Saturday, 25 March 2017

Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion

Today I'm sharing a super quick and satisfying project that's a little different to my usual sewing style. After all the intense and lengthy coat and dress making I've been doing recently the speed and ease of this really was a breath of fresh air. I love those fiddly projects with a thousand pattern pieces and techniques to work with but I think mixing in the odd super simple project helps to keep things fresh and enjoyable. This project was particularly great as the lack of a pattern and totally different construction processed made use of an entirely new part of my creative brain.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

As I mentioned in a previous post I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Kensington Olympia with my mum a couple of weeks ago. We were keen to attend one of the events on the main stage and when I saw that the line up included Chinelo Bally from the Great British Sewing Bee and she was going to be demonstrating her impressive freehand cutting skills that seemed the obvious choice! I've admired Chinelo's sewing skills since watching her on the Bee back in 2014. After learning to sew following the step by step instructions of sewing patterns and believing accuracy was everything her method of drawing the shapes directly onto the fabric with only the measurements of the recipient as a guide absolutely blew my mind. I bought her book Freehand Fashion almost 18 months ago (and had the pleasure of getting it signed at the Ally Pally Knitting & Stitching event) but despite reading it cover to cover the method felt so unfamiliar to me that I hadn't yet taken the plunge with my chalk and scissors. Seeing Chinelo demonstrate the process of making the batwing top from scratch at the show completely changed that. It was definitely one of the highlights of my day and I left the demonstration feeling fired up to sew. Actually so fired up that I headed straight over to the Girl Charlee stand and bought this amazing ombre jersey to make my own version of the top!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

This project has to win my record for the fastest from idea to final press. I threw the fabric in the machine pretty much as soon as I got in the door that evening and sewed it up the following evening...meaning it was finished almost within 24 hours! It definitely wins the award for speediest sew too. I actually had a really frustrating day of sewing on the Sunday as I was working with a new top pattern and a tricky fabric which didn't turn out anywhere near as lovely as I'd hoped. I have so little time to sew and I was feeling really disappointed about wasting it on a failed project. Turning to this little number in the evening was the perfect remedy. I actually managed to cut and sew the whole thing in the time it took my lasagne to bake! So under an hour. I was able to go to bed that night feeling like I'd achieved something that day. Talk about satisfying.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

The method makes so much sense now I've done it but I have so much admiration for people like Chinelo who have the creativity and imagination to work this way without guidance. I need the steps to follow! It felt very much like I was winging it and I was going to end up with a less than perfect top but once I got into it the process was so liberating! It seemed so simple that I was thinking surely I must need to be doing something extra here; stabilising some seams, maybe finishing the neck with a band for strength rather than turning and stitching? Of course totally unnecessary. I put the top on and that flat piece of fabric was transformed into a beautifully draped garment with great movement. I sat down to look through the book again straight after finishing so I could pick my next project. I'm really curious about how this method works for a closer fitting garment in a woven fabric as it will be much less forgiving.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

So let's talk about this amazing jersey. I'd already visited the Girl Charlee stand earlier that day and to be honest was desperate for an excuse to buy something but didn't have any projects requiring knit fabrics high up my sewing queue. I hadn't spotted this rayon on the first visit as when looking at the side of the bolt it looks like a solid! I've rarely come across ombre and was taken with the scale and monochrome tone of it. I thought the expanse of fabric involved in the batwing style would be a great way to show it off. It's a cotton/rayon blend which makes it cool and breathable as well as drapey and o so slinky smooth. Gosh I love rayon. I definitely recommend a similar lightweight and drapey knit for this design.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

The jersey was a pleasure to work with as despite being so slinky it kept it's shape well which was a relief considering all the folding, marking and cutting that needs to be done with this method. I was concerned that things might shift about when I sewed up the side seams which are shaped based on your bust, waist and hip measurements. But plenty of pins and marking a clear line to follow with a washable marker made it easy. The neckline and hem are finished by overlocking the edge and turning it in and stitching so I was pleased that the fabric responded well to pressing and kept a nice crisp edge. Chinelo recommends using a twin needle in the instructions but I stuck with a straight stitch for a simpler finish as neither of these areas needed to stretch. I used a narrow zig zag to sew up the side seams and a stretch needle throughout.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

I had a metre and a half of the fabric but probably could have got away with a metre for the length of this top. I bought a bit extra as I really wanted to get the ombre to sit in the right place and be even on the back and front. Working with the ombre didn't make the project too much tricker to be honest. I just made sure that when I folded the fabric to create the shoulder line that that fold ran through the exact centre of the paler section. I figured that using the darker section of the ombre across the waist area would be more flattering.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

Of course when working with your own measurements you would expect a good fit but I was delighted with the amount of ease in this. It doesn't cling at all. Before I put it on I was concerned about the size and shape of the neckline. It looked really circular but when worn sits at that ideal just below the collar bone level with a nice width across the shoulders. I love it. Although things might look a little odd on the flat if you trust the method they really work on the body.


The method involves you marking your preferred length of top and length of sleeve on the folded fabric before cutting the neckline and shaping the hem then sewing up. Looking at the pictures I'm wondering whether I should have made it slightly longer but I prefer the shorter length to a tunic style with a batwing sleeve. I'm delighted with my sleeve length as it feels dramatic but still practical and comfortable. I love the drama of the full length sleeve made up in teal for the book in the picture above but I doubt I'd get much wear out of it...plus how does it work with a jacket?! Despite it being a real departure from my normal wardrobe choices I can see myself wearing this style a lot when the weather warms up; I'm taken with the idea of making it in a breezy linen knit. One of the things I love about this freehand method of making clothes is that it really allows you to be inspired by the fabric and how that will change a garment and work with the shape of the body. It might be a great way of getting creative with my stash and I'm looking forward to experimenting!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Girl Charlee Ombre Jersey Batwing Top from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally

14 comments:

  1. It looks great! I have a mental block over this sort of freehand cutting approach too, but you can obviously get great results. I love this fabric too, had my eye on it in GV's online shop - good to know it's nice to work with and wear.

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    1. It's a really nice slinky and wearable one Katie! I would recommend washing it fairly cool so it doesn't start to full or pill and keeps it's lovely sheen.
      I'm really interested in trying out more of this cutting now. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!

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  2. What an intriguing method! I want to get my hand on that book. The top is great, you used the fabric perfectly!

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    1. Intriguing is just the word! I think I need to try a few more projects before I can fully understand it! Thank you very much

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  3. Lovely. You picked the perfect fabric for this.

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    1. Thanks Catherine, I could see you making good use of this fabric! It was the perfect accidental match, must have been meant to be

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  4. The fabric and top are both gorgeous, what a lovely make!

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    1. Thanks Anna, I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed making it and how much I'm enjoying wearing it as it is such a departure from the norm on all counts for me!

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  5. Wow! Beautiful! What a great use of the ombre fabric! You made me very curious about that sewing method - that book you mentioned is now added to my Amazon shopping basket. It's always fun to try something new!
    You should definitly try knit linen - I recently made a couple of kimono sleeve t-shirts in knit linen, and they drape really nice and look rather flattering. I imagine they will be comfy in the summertime.
    Thank you for encouraging me to go for sewing a coat, here the other day! It is now under progress, and just as you said, if I just take one small step at the time, it is totally doable :)

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    1. I made a Papercut bowline sweater in a linen knit and absolutely love it! It's so comfortable even in really hot weather and as you say have such a lovely drape and texture.
      O I'm so pleased to hear you have started the coat and are enjoying it! If you think of the thing as a whole it's pretty daunting but all the small steps are very enjoyable! I'd love to see the end result

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  6. beautiful! I would love to see more from this book! the pictures of the dresses and skirts look amazing.

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    1. Fingers crossed I'll get around to trying a more complicated dress or skirt soon and can show you how I get on! It's a really inspiring book but seems like quite the challenge to me at the moment!

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  7. Ooooh wow that is so cute! Fiona, you are such an enabler. I didn't buy this book because I felt very much the same as you... now I'm erally tempted:).. Especially since I have an enormous stash of linen jerseys (thanks, Supercut!) in great colours just dying for a cute simple top pattern:).

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    1. Haha! Have you taken the plunge yet Francesca?! If you fancy trying something a little different this would be a great investment. I'm not sure my brain works quite the way the Chinelo's must, I think it's the way I've learnt to sew, but I'm slowly getting my head around the process. This would be a great match for a linen jersey you lucky thing!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!