The day I went to London to see the Nick Waplinton exhibition at Tate Britain (which I talked about in a previous blog) I took myself on a bus adventure afterwards up to Oxford Street, and my favourite shop, Liberty of London. [the number 87 is a great route, travelling from the road behind Tate Britain past Horseferry Rd magistrates court-often on the news but no idea where it was-up to Westminster Abbey, around Parliament Square and Big Ben, along Whitehall, past Trafalgar Square, into Piccadilly Circus and up Regents St]
If you love fabric and quirky or unusual things for the home and you’ve never been to Liberty in Regents Street then you’re really missing out.
It’s beautiful to just wander around-it looks gorgeous, it smells lovely and, if you buy something, they put it in a very covetable purple bag!
Anyway, I’m telling you this because I have a Liberty Loyalty card and they were offering 20% off purchases so it would be rude not to…make a purchase that is. I fancied the Liberty print Vans so I snapped up a pair of them in a design called Gallymoggers Reynaud (no, me neither) which is a modern interpretation of the original Alice in Wonderland illustrations. Having bought these from a rather sweet young man I trotted off to the fabric department (newly redecorated and streamlined) and what should I spy but the very same fabric on the roll. At £22.50 per metre Tana Lawn (so called after Lake Tana in Sudan where the high quality cotton it’s made from was grown) it ain’t cheap but it’s beautiful quality.
Because of its price I only bought 1.5m (if you consider that a shirt bought in Liberty in their own fabric will set you back £95 this represents a bit of a saving in fact!!)
It actually took me quite a while to decide what sort of style I was going to make with it but eventually I went with a pattern hack of another of Pamela’s vintage patterns.
I wanted to make some sort of blouse and I decided that the top half of the dress was a good basic shape. It had a collar and yoke with tucks, long sleeves and a reasonable amount of fullness in the body. If you’re looking to ‘hack’ a pattern then start by choosing one that has as many of the features you’re looking for in your projected finished garment as possible. I traced-off all the pieces I needed from the original using a tracing wheel and carbon paper or directly through the spot and cross paper. If you’re using a tracing wheel don’t forget to protect the table top as it will mark it.
I altered the sleeve to a short sleeve initially but that didn’t use enough of the fabric I’d bought (there would be a quite a big chunk left over) so I created a longer, fuller one. [I made a toile of this sleeve which turned out not to be as full as I wanted so I made a further alteration to the pattern to make it ‘blousier’] I also added some fullness across the back to make the blouse a looser fit. I cropped the dress a little above hip level and gave it a rounded hem shape. One of the things I also liked about the dress was that it had no buttons or zips to worry about, I was feeling lazy and wanted an over-the-head style so this was perfect.
Once I was happy with my pattern I could cut it out. Because the front and back were each one piece these had to be cut on folds. The yoke was double too.
I should add that this fabric is a ‘one way’ design which means that all the pattern pieces must be cut facing in the same direction-you don’t want bits of your garment having the design on it’s head!! [This sometimes necessitates buying extra fabric-always check your pattern carefully for quantities if you’re buying a ‘one way’ fabric]
Once I’d cut everything out the first thing I did was run 2 rows of gathering stitches between the tailor tacks on the back. The threads are pulled up to the required length and then the piece is ‘sandwiched’ between the 2 yoke pieces.
After this I made the tucks in the front sections which, in turn, attach to the yoke at the fronts.
Now make the collar by pinning and stitching the 2 parts together, turn the points carefully by pivoting the needle on the spot.
Next the 2 front edges of the yoke need to be pressed under by 1.5cms. This is so that they can be stitched in position from the front and having been pre-pressed helps with this.
Next the collar needs to be pinned and stitched in place. The photos I took of this part of the process don’t really illuminate very well what happens but basically the collar must first be turned through RS out and pressed neatly. The open edge can be pinned together and tacked or stitched if you wish, to prevent it moving about whilst you sew it in position. Pin it to the neck edge, matching notches where necessary, and stitch in place.
The neck edge (if you haven’t machined it down) now needs to be slip-stitched in place.
[ http://www.sew-it-love-it.com › learn to sew Have a look at this website for a good description of slip stitching, with photos]
Once I’d slipstitched the collar and neck edge in place I was ready to put the sleeves in. I’d decided to bind the cuff-edge with self bias binding. This is very easy to make for yourself by following a few straight lines and right angles.
In order to attach my binding I used my groovy new binding-making gadget to press the folds into it. I’d known of these for years but didn’t ever see the need to use one. However I was buying some useful little bits and bobs on http://www.jaycotts.co.uk so I thought I’d treat myself as I had loads of bias to make for my niece’s 50’s housewife style apron. Turns out it’s really handy!!
Now I ran 2 rows of gathering 3-4mm apart and within the seam allowance, along the bottom edge of the sleeves-this is simply the longest straight stitch that your machine will do. Do a reverse backstitch at the beginning of each row but not the other end, leave the threads dangling as you need to pull them up from here. Now join and overlock the underarm seams of the sleeves so that they form a tube. As an alternative at this point you can leave the seam unsewn, apply the binding out flat and then sew up the underarm sewn right through including the binding too. If you’re sewing small things like children’s clothes this would be better because it can be so tricky to get tiny armholes etc under the machine foot.
I did this part of the process twice because, once I’d gathered the cuff and put the binding on, I decided it needed to be more gathered so I undid a small section at the join to pull up the threads a bit more and then restitched it all back together. This is perfectly normal (although a bit frustrating) when you’re making your own patterns as you can’t be certain how it will turn out and it won’t necessarily be right first time.
Finally I set in both the sleeves (I’m not going into that this time, this blog is quite long enough already!!) I overlocked the edges and you can either use a zigzag stitch or your own machine’s equivalent of overlocking if you have it. Binding the armhole is another method if you want a really classy finish although it’s more usually used on jackets and coats.I overlocked the lower edge of the hem and stitched it up with a straight stitch.
So there you have it, one blouse that started life as a dated 1980’s dress. I’ve left a few of the details out but you get a good overview of the processes involved in it’s evolution and making. There’s still a little bit of fabric left over too so maybe I’ll make some pants with that (I just won’t tell you about it!)
The blouse looks a bit crumpled in the photos because I’d forgotten to take pictures when it was more pristine! oops.