Category Archives: Tips for Sewing Your Own Gear

Make A Bike Jersey

CB with the the Liberace jersey

CB with the the Liberace jersey

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(this post is resurrected from a page on the old site.)

To make a cycling jersey, I am assuming you will have some basic sewing skills. If you need a reference, the Singer books on active wear, sergers and stretch fabrics are all very good. For the most part, just follow pattern directions on the suggested patterns, but please review my notes for ideas and tips.

Where to get everything? Use mail order sources. Chances are slim to none that your local chain store will carry anything that you need for these projects. If you have a better independent store, ask if you don’t see what you need.

Suggested fabrics are wicking supplex, Malden Powerdry, wicking polyester knits. See the sources page for mail order retailers. If you want contrast patterns for your jerseys, swim lycra prints are fun to use but do not make a whole jersey out of swim lycra. Figure on 1/3 yard of 60″ lycra for contrast.

Patterns: Jalie 2216, Green Pepper 401 or 402.

Jalie 2216

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sewing notes: For seams, a serger with wooly nylon in the loopers is best. If you only have a regular machine for your seams, use a good thread, sharp knit needles and a stretch stitch.
Look and see if your machine does this stitch: __//__//__//__ ; it is an excellent stitch for seaming lycra.

Fit and adjustments to pattern: Most commercial jersey patterns are fairly long. If you like your jerseys short, you will want to check the length and adjust all the panels of the patterns accordingly. The back pocket may need to be redrawn to match the adjustments. On the GP pattern you may want to alter the neckline. I have dropped the CF neckline curve about 1/2″ as it was too high for my liking. I also like my collars more narrow than the patterns provide.

Zippers:  A 9″ neckline zipper suits me just fine. I use a regular dressmaker nylon zipper in matching colors. If you like to open your jerseys all the way down or close to it, just substitute the length you want. You could also use an invisible zipper but these require a special zipper foot.

Assembly Order: This is the order that I assemble the jerseys as I prefer to work flat as much as possible; this varies from the pattern directions.

1. Put zipper in front, using my method further down on  this page. I do not pre-slit the zipper opening.
2. Put pocket on back panel
3. Sew side front panels to front, sew side back panels to back, sew shoulder seams.
4. Put collar on.
5. If you are going to put in sleeves, do them now, before you close up the side seams.
6. Close up side seams, hem sleeves or bind armholes, hem. I do not like elastic in my jersey hem.

Zipper tricks: The following is the best way I’ve found to insert a zipper into the front of a lightweight knit. This method is courtesy Jalie patterns.

You need Scotch-type tape, “Invisible Wonder Tape”, a few pins and a zipper foot for your machine.

Pictures of this zipper technique:

1. Mark bottom stop of zipper on RS (right side) with a pin.

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2. Put a square of tape on the WS (wrong side) over the pin. This stabilizes the knit fabric and prevents distortion.

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3. On RS, put zipper face down, reversed ( pointing to bottom of garment) on the front, aligning bottom stop with mark.

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4. Be sure you are over the tape that is on the other side, this stabilizes the bottom of the zipper. From the RS, stitch across the end of the zipper, right next to the stop, taking only 3 or 4 stitches, and back stitch. Remove the pin.

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5. Now, slit the front very carefully from CF (you should have this marked) at the neckline stopping about 1/2″ above the stitching at the end of the zipper, and then make angled cuts to the bartack. Crux move: you need to snip to the stitching, angling your cuts to the exact end of the stitching, like this —

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6. For the next step of actually sewing the zipper tape to the fabric, a nifty notion called Wonder Tape is very helpful. It is washable, and really keeps knits from distorting during this step. Apply the Wonder Tape to the RS of the zipper.

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7. Peel the backing off the Wonder Tape, and turn cut edge at the “v ”, and press along the zipper edge to secure, making sure there is no distortion. Stitch carefully, starting exactly at the apex of the “V” cut. You can use the zipper foot to get nice and close to the coil if you want.

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8. Finish both sides of the zipper. If you have been careful, you’ll have a nice, even opening like the photo below.

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Do you want to change the collar?  I think the collars with these patterns are lame.  They are too wide and uncomfortable. I much prefer a binding.

Measure the neck edge of the collar pattern piece, and cut a strip of your fabric (contrast or main) that length, to what ever width you want of binding, x2 as you’ll be folding, plus 2-1/4″ seam allowances. Fold strip in half longways, right sides out. Mark CB and match up with RS CB on the jersey. Your binding will be smaller than the jersey neckline. Cut with the stretch going longways.

Sew front/back together at shoulder seams. Make CF is marked: I use a tiny snip and then pins to mark the centerline. Slit front on center, about 2″. Now, put on collar binding. The, put in zipper. Adjust zipper length so that the stop is about 1/4″ below top of collar, and install zipper using the above method. You can top stitch an anchor on the collar, or all the way around.

Armhole binding. Cut your binding strips the same length as the armhole plus seam allowance, or just a hair smaller.

Have fun!

Common Zipper Problems

With most zipper repairs, it comes down to being able to diagnose the repair and having the correct part, if it can be fixed. Today we are going to look at some common zipper problems.

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Here, the plastic around the male pin at the bottom of the zipper has completely worn away. The zipper pin will thread into the slider for a while, but it will become more and more difficult as time goes on. This cannot be fixed. The zipper must be replaced.

 

 

 

 

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This zipper slider is bent. Even a very slight amount of bending will affect the meshing of the zipper when you zip it. If the zipper itself is not damaged, a new slider of the correct type can replace the bent one. {sidenote – squeezing the zipper with pliers to “fix” it is a stopgap measure only}

 

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The grab tab on the zipper pull has broken off. This also can be fixed by replacing the slider with an intact slider of the correct type.

 

 

 

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Here, the male pin has popped off the tape of a waterproof zipper. This cannot be repaired and requires a zipper replacement.

 

 

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This zipper slider shows classic signs of wear. Notice the very slight bending and the worn outer “corners”. It is very likely that the zipper was not zipping; not staying together when zipped.  This is an easy fix with a new zipper slider of the correct type.

 

 

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Here, the box has broken off the bottom of a separating jacket zipper.

 

 

 

 

It is supposed to look like this.

This is not repairable. The whole zipper must be replaced.

 

 

 

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Missing tooth on a vislon (tooth) zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

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Missing tooth on a waterproof vislon zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

That’s all for today. I will keep taking photos of zipper problems and post Part 2 later.

My Machines, Part 3

{yes, I still have a few more}

This is the workhorse. I couldn’t do what I do with out it. Silly me, I was advised to get this machine a long time ago, but being a cheapskate I procrastinated for years. I fought with an inappropriate machine for way too long.

Artisan Needle Feed with quiet servo motor

Artisan Needle Feed with quiet servo motor

This is a no-frills needle feed machine.  What is a needle feed?  The needle “walks” (feeds) as it pierces the fabric, moving the fabric back in conjunction with  the feed dogs. This makes for incredibly even feed of varying weights and thicknesses of fabric at any speed. Unlike a walking foot machine, the  presser foot does not walk; only the  needle does.  It does not have an automatic backtack or thread cutter, but that’s fine with me. It has a nice, quiet servo motor.  The needle feed has an incredible range. I can sew ripstop to Cordura with webbing. The key is to have the correct needle and thread.

If you want an industrial machine, and do not have someone local you feel good about, please contact Ron Anderson of A1 Sewing Machines

Last, for now, but certainly not least is my Singer Featherweight. IMG_4948

 

 

 

 

 

This machine used to belong to my mother-in-law, who was a very talented quilter. She also taught me to quilt; not like I do much of that lately but that is beside the point. This machine is hugely sentimental for me as it is the only thing of hers I got when she passed. And truthfully, this one belongs to my husband’s sister, but she has given it into my caretaking. There was another one that was to be mine, but…(insert family drama).  A funny story about this machine: I brought it up from the SF Bay Area to Washington shortly after 9/11. TSA officials didn’t like this item at all and I was pulled aside for the full meal deal bomb residue wipedown – for a little old lady’s quilting machine.

Coming up – more about different industrial machines, and “what machine should I buy”.

My Machines, Part 2

Sergers

I have the luxury of two sergers. Sergers are a wonderful tool for working with knits and finishing fabrics.

IMG_4630This Babylock may qualify as an antique. It certainly is of the first generation of sergers that came out for home use. I purchased it in 1987 and it still going strong. I’ve probably used it on hundreds of fleece items at this point. It is a 2/3/4 serger in that it will do 2-thread rolled hem, and both a 3- and 4-thread stretch seam/edge finish.

 

36268_492350889711_4849173_nThis is my Pfaff Coverlock that does several varieties of cover stitch hemming, and this is what a coverstitch hem looks like:

coverstitch on wool knit

What is a cover stitch? It hems and finishes all at once. This machine has been invaluable for professional looking finishes on stretch items, softshells, fleece and more. This serger  also does everything the Babylock does, but I keep it set up just for coverstitching. I don’t use this machine tons, but I am glad I have it for the results it can produce.

triple coverstitch on fleecey baselayer

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coverstitch on powerstretch

Part 3 coming soon!

Make Lycra Bike Shorts, Part 2

Time to finish the shorts by adding elastics. The quality of the elastic does matter. I recommend the 1″ no-roll for the waistband.

1" non roll elastic

1″ non roll elastic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gripper elastics

Gripper elastics

For gripper, there are lots of kinds available from the suppliers at sources. The amount of stretch in each kind will vary so you will need to experiment for the correct fit around your thighs.

Do not use the pattern instruction numbers to cut your elastic, especially for the legs.  Put the shorts on sans leg elastic, and measure thigh circumference at the desired length of the shorts. Cut the elastic just a little bit shorter, or use the same number, allowing for overlap. This will give you a nice, flat, non-sausagey look.The elastic may actually be longer than the leg opening, not to worry – just stretch the lycra to put the elastic on smoothly.  For most people, the numbers given with the pattern instructions are way too short, and create a thigh elastic that is just too tight. Warning: you may have to experiment here to get the feel that is right for you. I recommended basting your elastic on first to check the length keeping in mind that when you actually stitch it, it may grow a bit.

Note: for all elastic installation, divide elastic and garment opening into quarters and mark/match up quarters, stretching elastic and/or lycra as you go to distribute stretch evenly.

For a nice finish on your gripper elastic:

serge elastic onto WS of legs

serge elastic onto WS of legs

1. Use wooly nylon to serge the elastic to the inside (WS) of the shorts leg.

2. Use a narrow zig-zag to stitch loose edge of the elastic to the WS of the shorts.

 

 

Finished leg elastic

Finished leg elastic

3.Turn elastic up, and then  stitch again on the upper edge of the elastic from the inside. Use a wider zig-zag, or a 3-step zig zag. View is from the outside.

 

 

 

For waist elastic, first check that shorts waist does not need altering in height, or fit. Ladies, this is a good time to adjust if you prefer a low-rise cut. Be sure and leave 1″ extra for the elastic install.  Now,  cut a length of 1″ elastic that feels comfortable around your waist. Pull it up a few inches, over lap the ends 1/2″, and cut. If you prefer to work with actual numbers, cut the waist elastic 60% of the desired finished size, then cut and over lap.

To install the waist elastic,  see notes above. Serge the elastic onto the WS raw edge of the shorts. Turn to inside, and topstitch on with a wide zig-zag. Be sure to pull on the elastic, flattening  the lycra to the waistband as you go. (pulling out wrinkles).

You should be done now – ride ’em like you stole ’em.

Make Lycra Bike Shorts, Part 1

IMG_4632Making biking shorts can be a rewarding project. If you have a serger, a machine that does a zigzag stitch, and basic sewing skills, you should find these easy enough. If you do not have a serger, do not despair as long as your machine has some zigzag options. If you need a reference, the Singer books on active wear, sergers or stretch fabrics are all very good.  Unfortunately, many patterns for cycling gear have been discontinued. You may find them on eBay, Esty or other venues for older patterns. Jalie has made 2216, their multisize pattern for shorts and jerseys, available for download for a small fee. Other patterns to look for are Stretch & Sew 313 and 312, Kwik Sew 1727 and 1233, and Green Pepper 404 and 409. Sometimes retailers will have old stock for sale.

flowerjerseyLycra Notes: Different lycras have different amounts of stretch. Swim lycra is thinner, and is less supportive, plus the quality will  vary depending on where you buy it. Swim prints are fun for a panel insert. Supplex lycra has a lot of give, and is  cool to wear in the summer. 9 oz,  called Beefy or Cordura lycra, is excellent, but heavier/warmer. It is very supportive, and very durable. You may need to go up a size in your patterns if you use this lycra as it is more dense and less stretchy than other types of lycra. There are some two way only lycras out there (rashel knits) These only stretch lengthwise; DO NOT BUY this kind of knit. Be sure the lycra is 4-way stretch.  If your local store does not have a good selection of lycra, check the Sources page.

Sewing notes: For seams, a serger with wooly nylon is best. You can experiment with flat-lock seams if you want, but I have not had good success with the typical 2/3 thread flat lock options. If you have a cover stitch machine, you can play with seaming it from both the RS and WS to mimic a top loop cover stitch. If you only have a regular machine for your seams, look and see if your machine does this stitch: __//__// ; it is an excellent stitch for seaming lycra.

Chamois/Pads: I used to make them from scratch but forget that. AeroTech Designs has a fabulous selection of chamois to choose from to put into your shorts. The pads come with installation instructions.

Cut: Cut the pattern according to directions. You may want to add extra length to the legs, or some additional seam allowance if you think you might want to make adjustments to the fit. Mark the pieces carefully as it is easy to get the panels mixed up. Because of narrow seam allowances, use a pencil to mark instead of snips. If you want to put in a print accent, replace one of the side panels. Do not put on the elastic at the waist or legs, or put in the chamois yet.

Fit: Once you have the shell of the short made, you can tweak the fit. I have a really small waist, so I always take it in from the hips on up. You can also make the legs longer or shorter, or lower the waist. Do not forget that you will fold over the waist and the legs 1″ when you add the elastic.

Installation of waist and gripper elastics will be covered in part 2.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that used to exist on the original website

 

 

Working With Silnylon

This is the first of several articles from the “old” site that I will be reissuing on the blog. I have some great info on tarps along with a file full of assorted schematics that I plan to put together in a tarps entry coming up.

Silnylon is silicon impregnated ripstop nylon. It is extremely waterproof, extremely lightweight (1.1 oz. per yard), and extremely durable. Ultralight backpackers love it for this reason. It’s a little tricky to work with, but making your own gear out of silnylon is very rewarding.  Tarps, tarptents, raingear and even re-usable shopping bags can be made with silnylon.

You can find it at Thru-hiker.com, Outdoors Wilderness Fabrics. Check the Sources page for additional suppliers.

Sewing:

  • use “taut sewing”: apply tension to the fabric with your hands, in front of and in back of the needle. The object is to tension the fabric, not pull it through.
  • use a good quality polyester thread
  • a walking foot (even feed) is a very helpful accessory
  • Use a #80 or 90 needle and make sure it is new and sharp

 

Pinning:

  • glue stick
  • binder clips
  • pins in seam allowance

 
Cutting:

  • use SHARP shears.
  • try hot cutting two layers with a soldering iron, using a sheet of glass underneath. This will seal your cut edge so it won’t ravel, and if your two edges are going to be seamed anyway it will hold them together.
  • rotary cutter with mat

 
Seam ideas:

  • Plain Hem: fold 3/4″ twice and edgestitch.
  • Mock flat fell seam: illustrated here. To make a “mock” felled seam, use a 1″and 1/2″ seam allowances, and fold the longer one around, then top stitch
  • Seam illustrated at Ayce’s Workshop

 
Sealing silnylon: use McNett Silnet.