Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Tutorial: Sewing a Rope Bowl

Recently, all I could think about was making a rope bowl and, now that I have, I believe that there is nothing more therapeutic than sewing in circles for two hours. Rope bowls offer almost instant gratification with no pattern to cut out or fabrics to decide upon. They also feel more akin to making pottery than sewing and there's something about the mixture of each bowl being unique and unexpected in shape, combined with the order that comes from sewing in a very methodical and predictable way that really feels like a perfect union of order and unpredictability. It's free-spiritedness in a way that feels completely manageable for a control freak. [Although I have a fundamental problem with spirals - as opposed to one circle sitting on top of another - in that when you change thread colour it can never be at a logical point, such as a corner or at the end of a circle, but is always halfway through the ongoing coil, but I'm trying not to let that bother me as the joy of the bowl making is huge!] My head feels slightly like it has some freshly poured lemonade in it, such is the brain-fizzing at the possibilities for different bowls.

I've now sewn several of these bowls and they're so simple to make that I thought I might share a tutorial. But first, don't these pink peppercorns that my sister brought back from Spain look even more dreamy for being in a pink rope bowl?

The only supplies you'll need for this are some rope, some thread and a sturdy needle (90/12 or 100/14). Finding suitable rope is really the most challenging part of the whole thing.

For my yellow bowl, I used quite sturdy rope from John Lewis, where twenty metres of their own-brand clothes line (cotton outer with a polypropylene core) was more than enough. For my pink and black bowls I used a slightly narrower rope from B&Q (available in store). It's called 'cotton cord', branded as 'Eliza Tinsley' and comes in packets of 13.7metres, which is more than enough for a nice little bowl. If you don't have access to either of those sources, look for sash window cord, clothesline or cotton braided rope. Personally, I'd have a preference for a fairly white rope, so that any coloured thread you might like to use would have a better chance of showing up. Rope doesn't join easily or neatly, so it's also best to get a length that's going to be long enough to create the size of bowl you're after! Personally, I have a preference for the narrower 1/8" B&Q rope as I prefer the more delicate look of the finished bowls. The clothesline that I bought from John Lewis was wound up in a way that left kinks in it and additionally, it wasn't completely round, but had more of a rectangular shape to it - between this and the kinks, it just made it slightly harder work to sew with than the perfectly formed finer rope from B&Q. Both types of rope produce an incredibly sturdy bowl - these things feel incredible and like they could take quite a lot of weight and bashing about, should you wish to challenge your bowl in either of those ways!

Some tips before we begin: it's important that you wind a bobbin of thread for each of the different thread colours you're using on the bowl, as bobbin thread and spool thread will be equally visible. I like to change colours over the course of the bowl - my yellow bowl had cream, taupe and mustard threads, while my other bowls had pink, black and cream threads.

Finally, I'm unsure if this is a quirk of my machine, but when I first insert a new bobbin, the initial securing stitches will result in a little bit of a knot on the underside of my fabric while the bobbin beds into place - not normally a problem when the underside of your work won't be visible, however, on these bowls it WILL be very visible, so your securing stitches need to be perfect. If your machine does this too, keep a scrap close by and take your first stitches with a new bobbin in place on this, rather than on your rope, to avoid ending up with a knotty bowl that will distress your eyes every time you catch sight of it. Once my machine has got over this initial hurdle, it's fine doing perfectly neat beginning and end securing stitches every time.

Begin by cutting your rope so that it has a crisp end and then tightly coil it around a few turns, pinning it in place. My pins are so fine that I feel I'm able to run over them with my sewing machine without any danger of breaking a needle, however, you'll need to take care with whatever pins you choose to use and may prefer a light glue if that feels a safer option.

Set your machine to a zigzag stitch that will happily capture a nice amount of rope to either side of where they're butted up together. For a thicker rope, I used a stitch width of about 4 or 4.3, and for the narrower rope I used a stitch width of about 3.5. My stitch length for both ropes was set to about 2.5. 

The initial stitches really are the trickiest bit, so don't give up, as it all becomes much easier as your snail shell of rope becomes larger. It may all feel a bit foot up, foot down, foot up, foot down to start with. Setting your needle to 'needle down' if you have this feature on your machine will reduce some of the work. Starting in the centre of your coil make a few securing stitches. Keep the centre of your foot in line with the line where two edges of rope meet, and stitch around and around using a zigzag stitch that catches the rope to either side.

Whenever you want to change thread colour, be sure to change both the bobbin and the spool thread; make securing end and beginning stitches; and try and line up where you change thread colour, so that it falls roughly in a line on the finished bowl. This means that if the lack of visual continuity where thread colour changes on the bowl bothers you like it does me, then at least this slightly irksome feature is confined to one area of the bowl (that can be covered with pink peppercorns!), rather than all over it. You can see this demonstrated best on my pink and black bowl below - see the thread colour changes at about 4 o'clock? Maddeningly, but so much better to have it confined to 4 o'clock than at random times throughout the day!

For my large, wide-based yellow bowl, I made a flat disc measuring 6" before I began to shape the bowl. For my smaller pink bowls this was nearer 4.5".

When you think your base is about the right size, simply support the bowl against the head of the machine and continuing sewing as you have before, taking care to keep the coils of rope tightly butted up against one another while guiding the bowl with the other hand (that hand isn't shown here as I was holding the camera with it!)

I love this bit! It's so exciting - like magic! You are a sewing-potter! It's hard to believe that just holding the side of the bowl up could affect what's going on beneath the foot of the sewing machine so drastically, but it does!

Continue in this way. You'll notice that I have more hands in this photo as I'd finally thought to ask someone else to hold the camera for me! In reality, I favour having my guiding hand much closer to the sewing foot than you see in this photo, gently guiding the rope while it lightly passes beneath my fingers like a conveyor belt. I found that I could sew at quite a speed at this point. Keep your eye on the centre point where the two pieces of rope are butted up together and aim to keep the centre of the foot in line with this.

When you feel that you've got a nicely sized bowl, or that you've nearly reached the end of your rope (writing that phrase makes me think of being near the 'end of your tether' but it's quite different, because bowl making is a very happy thing), take a few securing stitches. Tie a knot in your rope an inch or two away from this end point.

Snip the tail off and then pull back the braiding to reveal any ugly core that the rope might have.

Cut this core off and then rearrange the loose strands to give a pleasing knot tail! You may feel a little like you're preparing a pony for a dressage event: enjoy it. 

At this point, you could admire your bowl or use it even. However, I suspect there won't be any laurel-resting, because these bowls are so addictive to make and you will almost certainly want to start on the next immediately. Buy your rope in industrial quantities, pencil out several hours for some therapeutic rope basket making and you could have a whole set of baskets or bowls by the end of the day. My son suggested nesting bowls, Russian-doll style! They would make fabulous gifts too. Let me know if you make a bowl - I'd love to see!

I'm really enjoying pink and black as a colour combination - my bowl was inspired by the basket in the background, which I bought at The Shop Next Door in Rye.

On my list of rope-related things I'd still like to try: dying the rope, dying the finished bowls, painting the rope, painting the finished bowls, creating bowls where the rope has been pre-wrapped with fabric, using varigated sewing thread, making baskets, making bags, making hanging plant holders, making bowls or baskets with handles...the list is endless.

Florence x

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Holidays, reading, sock monkeys and literacy

Being a cautious sort, I never discuss holidays until after I'm safely home, as mentioning it beforehand would feel like handing out party invitations to burglars and then worrying over whether anyone would turn up.

In contrast to the last few years, where we've just managed four days away somewhere in England, this summer we fitted in two longer holidays. One in Winchelsea and then another in Italy, where I spent a considerable amount of time sitting against the brick wall reading, while dangling my feet in the pool to keep cool in the 36 degree heat.

We stayed in a beautiful house, where each room had a different colour theme, which was deliciously bonkers and my idea of heaven. Even my husband, who normally reacts against this kind of styling, found the use of colour fascinating and as we lay in bed or lounged on the sofa we couldn't help but absorb something of an education in colour-use as we noticed all the thoughtful details that had gone into putting the rooms together. It was really lovely. We also fell in love with the small town, Spello, where we stayed, full of beautiful, narrow, hilly streets; wonderful restaurants; really friendly locals; amazing gelato; incredible views; and plenty of churches to sit in and admire the ceilings of. We took the train to another town on one of the days and a taxi to Assisi on a different day. And we finished up by spending a night in Perugia, where the highlight was walking in to this beautiful building and sitting to listen to an incredibly talented youth orchestra practising for a performance that evening. Quite magical.

My poolside reading was Graham Greene's The End of the Affair; Plainsong by Kent Haruf; and I'm still currently reading The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. I only got half way through reading All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews before deciding that although it was brilliant, it was too downbeat so I abandoned it, to return to at a later date. I also read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, which my sister bought me as a holiday gift and it was perfect - I'm not sure whether it's to do with reading requirements subtly changing for a holiday or whether it's because life feels a bit boggy and hard in places at the moment and so I feel averse to reading anything too weighty, but when I read the Judy Blume I realised how much I was craving something with a bit more lightness and moments of joy in it and that it was a perfect holiday read. Once I was home, I packaged it up and sent it on to Spain where my sister was on a yoga retreat...but I'm unsure who will end up getting to read it as it's still yet to arrive and my sister is now back in England. I hope someone opens it and enjoys it and forgives me for resting the the book on my stomach to read while wearing a slightly damp post-swim bathing costume and so leaving the pages looking slightly wrinkly.

Now that we're home, we've been spending the last days of the summer holidays seeing friends, baking and both of my children have also been sewing sock monkeys, which are very joyful creatures. We have been amused that although each monkey starts off with an identically sized sock, the finished size varies hugely depending on the personality of the maker. I'll show you the finished monkeys in a different post as one of them still needs ears.

Karen from Did You Make That? has launched a sewing pledge drive in aid of The National Literacy Trust and, at the time of writing, the fund has already exceeded its target at 215% of the initial amount having been met. While I'm not overly committed to pledging to make something (I have a freaky aversion to deadlines, even self-imposed ones, so I chose something that's not truly a sewing project and that I'm making lots of at the moment anyway - more on that in another post!), it seemed a really good excuse to make a donation as I do feel absolutely passionate about childhood literacy and have seen firsthand the incredible difference that can be made to a child's outcomes when they have access to the right support.

I hope you've had a lovely, sunshiny August,
Florence x

Ps. Head over to Quilt Now for a feature on different basting methods for EPP.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The flies-on-the-windscreen top

I made this on Saturday night after returning from a week's holiday. It's the much-later-spawned-unoriginal-twin of a gorgeous top that I spotted in Adrianna's Instagram feed. The date on Adrianna's photo tells me that I somehow first saw her t-shirt 65 whole weeks ago, which means that while time has flown, the Liberty/jersey stripe combo has stuck to my brain like a fly to a windscreen* for over a year. Adrianna used a different Liberty print, but combined it with this exact stripe (which is now available in the UK for those who want to take the mustard-striped baton and run with it - we could have a dressmakers' uniform! [Sorry, Adrianna...I'll stop now. Please forgive me for stealing your beautiful idea and then suggesting we uniformise it. That is a dreadful idea].

On the matter of the mustard jersey, I have long-admired the knits I've seen from Girl Charlee, so was completely delighted when I spotted that they'd opened a UK online shop a few weeks ago! The mustard jersey above is slightly more stable than I usually like to use (not because I like to perversely  challenge myself while sewing with knits, but because sometimes a very stable jersey can mean you sacrifice on the drape a little). However, they have lots of other drapes and weights to keep me happy on that front. Last night, I made a top from this fabric, which seems almost identical to the fabric I made this top from, photo below. It's fine, soft, semi-sheer and has the most incredible drape. I also have a sample of this fabric and it's top of my wish list - a really similar light drape, but less sheer and a gorgeous colour that would work well for going into Autumn (I know it's August, but it seems to be hurrying along so rapidly that I'm already thinking about the cooler weather).

Staying on matters jersey-related, thank you so much for your lovely responses to my Tilly & the Buttons giveaway post. Courtney, please get in touch and I'll send Tilly your details! Courtney said: I loved this post. It was like a trip down memory lane. I read it because I had just seen these patterns, have a few in an online shopping cart, but was delighted to find all of the book discussions too. I loved Judy Blume (just started Unlikely Event), Beverly cleary, Francine pascal, e.b. white but my favorites were Laura Ingalls Wilder and L. M. Montgomery. Fave book was a Little Princess which I acted out in my dollhouse for years. I was probably as flummoxed by the British terms in that as you were by khakis and mayo.

We went away with family and friends last week and possibly picked the worst week weather-wise in the last three months (although we still ended up playing cricket or rounders on five days out of seven). However, the heavy rainfall and enormous sofas were very conducive to reading and I tore through To Kill a Mockingbird, a book choice prompted by my father referencing Atticus Finch several times when we went out for a drink one evening a few weeks ago. I absolutely loved it. Similar to Kathryn Stockett's The Help, I found it a curious but wonderful thing to read a novel centred around challenging subjects that simultaneously has the feeling of being a warm cocoon of a book.

I then read In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume's latest book, a fictional story based around the three plane crashes that did really happen in 1950s Elizabeth, New Jersey. My sister had bought us both a copy before we knew we'd be going away together and I loved reading in tandem (the last time we did this was in 2011 on a plane home from Russia together) and it was comforting that both of us had a little bit of the book left to read so that even once the holiday was over we stayed in the same place mentally for a while longer. We both really loved this book, although it's not the best one to read before flying, so I'd save it for after a summer holiday if you're considering buying or borrowing a copy.

While we were away, staying just outside Winchelsea, we visited Dungeness twice. I'd never been before and found it completely fascinating. It's classified as Britain's only desert and has a barren bleakness that seems more characteristic of parts of America than anything I'd ever seen here - perhaps because there's a sense of there being a rare excess of flat space, less often found on our small island.

Dungeness is part beach, part desert, part wasteland and home to both ramshackle houses and cutting edge design. Sculptures are carefully created from things scavenged from the shoreline and sit alongside well-tended, but wild, gardens. It's a place that has the feel of wilfully mismatched crockery - a thing which you instinctively love or loath, but in this case, I really loved it. And just like crockery, if it's mismatched enough, it ends up somehow feeling cohesive and even the abandoned shipping containers felt like a valid part of the landscape. There are few boundaries and we walked around with a sense of utter curiosity about the estate's inhabitants: were they mainly recluses or creative geniuses (or both?); was there a strong sense of community or did people move there to be alone? Could you just build a house anywhere and how did they define the boundaries of the land?

These were two of my favourite houses.

Oddly, the day after we arrived home, my mother-in-law rang us to let us know that there was a programme on television featuring some of the houses in the Dungeness Estate and so we were able to find out a little more.

If you're ever in the area and you haven't already visited, I really recommend going!

I hope you're having a lovely week whether you're working away still or off on summer holidays,
Florence x

* For clarity: my husband asks what on earth I mean by flies sticking to a windscreen and says that this has never happened to him and that he doesn't believe this is a common phenomena that others will understand. You possibly have to have met with a plague of flies while driving through the Australian outback to see the highly-adhesive way in which they can stick to a windscreen on impact, but I have a memory from childhood of looking on in horrified disbelief as the bloodshed and bodies collected to gradually obscure my father's vision of the road. Once you've seen such a thing, you will understand the true sticking-power of a fly (or similar flying insect - I was about 7 years old, so can't be held responsible for recalling the exact type of flying bug). I'm unsure why the fly-windscreen analogy came into my head while writing this post, especially when Adriana's top was a very welcome thing that stuck in my head and no blood was lost in the making of the top, but it now seems to have dominated the post, so it may as well make it into the post title (I wonder if other people who write a blog also have a very specific order that they do things in? My order is invariably photos, writing and then finally a title. I'm almost incapable of writing until I have one photo on the screen, even if it's unrelated to what I'm writing about. Kelly, one of my lovely sponsors, once asked me about a 'blog post schedule' and I realised that it's rare that I know when or what I'm going to write about until I've opened a window to compose a new post).

Friday, 24 July 2015

A giveaway: Tilly & The Buttons Agnes pattern + online workshop place

This is going to be an uncharacteristically quick post, due to it being the last day of the school term before the summer holidays begin, which means that time for work/blog posts/eating surreptitious chocolate brownies with my husband/sewing is rapidly dwindling. Today, I have a few things to share with you (well, in reality, just one of you, but I always find hope and anticipation can feel like a gift for the time that they last, so hopefully that makes the sharing more widespread!).

I know that when I first began sewing with jersey, it almost felt like learning to sew from scratch again - so many different rules apply and I also found that so many previously unencountered tools, needles and tapes can help to make things easier. So, as well as the Agnes pattern, Tilly has also recently launched an online workshop and if you're new to sewing with stretch fabrics, teaming a specific pattern with a tailor made workshop would, I imagine, be the perfect way to launch yourself into jersey-land without the steep learning curve of trying to work everything out for yourself. Slowly. Ruined garment by ruined garment. As I did myself several years ago.

So, Tilly has very generously offered both the Agnes pattern (printed or PDF, whichever you'd prefer), along with a place on the online workshop (to be used at any time, in your own home) to one of my readers, anywhere in the world! I think that equates to a value of around £56/$88USD, so it's a rather lovely giveaway.

So, how to enter. Last weekend, I met Judy Blume, who wrote the backdrop to my (and nearly every other girl's of my generation) early teenage years with Superfudge, Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, Deenie, Tiger Eyes and, most famously, Forever. Judy Blume was in London at the Young Adults Literature Convention, in conversation with Patrick Ness. As I also love his books, it was a huge treat and Judy, now 77, sparkled and delighted the entire audience and my cheeks ached with smiling throughout their discussion. Afterwards, we had our books signed (my sister bought us both a copy of her latest book for adults, In the Unlikely Event) by Judy and continued in our ridiculous levels of delighted starstruck beaming.

Aside from Judy Blume, between the ages of about eleven and thirteen I also loved Francine Pascal and Paula Danziger, authors who delivered papery slices of America, a place which seemed infinitely cooler than England (and seemed to have more summer camps, more fun, more proms, more boys, more romance and more of everything 'good' in it). These books discussed all manner of rites of passage that largely went un-talked-about in everyday life, but for as much as they clarified, they also confused, presenting cultural mysteries to be solved: like why didn't we have any 'ky-ha-kee pants'? It felt like we were missing out on a whole range of clothing as it was what every American girl seemed to put on before going off on a casual date. I later discovered how to properly pronounce the word 'khaki' and learnt that Americans call trousers 'pants' and was disappointed to realise it just meant sludge-green trousers, which I never would have worn; In Francine Pascal's book, 'Love, Betrayal and Hold the Mayo', with no internet to consult, my sister and I were left puzzling over what 'mayo' might refer to and why one would need to hold it, and it wasn't until our twenties when this term started appearing on English menus that it finally dawned on us that the book we'd read all those years ago was just curiously requesting 'no mayonnaise' in its title.

Either way, these books ultimately left me with the idea that the world would be a much, much better place with a boyfriend in it and so I studiously kept one (although not the same one) by my side for much of my teenage years. It wasn't until hearing Judy Blume talking about censorship at the weekend (her books were banned in many libraries following Ronald Reagan's election), that I began to wonder how different those years would have been if my own choice of reading material had had a substantially different focus.

I'd love to know which book or author made the biggest impression on you when you were growing up and perhaps maybe even contributed to the person you were at that time? And if you weren't much of a reader, was there a film that you remember loving?

Florence x

Ps. Tilly has just released two gorgeous new patterns (using woven fabric and unrelated to this giveaway). I'm really tempted to make a pair of these for my teenager. The other pattern is this one - perfect for a beginner as it has no darts or zip or button fastenings, but looks chic and minimal, rather than beginnerishly simplistic in finish!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A uniform

I think that I could happily make about twenty different versions of this top! I actually made this one well over a month ago, but I ended up sacrificing a few of the details that I had planned due to not having quite enough fabric - such as a full collar and rounded plackets - so I ended up posting about the subsequent version first, as it was closer to what I'd originally envisaged.

The fabric I used for this first version was Heather Bailey's Momentum rayon, which is quite dreamy and has that rare quality of being opaque, but also being incredibly fine and drapey, without the special occasion delicacy of a crepe de Chine. It's perfect for everyday wear. I love it. The only place I could find it in the UK was Clothkits and I bought their last 95cm (this top really is made from just 95cm - I barely had an inch left!), but I've since realised that Fancy Moon also stock it. I love how wearable this print is - very much designed with dressmaking in mind, rather than quilting.

The blouse is self-drafted and I'm really happy with the fit. It's quite long, with a deeper hem at the back, as well as a box pleat at the back yoke (I'm not sure you can see it too well here!). This means that the blouse can be relatively fitted through the chest, but flare out with a little more room over the hips, to accommodate a naturally-occurring bustle (which I believe would have been the envy of many Victorian ladies who had to settle for artificially constructed wire or wooden ones, which I imagine must have proved very tricky to sit upon! Thankfully, mine has none of these design flaws).

It's so comfortable that I can see myself happily pulling on one of these tops a lot - although not in a comfy pair of pyjamas way, but just in terms of it feeling full of details that I love and very wearable. I recently read about a woman who has taken to wearing a self-imposed work uniform to simplify the process of getting ready each day. Her story resonated with me: I love clothes (in the obsessive, heart-racy way of loving them), but equally I also don't want to spend much time getting ready in the morning. I realised that over the winter, I'd naturally taken to wearing an unofficial uniform myself: I don't think I wore anything other than skinny black jeans from September to April this year. They felt perfect for everything from dog walks to going out in the evening and all I needed to do was to pick out a jumper from my limited colour palette of navy or grey options, which meant that dressing took less than two minutes each day.

The uniform of black jeans were all Baxter jeans from Topshop bought up over the last three or four years (sadly, now discontinued and reincarnated under the same name, but in a completely inferior and unwearable form, which makes me wonder why they've called them the same thing), which I dyed black every few months to make up for the constant washing, as while I've never been someone who feels the need to wash jeans every two or three days, sadly Nell hasn't yet learnt the art of not splattering mud over her walker during a wet winter, so frequent jean-washing was a necessity.

This shirt has five button holes and I was pleased to discover that my machine (I think I've had it since January, but I've only started trialling its perfection as a dressmaking companion more recently.) makes them beautifully with very little input from me! I'll have to tell you all about my machine in another post as I truly love it and would definitely recommend it.

Right, I think that's everything. Do tell me about your own uniform if you have one.

Florence x

Monday, 6 July 2015

A tutorial: planning out and sewing a neckband

Over the weekend, I drafted a top and, with no pattern or sewing instructions, was left pondering how long the neck band should be and exactly how I should install it. I've sewn on neck bands in tops that have a central opening before, but never a loop neckband on a boatneck t-shirt. But freakily, this turned out perfectly, so I thought I might write up what I did (sorry, no step photos as I only thought to tutorialise this afterwards).

  • Sew the shoulder seams together. 
  • Lay the top out flat with the neckline sitting as smoothly as possible.
  • Using a soft tape measure standing up on its side, measure around the neck (on the fabric, rather than the paper pattern pieces as jersey can stretch or slip around a bit while cutting), being careful not to stretch the jersey as you do to avoid getting an inaccurate measurement. Mine was 22" Cut the fabric for the neckband an inch smaller than this measurement so that it can stretch to fit perfectly with no neck gape, so mine was cut at 21". I didn't actually add any seam allowance on as my material is really stretchy and I was only using a small seam allowance, so in reality, my band was 1.5" smaller than my top's neck. You may want to adapt this to your own preferences.
  • To get the width of the band, decide how wide you want the finished neckband to be - mine is 3/8". Then decide how much of a seam allowance you want - again, mine is 3/8". Add these two figures together. That gives me 6/8". Now double this measurement (as your neckband has two sides to it). This means my neckband needed to be cut 1.5" wide x 22". 
  • Lay the fabric down and see which direction has the most stretch. Cut the neckband along the maximos stretchios direction of the fabric. 
  • Fold the band in half along the length, wrong sides together, and press with an iron.
  • Always use a ball-point needle for sewing knits. 
  • With right sides together, sew the two short ends of the neckband together to make a loop.
  • On the neck line of my top, I marked the centre front and centre back and both sides to get four perfectly even quarters. The sides aren't necessarily in line with the shoulder seam, as the back and front pieces won't always have a neck that measures an identical length on these two halves - worth keeping in mind as the four quarters need to be even.
  • On my loop, I marked the centre (directly opposite the join) and then placed the centre and join together, to find out where to make the other two marks to give four even quarters. 
  • Next, placing fabrics right side to right side and aligning raw edges, pin the join on the loop to the centre back of the top, and then pin, lining up markings at the other three points.
  • Now stretch the neck band perfectly evenly between the four points and pin in place. 
  • I used an overlocker to sew the band to the top, but a sewing machine with a stretch stitch or zig-zag stitch would be fine. 
  • I then pressed the seam allowance toward the top (away from the neck band) and understitched it in place to avoid it flipping up. This is the line of stitches you can see just beneath my neckband. 
  • Optional: sew a band of self-fabric or ribbon across the inside back of the neck to cover the join in the neck band on the inside of the garment. 

I used Prym Wonder Tape to temporarily stick my other seams together before sewing the rest of the top (it washes away afterwards). This stabilises the knit fabric, dispenses with the need for pins and stops hems from resembling the wavy edge of a lettuce leaf. It's amazing stuff. I only discovered it last year when someone on Instagram mentioned it to me and it's revolutionised things for me! 

The slub jersey fabric is all kinds of amazing. It's really fine, very drapey, but somehow not completely unstable. It looks like it's going to be outrageously transparent when it's just a piece of fabric, but once it's sewn together, it doesn't look that way at all (although it's definitely not bottom-weight fabric). This top cost me just £7.50 to make. Or it would have done if I hadn't won a £25 gift voucher to spend at The Village Haberdashery and spent part of it on this fabric! If you tag anything you make with #tvhhaul on Instagram, you'll automatically be entered into a drawer each month. I'd completely forgotten I'd done this, so when Annie emailed me with my voucher there was much joyful spending and no dignified saving; my fabric arrived the next day. 

Finally, I think I stumbled across Abby Glassenberg's blog, While She Naps, a few years ago and ever since have admired Abby's well-researched posts that cover everything from how much fabric designers get paid (and how poorly many are treated in terms of funding quilt market), how craft book publishers are diversifying and possibly upsetting their authors in the process, or discussing the way gender often seems to define how a sewists work is perceived in our industry. Abby has a knack of turning ideas that only rumble at the peripheries of my thinking, and delivering them as fully-formed observations that drop, crystallised, into my lap, giving substance to something that I later recognise as having made me feel a certain way, but which hadn't progressed to being thought through at any deeper level. In short, I really love her fearless blogging voice; she tackles the things that others in our industry shy away from talking about and has a refreshingly direct approach.

So, being something of a fangirl, I'm delighted to be featured in Abby's (less controversial!) 'The Pattern that Changed My Life' series, where she asks people about a pattern that's been pivotal in their journey as a sewist. I didn't even have to think twice about my choice, although I could easily have picked one related to dressmaking and one to quilting as they feel such different disciplines. Do go over and read if you have a few minutes to spare.

Wishing you a lovely week,
Florence x
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