Buttonholes & hems?

You know… the kind of thing you have to do when you make clothes.  Those things you wear… those things that some of us used to make.  And actually wear!

Back in the day.  Did you ever make garments?  For dozens of reasons, many of us don’t do it any longer – time, convenience, fit, style, fit, cost, fit and so on.  Fit – that was always the double-whammy… changing the fit of a pattern is time-consuming but once you get it right, the clothes fit in a way that store-bought clothes rarely do.

But sewing clothes is getting popular again.  And I’ve found that the things I make always last longer.  (Even when I’d rather they not…)

What I also notice is that so many of the shirts, dresses and skirts I see in stores and catalogs can be made with the same fabric I can find in quilt shops.  (And the Sample Room.)

This dress is from Anthropologie.

What about this print from Feedsacks: True Blue by Linzee McCray?

This print would also make a great skirt – something like this one from Anthropologie.

Summer tops.  With the heat and humidity in Dallas, this top from Urban Outfitters is very appealing.

Especially in a lovely, soft cotton.

This is from Crystal Manning’s Painted Garden.

Anthropologie’s Tiered Gingham Dress… let’s make this with the Gingham from Bonnie & Camille Basics.

I think a summer dress like that would also be wonderful in this print from Wild Nectar by Crystal Manning.

Retro.  Vintage.  Funky.

Finding similar sewing patterns isn’t too hard – that can be done online.  From the big pattern companies most of us grew up with – Simplicity, Butterick, McCall’s, Burda and Vogue – to the newer “indie” patterns from independent companies, often offered in both paper and PDF formats.

For a listing of Independent Pattern Companies, here are several listings:

I don’t know which pattern I’ll use yet but I just might have to make a shirt like this one from J. Crew.

I know!  It’s not white.  (If you know me at all, you’re shocked.  And you won’t believe it until you see it with your own two eyes… or reliable photographic evidence.)

I would this from Regent Street Lawns 2018.

Or this one…

So wish me luck while I go in search of a pattern and the sewing machine foot for buttonholes.

Do you have any tips?  Did you ever make clothing?  Do you still do that?

Happy Tuesday!

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40 thoughts on “Buttonholes & hems?

  1. I was born 6 feet tall so yes I made my clothes. Well, I wasn’t actually born 6 feet tall, of course, but I was 5’10” by sixth grade so my mother taught me how to sew. Altering a pattern was critical, and I seemed to gravitate towards patterns that really didn’t lend themselves to altering for a longer torso. But I did it anyway and learned lots. Stay-stitching, bound buttonholes, inset pockets, flannel-backed satin for lining coats, neck bands…many of these techniques have fallen by the wayside, but they all had value and added something to the garment. Making your own clothes is a glorious journey, and I wish you lots of fun along the way. Not to mention some amazing clothes to wear!

    1. Hi Barb – LOL! We were born tall… it just took a few years for us to get to our final destinations. (I stopped at 5’10”.) I learned to sew for the same reason – pants that weren’t long enough, shirts with too-short sleeves, etc. The sad part of some of the techniques you mentioned going by the wayside is that they can be useful for quilts. Stay-stitching – I started adding that to the outside edge of quilts because I like pieced borders. Folks thought I was nuts… now it’s a common thing. Bound buttonholes and inset pockets – a great technique for zippers on bags.

      1. Me too! Born 6 feet tall! I had to make my own clothes all through high school and beyond….until off the rack clothing finally became available in my length. I haven’t sewn clothes for a few decades now, but I’m tiptoeing back into the fray.

  2. Oh how this brings back memories of bygone days, when I needed to sew, if I wanted something new to wear! So often the finished product, did not look like I envisioned – oh the frustration; but looking back, I’m still amazed at the cute cloths I once sewed – and how my wardrobe ‘wishes’ consisted of Pattern Numbers, not ticked pages in a catalogue :)!

  3. I learned to sew in school and made some lovely cotton dresses for my self. I still sew clothing, mostly shirts for my husband. He loves the novelty prints. It started because we were going on a crafting cruise and he didn’t have any Hawaiian shirts. So we selected tropical fish, a manatee, and a lizard print fabrics and a pattern. I quickly made 3 shirts with wild matching buttons and a trend was born. Turned out he loved the shirts for bowling. I’ve made about 3 dozen shirts using this same pattern in a dizzying array of prints and specialty buttons including penguins and polar bears. I even made 10 shirts all the same fabric for his bowling teams. I’ve shortened and hemmed a wedding gown for one niece and sewed silky fabric blouses and scrubs for another. It’s wonderful to have an item to wear that no one else will have. I hope to make a quilted jacket and a light-weight top using double gauze for the summer, if I can find the time between quilt tops and novelty print shirts 🙂

    1. WesternNYLady…which pattern do you use for your hubsand’s shirts? That sounds like something my hubby and son would love…and maybe something I could actually sew! 😉

  4. Carrie, try patterns from Grainline Studio – the Archer shirt with variations is well thought out and
    there are tutorials for some patterns.

    1. Jocelyn! Great minds! I have the Archer pattern and the PDF for the variations. I’ve always loved placket-popover style shirts, I used to make them frequently. If you have any others to recommend, please let me know!

  5. I used to make nearly all my kids clothes when they were little & not so little. It’s like knitting. For kids the fit isn’t crucial. Been wanting to make myself some blouses. Bought some gorgeous fabric last summer in a quilt shop & im going to do it this spring! My mom made all our clothes when we were small out of necessity. 3 boys had the cutest trousers! And my dresses were adorable.

  6. Oh my! I actually made the pink dress on the pattern, back in 1961! I have sewed since I was in 7th grade and took the required “Home Ec” classes. I have made my own clothes for years and graduated to sewing for my hubby and the 3 kids; swimming shorts, p.j.’s, winter jackets, spring coats, Christening gown, wedding dress, prom dress, doll clothes, a Nehru jacket for my young son and the list goes on. There isn’t much that I haven’t made, but now instead of “saving” money by sewing clothes, I “spend” money on “stashes” of fabric for quilting. (I have been known to store the “overflow” in my car!)

  7. Great post – I was the opposite from Barb – 4 foot 11 inches – everything had to be altered from sleeves to length – so it was much easier to start from scratch. My mother made my skirts and dresses and taught me but they were always simple designs. When I started working, I took a few fitting classes and Nancy Zieman’s fitting books were my go to always. I sewed my work wardrobe. When everyone was wearing their Calvins (dating myself) I sewed my first pair of jeans that fit.

  8. I learned to sew in 4-H. I got a couple of blue ribbons due to my mother’s perfectionism but it wasn’t fun. Started up again when I had babies (TALL BABIES) thinking I could learn as they grew. Lots of long dresses, shorts and Halloween costumes. I did dress up clothes for birthday presents which their friends enjoyed. Alas, they stopped thinking it was cool to wear something Mom made so I started quilting instead. I still get an occasional request from them; baby buntings, crib sheets, curtains for 8 foot windows. My daughter started sewing when she was 7and raided my quilt fabric for her projects. With a little one and a small apartment, she is longing for the day she can sew again. Sewing is such a wonderful enjoyable skill.

  9. I’d been thinking of making a top using quilt fabric and now, you’ve given me ideas for the prints to use. Sewing clothes was a hobby when I was in high school since I was short. Petite was not a category then. I sewed clothes for my younger sister and my granddaughter. Now it’s mostly quilts and crafts that occupy my time. Thanks for the post!

  10. I sewed my own clothing throughout junior high and high school. Other girls would ask me where I bought a cool shirt, and I would smile and say “I made it myself!” As a senior in high school I even made a 3-piece suit for my boyfriend. Years later, I made many of the clothes my 3 daughters wore, especially after I bought a serger. What a time saver! These days, the only garments I make are scrub tops for myself for work.

  11. My mother made all the clothes I wore until junior high. We would sit at her beautiful Singer machine (a meticulously cared-for wedding present) and she would teach me how to use every attachment and follow every construction instruction (or not). Then she turned me loose to make my own wardrobe. I made every article of clothing except undies and socks until I left for college. I even made outerwear, with the challenges of wool, denim, snaps, buttons, lapels, flanges, vents, oh my! I lost interest in sewing with the hustle and bustle of college, not to mention lack of space. I switched to more portable crafts like crochet, knitting and cross stitch. Funny, now that I have time on my hands and grandkids, I have no desire to sew clothing any more. I love making quilts and some home decor items, but even bag making is a labor of love, not something I truly embrace. I’m working on it….

  12. My mother taught me to sew… I am oldest … she still talks about the button down collared shirt I made when I was 9 oh an cuffed sleeves … I owe it all to her… I never stopped sewing … now grandbaby dresses and lots of quilts !!

  13. I used to love making my own clothes from as early as grade seven. I ended up working in a fabric stire which was a fabulous job for me. I even made my own weddind dress. It was beautiful and it cost me $ 100.00 total. I make curtains now when I beed any. I have quite the fabric stash that I plan on making a quilt from and anything that comes to mind. I love sewing! ❤️

  14. I used to sew my own clothing back in junior high and high school, I so loved having unique, one of a kind outfits. Made myself and others many bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses,etc. My kids always had cool Halloween costumes – once my son wanted to be a battery! I had the confidence (that I don’t seem to have now) that I could make beautiful garments that fit . Sewing and designing quilts is more relaxing. They always fit!

  15. I made all my clothes back in the 70s and 80s mainly because I have long arms and I could never find blouses and shirts to fit, especially important when I lived up north. I slowly gravitated to using my sewing skills to quilt making so I rarely sew clothing anymore, although when my daughter was growing up in the 90s I made all her Halloween costumes.

  16. I have sewn clothes and still do. Don’t even get me started on the array of adorable clothes for little people, but I also make costumes for Halloween and period clothing for my son who does Renaissance Fairs, Revolutionary War re-enactments and now Cowboy quick shooting.

  17. I grew to 5′ 8″, longer torso, adjusted patterns, made my first skirt in 7th grade. Made lots of clothes, sewed with wool, then went through the polyester craze, back to linens, and cottons. I made Russ a couple of sports coats in our early married years when we couldn’t afford much extra, because we were always saving. My mom taught me to sew, she was a perfectionist, besides she worked and was not a stay at home mom. Part of sewing was unsewing to do it correctly. Yes to stay stitching and I’ve made bound buttonholes. I’m so very lucky to have had this journey that finally included quiltmaking, then I got to teach my mom the process. I would like permanent press cotton for shirts now, I never liked to iron, but of course I ironed clothes, we had to then. Great topic!

  18. I’m at the opposite end — 4’10”. Sewed from about 10 years old. From junior high and up (almost) until retirement, made most of my clothes, including evening wear and tailored suits. It was fun at the time, but not now. It’s mostly jeans, tees and sweats for retirement! =)

  19. I am from a family of 6 girls and 1 boy (the youngest) Mom started teaching us all to sew clothing in 1st grade. The 1st store bought item (except sock and underwear) was a Prom Dress from my oldest sister when she was a Junior in High school. Mom was in the Hospital and not able to sew her dress.
    A skill I will always treasure. In high school I started working and buying most of my clothing from department stores. I wore a Uniform skirt and white blouse for 2 years in High School which did solve the problem of what to wear today! I’ve been quilting for 20 years now and have a very large stash of quilting fabrics. I’ve recently lost 40 lbs and have a pile of store bought clothing that I am going to try my hand at altering these to fit me once again.

    1. Congratulations! Needing to alter clothes to a smaller size is a lovely, satisfying task. And I agree – knowing how to sew is a skill that I will always treasure too. 🙂

  20. I started as a garment sewer, doll garments to be exact. I started sewing garments for me when I was nine. At one time I sewed everything my family wore except underwear. I have done bound button holes, lined jackets, Hong Kong finishes on seams etc etc.. Fit is always the thing and now I love the loose easy fitting garment patterns. The Sewing Workshop has fabulous patterns. Now all I need is time. Does anyone know where we can buy some of that?

  21. I babysat and taught piano lessons in junior high school and high school to get the funds to buy my fabric for sewing my clothes. It was great fun. I loved the kids and I loved sewing. I found bargain bins for little bits of fabric when my children were small to sew their clothes on our tiny budget. The kids looked so great! I even learned how to sew jeans by making a pattern from an existing pair of jeans from the store. I even managed to sew my own finger when making a fake Izod alligator. I decided to get another tetanus shot after that experience. Oh, the fun days! Once we started getting much cheaper clothing from China, I was teaching full time and simply didn’t have the time for garment sewing. However, when my daughter was engaged, I sewed all the bridesmaid dresses. I wanted a perfect fit. I got it!

    I sometimes yearn to sew for myself again, but so far I only quilt now. Thank you for the very fun read!

  22. I feel quite marginalized by this post. I solely sew garments, but follow Moda. You present garment sewing as if it’s quaint and old-fashioned. There is a huge and vibrant online sewing community and it would be good business to reach out to them. This post wasn’t the way to go about it, though.

  23. I started hand sewing Barbie doll clothes, then my own through high school and college. Sewed my wedding gown and later took a tailering class and made my husband a sport coat which he actually wore. Not sure when I stopped sewing garments, but I have been quilting for more than 25 years.

  24. My mom sewed all my clothes when I was in elementary school and I still remember several of her creations. My favorite was a corduroy jumper with a coordinating blouse with a matching jacket lined in the blouse fabric. I took a beginning sewing class from the local Singer store when I was 10 and mom taught me the rest. I sewed all through junior high, high school and college. Followed Nancy Zieman on PBS for decades and then got back into sewing Halloween costumes for my daughter. She and her boyfriend even requested Dracula style capes when they were graduate students. I think part of the problem for me with garment sewing was the fact that it became so difficult to find quality garment fabric. That seems to be changing now for the better, unfortunately my local high schools stopped teaching sewing in the 1990’s!

  25. I sew dresses and skirts for myself and an occasional pair of pajama pants or shorts. I also make historical clothing for reenactment events. I am killer with handstitching eyelet holes but I hate putting in zippers or modern buttonholes. So I tend to do patterns that don’t have them. I do about half Quilting and half garment sewing over the course of a year.

  26. I enjoyed looking at the fashions from gone by days. I do wish there were stylish children or younger girls patterns offered today.

  27. If you are on the curvier side, try the patterns from Cashmerette. I am infatuated with the wrap dress (I’ve made 3 so far)…and she has a lovely princess seamed buttondown that is next up on my table after I finish my latest quilt.

    1. I’ve made 4 of the Harrison shirt. Great pattern! I love Cashmerette patterns. A couple of the shirts are actually in quilting cotton I bought for a quilt. :0). They’re great and nice and cool to wear in 100% cotton. I love ironing so that isn’t a problem for me.

  28. There are quite a few Indy designers that have awesome patterns with lots of instruction in them. I’ve sewn for 55 years (clothing and quilts) and still learn new things from these young designers that I scratch my head and wonder why I didn’t think of the new to me ways of doing things. I do use quilting cottons for a few things I make. Good quality lighter weight quilting cotton is awesome for clothing. Check out Cashmerette as tanagriz suggests above. the Liesl & Co. Classic Shirt is great too and she has another version that is fancier that I haven’t tried yet. I just finished two classic shirts in flannel that I got at my local quilt shop. I’m in Canada and it’s cold here right now! Next up is the Ginger Jeans from Closet Case Patterns. She has a sew along and an online class that thousands of people have followed to successfully sew jeans. I have a quilt on the go and will do these in between. When/if I get frustrated I can always go back to my quilt for a couple hours. :0)

  29. Well I didn’t read all the above replies so I hope this isn’t a repeat..:) I recently came across a blog by a lady who sews all her clothing! The blog is goodbyetvalentino by Susan Gunn . Follow this link for more about her and her sewing adventure. https://www.schmetzneedles.com/sarah-gunn-life-force-behind-goodbye-valentino/ Very inspiring and interesting!
    I learned to sew as a kid, my mom made ALL of our clothes…from pajamas to our wedding dresses, she was and is amazing! I made all of our girls clothes for years, have made MANY bridesmaid dresses, curtains, and even made a wool sports coat for my husband years ago. Now I sew for the grandchildren: pjs,dresses,purses,crafty things, babydoll clothes, pillows…all the “normal” stuff and I do lots of quilting 🙂 ( CURRENTLY WORKING ON :Moda Blockheads, Triangle Gatherings, Sewing A Village to name a few LOL) . I have found a few skirt patterns for me that are my go-to. I couldn’t see paying 80 to 100 dollars for a skirt at Talbots when I knew I could make it for FAR less. The trick is making that first “prototype” and then finding the right fabric! There is an online shop that is mentioned on Susan Gunn’s site that has many beautiful fabrics. She features many of her outfits on her blog that she constructed from fabric purchased there.
    Enjoy your adventure and I look forward to seeing what you end up making! 🙂

  30. I was raised by a mom who sewed almost all of our clothes, suits for my Dad, lined draperies, pageant gowns, wedding gowns. I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I remember envying the girls with the Bobbie Brooks clothes from The May Company! (If that means anything to you, you know how old I am!) But I learned from her, and made a lot of my own and my children’s clothes, and every time I buy ready made draperies or curtains I regret it because the quality is so poor compared to the ones I have made myself. I have not sewed clothing for myself in a while–for years I sewed mostly colorguard flags and costumes–and then fell in love with quilting. But garment sewing is calling to me again–I have recently picked up a few patterns for myself in quilt shops! The jacket pattern is one I have seen featured in quilting fabrics in several quilt stores, and there seem to be more indie patterns in quilt stores that make the construction so easy. These new designers are writing the instructions for people who haven’t sewn clothing, and maybe weren’t ever taught how things “must be done”, and I am learning some great stuff from them! Will be looking up Cashmerette…

  31. I learned to sew at a very young age. My mother didn’t sew cut encouraged me. She would actually come home with fabric that she thought I might like. (I guess I inherited that stashing gene.) I quit sewing clothes when my career took off and time became an issue. But I’ve been thinking about dabbling in that again, maybe starting with PJ pants? Those would be easy enough – I think – and there’s no zipper!

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