Right. Foof! I think finally feel ready to to make a verdict on the Shearwater Kaftan. But first, I'll tell you what I did.
As you already know, I finally took the plunge and bought a copy of the pattern which arrived on Monday. And as I mentioned on Tuesday, I worked out some measurements of the finished garment, and ended up feeling like I might still have to add some width.
The pattern comes double sided on A3 sheets (you can se them here) so you need to join parts together and trace them off. This went fine and the finished pattern pieces looked promisingly large (I worked on the XL size, by the way). I nearly threw caution to the wind and used some Heather Ross's Far Far Away, but I had last minute doubts and got the Bomull out instead.
I also compared my finished Simplicity 2599 top to the kaftan pattern pieces. They were the same size - which gave me a modicum of hope - but then the 2599 has darts so it wasn't really an even game.
Anyway, on Tuesday I made up the Bomull version of the kaftan exactly to the pattern pieces as they come; no lengthening or widening malarkey. The pattern is simplicity itself and you could easily knock one up in a couple of hours. The instructions are also more than comprehensive, making this an ideal beginners' pattern, and I really appreciate the fact that you sew the arms in before you sew the side seams because somehow I have a bit of a brain block when it comes to putting in finished sleeves.
The only (very minor) things I did differently were these:
- I already had some Bomull bias binding cut so I used that instead of cutting what the pattern specified (I think mine was about 1/4" narrower)
- I sewed the bias turning by hand instead of top stitching it
- I used 1" turnings on the sleeves and hem - the pattern specifies 3/4"
- I didn't make sleeve loops
- I haven't yet, but I'm going to add a little button and loop to the top of the neck - not for wearing but for keeping on a hangar. Tunics are buggers to keep hung up!
Here's the result:
It just about fits when I have nothing on underneath. No, let's be honest, it's too small. Only just, but too small. It's bearably fine when it's on and I'm not moving, but I definitely feel the tightness when I pull it over my shoulder blades to get it on or off. I also tried it on with a vest top and it was too snug. I've come to the conclusion that I must have a wide back (or badly rounded shoulders!) because it immediately felt tight across my shoulder blades if I held my arms forward. I also measured the finished top from underarm to underarm and found that it was 22 7/8" (that's 1 1/4" wider than I worked out so perhaps my seam allowances weren't wide enough, but probably just as well!).
Interestingly, if you Google "cup size" you find that the average UK bra cup is a C or a D (and in Australia apparently it's a DD!), so it is a shame that the top doesn't appear to take this into account (in my email conversation with Toni from Make It Perfect, she said she was confident I would have plenty of give despite my C-cup). I think I must also conclude that the girl modelling the top on the pattern must either be completely flat chested or be wearing a larger size.
Another (but minor) fitting problem was that I found the sleeves far too short - I think I'd add at least another 2" if not 2 1/2", but then I am tall and I do like my sleeves quite long.
So that was Shearwater #1. I like the style, it made up in a trice and it's just about wearable, but needs longer sleeves and probably an inch adding across the front and back...
... and then I slept on it, all ready to make a Shearwater #2 yesterday morning by adding some more width. And in the middle of the night I had a better idea. The Simplicity 2599 pattern and the Shearwater pattern might fit together in the bust/armhole region, so what if I combined them and used the dart from the 2599 in the Shearwater front instead?
So I overlaid the Shearwater front on the 2599 front, and initially it looked easy enough. But there is more of a curved 'waist' to the Shearwater than the 2599, and I couldn't work out how to resolve it, and I lost my nerve. So what to do next?
Teach myself how to add darts. Which explains why this post is enormously long (and and why it will probably be late too!).
I found a variety of sources on the internet which all came together to give me a mild case of education. These were:
http://patternsthatfityou.com/Frdartcl.htm http://sewing.about.com/od/techniques/ss/sewingdarts.htm http://thesewingdivas.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/use-darts-to-create-sheath-dress-drama/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en&v=9KPGnr4AyBA&gl=US
This last one was by far the most useful but the others provided some background info and confidence.
So following the instructions at Sewing Connection, I added a dart. (Three things to mention about the following photos: firstly some of them are poor quality so apologies - hopefully you will still get the gist of things, secondly I've put them in this post on the smallish size because I'm afraid Typepad might hate me if I put them all in large, and finally, they should all open up to full size if you double click on them).
Here's the Shearwater front traced off onto greaseproof paper:
Standing in front of a mirror, I measured down from the top of my shoulder to my point-of-bust. That came to 12" and I marked it on the pattern, taking seam allowances into account.Sewing Connection's line appeared to run parallel with the centre front, so I went with that.
And then I cut it. Yikes!
I put a piece of greaseproof paper underneath and lined up the centre front. Then I lowered the bottom half of the pattern by 1 1/2" which is what Sewing Connection recommend for a C-cup.
Here again I found Sewing Connection's instructions and diagram a little vague - it doesn't clearly say which point exactly to draw the line to, but this corner seemed to make the most sense.
Now it was time to fold the lower dart line to meet the upper dart line. I fought with this a bit because I was initially trying to do both folds (and a centre fold) at the same time, but things worked better once I had creased each line separately. After they were folded together, I cut off the excess paper following the line of the original side seam. There was a bit of a mismatch aligning up the side seam lines but as they were only about 1/4" out I fudged it.
Compared to the 2599 dart, my dart is shallower by about 1/2" and I wondered if it would be ok. Trying to hold the pattern piece up against me didn't work so I put on the Bomull Shearwater and tried to pinch a similar dart in the fabric. This seemed to be alright, so I decided to leave it at that for a first attempt.
Intermediate conclusion: I really need to buy some books on pattern cutting!
So then I made up Shearwater #2. I probably didn't do myself any favours by using a synthetic muslin-y fabric but I'd run out of Bomull, and I wanted something with a bit of drape. As well as the dart, I also added an inch across the back for good measure, lengthened the sleeves by 3" and tapered them in by about 1 1/2" from half way down..
The darts turned out to go too far into the front (forgot to take of photo but it really did look ridiculous!) so I moved the point-of-bust towards the side seam by 1 1/4" and resewed them.
Here's the result...
I've got to say I love this fabric even though it was sold to me as cotton, frays as soon as you look at it, and it is a complete pig to hold still (I starched it to within an inch of it's life before I started cutting and that helped quite a bit).
Hmmm, not very smiley today am I?
The sleeve changes worked really well although you can't really see them in this photo. The sleeve hem now lies just above my knuckles and because I lost 3" in total from each 'cuff', I don't feel as swamped by fabric as with the Bomull version.
... it's still too small! Gah! The bust fits better thanks to the dart but it is still too tight across the back. Double gah! Again, I can get it on (and just about off) but I can't say I feel comfortable moving in it, and because of the nature of the fabric, I am rather afraid that any sudden arm movements might cause a tear somewhere.
Just for comparison, here's a photo of the (very un-ironed) linen hoodie which I got from the Gap years ago:
This is a women's large and measures 25 1/2" from armhole to armhole. I like the fit of this and although it is much wider than the Shearwater, I find it doesn't make me look like I'm wearing a sack - probably because of the weight of the linen.
On second thoughts, it probably doesn't make much sense to show you this without showing me in it - after all, this whole escapade is about fit. Look, I even ironed it for you.
Blimey, it is blindingly white, isn't it?
So, a grand finale and conclusion? Not entirely. If I lose 10kg (fingers crossed) I think I can expect the Shearwaters #1 and #2 to be fine, but if I don't, then I still need to find a satisfactory ending. But the thing about tunics is that, as the Gap jobbie proves, it doesn't matter if they are a bit too big, so I think I will keep looking anyway.
It is a lovely pattern but I need to properly learn how to add darts and size up pattern pieces. If you're a smaller size than I am, but have more than a B-cup, you might find that just making the top up a size larger will be adequate, but otherwise you may have to resort to either enlarging the pattern or giving up and looking for an alternative. In fact.... no, that had better be another post.
I would really love to hear of any similar experiences that you have had - either with the Shearwater or just finding the perfect tunic, so get in touch!
And the Stop Press! news is that my usually crappy library has a copy of The Dressmaker's Technique Bible: A Complete Guide to Fashion Sewing Techniques by Lorna Knight so I will have a good look at that before the next attempt at darts.