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This tunic is my first foray into recycling with stretch fabrics, which I find presents a whole array of new challenges! These are not knit fabrics, but stretch wovens, which I happily picked up in the op-shop because I liked the print on one, and the others went with it. I paid no regard to the stretch factor! This was a garment I started at the first meeting of the Wear To? group of the Embroiderers’ Guild earlier this year.

I more or less self drafted the pattern, and I say more or less because I actually cobbled it together from a couple of commercial patterns, and kind of filled in the gaps. I made a muslin, which fitted not too badly, and went ahead with the recycling.

I chose to make the tunic using a colour blocking technique, but instead of dividing the pattern pieces up using straight lines, which would be more usual, I chose to use curved organic shapes. I actually derived these from the shapes on the printed fabric, I just took a photo of the fabric, printed it out, and then sketched the shapes larger onto the muslin. Then I cut that up, and used it as a pattern to cut the sections of the tunic.

A combination of inaccuracy when cutting out, and the stretchiness of the fabrics, meant that when I stitched the pieces together the front of the tunic didn’t lie flat. Even when it was lying on the table it looked as if somebody was inside it. I held it up against myself and it looked even worse. It was largely the olive green pieces, for some reason they had grown, and I figured that somehow I needed to shrink them again. I certainly wasn’t going to unpick the seams and re-cut them, so what to do? Some others at the workshop came to study my problem, and the suggestion was made that I just stitch some tucks in that piece of the garment to take up the fullness. That seemed like a good way out, so I made the tunic as flat as I could on the table, and pinned tucks into it which reduced the lumpiness. Then I whipped over the tucks using a variegated embroidery thread to turn them into a decorative feature.

I continued to put the rest of the tunic together, but still felt it needed something else. I had an image in the back of my mind of a garment made by Koos van den Akker, with machine stitching in a random zigzag pattern over the seamlines. So I threaded up my machine with two different colours of thread at once, and went over all the seamlines with free machine embroidery. I quite like the result – I’ve tried channeling Koos’ work before with very limited success, but I’m happier with this effort.

Even though I’m reasonably happy with the result, I’m still not sure it’s a garment I would wear in public. I did wear it yesterday though at another workshop with the same group of people, but the great thing about such workshops is that people will comment with interest about what you are wearing, and don’t look at you strangely when you say ‘I made it myself’.