Tuesday 28 April 2015

My Frida Kahlo inspired sewing project

       This is probably one of my favourite projects to date, mainly because I love the fabric but also because I got to try lots of new techniques. As a bit of background info I have an A-Level in Art, and completed an Art Foundation course at college before heading to university, where I even managed to sneak a few art history modules into the first year of my degree – with one essay on surrealism as a form of realism in the work of Frida Kahlo gaining a ‘super first’ mark of 78. In short, I love Kahlo’s work and was inspired to start sewing as soon as I saw this material online.
The finished tunic top
      This fabric isn’t cheap so I ordered a small amount (I think it was two or three fat quarters) and decided to team it with some red and white spotty fabric I already had at home. This meant I could make the designer fabric go a bit further by using the contrast fabric for the trim, sleeves, collar and lining.
The lining against the back of the Frida fabric
      A bit like my gnome dress, I thought a wraparound style without side seams might be good as it wouldn’t interrupt the fantastic pattern, however I wanted to add little puff sleeves so I couldn’t use buttons on the shoulders this time. As normal I tried to make a more or less symmetrical pattern piece that kept the design process simple. The pattern pieces for the collar and sleeves were very easy, two simple semicircle shapes, determined just by judging which size would go best with the tunic.
The wraparound design pattern piece
      Unlike many of my other projects I thought this could probably get away with only a half lining. I used a cotton premade bias tape along the bottom raw edge of the lining and used a strip of the lining fabric along the bottom of the main fabric, solving the problems of raw edges on those parts.
The bias binding and bottom trim from the inside
      Before I could attach the lining to the main fabric I had to make the sleeves and collar pieces. This was very easy as I simply sewed the pieces right side to right side before turning them the right way and top stitching. To get the ruffled look on the sleeves I ran a loose running thread along the edge that would be sewn into the armhole and gathered the fabric to size before typing a knot to secure it (this thread can be removed after the seam is complete).
Tricky to insert but worth it - the collar and sleeves
      Next I had to sew the main fabric to the lining, which was probably the trickiest bit, despite the half lining meaning access wasn’t too restricted. I had to work out how to put the fabric right side to right side with the collar pieces and sleeves in the seams at the right places to be secured all together. I began by securing the shoulders before sewing the neckline and collar into place. Next was the toughest part as to secure the arms and sleeves I had to sew around the small gap bridging the neckline and shoulder, and the gap was very tight and required careful stitching. Eventually however it all worked out fine and I finished the neckline and sleeves with a top stitch round the edge to keep everything neat and to help the collar lie flat.
The lining attached from the inside
The collar and sleeves fitted nicely
      Attaching the buttons was a whizz because I had a nice new sewing machine that stitched button holes for me – no more hand embroidering button holes for hours! It does supposedly sew the buttons too but I couldn’t get it to work and gave up, sewing on buttons isn’t exactly hard so I can live without it. I stuck to red buttons only to bring out the strong design in this pattern.
My lovely new machine makes button holes a whizz

The red 20mm acrylic buttons down the back

     I am really happy with the finished design, the red spotty fabric offsets the Frida Kahlo pattern perfectly and the half lining ensures that it stays comfortable, which is essential when dressing children. I am desperately tempted to make one for myself now!

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