Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sew-Along Project: Sleep Pants (Part 2)

Hi everyone!  This is Part 2 of our sleep pants sew-along, and in this session, we'll actually start sewing some seams!  Exciting, right?  Before we get started, though, I have some great news that I want to share.  This sew-along is being sponsored by Riley Blake Designs, and they have offered to provide a giveaway at the end!  How great is that?  The giveaway will be what's called a "fat quarter stack" of fabric.  Fat quarters are used in quilting, so if you've ever wanted to try quilting, join us in the sew-along so you can be eligible for the fabric giveaway at the end.  Here is a little bit of information on Riley Blake Designs, from Paige:

So, a BIG thanks to Paige at Riley Blake Designs for offering the sponsorship, and for offering to keep everyone informed about the sew-along through their social-media connections.

Ok, on to the sewing!  Hopefully, everyone has their fabric all cut out.  If not, don't worry, just get that part done and start on Part 2 when you can.  If you are truly a sewing "newbie," I suggest you go back and look over my last blog post, which is a few tips and tricks to help you get started.  You'll want to play around with your sewing machine a little bit before actually sewing that first seam.  The tips and tricks post should give you the confidence to do that.

The first thing I need to tell you is that we will NOT be making these pj pants strictly according to the pattern directions.  So, don't worry about the fact that we're doing things a little bit differently.  The reason we are doing things differently is that I'm going to show you two types of super-durable seams that are a little more time consuming than what the pattern directions tell you to do, but are extremely practical.  Once you learn how to make these two types of seams, you'll be able to make them whenever the project would benefit from using them.  The first kind of durable seam is called a flat-felled seam, and that's what we'll be working on in this Part 2 of our project.  The second kind of durable seam is called a French seam, and we'll use that on the inner leg seams in Part 3 of the project.  If you want to see an example of the seam that we'll be working on today, the flat-felled seam, just look at the outside leg seam of any pair of Levi's or similar jeans.  Note how the seam is finished so that there is no raw edge on either the inside or the outside.

The first thing you'll need to do is set your sewing machine for straight stitching.  The photo below:

and at the top of the post shows the dials on the machine that I'm using.  You'll want to sew with a straight stitch, using small stitches but not the shortest stitch length setting on your machine.  In the photo, you can see that the top left dial on my machine is labeled "length."  I can choose stitch lengths from 0 to 4 on this machine.  Zero is the shortest stitch length, and 4 is the longest -- 4 would be considered a "basting" stitch.  You use a basting stitch where you want to sew something temporarily, planning to take those stitches out later.  Set at 4, the seam will be easy to take apart later because each stitch will be very long.  You wouldn't ever sew a garment at a basting stitch length, though.  On my machine, I've selected a stitch length of about 1-1/2.  If your machine uses a 0-4 gauge, you can use a 1-1/2 stitch length, but if your machine uses some other gauge, you'll want to look at your machine manual to see where you should set the length for "normal" sewing.

The dial at the top right is for the width of the stitch -- you would only use this when you are making zig-zag stitches or certain other stitches.  For straight stitching, set this dial at 0.  On my machine, I have to choose a straight stitch on the stitch selector, which is the bar with the graphics of stitches.  Most machines have a feature similar to this, so be sure you have set your machine for a straight stitch.

Now we're going to pin our first seam together.  Take one front piece and the "matching" back piece.  What I mean by "matching" is, when you hold the front piece and back piece together (either right sides together or wrong sides together), along either the outside (the longer side) or the inner leg (the shorter side), those notches that you cut in each piece will line up perfectly.  If you aren't sure about what I mean, you can look at your pattern instructions and that should help.  Hold your front piece and back piece together (with both "tops" at one end and both "bottoms" at the other end) WITH THE WRONG SIDES OF THE FABRIC TOGETHER.  Normally, you pin and sew seams with the RIGHT sides of the fabric together (so that your seam is on the inside).  But because we are making that special flat-felled seam I told you about, you need to have the WRONG sides of the fabric together.  Pin the two pieces of fabric together along the outside leg seam.  Start by matching up the notches, and put your first pin right at the notch, perpendicular to the edge of the fabric.  The following two photos show the side seam pinned (notice the position of the pins), and the second is a close-up of the "notch" area.    

After you get that first pin in, go to the top of the pieces and put your second pin right at the edge.  Then go to the opposite end (the bottoms of the pieces) and put your third pin there.  Then go back and put a pin in along the seam edge every five inches or so.  You can put your pins closer together, but you'll have to sew more slowly because you'll have more pins to take out.  Pin the whole way along the outer leg edge.

Now you're going to sew along the edge that you just pinned, using that 5/8"seam allowance marking on your sewing machine that I showed you in the tips post.  Remember to hold your loose thread ends when you start your seam, and once you've gone 5 or 6 stitches, go backward (reverse) for 3 or 4 stitches to secure the edge of the seam.  Then continue sewing your seam, going forward.  When you get close to a pin, STOP.  DON'T sew over your pins; it's not safe.  Stop as you get close to the pin, and pull it out before continuing.  Try to develop the habit of stopping your machine with the needle down, embedded into the fabric.  That way, your fabric won't slip while you're taking the pins out.  Some machines have a "needle down" setting, so if yours does, be sure to use that.  Sew the whole way along that outer leg edge, taking your pins out as you go, and making a couple of reverse stitches at the very end of the seam, just as you did at the beginning.

Now lift the presser foot, pull your garment away from the machine, and snip the threads close to the end of your seam, like this:

Then go to the TOP of your seam, and clip those thread ends, as well.

You want to keep the threads at the ends of your seams clipped as you go along.  It makes things much easier as you continue sewing, because those thread ends won't get caught in anything.  Now, this is what your finished 5/8" seam should look like:

After you have that outside leg seam sewn, repeat the same process with the remaining front piece and back piece that you have.  Pin and sew the other outside leg seam the same way that you did the first one.  

Remember how I told you that your iron was an indispensable tool in your sewing arsenal?  Well, that's because to have success at sewing garments, you have to IRON as you SEW.  You'll want to have your iron handy whenever you are working at your sewing machine.  Take your two pieces to the ironing board, and place the first one on the board so it looks like this, with that seam you just made running the length of the ironing board:

Now, you're going to press that seam so that the seam allowance is flat against the BACK garment piece.  Remember how we put a pin along the top of each of the two FRONT pieces?  Well, here's the first place that that little tip pays dividends.  Just look at the tops of your two pieces, and press that seam toward the piece WITHOUT the pin in it.  Here's how the seam will look right before you start pressing it:

The photo below shows what I mean when I say press the seam TOWARD the back piece of the garment.  Press firmly so the seam lays over to that side, like this:
After you've pressed the seam allowance toward the back, you are going to TRIM one side of the seam allowance, the side on the BACK piece.  With scissors, trim the back half of the seam allowance down to about 1/4" or so.  Be careful -- go SLOW with your scissors, and don't go shorter than 1/4" or you might cut into the seam itself.  In this next photo, you can see that I'm just starting to trim that back seam allowance down:

In the next photo, I'm just continuing to trim that seam allowance all the way along the entire length of the seam -- note the "tail" of fabric that I'm cutting off, trailing off to the side:

Once the trimming is done, you'll have one "fat" seam allowance (on the FRONT piece) and one trimmed seam allowance (on the BACK piece).  The next step is to fold the "fat" seam allowance right over the trimmed piece, until it meets the stitched seam.  When you do this, you'll be enclosing that trimmed seam allowance INSIDE the folded over edge of the "fat" or untrimmed seam allowance.  In the following photo, I'm folding the untrimmed seam allowance to meet the stitched seam, encasing the trimmed seam allowance.

Now you are going to simply lay that folded edge down . . .

. . . and pin it in place.  See how in this next photo, I put the pin right along that folded edge.  So what I can see as I'm looking down is the stitching from the seam I've sewn, and then the edge that I've folded under, pinned into place.

Continue folding the untrimmed seam allowance over the trimmed part and pinning the fold in place, all along the length of the entire seam.  Here's a photo of a section of the seam, with that folded edge pinned into place.

Once you have the entire seam completed, with pins in place all along the folded edge, go back and carefully press each section of the seam.  Press lightly right over the pin, wait a few seconds, then remove the pin and press that little section again.  Keep working your way down the seam, pressing as you go and removing the pins after each little section has been pressed. 

Because we're working with cotton fabric, the fold will stay in the fabric once it's pressed, even though all of the pins have been taken out.  Here's my folded-over seam, after it's been pressed the whole way along its length:

You may be wondering why I didn't leave any of the pins in place.  I like to take all of the pins out because it makes the next sewing step easier, but if you are uncomfortable removing all the pins, you can leave a few of them in, evenly spaced along that folded edge.

Since you're already at the ironing board, repeat the same cutting, folding over, and pressing steps with the other seamed front and back piece.  Remember to take each step slowly!  Now take your two beautifully pressed pieces back to the sewing machine.  What you're going to be doing is making a line of stitching very close to edge of that fold, encasing all of those raw edges and finishing the seam.  Remember to hold your loose thread ends as you start your sewing, and take a couple of reverse stitches to secure the end, just like you did when we sewed that seam before.  In the next photo, I'm stitching right along that folded edge, just a tiny bit away from the fold -- notice how close my machine needle is to the fold: 

Keep sewing right next to the folded edge, all the way to the end of the seam. Don't forget to do a couple of reverse stitches at the very end of your seam.  Now, here is what your completely finished seam will look like on the OUTSIDE of your garment:

Go and look again at the outside leg seam on a pair of jeans and you'll see that the seam that you just made looks exactly like the seam on the jeans!  Now, if you've been wondering why in the world I am teaching you how to make this kind of seam, here is what that seam on your pj pants should look like on the INSIDE of your fabric:

Notice that there are NO RAW EDGES anywhere.  All of the seam allowances have been completely encased in the stitching.  What this means is that these pj pants, once they're finished, will wash and dry and wear like iron.  This is the ideal seam to use whenever you're sewing something like pajama pants, that will get a lot of hard wear and be washed a lot.  I don't know about your kids, but mine love to lounge around in their sleep pants on the weekend.

Now, go back and finish the seam on the other piece.  After that, give yourself a big pat on the back, because you've just sewn two durable flat-felled seams!!  These are the outer leg seams of your pj pants.  Which brings us to the end of Part 2.  In Part 3, we'll be sewing the INNER leg seams, and we'll be learning another durable seam technique, the French seam.

As before, please feel free to ask questions either here on the blog, or else on the Part 2 thread that I'll start on the 2Peas NSBR board.  And, if you haven't signed up yet to follow this blog, you'll want to do that so that you can be eligible for the giveaway from Riley Blake Designs at the end of the project!!


  1. This is fabulous help. You can replace my 1983 Home Ec teacher any day.

  2. Just finished the seems. They came out nicely for it being my first time trying this technique.