Do you need to make a toile when sewing?

April 02, 2017

It’s been toile time here at GetMaking, having fun with a new (for me) Tessuti pattern, the Alice Top/dress.

When I first started sewing clothes it used to always puzzle me that my sewing projects would usually fit my sister better than me. There wasn’t a lot of information around about customising patterns, and I would approach the pattern as if it was designed to fit me perfectly - which of course it didn’t.

Now there is a wealth of information on customising patterns: grading between sizes and making bust and bicep adjustments results in outfits that look amazing.

So the answer to my question is yes - my first stop these days is always to create a toile. So what is a toile? Its the first make of a pattern using a cheaper material to test fit and calico is the perfect material to use. It's robust enough to be able to be shaped, drawn on, slashed and repinned -  perfect for testing fit. We’ve got a new stash of calico in store that’s perfect for creating a toile here. For this project though, instead of our calico I used some cotton fabric from my stash. It was a light peach colour - pretty, but so not the right colour for me - but as a working toile, perfect.

Tessuti Alice Top Pattern Review

The Tessuti Alice top is a great pattern (available as pdf or printed paper), although note that it’s a generous fit. After testing with the muslin I will go down a size for the next one, which seems pretty consistent with other sewers experiences. Also be aware that there a quite a few different seam allowances used in the pattern - keep checking back to the instructions to be sure you’re using the right one. I got stumped when trying to ease in the sleeve ‘wings’ but then realised that they have a 3cm allowance (yes reading the instructions makes all the difference! ) and then it all came together perfectly.

So after a fitting and decision to pull the next version back a size, I had a cute, slightly oversized top in a colour I would never wear. The perfect conditions for a dye job.

I’ve never really played much with dyeing fabrics - I’ve used the clever people at Culla Change for re-dyes of much loved clothes to extend their life, but it’s not something I’ve tried at home. While the experts are worth the cost for key wardrobe items, it wasn’t worth it for this fabric.

So hello Rit liquid fabric dye. I used the Indigo dye recipe, which is a mix of half a bottle of blue denim, quarter of a bottle of black, 1 cup of salt and a dash of washing up detergent added to 6 litres of water kept between 140 to 160 degrees on the stove for 30 to 60 minutes.

While the instructions on the bottles and on the RIT website are very helpful I found the most important dying tips were:

Cover your bench surface with cling wrap as you will splash (even if you think you won’t) and wipe up quick if you spill anything!

You want a big pot - I could have doubled the size of my pot and it would have made it easier for the fabric to move easily around: a 12 litre pot would be great, although don’t use one that you’ll want to cook food in afterwards - hello St Vinnies or the charity shop. I used my candy thermometer  to keep an eye on the temperature (between 140 to 160 degrees).

Dyeing fabric indigo coloured using RIT Liquid Dye

Wet your fabric before it goes in and keep it moving while in the pot. I used thin little food preparation gloves to protect my hands from the colour, but they didn’t protect from the heat. I really should have used thick washing up gloves so I could get my hands in and massage the cloth around to really make sure the dye was evenly getting to all the fabric. It’s incredible that even after an hour in the dye bath and moving the fabric around with tongs almost constantly there were still a few parts that were a bit underdone, especially near seams or folds in the fabric - kind of a ‘surprise shibori’ - folds and creases are your enemy here.

Be prepared for shrinkage. Your fabric is essentially being cooked for an hour on the stove, so this will be one of the most extreme tests of shrinkage. It was fine for my too large top which shrunk down about a size (maybe 2-3cm). Of course fabric type is at the core of this. The peach cotton was prime candidate for a dye job - a medium weight cotton fabric with a light, consistent colour and a firm weave.

All up I am super pleased with my new Tessuti Alice top and its indigo colour and it was fun experiment - plus the pattern adjustments have been done and I’m ready to go with some serious fabric.

*all patterns, fabric and dye were purchased by GetMaking. 

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