So way back at Christmas I got the Great British Sewing Bee book, with techniques and patterns from the first series. The first project, and supposedly one of the easiest, is a basic sleeveless tunic and has the pattern included at the back of the book (the others you can download from Quadrille publishing).
I planned to make this tunic with the pieces of fabric I bought at the Knitting & Stitching show a couple of weeks ago, and was pleased to find that my size fitted neatly onto the 1metre pieces. Generally, I was quite happy with the instructions….until I got to no. 7, about sewing the armhole seams.
Here’s my advice: If you haven’t started constructing the top yet (in particular haven’t sewn the shoulder seams) then follow the easier method for inserting the interfacing. This basically seems to leave sewing the shoulder seams of both top and interface until last, to allow you to turn the work.
However, I had ignored that, wanting to follow the instructions fully instead of piecing together half of one and half of another. I had constructed the tunic, and sewn the interfacing to the tunic around the neckline (up to the end of stage 6.)
Stage 7 reads: Stitch the facing in place along the armhole edge. Turn the tunic wrong side out and press the facing to the wrong side of the tunic, along the neck edge, centring the neck seamline on the fold. Then with right sides together, stitch the facing to the tunic along the armholes, starting and ending the stitching at the shoulder seam. This is a little tricky as you have to pull back the facing in order to stitch the armhole seam.
First let’s address the positioning of the facing and tunic. This is what it should look like; tunic is wrong side out and facing (stitched along the neckline at this point) is wrong side-to-wrong side with the tunic. I.E when the tunic is worn, the fabric continues with right side showing inside the neckline and arm holes.
Right, on to stitching the armholes. Firstly, I was thrown by ‘with right sides together‘, because in order to do this you would naturally turn the interfacing back through the top, the opposite way to how you have just pressed it and is pictured above. WRONG. Don’t do this, because as I discovered, you will then not be able to turn back, and your interfacing will be trapped the wrong way round.
I was puzzled about why, when I turned it right side-to-right side, I then didn’t see a problem about ‘pulling back the facing‘ in order to stitch. This part of the instructions is wholly lacking in detail, considering this is supposed to be a tricky technique.
Basically, you have to keep the interfacing positioned as above. Therefore, to stitch the armholes right side-to-right side (and therefore hide your seams as with the neckline), you have to do a bit of fiddly matching up. Match up the right side and right side of the shoulder seams of tunic and facing – to do this you will sort of have to twist the interfacing, and there is not a lot of room to straight out the fabric. Bear with it!
Right, now position the shoulder seam under the sewing foot. I think this is impossible to pin, you just have to be brave and keep stopping, reposition and re-align the edges.
Now you can start to sew around the armhole. You will need to keep checking and re-aligning your seams as you go. When you get towards the bottom of the armhole you can hook a finger in and start to straight out the opposite side. There is really not a lot of room to manoeuvre sewing this armhole so you have to be quite brave!
Then you can carry on up the other side of the armhole, until finally you get back to the top of the shoulder.
Finally, you will then end up with an armhole seam hidden and looking the same as your neck seam. Like this (shoulder in the bottom right corner)!
The key thing to remember is that you want your seam hidden, like the neckline, but you can’t turn the interfacing – so the only way to get right side to right side is with a bit of fiddly twisting and turning. Sew slowly, remember you can stop and check the hems are lined up.
I will be making this top again and next time I will record the process from start to finish, which may be easier to follow than step by step photos!
Hopefully this is helpful – I know I was frustrated and looking online for anyone else who had blogged about it, so if you need further explanation you can comment or tweet me and I will try to explain more!
The finished top: