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Gemma Sweatshirt Pattern Review by Sarah

I present to you the Gemma Sweatshirt Pattern from Named Clothing, part of their Earth Science collection released last year.

I am consistently amazed at how a humble sweater can be manipulated and reinterpreted to make it fresh and modern. Every season when I pull out my jersey fabric in readiness to sew up a storm making cosy winter layers I am amazed at the ingenuity of pattern designers to reinvent the most basic of designs. The Gemma is a great example of this. Its geometric shapes make it an interesting and modern silhouette, providing ample ways in which the design can be interpreted and brought to life. Colour blocking the front sections and playing with fabric drape and type to create different looks is so fun with this pattern. I have seen some amazing variations of the Gemma sweater in all sorts of different fabrics and with so much inspiration at my fingertips I spent a while looking through the Minerva Crafts website trying to find the perfect combination of fabrics to make my vision a reality.

I wanted something slightly different for my wardrobe and had been playing with the idea of using more pinks in my colour scheme this year. I also wanted to try a fabric I don't feel so comfortable with to push my sewing boundaries and I pondered between velvet and scuba for a while. I can imagine an amazing version in colour blocked stretch velvet, but in the end scuba won out. I chose a Reversible Scuba Fabric, maroon on one side and pink on the other, which compliments the tones in this beautiful midnight rosette Scuba Fabric from Lady McElroy. I have to admit that seeing so many beautiful creations made from this particular fabric have made me want to try it out for a while. The Named Clothing sample is made from scuba and so I had an idea of what the finished item would look like and how it would hang and it was exactly what I was after, so I jumped in with both feet!! Both fabrics are still available on the Minerva Crafts website and I highly recommend them! Plus I think it's worth saying the fabric is much more flexible and has more drape than I thought it would. Scuba makes me think of thick neoprene used for scuba diving outfits but it's nothing like that, more like a distant relative! Plus the colours and patterns are so vibrant and really beautiful.

Moving on to construction. I am team trace, preferring to trace my pattern than cut it out directly from the paper pattern. It didn't take too long as there aren't a huge amount of pieces to deal with. Then I had to think carefully about pattern placement and colour blocking. The Lady McElroy fabric has clusters of large flowers and I wanted, where possible, to get as many of these in to the front of the bodice as possible. It meant probably using more fabric than the pattern needed had it been a plain fabric but I love the result of being selective in my cutting. I cut the middle band, made up of two strips and a triangle, out of the reversible fabric and then played with fabric layout. Following an Instagram poll (who doesn't love one of those!) I chose my layout based on the majority vote.

I haven't sewed with Scuba in a long time. The first time both my machine and overlocker hated it, skipping as many stitches as possible. I nearly tore my hair out with frustration so was expecting similar issues this time. I am however pleased to announce it wasn't such a troublesome experience this time round. It may have had something to do with my new machine but I did also read up on what to do and not to do as a fail-safe. As a brief guide I did the following -- I pre-washed the fabric. I wasn't sure if it was totally necessary but upon reading up on it, it seems that it was still recommended. Better safe than sorry!- I used a ballpoint needle appropriate for the weight of my fabric and as scuba doesn't need any seam finishing I sewed this all up on my normal machine with a lightning stitch. I still didn't trust my overlocker on this! - It is mainly polyester and feels totally flammable but I still ironed the seams open to get a nice flat seam. I was worried it wouldn't press well but it was okay in the end. The iron just needs to be on low and you should always test the fabric first before pressing your garment.

The construction was pretty straightforward. The only difficult part was aligning the seams on the triangular section. I did this with a straight stitch as anyone who has tried unpicking a lighting stitch will attest to how blooming difficult it can be. Many a hole ripped and under breath cuss word muttered in the past! I am glad I did this as it took a couple of attempts to get it looking good. I want to say perfect, but well it isn't perfect. I don't mind though, I am not a perfectionist so I am happy with how it came out.

I wondered about whether to use a drawstring and eyelets in the bottom of the sweater. I like the sweater looser around my waist and wondered if it would look odd on me. I especially didn't want to have to wear this gathered at my natural waist. I know this would look awful on me. I notice that a few people have omitted this design feature to good effect but in the end I went for it, and believe me it did stall me for about a week while I thought about it over and over. I am not disappointed with the outcome and I like the look of it. Plus it was fun bashing in eyelets with a hammer and the finish is professional looking. I didn't feed the drawstring in after placing the eyelets and sewing the hem as the pattern suggests but just sewed it into the bottom hem as I went. Worked a treat and avoided any faff. Plus I couldn’t work out how to get anything through the eyelet hole to feed the drawstring with so had to think around this problem!! I also really like the elasticated cuff, makes a change from just using the self-fabric.

Overall I would completely recommend this pattern, though I think it may not be for an absolute beginner but someone with a bit more sewing experience. I love the final look, though I am not sure if I am secretly channelling a race horse jockey or not.... Would I make it again? Definitely but maybe with velvet next time to make it a little more luxurious. It’s another inspired design from Named Clothing and I can't wait to get stuck into their other Earth Science Patterns now.

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