Tag Archives: Tops

Two New BC Pattern Companies!

I was so thrilled this past week to discover two brand new sewing pattern companies from my home province of British Columbia! Thread Theory, out of Victoria, focuses exclusively on patterns for menswear. YES! Fine Motor Skills offers (genuinely) fashionable, casual separates for women.

I’m all for indie pattern companies, though I don’t sew from them exclusively. If they release something that I really like, and that I think I’ll sew soon, then I’ll definitely grab their pattern. But I also sew from Burda as well as the Big 4.

Thread Theory and Fine Motor Skills are both releasing patterns that fill major holes in my pattern collection – patterns I’ve been looking for for ages.

Thread Theory's Goldstream Peacoat
Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat

I cannot tell you how happy I am about this pattern (to be released in June 2013). Ever since I started sewing three years ago, my wonderful bf has wanted me to make him a peacoat. I have hunted everywhere for a man’s peacoat pattern. Contemporary, Vintage… no luck. It’s amazing to me how ubiquitous peacoats are in men’s ready to wear, and how uncommon they are in sewing patterns. Thank you, Thread Theory!

Same thing with breezy fashion forward knit tops.

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 12.30.53 PM

I expect that there are a few tops kind of similar to this in back issues of Burdastyle, but I’ve had too much on my plate to hunt through their archive. I suppose you can sometimes find something similar in Big 4 ‘coordinates’ pattern collections, but not really. They’re more fitted. This looks like something I’d buy (and own) from Aritzia, and is perfect for a loose gauzy just-the-right-shade-of-turquoise knit I’ve got stashed away. I’m looking forward to giving this a quick sew – plus it’s free! woo! Thank you Thank you Fine Motor Skills!

And as a last word – the women starting these companies have both gone through fashion school, which we can’t say for all indie pattern company designers. It gives me a lot of confidence that their patterns are well drafted.


Dotted Swiss Sorbetto – the job interview version

The truth is that I’m late onto the Sorbetto bandwagon. My preferred silhouette is drapier on the bottom, and fitted on top; Colette’s Sorbetto pattern – their summer freebie (which is awesome) is “swingy” – i.e. unfitted. Truthfully, my first thought was… Box. (honestly, it feels pretty sacrilegious to write that, only due to it being the beloved Colette. Colette seems to me to be an absolute model of how to run a small business and I’m a huge supporter, but it doesn’t mean I absolutely love all of their designs (ooh… there’s that sacrilege feeling again…)) However,  summer’s been the season of Sorbetto in the blogosphere, and it was Mena of the Sew Weekly’s 7 days of Sorbetto blogathon that got me thinking that it can be pretty cute. She also gave it some sleeves – which I was going to do, but my sweetie printed out my sleeve pattern before making sure that the test square = 4″x4″ (it didn’t). So they were too small to use. Bummer.

The impetus for this Sorbetto – which fits perfectly into my easy-sewing-August plans – was a job interview at a sewing shop that sells Colette patterns. I said in my application that I *could* sew – in case they wanted me to make up samples or something for the shop – and what better way to make the case than to make a self-stitched Colette garment to wear to the interview. My interviewer recognized it straightaway 😉 (no word yet on the job but the interview seemed to go pretty well, at least in the ‘it lasted an hour’ and not because of rounds of uncomfortable questioning way…) With short notice and a pile of term papers to grade, I only had time for Sorbetto. I also only had time to hit up the most expensive fabric shop in town for this $20/metre black dotted swiss – which I already knew they had –  rather than hunt and peck elsewhere. But let me tell you, I am becoming a convert to the posh fabrics; they sew so *easily*…

I like Sorbetto more than I thought I would, and I *love* it in the black dotted swiss… it’s one of those times where i love the fabric more all stitched up than on the bolt. I do quite like the silhouette with the embroidered linen a-line skirt I’m wearing in the photo, and it looks good with a pencil skirt too. Because I’m an hourglass shape with a larger-than-average bust, I’m always concerned that tops (or dresses) that hang down from the bust don’t give me ample waist definition, and therefore make my middle look much bigger than it is. But with a thin and drapey enough fabric, this doesn’t seem to be a problem (of course, my two other recent tops are Vogue 1247… super roomy… and Burdastyle’s also loose cut 07-2011-105).

Here, you can see how it just hangs down from the bust. It’s fine in a super light fabric, but in anything with any body to it… ugh.

And for the backview. I probably could do a swayback alteration, but… I’m just not that fussed about swayback. At least not in a little top.Well no, I’m just not that fussed about swayback period. And apologies for the wrinkles. These were completely pressed/steamed out for interview!

Construction notes

I didn’t have time to muslin my Sorbetto up, which I would normally do before cutting into $20/metre fabric! I just dove right in and cut a straight 6. I didn’t make any construction changes, other than making french seams throughout.

*Given that the fabric was more $$ than I was expecting (I thought their dotted swiss was around $15/metre… my mistake), I only bought 1.25 metres rather than the recommended 1.5 yards. At least in the smaller sizes – and possibly in the larger sizes too – you do not need 1.5 yards. I used < 1 metre. And that’s after making my own bias tape (granted, that takes a 10″x10″ square). I’m cool with scraps, but not so cool with tossing a 7-8$ scrap quite unnecessarily into my scrapbin.

It took less fabric because I changed up the layout; both front and back are cut on the fold. Colette has you simply match the selvages up to make the fold; I had my selvages meet in the middle, which gives you two folds on either side. Such a fabric saver!

Love the exposed bias binding! I made my own bias tape (self-fabric), following their online continuing bias tape tutorial. It took three tries to get it right, but now I’ve got it – and am super keen to make more… much more! It took me about an hour to run the tape through the bias tape maker and press it into place.

What I’ll change for next time

As others have noted, the bust darts are crazy high. I need to lower those by about an inch.

Also as others have noted, it’s a short little top. I’m happy with the length since I’m wearing it with this particular skirt, but I might make other versions an inch or two longer.

Because this pattern can go very box very fast, I’d consider cutting/sewing it on the bias if not a directional fabric (like my swiss dot).

Burdastyle 07.2011.105 top with flounce

OMG I love this top! It’s pretty and sophisticated, and perfect with a pencil skirt. I cut a 38 with no other alterations to the pattern, other than cutting it  on the straight of grain. The pattern calls for bias cut, but everyone seems to be doing this on the straight grain; this is because it relies on a *very* drapey fabric –  the pattern calls for silk chiffon – and silk chiffon on the bias is, as one sewist put it, diabolical. This directional print obviously would not work on the bias. I think it’s quite important to note that if you go straight of grain, this pattern takes up less than a metre of fabric… good to consider if you might splash out on an expensive silk chiffon or charmeuse (Fabricana has a stunning Nanette Lepore silk in right now…).

I’m learning how certain prints just work really well with certain patterns – and this combination is, imho, a total winner. This version is actually my test garment – cut out of this crazy print that I wasn’t sure I really liked when I picked it up a few months ago. I got it at Dressew – a bit of a bargain basement fabric shop – and at Dressew, I’m never quite sure if I love a fabric because I genuinely love it, or because it seems to look better than the other not-so-nice (or not-so-my-taste) fabrics they’ve got in shop. I always had this “zulu surfboard” print (really can’t think of any other way to describe it…) earmarked for a muslin; I’m surprised and glad it and the pattern go together so well!

I followed many of the pattern directions, since this is a test garment (that I ultimately think I’ll get quite a lot of wear out of). It is a poly, so I’m a little concerned about my top becoming a little oven on warm days; perhaps it is best left for evening wear. I wore it out last evening – it was around 20 degrees – and i was absolutely happily comfortable. I know that Slapdash Sewist felt she needed to make some alterations to make sure it isn’t too revealing, but I found that on me, it isn’t revealing at all, but rather quite modest. Go figs.

Construction notes

Given that this a poly charmeuse, I liberally applied my homemade spray stabilizer to the bias cut binding pieces before cutting them out; stabilizer really and truly is my new best friend. I just put about a fistful of washable stabilizer into a spray bottle from the dollar store, which I filled with about 2.5 cups of hot water. I made sure the stabilizer had dissolved, and let the mix cool down before spraying my fabric nice and wet, and letting it dry. The fabric comes out stiff enough to be manageable, but certainly not crunchy or cardboard. It just makes bias bindings dreamily easy to cut and stitch. I haven’t actually washed it out of the finished garment yet (it’ll come out in the wash easy peasy). I expect this mix will last me about 10 projects. Total cost – maybe $3?

Like the Slapdash Sewist, I finished off the edges of the front pieces with my serger, rather than the closely spaced zigzag stitch that Burda calls for. I just got my Brother 1034D a few weeks ago, and am so in love with rolled hems; still working out the tensions, but only the curmudgeons will notice!

The narrow band is easy, and I prefer it in self-fabric. One of the reasons I love doing muslins is that it lets me get all of my mistakes out of the way, and in this case, I had neglected to “turn in one (narrow) end” of the band before stitching and turning it lengthwise. I simply thought “stitch and turn” – but there’s that one extra step first. I had to double fold the end of that piece over for a quick and dirty hem after the fact to prevent future fraying; this makes that narrow band at the shoulder a bit shorter than Burda intended.

I made another rookie mistake with the shoulder seams… and this is a case in point of how Burda assumes some sewing knowledge. Of course the seams on a chiffon top all need to be enclosed, but I simply followed the instruction to “stitch” without thinking to do french seams on the shoulders. I had to do a makeshift faux flat felled seam (the allowance being to small, and the material too flimsy for me to manage a faux french). I hope I’ve learned my lesson!

I measured out the 118cm they stipulate for the hemband, but it was too short, and so I had to piece a longer bit together.

Here is where I was So glad for other reviews… to put the front together, and to create that flounce, Burda instructs us to “Lay right front on left front, with right sides of both facing up.” Now, I would have *thought* that meant to layer the right sides, with both right sides ultimately facing me (in other words, Wrong side of Right front stitched to Right side of Left front). Slapdash’s interpretation, which I followed, has you sewing both wrong sides together – so that the rights sides are facing out.

I’m not so bothered by the little square on the left shoulder, and I prefer it underneath the band.  I don’t do it in this photograph, but I quite like pulling it over so that it looks like a little sleeve.

Changes to make…

– The bust darts are a bit long; I’ll need to shorten those by about a half inch

– French seams for both shoulder and side seams.

– hemband – it doesn’t actually matter how long the piece is, as you just stitch it  down from the body – much like a cuff on a shirt.  just cut a long piece, and cut off what you don’t need after stitching it up.

– screw contrast fabric; I’m okay with the black hemband , but for my ‘good’ version – out of a silk/cotton voile – I think I might just use self fabric for the hem and shoulder bands.

– I did a size 38 but I may go up to a 40. The really nice thing about this pattern is that you can really play around with the fitting quite easily when you attach the two front pieces together.

– I think I’ll lengthen it by about an inch; it’s quite short.

– I am going to do my next version on the bias, and I’ve already liberally sprayed stabilizer onto the fabric. Really looking forward to another version in yellow!

burda 07.2011.105 – on tracing

With a mountain of grading staring me down, and the end of two contracts, i’ve been throwing all caution to the wind and sewing – as I’ve hardly got any done in the last few weeks. I’m nearly done a little hoodie – destined to be one of my very favourite me-mades – from the Built by Wendy Sew U Home Stretch book – and I just traced and cut out top #105 from July’s Burda issue.


It was my first Burda magazine tracing experience, and I have to say… not so bad. It was *far* preferable to taping together printed pages from downloaded patterns!

This was surprising to me, as I generally don’t enjoy tracing patterns (though my risk averse nature prevents me from throwing caution to the wind and just cutting into the pattern tissue). When I first started sewing, I used tracing paper to transfer the markings to new tissue – but peering to discern the always soft lines was time-consuming and frustrating. Then I started laying tissue over my patterns, and traced over top – this went much quicker, but the markings were never quite precise. Now, I think I have a system down. I picked it up from the lovely book called “Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit” – all about rubbing off existing garments. (Now that I have a serger, I have a few knits I can’t wait to knock off!)

To trace, I pull out a big piece of foamboard, and a piece of plain flipchart paper, both available at any art supply shop. Then I simply place my pattern over top, with a few river stones as sewing weights, and trace the lines with a tracing wheel. The perforations beautifully transfer to the flipchart paper, and I can quickly connect the dots. So easy, so fast. Even adding those seam allowances – hardly as tedious as I thought.

vogue 1247 – rachel comey navigator top

I’m stoked to finish this top – my version of Rachel Comey’s Navigator top. I loved it as soon as the pattern was released a few months ago, and ordered it straightaway (well okay, as soon as it went on sale). I wasn’t entirely sure if the style was going to work for me – I feel as though my body shape is fairly broad across the shoulders and hips, but really quite narrow from the side view. So I wondered, would a loose top like this just emphasize my broadness? I sewed with trepidation. But I find it quite flattering! I love pairing it with either a short skirt (this is Burdastyle’s Sidonie, a bias-cut A-line in lightweight denim), or flowing chambray-weight trouser jeans (my beloved vogue 1051 Alice + Olivia pants).

I initially had a floral cotton voile picked out for it, but my good friend B reckoned that this poly charmeuse, earmarked for a dress, was just the thing. The voile – slightly on the stiffer side  – could look a bit scrublike. (And my muslin, from an old soft sheet, *was* total scrubland!). Were I to sew this again – and I’m planning on it – I’d do it in a crepe de chine, or a cotton lawn.

I made two changes from the original pattern – I raised the bust darts a half inch (i think their positioning is so key on such a loose top). And I took out the center back seam, cutting the back on the fold. To do this, I simply got rid of the seam allowance.

Doing the muslin and working out how to do all of those intersecting french seams (at the centre front) got me all confident about doing an ‘average’ rated pattern; what I forgot was that my muslin was a sheet. Super stable. Rather easy.  Sewing this charmeuse up with so many pieces on the bias? I don’t think I cried… but I certainly cursed the fabric. It slipped, it grew, it frayed (ugh, I still have a few frays to trim from the french seams…). I had to toss the first version I made up half-way through; you can’t see the bias strip all around the neckline, but while sewing it the first time, something happened. I have no idea what. I just know that after getting it together, the right front gaped like nobody’s business.

Only one thing got me through this top: stabilizer: washable stabilizer, like the embroiders use (I got the idea from the Colette Pattern blog). The first bottle of Sullivan’s I picked up (and the only one I could find).. didn’t spray! I replaced it with two different kinds of washable stabilizing film, and got to work. I sewed little strips right onto the seams, and it washed out later. What a difference maker. I only regret not using it throughout the top – I only really used it for the neckline.