How To: Y Back Racer Tank Top


I've developed a technique I like to use for the binding that I think you'll enjoy.  I'm not laying claim that it's the proper or "right" way it should be done I'm just saying that it's the way I've discovered I like to do it.  I've been using the coverstitch machine however you can get by just fine utilizing a standard zigzag machine as well.
The step by step instructions are on this hour long video:

a revolutionary cut above....

EC Cutter $100
I'd like to introduce you to a very special tool.  This isn't "just" a new sewing tool or notion, it's actually my new best friend.  We spend lots of time together and I don't think they've ever let me down.  I know, there are a lot of notions you've bought that never get used, I've done the same.  This is totally different.  Soon you'll be reaching for these for almost any cutting task including trimming threads...    Lazy right?  You'll see...
Totally worthless junk

These are the new breed of electric scissors.  I say new because I had electric scissors when I was a kid, and they had a cord and were totally stupid.
Black and Decker $20
I had no idea what the point was because they wouldn't cut much besides paper.  Today you have better options and the versions from Black & Decker and EC Cutter are the best.
At work the rotary cutting was starting to really hurt my wrist.  When I don't have an assistant I often cut projects for 60+ kids a week and it was literally wearing me out.  These electric scissors were exactly what I needed to fill the space between home style rotary cutters and industrial fabric saws.  As I explain in the video the B&Ds are much better suited for occasional use as I wore out the blades at work in a matter of weeks.  The EC has a carbide insert that allows the blade to keep it's edge what seems like forever and they still cut like they day they were new.  I go over the specifics of each in the video and I encourage you to watch and find out which tool will suite your needs.  I will say that I still only have the B&Ds at home and they're totally sufficient for most of my home cutting needs.  However when I want to cut 8 silk knit t-shirts out at one time I'll bring home the EC heavy hitters...

Cutting fabric (or anything for that matter) with electric scissors is like passing a hot knife through butter.  I personally guarantee you will wonder how you lived without cordless electric scissors in your sewing room.  The trick is to practice with them as they're so "sharp" that any wrist wiggle or extra movement is instantly transferred to your cut line.  That being said they're perfectly safe for use around kids as it's next to impossible to get your finger into the actual cutting area where the blades come together.  When you're the one using them they're so much fun you might be completely oblivious to the buzzing noise but it can be a little irritating to others in the vicinity.  Learn to cut without resting the bottom blade on the table and they're quite a bit quieter.

There are two related videos, the first is more or less a review of both tools.  The second video is one I shot a few weeks ago as I was cutting out my last most recent pair of jeans.  The audio was screwy on that so I dumped the original audio and give a pretty verbose voice over.  Lucky you!

And the cutting video:

why not Y back......


I've been in desperate need of some new tank tops for a few years now.  If I was a girl all I'd have to do is ride down to my local Target and I'm sure I could pick up a few cute items super cheap.  Truth be told two of the last tanks in my closet were picked up in the juniors department of the Nordstrom Rack back in Sacramento, yeah, like I said it's time.  For guys  the options (cute ones anyway) are few are far between.  Usually I end up settling for the big pack of "wife beaters" we all love to hate.  Yeah they serve a purpose but really they're meant to be underwear...  They have other brands by 2xist and such but they're all a little too.... well, anyway.  Plus there's nothing unique about them and they're still not on the cheap by any means.

So I thought (ding ding)  Ebay!  Well the search turned up some very awesome looks from a company called SqueezeDog that seems to retail exclusively on ebay.  If you like those and don't mind even more steam in your milk take a look at their other selections.  I'm honestly not one for the fancy man panties but like my friend says, there's a chair for every seat (well he says ass).

Moving on....

The looks that intrigued me most were the Y back tanks.  I've always liked certain versions of this look and it's not that common in men's clothing outside the gym.  A quick google image search turns up lots of this type but you know that's just not what I'm out for!  However SqueezeDog puts out some very cute versions, the only downside is that they run in the $40s with international shipping.  What to do.....   what....  to.....  do?

 Well obviously I'm going to attempt to make my own!  I'll admit right now the part that scared me most was all the binding, jeez it looks like a lot of work right?  Actually it turned out to be pretty simple once I figured out a technique that worked for me. 
 I even pulled out the banished coverstitch!  This coverstitch machine I've discovered is actually a fine unit but requires a knowledge of tensions and sewing I simply have not possessed until just recently.  It was purchased off ebay a few years back and super cheap (for good reason).

It has no markings whatsoever for tension and one must do a LOT of trial and error to get everything just so.  God help me if I ever find anyone diddling with the knobs....

The other issue is the ridiculously minuscule clearance under the foot, what the hell is this all about?  We're talking a few layers of knits and that's it folks....   Maybe that's all that's necessary.....   so far it's always been just enough to squeak by.

The machine does a fine job where it counts and if it's skipping stitches it's always my fault somehow.  You can see here that I'm getting pretty good at catching the raw edge on the underside and keeping my stitching straight even on the top of the bindings.  I think I'll do a little video on how I achieve this later today.

Anyway, I drafted the pattern using Wild Ginger (as always these days) which admittedly has become extremely addictive.  Often I'll dream about pattern modifications and first thing out of bed in the morning I'm in the software moving lines and trying out new ideas.

Here's what I came up with for the tank top using the top photos for inspiration.  I started with my T-shirt pattern but modified it so heavily at this point nothing really remains except for possibly parts of the center back and front seam.

It took 9 tries to get it exactly the way I wanted it, considering they only take 45 minutes or so to sew up that's not so bad.  In the video it's hard to see the changes between each version mostly because I got it so close to being right on the first try.  Trust me, each of the nine is totally different and now that I have my final draft the other eight are seeming less and less wearable.

Here's video where you can see me try on and talk (possibly ramble) about each version and what I learned when making them.  I finally figured out how to get full quality out of my webcam, the downside is a HUGE file that's taking a few hours to upload.  By the way, this is my 80th! public video on YouTube, now I can't say they're all great but wow, that's a lot!

(part two of this posting is here) 

a better pocket bag....

As I've been tweaking my jeans pattern (which is almost done btw) I've also been working on other seemingly unimportant jeans details.  One of those is the front pocket bag.  Really?  Yeah, really!  My first attempts quite some time ago were to simply make the bag smaller/larger/deeper/etc but not change the actual shape.  With those experiments I learned that nothing is more irritating than too deep a pocket because having to reach your entire arm down your pant leg to fish out some change or keys is ridiculous....  Too shallow a pocket means you can't put more than your fingers in and feels a bit like lady like.  I also hate having my finger tips jammed against the bottom of the bag.

I finally got really thinking about pocket bag design when I read David Page Coffin's pants book a while back which I do highly recommend.  He makes note of how some pants have poorly designed pocket bags in that when you sit down everything falls out of your pockets (for me that's usually in the car).

I had never thought about it before.....

Coffin comes up with a solution for slacks that I ended up expanding on and applying to jeans.

Ready for it?

Amazing isn't it!  No really, it is amazing....   to me this has turned out to be revolutionary.  Let me show you why.  The photo on the left is the actual pocket bag, on the right is the outline of it from the outside of the jeans.  These jeans have a 3/4 seam allowance which is not yet sewn there in the right side of the photos.

So far I have two requirements:

  • The bag must not be too deep nor shallow.  When the hand is inserted to the wrist point no part of the side or bottom seam shall touch the fingers.
  • Change must not fall from pockets when sitting.
Some additional notes:  I don't like to carry things in my pants pockets.  Because I wear fitted jeans any additional items in pockets change the fit and often press against my legs uncomfortably.  One exception to this is change and that I will put in my front pockets however.....    I do not like that when I have change in my pockets I tend to fiddle with it, fingers/change/lint, it's all right there in the same spot with most pockets. Money is rather filthy and I have a habit of chewing my fingernails (as evidence in the photos above).  You get the point.

The above design accomplishes everything in the most elegant way.  Items are funneled down to the bottom corner near the side seam and fall to the side of the leg instead of right in front.  When sitting items have no way of falling out since they would have to go up over the hump to get free.  They instead want to fall back away from the top of the thigh towards the rear.  When the hand is in the pocket items like change are out of the way since the hand goes forward and items go back.  Items are easily accessed by simply rotating hand back.  It's not comfortable to hang out with your hands rotated back so the fiddling with change issue is reduced or eliminated.

I'd like to say this was a very scientific process but like most things it was a lot of trial and error.  Here's to a better bag!

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