Back in August, I had my first experience on the “Tester” side of pattern testing. I was invited to test the Kate Bias Top by Just Patterns.
Just Patterns is targeted more toward experienced sewists. Their concept is to offer their target customers high quality pattern design and concise tips on garment construction, without the hand-holding of a fully illustrated or photographed instruction booklet. They offer a one-page guide for fabric type and quantity, and expert suggestions on construction flow and technique. They also link to tutorials on their Resource Page – either on their own site or on other indie pattern sites that they find to be of high quality – in case you do need some extra help or guidance on specific techniques, such as French Seams (on Grainline Studido) or Sewing Spaghetti Straps (on their own blog).
As somebody who is not a natural follower of directions, this type of pattern totally appealed to me! I was therefore a bit surprised at my initial reaction, which was that I kind of missed more detailed instruction. I quickly got over that though. I think it was more that I am so used to there being a full instruction booklet, that I got a little flustered for a moment there. Once I remembered that I pretty much never use the instructions, I got to work constructing my lovely garment.
A pattern designer myself, I am also quite jealous of their audacity to decide to go the route of offering the pattern and only very minimal instruction. I LOVE designing new patterns. I have a huge back log of designs that I’ve not gotten to, and wonder if I ever will, mainly because of the time it takes me to create the instructions and – the most time consuming of all – illustrations! I caught myself wondering “Why didn’t I dare to do that?” many times! Although I feel quite proud of my new-found skill of illustrating instructions, it takes me a disproportional amount of time compared to the core of my business.
Just Patterns offers beautiful, well-tailored designs in a style that is very urban-professional-basic. Their designs are totally suitable to be worn in your 20th floor Manhattan office as you close a multi-million dollar deal, and then head out to a benefit gala in the evening, or if you happen to be Claire Underwood from House of Cards. If I was that woman, these are the clothes I would wear. Although I may have had dreams of being such a woman (in the good way!) many years ago, I am not. I live on a tiny, tropical island. Wonderful? YES! But not the place where I get dressed up too often. The Just Patterns design that does suit my current lifestyle very well is the Kate Bias Top.
Although my tester version of the Kate Bias Top looks great in photos, it’s actually quite a mess inside! That is completely to do with me though, and nothing to do with the pattern. I choose to use a cheap polyester kimono rescued from somebody who was going to through it out. The color and print are perfect for this simple top. But the fabric itself was so awful that it even frayed through seams. And creating spaghetti straps proved impossible due to this fact. Luckily, I found a creative solution! Thicker straps (ie. The belt of the kimono) bunched up where they attach to the bodice.
One thing I should have learned from the test version before hacking it into a dress was to reduce the size. I wish I would have gone down one size. My bust is 88 cm, so the size 38 should have fit perfect. But I think that a size down would actually be better due to the bias cut. The issue could be the fabric I choose (cotton voile lining), but I did bind the top seam, so it’s not actually expanding at all with wear. As I wear this dress without a bra, a closer fit may help to keep the ladies hidden a bit better.
So, now to the details! I wanted a dress that I could feel dressed up in and wear to a wedding or nice dinner, but that is also easy to just throw on. I had 2 yards of gorgeous black peace silk chiffon that I had purchased from Organic Cotton Plus* months before and, although I’d been mulling over making a dress and had several inspiration photos in my Pinterest, I hadn’t quite nailed down exactly what it would be. After making the Kate Bias Top, I knew this would be the perfect bodice for my dress! Just Patterns also has a dress version of this top, but it doesn’t suit my body type well at all. I am quite slim, but dresses without a waist rarely flatter my shape. I therefore decided to make the bias top as the lining, and use the chiffon on the straight grain as an overlay, but then a few sizes larger. For the lining, I purchased 100% organic cotton voile, also from Organic Cotton Plus*. The thread I used is 100% organic cotton by Scanfil. I purchased mine in bulk quite a while ago from PureCoverz in the Netherlands, but Organic Cotton Plus* also carries this (handier if you're in the US).
The skirt portion of the dress is simply two rectangles sewn at the side seams and then gathered at the waist. I found this part a bit tricky, because I knew I needed to gather it in, but also not too much as it would need to be able to stretch along with the waist band when pulling it on and off. I was not about to try installing a zipper in this dress!
I used French Seams both on the lining as well as the chiffon. After attaching the chiffon layer to the lining – under-stitching and all – I realized that I had sewn the chiffon with the French Seams facing out. Of course I had! One more thing I was not about to do was to attempt to carefully pick through all those seams without ruining my chiffon. I was also on a deadline, because a wedding was coming up! So…design feature! I made sure to sew the skirt portion on with the French Seams facing out as well. And there you have it.
Have you ever sewn with chiffon? It’s one of those things I was ridiculously naïve about. I hadn’t even realized that this is something I might be “afraid” of until after it had arrived. I love Fiona from Diary of a Chainstitcher and saw that she had a couple posts on sewing with chiffon, so I read through those a bit. Although I can’t find exactly where I first read this, the most intriguing tip I remember reading was to sew with the fabric sandwiched by tissue paper. It’s so crazy, but it works! You
Lessons learned from sewing with Chiffon:
+ Sandwiching your chiffon – or any slippery fabric - with tissue paper when sewing is crazy and fun…and works! I’ve read around the web that you should change the plate on your machine if you can. But that seemed like a lot of work to me, and I don’t know how to do that (or if I can!). This sandwiching method will also help to keep your fabric from slipping and also from being “eaten” by your machine. The needle basically creates a perforated line so that you can easily (although carefully!) rip the paper away from the fabric once sewn. I think I used a 2mm stitch length. (The photo below is from sewing my tester version.)
+ You can totally serge chiffon! I’ve seen differing opinions on this. I was not about to fiddle with creating a nice, clean hem at the base of my dress by ironing and pinning and such. And I really like the heavier weight of the serged roll hem! I feel like it balances out the sheer “border” created by the shorter length of the lining compared to the chiffon. I used a single needle, 3-thread roll stitch with a very short stitch length. I actually did not use tissue paper to sandwich the chiffon while serging. Luckily, my machine did not eat the fabric at all. I do, however, recommend testing on scrap pieces before doing this on your final garment!
+ French Seams on the outside are actually really nice with chiffon! Hooray for accidental design features. This is a feature that is not at all noticeable until you come up close, but looks lovely.
+ Selvedges are your friend. The fabric width of the chiffon was not super wide (sorry, I can’t remember what it was!), and I wanted this part to be blouse-y, so I simply cut the bodice as wide as the fabric itself. This meant that I could sew the French Seams in the selvedges. This made sewing easier, and works well with my design feature.
+Under-stitching is important…but only kind of works. I don’t find that my chiffon lays down as much as I’d like it to on top. I don’t think there’s much I can do about this.
+ Hang your chiffon garment over night before hemming. I did this for the bodice before attaching the skirt. Admittedly, I did this because I was so tired and needed to go to bed, not because I consciously thought that this would be the best thing to do. However, it was! This helps to get a straighter, cleaner horizontal seam line. I did not hang the dress before doing the roll serge at the bottom of the skirt though. This is because I finished it on the day of the wedding. It hasn’t skewed much though, and where it has skewed a bit it only makes it look more flowy.
Have you ever sewn with patterns from Just Patterns? Have you sewn with chiffon? What are your thoughts on this textile?
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