Monday, February 28, 2011

Computers Are Not My Friends

Short post to say that if it isn't Internet Explorer sending me to an early grave, it's some other lovely computer thing. 

Ever since I switched to this new blogger template, formatting posts and uploading stuff have become somewhat of a nightmare. A huge part of it is me having no IT-genes at all, but at least in the old template, I could twiddle with the html stuff a bit and make it work. Anyway, some folks have written in to say the shortalls pattern refused to manifest in its correct size. I don't know how to make my computer do what you (or I) want anymore, so I've turned it into a pdf file and logged in to some random file-sharing program so you can download it directly there

I also updated the original tutorial post and removed the pretty clickable visuals that were causing you (and therefore me) grief. In their place, you now get to click on some text and then you download the pdf file. It will take you to a geeky-looking page, but don't be frightened:

Just obey that button that says "Click Here To Begin Download" and it will download. I hope that works. If that doesn't print in the correct size, I surrender.

Boy Shortalls on Made By Rae!

Hello all! Today I am joining the Celebrate The Boy party on Made By Rae! In case this is news to you, Rae and Dana are co-hosting a month of boy stuff - clothes, toys, giveaways, links, ideas, tutorials and patterns. If you love sewing for boys, but aren't finding as much inspiration or resources as you'd like, then you need to be there! 

Today I'm guest-posting on Rae's blog with a roundup of crafts from the past year that boys and their parents can do together. You all know I sew only Girl Stuff because the three little misses here keep my hands full, but in honor of boy month, I made these shortalls:

and I'll be teaching you how to make them right here.

Now these ubiquitous shortalls are a very basic garment - classic lines, classic boy fabric. You've probably seen ones like these anywhere from no-frills department stores to high-end boutique catalogs. Nothing out of the ordinary, but very versatile and adaptable for any number of different looks. They're a little more grown-up than rompers, but easier to fit than pants because they're roomy at the waist and adjustable at the shoulders.

A digression before we begin:

I've often been asked how to make a handmade garment look more "professional". That's a hard word to define - does it mean 
  • "Sewn by experts"? 
  • "Could be bought in a store"? 
  • "Could be seen in a clothing catalog"? 
  • All of the above?
I'm not sure which it is, so I'll instead say this: it's often from the details of a product that one can tell the care that has been taken in its construction. While we're working together on these shortalls, I'd like to show how some simple details can make a great difference in how they turn out:

1 Fabric and color
Wherever possible, use apparel fabric. Apparel fabrics have a good weight, feel and drape that allow them to sit and hang well on the body. Also, many apparel fabrics have some give (stretch) to them that is absent from regular cottons so they feel comfortable when worn. Children, especially, appreciate this. Apparel fabrics tend to be predominantly solid rather than funky, and fun boy fabrics are particularly difficult to find. So it can be tempting to turn to quilting cotton. Not the best idea to make an entire garment out of that. If you love color and print, add that designer cotton as accents instead - a colorful pocket, a faced hem, peekaboo lining. 

Our shortalls today are made of blue denim - solid, sturdy, great weight, but not very interesting alone. We'll add five patch pockets in a coordinating-colored large-check print which we repeat in the facing. Still all blue and not very interesting. To make everything pop, we'll add a very contrasting red-and-white striped piping- but in tiny amounts so it doesn't overwhelm. Our buttons - red - will draw out the red in the piping.

2 Details
are probably the biggest indicator of the care that has gone into making a garment. External to the actual design of the garment, pockets, piping, trim, edging, fastenings are all easy details to add. Think about whether you want a low- or high- contrast detail i.e. do you want a subtle variation or do you want it to pop? Then experiment, or look in clothing catalogs for ideas.

3 Top-stitching
is one of the easiest ways to make a product look finished. You can use the thicker top-stitching thread (and the accompanying top-stitching needles with the larger eyes), to produce the kind of top-stitching you see on jeans. And you can buy special twin needles or invest in a coverlocker/coverstitch machine. Faaaaaaaancy. However, you can also do it with regular needles and regular thread on a regular sewing machine- it's subtler, but you still get the sense of a job completed. It's personal preference whether you want a single row or a double row of top-stitching, and how far apart to sew them. I prefer to do single rows on more formal garments and double rows on more rugged, casual garments. But this varies too. If you do double rows, keep them the same width apart throughout the garment for homogeneity. 

In this tutorial, we will be adding top-stitching to the outside (i.e. the right side) of seams. Those of you more familiar with fell seams may want to sew those. But we'll be sticking to regular open seams, pressing them to one side, and top-stitching on the outside. Rather than the traditional brown-on-denim, or the more subtle blue-on-blue, we are using red to pull together the rest of the colors in the garment.

Here is the pattern you can print out, assemble and use to make your own. I drafted this for my youngest, who is a tall but average-build almost-3-year-old. The nice thing about overalls like these is that it is loose by design and the length of the straps can be customized to fit the wearer. This means your child can grow into it and, by making slight adjustments to its width and length, it could fit a younger or older child. There are no zippers, button plackets or elastic. If you're a beginner, try making just the basic overalls and skip all the steps in the tutorial that are labeled "optional" (blue text). If you want to embellish, do the full tutorial.  

There are five templates and one instruction sheet to help you cut out your pieces. The printable instructions are divided into two parts: the first is for the basic overalls, and the second includes all the fixings - the waistband and the pockets. Please note that 

  • there are NO seam allowances included. You will need to add your own - I'd suggest 3/8" or 1 cm all around, except for the bottom hem GH of the leg, which should be 1".
  • the solid lines are stitching lines
  • the dotted lines are positioning lines for the pockets and waistband
  • you might want to print out multiple copies of each template so you can cut out individual body, pocket, waistband and facing pieces for your layout.
  • the numbers 1-6 marked on the templates are to help you assemble the partial pieces to make the full patterns. You will not see these in the rest of the tutorial.
  • the letters A-R marked on the templates are for reference of important sewing points - you will see these in the following tutorial instructions. 

For the basic overalls,

you'll need: 
  • 3/4 yard of outer fabric
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric
  • Buttons or buckles
in addition to your usual sewing equipment and thread.

The sequence of construction is:
  1. Sew the straps
  2. Sew the inseam FG of each leg (one front and one back body piece)
  3. Sew the crotch seam ADFRK to connect both legs
  4. Sew the side seams
  5. Sew the facing
  6. Attach the straps
  7. Attach the facing
  8. Sew the hems
  9. Attach buttons/buckles
Now let's get started!

Step 1
Make the straps.
With right sides together, sew one lining piece to one outer piece, leaving the bottom edge KJ open for turning out.
Press the seams open, notch the corners and turn right side out.

Top-stitch all around, except for the open end. Set aside.

Step 2 (Optional)
Make pockets. Go here for the tutorial for these pockets. 

Step 3 (Optional)
Pin and top-stitch the front and back pockets in place on the main body pieces.

Note that the bib pocket (the one on the chest) spans both halves of the front body piece, so you will attach that later in Step 5.

Step 4
Find one front and one back body piece whose inseam edges line up as follows:

Flip one piece over so the right sides are together. Align the edges of their inseams as shown by the black arrow. Sew their inseams together, and finish the seam allowance (serge or zig-zag stitch). Top-stitch on the right side. Repeat for the remaining pair of body pieces.

Step 5
Place the two pieces body pairs you made in Step 4 together, right sides touching. Align the edges of the U-shaped crotch seam ADFRK and sew the two pieces together. Finish the seam allowances (use serger or use zig-zag stitch). Press the seam allowance to one side and top-stitch on the right side.

Now that the crotch and inseam are finished, you may (if desired) sew the bib pocket in position.

This is what it looks like so far:

You can see the top-stitching along the midline of the garment (the U-shaped crotch seam) and the short inseams.

Step 6 (Optional)
Prepare the waistband. Like the pockets, this is purely decorative. I added it so that the top edges of the hip pockets would have something to tuck into.

Sew the piping to both long edges of the right side of the waistband. I find it helpful to have the same seam allowances for the piping as the waistband- you can align their edges and sew directly through the actual stitching lines of both layers.

Step 7 (Optional)
Attach the waistband. Lay the waistband on the front body piece, right sides together, so that
  • the stitching line of one of its long sides lies directly on the line QPQ
  • the seam allowance of that side is above the line QPQ i.e. most of the waistband lies below the line QPQ.
Sew on the stitching line QPQ to attach the waistband to the body piece.

Flip it over - this is what it should look like with this bottom edge attached:

There is only the tiniest hint of stripes peeking out!

Fold in the seam allowance of the upper edge and pin in place. The upper edge of the waistband is now along the line EDE.

Top-stitch along this folded edge to secure the upper edge of the waistband. Top-stitch the lower edge of the waistband to match:

Step 8 
Attach the straps. First, transfer from the pattern, and mark, (I used the head of a pin) the point K on the back body piece.

Align (see arrow) the unfinished edge of one strap with one slanted top edge of the back body piece so that
  • their right sides are together
  • the innermost edge of the strap intersects point K, as shown.
Pin in place.

Repeat for the other strap. You should be able to see that both straps begin to overlap at point K.

Sew a long basting stitch close to the edge to hold the straps in place. I removed the marking pin before sewing.

Step 9
Join the body pieces. Position the front and back body pieces so that
  • their right sides are together
  • their sides seams align, starting at points C at the bottom of the armscye.

Sew the side seams, finish the seam allowances (user serger or zig-zag stitch) and top-stitch on the right side.

Step 10
Sew the facing. Place the facing pieces right sides together. Sew and finish the side seams. Also finish the bottom edge. If you are using a serger, you may choose to be done at this point.

Or you could fold in this edge to make a proper hem.

Step 11
Attach the facing. Slip the completed facing into the body from Step 9, so that their right sides are together.

Align their seam allowances, pin in place, and sew all around the top edge of the whole ensemble to attach the facing to the body.

Notch the corners and snip the curved seam allowances. This is what it looks like with the facing on the outside:

Step 12
Now comes the magic! Turn everything right side out and press the seams flat. It looks almost done!

Top-stitch all around the top edge of the garment

Step 13
Secure the facing. Sew two or three stitches to attach the seam allowance of the facing to the seam allowance of the body. Do this for both side seams. This will keep the facing in place so it doesn't flip up when dressing or undressing. I used a contrasting color for visibility, but you should use a coordinating thread. 

Step 14
Now let's talk about the fastenings. Here are common quick-release buckles for overalls- 

The one on the right has two parts: the buckle itself, and an adjustable sliding loop. You will have to sew the end of the strap around the middle bar of the sliding loop.

The one on the left is a no-sew buckle - 

it is a single integrated piece:

The strap loops through the buckle and stays put. 

Regardless of which kind you choose, the button is installed the same way. You make a small hole in the garment, poke the threaded back stud through to the front,

position the head on top, and whack it in with a mallet. 
There are special setting tools to do this so you don't deform the surface by pounding directly on it, but I usually just lay the head upside down on a padded surface, lay the fabric right side down on it, poke the back stud through the hole, and then pound on the back stud itself.

For this tutorial, we're using buttons and buttonholes. You wouldn't be able to adjust the strap length after sewing them on, though, so test the straps out on the wearer beforehand. Also, while the position of the buttonhole is marked on the pattern, you should make yours as long as is needed for the button you're using.

Step 15

Complete the leg hems. You can use a fancy coverstitch machine, but I don't own one. I finish my hems by simply folding them in

and top-stitching them.


If you omitted all the embellishments, this will come together really quickly. But the details are where all the fun is, so give them a shot! You can adapt this classic pattern for different looks by making some simple changes or adding details, for example:
  • Try different pockets.
  • Try different fabric combinations - but still keep to the sturdier apparel fabrics like twill, denim, drill, linen, linen or even home-dec weight fabric. This is a garment meant to be worn over an under layer- it should have a good weight to fall/hang well, and not cling to that fabric layer underneath.  
  • Add a contrasting faced hem to the legs.
  • Add a roll-up cuff with buttoned straps, like this.
  • Extend the legs into ankle-length trousers for full overalls.
  • Add faux button plackets (sew a column of buttons and top-stitch a rectangle around them) to the sides.
  • Replace the bib pocket with applique (initial, favorite motif). 
  • Add hammer loops, belt loops and tool pockets for a carpenter-pants look.

I hope you enjoyed learning to sew these shortalls for the boys in your world. It's simple, and yet you can take it as far as you dare - I love designs like that.  Now for more goodies: tomorrow I'll show you how to adapt this pattern for girls! So check back here to see what this looks like in pink AND with a skirt! See you again then!