The last little while on the blog seems to have been taken over by baby clothes, but normal service is resumed today! I’ve been making a few more Megan Nielson Amber‘s, and being as this is a real tried and true pattern for me I thought I would share a few of the little tips and tricks that I have picked up in the course of making them. Some of this applies to most jersey top (or dress) patterns, and some is slightly more specific to the Amber. (I’ve already blogged t-shirts here, here and here, a dress, and a t-shirt hack)
This time I’ve made a dress and a couple of tops, all from cotton spandex jerseys from Girl Charlee. The dress is this lovely muted floral, with some of their solid cotton spandex for the modesty panel (I always keep a couple of colours in my stash for cuffs, and t-shirts). I’ve also made a short sleeve t-shirt version for now in this feather print, and a plain navy long sleeve for layering when the weather cools down. I plan to be wearing these for at least the next year or so during pregnancy and breastfeeding so I’m looking forward to having a few more options this time around.
My first deviation from the pattern is to stabilise the shoulders with some narrow ribbon. I do this to all the adult t-shirts or jersey dresses that I make whether or not it is included in the pattern instructions. The shoulder seam takes a lot of the weight of the rest of the garment, and over time that could stretch. Sewing some 5mm ribbon into the seam allowance before I start construction is a great way to help them look good for longer.
The Amber top has a lot of neckline to finish neatly before you can carry on with putting the whole bodice together, especially if you include the modesty panel. Some of the curves are quite tight, and the fabric has to stretch quite a bit to sit neatly. Before I sew these neckline edges, I always press and then fuse hemming web into them. It means that I don’t need any pins which makes the sewing up a doddle and the hemming web gives the neckline a bit of stability, preventing it from stretching out as you sew. I always buy 2cm wide hemming web and cut it into either halves or third widths depending on what I need. I’ve also never worried about finishing these edges on the overlocker because the jersey doesn’t fray, and the hemming web also helps to keep the possible curling up of edges under control. Most of my Amber’s have been worn and washed regularly over the last two years and the neckline still looks pristine on all of them.
On my first Amber, I decided to skip the instruction to baste the pleats and then baste to the waistband before overlocking or stitching properly and it nearly ended in disaster! There are quite a few fiddly layers to manoeuvre at the front of the bodice, and I managed to catch one of them in the overlocker knife. Fortunately it was only a little nick and was concealed in the layers, but now I always baste this step and I haven’t had any issues since.
This tip works for all jersey garments- if I am planning to finish the hems (sleeves or at the bottom) on the overlocker, I always do it before attaching them to the rest of the garment, and always before sewing the piece into a circle. It is so simple to overlock a straight edge, but a bit more fiddly to start and finish a circle neatly. You can also press a ‘memory hem’ at this stage too, which is just a fancy way of saying press the hem allowance up then unfold again before stitching. It makes hemming really easy because there is less fiddly pressing in a circle.
For sewing t-shirts I usually just use my overlocker for all the seams but I always need to stitch hems on the sewing machine. I use either an even zigzag (usually 2.5mm width 2.5mm length) or a twin needle. I don’t mind the look of either, so it often comes down to laziness in deciding to change needles and re-thread for the twin needle version!
If you don’t have two spools of the same thread for a hem, an easy fix is to load a bobbin with the same thread and use that in the second needle. Especially if I have been overlocking in white, I will often put white thread in my bobbin for the hem and use the coloured bobbin thread in the twin needle. It stops me having too many part-filled bobbins of odd colours. Here I used the end of a bobbin of dark blue thread which blended in with the overlocking.
So these are the finished Ambers. Right from the start of the year I left a planned wildcard but with thoughts of making a jersey dress in my make 9 so I’m counting this as another project ticked. These dresses really are so comfortable so I know this one will get plenty of wear, especially with leggings as the weather starts to cool. In this one the fabric does contain a bit of rayon which makes it a bit more drapey than all the other versions I have made. As a result the length seems to have grown a bit, so I’m not sure if it looks a bit nightdress-y? I might re-hem so that it sits above the knee like my other dress version.
With the white background and array of colours, this t-shirt feels bright and summery so it’s had some good outings already. It might not be quite the right thing over the winter, but I’m sure it will be worn plenty again in the spring.
Conversely, this navy blue one felt a bit dark and boring when I was sewing it up, but I know it’s moment is almost here. I love a good long sleeve for layering in winter so this will end up underneath all my dresses or even other t-shirts to make them more seasonally appropriate. This might be the most times that I have used any single pattern, so it has been a great value buy. What is your ‘can’t live without’ pattern?