No Plain-tain Jane...

How are we all feeling? I realise I run the risk of sounding like an over-enthusiastic Holiday Camp Activity Organiser when I ask that, but really... how ARE we all feeling? I only ask as it's taking me a while to feel motivated this year...

Rod looks how I feel...

So - before I start sounding overly dramatic, let me put that statement into context. I'm NOT a winter bird. I may nod enthusiastically at a hot chocolate, and make the right noises about walking Rod in gale-force winds - but I'm always aching for the summer, or at the very least, the hope of Spring. And whilst I'm fighting the urge to hug my duvet closer to me, I'm also very aware that - as a freelancer - if I don't get up and out, then it will be hard for anything positive to happen. Nothing will change, nothing will grow, and there will be no potential of anything starting, if I don't start it myself. There are many things I love about 'freelancing' (in fact, I wrote an open letter, I feel that passionately about it) - but sometimes I don't naturally have the energy to get 'up and at 'em'... which is why I'm so glad Deer and Doe set up a sewing challenge to run alongside their new pattern release, the Plaintain
And the blog post soundtrack for today? I think this sums up how I feel about my progress as a seamstress... Let's start at the very beginning... :D

Sew why is this so important..?

Whenever I'm feeling unmotivated, I try to make myself read things written by people I admire... blogs, books, even small magazine articles... eventually, through this process, I'm inspired.
And so it happened, as I visited Full Time Vixen's blog, that I found out about the Plaintain challenge, and rediscovered my mojo! In the photo I've used here, Caroline's version of the Plaintain is a lovely variation on the pattern, incorporating a yoke with scalloped edges, and a boat neckline. I'm sure you'll agree it looks shop-bought! 

Caroline looking cute!

(Which is what any seamstress wants to feel about their creations!). So - instead of feeling intimidated by Caroline's talents, and her far-superior skill set, I concentrated on making it a personal challenge to focus on, and to learn from. 

One of the most appealing things about the competition was the fact it was making me stretch myself, by having to use stretch fabrics for the first time. As this top is a pull-over-the-head garment, there are no zips or buttons - so there's no getting away from the stretchy fabric recommendation. Add that to the fact it's a free downloadable pattern (!) - what was stopping me? I mean, apart from the fact I had only a day and a half to buy the fabric, wash, dry & iron the fabric, print off the pattern, trace the pattern onto tissue paper, cut & sew the fabric, photograph the results AND publish the pics on Flikr, before the deadline... 

And sew to the nitty gritty...

If you've never downloaded a sewing pattern before, there are a few things to watch out for... Not all online patterns include a seam allowance, so that's an easy trap to fall into if you're not careful - meaning the finished product will come up far too small... thankfully that's not the case with Doe and Deer - although, the unavoidable fact of printing off a pattern, is that you have to piece together the pages first, before sticking them together and tracing the pieces onto dressmakers' tissue paper... I think there were about 30 pages to print off (in total, including the instructions) - and this is another stage to the dressmaking process that has to be factored in, time-wise. This is NOT something to patch together, in a hurry! Of-course, in an ideal world, you don't ever rush a sewing project... There should be time to gaze out of the window, indulge in a cup of tea, tinker around with the fabric at every stage of the process... but this isn't some floaty dream sequence, this is an against-the-clock CHALLENGE! (or at least, it was for me!!)

A leopard never changes it's... stripes...

Have you ever been inexplicably drawn to something in a shop, bought it, and taken it home, only to realise you already have something JUST like it in your wardrobe? Well it appears I'm choosing stripes. A LOT. And not in a 'Oh yeah, I'm a stripy kinda girl, you know me!' - more in a 'Ooh - look at that fabric - it's LOVELY! And it's stripy, which is unlike me... but I'm going to go for it anyway!' way. Worrying, eh? If you're like, 'No, there's nothing worrying about that!', here's a small retrospective of some of the pieces I've made, worn, & blogged about here... the customised stripy dress, the up-cycled stripy T-shirt, the refashioned blue dress with stripy inserts, and so on... 

SEW then... My fabric choice... *ahem*

I went for a thin-striped acrylic knit fabric, with plenty of stretch - and decided to graduate it, longer at the back than at the front, for a less boxy cut. I personally feel it's a more flattering cut (on me) - you can see how I improvised, adding another couple of inches onto the back panel when cutting the material...

I was careful to cut the front and back panels with the stripes 'colliding' at the hem edges, if you've ever worked with this kind of material, you'll know it can be a bit fiddly - making sure it's PERFECTLY straight, and in alignment, through the cutting process. But it's worth the effort, so the stripes flow continuously right around the body (as if there's no break at the side seams).

I decided (after much to-ing and fro-ing) to make the elbow patches in the same material, placed so that the patch stripes contrasted with the arm stripes, the opposite effect of what I was going for at the seams... if that sounds confusing, there's a pic below of what I mean! I was going to make them in a black sateen fabric, but opted for the less obvious patch choice in the end.

All-in-all, the most pleasing thing about this project, is the fact I know I'll wear it often. It's easy to layer up with a black top underneath, and pair with trousers or a skirt, it's just so wearable... and surely that's JUST as important as the learning curve? I'll definitely be making it again in future... but let me say this, for the record, it will not be in timed conditions - or in a stripy fabric......


For the record, I missed the competition deadline of midnight by 13 minutes. No joke. Did I feel disappointed? Not really - my previous statement still stands - I learned so much about working with stretch knit fabric, about the need for under stitching a neckline so it doesn't roll out, and my underlying habitual need for stripes - so I definitely came out a winner overall! ;)

So how do YOU motivate yourself when you're flagging? Do you have any tips on how to work with stretch knits, or downloadable patterns? Feel free to share your Plaintain with me here... And thank-you again, Caroline and Deer and Doe, for reinvigorating my passion for sewing..!


  1. Great blog Gema!
    I'm not a sewing magician like yourself but your blogs definitely motivate me to try more.

    To your question, I motivate myself with music, emotions and the thought of completing my goal.

    I'm more of a winter goer but these blustery winds even make me want to wrap up more than usual.

    Keep up the great blogs

    Carl x

    1. I WISH I was a sewing magician, ha ha! And thank-you for sharing - it's definitely an effort in these cold months, but at least we're aware that knowing what motivates us is the key to getting out of the 'slump'... Thank-you for reading, and commenting, Carl!!

  2. Aww man, I feel like such a terrible friend sometimes. But like you, I am not really a winter bird either! I have fallen behind on keeping up with your blog (and some of my other friends) and here you are, popping in on mine and feeling inspired by it! I am playing catch-up over the next month! Good thing I can read fairly quickly. ;)

    You always have such kind things to say about my projects and me! Thank you so much for your exuberant kindness! It does mean a lot to me.

    I can totally relate on what you mean about not always being able to have the energy to get up and at 'em! I have a day job and I find it hard sometimes to balance it with the sewing, the knitting, my other hobbies, my social life, fitness, etc, etc. It's tough! And especially in the winter when it's dreary out, you can feel like you just want to curl up in bed and never get out of it!

    I'm glad that I was able to help motivate you (inadvertently!) to make this project! I'm super impressed with your Plantain. Sewing with a striped knit is no easy feat! Lining up the stripes is not always easy. So great job! And I'm glad to hear also that you really like your Plantain and the process of sewing with knits for the first time. You should be proud of yourself.

    1. Thank-you for dropping in Caroline! And don't apologise - that's life, ebbs and flows, I'm just grateful for the blog posts you offer, and the encouragement xxx And Well Done again on winning the Plantain competition, that's so exciting! You know, I really should start putting bets on you... :D


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