GBSB Swing / Circle Skirt

You know the advice that you should never buy fabric without a project in mind? I totally ignore that most of the time. There have been a few exceptions such as the navy twill for the jacket I had to make, but mostly I buy fabric because I like it. Sure, I consider the material type, the weight, the drape and what styles the print would suit, but I don’t always have a project in mind and sometimes end up using that fabric for something totally other than what I originally thought.

This fabric however, I have known exactly what do with since I bought it at March’s Spring Knitting & Stitching Show. The soft drape of the cotton, the brightly colored crazy travel novelty print….it screamed circle/swing skirt!

travel fabric

I used a pattern from my original Great British Sewing Bee book, which meant I had to download, print and piece together the pattern. Considering the way GBSB has inspired so many to take up or resume sewing, I find it disappointing that their books are so opaque on sizing. Each pattern is multi size, usually UK 8-16, but there are no guidelines on waist/bust/hip measurements for each as you would get on a paper pattern. Instead you get a diagram of the pattern pieces printed on one page of the book on a squared background, and the information that each square is 1cm. But again, no clear guidance on how to measure and judge sizing or adjustments from this.

GBSB circle skirt book

The pattern for this skirt is very simple (waistband and 2x skirt panels) and the only important measurement is really the waist. Based on the number of 1cm squares I judged that the largest size 16 was, including seam allowance and the buttonhole overlap feature, approximately 2.5 cm short of my waist measurement. This was easily added to the end of the waistband piece (/2 since it’s cut on the fold), and for the skirt it was added to the straight edge, /4 since there are two skirt pieces (front and back) cut on the fold.

GBSB circle skirt pattern adjustmentI actually cut the bottom of the skirt panel along the size 8 (shortest) line, even though I was also cutting along the size 16 (deepest) waistline. Given my short proportions though this put the finished skirt length just on the knee which is quite flattering.

Cutting was very quick, thanks in part to my new rotary cutter…more about that in another post! It definitely made cutting the long curve of the skirt less of a headache.

Sewing was also quick; sew the front and back skirts at the side seams, insert concealed side zip (I had one the right length and color!), sew waistband in half at the ends, turn and press, sew waistband to skirt, make buttonholes, hem and done!

Finishing the waistband seam was a pain. I think either the instructions are not clear enough or you need a bigger seam allowance. I sewed both raw edges of the waistband to the skirt, then I was trying to turn the raw edges under and top stitch – I had to do this on the inside rather than the outside so I had half a chance of keeping the raw edge under, there wasn’t enough spare.

What I think is supposed to happen is that you sew the front edge of the waistband to the skirt, then turn the back edge under and top stitch to enclose all seams. But the instructions didn’t describe this explicitly and I would have expected them to. Also because you have already stitched both waistband ends together, this makes lining up and accessing the front raw edge a bit tricky at the ends. The alternative is to do what I did but on a 2cm rather than 1.5 seam allowance, so that you have enough to turn under. This would make the waistband narrower but it’s quite generous as is.

Anyway, on to the most exciting bit of sewing this skirt – the buttonholes! The waistband design has an overlap of fabric across the top of the zip which fastens with two buttons. My sewing machine has an automatic buttonhole setting (in fact three styles) and came with the necessary foot. Essentially it works by you setting the button you will use into a gauge in the back of the foot. The needle is threaded in the front of the foot as normal, and you pull a stopper down from a fixed point on the machine to the left of the foot. Then you start the machine sewing (using the start/stop button rather than the foot pedal) and it sews a straight line until the stopper hits the stopper at the front of the button gauge. Then the machine sews a zig zag end, a quick line back to front until it hits the front stopper, then another line backwards to the gauge stopper, locking stitch and stops. Magic! You then use a seam ripper or snips to carefully open the buttonhole between the two lines of stitching.

buttonhole foot I did a lot of practice ones on some scrap fabric (probably more than I needed but it was fascinating me!) and then bit the bullet on the real thing. I think there must be a trick to lining up the holes perfectly parallel, I marked the start of mine but it was hard to see precisely past the machine foot so they are slightly off.

GBSB skirt buttons

Start to finish this is probably the quickest sew, considering I had to print and make up the pattern first too, everything done in less than a day.

GBSB skirt



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: