I think every sewist has a dream fabric that they’ve spent years searching for in vain. It’s not necessarily a weird combination of prints and colors on a totally inappropriate weave, but whatever the specific end result is, it’s nowhere to be found. I have two – a wide (like 3″ or more) white and navy striped twill, and a bicycle print that is NOT quilting cotton.
I gave up on the stripes, but the bicycle print really haunts me. I’ve seen some cute little stylized bikies (see my Bicycley Belladone for an example), but I was holding out for that literal printed-bike-on-some-lightweight-cotton-in-a-nice-color-combination that didn’t seem to exist. And NO pennyfarthings! I want real bikes, not some super hipster twiddly mustache crap.
I had this particular fabric in mind when I was contacted by Organic Cotton Plus with offers to try out some of their yardage. I’d just been back from snooping at Brooks Brothers, specifically zeroing in on this Bicycle print button-up. Isn’t that shit amazing? Argh! So I thought to myself, “Cool, well I’ll just get a stamp and make my own, yeah? Oh, they don’t have any batiste in good colors… but they do have dye…”
My first couple of days were preparing the fabric – first, I dyed it in a bucket (for real; I stood at the kitchen sink with a my Kindle on Netflix and squished it around the water while wearing gloves, ha!). I wish I would have used a bit more dye in my mix; the end result color is pretty, but it is lighter than the emerald green I was anticipating. On the flip side, though, the dye took evenly all the way across the fabric, so yay!
After I finished the dye bath and let the fabric dry, I took to stamping the entire yardage with a rubber stamp and fabric paint (I blobbed my paint into a dried-up ink pad to make it easier to use). I thought this part was gonna take forever, but it wasn’t too bad! Since stamping tends to look pretty, well, stamped (i.e., it’s not exact and you won’t get a perfect image transfer every single time), I didn’t follow any straight lines and just kind of stamped around haphazardly. After I cut the pieces, I re-stamped a few that had big gaps. This particular ink is great because you don’t have to heat-set it to keep it from washing out (which is good bc I’d spent long enough prepping the fabric, so one less end task is good in my book!), and the ink itself absorbs into the fabric and is not stiff.
Other than the dye reaction it had (which is I think my fault for not making a strong enough dye bath, oops. Live and learn!), I really enjoyed working with this fabric. The batiste is one of those good ones that feels like there’s silk or something smooth and luscious blended in the fabric, but it is truly 100% cotton (and organic, no less!). Because it is cotton, it presses well, which makes it perfect for shirtmaking. It’s also not super sheer like some batistes – even the virgin white would be fine for a shirt. Always a plus in my book!
The pattern I used is the Meissa Blouse from my beloved Papercut Patterns. I love this pattern because it’s a casual button-up without being an Archer (which I obviously LOOOVE, but hey yo, a girl’s gotta branch out!), ha. The little feminine details – the rounded collar, the shoulder yokes with the little gathers, the double buttons – seemed like a good match for this fabric, and a nice nod to my original inspiration without being a blatant copy.
The pattern instructions make this thing really, really easy. Katie has had lots of praise around the webs for how good they are, and it’s all try! Really basic, really straightforward, and beautiful results. I did change a few things just because I’ve hit my personal shirtmaking stride – I flat-felled every seam (the way the shirt is made, only the side and underarm seams are not enclosed, so it’s not like you have a flat fell a million seams to do this) and I pulled in the waist an additional 1/2″ or so. I also shortened the sleeves by about 1″.
Whatever I did to the sleeve seams now means that I cannot button the cuffs around my wrist – they are WAY too small! Whoops! Oh well, this is totally a summer shirt, and I’ll never wear those sleeves rolled down anyway. Ha!
To keep the shirt from being overwhelmingly green, I added some cotton braid to the inside of the button band (butted up right against the stitching line) and inside the sleeve cuffs.
The sleeve cuff treatment is something I saw on the Brook’s Brothers shirt (seriously… if you have a Brooks Brothers in your area, you should snoop it. Some of the finishing inside the clothes there was pretty awesome!). There was a little piece of petersham ribbon tucked in the seam at the top of the cuff, which shows when you flip up the cuffs. Using that inspiration, I tried to do the same thing with my shirt. It’s a liiiiiittle sloppy because I was experimenting, but I like how it turned out! It even makes me ok with the fact that I can’t use the cuffs :)
I’m super happy with all the detailing on the shirt. I used lots of topstitching so it would really stand out.
And hey, check it out – the shirt is long enough to where I can tie the bottom in a knot, like a fashion blogger or some shit.
I still have quite a bit of the dye & soda ash left over. I’m thinking I may buy a load of silk and sandwash the shit out of it. My friend Elizabeth uses soda ash to prewash her silks into this amazing textured wonderland, so I can’t wait to try that! I will definitely report back with results. First, I gotta find a washing machine, though ;)
Ok, ONE last thing – and I promise this is a good one! Remember The Great British Sewing Bee and how we (we as in Americans, ha) bitched about not having a US version of the show? Well, I was contacted by a Love Productions, who is in the process of producing and casting a pilot for – you guessed it – an American version, called The Sewing Bee! They are currently on the hunt for amateur sewists in the NY, CT & NJ area (although if they get picked up, they will expand to nationwide). I actually ended up talking to one of the producers on the phone and I’m really excited to hear about the plans they have in the works – such as, the show will differ slightly from the UK version in that there will be a different set of contestants and winners every week. One thing that is similar is how they plan on editing – as far as I know, it will be as drama-free as the UK version, which is what I like most about it!
If you’re in the area (or don’t mind traveling and camping out for a couple of weeks, I guess), you should definitely try out for the show! And then report back to me, because I want to see y’all on the teeeveeee!