Monday, 16 March 2015

Simple T-Shirt: By A Great British Sewing Bee...

"Simply T-Shirt"
I recently got the Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe Book.  We can't get this show here in Australia, but I watch some episodes on Youtube. Of cause I adore the show as a sewer and find it very inspiring, but does the book live up to the show? In short, it is as inspiring as the show but it is not  informative enough, in terms of sewing skills and techniques, again just as the show. Today I will just briefly review the book, and share one of the projects I made from the book - Simple T-Shirt.

Or call it Loose Blouse...

The Book Review
The book comes with a packet of full size pattern. The book is well packaged and contains beautiful photographs. Most importantly, the designs of the projects are very up-to-date. I really love this loose fit Simple T-Shirt that I made one for myself straight away.

The Good:
1) The full size patterns (projects) are the main reason I got this book. From baby to menswear, from a everyday blouse to a prom dress.
2) I like the master class after every project. I learnt some new information there
3) The overall packaging of the book and the photos are so inspiring that I am itching to sew its projects.

The bad:
1) The book is more for beginners. If you are at a more advanced level, you will probably find there is no new information here
2) The sewing instructions for the projects are not detailed and often omit illustrations for difficult steps.
3) I want more projects!!

The Simple T-Shirt

I had not sewn a loose blouse before so when I saw this photo, I said to myself "I need to make it." It recommends using lightweight jersey. But I used a flowy crepe, with bold print. It requires extra care to handle the fabric, but it's a very good exercise if I plan to make some soft silk dress alike.
I used 70/10 Sharp needle.

Another thing I learnt is making a smooth binding on the neckline and the sleeve hems (see below pictures). This is tricky. For a long time I always sewed ugly neckline bindings (not flat, with puckers). This time, I made huge progress. My trick is using glue stick when placing the bias strip along the neckline. Using glue stick in sewing is the biggest tip I have learned from making Sewaholic's Granville Shirt!
Double-fold binding on the neckline. Can you see how smooth it is!
Single-fold binding on sleeve hem.

I must say this is one of my best made garments so far. Yes it seems simple but it took me lots of time on sewing the bias binding.
Love the uneven hem too
Speaking of the Granville Shirt, I had made the second version as I promised in my last post. I will post it up tomorrow. Meanwhile, I will also further explore this book. So follow me for updates!

What's your favorite sewing book? I love collecting and reading sewing books. I would love to know what you are reading. :)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

First Time Shirtmaking with Granville Shirt

How often do you wear the clothes you make? My answer is - not often. So I decided to make something I can wear on a day-to-day basis. I work in the office 9-5 so formal business shirts are essential in my wardrobe. I have quite a shirt collection. Out of all my shirts, my favourite is the pair of shirts I bought in Japan a few years ago. They fit extremely well. The fabric is smooth and soft but has enough crispness to give a shape. Unfortunately they are a bit worn out. I have more reason to make my own shirts now.

I dug out all my shirt patterns from my collection. Geez, I have accumulated a lot over the years but have not made any of them. I borrowed the book Shirtmaking: Developing Skills For Fine Sewing by David Coffin. It's the best sewing resource book I have read so far. I am very glad I read it as it made my first time shirtmaking much easier.
My collection for tops.. what's next?

I recently came across the new Granville shirt pattern from Sewaholic. Having made two of their patterns (Alma blouse and Cambie dress), I have a lot of faith in the brand. At first glance, the instruction looks very detailed and clear. I decided to start my shirtmaking journey with this pattern.

Granville shirt has all the elements of a classic shirt – Yoke, sleeve, sleeve band, collar stand, front and sleeve plackets, rolled hem. Most importantly, compared to all my other shirt patterns, this pattern is more fitted to the body.

I used a light-weight striped-woven cotton shirting fabric. The stripes are subtle so I did not pay much attention on matching the lines but I did recut the pockets to match the stripes because they are on the front of the shirt.
Matching the strips
For interfacing, I used fusible woven muslin from Spotlight. I hesitated a lot on the interfacing. I have bought a lot more other types and brands of interfacing from other sewing supplies stores. I plan to try out different types to see which one gives the best result.
Interfacing I got from Spotlight. 
I managed to squeeze all the pattern pieces into 1.75 m fabric (112cm width). I notice the yardage chart by Sewaholic often asks for much more fabric. I really want to know what is the least yardage, considering good quality shirting fabric is often expensive. Here is my pattern layout.

I cut size 4 and it fits me easily, although that's the base on their size chart, I should be size 6.

Lots of the reviews are saying the sleeves are unnecessarily long. I have shortened the sleeve by 2 cm and the shirt by 1cm.
I think size 4 is right, although it still needs a bit more adjustment (commented below)

It took me a long time to make this shirt. This is mainly because lots of the processes were new to me and I kept looking for resources and learning new skills and techniques. For instance, if you never make a sleeve placket before, you have to be patient about learning the steps, i.e. which bits to fold and press, where to stitch etc.

Sewing the shoulder seam
It’s definitely worth watching some Youtube and reading some blog posts before sewing (if you are a newbie on shirtmaking). I found the following links extremely useful:

For sleeve placket: ANGELA KANE Sewing TV
For a sharp collar point: grainlinestudio blog
For sewing collar and collar stand: foursquarewalls blog

Things I have learnt
  1. Use iron spray to achieve crisp edges.
  2. Press along as you sew. I found it extremely useful and give a very good result.
  3. Match the stripes for the pocket on the shirt front if you are sewing a stripe.
  4. Use good quality interfacing material
Things to improve
  1. The sleeves are still too long. I will further shorten them by another 2.5cm (1 inch) next time.
  2. I find the pockets are too big on my shirt. Please note there is only one size for the pocket pattern. So that means the pocket is the same for a size 4 shirt and a size 20 shirt! I pulled out my other RTW shirt and they are smaller.
  3. I would also like to change the shape of the cuff a little bit, just to add a small curve at the corners as my other RTW. I think it’s more practical for wearing and easier to sew.
  4. I also want to slim down the flaring at the bottom of the shirt and lengthen the side seams a little bit. This is because I usually wear shirts under cardigans and I don’t like excess fabric underneath. 

For beginners, making a shirt can be an overwhelming process but it’s also extremely rewarding. There are lots of techniques used in there that can benefit me sewing other garments, and the end result is often surprising, mainly thanks to the neatness from the edgestitching and topstitching. I have worn this shirt to work and it's fabulous. I am totally addicted to it and making the second shirt with some Cotton Lawn (up next).

Happy sewing.

Feel free to leave comments about anything :)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Strap Back and Half Circle Skirt: Simplicity 1651

I opted to do a simple project this time. I went with Simplicity 1651. It has two bodice designs and two skirt design. I chose the sweetheart neckline and strap back for the bodice and the half circle skirt. There is no lining but only neckline facing and bias binding on the armscyes. Sounds easy, huh?! It didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped mainly because I had some minor issues on the fitting and the bust darts.

The bust darts turned out to be way too high, almost sitting on my upper bust. It really damaged the shape of the dress! It may be partly because I cut size 8 at the shoulders, 10 at the bust and 12 at the waist so the shoulder seam pulls the dress up. I think the bust darts should be moved down by at least 1 inch.

As I cut a much smaller size at the shoulders, the armholes are also too small. I think I should cut size 10 and do a SBA next time.
Bust darts are too high
The fabric is cotton lawn with print. When I first bought it, it felt smooth and looked very good on the bolt. But after a pre-shrink, it feels stiffer and the colour looks dull. Well what can I say? I only paid $4 per meter. I guess I got what I paid for.

I think I should use Sateen next time, something that is heavier in weight.

The construction is not hard. The only problem I had is when attaching the back bands, I found the bands did not lie flat after I matched the notches. As shown on the photo below, the upper edge of the band has more tension than the lower edge. I had to unpick the seam and lay the bodice on my dummy to fit the band.
Gap under the straps
Pin the strap on the dummy to ensure they are flat
Adjustment on the stitch line of the straps

Another little challenge is the construction of the v-point at the back. One of the first dresses I made when I first started sewing is Butterick 5603. Back then I was confused when constructing a similar v-shaped back bodice, but his time I did better. I took some photos on how to clip the seam allowance at the v-point so they can be pressed flat.

The pattern calls for an invisible zip at the side seam under the armhole. It's a bit fiddly when sewing the bias binding over the top of the zip at the bottom of the armhole. I believe I still need to improve this useful technique.

Material list:
Cotton poly blend lawn 140cm wide: 1.50m x $4 = $6
18" invisible zip

Conclusion... and what's next...
I am really not a big fan of the side seam zip. It irritates me and scratches my skin. Well it's also because I cut the shoulder seam too small. If I have the patience to make this pattern again, there are lots of areas to improve. I would like to try the twisted bodice next time too.

This is the first time I made a half circle skirt. I am not sure whether I like it or not. I think I have enough flare skirts in my wardrobe now. Now the exciting news is that I just started making shirts, and am currently working on Sewaholic's Granville Shirt. I hope I have the review up very soon.

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