sewing improvement

Make Some Pocket Extenders for Your Pants

So I don’t know about you, but I’m often frustrated by the ridiculous smallness of girls’ pockets. At a bare minimum, I need to be able to shove my cellphone in there - come on, pants companies! So what I started doing was making myself pocket extenders. I’ve done this several times, for pants and shorts. It’s great.

I just got this pair of jeans, so I thought I’d show you how to do it. I kind of feel like it just hasn’t occurred to some of you that this is an option, so maybe now it will. All you need is your pants, some fabric (I just took a random piece from a scrap bin), a needle, and some thread (thread doesn’t even need to match the fabric since literally no one will see it).

See? Ridiculous. Like, half a cellphone, or only 2.5″. Useless.

 So turn those inside out to expose the pockets.

Figure out how big you want your pockets to actually be. I kinda go by whatever looks like might be right. I didn’t really measure them. Fold the fabric in half, so you have a pocket, and then fold it in half again so you can have two equal ones.

Try to get the edges to line up enough, pin it in place, then sew up the sides! Are your stitches crazy uneven and wonky looking? Doesn’t matter; nobody’s going to see it. These are in the inside of your pants. The only thing that matters is that it holds up. So I double-did the corners, since those tend to get the most stress.

Cut open the bottom of the existing pockets.

Pin it in place, then sew around, joining the new pocket to the old pocket. I did this by keeping my hand on the inside, so I wouldn’t accidentally sew through the other side. Again, I reinforced the corners, and didn’t worry about what it actually looks like. Then I turned it in side out to make sure the inside was all joined properly.

Yay all done! And the pockets are so much bigger now!

Whaaaat I can fit my entire phone and entire hand and probably something else now, are girls’ pockets even allowed to do that?! Heck yeah they are.

A lot of people don’t believe me when I say that I’ve only been sewing for a little over 3 years. Previous to that I had only really ever sewn plushies, pajama pants or pillows during Guide Guide workshops aka I could put fabric through a machine and sew in (sort of) straight lines but not much else. I had never used a clothing pattern before, I had never used anything other than a basic straight stitch, and I had never bought fabric. October 2012 was the first time I ever sewed any garments completely from scratch and those were my Fushimi from [K] vest and coat and now this October (2015) I will be competing at the Master’s level for cosplay craftsmanship. So I figured I’d give a short rundown of how I taught myself how to sew and how I improved.

1) I watched a lot of Project Runway (the earlier seasons… Annnndreeee, where is Annnndreee?). While this didn’t help much in actual sewing, it got me familiar with a whole lot of terminology and types of fabric and outfits. Plus it also showed me where people tended to take shortcuts and when those shortcuts tended to fail. 

2) I got a very basic sewing machine and I READ THE ENTIRE USER MANUAL. I started off on a Singer Simple which was a gift from my parents (who actually bought it 2 years earlier but never gave it to me thinking I’d never use it… HA!) and I went through every single English page of that user manual. I became familiar with all the parts of my machine, how to thread it, how to change bobbins, how to clean it, how to fix jams, all the different stitch types, and I practiced sewing a bunch of random stitches on scrap pieces of fabric just to see what they looked like and how they changed when I changed different tension settings.

3) I got a basic sewing book (from like 1965… it’d probably better to get an updated/current book) that acted as a glossary of sewing terms. I had no idea what 50% of the stitches I needed to use were called so this became very useful later when I bought my first pattern.

4) I bought my first patterns and chose something fairly simple to start off with which was a lined vest (followed by an immensely more difficult jacket). I went with Simiplicity patterns after doing a lot of googling for the most new-user-friendly patterns.

5) Then I FOLLOWED THE PATTERN INSTRUCTIONS. It seems like an obvious step but even now I sometimes skip a step and then later regret it. Everything the pattern said I needed, I bought. I bought the specific types of fabric, interfacing, thread, buttons, I did not deviate from their suggestions for the first trial run. Then I read through the pattern instructions, cut out all the corresponding pieces for my size and got to work. The key was to work slowly and re-read things as I went. I also used my sewing book and google to help better explain some of the instructions that were not 100% clear to me just starting out. I also looked up youtube video tutorials on how to iron seams, sew darts, properly clip curved edges, sew button holes, and finish inside seams. Research, research, research!

6) To re-iterate: TAKE YOUR TIME. Slow and steady wins the race. It took me probably a solid 4 days to sew a very simple vest that would probably take me maybe a couple hours now but damn it was one of the cleanest looking vests I had ever sewn. I made sure not to rush anything and gave myself lots of time.

7) I kept practicing. The more I sewed, the more familiar I became with how garments were put together and where I could change things to better fit my size or how to alter things to better fit the garment I was trying to create. I experimented whenever I could on scrap fabric to see what would and would not work for stitching and ironing.

3 years later and I can now draft my own patterns and sew dozens of different types of garments with dozens of fabric types. I would attribute 90% of my learning experience to taking it slow at first and researching as I went. I didn’t allow any guesswork on the first couple of projects I worked on because how would I ever learn if I didn’t look into how something was properly done? Google, youtube, tutorial blogs (wink wink), reference books, and pattern instructions are you friends, do not take them for granted. 

Pictured at the top on the left is the first Kirishiki vest I (rush) sewed in July 2012 without following instructions and trying to do it myself. The vest on the right is from December 2012 after I decided to take my time and follow instructions and actually learn while I was sewing. You can improve 100% just by taking your time, doing some research and following the instructions.

Bonus: What I bought for my sewing starter kit

  1. A green rotary/cutting mat. They can be really expensive but I have been using my large mat for 3 years straight and it works wonders at not only protecting the surface you are working on, but giving you a nice sturdy pinning and cutting surface that is self-healing and doesn’t get destroyed by pins and exacto knives.
  2. 1 large and 1 small pair of orange handled sewing scissors.
  3. A 6" x 24" clear sewing ruler.
  4. A pack of white/blue fabric pencils.
  5. A box of standard pins, plus a pin cushion.
  6. A pack of extra bobbins.
  7. A pack of standard sewing needles for hand-sewing.
  8. A pack of standard sewing needles for my machine.
  9. An iron and mini ironing board. 

Happy sewing!

-Heather

When Luna Lovegood is twelve years old, she finds a box full of her mother’s clothes buried in a closet. None of the garments fit her, and almost all bear holes and scorch marks from her mother’s experiments, but Luna salvages what she can. She teaches herself to sew by hand, and pieces scraps together to fashion patchwork robes, as well as dresses and skirts.

Luna’s first attempts are messy and unpolished, with fraying edges and uneven stitches. She wears them with pride, despite her classmates’ teasing, because it’s like carrying a piece of her mother with her.

By fourth year, Luna’s sewing skills have improved enough for her to sew a quilt. After the battle at the Department of Mysteries, when Luna begins to have nightmares for the first time since she was a small child, she wraps it tightly around herself and tries to remember the feeling of being held in her mother’s arms.

Scraps of fabric in every color find their way into the rainbow of Luna’s wedding gown, and Pandora is there to walk her daughter down the aisle. When Luna’s sons are born, she takes apart her first clumsily-sewn garments, and sews the pieces, along with scraps of clothes she and Rolf wore as children, into two small blankets for them.

As she watches her children grow, Luna begins to find pieces of her mother in each of them, like picking out bits of cloth in a quilt of many colors. She sees her in Lorcan’s silver-blue eyes and endless curiosity, in Lysander’s easy smile and quiet compassion, and she remembers words spoken to her long ago: “Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

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Art improvement meme! This first plush was when I tried to make my own patterns. The only fabric I had was some white and blue cotton. I’m not sure where the fabric came from but I made due with what I had.

This is an example of improvement in both sewing skill and drafting patterns. I started making original patterns from simple shapes such as spheres, cones, and cylinders. Over time my spacial perception increased and I’m now able to form rough drafts in my heads depending on the shape I’m looking for. I used to be flabbergasted by the idea of how people came up with patterns but with practice I was able to make them as well.

I don’t think it took all that long for my craftsmanship to improve compared to how I drafted patterns.

image sources:

Image 1

Image 2

My first attempt and newest attempt at princess serenity from sailor moon. The one on the left is like 2009’s attempt. I loved that cosplay back then but after seeing pictures I ended up not liking it anymore and wouldn’t wear it again.Flash forward to 2013 for the right…If I ever get down on myself about not being super awesome at cosplay I look at these two and see how far my sewing has come and how much better  my new serenity looks verses 4 years ago.