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Hero Vest, Make It Perfect, Tips & Tricks

.Concealed Zipper Tutorial.

A few weeks ago over on the Make It Perfect Sharing Facebook Group there was a bit of discussion about how to make the Hero Vest (kids & women’s) with a completely concealed zipper from the inside of the vest. The way the pattern is written now, the zipper is sewn onto the vest as one of the very last steps, and from the inside of the vest you end up seeing the exposed edge of the zipper tape. While this method is completely fine (hundreds of kid’s Hero Vests have been constructed this way with no complaints!) I knew it would be a much cleaner finish if I could work out a way to conceal the zipper, especially for the Women’s Hero Vest where you might want to wear the zipper partially or fully opened from time to time.

A few group members shared suggestions and I tried out a few ideas of my own, but nothing was hitting the spot. Then one of our lovely group members emailed me and shared her method (which she learned from constructing another jacket) for concealing the zipper, I tried it out and it was awesome! I chose not to include instructions for this method in the pattern because it is a little tricky to get your head around and I felt like it really needed a bit of extra hand-holding and lots of accompanying photographs to help you get the correct finish. But trust me, after you’ve done it once it won’t seem tricky at all and you will be speeding through it in no time! So thankyou Helen, and may there be many more concealed zippers in your Hero Vest sewing!Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialBefore following this tutorial, begin making your vest following Steps 1 & 2 in the Hero Vest pattern. You will also need to follow Step 3, d & e to sandwich the hood between the exterior and lining vests – but don’t worry about attaching the waistband at this point.

To conceal your zipper, you will need to attach the waistband to your vest in a different way than the pattern instructs. 

Take your vest and lay it flat on the floor with right side facing up. As you can see from the following photograph, the exterior and lining vests are joined together here at the neckline, with the finished hood sandwiched between them. For your reference, my exterior fabric is the blue (a french terry knit), lining is the grey (looks more brown in these photos – polar fleece) and ribbing is charcoal.

Take your waistband ribbing piece and, with right side of waistband facing right side of vest, pin waistband to the bottom edge of the exterior vest. You will need to stretch the waistband evenly to fit along the bottom edge of the vest. Sew waistband to the vest along pinned edge using a 1/2″ seam allowance. I have chosen to use a stretch tricot stitch here to make sure that none of my stitches pop when the waistband is stretched in the future. Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialHere is a close-up shot of the waistband attached to the bottom edge of the exterior vest.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialTake the other long side of your waistband ribbing piece and, with right side of waistband facing right side of vest, pin waistband to the bottom edge of the lining vest. Once again, you will need to stretch the waistband evenly to fit along the bottom edge of the lining vest. Sew waistband to the vest along pinned edge using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Again, I used a stretch tricot stitch.

Now your exterior and lining vests will be joined at the top (neckline with hood sandwiched between)  and the bottom (joined to waistband), making a big loop. Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialTurn your vest right sides out and this is what it looks like from the lining side:Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialThis is what it looks like from the exterior:Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialAnd this is what the front edge of the vest looks like – the waistband is folded in half, making the bottom edge of the vest.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialTurn your vest inside out again, with wrong side of lining, waistband and exterior facing out.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialKeeping the vest inside out, You will need to re-create the fold in the bottom edge of the vest as shown below. The waistband is folded in half, with wrong sides together and the raw edge of the bottom of the lining vest needs to line up with the raw edge of the bottom of the exterior vest.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialSo the vest is still inside out, but the wasitband has been folded in half (length-ways) and tucked in between the lining and exterior vests. Make sure that the seam lines on the exterior and lining vests match up and pin into place along the bottom edge of the vest.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialBefore you insert the zipper, you need to baste the bottom edge of the exterior and lining vests together to make things easier as you move onto the next steps. Starting at one side seam (not the front edge of the vest) sew the bottom edge of the vests together using a long, wide zig-zag stitch. It is important that this stitching isn’t seen from the right side of the vest, so keep the zig-zag within the seam allowance (between the stitching line and raw edge shown below).Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialThis is the setting I used for my zig-zag stitch:Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialYou can see in the photo below the row of zig-zag stitch sewn only from one side seam to the other (i.e. only along the back panel of the vest.)Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialHere is a close-up of the zig-zag stitch sitting within the seam allowance:Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialNow that the waistband is attached, it is time to insert the zipper.

Turn your vest right-way out again – this is a good time to check that you can’t see any of your zig-zag stitching on the back panel of the vest. I forgot to take a photo of this part, but open your open-ended zipper part way and fold the extra tape at the top of the zipper down and away from the zipper teeth to the back of the zipper. Baste into place.

Place your zipper on top of your vest so that it is sitting exactly how it will be when you are wearing the vest. Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialPin the top of your zipper to the top of the front edges of the vest. This helps you to know which side of the zipper is attached to which side of the vest when you go to insert it. (You can see how the top edge of the zipper tape is folded back and sewn down in the photo below.) Open up your zipper completely, leaving the two sides pinned to the vest, and turn your vest inside out again.
Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialThis next part is really important, it will make sure that the bottom edge of your zipper sits flush with the bottom folded hem of your vest. Take your waistband (it should be loosely folded in half from the zig-zag stitching you did earlier) and line up the seams joining the waistband to the lining and exterior vests so that they sit directly on top of each other. Then, take a pin and place it in the fold at the bottom of the waistband. This marks the very bottom edge of your vest.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialTake the zipper piece that is pinned to that same side of the vest and with the right side of the zipper facing the right side of the exterior vest, lay the zipper along the front edge of the vest. It is really important to make sure that the bottom of the zipper (with the zipper stop) butts up firmly with the pinned fold mark on the waistband. Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorial(Sorry for flipping the photo around here…hope it doesn’t confuse you!)

Line up the long edge of the zipper tape with the front edge of the vest, sandwiching the zipper between the exterior and lining pieces, and pin into place. I find I get a more accurate finish if I pin the bottom of the zipper into place first, then match up the seams at the top of the waistband and pin the zipper into place there next.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialThen I go to the top (neckline) of the vest and push the top edge of the zipper right up into the join between the exterior and lining pieces and pin into place so that I can be sure that there is no gap between the top of the zipper and the top of the vest.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialThen I pin the rest of the front edges of the vest to the zipper. Remembering the zipper is sandwiched between the exterior and lining vests. And the right side of the zipper faces the exterior, wrong side of the zipper faces the lining. I like to place a pin in the middle of the front edge first, then fill in the gaps in between. If you are working with a knit fabric for your exterior you might find that your fabric has stretched out a bit during all of the handling and will be a little too long for the zipper. If you pin evenly along the front edge it will eliminate big puckers later on when you are sewing your zipper into place.

Just a note here…if your neckline and waistband seam allowances are more or less than 1/2″ you might have trouble fitting your zipper into the front of your vest without any gaps at the top or bottom. If your zipper is just a little too short, you can either slide it up so that you have a bit of a gap between the bottom of the zipper and bottom of the waistband or re-sew along the neckline and bring the stitching at the front edge of the vest down a little to meet the top edge of the zipper. (Bear in mind that this will mean the finished neckline will be a little lower at the front of your vest.)Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialUsing a zipper foot on your sewing machine, sew along the pinned front edge of the vest using a 3/8″-1/2″ seam. When you reach the zipper pull, stop sewing and put your needle down. Lift the presser foot, slide the zipper pull past the foot and continue sewing to make sure that you seam line is nice and straight. My knit fabric was trying to pucker as I sewed so I made sure that I sewed slowly and smoothed out the fabric with my fingers as I went. I ended up with a few tiny puckers but they were easy to smooth and push out with my fingers once I was done.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialTurn your vest right sides out (again!) and you will see one side of your zipper is sewn in! This next step is also really important, I didn’t do it on my first vest and ended up with the seam between my waistband and vest sitting higher on one side than the other. And you don’t want it all wonky-looking!

Rejoin your zipper sides and close your zipper to it sits just a few inches above the seam joining the waistband to the vest. With a chalk pen, pin or some other method of marking draw a line across the zipper tape that sits in line with the seam joining the waistband to the vest. Open up and separate your zipper and turn your vest inside out again.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialFollow the same instructions as above to find the fold in the bottom of your waistband and mark with a pin. Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialPlace the wrong side of your zipper on the right side of your lining with the teeth of the zipper facing into the vest and butt up the bottom of the zipper stop with the pin marked at the bottom fold of the waistband. Pin into place. 

Next you will need to match up the seam joining the exterior and waistband to the line marked on the zipper tape. Make sure that the seam line sits directly on top of the marked line and pin into place. Continue pinning the zipper to the front edge of the vest and sew into place as you did with the other side.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialTurn your vest right side out for the final time and do up your zipper again to make sure everything matches up nicely – the bottom folded edge of the waistband, the seam joining the waistband to exterior and the top of the zipper at the neckline.Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorialLook at the inside of your vest and, ta-da! A completely concealed zipper!Hero Vest concealed zipper tutorial

To finish your vest, follow Step 4, e-j in your Hero Vest instructions.


Make It Perfect, Tips & Tricks

.Know your KNIT fabrics: what to buy, where to buy and how to sew!.

I feel like I need to dedicate a post to my love of knit (stretchy) fabrics. It’s kind of funny, because when I first started getting into sewing clothing I was not a fan of knits at all. It was all quilting cotton, all the time. While I do still love quilting cotton and all that it has to offer, there is only so much that you can do with it when it comes to sewing clothing.

I often get emails from people wanting to know where to buy good quality knits from and asking for tips and tricks when sewing knit fabrics so I’m sure there are many other people who wonder but don’t actually ask! Hopefully this post will be helpful for newbie knit sewers and also for those of you who have more confidence with sewing with knits.

(cowl dress / coastal breeze / mr penguin / hero vest)

I would have to say that more than 50% of my garment sewing is done using knit fabrics now. Once I got over my initial fear of handling knits, knowing what stitches to use on my machines and working out some great places to buy fabrics from I was hooked! If you look in your wardrobe or at your kids clothes, I can pretty much guarantee that most of the clothing that we all wear is made from knit (stretchy) fabrics so it only makes sense that you gain confidence with sewing with knits in order to make clothes that are practical, comfortable and suitable for everyday wear. When you delve into the world of knit sewing you are opening yourself to a huge range of “everyday” clothes from comfortable tshirts to stretchy skirts and dresses to leggings. Because knit fabrics are stretchy, you very rarely have to use zippers, buttons or other closures to get them over your body! And if that’s not enough to entice you…clothing sewn with knit fabrics need hardly any ironing at all (yay!!!)

When I first started sewing with knits I was pretty clueless. My first few projects were a bit wonky but I learned a lot from them! Now that I have had a bit of practise I love sewing with knits, they are really simple and get worn so much. I have done a lot of research, shopping around and through lots of trial and error here’s a summary of what I know about buying and sewing with knits…

First of all, I want to talk a bit about the quality of knit fabrics…I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the sewing game to save money! (Does anyone actually save money by sewing? Maybe if you are buying fabric from the op-shop!) but really, this hobby can churn through the dollars if you aren’t careful! For me, sewing clothing isn’t about saving time or money, but is about creating unique items that are exactly how I want them. If I want cheap clothes then I’ll go to Target for some instant satisfaction! Personally I don’t see the point in spending so much time sewing clothes using poor-quality fabrics. I want my handmade clothing to last and still look good wash after wash and using good quality fabrics is the only way to do that. Having said that, you can sometimes get lucky and pick up good-quality fabrics at a decent price. 

Also, be aware that good quality knits are more expensive than most woven fabrics. But remember that they are always extra wide (150cm +) so take that into account when comparing with fabric that is only 100cm wide. Out of 1m of knit fabric I can make a top for myself or a couple of tops for the kids so it really isn’t that expensive when you think about it.

(skippy / joey / basic tees: spy top)

If you are first starting out with knits then I’d suggest sticking with a cotton jersey or interlock fabric. I’m personally not a fan of interlock fabric because it tends to stretch out of shape after awhile, but I’m happy to use it when the hems of the garment (sleeve cuffs, hem, neckband, etc.) are out of a contrast fabric which is going to hold it in shape. Interlock is really easy to sew with because the cut edges of the fabric don’t roll up. Cotton jersey knits with about 5% elastine or lycra are my favourite knits to work with. Once you feel confident sewing with knits then you might want to test out some other fabric types – and there are heaps more to try!

I know I harp on about good quality fabric all the time…by “good” I mean they wash and wear well – don’t
pill or fade, are a decent weight (thickness), and have a good recovery. (Recovery is the amount of bounce-back you get when you stretch your fabric and then
let it go.) If you sew with dodgy quality knits then you are pretty much guaranteed to have a bad experience.

(skippy / hoddie top / ninja baby)

This information is mostly applicable to Australian
sewers. We just don’t have the range of shops and fabric choices as are
avaliable in the US so it can be a bit tricky trying to work out where
to buy knits from to get the best quality at the best price. I manage to
source some great knit fabrics though and want to share my secrets with
you here!

Where I live in Tasmania there are no brick and mortar stores to purchase knit fabrics so I have to rely solely on online shopping.  This can be a bit tricky when shopping for knits as you really need to see and feel fabrics to know exactly what they are going to be like. After lots of trial and error (yeah, I put in the hard yards shopping – haha!) Here are some of my favourite places to purchase knits online:

My first port of call when I’m looking for new knits is Crafty Mamas. Lisa (CM owner) works like a trojan and is always stocking her store with the most amazing knits. She specialises in European knits and let me warn you now…once you start sewing with European knits nothing else will compare! I was a little spoiled when I first started my knit fabric stash and stocked up on lots of European knits and it has made me extra picky about the quality of other knits that I purchase now! If you want top quality though, you can always rely on European knits to save the day. Look out for brands like Lillestoff, Hilco, ZNOCK, Okeo-Tex and Nosh. Eurpoean knits tend to be pretty trendy and a bit quirky so are great if you are looking for something different. If you see something you like then you better get in quick because new stock is always arriving and once a particular print is gone then it might not be ordered again. Crafty Mamas also stock other great knits too, lots of solids and some Aussie made. I like this shop because they NEVER scrimp on quality I can be sure to get excellent fabric.

When I am looking for a particular European knit and Crafty Mamas doesn’t have it in stock, then I’ll check out Dawanda. Dawanda is a type of Etsy platform for European sellers. It can be a little tricky to get your head around, because not everything is in English so it takes a bit of guessing or interpreting! This is the only shop that I have ever bought from and I have always been happy with their service – prompt and clear communication. Make sure you set the currency to your country so that you can see what you will be paying and keep in mind that Dawanda stores do not accept direct Paypal paments. You have to purchase Dawanda vouchers (using your Paypal account) and you can then use the vouchers to make purchases from any stores on Dawanda. Also, the price quoted isn’t always the price you will pay – usually I end up paying a little less because Australians don’t have to pay the VAT tax which is included in the price. You actually don’t make any payments until the seller has confirmed the total price for your order and then you can make changes before committing though. Anyway, it’s quite messy and not very straightforward, I don’t use it often but if I’m looking for a particular fabric I will muddle through the system.
This is the only US store that I will purchase knit fabrics from because they have excellent postage rates. To buy knits from anywhere else you are paying around $25 postage for 3-4 yards. is way cheaper than that and have a huge range of knits. Usually I will stick with the designer collections because I can be sure of the quality I am getting…Riley Blake knits are great, as are Robert Kaufman Laguna, Heather Ross jerseys and Liberty of London. (Once I did splurge and buy a couple of yards of this beautiful Liberty of London knit and I don’t think I will cut into it for a long time!) is HUGE and can be quite overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you are looking for. I haven’t delved much into the non-designer knits yet because there are just too many to sort through and I don’t want to risk getting stuck with a dud but I might test out a few in the future!

(horray! / hero vest / 30-minute skirt / comfy baby)

Ixat is run by an Aussie (I think?) living in South Korea and she manages to get her hands on lots of funky and interesting knits. Shipping takes a long time (4-6 weeks) but they do offer lots of knits that you won’t find anywhere else. Everything I have bought from them is good quality so far, a couple of knits were a bit thinner than I expected but that’s probably because I’m comparing them with European knits. They also have a sister store: IXAT Extra.

Occasionally I’ll buy European knits from the Ottobre store on Etsy. These fabrics are pretty expensive though so I’ll only only buy from them if I am desperate and can’t find what I am after anywhere else.

Although you can’t purchase fabric online from Spotlight, most
newbie sewers will probably head into their local Spotlight to source
knit fabrics. Personally, I haven’t had much success finding good
quality knit fabrics in these big chain stores. I always check out what
is avaliable when I go in and don’t usually walk out with anything
stretchy at all. I have bought a few knits from Spotlight that end up
being good but I have also bought a few that aren’t very good quality
and let me down later on. Because of this, I tend to steer away from
buying knits from Spotlight – but with the trend of sewing with knits
picking up, it might not take them long to catch on and start offering
some better quality fabrics. Spotlight doesn’t offer online shopping on
fabrics which is probably a good thing because you really need to see
and feel the fabrics before buying so that you know what the quality is

I think I need to mention Girl Charlee here because I have purchased knit fabric from them in the past and I’m sure you see their fabric plastered all over sewing blogs. Personally, I have not been happy with the quality of fabric I have purchased from them and after a couple of orders I stopped buying from them altogether. Everything was thin and flimsy, lots of fabrics ended up pilling and usually the recovery of the fabric was really poor. BUT the fabric is cheap and there is heaps to choose from so that’s why so many people sew with it – remember you get what you pay for though and I’m not keen to shop with them much anymore. I did recently purchase some swimwear fabric from them which seemed okay though but I don’t have much to compare it with yet.

So, those are the main ones that I look at when shopping online – hopefully a new one or two for you to check out. If you have a favourite online store to share then leave a comment for others to see!

(spy top / summer suits / baby stripes / basic tees)

I’m going to give you my top tips for sewing with knit fabric. There are so many posts on so many blogs that share tips for knit sewing success and they all vary slightly. This is really an area where you have to do a bit of figuring out and playing around for yourself to find out what your personal preference is for sewing with knits. And most importantly – get to know your machines! I’ve got a few sewing machines and they all handle knits differently so you really have to test your stitches and machines out first.

If you own an overlocker (serger) then use that for all of your inside seams when sewing with knits. An overlocker really speeds things up and makes light work of sewing with knits because you can sew, trim and finish the seams all in one go. BUT…if you don’t have an overlocker then you can still have great success sewing with knits using your sewing machine!

I own a great overlocker now, but my previous overlocker was really old and temperamental and didn’t always do what it was supposed to do. After a lot of frustration, I gave up using it to sew knits with and have had awesome results just using my sewing machine. It took a lot of trial and error to work out which stitches were the best to use on my sewing machine with knit fabric. Before you start on your knit sewing, I would strongly recommend that you read through your sewing machine manual (boring, I know!) to see which stitches are suited for stretch fabrics and testing those stitches on some fabric to see which ones you like the look of and how well they stretch with the fabric when it is pulled.

After you have discovered what your machine is capable of, then make a simple tshirt to test some stitches out on. If you have a child to sew for, then make the tshirt for them (you could try my Basic Tees pattern) as kids really put their clothes to the test with lots of stretching seams and hems! Make sure that the tshirt is worn and washed a lot so that you can see how the stitches last over time. 

(joey / joey / skippy)

Every machine is different and what works well for someone else may not work for you. For example, I know that lots of people love using a double needle to hem their knits but my double needle stitching always seems to pop and break after a few wears so I never use it any more. But it might work for you, so if you like the look of it, then try it out! And don’t despair, if it doesn’t work for you, there are lots of options you can try!

Here are some of the most popular stitches suitable for stretch sewing using your sewing machine and their pros and cons (refer to Figure 1. for an example of each stitch):

These are my favourite stitches when sewing with knits on my sewing machine:

  • I use a stretch tricot stitch for all of my seams that will not be visible from the outside of the garment. 
  • For most of my topstitching that will be seen from the outside of the garment, I use a triple straight stitch on my sewing machine. I like to use this stitch when I’m sewing binding down from the front of the garment too. 
  • I love using the mock cover hem stitch when hemming garments.  
  • If there is ever any decorative topstitching to be done then I like to use a honeycomb stitch.
Phew! You made it to the end!! I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for ages now, but kept putting it off because I knew how long it would be!
I hope this information is helpful to anyone delving into the world of knit sewing or for those of you wanting to find a few more sources for purchasing knit fabrics.
If you have any personal sewing preferences or other favourite stores to purchase knit fabric then leave a comment with your thoughts – I would love to hear from you and I’m sure other readers will be interested in what you have to say too!
Ottobre, Tips & Tricks

.Ottobre Design Age/Size Guide.

I made this print-out a few months ago when I was finding it difficult to select the size of Ottobre Design patterns. All of the pattern sizing in the Ottobre magazines is given by height measurement. Which is great if you have your kids avaliable to measure against, but most of my sewing takes place when they are at school or in bed so I’m usually stuck because I forget to measure them in advance! Then when I was doing lots of baby sewing, I was really confused by the sizing given and didn’t know what was going to fit, but it turns out this size guide has worked really well.  

So, if you’re stuck with sizing, hopefully this will help. Click on the image below to get the A4 image to print out and stick it with your Otto magazines for quick and easy reference!