The Scuba Experience
Posted on Thursday the 27th December 2018 by Sew Mama Bear
So I’d heard of it, but never experienced Scuba Fabrics before this. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, and yet it certainly surprised me when it arrived. If you’re in the same camp with no experience of what this fabric is like I will make an attempt to describe it for you…
It reminds me of neoprene (wetsuit fabric – which is clearly where the name comes from), it’s a double layer knit fabric that is very stretchy. The best part of the stretch is how well it recovers, but it also has this very strange spongy feel to it. Due to the spongy feel it seems to have a thickness to it, whilst retaining a feel of lightness (I know this sounds really weird, but trust me it’s hard to explain this).
This particular Scuba Fabric has a beautiful grey and white Aztec design on it, the white sections of which have a sense of translucency to them (not see-through as such, but enough that you’d need to avoid wearing brightly coloured underwear under it).
Even though I had no idea what I’d ordered, I at least knew it was a stretch fabric so my plan was to make McCalls 6886. This is what I refer to as a brilliant basics pattern as it includes various options for lengths of dress as well as 3 different sleeve lengths as well as a sleeveless option. There is frankly no reason why you couldn’t also draw yourself a line for a top length of this either, and it’s this versatility which in my opinion makes it a great pattern for the stash.
Now I often experience fit issues with patterns, it just seems to be my body proportions are different to the patterns expectations. What’s fun about this project, is this dress wasn’t for me! If you’ve seen any of my previous blogs you’ll see that I always have some really beautiful photos of me in the outfits, and there is a very talented lady behind those that I felt needed to be gifted a new dress as a way of thanks. So I measured her up, and to my shock it suggested I needed to cut her a size 14 (of which there is no way that she ever is on the highstreet) but filled with concern I decided to test it and cut the 14…
I have a couple of techniques for versatile patterns such as this when cutting out. I don’t like to remove my option of being able to make the longer dress in the future should I want to. So instead of cutting along the desired length line I simply fold it up and pin it out of my way. It just means that the options are still there should you ever want. (Of course for complete versatility it’s great to trace out the pattern onto paper but let’s be honest, you’ve got to be very sure you’ll want to cut it in a larger size to go to those lengths)
This fabric is wonderfully wide, so I was able to fit the front and the back pieces next to each other. To do this I unfolded the fabric and folded the selvedges into the middle so that I had 2 folds (as both the front and back are cut on the fold). When doing so with this fabric it’s really important to make sure that a central line of the pattern repeat is running down the folds as otherwise it will look unbalanced when finished.
Now this dress (specifically in this fabric) was the easiest thing I have made in ages! The weight of the fabric meant that it cut like a dream as the fabric has a real stability to it (a rarity in the knit world). The main reason for the ease of sewing however is this fabric doesn’t fray… so it requires no finishing techniques. It means that controversially for a knit fabric I didn’t touch my over-locker at all! All I did was use a slightly longer stitch length (a technique I always use for knit fabrics) and a stretch stitch (my preference being the lightning bolt stitch rather than a standard zig-zag) on the hem edges.
I find sleeve insertions in knit fabrics one of the easiest (of all sleeves) to put in. This is because instead of running ease stitches to pull the sleeve head fullness in I stretch the armhole slightly whilst I stitch so when the fabric springs back the fullness is spread evenly.
The only diversion I made from the instructions with this was omitting the narrow hem on the neckline because it would have created a lot of bulk (it’s an instruction for a standard knit fabric remember). I just folded the full seam allowance to the inside, stitched it in place and then trimmed back the seam allowance to the stitching line. I used the same technique as this on the hems too.
So imagine the scene, I take the finished dress to my friend for her to try on… and its massively too big for her! The frustration when this happens is real, and not unique to this pattern. My only saving grace was that I had managed to squeeze the sleeve pattern in between the front and back when I’d cut out so I had a meter of spare fabric (something I did knowing there was massive scope for this to happen). This meant that instead of having to try and unpick an entire dress (something that would have been virtually impossible as this fabric is not especially easy to unpick) I was able to just make another. I had pinned the large one on her and so knew how much smaller I needed it, and to my absolute horror she needed it 3 sizes smaller! I hesitated at first and considered just doing 2 but decided to bite the bullet and cut it in the size 8… which of course fits her perfectly!
Now I will contest that she likes a jersey dress to form fit, so we were both looking for a body-con effect from this dress. I will allow that to account for 1 of the sizes we had to go down, but the other 2 are just bad pattern sizing (in my opinion of course). As a result of my experience I would recommend that whatever you measure at you cut 1 size smaller than this. This will enable you to still take it in if needed without having to re-cut another dress (this size change was too catastrophic for this). Of course the best plan is to make a toile but I don’t often have cheap knit fabric to hand and have found that the quality of the stretch has a massive effect on end fit so I often go straight in with a knit project.
So, the finished product is one absolutely beautiful dress for the photography genius in my life which regardless of the fit issues we experienced along the way I am really pleased with… and has got me already looking for the next scuba project I can take on.
*And please don’t ask what I’ve done with the first dress (that was too large) as I’ve not quite figured that out yet.