The Great Devon Sewing Bee of course and in the nick of time, before Series Two began this week (are you watching... loved it) I made the blouse that I felt inspired to make after Series One of The Great British Sewing Bee, having bought the pattern and fabric in John Lewis's last summer (New Look 6598.) Simple, 'V' neck, collar-less, with short sleeves to start with, collars will be in the next module.
For the uninitiated The Great British Sewing Bee is a sort of weekly TV sewing contest to find the best amateur seamstress. Everyone is given the same challenges to make, this week a sleeveless top, a skirt to revamp, and a silk nightdress, and the results are judged by W.I. teacher May, and Savile Row tailor Patrick. Now for many people I dare say this is all like watching paint dry, and it has had some lukewarm reviews, but I love every single stitch of it.
I can see that there will be a time for every purpose in this new regime of 'not working' which has just played out its first year; times when I knit, times when I stitch and times when I dig.... and now seems like the Time to Sew.
Several things needed to happen before I could really start dressmaking properly again, mainly moving my work table from the Bookroom to my little Sewing Cosy so that I could spread out a bit. The Sewing Cosy is just off the Book Room corridor and was the TV Cosy, but the TV went to the kitchen along with two comfy armchairs last autumn (to take full advantage of Aga heat). To make way for all that the big kitchen table went to Bookhound's Study, which used to be the Big Sitting Room, and previously Bookhound had occupied what became the TV cosy and is now the Sewing Cosy. We've gone round in a big circle, are you keeping up ..do you do this in your houses...change rooms around.
Anyway once the table was in I could set things up properly and leave them out...
this I find is crucial to ongoing sewing projects. Sewing in the kitchen was lovely and warm last winter but clearing away for every meal is not conducive.
While we are in the Cosy here's the other side... I love it. The Tinker's fabulous tapestry surrounded by a riot of pattern and colour to cheer on even the dullest day...
And my sewing cabinet is squeezed in too...
And we might as well do the full 360 degrees...
Never has such a quart been poured into such a pint pot, cosy is the word.
I set too with due care and attention, double checking before cutting out. Check twice cut once Bookhound used to say, back in the day when his chaps were installing someone's expensive kitchen, which he had measured and designed to the millimetre. Then I spent time notching, marking darts, overlocking raw edges before proceeding to TACK!!
But this is all part of the plan, the gospel according to Merchant & Mills, keep it simple but make it well, so I have decided to pay due care and attention to the basics again as a sort of re-learning of detail long ago abandoned. At the age of sixteen I would start making something at 2pm and have it ready to wear by 7pm, and somehow get away with it... well it would hold together for an evening at least.
I managed to pick up a copy of the M&M Sewing Book on eBay for a song this week for some revision, and have already implemented the book's most obvious (but it had never occurred to me) brainwave. Cover the ironing board with striped ticking, not only to make it look nice, but also to have a row of straight lines to press against.
Three things seem to have changed since I last did any serious seamstressing which was probably the 1980s.
...the tissue paper used in patterns is thinner by far, one sneeze and the whole lot was on the floor.
...and the tape measure now lies.
But had I ever really read all the printed pattern instructions properly before??
Maybe not because understitching facing seemed like a new one on me and it took me a while to figure it out... but what a difference it makes. No more persuading the thing to lie flat, it just meekly lay down and looked 'finished.' I was quite surprised.
Sleeves, whizzed in with my eyes shut by a younger me, suddenly seemed terrifying, but I have decided that this was all down to the 1960's fashion for puffed sleeves, surely the most forgiving of sewing tasks. It was back to the gathered ease and tacking, and when sleeve one went in with ne'er a pucker I was dancing round the room. I quite expected Claudia to come up and tell me I only had thirty minutes left and I would breezily reply 'No worries, I'm almost done here,' but was also hoping May and Patrick might just gaze upon my sleeve and be best pleased. My dummy would be wheeled into first place for sure, as it is Bookhound came in and said 'That's nice,' so all was not in vain.
We'll maybe talk about sleeve two on another day when I'm feeling stronger.
Anyway, it's finished and it fits a treat though looks pretty shapeless just hanging.
Finding an adjustable dressmaker's dummy is Bookhound's latest charity shop challenge, please don't ask how many we have walked past in the last twenty years, and I have my next project waiting in the wings so more soon.
Meanwhile, anyone else seamstressing...
Any good tips...