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April 21, 2020

Now that everything is cut out and ready to go we are going to start sewing the Rio. I am going to be sewing up two Rio t-shirts on the blog during this sewalong. The first one I will be sewing up according to the instructions. I will use my sewing machine (not serger). The second version I will be sewing up using a serger and also introducing the Heatnbond softstretch that I mentioned in the fabrics post last week. I want to make sure that those who have it know the best ways to use it for the Rio.

We will begin by preparing our our neck and arm bindings. Bring all three strips of ribbing over to your iron. Fold each in half lengthwise (wrong sides touching) and press. Use the steam on your iron to really set the crease and open it back up.

Fold in 1/4″ along one long edge and press.

Fold up along original middle press line and press again. Set aside.

If you are using the softstretch, cut three pieces of the softstretch the lengths of each binding strip. There is a shiny side and the paper side.

Put the shiny side down along the folded up (by 1/4″) edge. Using a hot iron with no steam, iron the softstretch to the binding until it adheres well. I leave the iron for about 10 seconds on each part.

Set the binding aside and let it completely cool. Once cooled down, remove the paper backing for each binding. It’s hard to see, but the softstretch should have left a film where the paper backing was taken off. It is not sticky unless warm.

Take one sleeve and place a pin at each end along the bottom and one in the center (fold in half to find). Do the same for the sleeve binding.

With right sides touching, pin the unpressed edge of the sleeve band to the lower edge of the sleeve, matching up the pins and stretching the sleeve band to fit. Add more pins as necessary to stretch the binding evenly along the bottom of the sleeve.

Stitch using a 3/8″ seam allowance using the stretch stitch on your machine or an elongated zigzag.

Or use a serger

Press the seam allowances down toward the sleeve band. As you press, make sure the lower edge of the sleeve band remains turned under.

Fold the sleeve band to the inside, along the originial press line, so that the band wraps around the bottom of the sleeve while encasing the seam allowance and the stitchline. Pin in place.

If you are using the softstretch, use the iron and steam to set it. This should replace the need for pins.

This is a good time to turn the sleeve over and make sure that the binding is visually even on the right side. If not adjust it at this time.

Using a zigzag topstitch, sew along the top folded edge of the binding to secure. Be sure to catch the folded underside edge of the sleeve band as you sew.

You can also do this with a twin needle or a coverstitch if you have one.

Once stitched it will post likely be a bit stretched out. Use the steam on your iron to shape it back into place. It works wonders.

And that is it for today. Tomorrow we will do a similar method to the neckline and I will also be showing you an alternative method to attach the bindings in the round if you prefer it.



April 20, 2020

It’s day 1 of the Rio Sewalong. Today is all about adjusting our pattern pieces, cutting out our fabric, and testing our stitches.

Lengthen / Shorten

If you are taller or shorter than 5’5″ (which is the model we draft for) then you may want to lengthen or shorten your pattern a bit. One common mistake is to add or subtract the difference in height you are from the model in it’s entirety. Keep in mind that a t-shirt and even a knee length dress, only cover a portion of your body so you probably only need to add or subtract a portion of the difference. For instance, I am 5’3″ which is 2″ shorter than the pattern is drafted for. I know that I have a longer torso but shorter legs and that my torso takes up less than half of my height, so I shorten my Rio top by 1/2″ at the waistline. Let me show you how I do it.

First I measure up 1/2″ from the lengthen / shorten line and draw a line.

Next, I cut along the lengthen / shorten line and move the bottom portion up to the line I drew. Tape in place.

Next you will need to blend the side seam if necessary. It’s that easy. Make sure you do the same for the back piece so that they match up.

To lengthen you will do essentially the opposite. First cut along the lengthen / shorten line.

Get a separate piece of paper and draw two lines that are the distance apart that you want to lengthen by and one that will act as the CF. I am going to do 1/2″ for this exercise.

Tape the top and bottom to this sheet of paper on either sides of the lines you drew, making sure that the center front lines up in a straight line.

Blend the side seam.

Trim off any excess paper and do the same adjustments to the back.


Another common question I get is grading between sizes. I wouldn’t worry too much about grading the waist unless it is more than two sizes difference, since there is ease in the waist to accommodate that. If you are measuring different sizes in the chest and hip I would grade between sizes. It’s really just as easy as drawing a soft line between the two sizes.

Make sure you do the same for the front and back pieces so they match up.

Go ahead and cut out your fabric now. Tomorrow we will be sewing so they need to be ready to go.


Before we are done today, I recommend getting scraps of your main and binding fabrics and testing your stitches. I find it easiest to print off the page in the instructions with the recommended stitch lengths and use that as your starting point. Take notes on that piece of paper so you can refer back to it when we are sewing tomorrow. Be sure to put your stretch sewing machine needle in your machine before proceeding.

Take your main fabric scrap and fold it so it’s doubled up (since when you sew your actual garment it’s always at least two layers of fabric).

For the main fabric you need to try a few stitches out. First try the stitch that you would use to construct the garment. If it is a serger test that out. If you do not have a serger you will either use a stretch stitch if your machine has that option or an elongated zigzag stitch if it does not. The elongated zigzag stitch has a recommended 2.5mm length and 0.5mm width. Try it out and see how you like it. Adjust as necessary. Next I recommend trying the zigzag topstitching to see how that works with your fabric when you hem your garment. The recommended setting for this zigzag stitch is 3mm long and 3mm in width. You can also use the elongated zigzag stitch or stretch stitch option for the hem if you prefer. Lastly, if you are going to use a twin needle at all give that a go as you may prefer it for your hem. You may need to play around with tension or stitch lengths to get a result you like. I usually make the length of the stitch 3mm when using a twin needle. Make sure you keep notes so you can replicate it tomorrow.

I also recommend trying out some stitches on your binding fabric. I tried the twin needle, the zigzag topstitching, and the elongated zigzag stitch to see how they reacted to my binding fabric.

Once you have stitches you like, record everything so you are ready to go tomorrow. I will be sewing a couple of samples using the stitches above so you can see how it looks.



April 17, 2020

The official sewalong starts next week, but I wanted to pop on here and talk about fabric and notions you may need or want for the Rio if you are going to be sewing along with me.



Let’s talk notions first. You will definitely want a special sewing machine needle to handle the knit fabric so you don’t damage it. Look for a needle that has stretch or jersey in the description. When sewing the bindings and hems you have a choice of how to finish them. I prefer a good old zigzag stitch which is the preferred method in the Rio instructions. If you go this route you will only need the one stretch needle for all of the construction. I will also go over the option to use a twin sewing machine needle for some steps. If you prefer this method you will want to buy a twin stretch needle.


You will need some all purpose thread for your Rio as well. If you are doing contrast binding as I am, you will need thread that matches both your main fabric and your binding fabric.


This gem is not in the instructions and is completely optional, but it is one of my favorite notions. I use it whenever I sew a stretch knit. I will talk more about it in the sewalong, but in a nutshell it stabilizes knit seams so they do not stretch out during sewing while also acting as a bonding agent instead of pins. It is a lifesaver when it comes to the bindings and hem seams. It comes in lite and ultra. I use them both depending on the thickness of my fabric.



Now let’s talk fabric. The main body of the t-shirt or dress should be made with a knit fabric which at least 40% widthwise stretch. More stretch than this doesn’t make much of a difference except a slightly more giving fit. Using a fabric with less stretch than this may result in a garment that is too tight, especially in the sleeves and chest. If the fabric is slightly less you can probably get away with going up a size, but be careful. You can test the stretch percentage by using the chart in your instructions.

Simply cut a 4 inch piece of your fabric. Hold it against the stretch chart and pull the right end towards the arrows to determine what the stretch percentage is.

As for types of fabric, look for cotton jersey, t-shirt knits, cotton interlock, merino wool jersey, and even rib knit. Here are a few I found around the web that you may like:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9


For the neck and sleeve bindings you will want knit fabric with at least 75% stretch. If your fabric has less stretch than this you will have a hard time getting it over your head and may find the sleeves too tight at the hem. If the fabric has just a bit less stretch you may get away with lengthening the bindings slightly, but be careful.

As for types of fabric, I mostly recommend rib knit fabric. I prefer cotton ribbing because it presses well. If you buy a ribbing that has a lot of polyester in it you may find that it has a really hard time keeping it’s press and give you a headache. I would also try to avoid knits that roll a lot. This will also cause you all sorts of frustration when you are trying to create those crisp even bindings. Here are a few you may like:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Let me know if you have any questions about fabric and notions. I can’t wait to get started on Monday with the Rio sewalong.



September 6, 2019

Welcome to the last day of the Calvin wrap top and dress sewalong. The first thing we are going to do it try on the top or dress as it is to see if we need to make any changes.

Step 16 – To wear, lap the right front over the left, inserting the left tie through the buttonhole and wrapping it around the back to the front. Insert the right tie through the thread chain loop, wrapping it around the back and bringing it back to the front. Adjust the ring and sliders so that the dress / top is sitting at the correct height on your shoulders.

Secure the ties with a bow at the left side opening (when wearing) or center front according to your preference. I decided to tie it in the front this time but it’s completely up to you. Trim ties as needed so they are the same length when tied and the length that you prefer.

Check the garment’s hem length and shorten if necessary. Mark position for optional modesty snap at center front if desired.

Step 17 – Using a hand sewing needle and thread, sew the socket end of the snap to the outside of the left front at the marking you made.

Sew the ball end of the snap to the inside of the right front at the marking you made.

Step 18 – Fold under the end of each tie by 1/4″ and then again at 3/8″. Press (steam and starch really helps keep this pressed well).

Stitch along the folded edge to secure end.

Tip: If you put a piece of paper under the tie on your sewing machine it makes it easier to sew that very small bit of fabric.

Step 19 – Fold the bottom raw edge of the garment up by 1/4″, wrong sides touching. Press. Fold again by 3/8″ for the top and 3/4″ for the dress.

Press and pin.

Stitch close to the fold to secure the hem.

Congrats! You are finished.

I hope this sewalong was helpful. If you need to still need the Calvin pattern you can do so here for a pdf or here for a paper pattern.



September 5, 2019

Welcome back to day 4 of the Calvin sewalong. Today we will finish up the straps and create all of the things we need for the waist ties to be secure.

Step 12 – To prevent it from fraying, zigzag stitch the raw end at the back of the armhole. I like to do a small zigzag with a width of 2mm and a length of 1mm.

With right sides facing up, insert the bias binding through the ring.

Fold back the bias binding toward the inside of the garment. I like to cheat the strap inward a bit so that it does not show on the outside of the garment once sewn down.

Stitch securely in line with your topstitching along the back neck binding.

Step 13 – With the right side facing up, slip the slider onto the front strap and move to about halfway down the length of the strap.

Insert the free end of the strap through the ring at the back armhole edge. Make sure that nothing is twisted.

Insert the end of the strap through the inside of the slider, extending the end by 1″. The end will be sandwiched inside the loop you created. It helps to loosen the part of your strap that is already threaded through the slider to allow more room to work with.

With wrong sides up, stitch the end of the strap to the inner loop to secure it. You may want to baste this line of stitching first and try it on to check the length of your strap.

Once you have created a straight line of stitching, zigzag stitch over the raw end and through the inner loop to prevent fraying just like you did before.

It should look like this once you are done.

Step 14 – Stitch buttonhole at the right side seam (when worn) according to the marking. I like to add fray check to my buttonhole before I open it. Make sure the seam allowances are pressed toward the back, and that the buttonhole stitching goes through all layers.

Open buttonhole.

Step 15 – Sew a 1″ thread chain at the left side seam (when worn) according to marking. Use the following instructions to create your thread chain.

Cut two pieces of thread that are about 25 inches long and pass them through your hand sewing needle. Double them up for four strands of thickness. Tie a large knot in the end.

Anchor the threads by passing through the garment and seam allowances from the wrong side, and out onto the right side of the garment at one of the dots.

Make a small backstitch on the outside of the garment at the same dot marking. Pull thread through, creating a large loop.

Insert your left thumb and pointer finger through the loop, spreading it wide. Hold the thread tail with your right hand.

Pinch the thread tail with your left thumb and pointer finger, continuing to hold the tail taut with your opposing hand.

Pull the pinched thread tail through the loop you created, as pictured. Continue to hold the end of the thread tail with your right hand, allowing enough slack to pull through.

Tighten the loop into a knot at the base of the thread tail, close to the garment. Use your right and left hands to pull up the slack and close the loop.

Once again, insert your left thumb and forefinger through the new loop you just created. Repeat the previous steps until you have created a thread chain that measures 1″.

Pass the thread tail with hand sewing needle through the last loop to create a knot.

Pass needle and tail through to the wrong side of the garment and seam allowance at the second dot marking and knot securely on the inside.

It will look like this once you are all done.

And that is it for today. We are so close! Tomorrow we will just finish a few things up and we will be done.