I have become something of an Instagram junkie of late … loving its happy upbeat tone, visual appeal and inspirational effect … I’m frequently distracted by the rainbow of sewing possibilities that pop up in my feed. What I love, as well, is the fact that it makes you look again at sewing patterns you may originally have dismissed as being ‘not for you’. This was definitely the case with the Springfield Top, the latest in the line of curvy patterns released by Jenny at Cashmerette.
I am gonna put my hands up here. I LOVE all the Cashmerette patterns. Why? Because I am at heart a very lazy seamstress and the fact that I can cut something out, straight from the pack pretty much ‘as is’ with no swayback adjustment or FBA, or any of the other myriad of pattern fit shortcomings that leave me silently crying head in hands, studying my Fit For Real People book, whilst lamenting the trail of discarded fucked up toiles in my wake is nothing short of miraculous. The instant success of Jenny’s pattern line obviously means I am not alone in feeling like this!
Still, when I first saw the Springfield Top pattern I was a bit, ‘meh’ about it’s styling. Yeah, that’s a nice wardrobe basic I thought. Now, those of you who know me of old understand that I am not a wardrobe basic type of sewer. I like icing covered razzmatazz, girly dresses in bird print and ric rac and petticoats and … well, basically my clothing of choice is like something from a Doris Day movie in the 1950s. I would happily spend all my time in gingham and ice cream print day dresses twirling around humming On Moonlight Bay to myself 24/7, but in the midst of this I have to … work. *sigh*
Luckily, I am in the creative industry (so have a little more leeway in my working wardrobe than many people) but it still has its limits on acceptable workwear. Yes, I have a crazy and diverse line in Converse sneakers that fulfils a large part of my glitzy and off the wall need when in work attire, but there still need to be core items that go with that look. I wear a lot of three quarter length trousers, patterned tops and little lace jackets with my crazy shoe choices. I am aiming for quirky, yet credible. (It is a life project and having geek chic glasses makes the look a little more achievable).
On further scrutiny I wondered if the Springfield could be a good choice for getting some of my much loved loud and highly patterned fabric choices into this everyday mix. Then when I saw this lovely version by Meg at cookinandcraftin pop up in my instagram squares I knew I was going to give it a whirl.
Trouble is, it’s also summer. Although that makes it the ideal time to whip up a few immensely wearable sleeveless tops, it also means there’s a lot of other stuff going on that gets in the way of proper sewing. Stuff like lying on beaches, lazy evenings drinking cocktails and reading weighty novels, visiting grandchildren, going camping, entertaining friends, making the garden look presentable, trying not to be hot and mid afternoon nana naps (as I am a nana I am officially allowed to have these little kitty naps, in fact I think it may even be the law.) Amazingly, none of these things help get my sewing done.
I’d had the pattern sitting on the table in my sewing room for two weeks without any progress at all. Occasionally I’d pick it up and have another look at how quick and easy it was going to be to sew but then it way straight back on top of the ‘to sew’ pile. Something had to be done before summer passed me by! With another holiday on the horizon I had a brainwave – why not combine two of my favourite things … sewing and camping?
My bloke’s eyeball roll as I jammed Swedish tracing paper, scissors, pins, fabric and a sewing machine into the car for our camping escape was legendary. What was fortunate was that his distraction at so much sewing stuff being piled into the carmeant that the number of pairs of shoes I also smuggled into my packing passed without mention! Result. The ace up my sleeve was my mum loaning me her spare teensy but perfectly formed sewing machine. I have never seen another like it, a tiny scaled down but perfectly formed Elna machine under the Elnita sub brand. It is two thirds the size of my normal machine and half the weight.
It turned out that sewing in the wilds of North Oxfordshire was easy peasy. The camping table was plenty large enough once tea making stuff was cleared into the corner, and we had an electric hook up, so once plugged in I was raring to go although I did get some weird looks from our fellow campers. I have some beautiful cotton lawn to make my proper Springfield, but it was far too nice to risk on anything less than a certainty, so instead I plumped for a bargain piece of lawn from ebay, covered in massive pink plums for my (hopefully) wearable muslin. I decided to start with View B, a slightly more fitted top with a seamed back. As I fall between sizes in the patterns I cut a 16 E/F cup at the shoulders grading to the 18 at the hip.
Sewing it up was easy enough. Well, I say that now, but if I’m being really honest, actually I had a few blips. First up, the machine decided the cotton was so fine and gorgeous that it wanted to eat it, so I had issues when stay stitching the neck and doing the seams at the start point. Once I’d managed to recovery my ravaged fabric from the hungry feed dogs I happily sewed my 1.2cm seams for the back sections then the shoulder seams and side seams. Yay! I slipped it on and when I was halfway in I realised I had a problem, it was just a smidgen too close fitting in the lower body for comfort. No problem, I thought, I’ll just do a teensy bit smaller seams on the back panel and at the side. Pause to reach for stitch ripper …
What I had forgotten is that my sewing machine at home is a helpful little beast. You can be super lazy and tell it the kind of fabric you have and what you are trying to do – so in this instance a fine weight woven and a seam and it selects the appropriate stitch length and tension for you. Yeah, I know, mindless in the extreme (told you I was a lazy seamstress) but equally awesome, so I rarely stray from these defaults. Mindful of what machine would set this fabric at I twirled the Elite’s dials to a tiny 2mm stitch. Great, it holds all your seams together with a lovely fine finish, but when you want to rip it all out it is a total pain!
I grumbled my way through the unpicking, using four or five different stitch rippers all of which seemed to suddenly be blunt (I think they must have been on some secret seam rippers party night out where they spent the night zipping their way through metres of velveteen and denim just for fun, cos I swear they were sharp when I last used them). I am becoming more and more convinced about the merits of investing in a brass stitch ripper, which although cost as much as a small car, apparently never suffer from blunting. Nope, never. Well, until my bloke decides to use it for pulling apart a plug or something else equally shameful. Yes, just ask my prized dressmaking scissors why I know this happens when I am out of the house! In the end, with my tired blunt rippers in the bin, I used my needlepoint scissors and a pin to do the job. It was laborious. Still, once I finally pulled it on again with the new smaller seam allowance the fit was near perfection.
Then there was just the binding to do. I am always wary of bias binding finishings because, well, to be honest, I’m not very good at them. Turns out I was right. I very, very carefully did the sewing of the binding around the neck and then understitched and pressed (over my sewing ham) … but it turned out like this. Fail.
I posted my woes on instagram and on the Curvy Sewing Collective forum and because fellow curvy sewers are so fantastic I soon had loads of responses on how to sort it out. It seems that I had not allowed enough of the bias to fit into the curve as I sewed. What should happen is that the inner curve should have a slight ripple to the bias as you’re sewing it, so that it’s perfectly flat on the seam line – this means it doesn’t tighten up so much on the turn. I should also have pressed the bias into a curve before attaching at all, then grade, clip and under stitch. Ah, it all suddenly made sense.
Normally, I would have screwed the whole thing up and thrown it in the bin at this point, but I loved the fabric so much I thought I’d give it another try, armed with my new improved knowledge. Take 2. I sewed one of the armhole bias finishes. It came out pretty perfectly, BUT. The fit definitely wasn’t right.
I seem to be suffering from
a fast approaching droopy old lady bosom thang, *ahem* hollow chest issue, as I have a little too much room at the top of the neckline and on the armhole, even though the cup and full bust fit is perfect. (Interestingly enough this was the only change I had to make to my Upton Dress bodice too, so I think it’s definitely a developing fit issue with my post 45 body.) Rumour has it that as all body parts start their downward descent and you lose muscle tone this is a common problem area for the mature woman. What next I wondered – a Dowager’s hump? I may jest but actually my rounded shoulders are in evidence as the fit is even better if I pinch the merest mm from the centre back neck. Apart from that the back fit is spot on, no gathers at the back waist either which is so very rare with woven patterns.
I really like this pattern on me and I do think it could be a total workhorse of a garment, good for layering in autumn and winter and perfect for summer with jeans or shorts, so I’m determined to get the fit perfect. I have also bought some gorgeous cotton lawns to make two final versions, the left for View A and the right for View B with its contrast band.
I’m off to dig out my Swedish tracing paper and make these fit amends, losing the pinched excess in the bust dart before making another muslin (hopefully wearable this time!). Wish me luck.