Category Archives: Tops

The Rise of the necklines

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I find it interesting to sometimes ponder on how changing fashion trends influence sewing choices. Do you sew to escape trends, or to make your own rather than subscribe to fast fashion and all the horrors it entails? I’d say it’d be pretty hard (and unfulfilling) to sew a lot of purely trend-based pieces every season – all that time and effort to make something that you wouldn’t wear in a few months! But undeniably I’m inspired to sew certain styles due to influences I see around me. In particular I’m very drawn to the whole 70s revival happening this autumn, leading to sewing dreams tinted in tan and denim, of a-line skirts and jumpsuits, and to kick things off a couple of nice turtlenecks.

Rise turtleneck

This isn’t a style I previously thought I’d touch with a barge pole, considering myself scoop or V neck for life. But I bought a RTW burgundy turtleneck t-shirt in snugly-fitted ribbed knit and it became a wardrobe hit, teamed with my black Gingers, loafers, and a long necklace. Plus what could be cosier now it’s starting to get cold out than a built-in mini scarf? So I bought the Papercut Rise and Fall PDF pattern to whip out a couple of my own.

papercut rise

You could probably self-draft a turtleneck from any t-shirt pattern to be honest (it’s just a high crew neck with a deep neckband), but Papercut’s PDFs are fairly inexpensive so I saved the effort. Plus the pattern actually comprises two views with totally separate PDF files – the Rise is a snugger fit with a turtleneck, and the Fall is a slouchier shape with a polo neck – making it even better value.

Rise turtleneck

I used the Rise in size small here with no fit modifications but a couple of style tweaks: shortening the sleeves, reducing the turtleneck height by about 1cm, and finishing the cuffs and hem with bands instead of hemming (I just really dislike hemming knits and had no matching thread, to be honest, so this was a 100% overlocker project). The fabric is a soft jersey in nice 70s sepia brown that was knocking around in my stash. The fit came out a bit less form-fitting than I was expecting, but I think it works well with this fabric and looks nice blousily tucked in.

Rise turtleneck

I was so pleased with it I wore it all day yesterday, and while sewing up a second one – which I’m wearing today, arf. This time I slimmed the shoulders down to XS as they were a bit wide, cut the sleeves full length, and cropped down the body a few inches to sit on the waistband without needing to be tucked.

Rise turtleneck

Rise turtleneck

This is another stash fabric, a nice soft almost sweater type knit from myfabrics. My camera is really on the blink so apologies for the photo quality, but it’s sort of a sagey green-grey.

Rise turtleneck

Rise turtleneck

I’ve ordered some actual rib knit from Plush Addict to make one more version: I’ll probably size right down next time to get a closer fit like my rtw tee. Right now these are all I want to wear all the time, but I’m also aware that perhaps the fashion will pass and so will my urge to wear them. I hope not though!

Marilla’s Roberts set

Roberts dungarees

Really excited to share these! They’re probably my favourite thing I’ve made recently and an admittedly rather surprising wardrobe hit. They are my tester version of the dungarees from Marilla Walker’s amazing new capsule pattern collection, the Roberts Set, which you can buy here.

Roberts set

I should say off the bat that these were made from the tester pattern and Marilla made quite a few changes to the pattern based on our feedback, so don’t count on these pics for the final fit or styling details. Although actually a few of the tweaks I suggested and implemented into my test version (such as adding buttons to the straps) made it into the final pattern, so it’s actually not that far off! The final pattern has additional side waist buttons and a slightly slimmer fit all over.

Roberts dungarees

You can always expect a good blend of interesting-yet-accessible construction techniques from Marilla’s patterns that leads to a satisfying clean finish inside and out. The front and back bodice are both faced (I’m enjoying having Liberty lawn tiny dancers inside my top) and the outer leg seam is French seamed, leaving just a few other seams to finish by overlocking or zigzagging.

Roberts dungarees

I used a soft black cotton poplin to make these up and I absolutely love the result. To be honest, before I made dungarees I was not at all convinced that I would actually wear them day to day. But I think by making them in basic black in such a comfortable fabric they have become a surprise wardrobe staple. I’ve worn them several times both to work and at weekends, and they’ve earned more unprompted compliments than anything else I’ve made. Even Josh thinks they’re cute which I wasn’t expecting. I’m definitely going to make up a second pair from the final pattern, perhaps in a yarn-dyed check from my stash for Ace & Jig vibes.

Roberts top

I also tested the standalone top from the set, which is designed to be worn under the dungarees (though I prefer a knit t-shirt under it) and echoes the back shaping with seam detailing. You can see the true test version in mustard yellow rayon on my jeans post, but I made this one up soon after using the button-up view and some dreamy rayon silk from Miss Matatabi.

Roberts top

I left the seam detailing off this one and cut the back as a single piece. The fit is amazing; it’s totally my favourite top at the moment and this is definitely now my go-to woven top pattern. I can see a zillion variations in my future. And if that wasn’t enough, remember there’s a dungaree dress and a jumpsuit included in the bundle too! For me at least, it could well be the foundation for a capsule wardrobe all in one tidy package. I’m looking forward to printing out the final copy of the entire pattern, and the jumpsuit is definitely next on the sewing table.

Cézembre Clouds

Cézembre

It’s nice when a random little PDF punt purchase and a few hours with a stash fabric gives you a new favourite top. This is the Cézembre Blouse by Anne Ka Couture, who blogs at Anne Cousette. This was her first pattern release back in June and I’m definitely smitten. It’s a lovely top with short or 3/4 length sleeve options, the main design detail being the wrap-forward side seams and curved hemlines.

Cézembre
Cézembre

I made a wearable toile in this stash viscose (also used for my Ilsley skirt) – it’s the straight size 40 but I pre-emptively nipped a wedge out of the back neckline as it looked too wide for me. Before I make it again I’ll fiddle a little more with the neckline as the wide boat type neck is not my favourite, otherwise I’m very happy with the fit.

Cézembre

It’s a neat 19 page PDF with instructions in French and English and each step clearly photographed, so it’s a breeze to sew. The sleeves set in easily, and I really love the princess seam detail (which is actually also the side seam) leading into the hem curve. The bottom edges are finished with facings which makes sense with the design – you can topstitch them in place all around like I did or just tack them at the princess seam points.

Cézembre

I’m pretty sure that once I’ve tweaked the neckline to my liking I’ll use this pattern multiple times – it would be so good for colourblocking in solid colours, or with a printed front panel and plain back… I’m even tempted to try it in French terry for a cosy sweatshirt. There are some pretty versions out there in the French blogosphere, showing that it looks great in any sort of light, drapey fabric. Nice to add another TNT to the stash!

Autumn capsule: Style Arc Ethel

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Firstly, please forgive me a little YAY – I won the Bloglovin’ 2015 award for Best Sewing Blog. I’m honestly amazed: against all the incredible blogs out there, never mind the other nominees, it’s a big surprise to be noticed and recognised like this. Thank you so much if you voted for me, and thanks even if you just visit and enjoy reading. Being able to share my garments and process makes sewing all the more enjoyable for me, so it’s great to have a little extra encouragement to keep on doing it.

Style Arc Ethel

So, it didn’t take long to get cracking on my autumn sew plans – I made this top on the Sunday right after I posted about my plans. A nice easy one to kick off and looking satisfyingly similar to my sketch, this is the Style Arc Ethel top in cream cotton ikat from Offset Warehouse. (I’m told this fabric is now only in stock in Fabrications, so sorry if you wanted to find it online – they have lots of other lovely organic cotton ikats, though.)

Style Arc Ethel

I trend to trust Style Arc’s drafting and fit on myself to cut their patterns straight into my good fabric, and this was pretty good out of the packet. It’s boxy and loose fitting (about 10″ ease in the chest in the size 10) but I think the design lines make it pretty flattering. I scooped out the neckline a bit as the stripes seemed a bit overwhelming on the higher neck – as you can maybe see, that caused a tiny bit of gapeage so I’ll correct that on the flat pattern for next time. Also there’s an annoyingly uneven stripe right at the neckline which makes the neckline look slightly wonky – I swear it isn’t, ha ha.

Style Arc Ethel

Due to my quite thick fabric, instead of using the included topstitched facings around the neck, arm and hem I just did a bias facing for the neck and plain hems. But in a lighter fabric I’d definitely like to try that detail next time.

Style Arc Ethel

I cut the side panels slightly off-grain so they’d follow the diagonal front seams, and I like the resulting chevron effect at the sides and shoulders. It does appear to tip up just a bit at the front, I am not too sure how to correct that.

Style Arc Ethel

Handily for autumn, I love how this looks with a cardigan, the diagonal seams poking out at the top. As planned, the cotton is breathable yet cosy, and it just needs a shake when it comes out the machine to get the wrinkles out. Which is good, as I can see it getting worn and washed an awful lot. Up next from the plans, I finally picked a jacket pattern for my grey crosswoven cotton, so watch this space…

Ad Astra per Aster

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I seem to be incapable of sewing up a pattern as written these days. I often find myself removing design elements, merging pieces, using the same techniques and finishes over again. It’s a win-win really because these less complex garments are quicker to sew, and simple silhouettes are inevitably the ones I reach for to wear the most regularly as well. 

That’s my way of explaining that this is a sort-of-not really take on Colette Patterns’ Aster blouse. I was a bit surprised that this pattern didn’t really take off in blogland that much – I’ve only seen Marilla and Jaime‘s out there. Personally I love it and I’m glad that Colette seems to be moving away from a slightly cutesy/fussy vintage aesthetic into more basic wearable pieces.

Aster

As patterned this blouse has cuffed sleeves and a yoked back with gathers. I merged the back and yoke pieces into one, removing the gathers, and added cut-on cap sleeves in a similar fashion to my Alder hack here. Finally, I ditched the little straight edge at the top of the button placket because I couldn’t get it looking sharp and not like a mistake. Basically took the pattern from having 5 or 6 separate pieces to just two, ha ha.

Aster

This is only the second Colette pattern I’ve made – the Peony was one of my very early projects and was a full-on disaster, so I did approach this with trepidation. But happily my fit issues with Aster were all minor. I just had to raise the bust dart apex about an inch and pinch a small dart out of the neckline – that’s all. Despite my design changes I think some of the Aster’s detailing is retained like the pretty curved hem, shaped side seams and elegant neckline. I do need to do a little more work around the neckline, I think – perhaps a forward shoulder adjustment and to make the v-neck’s edges slightly more concave as they appear to bow outwards.

Aster

The fabric for this make was kindly supplied by Alice Caroline. I’m sure they’re on your radar already if you’re a Liberty lover like me. As well as selling a large range of Liberty prints by the yard, they specialise in pairing designs and colours together to form special bundles and kits to use for patchwork and quilting. Check out their site or Etsy store to browse the range. This top is made from Kevin tana lawn which I’ve mad my eye on for ages – I love the dusty colours, and like my super happy manga Holly, it’s one of those prints where you only see the lovely constellation details from up close. Thanks, Alice Caroline, for enabling a lovely staple summer top. Anyone else got plans to sew an Aster?

Kaleido-Datura, and tips on machine-sewing buttons

Datura

In anticipation of springlike weather, I scooped up the Deer & Doe Datura pattern from Ray Stitch recently. It had been on my to-buy list for a while but seemed an extravagant price for a tank – but I was swayed by how well D&D patterns fit me and the snazzy triangle cutout neckline.

Datura

I used 1m of this lovely Liberty lawn from Shaukat, a digital collage print called Matt Maddison: the kaleidoscope triangle pattern seemed just too perfect a pairing with the Datura’s neckline. I toyed with the idea of blocking the yoke in black but decided to just insert a bit of flat piping into the seam instead.

Datura

The Datura is labelled as advanced and there are indeed a few techniques in there to make things satisfyingly challenging. The language and diagrams in the instruction book weren’t always super clear either – I got a bit confused when attaching the shoulders, but luckily found this sewalong tutorial which cleared things up. Attaching the bias along the neckline with the correct gaps between the triangles took a bit of trial and error too. Size-wise I cut a 38 at the top blended to 42 at the hip, and cut the hem length of the largest size.

Datura

I’m really happy with the fit and wouldn’t change anything, but something is still making me feel a bit unsure about the finished garment. I think it’s perhaps a bit too fussy in design for my day to day wear, and I also don’t find the shape very flattering on me – it seems to enhance pear proportions. We’ll see if it grows on me or languishes unworn once spring comes along.

Sew on buttons by machine

But how about a buttony bonus? I thought I would share how I sew on buttons by machine, in case anyone is doing this tedious chore by hand and wondering how I can sew so many without going crazy. You’ll need a button foot (I have this cheap generic one for my Janome) and some clear sticky tape. If you don’t have a button foot, you can remove the presser foot entirely and just use the ‘stump’ to hold the button in place, though it’s trickier.

Attaching buttons

1. Mark your button positions per the buttonholes.

Attaching buttons

2. Place the buttons and tape them down. You can tape each separately or use one long bit of tape.

Attaching buttons

3. Measure the distance between the holes of your button. Mine’s about 3mm here. (For four hole buttons you can either measure and sew the holes in pairs parallel to each other, or diagonally across from each other. Or a jaunty arrow!)

Attaching buttons

4. Set up your machine: go for a zig-zag stitch with the width set to the distance you measured between the holes and the length at the shortest your machine will go (mine’s 0.2mm). And best to set your machine’s speed to the slowest it will go, to negate needle-slamming-into-button situations (heed the voice of experience).

Attaching buttons

5. Fit the button foot to your machine. As you can see, it’s like a little clamp with a gap in the middle, which holds the button nicely in place for you.

Attaching buttons

6. Slide the button under, aligning centrally under the foot and making sure the holes are horizontally parallel. At this point I usually lower the needle manually to check it’s going to hit the left-hand hole in the right place, then go ahead and run the machine on slow speed. I go for about 5 or 6 passes of the zigzag between the holes. For 4-hole buttons you’ll then need to re-align to the second pair of holes. My machine has an auto locking stitch which anchors my stitches at the start and end, but if yours doesn’t you will probably want to leave a tail and secure by hand.

Attaching buttons

8. Pull off the tape and cut your thread tails (if you need to secure your ends, thread the tails onto a needle, bring to the wrong side and knot to secure.). Voila, fast and secure buttons – I’ve never had one fall off yet. Hope it was helpful!