A Jamdani Calyx Smock

A Jamdani Calyx Smock

Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock back

After a challenging year, I’m ready to get back to sewing again. And as I get used to working in our new office, rather than from home, I’ve found that my wardrobe needs have changed. Great — an excuse to sew some jamdani!

Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock in handwoven cotton

Of all our offerings, our handloom jamdani fabrics are some of my favorites. It was really to help preserve this art form, and to introduce it to a wider audience, that I started Loom & Stars. (Learn more about jamdani weaving here.) I’ve had my eye on one of these fabrics for some time: Quicksilver jamdani cotton is exquisite. When we visited our weavers in West Bengal a few years ago we saw one of them making this same fabric, which is often sent to Japan. The precision of the design is a critical test of a weaver’s skill and he or she can only make about one yard per day.

the art of jamdani weaving in West Bengal, India

It’s also a particularly soft and airy fabric, which inspired me to make something full of movement. Great — an excuse to try a pattern from Pattern Fantastique! I’ve been wanting to make one of their elegant, unusual designs since I first saw them. The Calyx Smock looked exactly right. Its simple lines wouldn’t distract from the bold design of the fabric.

Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock front

The hardest part of this project was figuring out how to place such a bold pattern on the garment. Due to the way the zig-zags fell around the front neckline, I put them slightly off-center so they wouldn’t be awkwardly truncated. The back was easy — I just mirrored the zig-zags at the center back seam. Basting before stitching ensured that the pattern was aligned. (Though it isn't called for in the instructions, I also added a tiny reinforcement inside at the stress point at the top of the center back seam. This helps prevent tearing the garment at the neck opening.)

Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock top made with soft cotton fabric

Construction was simple and straightforward. The fabric was a pleasure to work with, but I took some precautions in handling it because my sewing machine sometimes has trouble with very lightweight fabrics. Placing tissue paper under the fabric while stay-stitching stabilizes curved cut edges so they don't stretch out of shape while sewing the seams.

stabilise curved edges by stay stitching

Gently tear the tissue away after stay-stitching:

The only major change I made to the pattern was adding 1/4 inch to the 3/8 inch seam allowances in order to finish the seams. I don’t have a serger, but I do have an abiding love for interesting details and finishes. This time I was inspired by Indian designer garments, on which hand-stitched finishes are often used to complement handloom fabrics. This can also add a touch of color.

hand-finished flat fell seams

With this in mind, I chose to make hand-finished flat fell seams on the four raglan sleeve seams. For the second pass of the seam, which secures the seam allowances to the garment, I made a tiny running stitch by hand with embroidery thread. DMC floche has a soft touch and matte finish which is just right for this purpose. The result is a soft, flexible seam in keeping with the aesthetic of the garment.

applying French double bias binding to a neckline

I did the same at the bias-bound neckline, using a French double bias strip rather than the single bias called for in the pattern because this fabric is so lightweight. Double bias has a little more oomph and is more opaque. Above, you can see the bias strip basted in place inside the neckline. After machine-stitching, I folded the bias over towards the front of the garment and secured it with a tiny running stitch to match the flat fell seams. Below, a peek inside the top shows the reverse side of the running stitches — they're longer underneath.

inside view of hand stitched flat fell seams

French seams at the sides and a tiny folded hem finish things off neatly. Finally, rather than a tie at the back neck closure as designed, I added a button. I look for any excuse to get out the silk buttonhole twist and make a little button loop!

vintage button and silk buttonhole loop closure

And? Fantastique! I love the elegant sweep of the hem and the gentle billows of the fabric. Voluminous tops are outside of my usual comfort zone and this pattern has generous ease so I sized down slightly. I also widened the neckline just a little as a personal preference.

Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock tucked in

Without my hand-stitched finishings, this would have been a simple, quick project. The pattern has an optional deep faced hem which would be beautiful on a simpler fabric, and it can also be made in a dress length — tempting! It was a very enjoyable return to sewing and I’m eager to make another Pattern Fantastique as soon as possible.

Pattern Fantastique Calyx Smock top sewing pattern review

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