After a tasty bowl of soup in the cafe to keep us going we went to explore the permanent Scottish Galleries which contain a wide selection of some of Scotland’s finest innovations, heritage, designs and designers.
V&A Dundee is nowhere near as large as its London counterpart and is ideal for a half-day visit, entry is free except for the special exhibitions and it’s definitely worth going if you are in the area.
The following day Judith and I caught a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Galashiels where the Great Tapestry of Scotland is now permanently housed in a new, purpose-designed building. I urge you to take a look at the website because it will give you so much more information on the origins and creation of the tapestry than I can here. Each separate tapestry (which, like the Bayeux Tapestry, is actually an embroidery) has been sewn by people in locations all over Scotland, a thousand individuals, on specially-woven linen from the Isle of Bute and the majority measure approximately 1 metre by 1 metre square.
The 155 panels are now displayed in chronological order and cover almost every aspect of Scottish life from prehistory up to the present day.
What follows is a selection of the photos I took on my visit, they are loosely in chronological order (unless I’ve mixed them up) but they represent a very small part of the Tapestry as a whole.
I could have photographed every panel but then my phone would have exploded so I had to stop somewhere! These are just a few of the 155 panels to see and enjoy.
I know next-to-nothing about embroidery or tapestry, Judith is very skilled, but we were both blown away by the sheer variety and skill that we witnessed in the Great Tapestry of Scotland. If you are ever in the Galashiels area it is definitely worth a few hours of your time, although sadly we didn’t have long enough.
I chose the Anneka tunic as my first proper Simple Sew blogger make because I like the front and back box pleat detail and I do like a nice pinafore! It’s one of those styles that you could make in a warm fabric for winter like tweed or corduroy, or in a summer-weight linen or cotton drill perhaps. I have a not-insubstantial stash of fabric that I’ve accumulated over a long period but there wasn’t quite enough of any of the three pieces I wanted use which was so annoying. What I could have done was leave out the box pleats but then it wouldn’t still be the pattern I chose in the first place so there was nothing for it, I had to buy more fabric.
I took myself up to Walthamstow market where the famous Man Outside Sainsbury’s came up trumps with some lovely cloth. If you’re close enough to London he’s well worth a look [Saturdays he’s outside Sainsbury’s and Tuesday and Thursday he’s outside Lloyds/HSBC] I think a lot of his stock is ex-designer fabrics so you can often find some gems. It was fairly quiet when I arrived-it’s worth getting there early before the market starts to get crowded later on-so I had a good look round. I spotted a few possibles but then he drew my attention to some lovely wool which turned out to be Harris tweed. I bought some of the check, and I fell for a beautiful plain red too.
Once I got home I decided to make the Anneka in the red [laziness really, I wouldn’t need to pattern match anything!] The pattern instructions remind you to launder your fabric but because this is wool I’ll have to dry clean it whenever it needs it.
Because I’m super-stingy on fabric quantities in order to cut both front and back on a fold I had to fold the tweed slightly off the norm and not following the lay plan which is more wasteful, the photo below explains that a bit clearer hopefully.
Because it’s wool I wanted to line the dress so I cut that too but it doesn’t need the pleats. Simply place the front and back pieces onto the fold of the lining but without the whole box pleat, you could keep a little of it if you wish though. I actually made a seam in the centre back by using the selvedge simply to save a bit more fabric. I cut some for the pockets too, the photo below should help. The pocket lining is cut smaller than the tweed, minus the fold at the top.
When it comes to construction the first thing to do is make the pockets. I wanted to line the pockets so I used the lining I’d cut to bag them out instead of pressing the edges under as per the instructions.
Sew the pockets onto the dress-I moved mine slightly further apart than the tailor tacks because I thought they looked a bit close together (they could possibly move down a bit too, particularly if you’re tall with long arms!). Before I sewed them on though I thought I’d try out one of the fancy stitches my new machine does. I settled on a sort of wave which looks quite nice.
You could choose to embellish the pocket top edge using braid or ribbon for example, or you could fold the top so that it’s on the outside instead, as a wide band, and top stitch it down. Or you could make the pockets in a contrast fabric.
Once the pockets are on you can make the pleats in the front and back. Making the actual pleat is fine but getting it nice and central and even on wool needs a little bit of effort. I made a row of tailor tacks down the CF and CB lines so that I could ‘squash’ the pleat flat and know that I had them central all the way down. If you look at these photos you can see how I pinned through the the tailor tacks to the CF and CB seams underneath. Once I was happy they were accurate I basted the pleats down the edges through all the layers to stop them moving about.
Because I’m using pure wool fabric I can use lots of steam, this really helps the pleats stay in place and can be useful in shrinking out excess and any stretched parts elsewhere too. Make sure you use a pressing cloth though so that you don’t get shiny marks on the fabric.
Sew the shoulders and side seams next, I made the lining up to this point too and, after neatening the seams, stitched it inside the tweed with wrong sides together.
The instructions allow for ready-made bias binding so you could choose a matching colour, or a contrast, or make your own as I did.
This was a slightly risky strategy because the tweed is fairly thick but I decided to give it a try. I made about 1.5m of bias which I pressed under by one centimetre on just one edge using my homemade crease-pressing guide. It’s just a piece of cardboard with centimetres drawn on in 5mm increments.
Once the binding was pressed I pinned and stitched it to the inside edge of the neck and armholes. This is because I wanted it to come to the outside and then topstitch it down for a visible and decorative finish.
Now carefully pin and tack the binding down around the neck and armhole edges, try and do this as evenly as possible because it will be completely visible. It’s worth taking your time. Topstitch it down close to the folded edge
If you’re a bit stuck with the binding there’s tutorial on the Simple Sew website which should help, just click on my link.
Finally, finish your hem. This time I decided to use some grosgrain ribbon over the raw edge to stop any chance of it fraying-as you can see I had just enough!!
The lining should be shorter than the main fabric by a couple of centimetres, I did this at the cutting out stage.
Overall I’m happy with my first Anneka, I might cut the next one a bit shorter though. This version is nice and cosy and the lining will help it to keep it’s shape. If you’re using pure wool for skirts, dresses or trousers it’s definitely an idea to line it to prevent it ‘seating’ or going baggy. I’m wearing it with a RTW top but a shirt or blouse would like nice too. In spite of the absence of darts and a zip this one wasn’t particularly quick to make because of all the care I had to take with the fabric and various techniques but a slow-sew can be really satisfying if you’ve got the time.