Wendy Ward recently released her third book – A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics. I was really impressed with all of the reviews that I had read, and was overjoyed to win myself a copy as a competition prize ran by the lovely guys at Girl Charlee UK.
The book contains the pattern pieces to make 20 versions of six basic patterns. There are three pages of pattern sheets, and you need to trace off the specific pattern pieces you require as the colour coded patterns overlap and are printed on both sides of the sheets. On page 23 of the book there is a helpful guide to using the paper patterns including a check list to make sure that you know all the pieces that you need for your chosen project.
The moment I saw the book, I was really interested in the blue and white striped t-shirt dress that is shown on the cover. One of my favourite Summer dresses is a very old blue and white striped ‘ready to wear’ t-shirt dress which has an elasticated waist just like this. It is now sadly too big for me since I have lost a little weight since I bought it, and anyhow I have worn it so often it is pretty much worn out. This cover dress was always going to be my first make from this book, and I really wanted to get one sewn up so that I could enjoy it this as soon as possible.
The Peak T-shirt is a basic crew neck t-shirt, and you lengthen it to make it into a dress. To do this, Wendy tells you that you need to extend the t-shirt pattern body pieces by 40cm. No problems with this. You effectively then have a long t-shirt which you will gather at the waist with elastic.
The old RTW dress that I mentioned earlier had a bright yellow waistband, this is one of the things I loved about it most. The dress that I was making from this book doesn’t have a separate waistband piece, but I decided that I could introduce a contrasting piece of plain jersey on the neck band piece instead. I might add a coloured waistband piece in a future make, as this would be quite simple and a way to re-create my beloved dress exactly!
I really would have liked to have used a plain primary colour, but didn’t have any scraps of this in my stash – what I did have was a tiny piece of leftover plain grey interlock jersey from Fabworks Online. I had used this back in April, to make up some baby sleepsuits (which I don’t think I ever blogged about) but if you head on over to my Instagram you will find them back in April.
I wasn’t sure that this was going to work, as the striped fabric and the grey fabric felt like that they weren’t the same weight, but having decided that even if it meant unpicking it if it didn’t work, it would be worth a try. Surprisingly, the neckband went in lovely, and lays nice and flat. I was so pleased, and love the little pop of colour that it gives to the garment. By the way, the striped fabric is just some cheap t-shirt weight jersey bought from Leicester market for £1 per metre! Although a smidge lightweight for this project , it’s a surprisingly nice quality and has a lovely slub texture to it which you might be able to make out in some of the images.
I chose the short sleeves, as this is a Summer dress, but there is the option to use long sleeves and you can add a cuff to these too if you like.
Attaching the elastic, gave me all sorts of headaches! For some reason I always seem to struggle when attaching regular elastic to garments in this manner. It should be so easy – simply measure the elastic to fit your waist, join the ends to make a loop and add it to the skirt, using a zig zag stitch stretching the elastic as you go using 4 measured points on the elastic matching up to four points on the dress. I have no problems when doing this with clear elastic, but for some reason when using regular elastic (this pattern calls for 1cm wide regular elastic), it just doesn’t seem to form a neat gather when I release the stretched elastic after stitching. It kind of stays stretched in some areas? Anyhow, I unpicked the first effort, and the second time it was much better, but still not perfect. Rather than unpicking it again, and risk damaging the dress, I will settle for this, but might use my favourite clear elastic next time. By the way, this is just a technique I need to perfect, not a fault with the pattern at all!
Another tip which I really should have used would be to use a walking foot (if you have one) when sewing knits – especially those with stripes. For some unknown reason, I didn’t use mine, and despite using an obscene amount of pins when sewing the side seams, the stripes have slipped a little when sewing up and unfortunately are not quite perfectly matched. There was no way I was going to do any more unpicking on this dress so I am going to ignore this little detail and hope no-one notices… ssshhhhh!
So, lessons have been learned, and I basically need to slow down and take my time to avoid unnecessary mistakes. I will be making LOTS more of these dresses, they are just lovely. The basic t-shirt pattern is also something I will give a go.
There are plenty of other great projects in the book, I really like the look of the Monsal lounge pants too – the perfect tapered leg cuffed jersey trousers. Who doesn’t love a bit of lounge wear? Look forward to whipping a pair of these up during the Autumn.
I am also over the moon that, in my quest to sew nine patterns from independent sewing pattern designers that I have never used before as part of my #2018makenine sewing challenge to myself, this is now the 8th garment that I have completed! Whoopeee!
Take care, and I’ll be back soon,