The thought of making something to wear has been with me for a while, and grew as I watched this years series of the Sewing Bee. I have been collecting inspiration for quite some time over on Pinterest and earlier this year, I found this fabric …
Wrung Newsprint Handloom fabric :: Merchant and Mills :: photograph copyright - Merchant and Mills
… from Merchant and Mills. And before I knew it a metre of the stuff was sitting at the top of my fabric stash.
And from then on, I really had no excuse. Except that the last time I made a top to actually wear it was probably about 1988! So, in my usual ‘make it up as I go along’ fashion, I selected a favourite top from the wardrobe, and used it as a template to cut the fabric. I am sorry now that I didn’t photograph the process!
A simple raglan sleeved top is just four pieces of fabric … plus some interfacing for the neckline. I roughly cut the four pieces, stitched the sleeves to the front and back pieces and draped the resulting ‘cape’ over myself to guage the shape and position of the neckline – after some careful trimming I felt happy that it sat where I wanted it to, and then used the resulting shape as a template to cut out the interfacing from a cotton print. As the weave of the two fabrics varied (the print being a tighter, sturdier weave than the main fabric, I needed to pin the interfacing in place before stitching (I rarely pin or tack whilst sewing … somehow it usually works without either!)
Before pinning in the interfacing though (and I realised this after pinning it in place), I needed to top stitch the raglan arm seams so that they would sit flat once the garment was complete!
After much fiddling, stitching, unpicking, re-adjusting, re-pinning and re-stitching – the interfacing felt ‘good enough’ for a first attempt!
And then to stitch up the side seams – I used an overlock stich on my machine for this. And then just hemming the bottom and cuffs to finish off. The bottom I turned up twice and stitched two parallel lines to give some stability (and to match the two parallel lines of stitching at the neckline). At the last minute I decided to turn up the cuffs on the outside, again folding the fabric twice and double stitching. This does mean that the overlocked seam of the arm is now visible at the cuff, but I feel ok with that!
In fact I feel ok with the whole project.
More than ok – I am really happy with how it has turned out.
So what are my ten top tips for ‘make it up as you go along’ sewing?
1. Use a favourite, well fitting, item of clothing as a template
2. Cut your fabric at least half an inch bigger in all directions
3. Place the pieces together – as if finished – before you even sew a single stitch – this ensures you have the right pieces, they roughly match where they should, and it gives you an idea of whether you are on the right track.
4. Be clear in your mind which seams you need to sew first – it is a bit like working out a construction project – if you are unsure, turn to google – the internet is full of sewing tutorials either in word form or video form – someone somewhere will have made up an item similar to yours.
5. Be prepared to unpick – redo – start again … this is part of the process of ‘making it up as you go along’, each u-turn is a learning opportunity.
6. Stitch and then iron – always – ironing the seams as you go along will improve the appearance of the finished item, but it also helps you to see how you are doing – puckers and wrinkles can sometimes be smoothed out by the iron, other times, it is at this stage that you see you may need to unpick and re-do … and that is fine … better to discover now than further down the line when a complete de-construction may be necessary.
7. Try the item on at every stage – this is the true test of whether you are on the right track – think of the process as a triangle – or a waltz … stitch – iron – try on … stitch – iron – try on …
8. Set your own standard and be happy with it. If you are learning, then ‘good enough’ is a mighty fine aspiration. This isn’t the Great British Sewing Bee – it is YOU, making something for maybe the very first time! Hoorah for that.
9. Embrace the mistakes – they can be your friends! As I said earlier mistakes are really a chance to learn – if it didn’t work one way, which way will it work … it is a process and the backtracking is all part of finding the best route to the finish line.
10. Celebrate your successes! Always! It may not be perfect, but you made it and that is fabulous! Share, show-off, be proud. You did well!
Good luck … and don’t forget to ENJOY!