Friday, January 28, 2011

Rassling With Lounge Wear

Once I got the hang of sewing overlock seams with my new serger, I launched into trying to sew on tricky fabrics. I have a stack of odd-ball fleece fabrics (from a grab bag deal several years ago), and I've never had great success sewing flat seams with fleece, so I decided to serge-sew a "learning experience" bathrobe.

I've had KwikSew 2325 in my pattern box for years without trying it. The pattern envelope shows a robe made up in some sort of light-weight woven, trimmed with sheer or lace. To quote the envelope: We suggest silk, silk like fabrics, crepe de chine, charmeuse, batiste or eyelet. It's definitely not designed for stretch fleece, and yet, bathrobes don't differ that much in their basic shape--minimally-shaped armhole scythe, simple sleeve cap, dropped shoulders, straight side seams. I thought I'd give it a try--after all, the fleece I'm using was a bargain-basement buy.

Before I started cutting, I decided to alter the pattern. Even though there was plenty of wearing ease for me in the robe pattern, I made a full-bust adjustment anyway. On oversized ready-to-wear such as big tee-shirts and men's shirts, even thought there's ample wearing ease, the shirt neckline crawls up under my chin in front and the shoulder seams creep down my back. It's quite annoying, and I didn't want to have to wrestle my bathrobe all the time--lounge wear is for relaxing, isn't it?

A couple of years ago, I posted some links on the full bust alteration, but my favorite Web pages are no longer available. I have them squirreled away on my hard drive, but I'm not sure it would be legal or sporting of me to post them here. Instead, I've found these new "how-to's" for your sewing pleasure:

Rather than add a side bust dart to a bathrobe, I decided it would look better if the extra fullness went to the shoulder seam. Beth at The Rusty Bobbin has a dandy tutorial: How to Rotate a Bust Dart.

After all that fiddling with the pattern, laying it out was a quick process. At this point, I also added about 5 inches in length to the front and back, and also to the sleeves. I planned to omit the lacy sleeve trim, and I thought a warm fleecy robe shouldn't be too short. Cutting it out and sewing it up on the serger took much less time than getting the pattern ready.

Seams sewn in fleece on a regular sewing machine always get ripply for me, but it wasn't hard to adjust the serger so that I got nice flat seams. I used a four-stitch mock-safety stitch.

After all that fussing, I was very pleased with the fit. The robe does not creep up in front or down in back. I'd hoped to gather the extra fullness in the front shoulder, but the thick fabric just wouldn't gather. I settled for a big pleat instead.

I spent quite a while trying to decide how to edge and hem the robe. The pattern called for a sewn-on binding, but I thought it would be better without the added bulk. The raw edges of fleece don't ravel, but they didn't look quite right all on their own. I experimented for a while with different serger edge finishes, and settled on a two-thread rolled hem, using wooly nylon in the bottom looper. It looked nice and flat and inconspicuous on the scraps I tested, but when I started stitching on the actual robe, it began to curl and ripple a bit. I considered cutting off the offending hem finish, but I decided to call it a decorative edging instead, and just stitched all the way around all the raw edges.

I think I'll make a lightweight summer robe from this pattern sometime this year. It's a very versatile pattern--if I find some nice firm flannel, I'll probably use it to make my husband a robe. (I'll omit the full bust adjustment in his case.)

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