Tag Archives: top

I meant to do that…



I’ve been saving the rest of the fabric from this top, trying to find just the right project. I love this fabric so much. Eventually, I decided that it needed to be a drapy pattern—a cowl neck, maybe.

Last night, I decided that a reprise of this super-quick cowl neck top by Ichigogirl on Burdastyle would be perfect.

But. It’s still about -20C around here. I wanted to add sleeves.

I pulled out the pattern-pieces for Ichigogirl’s cowl-neck, and my “trusty” (aka much altered) Lydia pattern to compare. Armscyes were about the same size, as far as I could tell, but a radically different shape. I thought it seemed simpler to try to draft a cowl neck onto the Lydia than to try to fit sleeves to the odd-shaped armscyes of the sleeveless cowl pattern.

Of course, it was 8:00 at night and I was far too impatient to read up on cowl

Inner folded facing of cowl neck sewn over rear of shoulders, to enclose the shoulder seam.

drafting… I had the pattern pieces right in front of me. It’s not like I’m a stranger to frankenpatterning.

Ehm. I had actually wanted a little bit shallower of a cowl than on the original pattern, which is a bit, ah, risque if you bend over.

But, not quite this shallow. Urgh.

Rear view. Meh.

I was very proud of myself for figuring out a neat way to attach the inner fold of the cowl-neck to the shoulder so it neatly encloses the shoulder seam. I’m not sure if the picture will make any sense at all, but you’re looking at the back of the shirt, inside-out. I folded the facing portion of the shoulder-seam around to the back, enclosing the entire shoulder-seam between shirt front and facing. This makes for a lovely finish on the inside.

I then proceeded to do an impatient bodge-job of setting in the shoulders (I think I

still need to remove a bit of ease from the Lydia sleeve-cap, and add a shoulder-point notch). Didn’t do such a good job on the back-neck binding, either.

Bleh. Can I just pretend I meant for it to be this way?

In Me-Made March news:

Here’s today’s outfit, which is my first one this week not to feature some (or entirely) items I didn’t have last September. It feels a little boring because of that, but on the other hand these are some of my absolute FAVE pieces so far, so… yeah!

Classic pose

Funky dancing pose

Frankenpatterned top
More self-stitched jeans

Also my new, awesome, but hyper-uncomfortable boots. They will be great once they’re broken in.

I was wondering how long it would take me to break out the goofy poses this time around…


Filed under Sewing

More fun with Lekala Patterns

Or, The Unfortunate Effects of Poor Fabric Selection

Lekala knit top 5675

I got this fabric (bottom right in the photo) from the thrift store a month or two ago. It’s a light sweater-weight rib knit, very stretchy but not very drapey. I thought it would be ok for a cardigan-type top, a more fitted one rather than something drapey like the Simplicity one.

So why on earth did I think it would be good for taking a shot at this Lekala pattern? Can I plead temporary insanity?

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before, but I’m a sucker for peekaboo clothing. Peekaboo backs in dresses, peekaboo shoulders; slit skirts… so yes, this top (scroll down) tickled my fancy right off the back: cute peekaboo detail, not too much skin showing since I’m attempting to be more demure in my old age, still warm for winter.

Twisty pattern piece

I printed it out, compared with my Lydia pattern, and again the only modifications I made were lengthening the bodice and the sleeves. The shoulders are more square than on the Lydia and the armscye and waist are much shorter (shorter even than my altered Lydia, where I shortened the armscye and raised the waist). Of course if you actually ordered the pattern it would be to your own length measurements, so probably most of this won’t be helpful. I added to the bodice only at the hem, and likewise to the sleeves.

It took me a couple of tries to figure out how I

Twist top... sweater version

wanted to finish the front; I double-layered it to simplify the finishing. If you look at the picture of the pattern piece, I sewed the two layers of the piece together along the red lines; I did the same with the middle portion of the lower bodice. Then I sewed the blue lines to the outer portions of the top of the lower bodice, so that all the seams are enclosed.  Despite my best efforts (and liberal use of clear elastic) it wound up quite stretched out, but that reflects on my fabric choice rather than the pattern, I think. I had to turn the bottom of the peekaboo-opening under and tack it on the inside, creating a bit of a “U”, because it was stretched out too badly. It looks okay, but not ideal.

I had to take in the shoulders a bit, again I think due to the spreading tendency of this fabric. I could probably take a bit more width in in front of the armscye, but again more due to the fabric than the pattern.

Oooh, the swayback!

After the trouble I had with the fabric spreading in the upper bodice and shoulders, I didn’t even want to contemplate doing a hem. So I did a rough ‘n ready lettuce hem on the serger on both bodice and sleeves (basically I just ran it through as usual but stretched while I did it). This means that the sleeves are extra-

Front view

gooey-long (which I love). Oddly, I didn’t have to take them in for width, which I’ve had to do before when using “growing” fabric.

I put the shoulders in flat, and they went in very nicely, which is always a plus.

I also took in the side seams after construction, curving in by a good 3/4″ at the waist. Again, due to the growing fabric.

On the plus side, after its initial sagging it doesn’t seem to be growing too much more, and it is quite warm. In the photos it doesn’t look half bad (if I do say so myself), though I feel like the fairly stiff fabric folds oddly as I move. I will definitely have to give this pattern a try in something a little more slinky in the future.


Filed under Sewing

Knit Tops: the Raglan Experiment

First of all, before I forget, thanks everyone who said they liked the new theme! I finally found one I can customize the way I like, and I get a header! yay!. Though I’m still getting used to the new colour scheme. I’ve been in such a “red and black” mode lately, the blue and cream feels odd.

Lekala raglan tee pattern illustration

So this past weekend, in between madly sewing jeans and bullying Tyo into posing for pictures in her coat, I spent some time sniffing around the Lekala website. In particular, I discovered their “knittings” section. There are some pretty groovy patterns there. Importantly, they have a link to a sample PDF of the patterns (conveniently tiled for home printing, albeit for an A4 size paper. I wonder if I could find A4 paper here if I looked?). EVEN more importantly, that PDF pattern is in a small adult size, for someone with an 84cm bust and 92 cm hips. Which happens to be about as close to my actual measurements as any non-custom pattern ever is (we’ll ignore the 64cm waist, AKA 25″ waist. Haven’t had one of those since I was 14.)

Anyhoo, I cheerfully went along downloading every pattern that caught my fancy, and decided in a fit of mad bravery to sew up my single remaining remnant of white cotton knit into this pattern (#5672, about halfway down the page). Don’t you love their foxy artist illustrations? I especially like that a lot of them are plus-sized (though not this one, obviously)

This is the line-drawing:

Lekala raglan top 5672 line drawing

Lekala raglan top 5672 line drawing

which shows what it is a little more plainly: a simple raglan-sleeved top with a gathered drawstring placket in the front.

I’ve been wanting to try a raglan-sleeved basic tee for awhile. Well, basically since this one appeared on Burdastyle. Obviously there’s some differences (no underbust seam here), but the basic shape’s the same, both have bust gathers, and this one is free!

I printed the pieces out and compared them to my much-laboured-over Lydia pattern. Almost a perfect match, aside from some subtle differences in the waist curve—the sizing was spot on, as was the sleeve length. The bodice of the Lekala top was quite short, as you can see in the pattern illustration, so I extended it by a good 10cm; as I no longer have the firmness of tummy the model does, I try to avoid that sliver of low-belly nowadays. I also added my usual extension to the arm as well.

Lekala raglan tee, V. 1, front

And I got sewing. Since the knit I had on hand was white and a bit sheer, I tried out Sherry’s double-layer, folded hem, enclosed seam technique. This worked really well, though I wasn’t quite clever enough to get the sleeve seam enclosed between the two bodice layers. Next time. Only downside—it’s awkward to take in after construction. Which is why Sherry made a muslin. I didn’t bother, despite remembering clearly that the white Lydia I made from this same fabric needed to be taken in, as the fabric has little to no recovery. So the bodice wound up a bit looser and bulkier than I might have liked… but still wearable. It also looses length significantly as it stretches in width; I should’ve added more length to the sleeves.

I had the most trouble with the neckline. I was quite worried about it stretching out of

Lekala raglan-sleeve tee, slightly better shot of the body

shape (see above about the recovery of this fabric). Initially I went to bind it with a a strip of self fabric cut on the lengthwise grain (as I’ve done with all my Lydias; the technique is the same as Sherry uses in her tank-top post, minus the serged edge and precision). However, I remembered (as I was sewing it on) that this fabric has no lengthwise stretch. The resulting binding looked great and didn’t sag, but when worn it pulled the neckline very high, making the whole shirt very tight through the armpits, but most importantly not providing that lovely almost-off-the-shoulder sweep of skin. So I cut it all off, went back, and sewed 1/4 clear elastic along the wrongside, and then just folded this under and topstitched. I started out the topstitching with a double needle, but one of the needles snapped within the first four inches of topstitching (first time using that needle, too… #$$%#%$@#@$), so I did two rows of single stretch straight stitching. Grrr. Well, it looks all right from a distance, anyway. In hindsight I could’ve been a little more aggressive snugging up the clear elastic; it flares out a bit more than necessary especially right at the sleeve seams.

The pattern called for a drawstring placket to make the gathers at the bust. I had no idea how to do this, the

Lekala raglan-sleeve T

instructions were less than edifying (I’ve never applied a surface placket like this before), and I didn’t have anything  I thought I’d want to make drawstrings out of anyway, so I used the same method I did on my blue tank top and sewed a stretched elastic on the inside. I could’ve made it a bit longer, but on the whole the detail worked.

I definitely want to repeat this in a nicer fabric (this isn’t an awful knit, it’s reasonably stable to cut and sew, but the lack of recovery, lack of vertical stretch, and boring colour irritate me). And maybe stick a big floppy collar like the Manequim Cowl on top.

I wish all the nice knits at Fabricland weren’t so frickin’ expensive. I know, I know, buy online… /sigh.

Here ends part 2 of my Lekala odyssey. I’m pretty sure there will be more in the future…


Filed under Sewing


Fun with plaid

So last weekend I “splurged” on this purple plaid-printed knit. One whole yard, costing a whopping $2.50 (I would’ve gotten more but let’s face it, how many outfits in a fabric like that can I get away with? Although, I suppose I could’ve made stuff for the kids). It’s a fairly thick, stable knit, a little too polyester-feeling but not awful, and decent recovery. There’s some kind of flaw in the pattern-printing (doubtless why it’s in the clearance section) but it mostly only shows on the reverse (plain, light purple) side, so I was able to ignore it for the bodice pieces.

But I didn’t want to do just another boring Lydia. The plain, scoop-necked Lydia is great in solid colours I’ll layer under stuff, but for something striking like the plaid I wanted more of a statement pattern, something that would stand on its own. And one of my regrets from Self-Stitched September was not getting much use of my cowl neck tops, due to their sleevelessness*. (Due to the knit, they wouldn’t drape nicely over one of the Lydias, I think.). I considered re-drafting a cowl-necked version of the Lydia (honestly, this would not be hard.)

Then, I threw caution to the wind, re-traced the sleeve from my Lydia, measured the armscye, chopped off the top of the sleeve, and added the sleeve to the Manequim cowl top.

This was… interesting.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t capable of making the cut-off top of my sleeve match with the horizontal “shoulder” of the cowl top, so I

peekaboo shoulder: I bound the top of the sleeve and finished the cowl separately.

kept them separate. In theory that means there’s some potential for cute shoulder peekaboo; in reality, the way the cowl has ended up sitting makes this unlikely. Whatever.

It took a fair amount of mental gymnastics to get the pattern working this well—there are certainly a number of places I could’ve measured better, remembered what my seam-

Purple plaid Manequim

allowances were, etc. Also the original pattern has a lower armscye (typical for sleeveless patterns, I think), and adding sleeves to it really pulls it up and into the armpit oddly. Not uncomfortable, but weird if you think to look for it. On the upside, something about the close fit at the armpit means that so far this top is completely resistant to sliding up onto the shoulder, unlike every other off-the-shoulder top I’ve ever encountered.

Plaid top---rear view

I used the wrong side of the fabric for the contrasting cowl-neck.

The only downside, at the moment, is that the broad, off-the-shoulder cowl neck pretty much negates the added warmth given by the sleeves. I am COLD!

I should add for the sake of the free-pattern-grubbing masses (like myself), that while this pattern is based on the pattern here, I totally messed with the bodice, so really the only relevant piece from the original pattern is the cowl/drape itself. You’ve been warned. I also lengthened the bodice (I had kept the original length the first time) by 3 cm, and it’s better but still a bit short for my liking, especially since I haven’t hemmed it yet. I was about to, but my twin needle decided to break going over the first side-seam. Really, it’s done quite well—none of my previous twin needles have survived more than one or two garments at most before I managed to break them—but it means the shirt won’t be getting hemmed for, oh, another few weeks.

Also, look at that! RTW jeans! And honestly, this is the only pair of the RTW pants I missed, the whole month of Self-Stitched September.

Side view---cowl "up"

*now, historically I have worn plenty of short-sleeved and sleeveless tops all through the winter. Rendered more-or-less invisible by my signature hooded sweater. But having discovered through sewing the wonder of the long (or rather, long-enough) sleeve, I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to do this ever again.


Filed under Sewing

Fix or Flunk?

Port Elizabeth Fail

I’m thinking flunk.

This is my first attempt at the Burdastyle user-uploaded Port Elizabeth top. The issues started with me picking the wrong pattern size—I made a small, and it’s a teensy bit snug, mostly around the arms. All the other problems stem from me: not cutting out carefully enough, not stitching carefully enough, not following the instructions, and generally doing a half-ass job. Sometimes I can get away with this, say on a well-behaved cotton when my brain is actually functioning. On this lovely, drapey, slippery purple fabric, which I’m thinking is rayon, I can’t. Too bad, because I think this kind-of boxy top would look

Port Elizabeth Fail back

really nice in the softly draping fabric.

Also, it ended up way short (partly due to my crummy hemming job, partly due to not having quite enough fabric). Even as recently as five years ago, this would’ve been my preferred length. Twelve years ago, it would’ve been way too long. Today… not so much. /sigh. Also I was hoping it would tuck nicely into the new Kasia, but I think it’s too short even for that.

I do really like the little cut-on sleeves and the wide, scooped neck. I tried to do a facing for the neck, which is kinda being a pain in the butt although since I haven’t understitched or anything it’s still me that’s the problem. Also I should’ve made it wider. I’ve never done facings before, so I didn’t really know how wide to make it (of course, I could’ve googled it, but that would’ve been, I dunno, thoughtful of me.)

Also, I could probably do that swayback adjustment that straightens out the back hem. I had tried to add darts, too, but they didn’t end up being in a good place so I took them out (and needle holes don’t heal in this fabric, another reason for this top to be a flunk). I think they would help with the shape, though.

So, I think this one I will give to the Kid (that would be the ten-year-old) and see what she makes of it. Probably swiss cheese.

Now… focusing sewing chi… must… interface…coat pieces…

Leave a comment

Filed under Sewing


The front, finished. Still uneven.

Believe it or not, it is actually a different picture than the one I posted this morning. I unpicked the one hem, re-measured it against the other side, re-sewed, put the last three buttons on, and…

Still crooked.

I suspect some of my buttons are spread a little too far apart.

I suspect I will fix this at some point in the future, when it really starts to bug me.

For now… middling success. I trimmed a little too much off the back shirred panel, so it’s a bit snug. I’d like it longer, particularly in the front; that couple of inches of flesh at the bottom of my shirts is something I’m trying to avoid these days. The belly survived two pregnancies with remarkable resilience, but I find that as thirty creeps up some of that damage is reappearing (or maybe it’s just age and my tendency to put any and all weight

Back looks pretty good.

right on my middle).

On the upside, I think the back looks really good. I actually appear to have a waist! (Still no hips, though.) I am always kinda torn about halter tops; sometimes I think they’re good for showcasing (my) broad shoulders, other times I feel like they just make me look like a linebacker.

How about this: use the pattern for the bodice of a full-skirted sundress? Mmm, I like. Of course, by the time I get it made, we’ll be mostly out of summer here…

Leave a comment

Filed under Sewing

Summery black shirt—another whine.

Black halter top... so close!


Well, I was progressing along nicely. Shirring the back took forever (and used up all my black elastic thread). It’s kinda boring, really. Thank goodness for podcasts. And it took three or four different attempts to get the triangle tops put on with the gathers distributed nicely; they’re still not perfect but I think they’ll do. And then I hemmed it and measured the front and put in the buttonholes (why does it always mess up on the very last buttonhole? why?) and started merrily sewing on the buttons and…

My fronts aren’t even.

There is a significant gap where the buttonhole side is longer than the button side.

Back looks pretty good.

WTF? The pattern pieces were identical, I promise you. Were the top parts sewn asymmetrically? Possibly, but not by the inch-inch and a half that they’re off.

No, the culprit in this case is my eyeballed hemming. For some reason when I was ironing the hems I couldn’t find the little hem measurer that I keep downstairs with the iron, so I eyeballed it.

My bad, apparently.

Not un-fixable, but yet another seam to rip out. Maybe I’ll remember to pick up a seam ripper today.


Like my buttons? Unlike my uneven hems?

But the shirt as a whole is looking pretty good, if a little scanty in the bottom-half coverage. I’ll have to think about drafting that downward dip in the front that was there in my original drawing.

1 Comment

Filed under Sewing

Quick, practical, a tiny bit less plain.

Tank top V. 2: Blue

Ok, I lied. Why clean the house when I can sew?

A second tank top, made out of my lovely robin’s-egg blue knit. I added elastic at the centre bust and along the hips to add ruching; it worked nicely on the bust, not so well on the hips (I think the stitch I used there was a bad choice. Oopsie). I guess I could add more rows of ruching on either side of the seam to intensify it, like vertical shirring. The ruching is formed by sewing a stretched elastic to the back of the fabric; it makes a nice, stretchable gather if you get it even. I haven’t used this technique since I was about 12, and never on a stretchy fabric, so I’m a little out of practice. More than a little.

It’s a little bit looser and a little bit longer in the body than my first tank top, but still fairly comfy. Full time sewing: about an hour and a half. These really are ridiculously easy (and quick) to make—and use hardly any fabric. Even including the price of elastic, and fabric at $8/m (hooray for 60% off clearance!), it can’t be more than $5 for the whole shirt. Even the construction time isn’t that much more than it would take me to run to the mall to buy one.

Tank-top V. 2: back


Filed under Sewing

Another (not so) quick cowl top

Manequim Cowl Top

This one is based on another free online pattern. The catch? It’s this pattern! Yup, you’re right, that entire website, complete with plenty of gorgeous patterns, is in Portuguese. And no, my Portuguese isn’t so good. Actualy it’s nonexistent. But seriously, we all know how well I read instructions,anyway, right? And this particular pattern has a two star difficulty rating. “Facil” it says. My Portuguese may suck, but my French is halfway-decent… I know easy when I see it. The size range isn’t great, but it works for me.

Of course, I couldn’t just sew it as is. The pattern as is (not that you can tell based on the photo since the model’s got those crazy-high waisted pants on) has a really wide, blousy bodice. Not my thing. So I pulled out the pattern for my other cowl top, compared, and pivoted until I had what I thought was a reasonable width.

I had a Plan.

I was using more of the same light, ultra-stretchy knit fabric from the first cowl. The upside of this is it was super cheap and I have a ton of it. The downside is that it’s ultra light and ultra-stretchy. Stable it is not. Sewing it actually isn’t even the problem—it’s

Manequim Cowl Top---back

getting it lined up smoothly to cut the pattern. So I really couldn’t tell you if the various places my pieces didn’t match up correspond to the problems in the pattern itself, my changes to the bodice, or my poor cutting. My guess is mostly the last. When I made the first cowl top, I doubled the front. This

Mannequim cowl top

time, I planned to double both, and thus avoid having to bind any edges. And I did it! Aside from a couple of glitches, I managed to sew every single seam on this shirt so it faced the inside, except for about three inches along one edge of the cowl drape, which I finished by hand.

Then I tried it on and had to take each side in by about half an inch. So now the side-seams aren’t nicely finished. But otherwise, it’s great! I’ll let you know how badly it stretches out in the wearing, though… that seems to be the key issue with this fabric.

As to the top itself—it’s nifty. Doesn’t really look like the model’s… I think my fabric is way too different (also my seam along the edge of the cowl really makes it less flippy, more drapy. The cowl part is really big and drapy—cool looking, but I’m still a little nervous about the way it falls. It seems like it will shift around a lot with wearing. I’m actually tempted to make some straps… we’ll see. But here’s some different possibilities for wearing it, which is kinda nifty. If I ever do make it again, I’ll make the body about an inch longer…

off-the-shoulder variation

High shoulder variation


Filed under Sewing


First ever knit top!

Wow, that was fast. My very first knit top. Two pattern pieces, four seams (two of them not even an inch long), a little bit of time messing around with edge finishes… and voila! A top cute enough that my hubby insisted I wear it agan this morning.

Based, as you may recall, on Ichigogirl’s cowl top/dress pattern. I narrowed the shoulders, though in hindsight I should have widened the neck. This is a very deep, drapy, almost V-neck cowl; I think if I make it again I’ll try and reduce that… right now I have to be pretty careful when I shift around that, ah, all of me stays inside the shirt. I made the entire front double, since my knit is very thin and a touch sheer.

The part I was afraid of about sewing with knits was finishing edges without stretching them entirely out of shape. I

knit top---rear view

 would have to say I think my fears were justified, at least with this fabric. The back neck is… less than perfect. I tried to do a double-fold band there and… well, I’ve never had much luck with getting these to look good in wovens, so I don’t know why I thought it might be any different in a knit. It is, shall we say, a little wonky, AND stretched out (I have some hopes that it will un-stretch a tiny bit once it’s washed. We’ll see. I did manage to do a nice, scalloped rolled hem along the arm-holes, which looks cute and didn’t stretch out that much, but I don’t think really matches the rest of the top. I haven’t hemmed the bottom yet. Trying to decide whether to do another scalloped edge or just a flat hem. Also now that I’ve worn it a bit it’s stretched out and is bagging at the back, so I’m debating bringing it in at the sides…

But, anyway, semi-wearable and self-sewn, so that’s a good start, right?

In other news, my hubby declared that he really likes this fabric. Will I make him a shirt from it? Sure, dear. (I’m picturing a nice long-sleeved T-shirt. He always has a hard time finding ones where the sleeves are long enough… we’re well matched that way. Our poor kids)

 Will I make him a button-up dress shirt from it?

Um, what?

So, yeah… he wants a typical button-up shirt made out of a super-stretchy, drapy knit. I think he is insane. The question is… can it work? Maybe with an underlined yoke and cuffs and lots of stay-tape at the seams? I’m having a hard time picturing it, though…


Filed under Sewing