My first post-summer vacation sewing project was…guess what! A sleeveless top! I know I’m getting a little boring with the sleeveless garments, but that’s still about all I need for our weather. I chose the Gretta tank from online sewing publication, Seamwork magazine. For those unfamiliar with Seamwork, the magazine, produced by indie pattern company, Colette, has a membership program for $7 a month (at the time of my joining back in May or June). Membership gives you access to their PDF pattern library with a 1-credit allowance given every month. The Seamwork patterns will cost you one credit each, or you can save up credits and reimburse them for patterns from the more expensive, Colette pattern library.
When I started diving back into sewing, I was really excited to discover this option. I have not yet found a place to source paper patterns in the Emirates. So PDFs are the best option for me right now. I signed up for membership on a whim, without researching any reviews. Eager to make use of my membership, the Gretta tank was my first Seamwork project.
I was very indecisive when it came to my fabric choice for this tank. I could not decide if I wanted to use a linen fabric or lightweight cotton. Considering the bulk of the shoulder ties, I landed on a Swiss dot chambray from Robert Kaufman, which I picked at Purl Soho while in New York. That was my first visit to Purl Soho and can I just say it was everything I thought it would be. It really is a modern crafter’s wonderland. All those natural fibers and sophisticated color palettes make my heart sing. I can’t help but wish that I’d stayed longer, bought more and taken a bunch of photos. Anyhow, Purl is well-documented and easy to access online. I left with this Swiss dot chambray, a white, windowpane linen (they call it Linen Grid), a little bit of Liberty fabric and the adorably chic Putford scissors.
When I got back to the Emirates with my Purl haul, I had a little bit of buyer’s remorse about the Swiss dots. What was I thinking when I picked that up? What projects did I have in mind? I went into Purl knowing very firmly that I would buy a chambray, but I thought I’d pick a classic, simple version. Then I saw the cute dots and I couldn’t resist. I’m a sucker for juxtaposition. I suppose I was responding to the cutesy Swiss dots against the more utilitarian, casual chambray. And it is a lovely fabric. It’s as soft as soft can be, almost sheer.
My misgivings about Swiss dot led to think about the history of this type of fabric and the girly connotation it continues to carry. I am an art historian at heart (two art history degrees here). So I did a little research about this textile classic. I found no definitive source on the topic. This is just want I could cobble together to give the history of the fabric a little context:
History of Swiss Dot
- Swiss dot (or dotted Swiss, as some say) is defined as sheer cotton or tulle with small, raised dots.
- The fabric reportedly originated in St. Gallen, Switzerland in around 1750. St. Gallen was, as still is, a major textile center, specializing in embroidery.
- Swiss dot was invented during what is called St. Gallen’s Cotton Period (1750-1850). I think it’s important to note that St. Gallen’s cotton period coincides with the worldwide cotton boom and the subsequent apex of the transatlantic slave trade. This article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives some good information about the relationship between cotton and the transatlantic slave trade.
- During the late 18th century to early 19th century, Swiss dot was particularly popular with French socialite ladies. This woman, the subject of a portrait from 1757, must have been very cutting edge with her dotted Swiss sleeves.
- The fabric gained new popularity post-WWII when couturiers like Christian Dior incorporated the delicate, dotted fabric in hyper-feminine corseted gowns. Today, Swiss dot is mostly associated with vintage fashion of this period, as well baby clothes and bridal veils.
Doing a little study on Swiss dot also gave me a better understanding of how or why I might use the fabric in the future. Because the fabric is so sheer and lightweight, it gathers very well. It would be good to add volume without bulk or extra weight. The gathering will also address the see-through nature of the fabric, creating a more opaque garment.
The Swiss dot chambray was, in the end, a good match for the Gretta tank pattern. I was worried that it would be too sheer, but as you can see, it’s totally fine. It’s very comfortable and feels like I’m wearing nothing. Now for my review of the Gretta tank pattern and the Seamwork membership:
Gretta Tank Review:
- The directions were very easy to understand. I have no trouble executing the instructions and never had to backtrack due to misunderstanding.
- The shoulder ties are a cute element that I can incorporate into self-drafted projects in the future.
- The Gretta tank has a very, very poor fit. I read reviews of the pattern before attempting it. Without fail, the oversized fit was a problem. I took heed and made adjustments, taking it in an inch on both sides of the smallest size. I still think the fit is not right. I am petite, but not terribly small. For reference, I’m 5’2” and 122 lbs. I have a very evenly proportioned body type and I usually have few issues with commercial patterns.
- Despite poor reviews, I decided to make the Gretta tank because I was struggling to identify Seamwork patterns that I was excited about. Since I was less than enthused by the Seamwork pattern library, and the one pattern I did make had a very disappointing fit, I have canceled my Seamwork membership after a couple of months. I do think the idea of the membership is a great thing, but the pattern program needs some tweaking. I starting seeing so many covetable PDF patterns from other makers and the same value wasn’t there for me with the Seamwork selection. I think Seamwork is a beautiful site, with great articles. If the pattern library works for you it may be worth it. However, as many other people have stated, beware of the fit. If the drafting of the patterns improves, I’d be willing to give Seamwork another try. But, for now, I can keep myself busy with other options.