Wednesday, 12 March 2014

February's Garment - Sewaholic Crescent Skirt & a review of GBSB

After the knitting of January I decided that I would make February a sewing month.  Plus this month has also seen the start of the second series of the Great British Sewing Bee on the BBC.  As much as I really want to love this programme as much as the Great British Bake Off, I don't seem to warm to it as easily.  As I was making this skirt I mused upon why it doesn't, in my opinion, seem to work as well.  Firstly, I think it is the intense sewing period that restricts the contestants - as my making of this skirt has shown, I completed it over a course of weeks, doing a little bit when I've had time and also allowing me to walk away and have a think when things haven't gone to plan.  Secondly, I sew things for myself and therefore don't work with a range of fabrics - I certainly avoid expensive fabrics like silk (A nightie in week one?!) and stay with safe cottons that I can pick up from the local rag market for on average £4 a metre.

I'd bought the Sewaholic Crescent Skirt pattern a couple of Christmases ago and never quite got round to making it, despite carrying around the fabric measurements and notions list in my purse!  I bought my pattern from a fab sewing website - Backstitch - that stock all sorts of wonderful patterns.  I'd bought the Crescent Skirt because it had pockets (hooray!) and also stated it was perfect for pear shapes.  I went with view C - the longer of all the versions as I didn't want it to feel too short.  I picked a small cord fabric from the treasure trove of a website Plush Addict and also some contrasting cotton for the lining of the waistband and pockets.  I bought 2m of the cord and 1m of the cotton - the pattern asks for 2.3 of 115cm wide or 2.1 of 150cm wide - I could have bought half a meter of the cotton and probably got away with 1.5m of the cord.

As it is an American pattern, I had to work out what was an equivalent to a UK size 12 - I followed the US size 8 line.  When cutting out the pieces, although I followed the pattern piece markings (ie grain line and cut on fold) I didn't follow the pattern piece layout, so I could squeeze in pattern pieces and have some fabric left over for other projects.  Another aspect of the Sewing Bee is alteration - I'm not confident enough to alter patterns, so often pick the size most similar to myself and then can make small alterations whilst sewing.  This trial and error takes time, especially if it is done well - time, is a precious commodity on Sewing Bee and I think some of the challenges don't give them a fair time scale.  I know that 'professional' sewers may be able to knock up the pattern in the two hours give, but isn't the point of the programme that these are amateurs?
All cut out and ready to go!
The Crescent Skirt instructions are fairly easy to follow - but some of the steps I had to read through more than once to fully understand.  I also missed out adding in the 'twill tape' steps: one I didn't have any and didn't want to delay my sewing, and second as I felt with the stiff interfacing I was using, the skirt didn't need any more reinforcement.  I did add the embellishments on the waistband as suggested and I'm glad I did as they separated the pattern pieces and helped the pattern of the fabric scan across the top of the waistband.  It was a tricky fabric to match up the 8 pattern pieces that were pieced together for the waistband.

Ric Rac embellishment and colour contrast pockets
My only slight hiccup occurred when I went to sew in the waistband lining - I sewed the lining pieces together and pressed and trimmed the seams before checking that it would fit the skirt.  It didn't and was too small, as I had already trimmed the seams, I couldn't unpick and sew again.  Thankfully I had enough material to cut out the waistband pieces again and very carefully matched up the seam allowances to the main skirt before I started sewing.

I couldn't quite understand the instructions on how to fix the bottom of the waistband lining, so did my own thing and used some matching bias binding - I know, disapproving comments would be had on GBSB!  But that is the main point of home sewing - not everything goes to plan and also sometimes you get a better result by doing something different.  At the end of the day, the home sewer is making items for themselves and family/friends and the desire is for a garment that fits the bill and suits them rather than a technically perfect garment that follows the given instructions to the letter.  The zip I put in was slightly shorter than recommend, which means a bit of wiggle to get the skirt on - next time I will certainly get a longer one.  I also added some lace trim to the bottom of the skirt to finish it off.

Lace Trim to finish the edge
The transformation challenge on Sewing Bee is interesting and I can understand why it is in the mix - but again I don't buy garments to make major alterations to as a home sewer.  I'm sure there are people out there who do, but I don't necessarily relate to the challenge.  I can't say that I have any ideas of what it could be replaced with - but it is like those books you see: how to transform tea towels/silk scarf's, I enjoy looking through them and might try one or two of the projects, but I wouldn't make it my method of creating garments.  Especially not under a strict time limit.

One finished Sewaholic Crescent Skirt
I think that it is the time limit that is my main problem with Sewing Bee - when I sew it may be a glorious whole day of sewing at the weekend or a hour in the evening.  I rarely sit down and finish a project start to finish as there are often points where I either need to walk away otherwise things will go very wrong or I don't have the time.  I also think that the accessibility to the audience is an issue, I can watch GBSB and know that I have my own sewing machine, fabric stash, trimmings, thread, patterns and can go and sew if the fancy takes me - this can't be true of all of the audience - plus to suddenly buy everything on a whim isn't cheap, even fabric purchases from the John Lewis Haberdashery have a hefty price tag.  Whilst if you are watching in a big city, chances are there is a local 'sewing machine cafe' nearby where you can hire a sewing machine by the hour, this isn't true everywhere. When watching GBSB the thought of 'I could do that' doesn't as readily change into 'I'm going to have a go this weekend' as it does when watching the Great British Bake Off.

I enjoy watching the GBSB and hope that it will continue, but feel there needs to be a shake up of the format before it can capture the imagination of the British public in the same way that the GBBO has.

Tea and cake fuelled sewing!