… it’s time to start sewing!
I’m going to use a pair of pajama pants I recently made to show you the basics of putting an item together. This is a step above a pillow, dog bed or pencil skirt, but still very, very basic.
(This will be a long one. Click on any picture for more detail)
I showed you last time the “notches” you need to cut out to make sure you have matching pieces and have the pieces put together the correct way. Here you can see them matched up.
Then pin. Pin every few inches. The more slippery and difficult the fabric, the more pins you’ll want. I have mine set here about every 2 1/2 or 3 inches. I could have gone closer, but the fabric tended to stick to itself. This will be the inside seam line of the bottoms, down the leg.
Click to see the spacing.
Once you have it pinned, place the fabric under your machine, laying it next to the seam allowance line you want (usually 3/4″) and lower the foot. Only AFTER you’ve lowered the foot do you want to remove the pin, but do NOT sew over the pin!
See those numbers next to the foot? Those are the lines that help you measure your seam allowance – how much fabric will be on the inside of where you have just sewn. If you’re not sure which line is which, take a ruler and measure with the needle down, from the needle to the allowance line you need. You can mark it with tape if you want to remember the line you need. *Don’t forget, if you change the needle position, it will change the seam allowance measurement lines.
Sew this piece together, slowly going down the leg, removing the pins as you go before you reach them, but getting close. Don’t push, pull or yank the fabric. You most likely won’t even need to hold the back of the fabric for this type of project. Just gently guide it through the front, letting the feed dogs (the jagged little bars under the presser foot) do their job. (Turn the handle a few times with out fabric and you’ll see them move)
*Do NOT throw your pins randomly to the side, there’s no hurry and you can stop the machine to look where you’re putting them. Have your pin cushion, magnet or box next to your machine to place them in.
You say “Well duh! Of course, that’s what I bought this cute little pin cushion for!” I spend a lot of my teaching time “catching” needles shot off by nervous first timers. I promise, stopping the machine to place the needles back where they belong will pay off when you *don’t* step on your needles!
PRESS, Press, press! You will most likely spend more time at your iron, than you will actually sewing – trust me. It will pay off!
Flat seam, open seam wrong side, open seam right side.
Before pressing. After pressing.
Now pin the inside…. crotch for a lack of a better term. Tucking one leg into the other, outsides touching each other. One leg should be inside-out, the other right side-out, tucking the right side-out into the inside-out leg. Pin together matching notches again.
Also, at this point, the notches showing where the back is may not show up as well (especially if you use a serger). Make sure to mark it, however you choose to mark it.
PRESS, Press, press, again. First the seam flat to sink the stitches in. Then, with the seam open on the wrong side. Then, with the seam open on the right side.
Now that it’s all sewn together and looks like a pair of bottoms, we need to hem them. That is, make the bottom look nice and protect the raw edges.
Measure, using either a slide ruler like I have here, or a ruler, tucking 1/4″ inside and then 3/4″. Pin about every 1 1/2″ – 2″. After you’ve pinned, sew it down using the measurements to the side as before OR using the edge of your presser foot to keep your line steady. Again making sure to remove the pins as you sew and to not push, pull or yank on the fabric. You’ll distort your hem. You may need to hold it a bit taught at this point, but there should be very little tension on it. (Just enough to make the seam straight, not enough to make the pins shift)
The presser foot is only there to hold the fabric for me while I pin.
Sewing very close to the open edge as possible while still catching it.
PRESS, Press, press, again. Make sure to press the hem down. Once on the wrong side, once on the right side.
Now – for the hardest part. The waist band.
After measuring out how much elastic you need, either by using what the pattern calls for, or by bringing it around yourself and taking about 3 inches off, depending on how tight you like your britches.
I usually like to use 1″ elastic or larger for my waistband, I think this is also what was suggested by the pattern. This means you need to make your seam at the waist about 1/4″ larger than your elastic. 1″ elastic = 1 1/4″ hem allowance. 1 1/2″ elastic = 1 3/4″ hem allowance.
Notice the pin at the back seam. This is to make sure I can find the back easily while I’m working with the bottoms and to remind me not to sew up the hole I’m leaving for later.
Sew all the way around, leaving about a 1″ – 2″ opening to put the elastic inside. Use the same technique as you did with the hem. Either measuring by the lines on the side or using the edge of your foot.
PRESS, Press, press, again.
To insert the elastic you don’t have to have any fancy tools. If you have one, use it. If not – a safety-pin works perfectly. Make sure it doesn’t easily open though or you’ll drive yourself nuts. I really like to use diaper pins because they’re made to be stiffer and less likely to pop open.
Make sure to pin the opposite end to the bottoms so you won’t lose the elastic in the waistband as you’re feeding it through – did it twice once. ONCE! Now I know better! Pin it.
Push the safety-pin through the pocket. Pulling the fabric, pushing the pin, until the pin makes it all the way around and comes back out. If your pin opens inside, back the elastic up a bit and you should be able to close it again while it’s still inside, being careful not to pin the fabric as well. If it’s too stubborn, you may have to pull it back out and restart.
You can pick which way you want to sew the elastic together. It won’t really matter once it’s inside the waistband pocket.
No need to make the joining pretty, it will be inside and you’ll (hopefully) never see it again. I prefer zig-zag. Make sure to get both edges of the elastic to make sure it doesn’t unravel and go over it several times to make sure your pants won’t *POP* and fall off later – never good! Unless that’s what you’re going for?
Tuck the elastic back in and sew it up just like the rest of the seam.
You now have a pair of pajama bottoms.
What ever your beginning project, these steps should cover most of what you’ll be working on. Points to remember –
- Make sure to keep your eye on the seam line, keeping it straight. If you start to go crooked, slowly come back to the correct allowance. If necessary, go back to where it started to curve and start again.
- Don’t sew over your pins, or fling them randomly.
- Go slowly for your first projects.
- No one started out doing this perfectly and just about anything can be fixed!
- PRESS, Press, press! You’ll thank me for it.