Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Teal sleeveless top and the beauty of a pattern with well-placed notches

I’m surprising myself because I’ve made another repeat (I’m usually all for finding and experimenting with new patterns). The first time I made this top, I squeeze version D (the sleeveless version) out of less than a metre of a paisley off-cut that I bought for pennies in a charity shop. I really like the top, but sadly the fabric is definitely polyester and it does feel like wearing a plastic bag. I liked the way the top looked so I promised myself I would make another version and not soon afterwards I bought some beautiful cotton lawn with matching buttons from Britex fabrics while I was on holiday. The fabric has sat in the stash for a little while, but I pulled it out of the bag because I have been using lots of stash fabrics lately with bricks and mortar shops closed. Plus, I already had the matching buttons, whereas some of the other fabrics in the stash aren’t matched up with their notions yet.

Vogue top 8860

The pattern I used was a Vogue pattern from 1983 – Vogue 8860. I don’t tend to think of the eighties as vintage, but the style of the pattern and even the instructions themselves make it seem vintage. Let me explain: first of all, the style of the top wouldn’t be out of place in the late seventies or even earlier, secondly the instructions often suggest lots of hand-stitching including hand-sewn buttonholes. I don’t know anyone who sews hand buttonholes, although possibly for historical accuracy I would do for an eighteenth century costume, but not for everyday wear. The pattern is rather labour-intensive, given how simple it looks to the casual observer. Just sorting out the facing takes hours. Not to mention the nine buttonholes and the elasticated ties.

Pretty insides – you’ve got to love them! But look at all that work that no-one sees – the facings and the bias binding made into a casing.
Styled with the black Driftless cardigan

Having said all that, the pattern is beautifully drafted. In particular, the way the notches on the facing and the neckline match up makes my heart sing. This may not seem important, but because the front edges have a self-facing , the front facing piece is not the same size as the front neckline, hence the notches are very useful.

Teal top (Vogue 8860) from the back


An unseasonal make

This poor top has remained unfinished and unloved in my stash for many months. I was just about to put in an extra effort to finish this top during August, before a long weekend. But the weather forecast suggested that it wouldn’t be worn, so I put it off. In fact, since I haven’t been anywhere hot this year and it hasn’t been especially hot in the UK this year, sadly I don’t think I would have worn it anyway. Anyway, it’s now December and I need to diminish my stash before it takes over the living room, so with just the spaghetti straps and the hem to add, this was easy to finish.

The fabric is a cotton lawn that I picked up in Fashion Fabrics. The bright and cheerful hot-air balloon fabric really caught my eye. I decided to use a pattern (Gathered Tube Top 03/2012 #125) from the Burda magazine I’d bought in Italy. Actually, it isn’t much of a pattern, more of a set of instructions, since the top is constructed from just two rectangles of fabric!

Air-balloon top

The technique used for shirring here is a little different from that which I’ve used before. Previously I’ve always hand-wound a bobbin with shirring elastic and therefore added the elastic as the lower thread when machine-stitching. The Burda technique suggests laying the elastic in a straight line on the wrong-side and zig-zagging over it. To be honest both techniques work well. Although, there is the added advantage with the Burda technique that you can adjust your top by pulling more or less on the shirring elastic to tighten or loosen it.

Close-up of shirred detail

I felt a little wary about wearing a strapless top, so decided to add some spaghetti straps, which are just turned tubes of the same fabric. I think that this top is most likely to be used to go to the beach. It slips on and off easily and would be a good cover-up for going into a cafe or a shop.

Now I just need to dream up a beach holiday for next year, unless we have an unexpected heatwave in March!