Design Wall: Is Garment Sewing Harder than it ‘Seams’?

garment-sewing-featured

Mary Kate Karr-PetrasName: Mary Kate Karr-Petras
Title: Features Editor
Hours per week I spend sewing: Lately that number has been very low, in the 1–2 hour range, but it’s usually 5–10 hours per week, usually after my daughters have gone to bed.
My quilting style: is best described as “slow,” though once I sit down to sew I’m a lot faster than I used to be. I tend to favor pieced designs, from traditional to modern, but I do applique and foundation piecing when I see a design I just have to make.


What I’ve Been Making

I’ll be honest, I did not have the summer I expected to have. Issues on the homefront ended up taking a lot of my time, and my quilting mojo decided to take a summer vacation until I could pay it some attention. I started out 2018 with a goal of finishing an average of one project per month. I have so far managed to finish a grand total of two out of 12.

The list in my Quilter’s Planner of 22 UFOs/WIPs I started 2018 with; the circled check marks show how far I’d gotten with each when the year started, and as you can see as of August I’ve only made progress on two of them.

The list in my Quilter’s Planner of 22 UFOs/WIPs I started 2018 with; the circled check marks show how far I’d gotten with each when the year started, and as you can see as of August I’ve only made progress on two of them.

Even so, I did manage to get some sewing done.

I finished the Spare Parts quilt top I started piecing in June.

completed Spare Parts quilt top

completed Spare Parts quilt top

As I wrote in my earlier post, I worked on chain piecing the blocks three or four at a time so that I could keep all the units straight. After I’d made about half of the 20 blocks needed, I switched from working on them in small batches to more of an assembly line approach. With this, I had four blocks in the chain at a time, each in a different stage of assembly: one unit joined, two units joined, three units joined, and four units joined. After I’d gotten all of the blocks joined, I pressed them all and finished all of the partial seams. It felt as if this approach sped things up even more for an already quick quilt.

Four blocks in the chain at a time in different stages of assembly

Four blocks in the chain at a time in different stages of assembly

The other thing I did this summer was finally—FINALLY!—sew a garment using a pattern. I’d made easy elastic-waist skirts before for my daughters, and I’ve hacked a thrifted garment or two over the years, but I’d never crossed over to using an actual pattern before, the type with instructions that you lay on top of your fabric and cut around.

one of the easy skirts I made for my daughters using a cotton lawn from Monaluna’s Haiku collection—the wrinkles show that it’s well loved.

one of the easy skirts I made for my daughters using a cotton lawn from Monaluna’s Haiku collection—the wrinkles show that it’s well loved.

For this garment sewing adventure, I used a pattern I bought over 10 years ago when I thought I was going to make pajamas for my husband (the pattern is McCall’s 2478, if you’re interested). It was a hot summer here in Denver, and I wanted a pair of cool pajama shorts. Lightweight gingham in both blue and purple, which I got when a coworker destashed, was the right fabric for this job; I think it’s a cotton/poly blend but I’m not sure. I made a pair in each color.

They may be boxy, but they sure are comfortable!

They may be boxy, but they sure are comfortable!

The first pair I made took a long time because my quilter’s brain was challenged mightily by the visual-spatial requirements of joining the seams in the correct order, and I had to rip out a few seams. I’m very thankful for my garment-sewing colleagues here in the office. Out of frustration from not being able to figure out what I was doing wrong, I brought the pattern pieces to work one day and interrupted Lori Baker for help.

“I don’t understand!” I said, showing her how I thought the pieces were supposed to fit. “How does this work? I mean, that’s a lot of fullness to ease in, right?”

Lori turned the pattern pieces over a couple of times, figured out what she was seeing, and said, “This is where your first seam goes.” Note: this is not where my first seam had gone.

“But,” I sputtered, “how does that work? I mean, that’s— um, wait…. Oh. Okay. All right, I see it. You’re right. Thank you.”

I made the first pair according to the pattern instructions, and though they be boxy, they also be comfortable for wearing around the house and sleeping in when it’s hot. For the second pair, I sewed my seams in the correct order, but I took more time finishing the seam allowances so it took almost as long as the first pair. I also shortened the rise to make them fit a little better. I credit my Sew News colleagues and other sewists I follow on Instagram for pointing out that making adjustments to commercial patterns to better fit your body is part of the process, which is not something my quilter’s brain would have felt comfortable doing with so little experience.

I want to make one more pair using cotton lawns from Monaluna’s Haiku collection. Because I don’t have enough of either print to make a full pair of shorts, I’m going to figure out a way to combine them. I think I’ll make this pair with the drawstring option instead of an elastic waist.

One-yard cuts of cotton lawns from Monaluna’s Haiku collection

One-yard cuts of cotton lawns from Monaluna’s Haiku collection

Oh yeah! One other thing I did this summer was walk to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum (a literal three-minute stroll down the block from our office in Golden) to pick up a free Row by Row Experience 2018 pattern. This year’s theme is Sew Musical, and I could not resist the idea of making an applique block honoring Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is only about five miles away from here. I’ve gotten to see a number of concerts in that iconic Colorado venue, and I just love how the music theme ties perfectly to a regional theme.

Red Rocks applique quilt block, the Rocky Mountain Quilts Museum’s free 2018 Row by Row Experience pattern

Red Rocks applique quilt block, the Rocky Mountain Quilts Museum’s free 2018 Row by Row Experience pattern

Maybe I’ll make this block my weekend project. Something quick and satisfying like that is the best way to coax your quilting mojo back home from an extended vacation.

Thanks for taking a look at what’s been on my design wall lately! To see some more things I’ve made, check out this previous Design Wall post.

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