The French Dart Shift | BOILED WOOL
Lovely Nicky (@nickynackynoo_) sent me an Instagram message back in the middle of November asking would the French Dart Shift work in Boiled wool? Now, I always get quite excited when someone asks or suggests a pattern variation/hack I hadn’t thought of – oh, the delights and benefits of sharing ideas on the internet! That particular day was freezing here in the UK, and as I had bemoaned frequently that I never find any jumpers that I like, I ordered some fabric that very day and did a test. And it worked beautifully if a tad itchy, but absolutely fine with a skinny t-shirt underneath. And was just perfection on a recent trip to Paris (in a chilly January!). It was très Chic, in fact!
THE FABRIC |
Boiled wool is a knitted fabric that has been washed and agitated, so the fibres have a tighter felt like finish. There are lots of options regarding fibre content and weight.
I used a grey boiled wool from Backstitch in smoke. (Weight: 368gm², 60% viscose, 40% wool – 142cms wide.)
The care instructions on the Backstitch website are to dry clean (but it is meant for a lined jacket or skirt, so fair enough). And the general advice for pre-washing boiled wool is not to wash and just give it a really good steam to shrink it, and then allow to cool. Which is fine if you’re making a coat or something similar. (You generally should allow stuff to cool after pressing to help stop it stretching and creasing while still warm.) The Colette blog recommends a damp towel and a tumble dryer method, but I don’t own a tumble dryer so not a method I could test, but sounds a good plan.
I eventually decided to ignore the general advice and wash it in the machine. My theory being I was making an everyday jumper style top, I knew this fabric would shrink (probably a lot) and I knew I would NEVER be bothered to handwash it, and I really wouldn’t be bothered to dry clean it – I would, in fact, chuck it in the machine when I had to. And my friend Maria told me to do it.
So I did as I was told and chucked it in the machine on a short wash at 30°. It felted up a little more, so felt slightly thicker, but was still quite delightful! I did get a few of these bobbly bits, but they pulled off easily enough. What I didn’t do at the time was check how much it had shrunk. A post-cutting garment calculation puts it at about 20cm on 1.5m length (roughly 14% length shrinkage, never thought to check the width shrinkage!) I didn’t allow for that much shrinkage when I bought my fabric, but I managed to squeeze my top out. I had to do ¾ length sleeves rather than the full length ones I intended but hey-ho, such is life!
*I feel like I should put a disclaimer on bunging your boiled wool in the machine…it worked out fine for me, but I wouldn’t want you to ruin some hideously expensive cloth. Consider carefully how you will treat the finished garment, is it something you’ll chuck on the floor (me: “yes”) or is it one of those garments that you’ll hang up carefully and cherish. Be warned there are no guarantees when going against the stated care advice!
SEWING WITH BOILED WOOL | tips
Boiled wool is quite an easy fabric to sew with but there a couple of things to be aware of.
The thickness of the fabric: it’s bulky, so best not to have too many seams and details. Also, it’s easy to overpress it, which can lead to shiny marks or a stretched garment.
*Stabilise seams to prevent stretching
*Use a ballpoint needle
*Longer stitch length (I usually stitch on 3 and went up to a 4, test on a scrap of fabric for your machine)
*Walking foot: I tested on a scrap first without a walking foot and my sample was fine. Then as soon as started to stitch the garment – it wasn’t a happy bunny, it just didn’t want to feed through so I had to do a quick machine foot switch-a-roo! (My machine is pretty knackered now though, I’ve had it since 2001 and the stitch length is, shall we say, is inconsistent at best.)
* Boiled wool doesn’t fray, so doesn’t need neatening! Wahoo!
*Boiled wool doesn’t fray, so it doesn’t need hemming either!
*PRESS on a low heat, press gently and sparingly. Use a pressing cloth to help protect the fabric as you press.
*Do not drag the iron (you may stretch the fabric) – that’s why it’s called pressing your garment and not ironing your garment.
*Press all the seams OPEN and trim/grade the bulky bits.
KEY: FDS | French Dart Shift S/A | seam allowance RST | right sides together CB | centre back
FOR REFERENCE | what I did
I cut a Size 10 (my usual size) with a finished CB length of 60cm with no hem allowance as I was leaving it raw and unfinished.
¾ sleeves with a finished length of 46cm and 3cm hem allowance. I’m short – you’re going to want to check those measurements for you, measure something that you like to wear. (tutorial for lengthen a sleeve here!)
UPDATE – I didn’t bother hemming it and 3 years later, it’s fine!
I left out the back darts: I marked the darts with tailor tacks, but didn’t stitch them so I could try on the top first. The shape was nice without, so left them out to reduce bulk.
Changed the collar pattern (see below).
COLLAR | cuttingThe collar for the French Dart is normally cut on the bias grain and then folded over – giving you 4 layers of fabric. I think we can all agree, in boiled wool, that was going to be a smidge thicker than comfortable so I cut it half the depth to eliminate the roll-over part of the collar. (Keep the length of the collar the same but you can make it any depth you fancy: pattern = finished depth of collar x2 + 6mm S/A to attach & 1cm S/A on the other edge). With boiled wool being a knit fabric that has been felted, I cut it on the straight grain. And I only cut the notches on one side of the collar (the one with the 6mm S/A to attach at neck).
STABILISE THE SEAMS |
The neckline of the French Dart is taped to prevent it stretching, but when making in boiled wool you will also need to tape the shoulders and the armhole to prevent them stretching. To find the measurement – mark your seam allowances on the pattern and measure the stitch line/finished seam lengths. We don’t want to tape into the S/A as we don’t want to add any extra bulk at the seams.
For the neck and armholes I used a lightweight stay tape (I always trim the width in half for the neckline), follow the instructions how to tape the neck. Tape the back shoulder seam and position the tape so when you close the shoulder seam you will be stitching through the tape. For the front and back armhole, I cut some ½” wide (1.2cm) strips of knitted fusible interfacing on the bias and ironed them into place. Because it’s cut on the bias it follows the curves nicely. I purposely made them a few millimetres wider than the seam allowance of 1cm so when stitching the sleeve into the armhole you will be stitching through the interfacing to control the seam. (Actually would have been OK to cut them a smidge wider at 1.5cm.)
BUST DART | sewing
Stitch the French dart, and cut open the S/A a bit further towards the apex and gently press OPEN. (The pin marks the end of the dart.)
BODY | sewing
Close shoulder seams, side seams, underarm seams of sleeves.
Trim the bulky bits away! This is where the dart intersects at the side seam. Press open.
Set in the sleeves.
HEMMING | sleeves and the hem
If you are going to hem the sleeves and/or the hem, trim away the bulk and blind hem by hand. (Follow the instructions in your pattern for hemming, but leave out the neatening stage.)
Or Just leave your hems raw and unfinished.
COLLAR | sewing
Close CB seam of the collar and gently press open.
With RST attach the collar to the neckline (as described in instructions). Press neckline seam OPEN.
NOTE: I edgestitched the seam allowance on the body side of the seam, to flatten it a bit. Personally, I prefered the look of the garment without the edgestitching, but if you have bouncy seam allowances that won’t behave, edgestitching them flat is going to be the answer. You could actually twin needle the seam, with a row of stitching either side of the neck seam.
Fold the free edge of the collar to inside side to cover seam and allowances. Stitch in the Ditch of the seam from the right side to hold the collar in place.
just leave the collar to flop over!