Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


True Bias Nikko Top in cream ribbed knit

This particular make had been on my radar for some while, but I have sewn lots of different t-shirt patterns and I was beginning to wonder why I needed to invest in another. By invest I mean buying the pattern, but also committing time to getting the fit right too.

The pattern

The Nikko Top and Dress has 4 views. The top in sleeveless and long-sleeved versions and the dress, again in sleeveless and long-sleeved models. I used the the long-sleeved top version (View B) here.

I traced the pattern on Swedish tracing pattern, fully expecting to do a variety of adjustments on the flat pattern, especially around the shoulders, and armscye. But surprisingly when I started to compare the size 6 I had traced with the shoulder width from my adjusted Cashmerette Concord pattern, it was spot on and didn’t need altering at all. The length was a little long, compared to the intended length shown on the True Bias website, but I didn’t adjust it. I’m quite willing to have extra long t-shirts in the winter. The sleeves again were a bit long, but I can pull them down tortoise-fashion which again is no bad thing in the winter.

I was rather shocked at this point that the job of tracing had taken me next to no time and the next evening I was ready to sew.

True Bias Nikko top: Worn with True Bias Lander trousers and RTW cardigan

The Fabric

I purchased one metre of MeetMilk ribbed knit from Guthrie and Ghani. I chose the colour described as “Shell” which seems like a cream colour to me. This fabric is a good pairing with the True Bias Nikko pattern as it has just the right stretch and recovery requirements. Although I only bought one metre, I managed to squeeze out the long-sleeved top in a size 6 from the fabric.


This was an absolute breeze. Most of the sewing was achieved on the overlocker. I had to change my thread to white for this project, but even this didn’t involve too much swearing. I picked up a really good tip from the Concord: tacking the neck binding together in its folded position prior to inserting it into the t-shirt. This really makes the process easier and the result tidier. I did this again on this t-shirt.

True Bias Nikko Top: Apologies for the camisole clearly visible underneath, but it is a cold day!

The outcome

I absolutely love this new top. The pattern has fitted me perfectly out the packet so this t-shirt took next to no time to make. Despite the expense of the fabric (£23.90/m at the time I write this), I am convinced that I made a good choice because it had just the right stretch for the garment. The fabric also comes in a variety of colours, so there is plenty of room for future fuss-free Nikkos in my wardrobe because I won’t need to adjust for different stretch percentages by buying the same fabric.

I’m glad I chose this colour too. This t-shirt can easily be paired with all manner of garments in my wardrobe. Here I’m trying it out with the Lander trousers, and a much-loved RTW cardigan. However, I can see it working well with lots of the blue items in my wardrobe too.

I always feel that a simple t-shirt pattern needs to work hard to justify the price. This pattern has separate body pieces for the dress and also the sleeveless versions. I expect this is to take into account the arm hole bindings for the sleeveless version and the looser fit around the waist in the dress version. I think these considerations make the pattern very good value and elevate it above similar offerings.

I’m really interested in taking this pattern to a new level, by making some customised versions of it. Watch this space!

True Bias Nikko Top: Back View


Mission Accomplished: A long-sleeved Cashmerette Concord

I was tempted not to bother writing this post, because the make I am sharing is just another Concord t-shirt. What more can I have to say about this t-shirt pattern that could possibly be worth me writing another post? On the other hand, I am very pleased with this new t-shirt and when I hit that sweet spot with a make, why wouldn’t I share?

The Fabric

The fabric is from Like Sew Amazing. It is basically a navy cotton-elastane blend jersey, but with speckles in white and turquoise. If I remember right, it is called “galaxy”. Essentially, the fabric was just the sort of thing I was looking for; it fits in with the palette of my wardrobe, isn’t too plain and isn’t too exciting either. I can see that this t-shirt is going to get a lot of wears.

The Pattern

I plumped for making the long-sleeved version of the Concord t-shirt this time. With my long-established tessellation skills and a bit of a nibble on the overall length of the t-shirt, I managed to squeeze out a long-sleeved t-shirt from just 1 metre. This long-sleeved version uses bands to finish the sleeves and I selected the crew neckline.

Concord Galaxy T-shirt: a great layering piece

The Outcome

My intention with this t-shirt was to create a long-sleeved version that could be used as a layering item in winter. For me, this means that not only should it wearable under a jumper or cardigan, but it should be wearable over a camisole/ vest and under another t-shirt, a shirt, and then a jumper and coat. Layering is definitely a considerable when I’ve just read articles about three-hour winter power cuts.

I wore the t-shirt for working from home yesterday. It wasn’t a particularly warm day and I appreciated the deliberately-overlong sleeves and the high neck line. It isn’t quite time for full-layering yet, but I could see that the t-shirt was close-fitting enough that it could easily cope with more layers on top, but had enough stretch to accommodate warmer underwear underneath. Mission accomplished!

Concord Galaxy T-shirt: good overlong sleeves

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Cashmerette Concord t-shirt: A great pairing of two jersey fabrics

I have always admired anyone who can pair two (or more) fabrics together and make it look chic. I have quite few left over scraps, usually enough for a t-shirt front, or two t-shirt arms, but never seem to be able to pair anything together that looks good.

A couple of weekends ago, I was in Like Sew Amazing looking at the remnants and I spotted a reasonably sized piece of cotton-elastane jersey that I knew would make a short-sleeved t-shirt. Great, lovely – I need more t-shirts. When I got home I happened to be looking through my scraps and noted I still had a small amount of this violet jersey. It was a match made in heaven! Just look how brilliant these two fabrics look together!

Cashmerette concord t-shirt: Using two jersey fabrics

The pattern I used was the Cashmerette concord t-shirt. I made a previous version here and noted the excess fabric at the front shoulders. I made a small adjustment here to try to lose some of the excess . I think it is a mild improvement. I’m not sure whether this is the perfect fit yet?

This t-shirt is a little short, an awkward length really that just about tucks in, but doesn’t fulfil the untucked look either. I was limited by the amount of fabric I had available (as I was using a remnant) and did consider using some of the purple jersey as a hem band. But that would have compromised the sleeves and the neckband, and I was keen that those should be prioritised.

Cashmerette concord t-shirt: Does the shoulder fit look good?

Do you ever find you have an unexpected talent in life that really isn’t that useful. Well, mine is that I can match buttons and thread, with only a memory of the fabric. I really do get this so spot on I shock myself with this ability. Handy if I forget to go to a fabric shop without a swatch of fabric, but other than this what possible use is this weird talent? I would instantly trade it for better sea legs or a remotely average sense of direction!

Button matched with fabric from memory!


Cashmerette Concord t-shirt: A useful basic

I decided to make this t-shirt after buying the Concord t-shirt pattern with the discount from the Sewing Weekender. I thought this pattern might help me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I would really like to get a great fitting t-shirt, and secondly, this t-shirt pattern had various options with different necklines and sleeve and hem lengths, so once I had perfected the fit I could revisited it time and time again just changing the neckline or the sleeve length. Couldn’t help thinking that Concord should have an “e” at the end of it, and have to check myself each time I write the word and remind myself I’m not writing about the plane!

The fit adjustments

After choosing my size (see this post), I selected the mid-length sleeve, hip length and scoop neckline. I then traced out the pattern and compared it to an existing pattern I have used before. I chose to compare my tracing to a t-shirt that I know fits well across the shoulders. I was rather perturbed by the result. It was obvious that the shoulder was way too narrow. (Looking online I found that this reviewer had also mentioned this.) This wasn’t surprising as this is a standard adjustment I make on patterns. The other thing that struck me as interesting was how “scooped” the armscye is on this pattern. I wondered about why this might be the case. Could it be that because the drafting is for the curvy market? I decided to widen the shoulders and then make the armscye less scooped. Better to leave in more fabric and “nibble away” at the fit if it needs adjustment.

I also needed to grade between sizes: between size 6 and size 12 from the bust to the waist, and from size 12 to size 2 from the waist to the hip. This is quite a big change and essentially makes the t-shirt very straight in shape up and down the body.

Concord t-shirt: Extra was added to the shoulder width

The fabric

I need good basics in my wardrobe, so I chose a very neutral fabric for this t-shirt. But I didn’t go for a plain colour, I chose this Denim-look design in dark grey. It is a cotton-elastane blend. I must admit, I was a little disappointed when it arrived in the post. I had been hoping it would be a marl, yarn-dyed with grey and black. However, it is essentially a print on white jersey. It isn’t what I was expecting. But I wouldn’t call it a bad choice, because it still looks like the sort of thing I was after, something rather plain and grey-ish.

The construction

The Concord’s instructions are nice and simple with very clear illustrations. I particularly liked the tip for basting (tacking) the neckline bands closed before attaching them to the t-shirt. The neckband is probably one of the most even I have ever done and I will keep using this technique, even if it takes a little longer.

My second disappointment with this project came in the form of the sleeve tabs. How I wish I had read the instructions in full before I started! I didn’t notice that these are designed as fake sleeve tabs and that they are not functional. You sew through all the layers and fix the buttons and the sleeve tabs in place permanently. If I had known this I would have made mine functional by adding a button-hole to the sleeve tab. However, I didn’t want to make a bad job of this and felt that the fabric, being light-weight, needed some interfacing in it for the button-holes. I thought it best to leave well alone and not try to take the sleeve tabs off, potentially ruining the sleeves, or indeed make nasty button-holes.

This also lead to a mistake, which was to add the mid-length cuffs to the t-shirt, rather than simply hem the sleeves as directed when making the version with the sleeve tabs. Actually, as this turned out fine, misreading the instructions and adding the cuffs wasn’t really a problem. I think though this is exactly how the t-shirt should be made if those sleeve tabs were functional.

Cashmerette Concord Tee: Useful basic

The outcome

Let’s look at the fit:

  1. The shoulder width appears to be fine, but this was only after my adjustment.
  2. I probably was too cautious about the armscyes and should have left them scooped. There is a little bagginess at the front shoulder and something to correct in the next version.
  3. The extra I added to the armscye on the back shoulder is probably just about fine.
  4. The bust fit is great. I don’t have any excess fabric or overly stretched fabric.
  5. The fit around the waist is generous, but I had to grade between several sizes (between size 6 and size 12 from the bust to the waist, and from size 12 to size 2 from the waist to the hip). I also don’t think the waist and bust necessarily hit at quite the right height in this pattern for my body, which might explain why this was off.
  6. The scoop neck surprisingly is spot on for me. Usually scoops are way too low for my body, so I was surprise that I used the pattern without altering this.
  7. The arms aren’t too tight or loose. I have skinny arms so others might find these a problem area.

I do like the way the sleeves look with sleeve tabs. Alas, this would be even better if the sleeve tabs were functional.

Cashmerette Concord Tee: A little too roomy?

As far as comfort is concerned I have worn my t-shirt all day and hardly noticed I was wearing it, so it definitely passes the comfort test. I do think I made it a little too large, but I will re-evaluate this later in the year. I may decide this is a better t-shirt for the colder months if it works better with a layer underneath.

Overall, I would say this is a great t-shirt pattern with a good range of options for the neckline, sleeve length and hem length. I’m not convinced that I managed to make a t-shirt that was the perfect fit, but it is closer than some of my t-shirts. Perhaps I need to go right back to the beginning and actually made a block for knits from scratch, just like I did for woven bodices.

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Improved t-shirt fit: some initial thoughts

Lately I have been trying to improve the fit of my clothes. Nothing major, it isn’t as if I have massive fit problems with my clothes, but I’m just getting ultra fussy and I’m intrigued to see if starting from scratch will yield improvements.

The first fit improvements I made were to sleeveless tops. I did suffer from gaping armhole problems here. I drafted a custom bodice and when I made a new top, used the improvement armhole and dart size and positioning to get a much better fitting top.

More recently, I have wanted to tackle the fit of my t-shirts. I have used various patterns and some fit better than others. During the sewing weekender I tuned in to Jenny from Cashmerette and was interested in her thoughts on fit. I must admit I have never used a Cashmerette pattern and have generally thought of it as a pattern company aimed at the curvy market. My body is the opposite, being very straight, with hardly any difference between bust, waist and hip. But, on discovering that I needed to make essentially a full bust alteration on my custom bodice, I thought that perhaps looking at the sizing Cashmerette offers might be interesting.

To find out what size you are, Cashmerette offers a sizing calculator. So I made the four measurements it calls for; High Bust, Full Bust, Waist and Hip.

The one measurement I had real problems with was the High Bust. After showing Mister Steely my armpit several times, we concluded that ‘measuring tape over the top of your bust and underneath your armpits’ is not a very diagonal measurement for me. Is that significant? I don’t know. I tried and my measurements ranged from 82-84 cm for the High Bust, so I decided to enter both of these into the calculator.

The two resulting calculations are below:

Those calculations are using the cup size though that I used to buy in the shops. However, when I measured my cup size for the Simplicity 8229 bra I calculated that I was a C cup. However, this uses a Chest measurement (under the bust), rather than the High Bust measurement. So, I tried this out on the calculator and got these results:

At least it wasn’t too inconsistent, despite my difficulties with pinning down one of the measurements:

Size 4 C/ D for the bust

Size 12 for the waist

Size 2 at the hip

There will be quite a bit of grading between sizes as I expected, and I won’t be doing that small bust adjustment.

Luckily, the Sewing Weekender armed me with a discount for Cashmerette patterns. The Concord t-shirt (I keep thinking it should be spelled with the extra e, like the Concorde plane) was just what I was looking for – a good basic t-shirt with several variations in length, sleeve-length and neckline.

I have chosen some not terribly exciting jersey for this pattern, but I fully intend to make some boring workhorse t-shirts.


Drape drape 2 no 4 t-shirt in blue

My previous Drape drape burgundy top, or to give it its full name The No4 One-piece Scoop Neck Asymmetrical Top has been a firm summer favourite of mine. I have long harboured plans to create another one in bamboo jersey, but in another colour. As soon as I spotted a range of cotton-bamboo blends in Like Sew Amazing I knew I had the combination of my dreams. I picked the petrol colour which is unfortunately now out of stock but the plum and rust are still available. The fabric is perfect for this design which requires a light-weight jersey with plenty of drape.

The Drape drape 2 No 4 top amongst the daffodils

I had already traced the L/XL size and made the same size again. Sadly, the sizing is rather limited . The L/XL roughly translates as a size 10 /12 women’s size in the UK, so this pattern is far from size inclusive. Not only that, because of its weird shape and design, it would be quite a challenge to size it up.

Asymmetrical top from Drape drape 2 book by Hisako Sato

The construction is incredibly simple and I ran this up really quickly. I did try out a new product though. In Like Sew Amazing they are selling Guttermans Maraflex thread. It looks just like normal thread, but is in fact slightly elastic, in a firm kind of way. Given my perennial problems with hemming using my old Singer, which seems to pull thread ridiculously tight, no matter what settings are selected, I was willing to give it a go. It has definitely given my hems a bit more give although given the loose fit of this top, it isn’t necessarily a critical factor for this make. I’ll try this thread out on more jersey makes and report back.


#MakeNine2021 Flo-Jo Knicker Kit Review. Underwear Part 2

After a fallow January, at least I have now sewn something. They may be small, but I can’t argue that these knickers aren’t a useful addition to the wardrobe. To make life easier, I decided to use a kit to make them. The useful thing about underwear kits is that you get all the necessary fabric, lace with a pattern and a set of instructions. It is often the case that to make underwear you need to buy things from different shops, so kits are really handy in this respect.

The kit

I bought my kit from Flo-Jo fabrics in Bristol. I picked the rainbow fabric with straight lace. The kit comes in a handy box and contains enough fabric and lace for one pair of knickers. There is also a small length of ribbon to make a bow and a label. The pattern and instructions are also included. I paid £15 for the kit. I would say that the price is about average for this type of kit. Obviously, just making one pair of knickers using the kit works out a bit steep, but if you intend to re-use the pattern, then it can be a good investment.

Flo-Jo Stretch Knicker Making Kit

The pattern

The pattern comes in sizes 6 to 22, which is a reasonable range. I used size 10 and with some very careful pattern tetris I managed to get two pairs of knickers out of the fabric. Of course, there isn’t enough lace to finish the second pair, but I was delighted that I was given such a generous amount of fabric. This wouldn’t be possible with all the sizes, but it does mean that if you wanted to pattern match, it would easily be possible. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone looking that closely at my underwear, except me when I take it out of the drawer! Although I love things to be pattern matched, I’m not that obsessively devoted to pattern-match my undies!

The kit unpacked

The instructions

I really appreciated the way that the instructions guided me through making the gusset, which does require making sure that you have the pattern pieces correctly orientated. I was very pleased with the neatness at this point. However, I felt there wasn’t much guidance on how to add the lace trim. How much overlap should there have been? I may have overlapped a little more than I should have and then trimmed the fabric back to get a neater finish. It worked, but then I suppose I have sewn knickers before. I also made a change to the side seams. I finished these with the overlocker as I think this tends to make the side seams more durable. However, it is perfectly fine to finish them with a zigzag stitch as instructed.

The fit

I would say that my size came up on the snug side and I wonder whether I should have gone with a bigger size. I had compared the pattern pieces with knickers currently in my drawer, before I sewed and the pattern pieces came up bigger. So, I suspect the fabric doesn’t have the stretch that my other knickers have. The favourite knickers in my drawer are those I made with a bamboo knit, and I will definitely use this pattern to make more of those. I like the style of the knickers as an everyday classic.

The finished rainbow knickers…..or almost! I realised that I hadn’t added the bow after I took the photo, so please excuse me!

The verdict

Definitely a winner! I love the fabric, who wouldn’t feel happy when they pull some rainbow-coloured pants out of the underwear drawer in the morning? They are a practical basic pair of underpants, that will get plenty of wear.


Jenna cardigan with dinosaurs

When I was six or seven I was literally obsessed with dinosaurs. I used to pester my parents to take me to the Natural History Museum and I started collecting the dinosaur models that they sold there. From memory, because they are in the loft somewhere, I have Tyrannosaurus rex, Megalosaurus, Stegosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and Diplodocus. I also had some dinosaur books and a cool 3-d ruler which showed the dinosaur at one angle and its skeleton if held at a different angle. I suppose there weren’t too many toys for a dino-obsessed child, so that was it. Nowadays there is even dinosaur fabric……

I snapped up a metre of this fabric from Like Sew Amazing a couple of years ago (pre-pandemic anyway). At the same time I noticed a remnant of green jersey that matched well with the T. rex, so long ago my intention was to make a Jenna cardigan from Muse Patterns, where I could use the plain green jersey for the cuffs, hem and neck bands.

Dinosaur Jenna cardigan worn with jeans made with a Butterick pattern from the seventies

The two fabrics sat in the stash for a long while. I think I generally had a lot of reluctance to start this project simply because eight button-holes are required….seriously off-putting. However, now my stash is really small, this cardigan came up as the next item to make. I made the previous Jenna cardigan a long time ago (2016 according to the blog). I must have improved my sewing skills (or my sewing endurance) immeasurably in this time and this time it really didn’t feel like the lengthy make the first Jenna cardigan had seemed to be. Plus, I didn’t have to print out the pattern and adjust it as those steps had already been done. Overall I really enjoyed the process this time, despite the button-holes.

So we have T. rex, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Pterodactyl, Triceratops, Ouranosaurus (my guess) and Veloceraptor

I always look forward to an indie make, particularly after a run of more challenging (I’m looking at you, Burda) makes. The instructions were great and even though I don’t need a lot of hand-holding these days, I’m always comforted that they are there to help me along. Given that I made this pattern the first time when I was far less adept at sewing knits, I would definitely encourage those with less experience to try this pattern too.

Don’t judge! I think I need to adjust the button placement slightly as the dinos don’t look completely level.

I did have difficulties deciding on buttons. I picked some green buttons that matched the dinosaur that I believe may be an Ouranosaurus (unless anyone has any other ideas for a vegetarian with a sail on its back), but they are a completely different shade to the jersey I’ve used for the button band. I think this was a good choice, and adds to the quirky style of the make.

Sadly, being taken in by the dino nature of the print, I haven’t given a lot of thought to how I will wear this cardigan. Still, always good with jeans!

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Simplicity 8424: Forest green wrap ballet top

I’m rather a reluctant knit sewist. Sadly, it just isn’t my forte, and my makes are are very hit and miss. I do think, though that my wardrobe could do with a few easy-to-wear jersey tops and t-shirts. I decided to use again Simplicity 8424. This pattern is a ballet-inspired fitness wardrobe. I’ve made the leggings (view B) and the faux wrap top (view D) before. The leggings have been very successful and get worn quite a lot. A good fit too. I’m not that smitten with the top as I think I sized up too much and it is too loose at the front. A hit and a miss, no surprises there.

I bought some forest green cotton-elastane jersey from Like Sew Amazing not so long ago. It is just the sort of dark rich colour that I’m drawn to. I only bought 1 metre with the intention of a long-sleeved top, but this was about 10 cm less than the pattern requirements. Being on an enormous drive to cut down the overwhelming quantity of scraps my sewing generates, I thought I could get away with this. Only just! Cutting out was a real tessellation conundrum and it took three attempts, folding the fabric and laying the pattern pieces out in different configurations. I managed! And I also created sleeve bands for cuffs and neck bands.

The construction was relatively simple and mostly used just the overlocker. The pattern would work just as easily with a standard sewing machine. I did improvise with the cuffs and neck bands as these are not in the original pattern. I had seen the neckline on the Papercut Copelia and I wanted to emulate that finish. I think in retrospect the bands on the neckline are too thin, but that was all the fabric that was going, so I just have to deal with that.

Ballet-wrap top worn under a cardigan – looking very much like a tree here in green and brown!

It is quite low-cut. Not sure if I will wear it without a camisole underneath, but that’s fine by me. I notice that on Instagram it gets modelled both ways – with and without a top underneath. I think it will make a good Autumn layering piece. I also like my slightly longer sleeves, which I wouldn’t have got without the cuffs.

Ballet-wrap top with camisole underneath – don’t feel that I’m likely to flash underwear like this. Also, without the cardigan, you can see the length of the sleeves and the cuffs.

I can definitely recommend this pattern, who doesn’t love a wardrobe in one pattern? And with three different makes under my belt, there’s still view F that I haven’t tried, which is another long-sleeved top. I’m not sure about the other two leggings designs, the dangling tie and the ballet-type ribbons might just be annoying, but you can’t argue with four decent designs in one pattern.

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Velvet and no zips: I’ll wear this again and again

Once in a while I am totally surprised by something I make, and that’s pleasantly surprised. I had a reasonable amount of navy blue velvet left-over, after making the Lulu cardigan by Scout patterns. The fabric was bought in person (like from a shop, do you remember those?) from Stoff and Stil in Copenhagen. I decided to use it up with a boring make. I was really convinced that this make, because I was using left-overs, was not going to be one of my best. Perhaps it wouldn’t fulfill my expectations when it came to filling in wardrobes gaps or it would need to be pieced together from insufficient fabric. Basically, I was expecting to be disappointed.

I decided to make a long-sleeved t-shirt with cuffs and picked out the Ensis Tee (sadly no longer on sale) from Papercut Patterns from my pattern pile. Once I started I was relieved that I had plenty of fabric. I didn’t need to piece together to create sleeves, make the top ridiculous short or employ any other measure I might consider if I didn’t have enough fabric, after all.

The Ensis pattern uses colour-blocking with a different colour for the yoke and upper sleeves, but I just joined my upper and lower pattern pieces together and cut out the bodice and sleeves as one piece.

Ensis Tee in navy velvet and grey ribbing

Ensis Tee in navy velvet and grey ribbing

I used some grey ribbing for the cuffs and to finish the hem and neckline. I’d originally bought this ribbing to use with the Fielder top I’d made, but didn’t think the grey fabric and the ribbing looked good together, so it had been sat around in my stash for a while. However, this navy blue velvet and the grey ribbing turned out to be a winning combination.

Velvet Ensis Tee

Velvet Ensis Tee

It was a really easy make too, including none of the swearing and endurance associated with inserting the zip in the velvet Lulu cardigan. It was just done on the overlocker. Also, the pattern piece cuts just the right length of ribbing for the neckline, which doesn’t always happen when I make tops for knit fabric, giving the top a really polished finish.

Standing by a huge anchor in my warm velvet top

Standing by a huge anchor in my warm velvet top

I’ve worn this top loads over the last few weeks because it has been so cold; it turns out to be a warm top. In summary, it might not be the most adventurous make, nor the most eye-catching, but I am so glad I made it. If anything, I think it may get more wear than the Lulu cardigan, which was the make I had in mind when I bought the fabric. I’m calling this top a very happy coincidence!