Just to give you a bit of a background into these reviews, I’ve instructed my Research & Development team (i.e. me and The Mother) to have a go at a few patterns so we can decide which ones would be the best to sell in the shop in terms of being easy to follow, level of difficulty etc. and obviously it would be good if there was someone there to help you if you get stuck!
So as The Mother insists on hand-sewing practically all her’s and it’s taking her a while, I’m first up with the “Coco” pattern by Tilly and the Buttons.
Before I start, please don’t be under any illusions that I’m a professional dressmaker, so please don’t look too closely! I work under the mantra of “why do something once, when you can do it three times?” as that is usually the amount of times it takes me to get something right, mainly due to me being a bit of a daydreamer and I tend to drift off mid-stitch.
I am also ashamed to admit that this is the first time I have ever followed a pattern which uses stretch fabric. I know, I know…what can I say?! Blame The Mother for pulling this face:
at the mere suggestion of using a stretch fabric. Anyway, luckily for me, this pattern only calls for a fabric with a slight stretch, such as an interlock, so I didn’t have too big a baptism of fire and I chose a lovely fabric from a German manufacturer, C. Pauli, who do gorgeous organic cottons.
The first thing that attracted me to TATB patterns was that not only are the end products modern and on-trend, the packaging is refreshingly smart and sophisticated and to be honest, downright sexy. Gone are the days when we had to make do with Simplicity’s latest offering; we have this new breed of independent designers who are bringing out patterns like these to lure another generation into the wonders of sewing.
The patterns themselves are also printed on PROPER PAPER!!! Can you imagine?! If you’re a clumsy oaf like me, you’ll have no doubt ripped a few tissue-paper patterns in your time. My problem normally is that I manage to make a pattern last for the first go (just!) but I’m a bit snookered if I want to use it a second time, unless I get the Sellotape out. In comparison, this pattern folded up nicely when I’d finished and fit neatly back into its sexy pocket! (Note to self: must stop using the word “sexy”, people will get the wrong impression of me.)
Each pattern also contains a proper little instruction book, with explanations of all the sewing lingo, as well as advice on how to get the best fit out of your finished garment. There are also great tips for each pattern on the TATB website. Now, this is UBER-important! UBER!!! If you are a new sewer, I cannot stress this enough; sewing a pattern is not the time to be vain. Yes, you might be a size 12 in Oasis, and even a size 10 in Next if you breathe in and have a no carb day, but that means nothing here!! I kid you not, I have the strangest measurements known to man in terms of sewing a pattern and often have to veer between a couple of sizes. I’m 35. I’ve been doing this a while. I’m over it.
Once you’ve had a little cry about sewing pattern size, time to cut out your pattern! With it being a stretch fabric I chose to use a rotary cutter to keep the fabric as still as possible. I had enough on my plate with my natural clumsiness without scissors hindering me! I would defo recommend a rotary cutter as they are very quick and accurate and you can even pretend you’re a contestant on The Great British Sewing Bee! Not that I did that. Much.
The pattern itself was very easy to follow. In terms of preventing the fabric from stretching on the neckline and hems, all I can advise is pin, pin, pin and when you think you’ve pinned enough, pin some more. Then add some kind of stabiliser (hemming web for example) and then pin some more. Another tip from me is don’t be shy when it comes to pressing the seams. If the pattern says press, then you do it! Press like you’ve never pressed before!! This helps to keep the seams flat and everything in shape.
I can’t believe I am actually typing this phrase, but the sleeves were a joy to put in! In this pattern they are stitched on the flat which means they are inserted before you sew the sleeve seams. This is so much easier than stitching in the round as you don’t have to worry about evening up the gathers, therefore eliminating the risk of ending up looking like an extra from a Victorian costume drama.
I also enjoyed the fact that the fabric DID NOT FRAY!! This means, friends, that you don’t have to spend time finishing off your seams! Is there anything better in life than this?
So, this is the end product (modelled by Stella, my dressmaker’s dummy and another valuable member of the R & D team):
I don’t think it looks too bad for a first stretch fabric attempt! Even The Mother looked suitably impressed. I can’t wait to try another variation of the pattern, which is a funnel neck top and looks lovely for the cold weather!
This and other TATB patterns are definitely going to have a spot in the shop, as are some of the C.Pauli fabrics, including the colour I chose to do the dress in. The dress itself will be on display when the shop opens for you to have a look at.