Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Great British Rub Off

So, I assume everyone has been watching the Great British Sewing Bee?

As you may be able to tell from my serious lack of posts this year, I've not been doing as much sewing as I'm supposed to (when I say supposed to, I have goals for the year, and sewing goals are quite behind!). Good old GBSB has whipped me into shape though. Watching them create THREE WHOLE ITEMS in a weekend makes me feel rather inadequate in comparison when I'm barely completing a single item per month! And it inspires me to work a little harder, and work a little faster. Perhaps not faster, maybe just more efficiently (less twitter between seams).

So, I had a good look at the list of projects on my to do list and started to map out a plan. And then, I got down to business.

I've very nearly completed my first By Hand London Anna dress (of which there will be more), and today I started, and finished, a WHOLE ITEM.


I decided to throw all the fitting malarkey aside for a while and do something simple, easy and that fills a need in my wardrobe. I'm really low on tops, despite having a large collection of cardigans I have very few t-shirts/blouses/etc to go underneath them, and as Spring is springing soon there will be less cardigans, or at the very least, unbuttoned cardigans.

I have a lovely shop bought top from Mango that I've been thinking about making a copy of for a while. It's made of three pieces, with built in sleeves and no darts, so it was very easy to clone. I even thought I'd take a few photos along the way so you can see how I did it, in case you'd like to try it yourself?

First up, I ironed the hell out the blouse, to help it to lay as flat as possible. I then folded it in half to match the seams, and even pinned it together at the seams to keep them together. Keeping an eye on the grain line, I then started to trace around the pattern. The back and front had variations, such as a longer hem at the back, and the shoulder seams did not sit equal, so I had to just raise my drawing up a little to allow for the extra shoulder bit.

I then added on the seam allowance for the shoulders and side seams. I decided to copy the original as much as possible, so I allowed the same 5/8inch to turn under the sleeves, and left the neckline as it was ready for bias binding. I then added a little allowance for a double fold hem.

Having done the same for the back, which included a placket for buttons (no photo, sorry) I thought it would be a good idea to "walk" the seams. This is a technique I read about in 

The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen. When you've made changes to a pattern which result in your lengthening or shortening the distance of a seam which matches another seam, you can walk the pattern pieces to check that they are still the same length. Since I'd drawn the front and back separately, I thought this would be a good idea to do. Starting at one end, place one of your pieces on top of the other at the seam allowance - I've put a pin in to demonstrate where this is.

Then, "walk" the top pattern's seam allowance along the seam allowance of the bottom pattern piece, around the corners, in the same way that you'd sew the seams together. When you get the end you'll see if your pieces will go together correctly or not. My side seams were spot on, but there was about an inch difference in the shoulders, so I remeasured the original blouse and adjusted the pieces accordingly.

I then inspected the original blouse to determine the order to sew it together, and made a little list. I also made a few notes on the pattern pieces, just in case I lose the notes.

I was then delighted to discover that on my 60" wide fabric, I could make the top for less that a meter, including the bias binding! Amazing! Do you like my pattern weights? I'm still waiting to find the right tools for the job so in the meantime I just raid the kitchen. Turns out I'm low on canned goods at the moment!

A little thing that I do, that I've always wondered if other people is to mark my cut out fabric with scraps of paper. I don't always do this, only if there are lots of pieces that look very similar (skirt panels) or when it's not obvious which side of the fabric is the right side and which is the wrong side. This fabric tends to go a bit shiny when ironed, so I popped little bits of paper on the wrong side so I know which way up to start pressing!

I've also been a little lazy lately, and whilst I made myself a lovely tailors ham, I got bored before I stuffed the sleeve aid. So, still on the rolled up towels to press my sleeves in!

Now, I started cutting the fabric at 2pm, and I finished adding the buttons at 7, but that's not to say it took me 5 hours. Unfortunately I had many problems making the bias binding. I'd never done it before actually, and it turns out I was doing it wrong, but even when I did it right, it was just coming out all garbled. I only had a 1/4 inch bias maker and I realised that it was just far too fine for the fabric anyway, so in this 5 hours I did run into town to buy a 1/2 inch bias maker, and have a little chin wag about sewing with the lady in the haberdashery. It would be rude not to, right? I also ate dinner, and spent a good 20 minutes deciding which buttons to use. This may surprise you, as in the end I went with boring red to match the blouse, but I have a couple of beautiful wooden hearts printed with little butterflies which would look so darling on this top, but I was 2 short. So I might buy a couple more and swap them over in the future.

But for now, here is a completed, one afternoon project of which I am very proud. I MAY have stretched the neckline out a bit. OK, a lot, but it's still wearable and I'll remember to stay stitch it next time. The bias binding is also rather untidy, even though I eventually got it to just about go through the little machine, it wasn't without its problems! Is it because the fabric is viscose rather than cotton, perhaps? I don't know. But anyway, it's on and I'm happy! :) 

I'd love to show you some pictures of me wearing this, but I haven't done my hair, so it'll have to wait until next time.

Until then, I have a new top, and a new pattern which I can make many more of in one afternoon with one meter of fabric. Happy days!

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