Sewing post – new running top

I finished the top that I was working on last weekend! Now for a brief tutorial and some pics…

I based this top off my earlier halter design here but decided to buy some powermesh fabric instead of adapting an old t-shirt to make it a bit cooler for hot summer days. Considering how hot I got on my run in 50-degree weather this morning in a lightweight long-sleeve I may actually be busting this top out for some summer races, even in the relatively cool mountain air!

My first task was converting the plain white mesh that I bought into something with a bit more *pop*. I used watered-down acrylic paint, a painting sponge, and some painter’s tape to create a geometric-inspired pattern in rust and umber. Because the fabric is so stretchy I had to tape it to a stiff piece of cardboard to keep the fabric from shifting too much during painting and had to take special care to keep my taped areas from becoming distorted due to stretching.

Once I had painted a double-layered 30 by 20 section (so two 30 by 20s overlain, with the longer dimension in the slightly less stretchy direction) I let it dry and then moved on to cutting out the pieces.
I based the general pattern on a Nike singlet but reduced the waist curve/hip flare and added a bit of length so that the top would hit further down on my hips.

Getting rid of the flared shape let me eliminate the two side seams used in the Nike top and instead just have a single seam up the back. The armpit cut is about the same, but just continues straight horizontal across the back rather than turning into a racer back style. I used the Nike top as a template for the chest as well, but wanted a higher neck.
Rather than using powermesh for the entire top, I decided to create the top 5″ of the chest and neck, as well as the shoulder/back straps from some leftover grey jersey knit from a previous project. This meant a bit of extra cutting and sewing but provided some nice contrast. 


I first sewed the two layers together and then sewed up the back seam, creating a tube with a bit of a flap where the extra chest fabric was. I then sewed the jersey chest-piece on.

 This let me see how the top fit around my torso. That looked fine, so I created some seam binding out of grey jersey to go around the back/armpit area on the powermesh. This meant cutting a thin (1″) strip of the same length as the top  ‘back + armpit’ seam, folding one side under about 1/8″, and sewing that ‘finished’ side to the outer part of the garment while sewing the raw edge on the other side of the strip to the inner side of the garment. Lots of pins for that bit! 

I then turned the edges under on the jersey knit chest portion to give a finished look to those seams, adding some decorative straight stitching around the edges. This part required the most improvising as the fabric needed to be turned under a certain amount to get the sides of the chest fabric to lay flat against the sides of my chest. 

Finally, I created and sewed on the straps. I did two 1″ straps over the shoulders connecting to a 1 1/4″ strap going up the back. The lengths were about 8″ and 6″, respectively, with a bit extra for the overlap where they were sewn together and to the garment body. 


I created the straps by cutting strips of fabric such that the strips were in the non-stretchy direction. Don’t want them stretching out! I then folded the edges over about 1/4″ on the thin straps and 1/2″ on the thick one and sewed them under to give the final widths listed above and create a finished appearance. 

back side of straps


I sewed the shoulder and back straps together, sewed the shoulder straps to the front of the garment, and then sewed the back strap onto the center back. This let me adjust the length a bit before sewing the back down.


  Last, I snipped all the loose thread ends and then happily danced around dreaming of warm summer runs 🙂

Here’s the top in action!   

works well with my grey & orange zipper oiselle shorts 🙂


messed up the strap angles a bit where the shoulder & back connect – looks bunchy :-/


about to hurdle my camera


ready for a relay handoff 😛


all set for some trail runs in the summer heat!



An experiment in tayloring

So I have a bit of a problem when it comes to dress pants. Every pair I’ve ever bought is designed to fit someone with a wider waist and smaller thighs (ugh, runner problems! Apparently women aren’t supposed to have quads/hamstrings?!?). I’m not exactly the ideal, lanky-legged model they’re designed for, so I usually size up to fit my she-hulk legs and then hem them and cinch the gaping waist with a belt. 

However, the waist invariably still gapes and I end up with weird pleats from the belt. So recently, I bought an inexpensive pair of trousers from Target and decided to experiment with adding some waist darts. 

I started by trying the pants on and figuring out how much the waist needed to come in. Originally, I just extended the dart down to the lower edge of the waistband. Figure 1 shows this on the left interior, and on the exterior on the right in Fig. 2:

Figure 1

Figure 2


However, this gave me weird little butt points – not cute. I ended up extending the dart down to the top of the pocket as seen on the other seam in Figs. 1&2, and below in the green thread:


Ended up slightly puckered, but the fit is much improved overall! 

I swear I feel more enthused than I look…


Quads of dooooom


Any tips for improving the tayloring from sewing enthusiasts, or better fitting brand ideas from other muscular-legged gals out there?

I have a new dress! [Sewing]

I *finally* finished a long-term sewing project! I’ve been working on sewing a t-shirt-style maxi dress since this past summer but ran into some problems with finishing the neck seams – ancient sewing machine = having no ability to do zig-zag stitch = occasional problems when sewing knits.


No zigzag, so tragic 😦

So, how did I solve this dilemma? Wooly nylon thread! Here’s a great post on how this thread solves the issue: Introducing Stretch Thread, my new BFF (on Made by Rae). Long story short, the thread is a bit stretchy and adds some ‘give’ to the seam.

Anyhow, I based the front and back shirt pieces on my favorite T-shirt (i.e. laid the shirt over some thin paper and traced out a pattern + seam allowance). I did the sleeves in one piece based on the sleeve piece of the same shirt, though shortened them a bit by accidentally leaving off the hem allowance. Oops.

To extend the T-shirt shaped pattern pieces into dress pieces, I first figured out the desired skirt length and then did a straight line extension from just below where the base of my ribcage hits in the T-shirt down to where I wanted the hem of the skirt. I cut the pieces out of some lovely grey burnout jersey fabric, and sewed it up with a bit of on-the-fly tailoring around the sleeve/torso area. The biggest post-sewing modification was to add a second layer of fabric to the dress front to make up for the slight translucency/clingy-ness of the thin fabric.

The end result is both flattering and *insanely* comfy. I’ve worn it twice to work and it’s like sneakily working in pajamas all day. May even be more comfy than my standard grad student uniform of t-shirts and jeans! Best of all, with the long stretchy skirt I can twist, bend, walk, kneel, and jump without worrying about the limitations imposed by a short skirt.



Next project: A hunting vest for MountainMan. His current one is about 10 sizes too large so I’m tracing a starting pattern off of it and will then get to wrap MM in pattern paper tonight and poke near him with pins and scissors! I’m sure he’ll be overjoyed 😉


Switching gears – sewing break

**********If you just want to see my awesomesauce sewing project and don’t want to hear about the grad school chaos, skip to the pics 😉 ****************

So I didn’t make the summer thesis defense deadline. I put in about 5 weeks at 45-60 hours/week, ending with this past week where frantic writing led to putting in 30 hours between Monday and Wednesday morning. No running, little sleeping, and a steady diet of ramen and instant oatmeal. And then I met with my advisor on Wednesday and we came to the conclusion that there was just no way that I was going to finish in time to defend by the deadline.

I crashed pretty hard – all the frantic energy turned into guilt that I wasn’t done and anxiety about paying for the coming semester. I applied for TAships the day before the application deadline and (thank God!) got a half-TA and half-grader position from one of the professors who I’ve TA’d for in the past. Now if I can find a part-time internship I may just survive…

Since Wednesday I’ve been catching up on sleep and filling out forms for financial aid and hanging out with the career counselor to improve my resume writing skills. Good times! Yesterday (Friday) was my first run since last weekend and it was ROUGH…but it was good to be back out there! Today I decided to do some sewing – I’ll come back to writing hard next week, but my mind needs a bit of a rest. There is some guilt accompanying all the self-care I’ve been doing the last couple days, but I’ve been madly cleaning ALL THE THINGS and that helps a bit. Productive slacking, yay!


Anyhowwww, here’s the sewing project that I did today 🙂

*Workout top with gathered halter neckline from T-shirt*

Halter neck workout top - front view

Detail of the neck:

Halter neck workout top - neck detail

And the back!

Halter neck workout tank - back view


I actually started this top from a workout tank that I’d made previously using this tutorial.

The knot and wrapping at the back were bugging me because they are a little uncomfortable if you want to do exercises on your back (crunches, leg raises, bench press on a firm bench, etc).

So I unmade the back part and then used some strips of red jersey knit to add some character to the new workout top.


You can follow the steps below if you’d like to create your own top with the same design:


1 shirt (or tank top)

1 strip of jersey knit or similar ~ 12 inches by 4-6 inches (will be cut into 4 strips)

straight pins

fabric shears

needle & thread/sewing machine (could sew by hand as well)


First, deconstruct the tank top (or skip to 2 if you’re starting from a t-shirt)

2014-08-16 15.33.16


After the basic top is constructed, add the strips of fabric that make up the neck and back (I oriented the jersey strips so that the strip for the neck band stretches, while the strips for the back don’t have much give. Since the weight of the shirt doesn’t hang on the back strips unless you keep the top fairly loose you’ll probably be fine either way)

2014-08-16 15.33.26

The neck and back strips are the most time consuming and can be a little tricky. Here’s a more detailed view of mine, turned inside out and viewed from the back:

2014-08-16 15.34.58


You could also braid the strips, use a single thick strip, etc. Have fun with it!

This project should work for anything from a fitted T-shirt to an oversized tank top/singlet/sports jersey as long as there’s a bit of stretch to it. Good luck!

New-from-the-old summer tank top







Finally finished a project I’ve been working on for a few weeks – a striped summer top from one of MountainMan’s old button-up shirts.


(pardon the poor quality photographs, the lighting in our apartment is pretty darn awful)

The (size L, men’s button up) shirt had a stain up near one shoulder so I figured I could cut it down to make a sleeveless top. I left the shoulder seams intact and removed the collar, cutting a scoop neck. I’m quite a bit narrower in the torso than MM so I cut new side seams (basing the shape on another tank top that fits a bit loose) and then sewed it up. If I could do it again I’d have done a side-seam dart to get the armholes right – I ended up having to do a  dart in the armhole and it’s not particularly pretty work.

I added a few snaps to prevent gapping at the bust and some bust darts to keep the shape more loose-but-fitted and less “look ma, I’m wearin’ a tent!”





I was getting some tension creases across the lower back so I ended up making it a split-back and then adding a middle panel underneath so that I can wear the top to work. If I were doing it again I might try to find a contrasting, lightweight fabric (maybe something semi-sheer in cream) to use for that middle panel…or to just replace the whole back under the horizontal upper-back seam. May do that anyhow actually once I get sick of the current back 😉

I finished the neckline and armholes with some binding tape that I’d made from leftover fabric. Unfortunately the neck is a bit pucker, but hopefully the iron will take care of that!

I sure as heck wouldn’t submit this top to a 4-H competition but I don’t think the flaws are glaring enough for a casual observer to note and it’ll work just fine for wearing about in this summer heat.

Mesh running top update!

So, a few posts ago I mentioned that I was planning to sew a mesh running top modeled after the awesome mesh top from Oiselle, which, alas I can’t afford on my current grad stipend 😦

It took a few hours of time over the last couple weeks, but the top is now done!


Here’s a brief look at what went into the final product:

First, I rode my bike over to our local Jo-Ann fabrics.  There was some pretty stellar selection of Power Mesh.  If by ‘stellar’, you mean ‘so gaudy it makes my eyes wince.’  I decided that I wasn’t quite up to running in sequins (although you’d be oh-so visible to cars!) and went with a simple white mesh.


I used one of my favorite running tanks for the pattern by tracing it out on cheap newsprint paper and then patterning the mesh pieces off of that.

Lining up the selvage…


Laying out the pattern…Image

Adding seam allowances (3/4 in)Image

And cutting out the pattern pieces.

I simplified my life somewhat by making my tank pieces identical on the front and back, rather than doing a scoop neck front and racer back.Image

Once the parts were cut out, I did a lot of pinning and basting – the mesh is extremely stretchy so the alignment is tricky.

The (almost) final result?

A decent tank.


The fit is a little more low-cut in the neck than I’d been aiming for, but I like the way the fabric drapes overall.  After seeing how transparent the single layer of mesh is, I’d probably double up next time (at least in the front).  My solution for this particular top is to add some dye, which will hopefully increase the opacity a bit.

Since I don’t have any fabric dye, I’m using acrylic paint.

First step – pick a color!


Next step – dilute about 1 – 1.5 TB of paint in 2 – 3 C water.  Mix thoroughly unless you like paint blobs on your fabric…


Last – dip the top into the paint-dye!


I let the tank sit in the dye for about 10 minutes and ended up with this color:



I like it much better with the color – lend a bit more opacity and some cool color-combining layer effects with the bright sports bra underneath.

Total cost – $27 for fabric (although that turned out to be enough for 3 tank-tops), $4 for paint (again, enough for multiple tops).  So about $11 for the one tank top.  Not high-end, but it’ll do quite well for the price (and the fun in making it) 🙂

Time to do some sewing!

I’ve been seeing some neat singlets at the running store lately – they are made of a stretchy mesh material which would be perfect for the summer heat.  They are a little sheer, but more coverage than a sports bra.  Here’s one of my favorites from Oiselle:  Isn’t it lovely and breezy looking?  Although I’m generally comfortable in a sports bra, I’m sometimes a little self conscious prancing about half naked, especially if I’m running on campus where I’m liable to bump into some of my students or some of the faculty that I’m working for/taking courses from.  The mesh would be perfect – cool enough to avoid unnecessary roasting, but enough cover to feel prim and proper ha ha 😉

Unfortunately, each of the tops that I’ve seen are about $50 – $60.  That’s a bit on the pricey side considering my stipend level.  Rather than purchasing the tanks, I think I might buy a couple yards of fabric (definitely less than $50!) and sew some custom-made running tops for myself before the summer ends 🙂

Here’s a few sketches of what I’m envisioning: 






Might make the back cut-outs with a contrasting mesh underneath rather than bare, or do some layering with some a larger weave of the same mesh color for texture.  

Now I’ve just got to get over to Joanne’s and see what my options are for fabric…