Sewing Bee Round 4, Part 2: Named Saraste top and Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans

Now to the second part of my final Sewing Bee outfit! As I mentioned in the first post, the theme for this round was to make an outfit for a post-pandemic event or activity and my immediate choice was to fly back to Scotland and party it up with my friends and family, who I haven’t seen for a while. I knew I only had 4 days to make the whole thing, so to have any chance of completing it and not just making, say, a t-shirt for the final, I had to take a guess at what the final round would be. As it turns out, I was very close ( a few of us had guessed it would be something like this) and so I had a little headstart as I’d already decided on my theme and inspiration. I still made a few changes before and during the construction process, but my rough plan was to:

  • Make a three-piece outfit inspired by the landscape of Scotland
  • Make an outfit that would be suitable for the plane journey home and then as a party outfit on arrival
  • Make something wearable that would fit in my wardrobe
  • Try to use stash fabrics

Quite a tall order, but I pretty much managed it. Although it was very tempting to make a flamboyant party dress, this just isn’t the year for it. I’m not opposed to some razzle-dazzle, but I need to at least feel there would be somewhere to wear it. Plus it wouldn’t really work for my theme. The first item I decided on was the Casey Coat, as detailed in my last post. A boiled wool cool is light and doesn’t crush, but is still very, very warm – a desirable feature for Scotland! I decided to make it in two tones of blue boiled wool to represent the sky and the water, both of which are very prevalent in Scotland – it’s a long, narrow country, so you’re never far from the sea or a loch, wherever you go.

To complement the coat I really wanted to stick to blue-green shades. I love a tonal composition and an all-blue outfit really appealed to my tastes. I also like the fact that when the jacket is closed, there’s an ombre effect of tones, from top to bottom. To achieve this mix, I pulled a Nani Iro/Kokka double gauze that I absolutely love from my stash. It is a perfect colour anyway, but the print was ideal. Naomi Ito describes it very artistically thus:

“The wavering leaves, surfing in the wind looking like ocean, beautiful coat of a beast, creating a refreshing and gentle balance that passes through one’s mind. A piece of fabric with a movement – a movement like a puff of wind or something with a flow.”

As anyone who’s been to Scotland knows, you’re never far from water, but you’re also never far from wind. It whips round the land and I always find it bracing and invigorating. I never really noticed until I moved to somewhere which had a very still climate and it was almost like I couldn’t breathe sometimes. I had to represent the wind somehow.

Some of my Scottish inspiration pics

There was still something missing though – I can’t picture a Scottish landscape without a pop of purple or pink somewhere in the scene. Heather and wildflowers are ubiquitous all over the country and it’s rare that they’re not colouring the hills or fields in a very unique way. So, to represent this, I decided to add this Liberty Lawn as a ruffle, which perfectly encapsulates the pop of colour on the hillside for me. It wouldn’t be Scotland without it! It also allows me to take my outfit from cool, calm and collected to a frilly party piece by just slipping off my coat on arrival at my destination.

Named Saraste Top

So much for the concept – now for the garments. This is the second time I’ve made the Saraste top and you can read about my first version here, which goes into lots of details and is still one of my favourite tops. I thought it was perfect for this challenge and it’s also (thankfully) very fast to make. The main difference this time was that I sized up one size to an 8 as I’ve gained a little weight since I last made it, and I also increased the width of the ruffle by an inch for a little extra drama.

I still didn’t do any kind of FBA because of the general ease and it fits great. My only outstanding change is to reposition the top button as I didn’t put it in the right place and didn’t notice until I saw the pics. Be assured it all sits flat normally.

Left: Finished collar from outside; Right: Collar from inside

I really took my time with finishing the collar properly and was very pleased with the result, above. Stitching in the ditch is something I find tricky to do neatly, but by tacking down the collar first (as opposed to just pinning) and taking my time stitching, it’s pretty much invisible. It probably took an extra 5-10 minutes to take these steps, so it’s well worth it.

There’s not a ton else to tell you about the top. One of the other contestants called it my “dragon wings” which I rather like – and hopefully she meant it as a compliment, lol. I do love the way the ruffles curve all the way from front to back and the combination of Nani Iro/Kokka double gauze and Liberty lawn is definitely one that makes my heart sing.

Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans

Finally to the jeans! This was the last item I made and I allotted myself 1.5 days for them. I have made them before twice – as jeans here and as shorts here – and so I knew I was familiar with the construction and that the pattern wouldn’t need too many tweaks and certainly not a muslin. I had a backup plan of a simple skirt if it was obvious I wouldn’t make it, but luckily I was running pretty much on time by the time I started and the jeans went together very smoothly indeed.

The teal corduroy is the only piece of fabric that I bought new and I happened upon it when I was at my local quilting shop, Quilting Mayhem in Snohomish, WA, doing a little quilting. They carry a few apparel fabrics and when I saw this I thought…hmmm… that might go well with my planned outfit. The bottoms had really been the item I was most undecided about. It’s a non-stretch corduroy and the Dawns are drafted for non-stretch denim, so I decided to give them a go.

I used the 18 that I traced out the last time I made these, but I added half an inch to all side seams. This is a rigid jean pattern and they are intended to relax over the course of a few weeks, so should come up a little tight when you make them, but last time I couldn’t even zip them up! Not even lying horizontal on the bed, if you remember that little trick from the good old pre-skinny jeans days. This time, I gave myself something to play with in advance, ha. I had to make the same changes to the waistband, pocket bags and facings.

Speaking of the waistband, it is drafted too short and so I remembered to add on an extra 5/8″ at each end this time. It only just fit, so make sure to check yours before you cut it. It seems to be a pattern error, although it may have been corrected since I bought the pattern; I’d check in any case. I took the time to tack the waistband here too and it made for a nice finish. I topstitched in all the usual places and didn’t skimp on any details, save the rivets as I didn’t want that traditional jean hardware look. However, because of the corduroy drill, I used regular thread for topstitching. If the drill is not completely vertical (impossible), it can get quite warped and looks a bit weird, so I decided to keep the detailing more subtle. I like the way it turned out.

Last time I also made adjustments to the crotch curve and added an inch to the rise. This turned out to be just a tad too much, so I removed 1/4″ this time and adjusted the fly and extension accordingly. I also scooped out a little more (about 1/4″ again) at the back to try and remove some wrinkles from my low, flat behind, but it turns out I need a little more. Still, I’m very happy with the fit I got and I really like this pattern, personally. For anyone who’s a bit nervous about sewing jeans, this is an ideal pattern: the instructions are superb.

I decided to sew the pocket bags in the matching fabric to the top ruffle and it’s so beautiful I decided I’d French seam the bottom of them. I know nobody apart from me really sees them, but I love them in that secret little pleasurable way that people who sew do. I hemmed the legs of the jeans at the “regular” length again and they’re perfect on me. If you’re taller than 5/6″ or have long legs, you might want to check that too as I have slightly shorter legs than body, if anything, although not by much.

And that’s about it! Overall, I couldn’t be happier with how the outfit turned out and if you’d told me, well, at any time prior to this contest, that I could make 3 garments like this in 4 days and make them carefully, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was extremely lucky that two of the days coincided with my 6 year-old’s first two days back at in-person kindergarten. My very lovely husband took care of him fully the other two days and they just left me to get on with it, with minimal interruption (apart from food and coffee/cocktails).

After all this, my husband asked me if I would enter again next year. I’ve been on this earth long enough to know that even if I was tired out at the end of it and said “never again”, by the time it rolls around next year I’ll probably be ready for another go. I’d highly recommend it to anyone actually. The organisers try and be as fair as possible, with challenges that anyone can attempt and I believe they also take your skill level into account when judging. If nothing else, there’s a really nice sense of camaraderie going on and my favourite part is seeing what the other contestants have come up with. There was so much interesting and inspiring sewing going on – I came away with lots of new ideas!

Here are my entries for all four rounds if you haven’t seen them (from top left clockwise):

Round 1: Pyjamas with a twist

Round 2: Repurposed denim

Round 3: Pattern matching

Round 4: Post-pandemic outfit Part 1

Anyway, I hope I haven’t bored you to tears with all this, but it kind of took over all my spare time for a quite a few weeks, so I thought I’d get the details down for posterity. Back to normal sewing for a while now and I’m finishing up my second quilt, as well as making a bunch o’ knickers. Are you guys doing Me-Made May this year? It’s always my favourite “challenge” of the year and I’ve decided to replenish my underwear drawer this May. I’ve been meaning to do it for agesss and it seems like a good opportunity. Let me know if you are! Cheerio for now!

8 thoughts on “Sewing Bee Round 4, Part 2: Named Saraste top and Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans

    1. Haha, it felt a bit like madness at some points, but everyone is so friendly and expressing the same doubts or experiencing the same problems, that it does make it a much nicer experience than it could be. But yes, I’m totally chuffed what I ended up with and it did push me a bit (in a good way).

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  1. I’m so impressed with your ability to fit jeans and your patience with adjustments because every fabric behaves differently. I worked with stretch cord and it did me in ! Beautiful outfit!
    @sew_sister. ~ Janet πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you! I was lucky that the jeans weren’t toooo far off the first time. It’s definitely a work in progress though. I think the hard thing about jeans/pants is that a small change in your weight or shape can throw them right off and my weight has definitely fluctuated a bit the last year. I find stretch cord a pain to work with too to be honest. I’ve only used it once and it was a nightmare!

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