I consider By Hand London's Polly Top to be my first "grown up" make. It's got serious flaws (curly fries, ahem, bindings anyone?) and I made a comedy of rookie errors ("It says it's for wovens, but I'm sure this paper-thin jersey will work too, right?"). But I still like it because it's bright, soft, and my true Firstborn.

To be honest, I didn't treat it as my true firstborn at the time. I thought "Well I've made some refashions, that patternless skirt, and a few other silly things (a knit pillowcase. don't ask). So surely I already Know Stuff. How hard can learning the rest be?" (Ha ha ha!). I did realize that the fact I'd never laid eyes on an actual sewing pattern was a problem. So I downloaded a tiered skirt Burda pattern, taped it, and screamed! What in the world was that??? It didn't make ANY sense! So I did what I always do when things don't make sense. I went to school. I signed up for a 3-session sewing class. It was not a good experience, but I did learn one thing: how to read and, most importantly, appreciate, the pure genius that are sewing patterns. And for that I am forever grateful! 
After abandoning my first Big 4 pattern at the muslin stage, I followed a friend's advice and picked up an indie pattern. The Polly Top was free, received glowing blogger reviews, and was beginner-friendly. Which turned out to be pretty much the first and last good decision in that entire process...

First, I ignored the fact that the pattern is designed for wovens. I didn't know it mattered! Not only did I pick a knit, but I picked a really challenging one: an almost see-through tissue knit that is probably called that because it feels like Kleenex! But hey, I had two big pieces in matching colors (from some random trip to L.A.'s Fabric District where I probably thought "oh hey, this is soft and $1/yard!"). So I proceeded, blissfully ignorant.

I had used the white piece to make a pillowcase (umm, yeah...) and the orange for God knows what else. Which somehow had required that I cut off all selvedges. Since I did learn what selvedge was in sewing class, I knew this was not cool. But by then nothing could stop me! How important could lining your pattern on the grain be, reeeally? ONWARDS! 

Inserting the center panel was not very hard (it's easy to go around those curves when your fabric stretches like a piece of well-chewed gum). I even made a slight sweetheart curve as a mod. Then I sewed the shoulders and the side seams, using a straight stitch. Because, I'd read somewhere that if you don't plan to pull the garment downwards a straight stitch works fine for knits. This part is actually true. IF your garment follows the grain so it won't stretch down on its own! But who's keeping track of such details...

Of course the shoulder straps did stretch out by ~3 inches just in the course of sewing (now that I've learned to tell the grain on knits, I can see that I'd cut the entire top on the bias. Hilarity!). I cut off the extra length from the straps and was about to resew them, when I was struck by an idea! I'd forgotten to pre-wash the fabric! What if it shrinks? Somehow, despite the thing being by then 2 sizes too big I was worried about shrinkage... So, with the side seams attached and the shoulders detached, I handwashed it and hung it to drip dry (!!!). By morning, it was another 3-4 inches longer than I'd intended. But so what? It clearly wants to be a tunic! Who am I to stop It? I proudly sent a phone pic to my mom.
The REAL challenge was the bindings. The pattern called for bias tape. In a moment of rare clarity, I realized that anything heavy will drag down such thin knit and the ends will flop over. For some reason I was convinced that a binding from the same knit would not work. So I went to JoAnn's and bought the thinnest thing I could find. It was a slippery woven poly that I think is meant to be used for lining. Somehow I didn't expect that attaching a slippery woven binding to a knit garment would be that hard... Of course it was! And it didn't work very well. The bindings flop down from their weight after all. They look crunchy and all around make the whole thing look so DIY. But I do love their color! And I love the slight gather that formed in the front. So whatever!
Sorry that it is so wrinkled! I am literally too scared to iron it! I think if I do it might stretch out enough to become a dress!
I've debated going back and redoing the bindings. But part of me wants to keep my first baby the way it was born, in all of its glorious imperfections. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to make me happy! Which it does! It reminds me of all the hilarious mistakes I made and how much I've learned since then. It's a testament to my future progress. 


10/30/2014 5:23pm

This post is hilarious!!!!
I was the same when I first started sewing... I was part of a class but on the weekends I'd cut lose and do all this crazy sewing, just cos I was inpatient and excited.

10/31/2014 2:10pm

I love the story, I laughed a lot, and I LOVE your first baby.


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