It has been a fair while since The Great British Sewing Bee finished and left a tweed covered Patrick shaped hole in our lives. The challenges were much harder this season and just made my ‘skills to learn’ list about four times longer. Other things that were confirmed by watching the series was that
1. I want to make more of my own clothes
2. That Claudia Winkleman and I would be great friends.
I’ve seen in a number of sewing blogs, in the sewing mags and in interviews, that people thank GBSB for reigniting the nation’s passion for sewing. Now I am in no disagreement that it certainly did create a peak and show people that sewing is easy and it is wonderful that there is television being made that makes people want to spring into action. However it must be remembered that there has been a long standing online community of amazing sewers, not to go without credit and I’m not sure the point I am getting to here but the television programme was great, but there were internet people being great too…or something.
Anyway I watched the series and was always hugely impressed with the skills, bravery and creativity of the contestants and in my mind I thought “if I buy the accompanying series book, I too will be able to make a fully lined wool coat in a day”.
As of yet I have not been able to prove or disprove this theory, as all I have really done with the book so far is browse and mark all the projects I intend to sew and read the pages about, zips, button holes and french seams seven or eight times. This is my personal aftermath, that and drooling over overlockers.
I settled on a pencil skirt as my first project from this book. Coming into summer I thought this could be something I could wear in the near future [insert obligatory english weather comment] **but probably with 4 pairs of tights!!! Am I right??!?**
It would also tick a skills box of an invisible zip.
I had some heavy cotton twill in my stash from Ikea and had spotted the infamous Moss skirt in the same fabric over at Grainline. I find that for structured items like a pencil skirt a heavy fabric can be great to hold its shape through washes and it’ll also help keep all my wibbly bits in check and lastly a justifiable reason to expand fabric searches to the furnishing section.
I didn’t buy the book that accompanied the first series of Sewing Bee as lots of reviews said it was a bit simplistic and a great shame that it didn’t include any of the patterns and these were only available at an extra cost.
The second book however was more focused on clothing, listening to readers and including the patterns for the projects correlating to the series (I believe they also listened to the readers comments by including some devastatingly good pictures of Patrick…sorry objectification DONE…very bad of me)
The patterns are clear and easy to follow. Although there are several patterns printed to a page, it is not in the overwhelmingly crammed way you get with some patterns from books or magazines. They are also printed on lovely sturdy white pattern paper, hardy enough for plenty of tracing off and the clumsiest of bunting hating hands.
All in all very clear pattern, good job team.
I traced the pattern off onto brown paper. Now I know that pattern sizes and dress sizes mean nothing blah blah blah, but still to this day it shocks me how commercial patterns can differ so widely from off the rack sizes. I took my measurements and as repeatedly advised was honest and followed the tape measure not the printed size. Despite all of warnings and assurances, it is still a bloody great bombshell when you have come to terms with a size 12 bum and a pattern goes and tells you that you are closer to a size 16 bum- fuck off pattern.
Anyway, I believed the gospel that you need to be honest and trust the tape measure- one of the many perks of making your own clothes is the bespoke fit, all of my size 12 skirts from the shops that fit round my bum, gape at the waist, so in the long run, I’d rather follow advice and take the moment of frowning at the tape measure in favour of less people seeing the top of my tights poking out from a misfitted skirt.
The instructions in the book are mostly clear, but would definitely need a little prior sewing knowledge to navigate them. The book tries to straddle two formats, the first a general sewing guide with instructions for particular techniques and all round information, then it also has individual projects mirroring the tasks in the series. I found it hard when in the middle of the instructions for the pencil skirt, you then had to jump to the ‘sewing darts’ or ‘inserting an invisible zip’ guide a few pages on, but a small criticism really.
This is a speedy and simple pattern to cut and sew- well it is until you realise you don’t have all the kit you need. I was racing along until I realised I didn’t have an invisible zipper foot- cue a four day hiatus until I sorted it out. A lesson to be learnt (if you like to steam ahead unprepared like me)- always check you have all the kit you need.
Here’s my personal debrief.
Sewing the darts was simple and their placement was good fit wise. The material is thick so they don’t lie down as willing as hoped, but not a problem once the waistband is inserted.
Here’s my invisible zipper, not a bad effort, but certainly some room for improvement, there is some funny bunching towards the bottom where I went a little boy racer. The guide in the book was helpful, but think I might watch a couple more youtube to help with finishing it off.
As my fabric was quite heavy, I decided against using interfacing on the internal waistband. I think in terms of bulk and fit this was a good idea, but I know it will make my life a little harder when it comes out of the washing machine and will need a good iron. I tend to wear my tops tucked in so might do another row of top stitching to keep it in place.
I thought I could get away with not worrying too much about pattern matching, but considering this is a linear and very geometric pattern that was very foolish of me. You can see here it’s alright and it doesn’t bother me too much… But it does bother me a little, I wish my zip sat neatly in the middle of matched polka dots.
Now back to the sizing. Despite all my measurement honesty this came up big. This was pleasing to me after my earlier teen strop about having junk in trunk. I did go with the size most appropriate for the junkiest part of the trunk, with the fable ‘you can take in but not add’ in mind.
I didn’t grade my pattern at all between sizes (why? probably the same reason I didn’t match my pattern or check I had the right machine foot or try this on before I sewed the side seams) but could have graded one or two sizes down at the waist and probably a little from the lower thigh too.
The skirt in general is quite loose, even at the widest part of my hips there is a lot of wiggle room. I can only assume the pattern was a looser, more traditional style of skirt then the femme fatal image I had in my mind and felt a bit frumpy.
To remedy this I unpicked the waist band and pinned the side seams in a little then replaced the waistband- Voilà!
All in all the guts of the skirt are pretty neat and I am pleased with my tackling of an invisible zip and doing very pointy darts.
This has got me over the hump of getting back into thinking about making clothes for me and measurements and grading and faffing with patterns.
It will be interesting to see how much I actually wear this skirt. I tend to shy away from tighter skirts in favour of a-line or skater. Also it is a bolder pattern than my usual style of plains and detailed prints. It is only now I realise it matches a dress my friend has, so now have to also throw ‘dress twin fear’ into the mix.
I am thinking of ways to dress this skirt, current favourites are cropped t-shirt or tucked in sleeveless shirt for a rockabilly look. Any other styling suggestions on a postcard please!