A botched cami and a pattern fitting workshop

So #thewardrobechallenge didn’t go so well in June. Somehow the month ran away with me and so a couple of weeks ago I decided to try and bust some of the fabric stash and make something quick and easy for summer – the Cami top from the 1st GBSB book. Adapted slightly – just made simply in cotton without the ruched detail or lace trim. Since I took notes on the last GBSB top I made from the same book, I cut the size up and didn’t worry too much about alterations or testing the pattern.

As it was a simple sew and I wanted to get cracking, I also constructed most of the garment and didn’t actually try it on until I needed to find the strap lengths.

At which point it clearly wasn’t going to fit at all. I’m not sure why two patterns from the same book can be so different in fit but it’s not even close, and I haven’t changed THAT much in size. So I threw the half-made thing back in the pile in annoyance and spent a few days trying to think up ways of salvaging it (mostly involving adding panels) before giving it up as a lost cause. At some point I’ll rip out all the stitching and the fabric is probably destined for some other random project.

I then sat down to read the “Sew your Size” supplement that came with Sew magazine a few weeks ago. Literally 2 pages in they recommended a pattern fitting workshop run by Clare-Louise Hardie. I looked it up and there was one such workshop running this Sunday (I was free) and it was within reasonable distance of my boyfriend’s place in North London. Fine, I thought, let’s achieve one thing in June at least, and hopefully avoid similar future cock-ups!

I would 100% recommend this and probably any other workshop run by Clare-Louise. There were just four of us during the 3-hour (+ a bit, we overran!) session which meant that as well as general principles such as measurement-taking, we all had the chance to study our own foibles and understand the likely pattern alterations we’d come across time and again. We had sample patterns to look at but we’d also all brought one of our own from home. I definitely found having a “live example” much more practical to understand what changes were being made and why.

We talked about the way the big pattern companies work in how they design their products – apparently it is quite common for them to allow for the fact that people will be in denial about their size and cut too small – so if you do actually try and cut your ready-to-wear size it will probably come up big. Add to that the fact that their measurements per size all vary and it’s really a lottery – unless you measure properly and study the information given on the pattern pack to work out what you really need.

We learnt about wear ease and design ease too – an important factor that I hadn’t previously considered at all when looking at measurements. Practising with our patterns, we all tissue-fitted a garment so that we could see any glaring issues straight away, and learnt how to fix these. In my case I had a bit of a revelation, because I have always thought that full bust alterations were inevitable to get things to fit right. Not so! Instead we added some width at the side seams, and it turns out I have broad shoulders so we also added at the centre-back, and did a sway-back alteration to improve fit. Having added at the side seams, a bit more shaping was necessary because I do have a fairly defined waist, so we pin-fitted that in order to re-draw stitching and cutting lines on the pattern.

This workshop was really such good value, I can’t overstate my recommendation. If you have been finding it frustrating getting home-sewn garments to fit, find the commercial pattern packs confusing or get easily lost in the minefield of online resources, really just get booked on to one of Clare-Louise’s workshops because there is no substitute for in person tutorial and discussion, and the group environment adds to the benefit because you can also learn from other people’s body types and alterations too!

July is going to be pretty hectic for me (I’m away 3 out of 4 weekends) so I don’t hold out much hope of a great leap forward for home sewn clothes – but my trips do include Brighton, Rome and Birmingham so I will be on the lookout for vintage or indie bargains!



GBSB Tunic – follow-up Video

As promised, here is the video counterpart to my previous post about how to sew the armhole on the GBSB Tunic pattern.

GBSB Tunic – How to sew the all-in-one interfacing

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.

Tunic interfacingRight, 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!

Shoulder seams

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.

sewing shoulder

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!

armhole turn

Then you can carry on up the other side of the armhole, until finally you get back to the top of the shoulder.

Shoulder seam

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)!

finished seam

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: