Hemming Marching Band Uniform Pants and Jackets

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My daughter is in her high school marching band this year. I know how to sew. Therefore, I got to hem all the uniforms, how awesome!

You can see by the photo above that this school needs new uniforms. That’s not fringe guys, it’s a frayed collar. ¬†ūüė¶

But we are in one of the poorest areas of the US, and the money is just not in the budget for new uniforms. So we are trying to squeeze a couple more years out of these, knowing that it may very well be way more than a couple more years.

The good news is this: These are very high-quality, traditional band uniforms. The pants are like bib overalls, so we don’t have to re-do the waistbands every year. The fabric is a heavyweight wool, which generally cleans up well and is extremely sturdy.

So even in my exhausted state, and with my tenuous skills, taking care of these hems was pretty straightforward and (dare I say it?) fun.

I was lucky enough to have a team of volunteers that pinned the pants and jackets to the right lengths. I brought my sewing machine to the band room. For complicated and ridiculous reasons, I did not have access to my iron and ironing board for most of this hemming project. But I am counting on the dry cleaners to cover for me.

The uniforms have been stored for several months, and they are really, really dirty and stained. I suspect that’s also a budget issue. I didn’t want anyone to start crying, so I didn’t ask.

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The wearer of these pants has a real name, but I just call him “Crime Scene” now. He had a blister explode during the last parade and, being male, he didn’t know he needed to tell someone. Now he knows!

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I chose stitch #13 on my sewing machine, which is the hem stitch.

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Here’s what it looks like close up. I have a special hemstitch presser foot for my machine, but it was with the iron. Drama, drama! The special presser foot makes it a little easier, but is not strictly necessary.

I don’t often use the hem stitch on my sewing machine because I’m a slob. So whenever I¬†use this, or any other special stitch, it takes me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how. This time was especially fun because I had been moving furniture the first half of the day and so I was wiped out. Plus I had an audience. Of course, everyone was very nice, but they didn’t know me at all and so I’m sure they were all wondering if I had any idea what I was doing. I don’t blame them – I was wondering the same thing myself. It’s OK though. The first hem is always like that, and then it’s easy.

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Here I’ve got it in the machine correctly, ready to go. I’l pretend that I didn’t fold it wrong about 20 times before I got to this point. I’ll also pretend that I didn’t have to rip out a few incorrect hems and then take a short catnap on the floor to clear my brain. Yep, I’m a pro!

Most of the stitches go in the flipped-up part of the pants, with the needle jogging to the left and catching just one stitch in the pants, then heading back over to the flipped-up part for a few stitches.

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Here’s a closeup.

You can see that this hem has a serged finish. Other pants had a hem tape finish.

I used several different approaches to hemming the pants, depending on how deep the hems were. This hem was fairly narrow, so I just flipped it up and hemmed it.

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Here’s one with hem tape. I had to just barely fold this one under.

Most of the pants had about a 4 inch hem, so I was able to do a “normal” hem. That means I folded the hem twice so that no raw/serged/taped edge was showing on the wrong side of the pants.

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Here’s what the finished hem looks like when you start to unfold it.

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And here’s what it looks like when you smooth it out. It will look even better once the dry cleaner takes over and presses the heck out of those pants.

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Then I went in and finished off the hems. Right along the outside seam, there is a stripe in school colors with about a million layers. I didn’t even try to sew that by machine. It was better to add a few hand stitches, otherwise I would certainly have broken a whole bunch of needles and probably hurt myself and maybe cried.

There were a couple of pairs of pants with seriously enormous hems. Side note…any time you buy or make a regular pair of pants, you can fit the hem to your body and kind of chop off all the extra fabric. But you can’t do that with band pants, because maybe next year you’ll need to let all that hem out, and you can’t if you’ve chopped it off. Also because if you cut off the extra fabric, your uniform manager will kill you.

As long as I’m discussing violence in band, let’s just mention iron on hem tape, shall we? Don’t use it. Just don’t. That’s because if someone needs to let the hem out next year, the tape will make a nasty sticky mess and your uniform manager will kill you. It’s fine for your own pants. Do whatever you want on your own pants, but don’t use the iron-on hem adhesive on your band pants.

OK, back to the topic at hand – enormous hems. By enormous, I mean that I had to shorten the pants by about 12 inches. These band pants are straight legged, but even so, a 12 inch hem is a problem. That’s because when designers design pants, they allow a little more room around the knee so that you can actually bend your legs. But when you are trying to attach the bottom of your pants to where most people have the knees of their pants, the rolled-up part of the pants is going to be much narrower than the part you are attaching it to. Go ahead and try a normal hem if you like, then come back here and let me know how it went. ūüôā

It was a mess, wasn’t it? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so here’s how I hemmed those pants that were 12 inches too long.

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I didn’t use the sewing machine. I folded the hem up twice . (More than that and it would have looked like a fat doughnut at the bottom of the pants.) Then I hand stitched the hem in just four places – at each seam, and halfway between seams. Then I put some safety pins in the pockets for those students, because I know what teenagers are like. They’re going to have to be careful, and take their shoes off before they put their pants on. I might not mention the shoes part, except I have a couple of teenagers, and so I know.

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Here’s what it looks like when the hem is done. It looks good, but it’s a pretty delicate hem. I hope the kids are careful!

Well, that’s it for the pants hems. But as long as I had all the pants out and was fooling around with them, I examined the crotches.

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The above is a crotch seam in good repair. Most of the pants were like this, but not all of them. I checked them all because this is the kind of repair a kid might not notice until it is too late. Nobody wants to march with their undies showing!

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This one was looking a little dicey.

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Even though the pants fabric is not stretchy, I chose a stretch stitch because it is very strong.

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Then I just ran over the seam to make sure it wouldn’t come apart during a performance. It only takes a minute, and I think it’s completely worth it.

Hey, I’m tired of pants. Let’s move on to jackets!

The jackets were a lot less complicated.

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I decided to stitch the jackets by hand, because look at these linings! Unlike the outer fabric on the uniforms, the linings are just very thin, slippery polyester. I mean, they’re linings, right? But they’re starting to shred a bit in places. I thought if I used sturdy-but-harsh techniques (like anything involving the sewing machine), they would completely fall apart. Wherever I found holes like this, I put in a few hand stitches to sort of darn them shut and hopefully, buy us another year or two.

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So I just rolled up the sleeves, pressed them (I had my iron back – yaaay!) and hand-stitched like this.

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I tucked in the lining a bit as I went along so that I wouldn’t be left with a huge old sag.

And that’s it!

I know if you have by some miracle stumbled across my little blog, you were probably looking for information on how to hem your own band uniform, so I understand that you’ve got a band that you love. But if you’ve got a few of extra bucks and you’d like to blow them on a worthy cause, please consider helping my daughter’s band out with their new uniforms. You can see that they need them! Here’s a link. Thank you!


A hole in my favorite jeans!

Doggone it, just when I was getting them broken in!  These are my favorites too.

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Normally by the time I’ve ripped the knees out of my jeans, I’ve ripped a lot of other stuff out too and I don’t even bother to mend them. ¬†But I really like these jeans, so I decided a patch was in order.

I don’t know about you, but when I have a giant hole in my clothes, I like to put a giant obnoxious patch on it. ¬†I’m glad that I can sew, and I¬†don’t mind a patch as long as the patch is as awesome as the jeans.

I used some polyester knit scraps and an old button to make a patch and I won’t bore you with the details. The knit has a little bit of stretch, so I hope the patch will stretch at the knees instead of tearing again.

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I flipped my pants inside out and then ripped the seam of the pants near the hole – a few inches above it and a few inches below it. ¬†I ripped out the non-topstitched seam because that’s a lot easier to sew back together when I’m done.

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I pinned my patch to the right side of my pants directly over the hole.  Then I zigzagged all the way around the patch.

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This is what it looks like from the other side.

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Then I pinned the seam that I tore out earlier, and I sewed it back up.  I used the stretch stitch on my machine.

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And here are my jeans, as good as new! ¬†Well, now that I see the photo, I am a bit concerned about the area under the patch. ¬†It’s looking pretty worn. ¬†But I have some lovely grass-like green poly knit that I can use for patch number two if¬†necessary. ¬†I could make that little ducky a nest.

I know what else is coming. ¬†When I made the patch, I cut out a second¬†duck (mirror image) for when the other knee goes. I’ll give it about a week.

Thanks for stopping by!


Another music stand carrying bag – this one a little more masculine

It’s concert time again, and this time my son is in the band too. I threw a little bag together for him with a scrap of upholstery velvet. I turned it inside-out so the velvety side could cradle the stand and (in theory) keep it from getting all scratched up. I made the handles out of some webbing.

In my free time (ha ha!) maybe I’ll add a button or snap or a little velcro, but this will get him to school today and the concert tonight just fine.2015-12-10 22.26.06

That’s his sister’s case on the step below. A little more flowery for her.

Thanks for checking in!

Utility apron for me!

poly knit utility apron

I wear an apron around the house most of the time. ¬†I use my smart phone a lot, and I like to carry it with me. ¬†But if I put it in my pants pocket, I’m concerned that I might crack it. ¬†And some pants don’t even have pockets.

Alright, alright I’ll tell the truth. ¬†I’m afraid I will forget my phone is in my pocket and drop it in the toilet. ¬†OK, are you satisfied?

I have been using a freebie apron from the lumber yard. ¬†I can’t complain about the price, but I think it’s more of a “guy” style. ¬†Other aprons I have seen are awesome but maybe a bit too frilly to be practical for me. ¬†I’m not going to choose between durable and good-looking. ¬†I’m going to have it all.

I found some weird-looking polyester knit fabric at the thrift store. ¬†Of course, I had to have it. ¬†It looks like something from the 1970s. ¬†Kind of a diagonal gingham check in dark green. ¬†It’s a nice heavyweight knit fabric, and all polyester, so you know it will wear like nobody’s business!

I made it with big slanted pockets.  My phone goes on my left hip, my keys on my right, whatever else I need can go right in the middle.

I paid 59 cents for the fabric (and I have some left over) and I used part of a dollar store spool of ribbon for the ties.

A special gift for a special teen – a locker-sized shark week bag

shark week bag

I made this out of a very cool rummage sale sheet I bought several years ago. It looks like a wave in the ocean. How sick – clearly, I’ve been planning this for a while!

I drew a rough outline of a shark onto some Heat ‘N Bond Ultra Hold, then ironed it onto a bit of silver tissue¬†lam√©, then cut it out, flipped it over, and ironed it onto the sheet fabric.

I thought I would have to stitch down the edges, but it’s holding very well on its own.

close up shark applique

I lined the bag with some white muslin.  You can congratulate me now for my restraint.  I had a piece of red satin lining that I could have used, but I chose the more modest white.

I stitched in a bit of white grosgrain ribbon for the loop handle, and then added some velcro at the top.

The bag is huge – about 14 inches by 14 inches. Plenty, plenty, plenty of room!

What to do about cut sewing patterns

This is just one box!
This is just one box!

Did you ever pick up a used pattern and get ready to sew and find out that there is one lousy piece missing? ¬†Sometimes it’s just a patch pocket and you can improvise, but sometimes it’s something more important. ¬†Nobody likes that, so most shoppers like to buy uncut patterns. Cut¬†patterns are hard to sell because a seller needs to count all the pieces first to make sure they are all there. ¬†Counting means unfolding and re-folding and maybe getting out the iron… ¬† And selling patterns on most marketplaces can have high overhead costs (listing fees, final value fees, shipping expenses), which is why many pattern sellers don’t even list them at all unless they can get a minimum price.

People don’t mind buying cut patterns if they are cheap enough to offset the risk of the pattern missing a piece. ¬†But they want to be able to search for the pattern they want, not to buy a whole box of patterns (and pay to ship all that) to get the one pattern they are looking for.

I don’t know how I managed to acquire so many cut patterns, but they are taking over! ¬†Sometimes I buy them by accident. I think they are uncut but when I get them home to take a better look, I find that they are not. ¬†Sometimes I buy a big box of patterns and some of them are cut and some of them are not. Sometimes people just give them to me because they don’t know what to do with them. ¬†I can’t just throw them away, but I can’t hoard them either!

I’ve opened another store (I know, I know…) on eCRATER because the only fees are the ones charged by my payment processor. ¬†(I use Stripe, in case you want to know.) ¬†I can list all I want, and I can send listings to Google and Pinterest. ¬†If you follow my “Pattern Pieces” board on Pinterest, you will see patterns as I add them.

I am charging 50 cents a pattern to cover my payment processing costs. ¬†$3.00 covers shipping in the USA with tracking and an envelope. ¬†I’ve got it set up to combine shipping costs. ¬†ūüôā ¬†I hope to break even on the cut patterns, and to make sewists happy. ¬†Plus, this finally gave me the kick in the rear that I needed to open my own web store.

I’ll be moving some other merchandise over there too at discounted prices. ¬†I expect most of my customers to be people who already know me from my other stores, bargain shoppers, and other pattern sellers looking for missing pieces.

Here’s a screenshot:

ec screenshot

I’ll keep adding patterns and other stuff as I go along.

On a housekeeping note, I have changed my password so that Lucky can’t hijack my blog again. ¬†And again. ¬†And again. ¬†Jeepers, that duck!

Another gift bag – much easier than it looks!


Perfect for shipping a pattern!

It was a tiny bit more work than my usual bags, which is still not much work at all.

I started out with a crib sized dust ruffle. ¬†If I had used the hem for the top of the bag like I usually do, it would have been upside down. ¬†So I had to roll a little hem. ¬†SIGH, so much work, work, work. ¬†It took about 4 minutes to hem 10 bags. ¬†I did the hem before I cut the bags apart. ¬†ūüôā

I also had to cut off a row of wide white rick rack at the bottom of the bag, which made me a little bit sad. ¬†But the dust ruffle had been washed and dried, and the rick rack had shrunk and it just wasn’t adorbs anymore, so it had to go. ¬†Okay, okay, it also looked like a dog or cat had chewed on part of it, so it really had to go.

I love that I was able to make a bunch of people smile with something that could have ended in the trash!

Here are a couple more recent gift bags:



Sorry I haven’t posted. ¬†I’ve been busy, which I know is no real excuse, but there it is.

My mom came to visit, which was awesome. ¬†When we were driving her from the airport to our house, we had a tire blow out on a big huge bridge. ¬†We managed to pull over safely and conveniently at Sonic. ¬†Nobody screamed or cussed out loud. ¬†Except for maybe the tow guy who changed our tire for us, but if he screamed and/or cussed out loud, it was after he left and we didn’t hear him. ¬†He might have screamed and/or cussed out loud because we had a toilet there on the curb at Sonic. ¬†I took the toilet out of the back of the van to get out the spare. ¬†Then I realized the spare was not in back – that was our old van. ¬†So I just looked like an idiot with a toilet sitting on the curb at Sonic. ¬†Nobody tried to use the toilet, so I’ll count the whole event as a big, huge win. ¬†Why did I tell you all of this?

A couple of new gift bags


A little tiny ball of yarn gets a little tiny gift bag…



…and a little bigger order needs a little bigger bag.

The second bag is made from a fancy designer (Laura Ashley) dust ruffle that had a tear in it.  I really enjoy working with such high-quality fabric!

I hate organza. Except for when I love it.



Organza slides around all over the place, especially when I’m trying to cut it. ¬†It’s a total pain. ¬†But…sometimes I love it! ¬†I love how it looks (reminds me of the bow on the back of my wedding dress!) and I love how it’s light enough to help me ship things under the 13 ounce limit for first class mail. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†I can’t help it. ¬†I’m analytical.


Always, always cranking out the gift bags!


These are just right for wrapping up a pattern.

I ran out of the fancy ribbon, so I made a few like this:


If you want to make your own, here’s a tutorial.

And on a larger scale:


My little girl scout is scheduled to go camping this weekend.  The girls have enormous quantities of lightweight items (paper towels, tp, cereal, etc.) to haul back to the cabins.

I’ve made a lot of these over the years. ¬†When my eldest was young, we needed to use cloth diapers. ¬†We live in a rural area with no diaper service, so I made nylon diaper pail liners like this. ¬†Just a giant bag. ¬†Then when I washed the diapers, I threw the bag in the wash too. ¬†We still use the bags for hauling stuff, but we don’t tell anyone¬†about their sordid past. ¬†Hey, they’ve been washed in hot water about a million times, people!

For my daughter’s camping bag, I put some handles on the top. ¬†I re-purposed them from a broken lunch bag. ¬†Close-up: