Statement sleeves

My sewing output in 2020 really reflects my mood. I think this year has taken so much of me (of all of us), that there hasn’t been much left over for sewing. I’ve started things but not finished many of them.

This Christmas has been no different – such a strange end to the year, going against all instincts and keeping loved ones at (many) arm’s length. However, I’ve had a little time to sew, and after a stern chat with myself, I decided to finish a top that was in my WIP pile.

The fabric was from an order back at the start of the first lockdown – a loopback jersey fabric (shade = berry) from Guthrie and Ghani. It’s simply the softest jersey I’ve worked with – about the weight of a ponte, but somehow softer, and with a lovely drape. The colour is a brighter red shade than I’d thought looking at it online, but actually I like it a lot. I’m excited to think that I have some of the same fabric in a navy shade that’s still waiting for me.

The pattern is the Maven Patterns Somerset top. I’d seen several makers posting their Somersets on Facebook and Instagram, and fell in love with the bishop sleeves and the slash neckline. I finally gave in and ordered it in October. It was just before the second national lockdown – but in our family we were locked down for the last two weeks of October as my eldest daughter got Covid. Stuck at home with no printer, I ordered the pattern via the Foldline service – where they will send you the PDF version as well as printing it out on lovely big A0 sheets. It’s not the cheapest way to buy a pattern for sure, but the luxury of having the pattern printed without having to glue together dozens of sheets is wonderful. It’s also great to have the PDF version – in case I want to print again in future, but also because the instructions are only virtual – not wasting paper, or indeed space in my overflowing sewing area. The printed pattern arrived really quickly, along with one of their lovely envelopes to keep the cut pieces in (query – any one know if I can order more of those? My PDF patterns are hard to organise in a way that doesn’t look messy, and that could be the answer…).

So I cut out the pieces. Only four of them.

And then I somehow got stuck. Really? Why? It’s a really simple, straightforward pattern. A lovely sew – what on earth was I waiting for?

Christmas, as it turned out.

So on the Monday after Christmas, I spent the afternoon pottering around, gradually assembling this top. It really is an easy sew, so again what on earth was taking me so long? Well I needed to put red thread in my overlocker – and I only had two cones. Obviously threading my overlocker is always a stress as it hates me, so we had some fun with that. Then the neckline, the first step, is simply to turn it down, press in place and topstitch. I was pleased with my topstitching, but realised too late that I had managed to not catch the hem in a couple of places. No problem I thought, I’ll add a second line of stitches and make it look like I’d used a twin needle (which I hadn’t chosen to do in the first place). That second line really couldn’t have been more cack-handed. The nice topstitching now looked like a hot mess. So I spent quite a lot of time with my stitch-ripper, trying to carefully remove the second line without damaging the fabric or stretching it out.

By the time I’d unpicked the lot, I decided to carefully/invisibly hand-stitch the hem gaps closed and stick with the first line. That took no time at all, and I reflected that the second line of stitching plus all the stitch ripping had probably added a good hour to the make.

I then had a bit of an issue with the shirring elastic needed to gather the bishop sleeves – I think it was just too thick for my machine, or maybe I’d not got the tension right and it kept creating additional loops rather than gathering right. I tried several times on a scrap, and then gave up and simply used a double line of thread to gather the sleeve ends. It worked fine, but probably didn’t make them quite as full as they would have been with the shirring.

Other than those moments, the top was an easy make and lovely to sew. The instructions by Maven Patterns really couldn’t be clearer, and they take you through every step of the process in a lot of detail. The fit (I made a size 12) is spot on – and it makes a really wearable top.

I love the sleeves – they feel elegant but the long cuff keeps them well out of your soup (or whatever else you’re trying to consume/work on). I think I’ll make more Somersets – I really hope I do anyway. I always say this and then get distracted by the next shiny thing – but this is the kind of basic pattern that is quick and easy to whip together. And I could definitely use one in navy…