Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 22: Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing Review

I bought this gorgeous book when I went up to Elder's swim meet in Bangor and happened to have a matching Border's gift certificate for 30% off. I'd seen reviews and information and thought it might be a great way to get me out of my usual "I need color!" state in late winter without starting another quilt, which might take me another 6 years to finish. So I bought it.

Yesterday I decided to make the summer blouse: discount fabric, so it only cost $4.59. My kind of risk! I liked the material, though, and hoped I'd have a kicky new top. And. . . . I don't really, but I do have some ideas. First, I need more pattern tracing material (note to self). And I can't figure out if one of my pieces is missing key gathering instructions, or if I just can't see them in the forest of overlapping pattern pieces. Thirdly, I didn't have enough material, though I followed the instructions for the amount, so I ended up using more of my stash to make the sleeves. Fourthly, I couldn't quite figure out the directions for bias-taping the neckline, and I ended up thinking I'd done it "differently" (aka wrong). Fifth, the shirt ended up about 2" too short for me. Sixth, the sleeves are a little bindingly narrow in the upper arm. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO: the upshot is that

1. I am not discouraged! At all, really. I deliberately set out to try this out, and see what worked and what didn't. Since the bust measurement for a medium was spot on for me with a sports bra, I thought I might be pushing it, but I decided to start more fitted since I often err on the side of bagginess. Clearly, I would like larger armholes, wider sleeves, and a longer length, but the rest seemed right.

2. I feel like I'm learning a lot. For example, I did put in gathering rows (which always reminds me of making nightgowns when I was little), but then the differential between the sleeve and the armhole was so minor that I smoothed most of it out! My neck placket was nearly flawless, which made me proud, though I did run into trouble sewing the bias edging down around the neckline. If this were a keeper, I'd deal with each hiccup. As it is, I learned from each one. The weakest link was the illustration of exactly how we were supposed to deal with the bias tape, and I could've taken out my first attempt, which resulted in an exposed ridge of tape outside, and done a hidden inner one instead. BOTH finish the neck, and if I'd taken the time to make bias tape from my own material, I might even have preferred my solution. Bright pink, though. . . not so much.

I also know that if I use lighter material (I was aiming for a nice bridge shirt from late March -- May so I used quilting cotton, and then ended up using some gorgeous batik for the arms), I will want a smaller needle (like an 11) and finer thread. My lovely Pfaff handled it fine--no bunching or puckering--but I could just tell it was almost a miss. I might also be drawn into buying a middle-width bias tape maker, as I do think it would be pretty to have that matching lining flash--or, if I go with my first method, show!

3. I did it in about 4 hours, with Greta Schaachi reading Persuasion all the while (except when I was really poring over the neck taping part). Though I did have a little pouting spell when I tried it on with one sleeve done and realized I would probably not be wearing it, after DH's lovely pizza dinner I regained enough oomph to remind myself that I was investigating and, as my friend Darcy says, "it's all good". At this point I need to hand sew the placket, attach a loop and a button (the whole "make a loop" thing seemed way too complex to bother with; I'm going for elastic string with a flower button), remove my basting from the sleeve tops, and hem sleeves (which came out plenty long; I did use the large length) and bottom (that would be a rolled thin hem! Belly shots are dangerously close). But I did put everything away and get my study clean again, which is pretty good time.

So, overall: I like the book. I will use it again (maybe next weekend, in fact), and my sense is that my lessons of this weekend will result in a successful sewing venture! I would caution a newbie seamstress/sewer that some of the details are tricky, and I'd recommend a low cost, low expectation trial run for starters. My final overall evaluation of the book is that I wish there were more pockets in the garments, especially the pajama pants, and I do wish that there was a single non-wrap skirt pattern: something like the Barcelona skirt from Amy Butler or the standard Boden skirt that they offer every season. However: I'm glad I've got the book, and it looks like I might get through till daffodil and leaf season without starting a quilt! Thank you, Heather Ross!

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