sewing my own clothes is something i've always wanted to be able to do, but haven't found the time (or courage!) to try out before now. i've always been too nervous of making mistakes – knitting is quite forgiving in that if you do something wrong, it's super-easy to rip it out & try again, using the same yarn until you get it right. sewing, on the other hand – or rather, cutting out pattern pieces – is something that once done, can't be undone!
since i'm a “non-standard” body shape, though (and very few of us are!), i've been becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the type of clothing available to buy. unless you can afford the high-end stuff, the fabric choices are often not very nice (synthetic or cheap fabrics that lose their shape quickly or don't hold up to normal wear) and the fit often doesn't suit my body shape. so, i decided it was time to stop being annoyed at my body for not fitting into off-the-rack clothes, and start trying to make the type of clothing that i actually wanted to wear.
i started with Top 64 from the marvellous Merchant and Mills – it seemed like a reasonably good pattern for beginners, as it was mostly straight seams, and was similar in shape to a store-bought top i already own & wear to death. since sewing has always been something i wanted to try “someday”, i already had a few bits of fabric stashed away, and used a fab tattoo-print cotton (a gift from Ms. Bookish) for my first attempt.
it did turn out as a wearable top (hurrah!) but there are a fair few mistakes in it, so this is the only photo i'm willing to share!! my top-stitching is extremely wonky, and a couple of seams went slightly awry, but overall i'm very happy with this as a first-ever finished garment. there were a few things about the pattern that i wasn't pleased with – the sleeves were far too long for me, and the pockets, while an interesting design feature (and sewn in an interesting way) were too teeny tiny to really be useful, so i bought some really lovely denim-blue cotton (also from Merchant & Mills) for a second & much more successful attempt.
for this one, i shortened the sleeves by nearly six inches – i wanted them to be more 3/4 length so i don't have to keep pushing my sleeves up at work! – and also made huge pockets by cutting two of the front bottom panel, layering them on top of each other, and sewing channels up from the hem to the open top edge to make four deep pockets that use the whole depth of the bottom panel section. i didn't top-stitch my seams on this version, as i didn't really like how it looked on the first one (and not just because of my dubious top-stitching skills!). i used french seams everywhere (thanks to this fab tutorial from GrainLine!), bias-bound the neckline instead of sewing the neck facing in the pattern, and used a piece of japanese owl-printed flannel gifted from Ms. SoCherry to make the inner layer of the pockets as well as hidden cuff linings. and i LOVE it.
emboldened by this, i jumped straight in to my next project, the ubiquitous Scout Tee from GrainLine Studio. everyone and their dog has sewn one of these, so there are tons of variations, tutorials, and helpful tips available online to search through. my first attempt was in some plain black cotton, with contrast piratical sleeves from another piece of stashed fabric of unknown origin. and again, while wearable, it has some issues, so this is the only photo you get!
part of the problem with this one was my choice of fabric – the cotton is a bit too stiff, making the finished top rather more tent-like than is really flattering. also, the front of the top sits a bit too high on me (the back hem has a nice dip effect, so it was fine) which is ok for normal wear, but a bit too belly-baring for all the reaching & lifting i do at work. with these things in mind, i chose a much drapier fabric for my second try – a gorgeous cotton voile from Dragonfly Fabrics, which, while lovely to wear, was a bit tricky to sew as it was so fine it shifted out of place if you even looked at it funny! i added nearly four inches to the body length, as well as a couple of inches to the sleeve length, and opted for pre-made bias binding for the neckband instead of making my own (i didn't enjoy that on the first one!). the shifting nature of the fabric meant that i messed up the neckline slightly – i think i overstretched things a bit, so the neckline doesn't sit exactly flat. but who cares??!?!
i'm super-happy with my sewing attempts so far, and am already plotting my next project(s) – i'm moving on to the Kimono Top from Salme, first in some plain cotton lawn that i plan to jazz up with some shibori-style dyeing, then in this gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze from Miss Matatabi.
after that, i think i need to move on to something a bit more fitted, and see if i can start to learn how to tailor garments to my body shape – i'm thinking the Anna Dress from By Hand London, and have already bought some linen-look purple cotton from Minerva Crafts for my first try at that. this may be getting out of hand….
…but holy crap, it's exciting!!!