Style Arc Salma Wrap
The Salma Wrap by Style Arc is a super quick, easy-to-sew and stylish wrap to whip up in under an hour. I kid you not. From cutting the fabric to putting in the last stitch, the entire project can be accomplished while listening to a single episode from Love To Sew Podcast, and you'll be done. I recommend tuning in to the episode on knit fabrics for extra tips for sewing with knits for your Salma Wrap.
It is also the perfect project to make for someone you love. If you've made enough masks for family and friends to last through a dozen more pandemics (please, God no!), and you want to diversify your gift-making, then move onto the Salma Wrap. There is only one pattern piece, which is cut into a pair, and it takes about the same amount of time to make it as it does to make a mask. The single - very cleverly crafted - pattern piece is shaped almost like a rectangle and after you sew up the 3 seams (with top stitching) and 1 hem required, then poof, voila, ta-dah! Like magic, you have conjured up a garment!
Needless to say, since it is so effortless, this is a perfect sew for beginners who want to try out sewing knit fabrics. I do not have as much experience sewing up knits compared to wovens, and I am starting to get the hang of it now on my regular mechanical machine. The efficiently worded instructions assume that the sewer knows exactly what to do with knit fabrics and provides no recommendations on how to adjust your machine to sew knits up.
Here are some things that I make sure I do when working with knits. First, I use a stretch needle or a ballpoint or jersey needle. The rounded point of these needles prevents cutting or tearing up the knit fabric. l also switch to a walking foot so that the two layers of fabric get fed through evenly through the feed dogs. Then all it takes is some testing with stitch length and width on the zig zag stitch on scraps of the knit fabric. Since all knit fabrics have different stretch percentages and thicknesses, this testing before sewing up the garment is vital.
My Singer Heavy Duty 4453 has a double straight stitch that works really well with knit fabrics. Or I sometimes use the zig zag stitch for stitching up seams, setting the stitch width at 1.5mm, and length at 2.5mm; and for hemming or top stitching, I use a 3mm width and 3mm length stitch. These settings tend to work with most knit fabrics, or they are the starting points for me to make further adjustments if necessary. If I am using really thick knits, then reducing the pressure on your pressure foot might be useful as well.
I like the more polished look that a twin needle gives for finishing hems and topstitching, but sometimes I'm too lazy to switch the needles and rethread the machine, so I just stick with the zig-zag stitch. But when I do make the switch to a twin needle, I have to make sure that I change the stitch settings back to the regular straight stitch setting so that I don't break the twin needles. I've broken a couple twin needles from forgetting to do so. There's also some tunnelling between the two rows of stitches with a twin needle, and I turn the hem under twice to reduce this tunnelling from happening.
Finally, pressing is essential to smooth out all the stitches in knit fabrics. Sometimes the slight waviness produced when stitching resolves itself with some pressing. I've also learnt how to work more gingerly with my fingers when handling knit fabrics because they don't want to be pushed or pulled when feeding them through the machines. Stretching of knits while sewing should only happen when installing elastic or attaching neckbands or armbands, etc. But this is a skill that you don't have to worry about with the Salma since there are none of that to deal with - just straight seams, topstitching and hemming. This really makes it the ideal virgin knit project to venture into.
I was so smitten with this pattern that I made not 1 but 4 wraps, and all of them for my mom and her sisters who live in Singapore. Sizes for the wrap come in size 6-30, and the multiple size PDF patterns come in 3 groupings: 4-16, 10-22 & 18-30. I made up a size 16 since the wrap isn't for me. My aunts are more a size L and I just figured that 16 will be an ok fit, especially when it was made in a 100% silk knit which has very little stretch in it. The first prototype was modelled by my Aunt Maureen:
This first try garnered feedback from the ladies saying that they all wanted a slightly shorter version for a more casual look, and so I made 3 more in the size 10, which I hope will be a one-size-fits-all for the ladies in my family. The size 10 fits me fine but I reckon a size 6 will do alright for me as well. The second one I made is the denim blue viscose jersey knit that you've seen in pictures above. The other 2 are made from woven fabrics.
Although the Salma is drafted for knit fabrics, it can also be used for woven fabrics which have good drape. I made a couple from fabric that is made up of 2 light cottons stitched together. These fabrics are double-sided and work really well with this sewing pattern because so much of the underside of the fabric is exposed when the wrap is worn. In the woven fabrics, the cocoon shape of the wrap is more pronounced. In addition, I like to wear it by turning a "shawl collar" up to reveal more of the contrast underside.
For the pink and grey gingham/plaid. I did some colour blocking to accentuate more of the contrast between both sides of the fabric, and it also means that the wrap is reversible - it can be worn top to bottom, bottom to top.
Sewing for others, has been the main preoccupation for me since the beginning of 2021. I don't usually get homesick but this year has been different. Especially this time of year when everyone back home is gearing up for the Chinese New Year festivities. The pandemic is taking its toll on me. All this social distancing and endless lockdowns are bringing up the yearning for connection with friends and family, no matter how remote. Sewing for them became a way to reconnect with loved ones across oceans, I guess. It finally sank in that it may be a year or even more from now before travel restrictions can be lifted so that the we can go back to visit with the kids. That brought me down somewhat.
In addition to these four wraps, I made 2 Sylvia Robes by Sew Over It for my mom and another of her sisters.
Lastly, I made a highly modified Gosling Shirt by Mimi G Style for a dear dear friend. I straightened out the curved hem and added side splits.
The pattern-matching for this shirt was a massive undertaking. Pattern-matching is headache-inducing as it is, but try doing it for a self-dyed shibori fabric. I thought my mind was going to implode. The pattern-matching had to be carefully planned at the pre-dyeing stage which required ultra precise folding of the fabric to make sure the pattern would match up in the end.
All in all, I've made 10 garments for friends and family since 2021 started. That's 2 garments per week since the year began. I've placed myself in a sewing frenzy to keep away the blues. And it has worked in a way. It's a vulnerable act sewing for someone else - they get to see the inside workings of your handiwork. You expose your guts. And it's nerve-wracking. There's also excitement in anticipation of them receiving the garments, and utter joy when the garments fit. So I will continue to make more for others. Besides, my own closet is bursting at the seams with all these me-made clothes. It's time to burst some other person's closet with the stuff I make.