Friday, May 18, 2012

Sewing: Oliver+S Art Smock

Another reason for my 2-week blogging hiatus is that I was working on more sewing projects. This one was an art smock for my dear friend E's older daughter for her 7th birthday. I used the pattern from the beautiful book Oliver + S Little Things to Sew.

I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by this book at first. I first learned about it on the blogs of some very experienced and talented sewists, so I felt that I might crash and burn when trying out one of the projects. The art smock is rated Advanced Beginner, just one step up from Beginner. Projects rated Advanced Beginner are "Suitable for someone who has sewn from a pattern before or has taken a few classes and completed several projects." While I haven't taken any classes (yet), I've definitely sewn from a pattern before and completed more than several projects (as seen from this blog).

Still, the art smock required French seams, which I'd never done before. There were also extra steps to create cleanly-hemmed pockets and elastic casing (at the neck). The directions for this kind of hemming confused me quite a bit, which took some time to figure out in the beginning because of the unclear wording. (Special thanks to my craftsy and technical-minded hubby for helping me conceptualize the pattern!) After cutting out the pieces, it took me many hours to finish, starting from the early afternoon through the wee hours of the morning (around 3:30 AM)...BUT! I honestly felt good during the process of construction. Once I figured out the special hemming, it was simply going through each step, moving from the ironing board to the sewing machine to the cutting mat/ruler and back again. Because I could see how beautiful it was coming together, I took special care to properly iron the fabric, ensure that my seams were as straight and even as possible, and analyze the directions carefully so as to avoid any mistakes. All of that took time. And by the end of the project, I felt a deep admiration for Liesl Gibson, the author of the book (turns out she got a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY and designed for fashion houses like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren -- she's one talented designer). I'm looking forward to trying another project from the book!

The nice thing was that I was able to get the intended receiver to model it for me. Perfect fit. Also nice is the feeling that I am now officially an "advanced beginner" rather than just an "intermediate beginner"!

I learn at least one new thing with every project I've done so far. If you're interested, here are my random notes on the project. I left it at the end to avoid completely boring you. :-)
  • The directions for the pockets were confusing for me, but you're supposed to turn the corners inside out for a clean look. I had to do that twice throughout the construction, and once I figured it out, it was cool to see how cleverly the whole pattern was put together. Here's the wording for step #2: "Turn the pocket's resulting hem to the wrong side, and press it." What this means is that you turn the hem inside out so that the wrong sides of the hem are together. The same concept applies to creating the neckline in step #8: "Turn the bias strip and back plackets to the smock's wrong side, pushing out the corners at the back neckline." When it says " the wrong side," it means turn inside out (or I suppose "flip right side out" would be more accurate). Originally I assumed it meant folding to the wrong side, which is obviously completely wrong.
  • French seams take an extra step and therefore extra time, but the finished product is so clean -- the seams on the wrong side look as good as those on the right side (see the underarm seams above) -- and I felt really good while constructing the garment despite how long it took. The learning curve wasn't too grueling, but by the end I felt like the smock was the best thing I had ever made with my hands!
  • Another thing I learned is that it really pays to use the steam setting on your iron if you're working with 100% cotton. It made a huge difference this time, since smooth, flattened fabric makes for better handling.
  • Right before this project, I purchased a set of pattern weights, a disappearing ink pen, and an inexpensive 20-yard roll of 24-inch-wide tracing paper. All of these made drawing and cutting the pieces much less stressful than before, when I was taping together smaller pieces of tracing paper from a pad (ugh, so bothersome). The disappearing ink pen was fantastic for tracing the shape onto the fabric itself; it really made cutting the fabric -- arguably the most stressful part of the process -- much easier.
  • Finally, I realize that more and more, I enjoy working with strong geometrical shapes, particularly stripes. It actually makes construction easier, contrary to the advice I was given as a new beginner, since I can use the stripes as an extra guide while cutting or machining.
That's it! I have another (very fun) sewing project to share with you soon. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

xo, Gladys


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