I'm a little late to the party with this one. Tilly and the Buttons released their Billie pattern before Christmas and straight off the bat, it was a massive hit with you all. I intended on making myself one a lot sooner than I have, however we've been super-busy in the shop, which has been excellent, but has left precious little sewing time!
Finally, I found myself a few hours last week to have a crack at it myself. I loved the look of this pattern mainly because the balloon sleeve made the shape a little bit more interesting than a basic sweater/sweater dress. Being a super-fan of the Nina Lee Southbank pattern, I have umpteen sweater dresses in my wardrobe already so I decided to make the sweater version of the Billie. I'd had a mediumweight cotton jersey in my stash for a while and never knew what to use it for, so I thought it would be ideal for this pattern. I wasn't overly sure whether it was going to be a bit too lightweight for it, however it was perfectly fine for the sweater version. I think if I'd have used it for the sweater dress, it would have pulled out of shape, especially around the pockets. For that version I would definitely use something a bit heavier like a Ponte Roma or a sweatshirt fabric.
What I liked about this pattern is that there are only a few pieces to it, but it gives you a chance to experiment with colour-blocking. You could use one colour for the neckband, cuffs and hem band and then another colour or a print for the front and back bodices and sleeves. Or sew everything except the front bodice in a plain colour and then highlight the front in a jazzy fabric to create a Ted Baker style jumper! Any normal person might have contemplated using this technique for the bold Frida Kahlo print jersey and teaming it with a plain black to tone it down, however I decided to take it to the extreme and went full-blown Frida for every piece because in these times, why the hell not?!
The pattern is a nice easy one to put together if you're used to working with stretch and a great one if you're just starting out on your stretch journey. I used my overlocker for everything except sewing the gathering stitches on the balloon sleeve. I didn't even need my sewing machine to hem the bodice as the hem band can be overlocked on, giving the top a very professional look.
This was the first time I had sewn a balloon sleeve and other than it being a bit fiddly due to having to tease 3 rows of gathering stitches to ease the shoulder onto the bodice and the lower sleeve into the cuff (which was the trickiest out of the two) it went pretty smoothly. My tip for not losing your thread ends is to tie them together into a knot first and then you can pull them all at the same time. If you're not confident, I would suggest setting in the sleeve using your sewing machine first before finishing off with your overlocker, however I didn't do this and it went surprisingly well!
I have to say, the balloon sleeve is not something I would usually wear, however I wanted to try it because I always think they look really smart on other people. If you're not used to a billowing sleeve, you do feel like a medieval gentleman whilst wearing it and you will think it's more flouncy than it actually is. When you look in a mirror, you will realise you don't quite look as much like Henry VIII as you think, unless your beard needs a trim, and you will see it's a very sophisticated look!
I like how the bodice isn't too close-fitting, however the hem band helps to draw it back in against the hips so you do get some shape with it as well as having the benefit of the top skimming your lumps and bumps around your waist.
I love how there are various options with this pattern; three different sleeves as well as the top or dress length, so you can make it over and over again and it won't be obvious you've used the same pattern.
All in all, I think this will be a very welcome addition to my pattern arsenal; time is of the essence nowadays so I like to have patterns which I know I can make up quickly if I fancy making a new top for work the following day. Or for going out to the bins, which is very much a day trip nowadays isn't it!
Useful items for making this pattern...