Hello everyone, my name is Sue and I’m so pleased to be invited by Lamazi to be a part of their blogging team, especially as I’m in such good company!
Before the Covid-19 pandemic reared it’s ugly head I had offered to make an outfit using a slightly ‘tricky’ fabric so that I could share a few hints and tips for sewing it. I selected the beautiful Tencel/Cupro ‘Bark’ fabric in Lavender because we were going to a wedding in late May and it was the perfect chance to make something using this special fabric. Sadly that wedding is now postponed but I’m making the dress because I’ll still need an outfit when it’s rescheduled.
The fabric has a lovely weight and handle which makes it drape beautifully. It’s has a bark-like finish and, because it’s different on each side, you could use this to your advantage if you want to create an interesting visual effect by having some pieces with one side out and some using the reverse.
I made life harder for myself by choosing the gorgeous new Bias T-shirt Dress by Trend patterns in which EVERY pattern piece except the sleeves are singles and curious shapes which means you need to cut everything out on a single layer of fabric right side up (RSU). Unlike most patterns, when you are cutting pairs you can usually flip a piece without too much difficulty. However, if you do that for a piece which must be cut RSU, because it is asymmetrical you will have completely reversed the print/design to the wrong side when you try to sew it up. This Tencel/Cupro has a nice look whichever side you use but my advice in general is to be really careful on printed fabrics before flipping any piece labelled RSU.
Next, when cutting slippery or fluid fabrics (unless you have a lovely big cutting table) you’ll need to handle them as little as possible in the laying up which might be easier said than done. I know that cutting out is most people’s least favourite part of sewing but it’s so important to take time and care at this stage. If you’re cutting out on a table with straight sides you can use the edges as a visual aid to get the end of your cloth at a right angle to start with, ensure the weft (across the fabric) is nice and straight as well as the warp, pull a few threads across to find the grain if necessary. If you have more cloth than will fit on the table in one go you could try having the excess rolled on a cardboard tube if you have one, to keep it under control rather than sliding off the table all the time.
Because my pattern has large awkward-shaped pieces cut from a single layer I had no option but to cut out on the floor! This can be physically quite tiring so you might want to get help if you need to. This is wiggly jiggly fabric (technical term!) so an extra pair of hands could help you lay it up nice and straight, rolling the fabric onto a long cardboard tube would also help keep the fabric taut and straight as you lay it out on the floor. (Don’t forget to sweep or vacuum first either!) This is not a fabric to use weights and a rotary cutter on unless the whole lot fits onto a cutting board without disturbing the fabric, if you’re spending time laying up the fabric carefully so that the grain lines are straight in both (warp and weft) directions you can’t then mess it about shifting a cutting mat underneath it and the pattern pieces need to be secured in place with pins. Cut out carefully moving the pieces as little as possible and keep them flat after cutting until you’re ready to sew. All of this will help minimise the pieces stretching out of shape, especially as a lot of this pattern has seams running on a diagonal.
Once I’d finished cutting out I transfer all notches and mark darts and a couple of pivot points using old-fashioned tailor’s tacks (obviously you can use a textile marker pen if you prefer, I often do but this is a pale fabric and I didn’t want to risk any marks being left) It’s a habit of mine to keep all the fabric pieces attached to its pattern until I need it, so that I don’t get muddled. These are curious-shaped pieces so the chance of having them the wrong way round could be quite high! Next I stay-stitched all the neck edges on the machine 5mm in, if you have a very loose weave fabric it would probably be sensible to stay-stitch the bottom of the front bodice piece to prevent stretching.
There is a little fraying on the cut edges which I overlocked singly as I went along, as per the pattern instructions. Whether you’re sewing or overlocking the fabric I strongly suggest you have the whole piece supported on the table in front of the machine rather than coming up from your lap, push your machine a bit further back on the table to give yourself more room. This is to prevent the piece becoming stretched as you’re sewing and possibly causing it to become misshapen. If you find, as I did, that there’s a discrepancy between two seams (assuming that they aren’t cut wrong) then pin them together with the excess on the underside so that when you sew the feed dogs will take up the excess.
My photos should make this clearer, a good press will help steam out most or all of the excess too. To minimise the risk of making a shiny patch on the fabric make sure you use a pressing cloth, you can buy silk organza ones although I just use a piece of plain fine pure cotton lawn which I’ve overlocked around the edge. It’s important to press as you go and almost all the seams on this pattern are pressed open, there’s a little bit of creasing with this fabric but don’t be tempted to press it constantly because it will only get other crumples as you sew and you’ll start to press the life out of it. I strongly advise that good old-fashioned tacking will really help if you’re trying to sew tricky pieces together. Pinning (at a right angle) is absolutely fine most of the time but if you’re going to have masses of pins which you have to remove as you sew, or they just get in the way or fall out, then you may as well have tacked in the first place.
Once I’d completed the dress, to finish the hem and sleeves I used a ‘pin hem’ which is similar to a simple rolled hem but even narrower. First stitch a turning of approx 1cm very close to the edge, trim this carefully to a scant 2-3mm, then turn again and stitch on top of the first row, give it a good press.
I hope I haven’t put you off using this lovely fabric, it will gather and drape beautifully to make garments with a gorgeous luxe finish. It’s leant itself so well to the bias-cut details of this Trend pattern so look out for others like it, especially styles with a 30s/40s vintage vibe. This isn’t the easiest fabric for a beginner to handle so it will probably be better suited to someone with a modest amount of sewing experience already but taking your time and carrying out each stage carefully will reward you with new techniques and pushing your skills to the next level.