Thursday, 6 August 2015

SOSM Round Four: The Carolyn Pajamas

I'm going to remember this as the project where all my sewing equipment failed me! Cutting everything out took frustratingly long (I'm still not used to not having a rotary cutter!), then my machine kept eating my fabric, the tension just wouldn't cooperate, and the threads kept getting tangled. It also decided that it only wanted to do two stitch lengths: either quite small (about 1.5 mm) or medium (about 3 mm), which meant that basting (and removing it) took quite a while.


I was already behind and definitely feeling the pressure of the deadline, and then to top things off, my iron died on me. Fantastic.

My parents were visiting during this challenge, which was both good and bad in this situation. The bad part was that they were out hiking and had taken the car that I drive, so I was stuck without an iron until they came back (I was actually considering biking to the hardware store when it started pouring rain). The good news, at least, was that they were happy to go to the store for me to buy a new iron once they got back, so I was able to stay home and focus on my project.


Technology issues aside, I really enjoyed this round of the Super Online Sewing Match, the Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case Patterns. I really loved the pattern as-is, so unlike other rounds, there wasn't anything I really wanted to change. Instead, I focused on construction - I underlined everything and used the underlining to finish the seams, I replaced nearly all the topstitching with hand sewing, I made my buttonholes by hand, and I added covered buttons to match the piping. The result is a couple of the most well made garments I've ever finished! It's almost a shame that they're just pajamas... although I should point out that there's something very indulgent about making pajamas this nice!


I cut out a size 0 top, grading to a 4 at the hips, and size 4 shorts. I knew that I wanted to make the shorts and short-sleeved top, because I have way more winter pajamas than I ever wear, but in the summer, I sleep in a pair of Disney boxer shorts that I bought in Disneyland 4 years ago... all summer long. Needless to say, I really did need a new pair of summer pajamas!

I made a muslin, and the fit of the top was great, but I did have to fiddle with the shorts a little. I raised the rise 1", so that they sit at a more comfortable place for me (although I'm short, my waist is really high on my torso, and I don't find anything sitting low on my hips very comfortable). I lengthened the crotch seam 1/4", then I carved 3/8" out of the seam to make more of a "J" shape in both the front and the back. I'm pretty new to fitting pants, but I've had to do the same adjustment before, so this may become a standard alteration for me.


The fabric is a silk and cotton blend voile that I bought in Calgary, the nearest big city (it's just over an hour's drive from Canmore, where I'm staying). Finding it was a bit of an adventure... first we went to a place called Fabric Depot, which looks a lot better online than it really is. It was almost entirely home decor fabric, so I didn't see anything that was even close to what I was looking for. My mom asked if they had any rayon and the guy there didn't even seem to know what we meant!

The nicest fabric store in Calgary is a place called Olga's, but unfortunately we were too late in the day to make it there before they closed. In slight desperation, we went to the nearest Fabricland, which I usually avoid because I've never really had any luck there. I did manage to find this fabric, though, which I didn't love at first, but once it was away from the store and the other fabric there, I liked it a lot more! As the pajamas came together, I realized how perfect it was for them. It's bolder than I would wear normally, but I absolutely love the print and the colours.


Since it was fairly sheer, I chose to underline everything. I couldn't find a similar weight fabric that was white, but I did find a light yellow cotton voile that matched quite well and took care of the sheerness. Since I don't have a serger, I'm experimenting with different seam finishes, and this was the perfect time to try a seam finish I've been wanting to try for a while - flatlining! Basically, you cut the underlining larger, and wrap it around the raw edges of the main fabric. I followed this tutorial at Cashmerette for the basic technique.


The only problem with this technique is you can't use it for all the seams because you can't deal with corners (I tried a couple different ways of approaching this, with no luck). I considered finishing the other seams with bias binding or French seams, but both of these would have been too bulky with the underlining. Instead, I finished some of the edges with flatlining first (the side seams, the shoulder seams, and the underarm seams), stitched in the ditch at the ends of the seams to secure it (I didn't find that I needed to stitch in the ditch along the whole seam, as the two cotton fabrics stuck together pretty well), and then turned it inside out again. I then sewed the main fabric and the underlining together with a 1/8" seam allowance, clipped the corners, turned it right side out, and pressed. This way, all my finished edges had a 1/2" seam allowance (you lose 1/8" with the flatlining technique). It made for more rounded corners, but they're inside in the seam allowance so it's not a problem (you can see this at the edge of the shoulder seam above).

The edges that would be later enclosed by a cuff or facing, I didn't finish, but I did finish the bottom edges of the pockets with French seams.


The only thing I probably should have done differently was how I finished the fly - I finished the vertical edge with flatlining, and then the bottom edge I sewed the two layers together. This made the fly look rounded with a bit of a wrinkle, so I probably should have just made it rounded anyways, since I made my topstitching at the fly rounded.


Overall, though, I love this finish, and I really want to use it again sometime soon! It's a great alternative to a full lining if you're worried about a fabric being sheer. The only problem was that it took ages - I really underestimated how much time it would take to underline everything! It was only my second time underlining anything (the first time was my grad dress), and I forgot how long it takes.


I used the same fabric for piping and covered buttons, which are accents that I absolutely love. After my Caravan Tote, I was really anxious to use piping on something else!


Since my underlining was yellow, I knew that the pieces that were interfaced with white interfacing might look a little brighter than the rest. So, I tried tea-dyeing again! I remembered from making samples for my Marianne dress that rooibos tea, despite often being called "red tea", gives a yellowish colour when using it to dye. I made a batch, then put it in an ice bath to cool it down, and let the interfacing sit in it for about a half hour. I rinsed it in cool water, then dried it on low heat for few minutes. It's not a perfect colour match, but it's close enough that the main fabric looks the same colour from the right side.

Issues with my machine and my iron aside, putting this set together went pretty smoothly. I left the topstitching along the cuffs and other piped edges for last, because I wasn't yet sure how I wanted to finish them. My original idea was to do some sort of decorative hand embroidery parallel to the piping.

Once I made some samples, I had decided on a blanket stitch along the piping, done in coordinating yellow embroidery thread. I knew that for the breast pocket, I would want to topstitch it first for strength, but once I had topstitched it, I really didn't like the way it looked. I've never been a big fan of topstitching, and I found that it was just too much with the floral print and the piping. I realized that if I thought topstitching in matching blue thread was too much, what would I think of the hand embroidery? I decided then to leave off any topstitching or embroidery stitches, and instead to secure the cuffs with slipstitching for an invisible finish.

Rather than topstitching around the collar, I catchstitched the two layers together just outside the seam allowance. This enclosed the seam allowance and secured the two layers together.


The pocket was a little tricker - I knew that the topstitching would make it more secure, but I really didn't like how it looked. But, being honest, I will probably never use this pocket (except for tissues or hair elastics) when there are bigger pockets in the shorts. I don't think I've ever used a breast pocket in a shirt before, so for me they're purely decorative! So, I unpicked the topstitching on the pocket, then slipstitched it in place, making the stitches closer together than I usually would, and tacking the corners with very small whipstiches that I managed to hide pretty well. It's surprisingly strong!

I also raised the pocket 1", and moved it 1/2" farther from the centre. It just seemed to hit at an awkward spot on me!

I sewed the hem by hand, which is completely invisible because I only caught the underlining.


The last problem I ran into was buttonholes. My sewing machine, like many, is a little finicky when it comes to buttonholes. Sometimes they turn out fine, and sometimes they're disastrous! This fabric is much too light for bound buttonholes, but then I remembered this post at By Gum, By Golly on hand-worked buttonholes. This seemed like a perfect project to try this technique! There are only 5 buttonholes, and if they ended up looking terrible, at least they were only pajamas, right?

As it turns out, they turned out really well! I might never do buttonholes by machine again. They're not perfect, but that's the beauty of hand sewing. Not to mention, the moment I started on the buttonholes (right after my iron died), all my frustration at my iron and my sewing machine seemed to fade away. Hand sewing is so relaxing!


As someone who used to be an extreme perfectionist, I love that I can appreciate the beauty of creating buttonholes by hand. Although I love the precision and concentration required to make the tiny stitches even and tidy, they're not all identical, but that's because I'm human and not a sewing machine. These buttonholes were made by my own hands, and a needle and some silk thread, and I'm so proud of them!

For next time, I'd love to get my hands on some buttonhole twist, which everyone seems to recommend, but there was no chance of me finding in time. I just used two strands of silk thread, which worked reasonably well, although something thick enough to only use one strand would probably have worked better.


I'm so proud of these pajamas - as I said earlier, they're probably two of the highest quality garments I've ever made! I only took the photos this morning, so I haven't slept in them yet, but I can't wait. The silk/cotton blend is so light and soft!

The pattern is fabulous, and I'm really tempted to make a flannel pair in the fall, despite already having lots of fall and winter pajamas. I'd love having a coordinating set, though!


Special thanks to my parents for putting up with my sewing mess everywhere and my frustration at technology while they were visiting. Thanks also to my mom for taking photos for me!

I should also add that my machine seems to be working fine again. I'm not sure if it just didn't like the fabric, or if it was just having a bad couple of days, but it seems to be fine now, thank goodness!

To see the other entries, check out Sew Mama Sew tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

44 comments:

  1. They're beautiful, Shannon! Glad you persevered through all the drama :-) --Kristina

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  2. Oh Shannon these are fantastic. I can't believe the beautiful finish you have achieved. They look great too .... Must have felt a bit strange photographing outside in you pjs. Good luck and fingers crossed.

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    1. Thanks! It did, but I knew the lighting would be a lot better outside than inside. At least I didn't have far to walk in pajamas - this is in the woods right behind where I'm staying.

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  3. Well, that lining is something else! I've never contemplated such a tricky lining, well done. When I was first sewing, machines didn't have a buttonhole capability so they had to be stitched by hand as you have done or made as a bound buttonhole. I'm interested to see you mention the therapeutic effect of hand sewing as I was just blogging yesterday about embroidery and the delights of an evening spent with needle and thread. Best wishes for this round of the competition.

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    1. Thank you! It wasn't really that difficult, aside from dealing with the corners. I haven't really done much hand embroidery, but I'd love to learn. The closest I've done was the reverse applique on my Marianne dress, which I loved doing!

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  4. Oh wow, hand sewn button holes...that is impressive! I agree with you about hand sewing, it is really enjoyable and adds sew much to a garment! Your seams are all finished so beautifully and your pajamas turned out great!

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    1. Thanks! Yours are beautiful as well!

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  5. I love everything you've made so far , for the contest, and this is no exception. Another beautiful garment! Good luck, I hope to see you in the finals

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  6. Kodos to such determination through all of mishaps along the way. You made it work and they are exceptional! My favorite detail are those buttonholes! Mighty fine work, indeed.

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    1. Thanks so much! Yours also turned out so well. I don't envy the judges this round!

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  7. You keep impressing me with your attention to detail!

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  8. These are beautiful and I'm so pulling for you for the win! Keep up the FANTASTIC work!

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    1. Thank you! Fingers crossed, but there's definitely some tough competition!

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    2. ****!!!!!***** Yeah Yeah Yeah, I just saw you made it into the next round! I can't wait to see what you come up with for the coat! Good Luck!!!!!!

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  9. You went to the extremes! Hand sewing, underlining and all of the other extras! Beautiful job!!

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  10. Shannon, you are really a great inspiration for sewists - kudos! These are certainly an inspiring project, and your blog post is really generous!

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  11. Shannon, you are really a great inspiration for sewists - kudos! These are certainly an inspiring project, and your blog post is really generous!

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  12. Re the buttonholes. You could also have tried couching some cord in these. That would have made the buttonholes sturdier.

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    1. That's a good suggestion, thank you! With such tight deadlines, I have to make do with whatever I can get my hands on locally (which isn't very much), but I'll see if I can find some for next time!

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  13. Absolutely lovely PJs! beautiful job... too good to be worn asleep, really!

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    1. Thank you! That's almost true, but I'll admit they're super comfy to sleep in!

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  14. Super cute! I'm all about that print! And I'm totally in the same boat- a million winter pjs and one set for summer!

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  15. Gorgeous PJ's and the way you have lined them, all the handstitching not to mention the buttonholes you have stitched, all truly magnificent and so glad you have made it to the next round.

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  16. So beautiful -- I've been eyeing that voile in Fabricland myself... Great work on all the amazing details you incorporated into these pjs, and hurrah for more beautiful piping!

    Congrats on making it to the next round, so excited for you!

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  17. Wow, I just found you through the sew mana sew competition- you are so talented! And I love your style. Makes me wish I'd been sewing since I was six... ha. I hope you get recognized in a big way through this competition - your blog is definitely one worth following!

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  18. These are incredibly beautiful and well-made pyjamas! So impressive and definitely worth all the work you put in. My machine is a little minx hen it comes to buttonholes as well; can't make up its mind whether it wants to play nice or not. I think for hand-worked buttonholes, they look really good! Definitely agree hand-sewing is relaxing. I know a lot of people dislike it and if I'm in a rush, I get a little too impatient but when you have the time, it's nice. Probably because I used to do a lot of cross-stitch; when an entire hobby is just hand-sewing, you can definitely appreciate it. Anyway, they look great! I might have to purchase this pattern. I'd be torn between wanting to sleep in them and gaze longingly at them on the pillow next to me.

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    1. Thank you! I've never done any cross-stitch, but I'd love to learn some hand embroidery sometime.

      It actually took a little while for me to sleep in these for the first time, but now that I have, I'm hooked! They're so comfortable.

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  19. Wow, I just found you through the sew mana sew competition- you are so talented! And I love your style. Makes me wish I'd been sewing since I was six... ha. I hope you get recognized in a big way through this competition - your blog is definitely one worth following!

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  20. I love your pajamas! Great print!

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  21. Fantastic! Regal even-lining and bound seams. I love making pyjamas-but I've not tried putting piping around the facing and the collar. How do you join them or put them into the seam and the notch?

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    1. Thank you! It's been so long since I made these that I don't remember exactly how the collar was constructed, but the instructions with the pattern were really clear. The collar is two pieces (the upper piece and the piece that is an extension of the front of the shirt), and each piece has a separate piece of piping. Where you join the pieces you just sharply curve the piping away so it gets caught in the seam. There might be tutorials out there, but Heather also explains some piping basics for pajamas on her blog here: http://closetcasefiles.com/tutorial-how-to-sew-piping/

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  22. Thanks for the sewing tips! Christmas is coming and I hope to be making pyjamas.

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