The making of my first Oliver + S ice cream blouse/ dress – Sewing Notes- PART 1

A test scrap- getting an idea of gauge for the ice cream blouse, using the ruffler/ gathering foot

A test scrap- getting an idea of gauge for the ice cream blouse, using the ruffler/ gathering foot

Despite descending into the bowels of Winter illness, my mind has been ticking over my most recent projects. One of the things I love about sewing is that it often presents me with technical issues to problem solve that are far removed from what I have been doing for most of my adult life, in both my career and home life. Its hands on. Its not just that I love the idea of making things myself, I like the challenges present by putting together the pieces of a pattern “puzzle”… and I love the reward of getting it “right” or arriving somewhere different but equally pleasing by thinking around what might essentially be a design or process issue. Sometimes I choose patterns not just because I want the finished garment but because I want to learn a new sewing skill or technique along the way.

Oliver + S are new to me, but their patterns have been around for at least a few years and judging by their enormous following on blogs, flickr and the rest of cyberspace, are inordinately popular. Not least of all because of the learning process provided in each pattern but because the end result are highly wearable kids clothes. I like that their website is elegantly designed and offers a range of tips and tutorials useful for anyone who likes to sew, frankly. I think “wearability” is really the key to accessing the legions of “home artisans” who want to dress their kids smartly with their own unique creative touch. This is something that I think made Enid Gilchrist wildly popular in Australia a few decades a ago… back in her day however mass imports from other countries like China had not flooded the local market, her clothes were practical and most importantly economical to make. Whilst I think ‘economy’ remains an element of what drives the home sewing movement, I think its no longer the cornerstone. It can be far more expensive to make a kids dress in Australia than to buy it- the difference is style, individuality, durability, quality… and learning. Thats certainly my own goal with my projects. Economy is always nice though, when it works out that way!

Today I am specifically blogging a few notes about the Oliver + S ice cream blouse (view C on the ice cream dress pattern). The great thing about trying this particular pattern isn’t just the design. The prolific amount of photos that can be found on the internet of other peoples projects as a source of inspiration. What fabric combinations would you choose? Being a few years old, there is also quite  a lot of material to support the “making process” of this particular design (another PLUS about the way Oliver + S have established their presence). Have I convinced you to try it yet? (Smile).

The pattern is fairly straightforward. In the interests of efficiency I decided to try and make two in the 6-12 month size at the same time. (As a busy mum, if you manage to find time to make one, you might as well make two in tandem, I say). I downloaded all 44 pages as an epurchase, went to the trouble of cutting and pasting the printed “tiles” together (better than waiting for the regular post to arrive)!

The bit that I am going to focus on is the gathers. In light of my last post on the elna gathering/ ruffle foot (to does both), imagine how I felt starting to mess round with the old fashioned technique of gathering. I actually did start doing this because I wanted to try the instructions and there was a good support tutorial but quickly abandoned this as time consuming and excitedly pulled out my elna gathering/ ruffle foot.

If you want to try it, dear reader, and like the idea of sewing these gathers evenly … ONCE… in about 20 seconds with a bit of prep (and decreasing the need for a seam ripper), this is what I did:

1. TEST- use some scraps of the same fabric and run some quicks tests to get a gauge on your machine that you’re happy with. I love gathers and giving the blossom covered lawn (fabric) I was using, I liked the effect achieved by the attachment “gauge” I selected. I recommend running the area to be gathered as a single layer and not attaching it to anything. If you are worried about the edge line up of gathers as you feed it through the machine- which can be a very quick procedure- you could use a bit of bias binding (I have tried this for another garment but feel more confident I can keep it all even just by looking now)

The gathered lower garment piece- ready to be attached to the yoke... the gathers are lovely and even!

The gathered lower garment piece- ready to be attached to the yoke… the gathers are lovely and even!

2. MEASURE- Taking a look at the length of the scrap (I recommend cutting  the same length as the garment piece to be gathered), roughly estimate where specifically you want the gathers to start on your garment, whether you need to change the gauge to get the length right, etc. I actually chose to “gather” about 1-2 inches from each arm seam because I think it looks neater given the gauge I chose, but make a call based on how the test strips turn out for you. If you don’t gather the entire piece, my tip at this point would be, gather a few stitches longer than your estimated start and finish spots (I just marked this with a crosswise pin on the garment piece for a self reference/ reminder before I started). It is much easier to release a couple of gathers on either end if you have underestimated the length of this garment piece post gathering than to run the edges through the machine again (avoid the potential messiness and protracting something that should be fast and easy).

3. SEW- Sew the edge of the garment piece to be gathered (the lower bodice section) with the gathering attachment. Like, I said, 20 seconds and voila, gorgeous even gathers. Isn’t it magical?

4. CHECK- Check the garment piece against the area its to be attached (in this case the yoke). Gently release any gathers at start/ finish of gathers if necessary to ensure a good Match. I actually then pinned the garment pieces to be attached together, just to be extra sure I was happy with how the finished look would be and to make sure I was happy with the effect.

Pinned to the yoke for a visual, as part of the checking process... I just adore this Japanese style cotton voile- the blossoms are so pretty and there isn't too much pink everywhere!

Pinned to the yoke for a visual, as part of the checking process… I just adore this Japanese style cotton voile- the blossoms are so pretty and there isn’t too much pink everywhere!

Now you’re ready to attach a very stable, easy to handle gathered garment piece to the yoke as per the original instructions.

NOTE: I recommend making a note somewhere about what you’ve done. I actually keep a sewing notebook now, documenting what I do with my projects. Whilst you’d probably need to run a test every time you make the garment in a different type of cotton (for example) it makes it easier the next time around. Plus, if your machine/ gauge settings were tested on something Liberty tana lawn, you can be sure they’ll be consistent the next time you make the pattern in the same fabric. The process of making just gets shorter and faster…! I loved the effect and style of the garment so much its now my plan to make our little girl at least one of these in every size!

 

Stitched! The yoke and lower front now attached... Pretty pretty pretty...

Stitched! The yoke and lower front now attached… Pretty pretty pretty…

Little Prince holding the new blouse made for his sister - an image of the hemmed, finish hemmed garment will feature in the next post.

Little Prince holding the new blouse made for his sister – an image of the hemmed, finish hemmed garment will feature in the next post.

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