If you caught my review of Tilly and the Buttons’ Love At First Stitch – a book that took me from beginner status to confident beginner stage in a matter of weeks – you won’t be surprised that my next move was to order Tilly’s second book, Stretch.
I read it – like Love At First Stitch, it’s a wonderful sewing companion and a great introduction to working with stretch fabrics. However, the styles of the projects did not appeal to me – the only exception was the final project of the book (the Joni dress) which I will come back to some day, I’m sure.
I think the reason I didn’t make it is that I wanted something more challenging to work on in the sense that Tilly’s books don’t leave much to the imagination – you don’t really have to work anything out for yourself: the step-by-step photos and descriptions are fool proof. So, I decided to bite the bullet and set myself the challenge of working on a commercial pattern without someone holding my hand, so to speak.
I’d previously started following a couple of people on Youtube who were talking about getting started with jersey fabrics and New Look’s 6301 really stood out – I personally love a wrap effect dress and the neckline looked just about right for my personal taste. I bought some super vibrant floral print jersey fabric from Crafty Sew & So, whom I’ve bought from a few times now – they have a beautiful collection of fabric and are absolutely lovely to deal with.
6301 is a mock wrap dress with just enough detail to make it interesting; pleats to the sides of the bodice wrap front pieces, variable sleeves and a couple of different skirt options. It is hard to go wrong with a wrap style dress – they flatter most woman and are a good wardrobe staple. They’re also supremely comfortable, which is always a bonus.
Given that the fabric was super colourful, I opted to make a shorter sleeve version for spring / summer with the fuller skirt (I always prefer this style of skirt as it’s more flattering to my body type than more fitted styles).
The first lesson I learned was that tracing commercial patterns is a timely effort so I may, in the future, start buying PDFs. As for cutting knit fabrics, it took a little longer than I had been used to with all the non stretch fabrics I had been used to. After trying several cutting methods, I decided that the best way for me was to trace the patterns directly on on to the fabric (with dressmaker’s carbon and a tracing wheel) and to cut the fabric with a rotary blade.
The bodice came together quite quickly and I was surprised at how easy it was to work with jersey. I had read in so many places that knitted fabrics were difficult to work with but I found it the opposite – just make sure you use a jersey needle. I had also read that you’re best buying a walking foot to ensure that the two pieces of fabric feed through at the same time but I experienced no difficulty.
The skirt construction was straightforward, too. The trickiest part for me was creating a ditch for the elastic at the waist. I had read a couple of reviews admitting to skipping the elastic but I was in it for the long haul and to learn as much as I could so I persisted as I figured it was in the pattern for a reason, even if I couldn’t think of what that reason was.
The last challenge was sewing in the sleeves – I always dread this part of the process; with the risk of gathering the fabric up incorrectly a usual concern for me, I knew the chances of mistakes and having to rip out stitches were even higher with jersey so I used many pins to try and mitigate the risk (and the swearing).
The dress came together so easily in the end and has made me feel comfortable sewing with jersey. I’m definitely going to make this pattern again – I’m already thinking a couple of plain brights as well as a couple of long sleeved versions in heavier knit fabrics for the autumn and winter months.