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Guest Post: The Fear

Hi Everyone!

It's Vicki here and today on the blog we have another very special guest post by the lovely Aimee from the fab creative blog Wrong Doll. If you didnt read Aimee's first guest post for us - Dungaree Dreams - go check it out! But for today we have a very special project to show you using our Viscose Jersey Fabric and Marcy Tilton's Sewing Pattern for Vogue, 8813.

I'll now pass the post over to Aimee, enjoy!!...

I'm an uneasy mix of risk averse with a strong streak of 'I'll do what I damn well like'. However, age has mellowed the thrill seeker in me and these days I'm much less likely to act out on a hedonistic endorphin fueled whim. Now I've worked out the ingredients for a relatively peaceful life, I'm in no rush to seek out unnecessary change or challenge. Nevertheless, sewing has unleashed a creativity in me that is willing to face the fear of the unknown. And I've discovered that hand in glove with the fear comes learning and no matter how painful the process, it's a prize worth stepping out of your comfort zone for.


I know I'm not alone in my fear of knits – social media is awash with comrades. It's also bursting with knowledge and countless instructional blogs -  I'm particularly thankful to top tips gleaned from Wendy Ward, Serger Pepper and make it HANDMADE. Ultimately I learn from doing and in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have set out on this journey of discovery, using the most beautiful threads I've clapped eyes on. I dropped on so lucky with this fabric in the Minerva Crafts sale – 3 metres of drapey viscose stretch Jersey Fabric loveliness for a mere £20.97. I'd long been considering the perfect pairing for Marcy Tilton Vogue 8813 and as soon as I saw it, the die was cast.


It was only in the afterglow that I realised I had embarked on a battle with my nemesis, without full consideration of the requisite skilling up. So I threw myself down a Google rabbit hole and drove myself to distraction, devouring wisdoms learned from the mistakes of those who've preceded me. Whilst a novice to knits, this is my third Marcy so I felt familiar with her style and followed the markings like a road map, unravelling its secrets. The pattern is marked easy and I would have to concur, as I was only hampered by my inexperience with the medium.


One thing I have learnt on my sewing journey so far, is that fine tools maketh good workwomanship, so I invested in a few – a pack of Hancock's cloth markers, ballpoint pins and ballpoint sewing needles.  I recently read a critique of a vegan gravy that dismissed it as 'tasting of nothing', after which the reviewer wondered if it was beacause they had omitted the nutritional yeast. Well of course it was – it's the key ingredient. I wasn't going to make the same mistake and painstakingly transferred all the pattern markings on to the fabric. I've learnt that those big circles and small circles are differentiated for a reason.  For a while I was feeling rather smug - the key ingredient for sewing with knits was learning a few simple techniques and adhering to them.


And then I came to the central panel and my undoing. I've never been a fan of gathering or anything too fiddly that requires patience and attention to detail. I like working with structured fabrics where you can make bold statements with ease – maximum effect with minimum effort. Marcy walks you through the gathers – advising zig zagging over perle cotton, securing at one end, gathering, setting with steam and stitching either side of the zig zags. I'm sure the fault lies with the user and not the method, as it's worked a treat for many more experienced than I. But after stitching, my gathers completely disintegrated and I had to abort mission.


That was only after sewing 6 rows of lightening bolt across the front of this delicate fabric and anyone who's tried to unpick this stitch will feel my pain. I was on the verge of a complete first world problems meltdown and would have cried – except this would have eaten into valuable sewing time. At this point I should have downed tools and returned another day with fresh eyes and enthusiasm. But I motored on and unpicked every single tiny stich, with the fabric remaining remarkably unscathed until the last section. I punctured it due to extreme tiredness and frustration and the damn almost burst, until I realised I had enough fabric left to re cut the panel if required and I steeled myself for a lock-in. I sewed two rows of basting stich on either side of each gathering line, pulled to size and zig zagged a couple of times over the middle to secure them in place. And then I did what I should have done a long time before and stepped away from the sewing table.


During some very necessary time out, I reflected on the ungathering and it's potential causes. I'm wondering if securing the gathers with lightening bolt stitch the first time around was erroneous – all that backwards and forwarding over such delicate fabric? I'd love to hear your advice on this one – what stitch would you have used? And whilst we're on the subject of lightening stitch, can you back stitch (I couldn't) or is that built into the stitch itself? So many questions … I also had the joys of material disappearing down the throat plate not once but three glorious times and couldn't work out why. However, towards the end of the project I discovered I'd been using Singer bobbins in my Janome, so that's a whole different fly to add to the ointment.


When I returned to the table, completion was relatively smooth. I raced to the finish utilising tips I'd picked up along the way; reducing tension on my sewing machine to a 3; using a stretch needle, periodically using the walking foot and increasing the lightening bolt stitch width to 2, for a neater top stitch. I also spent a little time tinkering with my overlocker and a differential feed of 1.75 eliminated any fabric stretch. What I am disappointed by is my insides – they fall quite short of my exacting standards and I won't be urging people to inspect them anytime soon. Except I probably will, as it's my wont to draw people's attention to my mistakes.


This project has underlined the need for some dedicated one-on-one serger time. I'm never quite sure where to place the fabric in terms of the cutting blade and my chaining off could do with refinement. Fortunately I won a Janome masterclass for my entry in the Love Sewing Sticher of the Year competition, so I'm determined to face another fear next year, book on a day course and work on this relationship.


Another fear I need to face head on is stabalising – when to, how to and what to use? I had a bash on the shoulder seams and sewed in some clear elastic. In hindsight, I probably should have serged this into the seam allowance but thankfully it hasn't resulted in any unwanted bulk. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has stabalised the neckline on this pattern and if so, what you used? It's cut on the bias and with all that handling is prone to waviness. I was wondering about using some knit interfacing but after the gathering fiasco I was overwhelmed with option paralysis and my spirit for adventure was spent.


Whilst I always intend to put the breaks on, I got to a point where the desire to see the finished product overtook the need to take it slow and steady. Now it's finished, I can take a step back and see it for what it is – a dress and not my complete life's work. The heartache is a dim memory, the insides really nowhere near as shabby as I thought and I'm feeling pretty triumphant. This is by far the prettiest, swishiest and most luxiourious feeling garment I've made to date. Have I vanquished my fear of sewing with knits? No. Would I sew with them again? A resounding yes. But not before I've perfected seam finishing and experimented further with stretch stitches on my machine.


A final word on the pattern – I absolutely adore it. It's deserving of multiple re-visits and for my second iteration I'll be using a more structured fabric but that's nothing to do with the fear – I just want to take those pockets to their absolute extremeties.

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