I’m just starting off with the disclaimer that Nerida asked if she could send me some of her new gingham in exchange for an honest review of the fabric (you can see the range here). Of course I said yes, even though there’s eleven million other things I should be doing first. But I can’t resist me a bit of Nerida Hansen fabric, it always feels amazing. So here we go….
Gingham. It’s quite divisive, isn’t it? Love it or hate it? I quite like it, but I sewed with some in my very early dress making days and a pattern company shared my photo and there was a couple of comments roasting me for my lack of pattern matching. And because I was so new to it all, I was like ‘pattern what-ching?’. Of course, now I know better but those little burns have stuck with me. And I just want to say, you don’t have to pattern match if you don’t want to! I will absolutely not judge. It’s hard and one of those sewing things that has eluded me. Hence me being cautious to jump back into the gingham pool.
Plus there’s been other gingham negativity I’ve read lately like:
– Looks like a picnic blanket.
(DOES IT, CAROL? BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHO LIKES PICNICS? Everyone!)
– Makes plus sized people look bigger than they are.
(YES, BECAUSE MY MAIN GOAL IN LIFE IS TO LOOK SMALLER THAN I AM FOREVER AND ALWAYS FOR THE BURNING EYES OF THE POOR UNSUSPECTING PUBLIC WHO HAPPEN TO GLANCE MY WAY. No).
– You look like you’re getting ready to feed the chooks/milk the cows/collect eggs/run through fields
(IF THAT’S WRONG THEN I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT, STEVE. Besides, have you heard of cottagecore?).
(Thanks to my gingham loving mate for that one, yes she’s had that comment before).
It’s ok my lovely Ru, don’t let the weight of other people’s expectations get you down.
Let’s talk about the fabric itself. You can grab it in three bases: cotton sateen (lightweight, drapey, beautiful), mid weight cotton (um mid weight, more structure, also lovely) and cotton/linen (I didn’t get any of this one but I have used it in the past. Also a lovely mid weight, less drape, more loosely woven). Nerida mentioned that she wanted honest feedback because they’ve had issues in the past with the fabric being printed off grain. I’m not a particularly fussy person with grain lines etc, unless it’s super obvious or I’m cutting something on the bias. So I made sure I was taking note with this fabric and you know, once you fold it in half length ways, it is pretty obvious if it’s off grain because the checks are quite a decent size. So far, all the fabric I’ve used has been good, but I did notice some warping of the print towards the very edge, before they hit the selvedges. I just made sure I didn’t use those edges if I didn’t have to.
The first dress I made was this little red and pink number from mid weight cotton. It turned out very well and I’m super happy with it. The bodice and sleeves are self drafted, with the top part of the skirt from Simplicity 8248 and a ruffle added. Most pieces are cut pretty straight and that’s why it works. I used the smaller scale checks for the bodice, larger for the skirt and a bit of a mixture of what was left for the ruffle. I like how the red strips between the checks form a bit of a faux waistband on the dress. Pockets are slightly off, but close enough for me. Now because the sides of the skirt are cut at an angle, I didn’t bother trying to match them exactly, but did try and at least get the horizontal lines in line with each other. Does that make sense?
It didn’t match up super well, but I can live with it, you know? The ruffle pieces matched up well, but they’re very nice even rectangles, so it was easy.
And because it was easy and turned out so well, I got a bit cocky, didn’t I?
Yes I did.
I used the brand new Closet Core Patterns Elodie wrap and the sateen for this one. A match made in heaven, really. The Elodie is a beautiful pattern and the sateen has the loveliest drape for it. But I chose the wrong gingham, friends. I thought I was being edgy, I had a niggly voice in the back of my mind but as always, I ignored that sucker. Mostly ignoring him works, but this time it didn’t.
The Elodie pattern has a lot of curves and following the grain lines on the pattern pieces meant that the checks are cut off an angles instead of in straight lines. I did my best to match the horizontal lines again on the skirt pieces, but I completely forgot about the shoulders. I wanted to match the front and back in the same colour, but didn’t have enough fabric. Also, the waistband sits off the end of the bodice pieces, which I didn’t realise, so my careful matching was a fail there.
In hindsight, I wish I’d cut the skirt pieces in the opposite direction because I’m not a fan of the red around my hips. Someone mentioned it looks like an apron and it totally does and that’s why I’m not feeling it. Separately, excellent pattern and excellent fabric, together – not so much. I think this particular print would be better in tiers.
To add insult to injury, I decided to add inseam pockets at the last minute (not part of the pattern) and went fossicking through my scraps for some pieces to use AND ACCIDENTALLY grabbed a back bodice piece and cut a pocket out of it. I nearly cried at that point. Such a stupid mistake. I didn’t have enough fabric to cut another back piece the same, so patched it together. You can barely tell because I did it down one of the vertical lines, but still. I know it’s there.
So we live and learn (or maybe we don’t, because I’m super tempted to make it again with one of the other more plain ginghams).
Anyway, onto the third and final dress that I made for this little flame haired angel. I used Simplicity 8661, all pretty standard except I added the ruffle because she’s a tall angel. The black and white gingham is mid weight cotton with the large and small checks, just like the red and pink colourway.
I don’t have much to say about this one. I love it, it worked well and I’d make her 10 more in a heartbeat. Now allow me to spam you with photos of her.
Alright, well done for making it all the way down here. I’ll just recap a little with my top tips for sewing with gingham:
- Patterns with relatively straight pieces work well. Curvy bits are more challenging to match.
- Let go of some of your high expectations, not all the bits will match unless you’re some kind of magical gingham queen.
- The checks can warp close to the selvedge so keep that in mind.
- I found it easier to cut pattern pieces individually, rather than on the fold – that way you can make sure everything is square.
- Once you’ve cut one of your (say) skirt pieces, you can maneuver it around on the fabric to make sure the horizontal rows match up with the second piece. Same with the sleeves and bodice backs.
- Buy more than you think you’ll need, to account for pattern matching and also colourway/check size matching.
- Have a think about what scale checks you want on what part of your body. Same with the different colourways (no apron hips if that’s not your jam!).
- Don’t cut into your bloody pattern pieces for pockets. I know you won’t though.
- Wear gingham if you like gingham. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
- Breathe. Make a cup of tea. Eat some chocolate. Sewing is supposed to be fun!
Ok, has that helped? I hope it helps!