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Simplicity Sewing Challenge

By Di, Aug 11 2016 02:34PM

I'm always up for a challenge …. So when I saw the pattern choices I already had a dilemma. As a lady in her 60’s the most obvious choice was the dress for the experienced sewer. Yes, I could see all sorts of ways to show what I could do, but that pattern ….so matronly! I'm not usually into vintage, I've developed my own style and know what I like to wear, but I was a student in the 70s so I decided to go for Simplicity 1365, the halter top.

Age brings certain challenges and one of them is the need for a bit of support and perhaps decorum. I liked the view with the collar, but the tie back really didn't do it for me. The higher back of view D seemed to offer more opportunity for support. The peplum was definitely required to cover my expanding midriff!

If I was to complete this challenge I was going to have to combine the two styles. I made a toile using the front of view A and the back of view C, reshaping where the two join.

The front side gaped and I was able to pin it out. I thought I may have to transfer the fullness to the under bust gathers. When I cut up the toile on the seam line (I do this to make the pattern) I found the front lay flat.

I chose to fit the bodice so that it was quite tight across the upper back, but more loose fitting around the waist as I felt this would be more flattering and comfortable, meaning I had to merge sizes.

Finding fabric for a specific pattern is a bit alien to me. I buy fabric when I see it and decide exactly what I'll make at some point in the future. If I could find a fabric locally I would take part in the challenge …….. I saw a cotton Madras in a local shop, bought 1 metre, and went home to think. I propped up the pattern where I could see it, I find it helps with my thought processes, the Madras was the right weight, but how could I use the check effectively? Time to play!

Having spent many years teaching in secondary schools the Textiles curriculum went through many changes. This opened up my eyes to many different ways to use and decorate fabric. I enjoy manipulating fabric to create something new, but most of my everyday wear doesn't lend itself to this. The Madras was perfect to create a decorative panel for the midriff. I pleated the fabric so that one colour was dominant, then experimented with different embroidery stitches and coloured thread to make the most of the fabric.

I never seem to make things easy for myself when I undertake a new challenge. The fabric I had chosen was not a symmetrical check, so both sides of my garment would not look the same. Also, some colours were really dominant, I would have to consider this as I cut out the pieces. A woven check fabric has many advantages over a print. Firstly the checks will be parallel to the selvedge and secondly it is almost identical on both sides. This gave me more opportunities to use the fabric in a balanced way as I could use the wrong side for one half of the garment so my design will be symmetrical.

I decided that the peplum and front bodice would be cut on the bias and be stabilised by a lining cut on the straight grain. For the peplum I had to replace the centre front fold with a seam adding a seam allowance. I decided where I wanted to place the yellow band of the fabric, remembering that the centre front seam, not the cutting line, would be where everything matched and cut out just one layer. Then used the cut fabric to match the checks exactly for the second piece.

The collar was the next challenge, I wanted it to be distinctive and symmetrical. Cutting it on the straight grain would balance it with the midriff. I made a seam at 45⁰ to the check that meant it would make a right angle that stood out against the bias cut bodice. Using fabric in a creative way is important to me, it's what makes my garments different! I wanted to use the checks in an effective way and also incorporate techniques that would show my skills. I considered using very narrow ric rac intertwined into a braid, but I felt it wouldn't stand out on the busy fabric.

So I decided that a very fine contrast piping and bias binding cut from the main fabric would be a better technique. I cut the bias strip using a rotory cutter and a metal rule, cutting it the width of the rule. When joining the bias I kept the check repeat acurate so that the join would not be obvious. Having found the right contrasting colour for the piping and a very fine cord that I could use, I made the piping. The binding I had bought was wide.

I pressed the folds open so they were just still visible, and folded it around my piping cord. I used an adjustable zipper foot that put the machine stitch a couple of mm away from the cord. Then trimmed away the extra fabric.

I then tacked the piping to the bias strip as close as possible to the cord. When attaching the bias to the peplum and collar the tacking gave the line to follow. If you tack in short overlapping lengths, you can pull out the tacking just before you stitch over it.

To be sure the piping was stitched accurately I moved the needle position one place to the left so it was in line with the edge of the zipper foot. After machining I trimmed the edge just slightly smaller than the finished size of the bias edging, folded and fell stitched the binding into the machine stitches on the wrong side.

I mentioned earlier about the need for support. Incorporating a bra into the design would be more comfortable and no chance of my bra creaping uo above the back. I used the lining pattern form view D because it had side and under bust darts, cutting it deeper along the bottom edge to allow for fitting. I put this inside the toile and then cut the edges so that they wouldn't show when finished. I made it double, stretching lingerie elastic along the edges to help with the fit, top stitching with a 3 step zig zag.

I added bra findings and bra strap to create an adjustable halter. When the bodice was finished I added lingerie loops to keep the bra strap in place. For additional support I used underwire casing and plastic boning, adding this inside the lining at the side seam and on the underbust dart.

For this to work the fit round the bust would need to be tight and the fastening needed to be strong. I had a five hook bra fastening so I added this on the inside at the back. The multi coloured fabric means the stitching is almost invisible.

The back and neck fastening are an important feature, but due to the inner fastening and bra strap they weren’t going to take the strain! Rouleau loops seemed an ideal choice which meant I didn’t need to make buttoholes through the pleated fabric on the midriff. These were made from the same purchased binding as the piping. As they are made from bias strip you can cut quite close to the stitching as it won’t fray.

Turning rouleau can be quite stricky, I leave long ends when i finish machining and knot these to a bodkin or tapestry needle, the blunter the better. Drop the needle inside the tube and persuade the end to turn in. As the needle feeds through the tube allow the fabric to gather up, squeeze the tube near the needle holding the thread tight. With your other hand slide the outer fabric over the inner and repeat until the rouleau appears out of the end of the tube, after that it’s easy to finish

The rouleau loops need to be a firm fit round the circumference of the button, even a bit tight as the bias will give a bit of stretch. If they’re too loose the opening will gape. Not a problem for me as the bra fastening is actually taking the strain and I’ve created an underlap so there’s no chance of it showing. Buttons with a shank are best with rouleau loops as the create a space for the loop to sit between the button and the fabric. As I was using 2 hole buttons I placed a cocktail stick under the button as I stitched and then wrapped the threasd tightly round the thread shank before fastening off.

As the garment was fitted before completing the back it was obvious that the curved seam below the underarm was stretching and needed to be stabilised to ensure a snug fit. I cut narrow cotton tape to the finished length of the seam, using my toile/pattern to get the right length. I had to use an easing stitch (like gathering, but only pulling up the fabric so the warp threads come closer together) to get the fabric to the same length as the tape. Then machined it just inside the seam line.

Nov 1 2016 02:17PM by Lis


Your been making a wonderful top.
I like it and is very impressed over your details.

Love Lis

Apr 21 2018 10:09PM by Karen

Great write up and detail as to how you adapted the pattern and the use of the checks/pattern to create a beautiful top. Very inspiring, Thankyou ��

Apr 22 2018 09:12AM by diofheage

Thank you Karen

Apr 24 2018 05:15PM by Pat

I followed a link from Facebook McCall Pattern company to another site and then here. I must say, your take on and skill in creating this lovely top is phenomenal. It is a beauty with so many innovations and especially what you did to make it age-appropriate. Age-appropriate according to our shifting body changes. It is lovely and a well-deserved Highly Commended.

Jul 18 2018 06:15AM by Pat Hooper

Wow Di. What a fantastic garment and brilliant descriptions of your thought processes in making your sewing decisions. Adding the support bra takes this garment to another level. I must try to emulate your standards, albeit impossibly high.

Jul 18 2018 12:41PM by diofheage

Thanks Pat. However please get this in perspective, not all my sewing would undergo such scrutiny! My passion is to inspire others to aspire to higher sewing skills. But many of my most worn clothes are the ones I almost throw together as wearable toiles. You make some beautiful items as well.

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