Sunday, 22 May 2016

Heather: Perfect Peacocks and Disastrous Draping

Calling in to Fabric Corner a couple of weeks ago I was drawn to a beautiful petrol coloured crepe which I decided would make a perfect project for May. Looking around the store for something to complement it, this beautiful peacock feather Liberty lawn stood out and I began planning my project.
And then I planned some more. And some more. I was really struggling to decide what to make; a term I affectionately named "sewists's block" for about a week.The fabrics were so beautiful that I came up with at least 9 different project ideas before I finally made my decision.

In fact, the decision came a little easier with the arrival of the latest edition of Love Sewing Magazine and the accompanying Pussy Bow Dress. I had already made a version of the dress (see a later post) and really liked the shape of the bodice, so I decided to make a sleeveless version of the blouse. 
I started by tracing out a copy of the blouse pattern (minus the sleeves) and checking the fit against my pattern block. I then split the front bodice piece down the centre front and added a button stand, also altering the neck facing to match. 

Anyone who has ever worked with Liberty cotton lawn knows that it's an absolute dream to work with. It doesn't usually lose any size, body or colour in the wash and it drapes beautifully. Consequently the main garment pieces were cut out and ready to go within less than 20 minutes. The petrol coloured crepe, however, had its own ideas about how it should be used and I had a real battle on my hands to lay the fabric both flat and straight both at the same time. Finally, using my cutting mat, rotary cutter and all the pins I could find, I finally managed to cut the length for the bow.

Assembling this garment is pretty straightforward- centre darts front and back and bust darts, side seams, shoulder seams and that's 90% of the construction completed. Not contented with a straightforward make I spotted this plum scallop edged trim in the haberdashery (yes, it is meant for knickers, but I don't like to be pigeonholed 😉) and added it to the edge of the front panels where the buttons would meet. 

I then attached the facings to finish the neckline and added the neck tie. The armholes were finished by simply turning under 1cm- not my preferred option generally but it seemed to work for this garment. I dug some teal buttons out of the button stash, and voilá!


Buoyed by my blouse success I quickly searched my pattern stash for a suitable skirt pattern. Empty-handed, I then resorted to searching Pinterest (what would we do without it?) and discovered a fun draped skirt from Burda which was available as a pattern download to print at home. A general fan of Burda, I decided to give it a go.

Image reproduced from

First of all, this pattern was probably a bit ambitious for 8pm on a Sunday evening, and consequently my make was littered with mistakes. The first challenge was the pattern layout. The skirt is a wrap style and requires the back panel (there is 1 piece included in the PDF) to be used twice, attached to both the front right and front left panels at the pattern stage to eliminate the need for a side seam. Being a hater of waste, I found it really hard work to lay out the pattern on the (constantly moving) fabric, eventually resorting to marking the outlines on the crepe with pins and chalk. (I know the seasoned sewers amongst you are screaming "why didn't you just trace out a second back piece?" No idea. I'm screaming it too). Finally I got all of the pieces on to my fabric and began cutting out.

Now, I've made quite a lot of patterns from Burda, see my previous post for evidence, but in my slightly fatigued state I forgot that one golden rule... check the seam allowances. Burda are well known for not including seam allowances in their patterns but this had completely slipped my mind (and of course I hadn't bothered to read the instruction pages, which would be my ultimate downfall). Thankfully I had opted for a slightly generous fit on my measurements, so I persevered, constructing the pocket sections, adding darts and joining the centre back seams without issue. I hemmed the skirt at this point as the crepe was beginning to fray.

You'll notice from the pattern diagram that the front pleats sit over the waistband rather than joining underneath it. This technique involved partially attaching the waistband, then folding the pleats over the waistband, and finally sewing the bottom of the waistband by hand. The waistband pieces are not included in the PDF and need to be drawn out onto the (by this point, dreaded) fabric. Skimming the instructions (you can see where this is going, right?) I cut out my waistband strips and merrily attached them to my skirt. After much pressing and a few choice words I realised that I had, once again, forgotten the seam allowances.

At this point I went to bed.

The next evening I fixed my mistakes and finished off the skirt. I'm not sure whether it was the knowledge of the mistakes I had made, or just general frustration, but I was really unhappy with the finished skirt. Sadly I think this one is destined for the recycling pile.

I read so many blogs that talk about great makes and technical skills and design, but very few hold their hands up to a disastrous make. For anyone who had ever read similar articles and been disheartened when things don't go right, please know it happens to all of us.

The fabric used in this post was kindly provided by Fabric Corner Lincoln, based at The Craftea Sewing Bee Shop, 22-24 Melville Street Lincoln, and at Lincoln's Historic Central Market.