I have done more sewing this spring and summer than I have in any other period of my life. I tend to go through phases with how I spend my time: I’ll spend 6 months knitting, then I’ll do nothing but read for a month. The next 3 months will be dedicated to spinning, followed by a month of dabbling in crochet or tatting. I love learning new things and experimenting in an environment where a mistake only costs me a skein of yarn and a few hours of my time.
A few years ago I went through another period of intense sewing. At the time I didn’t have a sewing machine so I used the sewing machine I was born with – my hands. It turns out that sewing by hand is slower than by machine, but that you can be much more precise. Sewing by hand is also much more soothing than sewing with a machine will ever be. In college my best friend had a deep purple sparkly skirt she had made. I loved that skirt and wore it as often as she would let me borrow it. Eventually she gave it to me and I continued to wear it as often as I dared. Only, after college I found myself gravitating less and less toward skirts and more and more toward pants. It broke my heart that this beautiful skirt wasn’t being worn and loved. So I hatched a daring plan to refashion the skirt into a tunic. I used my trusty Alabama Chanin T-Shirt/dress pattern, and very carefully laid my pattern out. I was just barely able to eke out the shirt and 2 elbow length sleeves. Proud of myself, I quickly sewed up the shoulder and side seams and felled them down. Then I tried it on. The tunic did not fit at all how I had expected it to. In hindsight I know that I hadn’t payed attention to the grain of the knit fabric, so instead of the direction with the most stretch going around my body, it went vertically. The tunic was skintight and wanted to stretch in length. Frustrated, I put all my supplies into a bag and put that bag into my stash and out of sight.
Over the years I’ve brought the bag out several times, turned out the contents, thought a bit, and put everything away again. I came to the conclusion that I needed to add gores to the side seams, but there was not enough of the original fabric to make this work. Black seemed like a good alternative, given the dark purple of my fabric, and I had already intended to use a black binding for the neckline and hem. But when I shopped around for black knit fabric I could never find anything that I was really happy with. Recently I bought some 100% cotton knit in black and white just to have around. You never know when a lightweight cotton knit will come in handy. As I yet again considered this project a light bulb went on. I pulled my quarter yard of black cotton knit out of my stash, measured the length from the underarm to the hem and marked this on my fabric twice, then I cut the lengths diagonally from corner to corner, leaving 1 inch of seam allowance on each piece. I then sewed the straight edges to the side seams of my tunic, and sewed the angled sides together.
When I tried it on this time, the angels sang! It was so comfortable and flattering! I sewed the sleeves on, then started the finishing work. Since I was working with Jersey it wasn’t strictly necessary to finish the edges, so the inside seams are a mixture of left raw and felled down. The hems and neckline were finished with double-fold elastic.
All in all, I am so pleased with how this make turned out. It is comfortable to wear, and I feel so pretty in it! There are several elements that echo Regency fashion, namely the squared neckline, the close fit through the bust and looser fit in the skirt, and the fitted elbow-length sleeves. This pleases me immensely! I am still working on upping my binding skills. The sleeve and skirt hems are pretty decent, but the neckline hem wants to curve outward ever so slightly. I noticed this same problem with the striped T-shirt I recently made as well. I think the solution is to stretch the binding a little more around the curves, but this is easier to say than to do. I will keep practicing.
It’s tempting to keep this top in reserve for a special event or date night, but it’s so comfortable and beautiful that I think it deserves to become part of my “normal” wardrobe – sparkles and all.