Beatrix: a learning experience
You know what? I'm ready for my garment sewing projects to stop being "learning experiences" and start being just plain successful.
I'm 97% done with my Beatrix top, and while there are a lot of good things about it, there are a lot of ways I goofed up, too.
I'll say here that all of the issues are MINE. Rae Hoekstra's pattern and instructions are excellent. I should have followed them more closely.
First things first: fabric choice. I had a big piece of reversible double gauze I bought on clearance at Gayfeather Fabrics (no up-to-date website to link to, I'm afraid) this spring. It's purple, and on one side is a large-scale plaid with a smaller scale plaid on the other side. If you know me and my tastes, you'll understand when I say I wasn't afraid to use it to try out a pattern for the first time. Purple is not a color I'm drawn to, and while I like plaids in theory, the one plaid shirt I own my husband says makes me look like a farmer.
If you've ever sewed anything using plaid before, you'll know how important it is to match the plaids. When I cut out the pieces, I was absolutely meticulous about matching the plaid lines...and then I promptly changed my mind about which side of the fabric I actually wanted to face out, and it wasn't until I had sewed the main pieces together that I realized the large plaid pattern doesn't match AT ALL. Oh well. Too late now.
This was my first time using double gauze, and despite all the raving about it I've read online, I found it difficult to work with. Sure it's soft and drapy and feels lovely, but this stuff slides around so much that I was anxious about tracing the pattern accurately. Sewing it felt like trying to stitch two pieces of cotton candy together; at one point my machine (which is a very nice Pfaff just over a year old that was serviced only last month) kept trying to chew up the fabric in the throat plate. Also, the double gauze will fray if you so much as breath on it.
Because of the loose weave and delicate nature of the fabric, it stretches out of shape rather easily. I was distressed to find that even after stay-stitching around the neckline (as per instructions, Rae knows what she's doing, yo), my facing pieces Did Not Fit and were coming up short. I ended up stitching a line of basting around the neck so I could more or less gather it back into shape before hand-basting the neck facing on.
Actually, I did a lot of hand-basting: the facing, the sleeve caps, the hem...you can't go wrong when you stitch things securely into place by hand before sending them through the machine, I say. This is especially true when your fabric is so delicate that it's too risky to rip and redo any seams.
Let's recap here: new to me pattern, unfamiliar fabric type, matching plaids...and to add to my problems, I decided to do the button band facings a little bit differently than the instructions state. You see, since the fabric is reversible, I thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be clever to do the facings inside out to showcase the different plaid on the button bands?"
This was all fine and good until I realized I had a bunch of raw edges that would not have been an issue had I paid more attention. In the end, I cut some pieces of grosgrain ribbon to cover the raw edges at the top of the facings (if you look closely at the picture below, you can see that).
The hem was an issue as well. I didn't do the hem edge of the facing right, for one thing (WAY TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS, SUZE) and then this *#&$ing fabric frays so easily I couldn't turn it under twice on those curves, so I used a stabilizing tape meant for using on knits, hand-basted the whole thing, then stitched it with a twin needle on the machine. It looks pretty crappy from the wrong side but okay from the right side.
I'm learning. It's okay. Right?
Despite all the issues I've outlined here in this post, I think this may be a successful top. My main worry at this point is that this won't hold up beyond one or two delicate laundry cycles, which sort of defeats the purpose of rejecting fast fashion, right? Anyway, as far as I can tell, the fit is spot on, and since proper fit is one of the biggest hurdles of handmade clothes, that's definitely a win. I'll be able to share more about that once I sew the buttons and buttonholes and wear it for real (rather than the held-together bathroom selfie I posted on IG a few nights ago!) I want to make another Beatrix top following the finishing detail instructions more carefully, certainly not in plaid!