Great British Sewing Bee

Freehand Fashion with Great British Sewing Bee’s Chinelo Bally

Click here for our ultimate guide to The Great British Sewing Bee series 5 2019!

We are very excited to be involved in the blog tour for Chinelo Bally’s new book, Freehand Fashion. On the Great British Sewing Bee Chinelo Bally wowed us all with her amazing freehand pattern cutting skills, so we couldn’t wait to see what she had in store for us in her first book.

So what is freehand pattern cutting? Well it involves using NO PATTERNS! You take your body measurements and translate these onto the fabric directly before cutting out your garment pieces. It is still a traditional method of making clothes in many countries but not very well known in the UK.

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A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go to two classes Chinelo taught on freehand pattern cutting in East London. I learnt to make a peplum top and maxi dress by marking my measurements directly onto fabric. I couldn’t wait to see what dressmaking patterns were in the book and test one out for myself.

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The book is split into 3 main sections: sewing essentials, techniques and taking measurements, how to cut basic blocks and 15 dressmaking projects. The techniques section gives you a refresher for any skills you might need to use in the book.

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This is followed by a helpful guide on how to take all your body measurements and space to record your own.

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Plus Chinelo guides you through freehand cutting basic blocks for a bodice, dress, skirt, flare and sleeve. The sewing projects include different styled skirts, tops and dresses plus a blazer and jacket.

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When it came to choosing a dressmaking project from the book I decided to make the Velvet Wrap Dress. Instead of velvet I used a colourful knit fabric and despite the it being a grey November week this will be perfect when spring comes round again or for a wedding! I love the wrap shape and the fact you don’t need any fixings or zip! I did make a couple of changes as I marked out the pattern, including adding a waistband piece to the back as well as the front and instead of adding sleeves I extended the shoulders out for a grown on sleeve. I think if I make it again I would make a more exaggerated curve for the wrap of the skirt at the front so there was a bit more fabric!

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Freehand pattern cutting is quite a different way of sewing than with a pattern, so we’d definitely recommend practicing the blocks before starting one of the projects. Although you don’t actually need to practice the blocks, if you don’t have any pattern cutting experience it will give you a chance to test out the techniques first. If you’d rather not draft straight onto fabric you can mark out the pieces on paper instead. We’d recommend making either the Double-circle skirt, High-low top, pencil skirt or maxi skirt project to start off and definitely make it in a muslin first. As with all new skills you need to practice them to get it right and this certainly applies to freehand pattern cutting. If you are used to adapting your paper patterns to fit you this will definitely help. The methods can be tricky so make sure you give yourself plenty of time.

Another thing to mention is to double check the amount of fabric you need for your project. You calculate it based on your body measurements for each part of the garment, for example skirt, bodice and sleeve are worked out separately. Best to add this up before going fabric shopping!

Today was our turn in the Freehand Fashion book tour but take a look at all these other lovely makes too. Tomorrow we will get to see what Lauren from Lady Sew A Lot creates.

Thursday 12th – Charlotte, English Girl at Homemakes the Pencil Skirt

Friday 13th – Frida and Amy, Pavillion Craft, make the Maxi-skirt and Box-top http://www.lovecrafts.co.uk/

Saturday 14th – Marie, A stitching Odysseymakes the Hi-Low top

Sunday 15th – that’s us!

Monday 16th – Lauren, Lady Sew A Lot

Tuesday 17th – Amy, Almond Rock

Wednesday 18th – Rachel, House of Pinheiro.

Look out for everyone’s makes on social media with #FreehandFashion

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