Hello my dears. Now because I have an actual person in my social circle that enjoys sewing as much as I do. I thought I’d introduce her to you – or rather let her introduce herself to you. It’s my darling sister and although I inserted some snide comments here and there I actually love her to the moon and back.
Just like my sister, I started out sewing fairly young. I gained my first sewing experience in primary and secondary school – and at home on our mother’s sewing machine. The first thing I’ve ever made was, I think, a bag for clothes-pegs which my mum still uses today. What then followed was the teenage move away from homemade crafts since it was just so uncool. When I took up sewing again in my twenties, I started with bags (which is a good way to start btw. because you do not have to worry about fit) and then roughly around the same time as my big sis I tried out my first garments (none of us really know how that always happens, we seem to share a lot of interests, but we never really know who started and who just followed suit. Although, now that I think about it, most of the time it’s probably me, the little sister, who follows in the big sister’s footsteps.) My sis has asked me to write a blog entry for her blog, sort of as a guest-blogger, so here we go.
It seems to be in my nature that I never choose the easiest projects. For some reason they just don’t appeal to me. Therefore, I chose a more or less easy pattern and a pain-in-the-*** fabric: silk. I had bought that fabric over a year ago and sort of never had the courage to actually do something with it. There always was a good excuse at hand: bad sewing machine, not the right presser foot, not enough experience, etc. Well, I eventually decided to try it (the sewing machine had been replaced by a new Bernina B530 and I had also finally bought the walking foot, so my excuses were running out). The pattern (Schluppenbluse) is from a German sewing magazine “Diana Special Nähmode plus” (summer 2017) from the OZ-Verlag, but I left out the pussy bow since I’m not much for bows and ruffles.
I generally like sewing magazines because they just give me so much inspiration. The only problem is the patterns: It is extremely time- and energy-consuming to trace the correct pattern in the correct size as you may guess from looking at one of those pattern sheets. It comes as no surprise that I made several mistakes when copying. What I find worst with most German sewing patterns is that the seam allowance is not included in the patterns, i.e. you have to add those yourself. I generally hate having to cut out patterns and later the actual fabric pieces – I’d much rather just start sewing, so I try to get over those boring parts as quickly as possible. Sometimes I work just a little bit too fast, which resulted in several mistakes. My first mistake was that halfway through cutting out the copied patterns I realized that I had forgotten to add the hem allowance, which is 2 cm instead of just one for the seam allowance. But I was able to fix that mistake fairly quickly. Also, the fact that some of the pattern pieces have to be cut on the fold (and therefore do not need seam allowance) gave me trouble at the beginning. The most difficult thing was trying to figure out where I had to put the seam allowance in the front piece: The piece has to be cut on the fold, but there is an area that is left out for the button placket. Therefore, that small area needs a seam allowance, which was a bit confusing.
Since I always have to make adjustments to the patterns due to my fuller bust, I did that before actually cutting out any fabric. The problem with that was, that the pattern did not have any darts in the waist area where I could remove some of the width I had created around the bust. I decided to leave it that way for the moment and to just see how it would look like on a muslin.
It turned out that my decision to first cut a muslin was good for several reasons. I realized that the seam allowances around that button placket were wrong (see above) and I also had a chance to work out how to do that button placket without worrying about ruining my fabric (I actually had to watch a tutorial on sewing plackets first since the directions in the magazine are pretty lacking. I watched pattydoo (in German though) who didn’t sew it exactly the way that I had to, but it gave me enough insight to understand what I had to do). So doing a muslin of your garment first is not only a good way to do fitting alterations, it has other purposes too like testing the actual techniques. The blouse actually fit quite well. My waist area turned out to be too wide, as expected, but after consulting with my trusted advisor (aka my sister) I decided to just wait and see how the garment would fall with the much lighter fabric.
In the end, I did not make any pattern alterations apart from that button placket after trying on the muslin. I am still glad that I first tried out everything on an easy cotton fabric, since the silk fabric was really difficult to work with (and that’s putting it mildly).
Cutting the silk
I knew that working with silk would be really tricky. So I wanted to try out a technique to facilitate the cutting. What I did was try to starch the fabric first. The recipe for this required 100g corn starch in 1 litre of cold water. I had to immerse the fabric in it and then let it dry horizontally. I did exactly as instructed and the result was disastrous. Maybe it just wasn’t the right fabric for this kind of treatment, but it absolutely did not work. The starch did not stick to the fabric at all, so every time the fabric was moved ever so slightly it went up in huge puffs of dust. (Note from Nadine: Hahahahaha, there is spray for this you know?) In the end I had to shake it out several times on my balcony (can’t imagine my neighbours being pleased about that, but luckily I didn’t get any complaints). So the only thing I got from that experiment was an extremely dusty house and balcony and a boyfriend who absolutely forbade me to ever do that again.
So I decided to just try cutting it out without any starching and it worked out ok. The scissors didn’t really work that well, so I used a rotary cutter. I knew that with very thin and flimsy fabric you should only cut one layer at a time, but as I’ve already mentioned, I hate cutting out, so I absolutely did not want to take double the time. In retrospect, this was of course a mistake. I had extreme difficulties placing everything on straight grain since the fabric kept moving at the slightest touch. I think I managed moderately well (but would have done better if I hadn’t cut out on fold), but still, as you will see later on, I did end up with some uneven seams on the finished blouse.
The sewing part
What you absolutely have to do is press each piece before sewing it. I did not do that so thoroughly initially, and what I got were some pretty wobbly bust darts because of that. I reduced the thread tension a bit, since it was such a light fabric, and I also used a 2mm stitch and a microtex 60/8 needle. I also made use of my overlocker for the raw edges. It is said that you should not use a polyester thread, so I used a cotton thread (silk would probably have been even better, but I did not find that in any of my local shops). (Note from Nadine: You are such a goody-two-shoes). What really saved my work, however, was the walking foot. I do not think that I would have managed without it. Even better would have been a straight stitch needle plate, since my fabric sometimes got drawn into the machine a bit (this will definitely go on my ever-growing shopping list for next time). What also helped immensely was the free-hand presser foot lifter which came with my Bernina, that way I could place the fabric perfectly and then lower the foot with my knee.
After applying the fusible interfacing to one collar and the button plackets, I closed the darts. As already mentioned, my bust darts did not end up so nicely (image). Apart from not pressing them properly beforehand I also made the mistake of using clips. Now my sister uses clips for anything, apparently, but I just can’t warm up to them (Yes big sis, I’m a traditionalist). (Note from Nadine: That is libel, you fiend! I find them practical but to be honest mostly I neither use clips nor pins). They are much bulkier than pins (so you have to remove them before they get too close to the presser foot), whereas pins can be left in the fabric until just before the sewing needle hits them, and sometimes, if placed horizontally, you can even sew over them completely. Plus, clips are heavier, which proved fatal when sewing which such a light fabric: my fabric kept being pulled here and there by the weight of those clips. The result was, that I felt like a complete beginner, not even managing to sew in a straight line. After I changed to pins, I coped reasonably well. There is still the problem of the pins leaving holes in the fabric, but if you work carefully and only place those pins in the seam allowance, it should work out fine. As mentioned above, my fabric sometimes got drawn into the machine when sewing very closely to the selvedge, so I refrained from tying-off by machine and instead just knotted the threads by hand on my darts.
Next followed the button placket. Now, I definitely would have wished for some clearer and more precise instructions for that part. What is important is that the button plackets are 2cm longer than the area left open on the front piece. You then sew the two plackets onto each side of the front piece right sides together. You have to stitch until 1 cm before the raw edge at the bottom of your placket. You then cut the seam allowance of your blouse diagonally downward until just before your stitching. Next, place the two plackets in fold and top-stitch exactly on the previous seam. Then you place the two on top of each other and place a pin at the bottom (image). You pull all the raw edges at the bottom to the left side (including that triangle you cut into the seam allowance of the blouse front piece) and stitch them together exactly at the fold (image). As a last step you top-stitch the cross to the bottom of the placket to stabilize it.
After that I had to close the shoulder seams and apply the collar. First I had to sew the two pieces (one with interfacing, the other without) together on three sides and then turn right side out. Here again, instructions were scarce. When you sew those three sides, make sure that you start and finish your stitch 1cm after/before the end of the inner edge. Then you have to sew the inner layer of the collar to the blouse. Now, unfortunately the instructions didn’t say which layer (the one with the interfacing or the one without). Of course, given my luck, I chose exactly the wrong one, the one without interfacing. You should definitely sew the interfaced one first, or simply put interfacing on both collars. Why? Because I later had to fold in the seam allowance of the interfaced piece, and with the other piece not being interfaced, this proved to be quite a challenge. The result was another uneven seam.
Next, I had to face the armholes with bias tape (which surprisingly worked out quite well compared to the collar) and then close the side seams.
At that point I’d had enough of having to fold up that slippery fabric and I decided to cheat a little. Yes, I admit it, I used a hemming web for my hem. I just couldn’t bear sewing another seam – and a doubly folded one at that. What was then still left to do was sewing the button holes and sewing on the buttons. Since I had changed the length of the button tab, I worked out my own positions for the buttons, they are 5cm apart. I did not sew any buttons to the top of the blouse for the following reason: You may not see it so well on the picture, but the blouse turned out to be just a little bit lopsided. At one point in my sewing process (I think it even happened when cutting) my back piece got a bit shorter in the centre than it was supposed to be. Rather than walking around with the hem way up my buttocks, I decided to just leave out the last button (let’s be honest, how often do you actually do up your top button anyway). Of course, my shoulder seams are now a bit too far in the back and the collar would strangle me if I closed it, but I don’t think that people will notice.
All in all, I’ve really gained some experience with working with light and slippery fabric. The result is far from perfect (I think as a hobby sewist you have to give up the notion of ever doing anything to perfection), but I think I will be able to wear it in public (note from Nadine: Yes, you will!) And I must say, that light and cool fabric feels wonderful on my skin.
PS: I have now worn it once and decided, that the hemming web hadn’t been such a good idea after all. It was simply too heavy for that light fabric. I cut it off completely (the blouse was a bit long anyway) and did a proper hem after all…