Learning curve



Still no finished New Girl to show you (maybe this time next week?). I noticed at the end of last week that my hands were starting to hurt. Specifically, my left thumb (which braces my left needle) and my right forefinger (which throws the yarn, since I knit English). Cassy and I were talking about it, and she says she’s having pain in the same places. There are probably a few reasons for this, but I’m sure one of them is how heavy this knitting is. The skirt is well over 300 stitches around, and even when it’s in my lap, my hands are supporting a fair bit of that weight, which is a whole lot more than a sock, or even (for me) an average sweater. So I’ve been taking it slow. I’m getting close to finishing the skirt (two more rows and then I get to the daisy stitch pattern!) and after that I think the pockets will feel very quick.

Anyway, since I wasn’t knitting much this weekend, I turned my attention to sewing. I am definitely, definitely, a beginning sewist. Ahem. I fooled around on mum’s beautiful old Singer when I was in high school, I’ve made a few project bags and last year I made my first garment, the super basic Wiksten Tank. I really want to sew more, so I decided to start early this year in the hopes of building up a somewhat me-made summer wardrobe.

I am so, so desperate for green! This fabric is Vintage Floral, Vine, from Rowan's Victoria & Albert Museum collection.

I am so, so desperate for green! This fabric is Vintage Floral, Vine, from Rowan’s Victoria & Albert Museum collection.

I decided to make the Wiksten Tank again, since I already had the pattern cut and felt like I had learned some things making the last one. For example: Last time I cut the largest size, but after trying it on decided it was huge (despite being correct for my measurements) and took it in. This tim, I cut the next size down, thinking that would be a good compromise, since I liked the idea of having a sort of over-sized, floaty tank for the very hot summer days I’m sure are coming (I say this, but it’s -8C today before windchill and yeah, it may be cold forever).

On the right, the piece of the tank; on the left, leftovers.

On the right, the piece of the tank; on the left, leftovers. Clearly there’s a bit of a green theme with my sewing tools.

I cut the fabric on Saturday and then sewed it up on Sunday. It’s actually a pretty quick sew until you get to the binding and hemming. The pattern is written for people without sergers (just as well, since I don’t have one) and to keep the seams neat there’s a lot of folding and ironing and pinning, and it’s finicky and time consuming. I got tired and annoyed by all the finishing last time and skimped on it, which I regret now. This time, I took my time and I’m really proud of my seams and bias binding. I also inserted a long box pleat in the back, because when I tried it on, I realized the neckline was sort of puffing out at the back of my neck (there’s probably a technical term for this, but suffice to say, it did not lay flat).

Ta da! There are no pictures of me wearing it (yet) because it is too friggin' cold to pose outside and I don't have the patience to pose indoors. I'll take a picture of me wearing it later.

Ta da! There are no pictures of me wearing it (yet) because it is too friggin’ cold to pose outside and I don’t have the patience to pose indoors. I’ll take a picture of me wearing it later.

Probably, that should have been the point when I assessed the fit of the rest of the tank. Turns out, I could probably have cut two sizes smaller than the one I did. I know it’s meant to have positive ease (and perhaps in a lighter fabric it would drape differently) but it is quite huge. I’m not even sure what happened, since I looked at the direction, chose a size, cut that size, sewed the seams as written, and it’s still enormous – in sewing you can’t blame wonky gauge, and deciding on the fly to change the fitting is not nearly as easy, especially since if you don’t like it there is no ripping back.

I’m not discouraged though. There’s always a learning curve, and I’m not afraid of that. Next time I think I’ll try a lighter fabric in a smaller size and see how that goes. I also plan to try making a Washi Dress this summer, but will definitely make a muslin before cutting into anything nice.

Do you sew? Do you have any tips? Are there any good sewing blogs I should be reading? When I started knitting, the world of knit blogs opened up so much possibility for me, and I feel like finding a community of sewing bloggers would help. You can learn so much just by reading about other people’s approaches or pattern modifications or fabric choices. As I said, I’m a beginner, so any advice is most appreciated!

16 thoughts on “Learning curve

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      Thank you! At this point, I think any sewing content will be helpful, and I aspire to make a quilt one day, so perhaps she’ll push me over the edge.

  1. beccasimplified

    Great job on the shirt! I am not yet familiar with any sewing blogs although I too am interested, with a similar level of garment sewing knowledge. I think it was pretty brilliant to create the box pleat to make it fit better. Maybe if you chose a more drapey fabric, it would not feel as large as it would just flowy?

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      I think you’re probably right about that. I might still cut a smaller size, though, since I took out a lot of fabric down the back with that pleat.

      I actually tried the top on (with shorts) yesterday and I think I’ll still wear it. It fits through the top and while it’s not something I’d wear to work, it’ll be fine for biking around and going to the beach this summer.

  2. Jean Marie

    I do sew…there are many sewing blogs to read but I think you have to find the ones that appeal to you… That said, Debbie Cook’s blog is good, as is Communing with Fabric.

    No swatching in sewing, but measuring, yes! I flat measure the pattern pieces at critical points (bust, waist, hips…). Measure across the pattern pieces at those points, subtract seam allowances, add together for each piece to get circumference.

    Pattern sizing isn’t always consistent, even within a pattern line, and the sizing rarely coordinates with ready-to-wear. Also patterns are drafted for youthful, b-cup models, so if you are not you will need to do some fitting. Palmer Pletsch has several good fitting books out (though I don’t tissue fit using my original pattern, the tissue is too apt to tear, so I trace pieces on swedish tracing tracing paper before altering). Nancy Zieman also has a fitting book out, with a different approach.

    You might also look at The sewing Workshop, Cutting Line Designs, and Sewaholic – indie pattern designers with lots of info in their directions, sewing techniques, and some instructional material available (online, or courses).

    Welcome to the sewing side!

  3. Cassy

    No sewing for me! For now anyway… I do enjoy looking at the beautiful things made on this blog: gingermakes.wordpress.com

    Your skirt is looking great! I’m almost done with the color portion before the daisy stitch too, but I am only working on that project here and there due to the hand/arm fatigue. I try to keep my hands as low in my lap as possible and use good posture. I’m also highly motivated to finish my fiddly BlueSand cardigan. It’s going to be lovely, but I dread all of the ends to weave in. I’m so happy that finishing seems pretty minimal on New Girl.

  4. Sheena

    I love that fabric! Such a lovely colour and pattern. Did you, by chance, get it from EweKnit? I was admiring their fabrics last week and that one looks familiar to me.

    There is a pretty great beginner sewing blog called Tilly and the Buttons. She explains sewing to absolute beginners in a way that makes it easy for someone who has never sewn before to understand what she’s saying. She also has a book coming out, which I’ll be interested in reading myself. I’m also a beginner sewist and I spent a frustrating Saturday making a toile for a skirt that was full of mistakes. The trickiest thing about sewing, for me, is that I find it so thoroughly unrelaxing compared to knitting. Plus, I only have shared space in which to practice sewing, which can get a little noisy and annoying to everyone else in the space. That said, I felt great satisfaction at finishing the 1 project I’ve actually completed (a pillow cover), which makes me want to do more. If you know of any ways to make sewing more relaxing, I am all ears!

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      It is from EweKnit! Good eye 🙂

      I totally agree with you about sewing feeling more like work. For me, I think that’s partly because sewing means being hunched over my machine or cutting mat, whereas knitting is sitting back, and so feels more relaxing. Every time I sew, though, it feels better, so maybe it’s just a question of practice? I’m sure I didn’t feel totally relaxed when I started knitting, though I don’t really remember…

  5. Andrea

    I’m so glad to read about your sewing adventures. Much of it is trial and error, but a lot of it has to do with shape, which will be different than in knitting because there is no ease or stretch involved in woven fabric. A few tricks to try:

    1.measure the flat pattern (taking into account seam allowances) to get an idea of what the finished dimensions will be and adjust from that.
    2. go with your upper bust measurement (under your armpits, above your bust) which usually means the garment will fit around your shoulders, neck, etc. But, if you are bustier, you will have to do a full bust adjustment, which is not too difficult but a great way to create ease at the bust without making the garment be huge everywhere else.
    3, Do a muslin or tissue fit.
    4.Get a good fitting book. Try at the library for the Palmer Pletsch “Fit for Real People” which walks you through the most common fitting issues and how to deal with them.
    5. Sew lots!

    As for blogs, I have quite a few to recommend. Perhaps better related via e-mail? And of course we can always meet in person to chat. Let me know. And have fun!

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      Oh, thank you for all of this!

      I bought several yards of muslin a few weeks ago, so I think I’ll set aside some time this weekend to put your suggestions to use. I keep picturing myself in a lovely Grainline Woven Tee made of Liberty, and I have a ways to go before I trust myself to make that.

      It would be great to meet up!

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