One of the benefits of being part of the White Tree Bloggers Network, is that they sometimes ask if you’d like to be involved in a fun challenge? When that challenge involves sewing, and one of your favourite sewing based TV programmes, there is only one sensible answer. Yes please!
Some of the fabric used on the Great British Sewing Bee was supplied by White Tree Fabrics, who have the most excellent selection of lace I’ve come across online. You can find vintage lace, lace trims, stretchy lace, printed lace, bridal lace, guipure lace, the list goes on! White Tree sent me something similar to what was used on the show, and I had to create an item of clothing.
I was kindly supplied with a pretty pink leaf pattern lace. I felt a little deflated when I saw the colour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely colour, but when pink and lace combine you just get something so feminine, so romantic, and so floaty that it’s just miles away from any style I would actually wear, or more importantly feel comfortable in. So therein the challenge lies, how do I use this fabric to create a garment that feels me?
It was exactly like being on the sewing bee, only without the time limits, the tomfoolery and the well turned out Patrick grant. So OK, maybe not exactly like being on the show, but I was given a challenge to create something wearable in a fabric that I’m not that used to working with, in a colour I wouldn’t wear. It didn’t feel easy, and I wasn’t sure how to go about it.
When I thought about a dress, I ruled it out for being too pink and bridal. A friend suggested a dressing gown, but again, it all felt too Mills & Boon. It wasn’t until I was scrapping about in my T-shirt drawer that I realised I was really short on tops, and the eureka moment struck. I’d make a T-shirt, and not only that, I’d make three T-shirts, a trio of tee’s! Surely if I make three garments I’m bound to like one of them. My reasoning felt sensible, and after all I did really want to win garment of the week. *Reality check* Amy you are not actually on the sewing bee. Oi! Who burst my Patrick bubble?
T-Shirt 1 – Lacy Crop Top using Megan Nielsons Briar T-Shirt Pattern
The Briar pattern is an incredibly versatile pattern which includes a cropped and full length top with 3 sleeve lengths. It is designed for stretchy fabric and knits so I took a bit of a gamble using it for this lace, which has no stretch at all. I tested it out in a jersey first, and then went up a size for the lace, cutting a size large. I modified the pattern slightly to accommodate for the scalloped lace edge, that I wanted to make a feature of for the hemline and the sleeve hems. This just meant changing the scooped hems to a straight one at the front and back. Easy peasy stuff, and it turned out great, plus it was massively time saving when it came to hemming, hurrah!
This was the first top I made, so I was still getting used to working with the lace. I cut my pieces out on the cross grain, so that I could used the scalloped selvedge edge as my hemline. I decided french seams were the neatest (after many failed overlocking attempts), and worked really well with the delicate fabric. I used them at the arm and side seams. As the fabric is semi sheer, it’s worth the effort, as they can be seen from the outside.
The garment only consisted of 4 seams, so went together in a flash, which just left the neckline to finish. A friend suggested I try satin bias, which I thought would work really well. My other option was to use the lace itself, but I wasn’t sure how well this would work, and thought the satin would make a nice contrast. I found a good match for 40p a metre.
I’m happy with how it turned out, the fit is good and the neckline looks pretty. My only gripe would be that the satin bias is heavier, and stiffer than the lace, so it does sit a bit rigidly when on. If working with the lace again I’d try and find something more lightweight to work with.
All in though, a success. I like the length of this top, and how when combined with a colourful tank it adds a nice splash of colour. I’ll definitely wear this again, and I feel I learned a little about working with delicate lace along the way.
T-Shirt 2 – Lace/Jersey top using Simplicity 1424
I picked this pattern up in one of the simplicity half price sales, so I think it was only about £2.50. I liked the A and B versions, and didn’t have any plans for it other than it might make some nice summer tops. For this make however, I decided to give view C a go, as I could visualise this working with the lace as an overlay. I wasn’t sure about the open back on this pattern. My instincts told me to modify it, so it was similar to the front, but I decided I’d give it a go as it was, just because it was different. The pattern asked for lightweight woven fabrics with drape, but I wanted to try it with a jersey I had that provided a good contrast with the lace.
I enjoyed making this top, as I got to experiment with a few techniques. The narrow hems on the front and back pieces were done using my double needle, and required some focus to keep the curves precise. The jersey hemline looked fab (apart from I used 2 different colour grey threads in each needle, which was a bit lazy of me and I won’t do again), but the lace hemline didn’t work so well. It was neat enough in places, but where the weave was very loose it bunched up a little and I think I’d do it differently next time.
Attaching the 2 pieces together at the arms and neckline was fun, and I was really excited to flip it over for the big reveal. I couldn’t wait to try it on. Unfortunately when the moment came I really hated it on me. The fabric just ballooned out over my ski jump chest, and there was really no way to tame it or make it more flattering. I don’t have many loose fitting clothes in my wardrobe, and perhaps this is why. A family of 4 could camp out under that tent. Perhaps with a drapier fabric it would look nicer, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it again. We all have styles that don’t work for us right?
So I’m afraid this is a bit of a fail for me. At least I enjoyed the make and can take away a few lessons with me. This may be one of my first handmade garments off to the charity shop!
T-Shirt 3 – Lace/Chiffon top using Vogue 8877 Misses’ top
I came across this pattern whilst browsing the Vogue patterns on White Trees website, which they have a fantastic selection of. I thought it could work with a lace yoke, and as the pattern recommended lace, crepe, georgette or jersey I thought I’d give it a go. I picked up a cheap georgette from Leeds market for £2 a metre. I actually struggled to get a good colour combination. What do you think of my choice? I liked it when I put the fabrics next to each other, but now the top is made I’m undecided. In terms of weight though, the fabrics are well matched, so in that respect it was a good choice and the yoke seams look neat and tidy.
The pattern is described as ‘very easy Vogue’ and it lives up to its name. Not much to go in to detail wise with this pattern, but I think it’s got the potential to be a good wardrobe builder, and I’d like to try a long sleeve jersey version sometime.
This uses the lace cut on the grain, so the sleeve hems are finished as narrow hems, as is the main hemline. I think I prefer the pattern of the lace when cut on the cross grain, as I did for the first Briar version.
Again I decided to use satin bias to finish the neckline, but this time opted to use contrasting stitching. But alas, the time had come for me to learn another lesson. See below:
Notice those holes? They were left by the pins when I attached the bias to the neckline. Unfortunately no amount of pressing will get them out. I’m confused how this happened this time round and not when I used the same techniques on the briar top. In future I will test out if pins leave marks in the fabric, and when I feel like treating myself, I’d love to buy some wonder clips, a handy little alternative to pins that would have prevented this problem from occurring.
Judging time! How did I do in my own Great British Sewing Bee Challenge
Well, in the absence of any real judge I guess it’s up to me to cast the final assessment. I set myself the challenge to create something that I would wear, from a fabric I would never really buy. The winner for me is easily T-shirt 1, the Briar Lacy crop top. I think this is partly down to the pattern, which is very simple but so wearable. It’s the closest fitting garment out of the 3 I made, and I just feel so much more comfortable in it, and that it can be really versatile depending on what I wear underneath it. In second place I’d choose vogue 8877, which I’m happy with as a garment, but I think it’s a bit on the purple/pink side, and well, a bit Pat Butcher. This obviously leaves Simplicity 1424 in last place. Pretty well made but it’s just no good on me. I wonder if the other style of t-shirt included in this pattern would work any better for me? What do you all think? Which is your favourite out of the three?
Things I learnt about working with lace
- French seams work marvellously
- Overlocking seams didn’t work at all. Because of the fairly loose weave of the lace, there was nothing for the loopers to sit against. I think you’d get better results with a denser/stiffer lace perhaps
- The fabric easily catches. Any piece of rough skin or loose nail easily snagged it. Work with care and moisturised hands
- Binding works well for edges, but consider finding a fabric of a similar weight for best results
- Be careful when pressing. Use a low temperature and a press cloth. Sometimes you can just get away with finger pressing seams
- It’s a really fun fabric to sew, and not too difficult on a machine at all. When combined with a similar weight fabric or as an over-lay it can totally come in to it’s own
- Experiment with cutting on the grain and cross grain, as you may prefer the pattern one way to another, and get to make use of a detailed edge if the lace has one
You may have noticed I’ve had my hair done. Not looking especially polished in these photos, but I love it. I’m really happy with the colour and might even be brave enough to go shorter on the length next time. I’ve also started up my running routine again, and with the help of some acupuncture (which is brill!) I think I might have my achy hip under control. I’m really feeling the oncoming energy of spring, which I’m sure will manifest in many creative ways. I’m currently thinking about whats next on my sewing table. I think it will either be this lovely Alexander McQueen style Burda #6062 blouse, or this Issey Miyake Vogue 1320 coat.
Happy sewing people! I hope the lighter evenings and longer days are blessing you with more sewing opportunities.