Friday, August 17, 2018

A tale of three tops

One of my Fall/Winter plans was to make a few woven boxy tops that I can wear under jackets and cardigans. I am happy to say that I can check that goal off the list. I had wanted to sew a boxy style top for awhile but there were a few design details that many patterns have that I wanted to change. Namely most of them are either boatneck or crew neck (neither of which is very flattering on me) and often the sleeves are much longer and hang over the arm making the shoulders look wider. Cap sleeves can look flattering on my broad shoulders but they need to cut off just above the bicep in order to look good on me. So I decided to draft my own.

It was actually pretty easy to draft my own top. It makes me feel like I kind of know what I'm doing. I knew that I wanted a top with a lot of positive ease, so I drafted a pattern that is 44 inches at the bust (11" positive ease) and 46 inches at the hips (12" of positive ease). I extended the shoulder line over just slightly to form cut-on cap sleeves, copied a scoop neckline from one of my favorite tees, and made the back about an inch longer than the front, curving the hem slightly. I cut out some old cotton flannel as a muslin and after trying it on I adjusted the width of the neckline a bit more.

Self-Drafted Boxy Top

I have discovered that sometimes making a muslin out of any fabric you have on hand doesn't really tell you the full story, because unless it is very similar to your chosen fashion fabric, you might not get the best results. I went to Joanns and picked up some rayon challis in this black and white bird print to use as my test garment. For this one, I did French seams simply because I had dark thread in my serger and was too lazy to change it. On this first version I made the scoop neckline and finished it and the armholes with self-fabric bias tape. I also turned and stitched a 5/8" hem at the bottom. I don't know if this is normal or not but one of the things I don't like about a bias tape finish is that my edges often don't want to lay flat, like it shows in the center of this neckline. I'm wondering if maybe I need to pull the bias tape slightly to get that rolling to stop.

I think of this as a "wearable muslin" but it's not an absolute favorite. The fabric wrinkles like crazy and I don't like how the neckline rolls. but it's a simple print that will work with a lot of colors in my wardrobe so I will probably wear this top every once in awhile. At any rate it was relatively inexpensive at around $15 so not bad for a decent test garment.

Self-Drafted Boxy Top

For my second version, I was ready to cut into my beautiful Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. rayon challis. I redrafted the neckline to be a V. it's basically the same curved shape as the scoop, but the V extends an inch lower. I drafted facings for this version and I really like how it looks much better. You don't have to topstitch a facing if you don't want to and I think the edges look nice and clean that way. I used some very light interfacing on the facings and it worked beautifully. No more stiff bulky facings, which is one of the reasons I avoided facing garments in the past. I also tacked down the facings by stitching in the ditch at the shoulder seams and hand-stitching the front of the V and the center back neck. This way I didn't have to handstitch all the way around, but the facings don't flip out when you put the garment on. The only snafu I ran into on this one is I decided to do a rolled hem on my serger. it worked fine for the body hem but I got some holes on one of the underarms where the stitching did not actually attach to the fabric. I tried to fix it and ate more and more fabric until finally I gave up, turned under the sleeves one time (since most of the edges were finished by the rolled hem) and topstitched it down. Then I used fray check on the holey bits to keep them in check. This does mean that one of my armholes is slightly lower than the other but fortunately the boxy nature of the top keeps it from showing.

Version 2 is definitely my favorite. I love this floral so much. I like floral prints but I am very picky about the types/colors that I gravitate toward and this one ticks all of my boxes. I definitely see this one becoming a wardrobe staple.

Self-Drafted Boxy Top

My last version was a little less successful. I kept the V-neck and facing from Version 2, but made the hem slightly longer and wider so that I can do a front tuck. For the other two I had limited fabric so they had to be shorter and they're more of a high-hip length that cannot be tucked unless I'm wearing a high-waisted pant or skirt. This one was made from Cotton + Steel cotton lawn. I like the stripes and I like the contrast pocket, but I did attach it a bit too high. I'm finding that pocket placement is hard for me to get right. I did pin it and try the garment on before stitching it down but I still got it wrong. I also took my time and matched the stripes, even on the facing on the inside of the garment. I did the rolled hem again but I still ran into a problem on the armholes. Next time I make this I will give up the rolled hem and just do a turned hem or go back to bias tape on the armholes. Maybe someday I will learn how to do a serged rolled hem of small circumferences in the round without chewing up the fabric but for now the hassle isn't really worth it.

Now here's why I like this top much less than the other 2: the fabric. Even though I used a thin cotton lawn, it still doesn't drape as well as the rayon challis and it kind of hangs out there like a tent. I also think that the horizontal stripes make the relative lack of drape even more unflattering. It's not terrible and I think I'll still wear this one but not as much as the other two. This is why I cannot personally understand why you would make a boxy shirt like this from quilting cotton or any other stiff fabric. All that ease has to go somewhere and I don't like the way a more sturdy fabric hangs in a top like this.

Now that I've made 3 versions of this top I'm ready to put the pattern away for awhile, but this will definitely get filed away as a TNT. I have so many ideas on hacks for futures versions, including:

  • colorblocking
  • drafting a contrasting yoke
  • lengthening/widening it to a swingy dress or tunic
  • adding some elastic or drawstring at the waist of said swingy dress or tunic to give it some waist shaping (similar to the staple dress)
  • make different pocket shapes
  • doing a split hem/making a more dramatic high-lo hem
  • making a split-neckline a la grainline
  • adding a button placket to the center front or back (very on-trend at the moment)
  • drafting a ruffle peplum hem

There are so many possibilities and as long as I choose the right fabrics I think it'll become a true wardrobe staple.

1 comment:

  1. They are all nice .The middle on is my favorite .



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