Get Stripy – The first Great British Sewing Bee Challenge!

Butterick 6058, stripes, but easier to handle with inserted diagonal panel
Butterick 6058, stripes, but easier to handle with inserted diagonal panel

So the first show is over – the Great British Sewing Bee has done it again – drawn us in and ensured we have sympathy for the plucky contestants as they undertook the first challenge of the series – to make an easy top in silky fabric – but the twist – to match diagonal stripes down the centre front and back! Phew…. not quite so easy then!

But there are of course some ways to do this more easily. The first is to cut each piece separately, not fold fabric hoping to match up the stripes on both layers and cutting two at a time. This is especially tricky with slippery fabrics, so take a little more time, and cut each front piece and each back piece separately – just remember to flip the tissue piece over to get a right and left section.

To match the stripes, cut the first piece, making sure the notches on the centre front seam are nicely aligned with a prominent stripe. Then flip the tissue piece over and with the first cut section to hand, place the tissue on the next piece of fabric, so the centre front notch is on the same strip as before. Lay the first piece alongside to check (don’t forget to allow for seam allowances either). Once satisfied they will match perfectly, cut out.

A maxi in stripes, easy to make and stunning looking
A maxi in stripes, easy to make and stunning looking

On slippery fabrics I definitely prefer to use dressmaking shears that have a slight serrated edge as they grip the fabric as you cut. Take long cuts, running the shears along the table surface between each. (McCalls 7121, sizes 6-22,  is an easy to make maxi dress which looks stunning in stripy fabric)

I always recommend cutting OUT around notches too, this ensures that should you need to pinch a bit of the seam allowance having tried on your garment during construction, you do have a bit to play with – if you have cut wedges or snips into the seam allowance – you don’t!

McCalls 7130, wear it as a strapless dress or skirt with wide band
McCalls 7130, wear it as a strapless dress or skirt with wide band

If possible also use a walking foot to help both top and bottom layers of the fabric feed evenly and smoothly. Although people think of this ingenous foot for quilting, it is actually great for all sorts of fabric including slippery beasties!

To narrow hem the sleeves and bottom edge, do consider using a rolled hem foot. Such a dreamy foot to use – once you have mastered holding the fabric up and slightly to the left in front of the foot. (McCalls 7130, XS 4-6 – XXL 24-28 is a stretch knit skirt/dress with wide band that is a bandeau or skirt yoke. Lots of panels but fab in stripes).

To get started, fold under 3-6mm twice to turn under the narrow hem (depending on the width of the scroll on the front of your hemmer foot) and pin for about 3cm. Attach the foot, but don’t try to put the fabric through the scroll just yet. Sew the first 2cm, sew the stitching is right on the inner edge of the folded hem. Stop with needle down, raise presser foot and guide the fabric raw edge into the coil at the front – just a single layer, not already folded.

Lower the presser foot and away you go. Hold the fabric in front with your right hand, raised and slightly to the left, helping to guide the fabric as it stitches with your left hand. It takes a bit of practice, but keep at it as it is well worth it and the results are fabulous.

Oh, and if you get little bits that haven’t turned under, don’t stress too much, finish the hem and then go back and redo the little bits by turning under the hem allowance as you did before, pin and stitch.

Butterick 6100, a great simple design that can be easily 'hacked'
Butterick 6100, a great simple design that can be easily ‘hacked’

If you love the simple shape of the top on the show, you can recreate it by ‘hacking’ Butterick 6100. Just add a centre front seam, remembering to add seam allowances of 1.5cm (5/8″) and rather than cut on the fold, cut two pieces. Voila – your own ‘hack’.

McCalls 7323, a great way to start with stripes
McCalls 7323, a great way to start with stripes

If you want to work with a stripy fabric but are a bit nervous of matching the pattern down a centre front seam, take a look at McCalls 7323, sizes XS 4-6 to XXL 24-26, as it has a diagonal insert to interrupt the horizontal stripes! Or try Butterick 6287, sizes 6-22 which is for stretch jersey fabrics (slightly easier to work with perhaps!)

So enjoy – working with slippery and stripy fabrics needn’t be a chore!

2 thoughts on “Get Stripy – The first Great British Sewing Bee Challenge!”

  1. Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for the advice on matching stripes – however in addition to your explanation, some accompanying photos on stripe/print matching would be very helpful. Otherwise do you know of sites where one could find this information?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *