You know those really annoying recipes that promise you a meal in 15 minutes – and two hours later, you’re still stirring the risotto? Or the sewing pattern that claims this is a 2-hour make, only for it to take you three months? Well, let me tell you. This top really is the 1hr, 35 mins make. How can I be so sure? Because I timed myself with a stopwatch on my iPhone!
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. I was entirely inspired by All Style And All Substance, who recently blogged about some ruched sleeve makes she’d self-drafted. I put in a plea for a tutorial and was thrilled when she came up with two blog post tutorials, here and here. All I had to do was find my fabric…
I spotted my CRAZY-print heavy weight jersey at Classic Textiles in Walthamstow. I paid £3.50 for a scant metre and just managed to squeeze this top out with some judicious pattern piece placement.
All Style and All Substance used the Renfrew top as her base. I turned to Sew U Home Stretch and morphed THREE different patterns! I took the neckline of the Rock the Boatneck top, combined it with the length of the Mini Me dress, and added in a bit of a fun curved hemline from the What A Waist project. Why the heck not?
Tracing the sleeve pattern piece and cutting out all my pieces took approximately an hour and a half. All I had to do now was sew. I kept very detailed notes. Want to see my sewing breakdown of steps and time taken? I warn you now, it’s comprehensive. Read it and weep!
- Changing the thread on my overlocker 4 mins, 30 seconds
- Sewing shoulder seams together on overlocker 1 mins, 10 seconds
- Retightening the loose lightbulb on my overlocker 1 minute
- Basting in a sleeve head wrongly and ripping it back out 15 minutes
- Working out how to set in the sleeve head (including another ripping out session), basting it and overlocking 18 mins, 45 seconds
- Inserting second sleeve head 7 mins
- Pinning and overlocking side seams and sleeve side seams 6 mins
- Trying on the make and fussing about before the mirror, climbing back into own clothes 8 mins
- Setting up sewing machine to use a double needle and testing on a scrap 3 mins
- Pressing, pinning and sewing the bottom hem 10 mins
- Trimming, pressing, pinning and sewing the sleeve hems 11 mins, 30 seconds
- Pressing & stitching neckline and a final press 9 mins
When I set out to time myself, it felt like silly self-indulgence. But now I think there are some really important lessons here.
See how little time it took to prep? Four minutes to change to suitably coloured threads on the overlocker – four minutes! Three minutes to take the time to test my double needle sewing on a scrap of fabric, prior to launching straight onto the final make. Seven minutes out of the whole project, just to do things properly. Really, not so very much time at all.
And did you notice the time reduced with lessons learnt? It took 18 minutes to insert my first sleeve head, and only seven minutes to insert the second! I cut my time by … okay, my maths doesn’t stretch to percentages.
The largest chunks of time were spent on just working out what I was meant to do next. Factor thinking time into your sewing time! This is one of the details I needed to scratch my head at:
Having worked with All Style and All Substance’s tutorials for these ruched sleeves, what tips do I have to add?
- Really do listen when she tells you that you only need to eyeball the pleats. Seriously, with the amount of drape going on here, accuracy is not particularly the name of the game. Happy days!
- But once you’ve pinned those pleats in place, machine baste the sleeve head insertion before letting rip with your overlocker. This will make life easier and ultimately quicker.
- I do think this is a knit fabric make that demands an overlocker. The seams on those sleeve pleats would look a right old mess otherwise.
- Have your pleats facing down the body to facilitate good drape.
- When it comes to stitching hems on the sewing machine with a double needle – use good quality thread (unlike me) and take your time. Otherwise, you’ll have threads snapping.
My conclusions? I really, really enjoyed making this top! I was so curious as to how these sleeves worked and loved the learning process. I have extremely strong feelings about staying young at heart – keep learning! Use that muscle in your skull!
If I had to quibble (and what would a sewing blog post be without a quibble?) I’m a bit sad that I had to add a little tuck to remove excess at the front neckline. I should have cut a size down in the chest or done an FBA, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. And, to be quite frank, if that’s the only thing I have to complain about, now that I own a wonderful top that I made for £3.50 and with the help of a friend… Well, that’s not such a bad place to be, is it?