I’d been having Love Sewing magazine on subscription for a year or so. It’s one of the newer additions to the burgeoning sewing magazine market and it appealed to me because it always included a free full paper pattern rather than fat quarters or other sewing sundries like some publications-I have all the scraps of fabric I need thank you very much and free gifts of variable quality didn’t appeal but patterns will always ‘be useful’ or ‘come in handy’! This edition is from April last year and it also included a tunic pattern by Fiona Hesford to trace off from a template that was included inside. I liked the look of it with the ‘quartered’ design on the front and the pockets so I traced it off quite quickly to use.
Tracing off isn’t especially difficult (have a read of my blog about Burdastyle pattern magazine to find out how) Before I cut out the pattern pieces I always check that they match at crucial points like the side- and shoulder-seams, sleeve seams are the same length each side etc. I do think it’s important to do this because, in my experience, not all these magazine patterns are very accurate, and also your tracing-off might be a bit wobbly too so if you were to cut it out in fabric without checking you wouldn’t know why the garment wasn’t going together as well as it could. Do make sure you’ve double-checked your body measurements against the pattern too so that you’re doing the right size for you (no good being vain and making ‘the size I buy in the shops’…I’ve told you before about that!)
Once I’d cut it out I then didn’t do anything with it! Unbelievably I hadn’t got any fabric in my stash which I felt was suitable so I just kind of forgot about it. Then I went to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace last October and, amongst other things, bought some lovely cotton Chambray from Fabrics Galore.
[Chambray is like a lightweight denim fabric but is softer in feel and is plain weave whilst denim is heavier and firmer in the same colour combination using a twill weave. It’s usually pale blue with the warp thread in blue and the weft yarns in white thus giving it its pale colour although there are many variations on this. ‘Oxford’ shirting is very similar. By the way, this technique is also used very effectively in silk fabrics and is known as ‘shot’ taffeta, dupion, satin or whatever. The colour combinations can be fabulous giving jewel-like richness to shades that wouldn’t look much on their own.]
Even though I’d now got the fabric I still didn’t start until two weeks ago although I had washed it before that to remove any dressing and, hopefully any shrinkage or loose colour. [you can’t rush these things] The nice thing about a plain fabric is that you can cut the pieces in either direction which can be more economical than a print and you don’t have to spend ages scratching your head doing pattern-matching. The only change I made to the pattern was that I didn’t use the neck facings as I’d got some pretty bias binding I was going to use instead.
The pockets go in the skirt first and then joined to the corresponding front piece, with their bust darts sewn and pressed first. The seam is overlocked and pressed flat and then top-stitched for extra emphasis. At this point the centre front is joined together. I’d placed these pieces against the selvedges so they didn’t need overlocking on the inside, I just pressed them open and top stitched both sides on the outside. So far so good.
Next the centre-back seam is stitched, leaving a gap at the top for a false opening (the garment will go over your head without the button needing to work) There’s no seam in the skirt section so this just gets joined to the top at the waist seam, neatened and top-stitched as before. Shoulder seams next-I didn’t top stitch these but you could. At this point, with garment still open at the sides, I added the bias binding to the neck. Stitched close to the edge first (5mm or foot-width) open out flat and under stitch throughout the binding and all seam allowances. Under stitching always gives a crisper finish to folded-in edges and facings and is well worth perfecting.
I folded the binding over, snipping the seam allowance carefully where necessary so that it lays flat, and machined 2cms from the edge to get a neat row of stitching on the outside. Press and steam to get it nice and flat.
I wasn’t sure about the sleeves because they looked quite narrow at the shoulder and I was worried that they wouldn’t fit me well. These are not quite set-in sleeves because you don’t join the seam first, but you run two rows of gathering-sized stitches around the sleeve head. Next, matching the notches and underarm seams, adjust the sleeve head to fit into the armhole then stitch [you can always tack the sleeves in first before machining if you’re not happy just doing it with pins in] Repeat with a second row of stitching close to the first, sleeves are always sewn twice for strength. Overlock or neaten the seams, you can also topstitch here too.
At this point I sewed on more binding to the sleeve hems, I under stitched but didn’t turn it up yet. Now you can join the whole side seam and sleeves, fronts to backs, from cuff to hem on both sides. Overlock or neaten as usual. Now turn up the cuff binding and stitch in position the same as the neck. I cheated at this point and sewed on a button at the back neck, through all layers, rather than making a loop-just being lazy really!!
All that’s left to do is put the binding on the hem and turn it up as before.
I layered the dress with a T-shirt for warmth on a cold day but otherwise it’s a great fit across the neck, shoulders and sleeves. I definitely look like I need a few splashes of paint on it…it’s lovely and comfy though and the pockets are handy too. It was quick to make…even if it has taking me months to get to this point! It might be possible to get back issues of Love Sewing if you check their website if you’re interested, or you could easily adapt a straight-ish tunic dress to put the cross-seams in if you’re more adventurous or confident.
http://www.sewgirl.co.uk Fiona Hesford’s own website