We had the good luck to receive a sneaky preview copy of this season’s Great British Sewing Bee companion book, From Stitch to Style. Season four is now airing on BBC 2 at 9.00 on Monday nights.
We were asked if we would like to make up one of the patterns and review it so we chose to make the bias cut stripe top. It was a very lucky guess, as it was the first task in the first episode of the show last Monday night!
Like the Sewing Bee contestants, we all made very different versions of the top …..
I’ve made the bias cut top in the size 14, the sizing in the book gives you the finished garment size, so look out for that when choosing which size to cut. I had to make a concerted effort to actually read the instruction in order to review them for you, once you get to a stage where you know the standard steps of garment construction instructions are more suggestions (usually anyway). The text of the book gives you a few helpful tips, including how to cut out lighter weight fabrics using tissue paper. They’re a nice addition to standard instructions, plus you get a full double page spread of different seams and seam finishes.
I got this polycotton fabric from Leicester Market. They had a small range of stripes, but I thought most of them looked a little cartoonish. This uneven light blue and white has a lovely texture in the white stripes, and a gentle drape, and caught my eye almost immediately. If you’re wanting to try pattern matching for the first time, I recommend going for a stripe that is evenly distributed and a nice, stable fabric which doesn’t shift around too much. Cottons and polycottons are ideal.
I’ve been sewing for five or six years now, so I’ve had a go at pattern matching, but I’m not very confident at it. I’ve read a bunch of blogs which have advised on pattern matching across stripes, large-scale prints and plaid stripes, including this useful article from seam work digital magazine. From my reading, I employed a couple of techniques to help with matching up the stripes for this blouse.
First of all, as advised in From Stitch to Style, cut out your four pattern pieces with the fabric opened out on a single layer. This allows you to be really fussy with your positioning of the pattern pieces.
Line up your grain line with your selve-edge to ensure your pattern piece is cut out on the true bias. It’s going to look like it’s at a really awkward angle, but trust yourself, with the grain line in place you won’t go wrong.
Before you cut, mark on the location of the stripes into the pattern pieces, this will help you line up the second piece with the markings in the same place. To transfer these markings to the other side of the pattern piece, I made little snips, following the direction of the stripes, which I could then line up with the fabric before I cut out piece two. You can also hold up the paper to a light source and trace it onto the other side.
I used pattern weights instead of pins to make sure that the fabric lays flat and then cut the fabric using my scissors. You might have noticed that some of the contestants on the Bee used rotary cutters to cut out their pattern pieces. This also helps keep the fabric flat as you cut it and ensures that all the effort you have gone to pattern match pays off. Remember to use a cutting mat underneath to avoid damaging your table or floor!
It’s super important to handle fabric cut on the bias really carefully, by this, I mean, keep it flat as much as possible, and don’t pick it up and let it hang, this will cause the fabric to stretch. Even the smallest stretch can affect your final finish. To transport my pieces to and from the sewing machine I rolled them up gently and carried them with care.
I’m really pleased with my finished chevron, it isn’t absolutely perfect, but I think it would pass even Esme’s critical eye!
I measured myself and made the size 12 top. I chose a lovely drapey Georgette as GBSB contestant Jamie also battled with on episode 1!
The first thing to note is that Georgette is a wriggly beast… cutting it on the bias amplifies this by about 1000%! And the fact that it was a variegated stripe (as opposed to a regular repeat stripe) also made things “interesting”! But it hangs sooo well! Well worth the perseverance.
I carefully laid out my fabric and patted it into place in a single layer, cutting each piece out separately not on a folded double layer. Like Freya, I used fabric weights, lots of them, to ensure the fabric stayed flat and straight on the table.
I straightened the stripes out as much as I could before, again very carefully, placing the ironed (any folds could affect the stripes lining up in the right place) pattern piece on the fabric and checking the grain line. I anchored it down with a few more pattern weights and set about delicately pinning the paper to the fabric.
I roughly cut out the fabric about 2cm away from the pattern pieces first to ‘release’ the piece then I slowly and precisely cut out the first pattern piece carefully lifting the fabric just a little to slide the scissors underneath. I chose to use scissors for this bit rather than a rotary cutter, like some of the contestants chose to, I was worried I might slip. Phew even as I write this I’m feeling quite tense!
That was the easy bit!
For the following pieces, I had to ensure the stripes matched up exactly at certain points, these were the shoulder inside neck point, the shoulder outside armhole point, the underarm seam join, the lower side hem point and the front and back joins. This meant lots of gentle tapping and patting and delicately persuading the fabric into place. But by taking my time I am really happy with how the cutting went.
I always try to start a sewing project by thinking about the finish of the seams. If I can overlock any edges on the flat before they are joined I do. But this time, I decided that as I was using (the dreaded!) Georgette, I would struggle not to stretch the seams if I used an overlocker or overcasting stitch on the sewing machine to finish the seams so I opted for French seams. I took the 2 front panels and placed them wrong sides together aligning them at the front seam. Now, many of you will know I am not a fan of tacking but there is a time and a place for it, and this was it!
After very carefully matching all the stripes and pinning with LOTS of pins, I tacked the panels together then sewed a 7mm seam along the front. I tried using a walking foot to make sure the 2 layers were pulled through evenly but this large foot got in the way a bit and I reverted back to a regular foot. I sewed all the seams then trimmed them down to about 4mm and pressed them towards one side. The fabric was very springy but a little spritz of water helped persuade it to lie a bit flatter and behave!
I then turned the garment the wrong way out pressed the seams flat, again with a little water mist from a spray bottle and repeated sewing another 7mm seam to encase the raw edges.
I finished the top with a pre-made bias binding and turned the armholes and hem in twice to create a neat narrow hem.
It was a nice coincidence that my top was in shades of blue (honestly, not pre-thought at all!) so I wore to the Leicester City Football Champions Parade on Monday evening which I popped to for an hour before shooting back home to settle in for the TV event of the season! Score!
I am very much a beginner when it comes to dressmaking. I’ve mostly worked with cotton and have never even attempted pattern matching. Although I very much like the chevron style, I didn’t want to jump in the deep end. Therefore, I made my own version of the bias top, without any of the pattern matching nonsense! So if you’re new to dressmaking, but still fancy having a go at cutting on the bias, try my version.
I chose a pretty, lightweight, floral cotton from the shop and paired it with some lace trim
Essentially I followed the instructions, though I folded the fabric so I could cut out two pieces at a time. In hindsight, I could have cut the back on the fold and avoiding sewing the back seam altogether.
The difference between my top and the standard bias top from the book, besides pattern matching, is the lace trim along the centre seam. I folded the trim in half and pinned it between the two front pieces of the top. It’s really simple but effective, It gives the same central focus as the chevrons.
I took a very long time aligning the grain line to the selvedge. I enlisted Sarah’s help and eventually and managed to get my pattern in the right place. I’m not very good at reading instructions thoroughly, or at all. If I had read it through I would have known how to finish my seams. Instead, when I read ‘neaten’ I simply trimmed the raw edges and made sure they were aligned then sewed the pieces together. I ended up going back and finishing the seams with a zig zag stitch.
I love my top, though after watching Sarah and Freya create their masterpieces I am a little tempted to give pattern matching a go.
If you missed the show on Monday you can catch up with us in our store on Friday nights, we’re holding catch-up screenings at 6pm every Friday. Do let us know that you are coming so we have enough chairs. RSVP at Sewing Cinema .
Don’t forget to read the rest of the posts on the Blog Tour:
WEDNESDAY 18TH MAY
Sew Over It
FRIDAY 20TH MAY
By Hand London
SATURDAY 21ST MAY
A Stitching Odyssey
Disclaimer: we were provided with a free copy of From Stitch to Style by Quadrille Publishing in exchange for a review. The book is available to buy from all good retailers now.