I don’t know about you, but I learn a lot through taking risks and experimenting with my sewing. Playing around with different styles and fabrics helps me understand how much I can bend the rules, as well as which finishes look the best on different fabrics. But I think I’ve also subconsciously developed a set of strategies to help me get pretty good results most of the time, even when I’m trying to deviate from the norm.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an absolute wadder. This one is probably as close as it gets for me. But this isn’t because I’m fabulous at sewing. I still have so much to learn. I think it’s more to do with me getting better at understanding what works for me and what doesn’t. Ironically, a large part of this knowledge has come from dozens of disappointing sews and pattern mess ups in the past. I really think that having the courage to jump into challenging projects is the best way to learn, and even more so if they turn into an unwearable mess! So with my past in the past, I had a think about what it is that I do today, to achieve good results.
- Firstly, I’ve learnt to recognise pattern pieces that will fit my figure. Sometimes I can do this by sight, but mostly, I line them up with a TNT and can then see right away how much length to add or inches to take away. But this also makes me lazy. I rarely do a muslin anymore, but if I did, I could probably still tweak the fit some more.
- I have a pretty concrete set of 2-6 modifications that I know I have to make to any of the big four’s patterns the minute I take them out of the packet. This has just come from experience.
- I steer clear of patterns that have a fitted bodice. The fitting issues are just not worth it for me. I have a very basic knowledge of draping and a dress form close to my size. When it comes to close fitting bodices and skirts, I get a much better result by drawing up a design myself and then draping it to get the pattern pieces.
- I won’t start a project unless I am absolutely, 100% feeling it. I used to sew just because I wanted to try a new technique, or to use up fabric stash, or even just to prepare my wardrobe for the next season with boring staples. I’ve come to realise that I don’t wear as many staples as I used to. If I’m feeling frosting, that’s what I’ll sew, because that’s what I’m going to want to wear.
- I look objectively at pattern cover pictures and pay attention to what I’m seeing rather than what I want to see. If those sleeves look loose in the photo, they’re going to be loose on me. That gape at the neckline, or the baggy armpits, well if they can’t hide it in the photo, how will I?
- I’m better at recognising what different fabrics can do. I don’t just stick to cottons, silk and knits anymore. If I see something that excites me, I push myself to have a go. Recently, I’ve had a lot of fun sewing neoprene, rayon, and leather. Getting familiar with different textiles really opens up so many new design possibilities.
- I’m better at recognising when something is just not working, before it gets to the point of no return. I’m pretty good at sewing on the fly and modifying projects that are heading to the pits. Sometimes a glass of wine helps at this point.
So what started me mulling over all of this in the first place? This top! It’s a wearable muslin complete with French seams, because the fabric demanded none other than the best. It’s also far from perfect, but it did teach me quite a few things.
The fabrics I used were small scraps. You’ve seen the watermelon poly before (I call it faux silk because it’s seriously the most beautiful polyester I’ve ever encountered) here and here. I had a little bit left in my scrap basket. All I needed was a little creativity and I was able to stretch it into a top.
The gorgeous, sheer floral silk organza panel, also from Tessuti, was a devastating mistake I made a few months ago (I blame jet lag!). I cut into my little 1m piece of loveliness only to realise that the project I was going to use it for would be completely unsuitable. I was a little heartbroken but kept all the pieces anyway. It makes me smile to see that they haven’t been wasted. I’m also happy that the pieces I’d cut were perfectly suited to this panel, even to the extent that I could position the flowers over my bellybutton.
I’ve been wanting a simple top like this for a long while, but have stubbornly refused to purchase a pattern that I could so easily draft myself or copy. It’s basically just two pattern pieces stitched together (middle panel aside). I used a favourite RTW top in my possession as a guide. But I realised when finishing the neckline, that the front piece was more than 4″ wider than the back…what?!!! And then I remembered that the top I was copying was designed by the maternity label, Isabella Oliver, so this could have been the reason why. Anyway, the neckline binding isn’t anything to write home about either. I was trying to bind it in a fashion that really only suits a binding that will hold a crease. Have I said before how much I dislike sewing with polyester?!
But back to the pattern glitch. I’ve fixed the error now so the next top should be perfect. But this version is too roomy in the front for my liking and I’ve had to add two pleats at the neckline to bring it in a bit. This helps the neckline but doesn’t address the fabric surplus. Those pleats really annoy me, but the top is otherwise still very wearable. I’ve paired it with my leather fancy pant tracky dacks.