Ready to Wear

In case you missed the first few posts in this series on my Flame Lace Top, you can find the warping post here,  how to make string heddles here,  actually weaving the fabric here, and taking the fabric off the loom here.  I’m using Flax as warp, and Whisper Lace with Garden 10 held together as warp.

After taking my fabric off the loom, I decided to machine wash on gentle and then laid flat to dry. After lightly pressing the fabric with my iron, I was all ready to start sewing and cutting:

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What really drew me to the Flame Lace project in the Simple Woven Garments book was the weave structure. Though I think the garment in the book is really cute, I’m not a big fan of that shape for my body. Going into this project, I knew I was going to make some changes. But I didn’t fully decide on those changes until I got started. And even then I made improvisations along the way.

The first thing I decided to do differently than the original was to shape my armholes. The easiest way for me to determine my armhole depth and shape was to grab a top I already own and use that as a guide. I’m a big fan of using wrapping paper that has grid lines on the back for things like this.

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To make a template for my armholes, I laid my top on the back side of the wrapping paper and traced one side. I opted to freehand the neck hole, as I wanted it to sit a bit lower than the one on the shirt I was using as an armhole guide. After cutting out the first side, I folded the paper in half and traced to get the second side – an easy way to make sure it was symmetric.

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After cutting out my armhole template, the next step was to pin it to my fabric. But before I could do that, I needed to determine where the shoulder seam would be. Rather than cut out separate pieces for front and back from my fabric, I was using the entire length of the fabric for my top.

I decided as I was tracing my armholes that a hi-lo hem would be cool. I opted for about a 5″ difference in front and back hems, folded my fabric, and then pressed it with my iron to indicate my shoulder seam.

Then I pinned my template to the fabric:

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My two best tips for sewing: don’t skimp on ironing or pins.

Now, before any cutting can happen, it’s important to secure the fabric with the sewing machine. If I was cutting store-bought fabric for a garment, I would simply pin the pattern to the fabric and cut. But because I’m using my handwoven fabric that has a much lower thread count (fewer threads per inch) than most commercial fabric, I needed to take care that the weaving doesn’t come apart.

My first step was to sew a folding guide line for myself. I sewed a straight line of stitching just along the sides of my template:

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After removing the paper, I sewed two more lines, but this time with a narrow, short-length zigzag stitch. These are the really important lines, because they’re securing the threads of the weaving and preventing them from unraveling. I used my presser foot as a measuring guide for my lines The foot is about 1/4″ to 3/8″ wide from the center of the needle to the outside edge, making my total seam allowance be about 5/8″.

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I’m using light gray thread – can you see it? I barely could and had a splitting headache by the time I was done from squinting so hard. I wanted the thread to blend into the fabric and it blended too well!

Can you see it now?

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Now that these important lines were stitched I could safely cut out my neck and armholes. I made sure to cut outside  all lines of stitching, right up against the last zigzag line.

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Once the neck and armholes were cut out, I had to prep the curves so I could fold them under. If you’ve ever sewn a garment with curved lines, you know that you have to snip the curves so they can be eased to the inside of the garment. Again, because I was working with hand woven fabric, I had to secure the fabric before making these snips. I set my machine to a very, very short straight stitch, and made 2 parallel lines of stitches on either side of where I intended to cut. That way, when I cut through the fabric, it wouldn’t unravel.

My apologies – I seem to have forgotten to photograph this step!

Anyway, next, it’s onto the ironing board again. And more pins! For a double-rolled hem, I first pressed in my openings on my very first straight line of sewing. Remember, my guide line? Then,  I pressed in again on my first zigzag line.

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Once I pinned and sewed my neck and armhole openings (this time, with thread I could actually see), I tried it on Betty to see how we were coming:

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Hey, it looks like it could actually be something! To wear!

There were just a few things left to do. First I trimmed away that fringe. Fringe is actually in style right now and I could have left it, but opted to cut it away instead.

Next, I needed some side seams. Because the sides of the fabric are the selvedges, I found no need to do double rolled hems because the edges are “finished” already.

The final width of my fabric after washing, by the way, was about 19 1/2″. Which means, if I were to sew the sides together with 1/2″ seam allowances (taking up a total of 2″ in seams), then my finished top would be about 37″. Perfect! I have a 34″ bust, so having a few inches of ease in this woven top will work well, since woven fabrics really don’t have any give.

My hips, however, are significantly larger than 34″. I’m a pear shape and my hips are about 39-40″. I couldn’t sew the full length of my side seams or I won’t be able to fit into this baby.  I also could have made the top shorter than intended so that it sat above the fullest part of my hips, but I didn’t want to do that.

Instead, I opted to sew only part of the side seam and give myself side vents to accommodate my curves.

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After sewing the side seams, I pressed them open. Remember my other rule – don’t skimp on the ironing. I then made a single-fold hem on the unsewn portion of the sides, and made a double-fold hem on the bottom. After that, more ironing! It’s important to iron sewn seams to sort of settle them into place. It also makes them look more finished. I like to shoot a little steam on seams of knitted items too to help them relax.

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And here are some final shots:

Flame Lace side closeup square hi-res

Flame Lace hem hi-res

Flame Lace on form hi-res

Flame Lace on Amy crop hi-res

All in all, I’m please with how this turned out. Though I have quite a bit of sewing experience, I’ve done very little sewing with my own hand woven fabric, which is definitely a whole different ballgame than sewing with purchased fabric. This project has definitely sparked ideas for more garments. Now all I need is to find the time to implement them!

Join me next time as I explore how to make the most of Bamboo Pop multi colorways and planned pooling!

 

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