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Anthea Blouse in Sky Blue Linen

October 6th, 2022

While visiting my favorite local shop, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, one of the young women working there had on her version of this blouse. Asked the pattern name–Anthea by Anna Allen–went home and ordered it! The colors I’m wearing are Maine Summer and it is so flattering to many body types and comfortable.

Today’s blogpost takes you through making an entire blouse, which presser feet I use on my Janome (I’m a brand ambassador and compensated, but I’d say all this good stuff anyway…they rock!) m7Continental, why and offer tips and tricks for garment construction. Pretty much all Janome machines have or have available these presser feet with the possible exception of the automatic buttonhole, which many but not all of the Janome models have. Comment and let me know what more you’d like to know and what you’d like me to feature on the blog! I’m scaling back travel teaching and hope to have more time for this sort of thing.

The first thing to do is sew your side and shoulder seams. I opted for French seams for a clean, no-fraying finish. With a 5/8″ seam allowance, I sewed with the WRONG sides together at 3/8.” First press the seam as stitched (flat), then trim to a scant 1/4″ and press the seam allowance open.
Be sure to trim off the whiskers–you won’t be able to coax them inside the enclosing seam and trimming them later.is a headache.
This shows me holding the fabric with right sides together; the fabric is folded EXACTLY on the first line of stitching. You then sew 1/4″ away to enclose all the raw edges.
Sew the second part of the French Seam at 1/4″. If you’ve trimmed any stray threads/whiskers, you’ll have a beautiful clean seam. Press to one side (for my blouse I pressed to the back). Notice that the edge of the fabric/seam is on the 3/8″ line but the needle is moved right of center to be at the 1/4″ seamline.
Next, I am stabilizing the button band by using cotton voile (preshrunk) as my interfacing. Unlike the polyesters or fusible we are used to using, it provides strength without bulk and retains a soft, fluid hand to the garment. I sewed the edges in place (so the strip won’t wiggle and wad up during use). The zipper foot is one of my favorite ways to get a perfect, consistent edge: set the side of the foot on the edge of the interfacing and move the needle toward the center. Be sure it won’t hit the foot but also doesn’t ride on the very outer edge of the interfacing and chew it up. ON the left you can see stay stitching.
I’ve folded the cut-on button band to the inside and am now stitching it to the front. When I have a “lip” or folded edge and want to edge stitch, I use either the edge stitching foot (on the right, which I think of as the Ice Skate with the metal guide in the center) or the over cast foot (on the left, in use). Using a straight stitch, place the foot so the blade is snug against the fold and move the needle to make a nice, narrow topstitch. Be sure the needle won’t hit the wires in the presser foot by hand-walking the needle for one or two stitches.
Next up: applying a bias binding to enclose the seam and act as a facing on the neckline. Here I’m using what may be my favorite presser foot, the F2 appliqué foot. The wide open toes and clear visibility help me sew more carefully and precisely. This photo applies to both facing the neckline and covering the edges of the set-in sleeve seam.
Buying a GOOD quality tailor’s ham and base to hold it has been one of the best, most useful purchases of the year. After 50 years of using my mother’s horrid old ham, I’m ready to sew! Here I’m pressing the bias in place on the neckline. You can see the narrow French seam on the shoulder in the center of the photo. As I press, I am easing the bias so that it lays nice and flat. I used my seam gauge to make sure the depth is even, then edge-stitch all the way around the neck.
Once the body is complete (except for the hem), it is time to start the sleeves. Although I have sewn garments for almost (GULP) 60 years–yes I started very young–I’ve been taking an outstanding online course with Philippa Naylor, Garment Makers Question Time. The price is phenomenal for the amount of instruction you get each of the 12 months. More projects coming up! Anyway, I learned to set the gathering stitches at 1/2″ and 3/4″ and sew down the middle at 5/8″. Philippa’s way works better: sew your gathering stitches one thread into the seam allowance from the final seam line and 1/4″ closer to the raw edge. Gather, distribute the gathering appropriately, and then sew the seam just barely to the left of the left-side gathering stitch. I like using a thin bamboo skewer to coax and ease the gathers as I stitch. Again, I love that open visibility foot!

Here is a link to Philippa’s Garment Makers Question Time home page. Highly recommended!

Here is the sleeve with the seam sewn and gathers gathered. I was a tad leery that the shoulders would be too narrow, but I did the right thing and made a toile (practice garment) out of cheap cheap cheap white fabric, and the sleeve seam is indeed set in from the shoulder point–this helps the gathers get that nice rounded puff! For the hem, at the top of the next photo, I sewed a linen bias strip to the right side, turned to the inside, and hand-sewed it into place.
LOOKIT that perfect match! On the first try no less! Once the sleeves are sewn to the bodice, you’ll need to finish the raw edges. The gathers in the sleeves make it too thick for a French Seam, so I chose to use I used a bias edge finish similar to a single-fold bias binding on a quilt. On the neck, the bias was entirely folded to the inside of the garment. Here, you stitch the bias strip of fabric–a lightweight cotton lawn in lime green–to the seam, wrap it around the raw edges, then stitch in the ditch to secure it. I also managed a perfect join on the bias for the “cuff.” Note that the pattern has a wide opening for the bottom of the sleeve–way too wide for the size of my arms. I gathered it up more, making sure it still moved smoothly over/around the elbow, and just made mine narrower.
Covering up the raw edges where the sleeve joins the body. Again I’m using the zipper foot. For the way my eyes and brain work, I get the needle closest to the edge of the bias using the zipper foot and moving the needle as far right as it goes. Keep a hawk eye on your stitching because it is all too easy to wander and veer onto the bias.
Janome’s automatic buttonhole foot (available on select models including the 9450 and M7) is amazing. You set the button into the back and it picks the perfect size. You can fine tune it if the button is thick or thin. ALWAYS to a test-stitch on a scrap (using the same interfacing and number of layers). You can see I have carefully marked the center of the button holes plus the start and stop lines. The Janome foot has a metal base plate that keeps everything flat and feeding perfectly. Here’s a video of it in action!
You can subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking on the YouTube link (bottom left) and then following the subscribe button on that site, I don’t post often, but there are some useful videos there. Or just click here to go to my YouTube home page.
This is the setting I used.
Worn tucked in with a linen skirt in gray. Blouse fabric is the IL-19 5.3 oz linen from Fabrics-store.com. Skirt linen is the Driftwood Linen from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply near me in Belfast, Maine; I bought the Brumby skirt pattern there, too. Yes, they do online / mail order!
I had some leftover linen, so I made a scarf, too. I sewed a narrow zigzag on all four sides, then carefully frayed the edges. Here’s the link to the pattern again: Anthea by Anna Allen.
You can also wear the blouse out–it has a narrow 1/2″ hem.
You can even wear it to Broomstick Riding Lessons (at Alnwick Castle this summer)! Funnest photo and time ever!
And you can also wear it after you have walked from Scotland to England—all the way across a 100 foot long bridge! With my oldest son and DIL on a trip of a lifetime.

Well I can’t believe it has been half a year since I blogged… that tells you how crazy busy this summer has been. All good stuff, but all at once. I am looking forward to being HOME for three straight months once I return from Houston / International Quilt Festival where I’ll be teaching again. I will try my best to be back before the end of the year…like maybe even in a month?

A return to my garment-making roots!

February 25th, 2022
Princess seam top, Simplicity S8333 (pattern currently available), commercially purchased linen pants. Made on my beloved Janome M7 Continental, aka Albus the 2nd (after Albus Dumbledlore, the greatest wizard that ever lived)

It appears months have evaporated since I last wrote–at least I am keeping up with my newsletter! On a lark, and in my endless quest to always be learning and improving my sewing, I signed up for Garment Makers Question Time with Philippa Naylor. A little over a year ago I took a 2-hour online piecing workshop with her that was brilliant; even after decades of quilting I learned stuff. Since I’ve also started sewing clothes again, I decided to sign up–it is only $150 for a full year and let me tell you the value you get for the HOURS of detailed instruction each month is amazing. Students range from total newbies to garment making and sewing to those like me with decades of experiencing and we are ALL benefitting! Wish you could see what total newbies have accomplished in both fit and construction.

I made view C without the scallops on the sleeves and slightly altered the depth of the neckline. The white is inexpensive fabric for dyeing… I will likely un-sew the basting then dye the fabric for piecing and quilts. Especially in the bottom right photo above, notice that the upper bodice, above the full bust, is too roomy–the neckline folds out and lots of excess near the arms. Read on….this is why you make a toile/muslin/practice piece!

A “toile” is a sample garment made to refine the fit since patterns are made to an average shape and measurements and, let’s be honest here, NO ONE is exactly that fit. The first month in GMQT is to make an A-line dress. I have never worn one in my life and never will….but…. I made a simple dress with bodice and gathered skirt (that’s coming in next month’s newsletter–use the sign up box on the right of this page or at the bottom of the other pages on my website to subscribe).

While waiting for the fabric I wanted to use for the more fitted project (a delightfully soft linen from online), I came across this pattern on sale at Simplicity online. I LOVE square neck tops, and thought the practice of fitting a princess seam top would be useful. I bought some Rifle Paper Co. fabric at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast, Maine, then worked up the muslin or toile (above right). The pattern is multi size so I can grade from one size to the next as needed. I have a broad back, and broad, square shoulders, so using what I learned from the not-yet-made-dress toile, I knew how to adjust for the shoulders so it was quick and easy. This pattern is the first I’ve ever bought which offers B, C, D and DD cup sizes. That meant I took the B and decreased (sigh).

I learned that to get the ideal bust fit in addition to full bust and high bust, you measure from the apex of the bust to the neck, to the shoulder and to the belly button. That means you can triangulate (measure) on the flat pattern piece and get the apex of the bust in EXACTLY the correct spot for a perfect fit. With a princess seam, the adjustment is so much easier than the slice-and-pivot stuff on a darted bodice: you just adjust the curve and seam depth on the side front piece (in my case trim away)! I left the bodice center front intact and didn’t change the design lines at all–the fitting was done from the side piece. Finally, I lowered the base of the square neckline about 5/8-3/4 of an inch. With those changes, the excess fullness in the first toile fitting above is eliminated.

I’ve always used fusible interfacing, but chose to try Philippa’s method of using cotton lawn, a soft, finely woven, lightweight cotton instead. You cut the cotton “interfacing” the same size as the facing, then sew right sides together on the bottom edge and turn right side out. No awkward 1/4″ to turn under–a perfect, smooth, lined facing that supports the neckline softly–probably better than fusible, and certainly nicer look and feel. In this image I have clipped the curves so the seam will lie flat. You can also see two lines of stitching and the understitching line.
The bodice is to the left, the facing and seam allowances to the right of the seamline in the photo above. Using my 1/4″ Acufeed HP foot and the single stitch HP throat plate, I ran the inside left edge of the foot next to the seam, which yields a perfect parallel line of “understitching” which is the line of sewing that secures the seam allowance to the facing. This process helps prevent the facing from trying to roll back outward and produces a beautiful flat facing.
Ta DAAAA! Look at that nice, flat facing, sharp inner corner, tidy understitching and smooth clean facing edge thanks to the interfacing as lining.
I used the Hong Kong finish, which is a first cousin to a single layer quilt binding, on the shoulder and princess seams. It is trickier to manage (nearly impossible) on the “J” curve of the side seam which extends to the cut-on short sleeves, where I just overcast the raw seam edges. I used a voile, a cotton every so slightly lighter than cotton lawn, for this finish. You cut a 1″ bias strip, sew it to the top of the seam allowance, wrap to the back, and then stitch in the ditch. The back side of the Hong Kong finish is a single flat layer, not double like a quilt binding, which reduces thickness. Because of the bias cut and tight weave, no worries about fraying, plus that side is hidden under the pressed-open seam allowance. I used the 1/4″ foot with the guide/flange on it for applying the bright lime green.

Also, here’s a link to a Facebook post with a brief video showing me using the M overcast edge foot on the Janome to finish the side seams.

To make this even more fun–see the sleeveless version in the pattern? I was watching Call the Midwives and in that episode Trixie was wearing that EXACT blouse style! What a hoot! And Fiddlehead (my favorite store!) has GINGHAM–it’s back! Hmmmmm…….

Now that it is snowing again… six inches expected… all I have to do is wait for warm weather!

“Un–boxing” my first designs printed on fabric!

September 21st, 2021

Yes I bit the bullet and had my three collections printed (mostly swatches) at Spoonflower. I’m for the most part delighted with the results, but need to fine-tune color between my monitor and printer and Spoonflower’s printer! I hope you enjoy this video!

I’d love to hear which ones you like best… and if you know anyone at one of my top companies (which I’m still keeping secret LOL!) let me know…and TELL THEM to give me a contract <<<grin>>>.

Sundress on the Janome M7

August 18th, 2021

Another new make on the Janome M7 using various stitches and features to make a great dress perfect! I found a link to a free blouse pattern on the Australian Peppermint Magazine on Spoonflower. Following the trail of cookie crumbs (or thread bits), I then found the Wide-Strap Maxi dress pattern, which is a free PDF download. They ask if you’d like to make a donation to support the cost of the site, so I did, and I GOT A THANK YOU! Nice! Click on the pattern name or here for the hotlink. Along the way I took pictures and the edited them into this under-3-minutes video:

There’s no audio for the first two minutes, but there are captions. At the end for the video of me out in the yard, you may want to turn up the sound…I increased the volume on the film clip, but it is still sorta quiet when I am turned around.

Here are some of the pictures from in the video!

The cotton lawn fabric is from Leslie Tucker Jenison’s Wildwood line for Robert Kaufman. I purchased mine on Etsy in late spring 2021. The dress has a facing on the front and wide straps (hence the name Wide-Strap Maxi Dress). I shortened the dress by 8 inches to a midi length. The only other change was to add interfacing to the facing since the cotton Lawn is so soft. If made in linen or a heavier weight cotton or tercel, would likely not need the interfacing.

From the back: there is a casing at the top, with wide elastic inside. You set the length so that it holds the dress snug against your back (NO wardrobe malfunctions!) but not tight (no “muffin top”!). The pattern suggest testing the placement of the straps. I agree. The gathers had a tendency to move, with the dress going flat in the center and the straps moving towards my underarms. Which led to the straps falling off my shoulders. So with the dress OFF, I move the straps toward the center and safety pinned them in place. This concentrates most of the gathers in the center, which makes it flattering from the front and solves the straps-falling-off issue. I will stitch a vertical line on the casing/elastic so I can remove the pins, but using pins first to get the straps where YOU want them is a good idea. I also now understand why some sundress patterns have the straps go really narrow and “V” in the center. This way, though, they easily cover bra straps.

Since I live in Maine and my 20s and 30s were long ago, I find that I feel rather bare, but I am getting used to the open back. I had thought even before making it that I would shorten the straps to be less bare, but discovered that would put the darts well above my bust and make the front fit poorly. If/when I make this again, I will cut extra at the top sides, shorten the straps, and then figure out a better-for-my-body placement of the darts.

Like many of the indie patterns now, the instructions are like a class in a bag–they certainly aren’t like the bare-bones info in the Butterick and Vogue patterns from the 70s, 80s and 90s that I grew up using. There are delightful instructions for using French seams which totally enclose the raw edges. Hint: be sure to trim the edges of any fraying threads before you sew the second part of the seam so that no “whiskers” pop out.

Having a selection of presser feet makes it SO MUCH EASIER to do beautiful work! I like my clothes as pretty on the inside as on the outside!

Thanks as always to Janome America for having me as a Janome Artisan since 2003!!!!!!!

Mer-Pugs Summer Shirt for Eli

July 8th, 2021

It’s a delightful feeling when your young adult son asks you to make a shirt for him. Since he lives about 5 hours away, going to a fabric store together wasn’t a good option, so I sent him to Spoonflower. LOVE it when his sense of humor prevails: he selected Mer-Pugs! Here’s the link to the fabric; I chose to print on cotton poplin as I’m not fond of their Signature Petal cotton. Needing to order 3 yards, it was a splurge, but it turned out great and he loves it!

Eli’s shirt fits perfectly!

The pattern is Liesl & Co.’s All Day Shirt Pattern. I used this earlier when I made Joshua’s donuts shirt (yes, they both have the same sense of humor!). Since Eli is a bit bigger, I was able to use what I learned making Joshua’s shirt in 2019 (blogpost here). I still had some issues getting the collar to be the size I wanted on the collar stand–I was careful to follow the instructions, but think the collar should be about 1/8″ longer on each side. Eli did not want any pleats on the back but did want short sleeves. He lent me a shirt that fits just the way he wanted so I kept that in the studio to compare as I made the merpugs shirt …much easier to adjust that way!

Earlier this year I showed on Facebook and Instagram how perfectly I was able to align and topstitch the pocket:

First, prepare the pocket. Turn under seam allowances; pattern instructions have you sew 1/2″ from edge, then iron under concealing the stitching. I did that, but having done perfect edges before without the bother of stitching, I’ll go back to my easier way next time. I love my zipper feet for all sorts of things especially perfect edge stitching. I just get better results than using the edge-stitching foot–try several ways and use what gives YOU your best results. I align the edge of the foot with the fold of the fabric, move the needle in the distance I wish, then keep my left thumbnail on the edge of the fold and foot to keep it straight.
Next tip: GLUE STICK! Be sure to use a WASHASBLE glue stick, not permanent! Run a bit of glue along the sides and bottom.
Glue stick the pocket so you have ABSOLUTELY positively PERFECT alignment. For me, this works better than pins and you get no ripples/distortion from the pins. As with the pocket hem, use the zipper foot, adjust the needle drop to the perfect spot, and sew in place. LOOKIT how those merpugs just swim from the shirt onto the pocket!
Side and back views. Perfectly aligned the pugs from collar to yoke to shirt back! Having a machine with precision feed like the Janome M7 makes it easy!
My voice sounds funny because I am getting over a cold! Anyway, here’s a quick demo of how FAST it is to do an automatic buttonhole! Next photo shows a side view of the automatic buttonhole foot
The tip of my awl is pointing to the small button in the back of the automatic buttonhole foot. This is how the foot knows exactly how large to make the buttonhole. It even worked with the teeny tiny buttons (about 3/8″) on the collar!
What does a 20-something do as soon as one puts on a new shirt? Check the phone!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this! If you haven’t already, I’d like to invite you to sign up for my monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter! Just look in the right-hand sidebar on this page to sign up, or at the bottom of all the other pages on my blog. Thanks for stopping by!