Top Stitchers: "7 Wonders"

Good morning! It's TOP STITCHER TUESDAY, and today we have Olu and Jenn stepping up to plate with their seriously inspired "7 wonders" looks. My jaw is on the floor with this one! Click here to meet each contestant, then read on to see their incredible sewing entries.

The Seven Wonders of the World is a list of structures that exemplify ancient man's greatest feats of engineering and imagination. Let these structures, or any of the "wonders" of more recent lists, inspire your sewing project.
BUT. As a pioneer contestant, your entry must involve one of the "wonders" of the sewing world. Sewing inventions that exemplify man's feats in engineering and imagination include, but are not limited to: synthetic dyes, synthetic fibers, zippers, elastic, velcro, and sewing gadgets like the ruffle foot.
Challenge yourself! Select a "wonder" you have little or no experience with.

Olu's Look:

Hi, I'm Olu from Needle and Ted and Madeit Patterns. I've been sewing/blogging for a year and a half and quite frankly I'm addicted. My sewing style is rarely cute or pretty, it's mostly modern and quirky and often grey. This is my first ever sewing competition. I signed up to Top Stitchers because I love a challenge, but I think I got 'challenge' and 'competition' muddled up. The fact it was a competition actually stressed me out.

Our prompt was 'The Seven Wonders of the World'. As much as the 7 wonders are truly amazing, I struggled to relate it to sewing. I had loads of ideas that sounded great in my head, but nothing that translated into a practical outfit for a 7 year old, that would be worn for anything more than a photo shoot. Since we didn't have to stick to the ancient wonders, I eventually chose Stonehenge, the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. Stonehenge is a huge stone monument built roughly around 5000 years ago. There is nothing decorative about it. It's stark but beautiful, bold but simple, grey but dramatic. This was the basis for my creation.

The pattern for the dress is from the Japanese sewing book Filles & Garçons, and to challenge me further the book has been translated from Japanese into French, but guess what! I can't read French. The construction for the arm hole binding and facing were difficult to understand in just pictures but once I got my head around it, the technique was very clever indeed. I particularly like how you can slip the dress on and off without buttons or zip, but a neat little slit at the top which adds more charm to the dress.

As a pioneer contestant, I had to challenge myself and use a 'sewing wonder' too. Something that I have little or no experience with. I chose lattice smocking because of it's resemblance to Stonehenge, (what! you can clearly see the resemblance can't you?). Even though I have little patience for hand stitching I gave it a go. It was actually quite relaxing and quicker and easier to do than I expected. What am I talking about, it was really, really difficult to do, it took me blimin' ages. Make sure you remember this when it comes to scoring ;-)

So I made a rucksack to match the dress and used the smocking for the front pocket. My fabric choice was influenced by the smaller stones of Stonehenge called bluestones. They have a bluish tinge when wet or freshly broken, the colour being similar to the cotton chambray that I used. Very creative don't you think? (Oh look! There's a creativity section that you can score me on below, wink, wink.) I'm really pleased with the dress, it's relaxed and comfortable yet elegant. I'm not sure I can win a competition with it but if my daughter likes it, it's a winner. And the rucksack I'll be pinching for myself when my daughter's not looking, I'm quite proud of that smocking. For more details and more 'well presented' pictures (see what I did there? semi colon, dash, close bracket) head on over to Needle and Ted.

Jenn's Look:

I love a good sewing challenge, so when Becca first introduced the concept of Top Stitchers I knew immediately that I wanted to participate! I also really enjoy stretching my skills, so being slated as a "Pioneer" fit that precisely. 

As a pioneer, I was tasked with utilizing a fabric or skill I hadn't ever before. I've sewn with lots of different fabrics, including leather, so I really had to think about what types of materials would fit this requirement. We've all seen Mingo & Grace's beautiful Blake Dress done in pale blue neoprene, and I love how structured that was. Arden needed something for the bottom half, so vegan leather rounded out my fabric challenges. Neoprene - check! Vegan leather - double check!

I ordered the neoprene from Mood in double sided blue and lime colorway. This is garment weight neoprene, not scuba knit so it's thick and very structural. I used my LOL Swing Top with the neoprene so that it wouldn't be clingy and would give it a great bell shape which plays into my inspiration - we'll get to what that was in a bit! Sewing the neoprene was a challenge! My machine handles thick fabrics just fine, but this is thick and spongy and I had to work slowly to not have skipped stitches. I left all the edges raw as a design feature, and instead of the gathering the pattern calls for, I made a small inverted pleat at the center front and tacked it in place. Seam allowances are finger pressed open and stitched in place to minimize bulk as much as possible and to make the material lay flat between pieces. The vegan leather is from Girl Charlee and has only 10% stretch, so I matched it up with a pair of Mini Hudson Pants by True Bias. I've made this pattern before, so I knew there would be enough air flow as the fabric doesn't breathe well. It's paired with navy blue ribbing from Jo-Ann Fabrics. I modified them slightly to have only a narrow band of ribbing at the knee. I had envisioned using an elastic casing, but once I started working with the fabric, I knew it wouldn't work well for that since I couldn't press it at all. The vegan leather overall was pretty easy to work with, as long as the fabric was right sides together. I used my walking foot when I was basting the pockets in place because the fabric began to stick and push ahead of the presser foot. After that adjustment, it was no different than any other stable knit. I also whipped up a simple headband out of the vegan leather and some orange fold over elastic using a free pattern and tutorial from Me and My DIY. 

Aside from working with these fabrics, I also wanted to incorporate a new technique. That brings me around to the "Seven Wonders" prompt! I chose the Taj Majal to serve as my inspiration. I've been lucky enough to visit Agra and the Taj Majal during my tenure as an internal auditor with a large corporation. I added a band of sashiko, a Japanese form of embroidery to the front of the top. I modified a classical wave or "seikai-ha" design to resemble the peaked dome of the Taj Majal. As this is my own pattern, I was able to draft this shape in Illustrator and overlay it onto my pattern pieces to become a template. I then traced it onto lightweight fusible interfacing and ironed it onto the backside of the bottom front. Several hours of relaxing hand embroidery while watching Mad Men and it was all done!

Arden has been doing some yoga along with me. She says what I'm doing isn't difficult enough, so she comes up with her own creative moves! She was pretty excited when I told her I liked the poses she was showing off for the photo shoot taken at our local park. You can read more about my looks here.

Before you give your ratings, here's a quick refresher of the rules!

  • You will rate rate each challenger, and every category. Max of 5 stars, 5 is highest.
  • Challengers will receive an average score for each category, and an average score overall. (You can see an example here) New to Season 2 - 50% of the vote will come from 3 Top Stitcher Alumnae who volunteered to judge this season's creations!
  • Your feedback helps each challenger recognize areas that they can improve their craft, and celebrate those areas that they already excel. 
  • As such, please submit your feedback for each contestant only once. Admittedly, I cannot enforce this, but the objective is for each contestant to receive a thoughtful rating, not skewed scores. 
  • It is SUPER DUPER NERVE-WRACKING to put work on display for others to judge, so let's remember to leave some love and encouragement for our challengers in the comments!
Olu's Technique *
Do garment(s) reflect a strong knowledge of the fabrics used, and the methods and tools use to sew them?
Olu's Creativity *
Do garment(s) relate to the given prompt, and showcase the unique talents of the sewist?
Olu's Difficulty *
Sew many pieces, or very intricate ones? These points reward that challenge.
Olu's Presentation *
Quality photography is key, as is an overall vision for presenting finished work.
Jenn's Technique *
Do garment(s) reflect a strong knowledge of the fabrics used, and the methods and tools use to sew them?
Jenn's Creativity *
Do garment(s) relate to the given prompt, and showcase the unique talents of the sewist?
Jenn's Presentation *
Quality photography is key, as is an overall vision for presenting finished work.
Jenn's Difficulty *
Sew many pieces, or very intricate ones? These points reward that challenge.
Leave Some Love! *
Let this week's challengers know what you liked best from each look!

Inspired to sew your own "7 Wonders" look? Stitch it up and enter it in the season 2 Sew Along linky!