The last two weeks have been pretty exhausting as we moved house on the first week of our holiday, with two children on the first week of the summer holidays and no money to hire a van. Luckily I have a mum-mobile, a seven seater with a massive boot when all the seats are down. Most of our stuff was moved in countless car loads with just the main bits of furniture being moved in my sister-in-law’s boyfriend’s van.
We’re all in and unpacked now and the best bit is I get my own sewing space. Well, it’s also a dining room, kids messy play area and generally ‘other’ room but I do have my machine set up in the corner and all my sewing supplies easily at hand… except my fabric stash which Tobi has relegated to the garage!!!!! I have sleepless nights thinking about spiders and other creepy crawlies ruining the prescious hoard.
New Sewing Space
So, the first week of my holiday did not involve much sewing and then the start of the second week was taken up with unselfish sewing- you know the thing I said rarely happens round here. I had two skirt alterations for work colleagues, a slip cover for an outdoor sofa and finally finishing a Getie Shirtwaist dress for my sister-in-law before I was able to do anything for my family and then I had to make new cushion covers to replace very tatty looking covers I’d made from old t-shirts about a year ago. I used the Fat Quarter pack I won in a competition on Twitter from Sew Magazine. I’ve been keeping these FQ’s since I won them, hoping I could come up with some ingenious way to turn them into something wearable as they’re so lovely. But alas, I came up a blank and, seeing the first of the Fat Quarter challenges completed at Oonaballoona’s blog, I can see it’s no mean feat using FQ’s in garment making. But we’re all pretty pleased with the results and at £6 for four new cushions (just the cost of new cushion pads at £1.50 each) you can’t really go wrong.
I did finally get to my favourite activity though, Selfish Sewing. I posted recently about the Spring Sewing Swap goodies I received from Sew Actually, organised through Kestrel Makes blog and I decided to tackle the gorgeous floral satin that I melted over when it arrived. Andrea sent this to me as a challenge as I had applied for Season Three of the Great British Sewing Bee and in season two the first few episodes focused on different types of fabric, silk being one of those. Although I believe this fabric is polyester rather than silk, I can tell you it was definitely a challenge.
I wanted to let the fabric speak for itself and also not give myself too many headaches so I chose a fairly simple pattern that I had been gifted by a colleague at work. It was the free ‘easy dress pattern, from May 2014 edition of Prima magazine. I wasn’t sure about the style on me and thought it might look a little frumpy, so I decided to make up a wearable toile to test the fit and see if it looked any good on me. I used a poly crinky crepe which I scored in a charity shop a while ago- I got about 5 metres of it and have already made a maxi skirt and had a good half metre left once I’d cut out the tunic length. I wish I could remember which size I cut but I know that I had to grade to the size above from the waist down, which is usual for me due to my pear shaped frame. I think it was a medium top half and large from the waist down.
The toile was very quick to sew up. I substituted the elastic channel the pattern calls for for shirring. I thought it would look a bit odd with a rectangle topstitched just under my boobs and lower back and shirring worked well as a more attractive alternative. The pattern also directs you to use bias binding as a facing but I really liked the colour combination between the purple binding I had in my stash and the fabric so I bound the edges instead, including the hem. This version must have only taken me about an hour and a half to make and I was proud of myself that I didn’t need to look at the instructions at all- Sewing level up 🙂
The construction of the final dress was not so straightforward. This fabric is very very slippery and was impossible to keep on grain when cutting out but I did the best I could and neatened up my edges after cutting the main pieces. Andrea had warned me that sharp pins would be required and had sent me a new box of pins to help. Sadly I still had a few snags in the fabric and, due to the printed nature of this satin, it left little white pull lines- you may be able to spot one on the hem picture below. It’s hardly noticeable though and I’ve realised since I’ve been sewing that I always notice the imperfections so much more easily than anyone else.
For once I actually considered construction before I launched myself at my sewing machine and chose to use french seams throughout, except the armholes which I was too nervous about and so used a plain seam, trimmed the seam allowance down by half and used a narrow zig-zag stitch for the edges. In hindsight I’m glad that I made this decision because I made a complete boob inserting the sleeves because the fabric is so slippery. I ended up with sleeves that were far too tight and looked like I was going to hulk out of them at any moment. I also thought the length of the sleeve looked a bit strange and frumpish with such lovely delicate fabric. Therefore my solution was to go at the sleeves with a pair of scissors and turn them into cap sleeves. As unpicking this fabric can also cause trauma to the weave I chose to make the alteration without removing the sleeves. I measured down three inches from the shoulder point and drew a line with a hope and a prayer that I could get them matching on both sides. I then trimmed the lower sleeve away at the underarm seam line and across the newly marked sleeve line, also trimming off the majority of the seam allowance in the under-arm portion of the armhole. I then used satin bias binding that I had in my stash from my grandmother (who I never knew to sew so I have no idea why she had so much sewing equipment and haberdashery) to face the new armhole and sleeve edge. The sleeves are slightly uneven but I like the new look and think it suits the fabric better.
Hemming was another trauma. Due to my inability to keep the fabric on grain whilst cutting, my original hem line was very very uneven. I don’t have a dress form so I begged Tobi to help me with marking an even hem line. He was annoyed after the first three pins as he quickly discovered my frustrations with fabric that just doesn’t want to sit still. I then cut off the excess fabric as straight as I could ready for hemming. I had intended to make a hand-rolled hem but my first stitch, picking up just one or two threads, pulled out the threads and made a horrible snag. I quickly abdandoned that idea and decided to do it on the machine. I rolled over the hem edge approximately 1/8″ to the wrong side and stitched close to the edge and then repeated the process, giving me a
nice narrow hem. Horribly horribly uneven, but a hem none-the-less.
Neckline Bias Facing
Teeny tiny machine rolled hem
Despite all my griping about this fabric, it feels divine to wear (apart from the static which makes it cling to my legs but is easily resolved by wearing a slip underneath) and it got the Tobi seal of approval when he realised how touchable it is. It felt like an accomplishment to complete it too, despite the frustrations along the way.
I have since pinned some tutorials on my Pinterest Sewing tutorials board giving hints and tips for sewing with slippery fabrics. Have any of you got any hints and tips to add? Any slippery fabric disasters or triumphs?