allowance to make sure that it’s all even. Otherwise you will be forced into uneven lines. Oops.
The other big bump in the road was when I realized that I had flat felled my yoke and sewed it into the pants without checking the fit. Did I say I always check fit earlier? I lied. Anyway, I realized that there was a gap. The bane of my teen existence. One of the major reasons I started drafting and tailoring clothes. Here, in the one place it shouldn’t be.
And there was a simple way to fix it; pinch the center of the yoke in. That’s the whole point of a yoke anyway, to have that extra curvature. What was I even thinking?
Of course, that meant unpicking the flat felled seam and redoing it. Which is a huge pain.
If I were really awesome, I would have taken the yoke out of the pants, taken the seam apart entirely, and started over. But it’s really hard to pick stitches out of fuzzy fabric like that. So I just picked the seam down as far as I needed, pinched it in, folded both sides under twice and basically did two double-fold hems next to each other. It looks like a flat fell though. So there.
Of course that seam doesn’t match up with the crotch seam (it’s diagonal, remember?) But it’s hard to see in the fuzz so I just moved on.
The shirt was in theory much easier; take in the side seams, hem the bottom, and we’re done. In reality, the shoulders were too wide, and I’ve never re-sized shoulders. You know where this is going.
To re-size the shoulders, I removed the sleeves and unpicked the shoulder seam about an inch. I put on the shirt and pinned the side seams in to fit me; this process also raised the bottom of the sleeve. Then I trimmed the seam allowances to fit, sewed the sleeve to size, and re-inserted. As it turned out, making it much smaller would interfere with the pocket. AUGH. So it’s really not much different. I also didn’t take in the side seams all that much; maybe 2 inches on each side. I knew it was going to be a little short, and didn’t want a short, tight shirt to go with my short, tight shorts.
I did not elect to flat fell my sleeve seams, as I decided the curved seam would drive me crazy. I did, however, flat fell the side seams, to match the shorts. I also left the hems raw because… well… because I ran out of steam at the last minute. It happens; I actually only finished the sleeves because I wanted to write this post, and because my sewing space/desk/work area is already way too full of half-finished projects.
Total Cost: $0, thanks to it being a gift.
Time Spent: A good while, actually. Close to a day of diligent work.
Note: I did alter the lighting and contrast on these photos. Unfortunately, right now my camera technology is very limited, and all of the shots on my cheap camera turned out incredibly dark. Those are the only alterations, aside from a misguided, obvious, and quickly-abandoned attempt to edit out the coffee cup in the picture above.