Here's the first item from the ever lengthening autumn sewing wish list. A blue cotton shirt. This is one shirt I already know I will wear and wear all through the colder months as a wardrobe staple. I absolutely love the colour of this cotton, almost like a chambray, but with a luminescence that lifts it above a denim blue.
To be perfectly honest, this has appeared so very quickly off the starting blocks only because of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee 2015 contest. I had already planned this shirt anyway and had the pattern (from the Shirt Therapy post here) as well as the fabric all waiting to go when I got round to it. I am however still in the middle of another couple of projects that need finishing off (including one for another online challenge, the Made Up challenge ruffle dress). This shirt jumped up the project queue pronto when Pattern Review announced that the first stage of its sewing bee contest was to make a fitted blouse. The stars thus aligned, the shirt presented itself as a perfect fit for the contest and so was cut, sewn, photographed and entered! Much of this work was done whilst burning the midnight oil over the weekend and fuelled with wine.
The PR Sewing Bee contest involves each required garment being announced to the contestants, who then have 7 days 'against the clock' to make the item according to the required specifications. Contestants then review and photograph it and enter the review to the website. In this first round the request was for a fitted blouse with set in sleeves and closures (not a wrap around, no using a stretchy knit fabric either). You have to describe how the fit was achieved, the closures chosen and any other design details you included. The judges then decide who stays in for the next round and who goes out.
I chose to add dark grey, mother of pearl buttons and a contrasting grey collar band, and top stitched the seams. There really was nowhere to hide with this fabric, which I hope will go in my favour to show the neat and sleek finish I was striving for. There is an advantage to working with the patterned fabric I normally go for, as it might have done a good job of hiding little mistakes (and lack of ironing!) which I know I'm sometimes guilty of in my rush to wear what I'm making.
I have to say the biggest challenge with this shirt, was that the contest required photographs of the inside of the garment as well as the outside. Now I know that really top quality sewing work should look as neat and tidy on the inside as the outside and all that, but really, in real life, who's looking? I mean I'm not exactly Antoni Gaudi creating the Sagrada Familia cathedral here (when asked why he spent so long on working on the detail at the top of the spires where nobody could ever possibly see it, he answered that he knew the angels would be looking). No thanks, angels shmangels, as long as it hangs together nicely, stays together in the wash and looks good from the outside I'm generally fine with a bit of wobbly finishing off on the inside edges and the odd un-snipped thread, as long as I'm sewing just for myself. I usually just want to finish and wear the thing, not examine it's innards. So I had to make real effort this time to trim the seams, edge them nicely, remove the (bright red) tailor tack threads that had got caught up in the stitching and so on. It did look pretty in the end and I can see why fellow sewists get a real sense of personal satisfaction knowing that their garments are beautifully finished inside and out. A good exercise for me in doing things properly, but I'm not promising to do this again under normal, selfish sewing circumstances!
There was also the time limit. I don't have a Scooby Doo how the contestants on the telly in Great British Sewing Bee manage to create garments in a few hours only. I mean how on earth do people stitch so quickly?? It also makes me consider how factory made garments are churned out so quickly and cheaply too, because there still has to be somebody sitting at a machine doing the actual sewing, they don't come together by magic. I really only had a couple of evenings when realistically I could commit to making this so I really focused down and worked hard, and even then I only just managed to finish it. I then had to photograph it (in horrible light due to it being 11pm at night, so the shots are not flattering at all!) and then get it uploaded to the PR website in time. I then had a cliff hanger moment when shortly before the deadline my photos disappeared. Panic was prevented though by the PR team who were really great and sorted out the problem very quickly. I photographed the shirt again in better light for this post (well, better light being early morning, autumn mizzle) but I actually think the low level daylight does that glowing colour better justice.
I like the blue colour paired with navy and warm tan as above, but I was first inspired to put together this blouse with the idea of wearing it with black. Blue and black can look really interesting together I think. I added the dark grey pearl buttons and grey collar band for this reason as I wanted to darken the look of the shirt. I quite like the way I imagine the strong blue will look with black leather jeans or my leather shorts (posted here) for an edgier and less traditional look, but we'll see.
I have to just point out the belt in these photos, which was a bargain find from a local bric-a-brac stall. It's hand tooled, tan black and dark green leather with a brass buckle and a little matching purse attached, just big enough for a bus ticket and a key, but cute looking! It still has the label attached stating it was handmade by someone from a leather tooling guild in Lincolnshire. True artisan workmanship.
So the competition round winner and those who will go through to the next round are announced on September 12th - wish me luck. And in any event, the shirt will be in constant wear from now until then, which makes it a winner in my book.
Hand made shirt in blue cotton
Navy cropped trousers from Primark
Tan boots from Clarks
Tooled leather belt with purse, a vintage bric-a-brac stall find
Tan leather cross body bag was a souvenir brought back from Spain