Stretching the issue

Although this blog is very new and shiny, I have been sewing for a little while now and there are certain fabrics I feel pretty comfortable with.

Cotton.  Cotton’s pretty good. Particularly quilting cotton – firm, stable, pretty colours…. not always great for dressmaking though, is it?  Looks great on the hanger or on Gertrude (yes my dress form does have a silly name), then you wear it and, if you didn’t pick the garment carefully, it looks beautifully creased very, very quickly. My peacock feather By Hand London Anna dress is a case in point – slightly improved by a petticoat (which I hate wearing), it can look like a rag very quickly. Thank god for a busy print!

Very pretty, tendency to look pretty crumpled
Very pretty, tendency to look pretty crumpled

Rayon and viscose are OK too if treated with caution – obviously a little harder to sew but the end results tend to be worth it and the application of lots of silk pins, a slow sewing speed and potentially some spray starch and I’m getting confident with these. And in a lot of cases, the results are much better, both in terms of looks and comfort.

So, having done the (I imagine) typical thing of buying lots of pretty fabric because it had a great print, I’ve then slowly come to the realisation that actually, pure cotton is not necessarily what I wear a lot of the time.

Shocker, right?

Realistically, I’m a working mum.  And, whilst I work for a FTSE 100 bank, it’s at a head office site. Behind the scenes. So, even though I’m relatively smart for work and there’s definitely a place for the cotton dresses and cotton tops, what I spend a lot of my time in is tailored trousers and jersey tops.

And outside of work? Well, I’ve always been a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  Even though I’m making an effort to change that (as 2 years of maternity leave has left me rather fed up with constant jeans wearing), realistically it’s my default setting.

All of which leads me to a growing desire to sew jersey.

Scary stuff though for the novice sewist – the thought of managing stuff that stretches all over the place as you cut and sew…..the stuff of nightmares!

So earlier this year (justified in part by husband’s season ticket and consequential absence every other Saturday for the best part of the day) I booked myself onto the Make a Coco workshop at Tilly and the Buttons.  In London. Which involved an overnight stay (by myself! in a hotel! without the children!) and some very strange looks from the others on the course when I rocked up with my suitcase. What can I say, there’s a shortage of sewing courses up North for things I actually want to make, rather than what my Nana might wear.

Ah Coco! So many beautiful versions litter the Internet and Pinterest in particular. Like this one – I must have bought the RTW version of this half a dozen times at least.

Or this one

Personal favourite that, why can’t I wear yellow and just do a straight copy?

So off I went to my course, had a thoroughly lovely time being taught by Zoe and meeting some lovely other sewists (hello JenZoe!) and produced a bona fide stretchy garment! And learnt to stripe match into the bargain!


So then what happened?

Well, first I got put off because my old sewing machine didn’t have an adjustment on the pressure applied by the pressure foot (the first thing we did on the course was change that), so that was a good delaying tactic.  Then I got a new machine so that excuse went.

By then though, it was warm (for a while) and suddenly, my stash of cottons was beckoning to me. “Hello”, they said, “it’s Summer! it’s time to make pretty dresses and little sleeveless tops – choose us!”. And I did.

So now, it’s September, schools are starting, I have some lovely cotton garments….and a guilty stash of jersey /scuba / ponte di roma fabrics, a selection of dressmaking patterns designed for stretch fabrics and precisely one me-made jersey garment.

Time to stop procrastinating (and wasting cash!)

On Monday evening I traced the Grainline Studios morris blazer.  This looks like a total winner to me, the perfect cover up – smart enough for work but casual enough for jeans.  I’m hoping this goes well, then I can sew half a dozen of them!

The aim is to make it up in a black ponte I picked up in the Remnant Kings sale as a (hopefully) wearable toile and then move on to the rather gorgeous navy ponte from Girl Charlee UK (Zoe blogged about it here and then there was a discount code during SewPhotoHop……. I’m hoping for good things, it certainly feels lush!)

After that, I have big plans for the Grainline Studios Linden sweatshirt (two lots of fabric lined up for this already, a rather fab quilted ex designed stretch knit from The Shuttle at Shipley and a very Ted Baker-esque jersey paired with black jersey for the sleeves from Fabworks in Dewsbury)

And then, there’s the Sewaholic Davie dress.  Yep, I bought fabric for that too, prewashed it, ironed it….and it’s still sitting there. Have. To. Stop. Doing. That!

But first, to refresh my skills, I’m going back to Coco.  It’s cut out, it’s in my sewing room, the sewing machine’s out and I’m hoping that by telling you guys about it, the shame of not completing it will be too much!

Also, my eldest starts school this week having turned 5 at the weekend, and I’d really love to have something new to wear to walk her to school. Shallow, moi?

So, wish me luck and let’s hope that when the machine starts sewing, not too much stretching happens!

How about you, any skills on your to develop list that keep getting pushed back? Any slightly irrational fears? How do you tackle them?

Also, any good tips for sewing stretchy stuff? All help gratefully received!

Becca x

6 thoughts on “Stretching the issue

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  1. I went through exactly the same fears and worries. The first thing I made in jerser I wore once then it sat in my cupboard for a year until it got thrown away! Popped seams. Puckering yuck. My tips are if you can buy a walking foot. It guides the fabric through from the top and the bottom. Buy the correct stretchy needles, they really do make a difference. Go slowly. I have found with each Jersey make I have got better and better I would now say I actively enjoy sewing the stretch stuff. Good luck.


  2. I’ve just started playing with jersey too – it’s a love/hate relationship!! Double-needles, and using an overlocker without the trimmer if you have one!! Also sizing patterns down – taking off the built-in ease.
    I think the finished effect is worth persevering?! Xx


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