A Tale of three Akitas

This Akita top is actually the first item I finished sewing, but I wanted to add a fabric paint motif, which took me a little longer to get sorted. I think it looks better with it, so I’m glad I went for it in the end (I confess I was slightly worried it would go horribly wrong and wreck the top). My Mum and my sister were over visiting recently and we all thought we would make the pattern in our own choice of fabric and design, and see how they worked out. We had three different weights of fabric and you can see below how this affected the final look –  I think they all have their appeal, personally, and it was a good exercise in the drape of a fabric for me.

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Picture taken quick-style on wet and windy morning!

I’ll start with my own experience. The Akita pattern from Colette Patterns is one of the patterns that comes with the Seamwork magazine. In my limited experience of the sewing community, it seems there has been a bit of chat (and debate) about it, as it’s a simple design with only one pattern piece. For me, a beginner, it was a great first project to take on in order to get to grips with the basics. Mostly because the time spent working out what the HECK I was supposed to be doing (see Toy Soldier dungarees) was much reduced and it meant I could get stuck into the main construction without a heap of prep.

Having said that, I did give myself a small headache by picking a blue silky-type material I got from Joann Fabric for a few dollars that frayed like mad (I’ll touch on that later). I also decided that the material, although it had a nice shimmer, needed a little something. I decided to add some sort of screen-printed or painted embellishment when I was finished sewing – and I was happy I did.

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On to the blouse construction: I pre-washed the fabric, dried it outside and then got going on the pattern. It’s a PDF affair and I must admit (sorry) that I quite enjoy the sticking together process. Yep, I’m weird. I traced and cut a 14 and my Mum and sister both made a 12. Then we cut the fabric pieces and followed the instructions to sew it together. It’s basically a case of sewing the side seams together and hemming the sleeves and bottom of the blouse, but the addition of bias binding provided an opportunity to learn something else new. We all just used a shop-bought plain white bias binding to keep it simple. I’ll leave making my own for another day! I didn’t sew mine perfectly, so it peeks out a little, but it wasn’t too bad either.

As I mentioned above, the fabric gave me a little bit of trouble when sewing. It did sew quite well with a straight stitch actually, but was a little slippery in parts with the zigzag stitch. I used some pattern paper to help stabilise this stitch as suggested by my Mum and that helped a lot. The material also frayed a bit more than I had anticipated during the process (I had to stop and start a few times) and unfortunately made the edges of the sleeves and slits at the hips a little untidy. I attempted to clean it up a bit with handsewing, but… well, I’m not the best hand sewer in the west. Or east or north or south. I’m not entirely sure how’s it’s going to handle washing, but this was more of a learning project than anything, so if it falls apart – no problem. Is that convincing?

The instructions from Colette were very clear and the diagrams good. They have great support on their site as well, if you’re not sure quite how to do something. The sew is supposed to take an hour. Uh huh. AN HOUR. Total. From printing to posing. Suffice it to say it took me more like 3 or 4 hours, but a more experienced sewer could definitely knock it out in 2, or perhaps even one hour indeed.

After I finished, it was time to add the geometric print on the front, to give it a little pep and personality. I was originally planning something more intricate and detailed, but when I looked at the finished article the shimmery sheen was quite striking, so I didn’t want to overdo it. I added the motif very simply by using a freezer paper stencil and some silver paint from Speedball. I really like how it turned out.

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Silvery, silvery…

All I did was measure up some triangles with my ruler…

…iron the waxed paper template to my fabric with a low heat iron (I tested on a scrap piece first)

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… put some newspaper inside the fabric to protect the back and then dab on some silver Speedball paint with a sponge…

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… let it dry a bit and then peel the waxed paper off (it leaves no mark)… et voila! To protect it and make it last, I heat set it with a low temp iron and a pressing cloth, which takes just a few minutes. It really is super easy and I think it was quite effective.

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As I said at the top of this post, my Mum and my little sister also made Akita blouses. I would have loved to have taken a picture with all three of us, but unfortunately we ran out of time and they had to head back to the UK. I got some snaps of their finished tops as well though, and here they are. First my Mum, who used a mid-weight cotton. Her top is the most angular of the three, as her cotton was the heaviest fabric. I think this makes it look rather modern and she plans to wear it with a turtleneck underneath, which I’m sure will look great.

My little sister, Julie, went for a lightweight cotton in a fetching shade of yellow. The colour really suits her and the styling, just with plain black leggings, is perfect. You can see her shoulders have a little more drape.

Well, this was definitely a fun project. Even more so, with the added bonus of working on it with my family. I’m planning to tackle the Sorbetto from Colette Patterns next. It’s a free pattern and it seems many, many people have made a version of this. It also involves using bias binding as a decoration and I’m looking forward to sewing that a bit better this time. Have a great week!

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