Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Lekala #4220 – The Sumptuous Silk Party Top

The theme last month at The Monthly Stitch has been Slow Sewing. This coincided well with my desire to make a beautiful top for the Christmas party season. I must admit that this is the first time I’ve actually sewn anything specifically for a party, firstly because I don’t get invited to many (boo hoo!) and there are always far more practical items that need to be sewn.

SIlk top (Lekala 4220)

Silk top – back view

The fabric is a luscious silk from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and it has been languishing in a bag, occasionally stroked, and replaced, because I feared to use it. I’d also been worried about what to make with it. It needed to be simple and unfussy in design and yet elegant – enter Lekala #4420 pattern.

I did make a number of modifications to the pattern, both to perfect the fit and satisfy my whims. Here’s a summary of them:

  • The sleeves were narrowed by about 12 cms
  • The centre front seam was dispensed with and the front cut as one piece
  • The bias binding applied to the neckline was finished as a tie at the front (instead of using a decorative clasp, which I was sure would be difficult to find)
  • Two upper back panels were cut, just like on a mens’ shirt
  • A little extra (2cm) was added to the centre back, although Lekala patterns are custom-made from your own measurements, the patterns are derived from your circumference and I have to add little at the centre back and take the equivalent amount away at the centre front to get the fit right.
  • Pleats were used instead of gathers to accommodate the width of the sleeve in the cuff
Silk Top (Lekala 4220)

Silk top cuff

I sewed the top using silk thread. I’d not used silk thread before and it does have different properties to the usual polyester or cotton; I noticed, in particular, that it goes through the fabric very smoothly and also as a consequence, it is easier and less damaging to unpick. Quite a handy property when dealing with a delicate fabric!

The instructions are rather brief with Lekala patterns. I’ve written about the first steps in making this top here and I realised that I probably should have constructed the keyhole at the front differently. Given that I had converted the front of the top to one pattern piece, I could have made a more polished finish, by cutting the keyhole in the fabric after applying the facing. As it was, I followed the instructions and struggled to get the facing to turn neatly to the inside. There was also no mention of under-stitching in the instructions. I did this anyway and it did improve the finish, but it is irritating realising a better methodology after you’ve done the work (deep sigh!).

I used French seams throughout and the blouse looks beautiful both inside and out.

Silk Top (Lekala 4220)

Silk Top – Front View

All in all, this top is everything that I could have wished it to be. It looks great with jeans or alternatively with wide-legged trousers, which is what I would wear for a Christmas party.

After the Christmas Party:

I wore the top to the party. The temperature can be hit and miss at these venues and I was lucky that I didn’t have to wear a cardigan over my top, although the long sleeves were welcome. Among all the glitzy and shiny dresses that my colleagues wore, my top didn’t stand out at all and was scarcely noticed. Somehow though I take this as a compliment because sometimes just clothes that “fit in” can be deemed a success, can’t they?

Silk Top (Lekala 4220)

Silk Top – Front view complete with greasy stains

Here’s the less good news though. The venue was rather dark and sometime during the evening, I must have split or my top rubbed against something rather greasy (possibly chocolate brownie) and I have several grease stains on the front and right sleeve. They are rather obvious on the photos, although not so noticeable under artificial lights. I have no idea how it happened (although I do have a track record for spilling dinner down my front, the amount, and certainly the sleeve location suggest more that I leaned against something). Altogether I’m really rather sad about this. Worse still, I didn’t even notice the stains until I tried on the top again for my photos which means the stains have been on the top for days. Does anyone know the best way to remove greasy stains on silk?

SIlk top (Lekala 4220)

Silk top – still looking good from the back!




An update – Christmas party clothing plans and decluttering action

I have realized I haven’t actually written very much this month. I think the rush to get my contributions for Independent Pattern Month at The Monthly Stitch on the blog resulted in posting everything all at once, rather than the pacing that I normally do.

This post is therefore more of an update on my current makes and what I’ve been up to recently.

My current make uses a beautiful silk fabric bought from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco when I was on holiday is California back in 2015. This fabric was expensive and has intimidated me for years! It has also taken me a long time to decide what to make with it. Well, obviously it needed to be a top, given that it is just 1 1/2 yards in length, but I couldn’t decide what pattern to use.

Eventually, I plumped for Lekala #4420. This top is a popular pattern and there are quite a number of these tops posted in the projects section on the Lekala site. The design is relatively simple; long-sleeves, relaxed fit, with pleats and a keyhole at the neckline. But simplicity is probably good with a light-weight, slippery fabric, like the silk I have.


Lekala 4220 Line Drawing

Lekala 4220 Line Drawing

Lekala 4420

Cutting out has been a challenge with the fabric, but I pinned it well, and made sure all my pins were only placed in the seam allowances as the pins leave holes in the fabric.

I made a couple of changes to the pattern. First I decided to cut the front on the fold, rather than cut two separate front pieces. I also, narrowed the billowing sleeves a little. This modification seems popular and has been used here and here.

The first steps have probably been the fiddliest – making the distinctive keyhole and the pleats. I’ve needed to also make lots of bias-binding out of the silk to use for the neckline.

Lekala 4220 neckline

Lekala 4220 neckline

I’m really looking forward to wearing this top. I plan for it to be ready for the work Christmas party. Oddly, I’ve never made anything specifically for the Christmas season before. It will be a first even if it’s only a top!

Lekala 4220 neckline

Lekala 4220 neckline

My decluttering progress has been slow and painful and I think I need to refocus on this. They say that the first step towards change is “awareness” and I’ve been aware for weeks that my decluttering strategy has not been freeing up space in my wardrobe, liked I hoped it would.

As a whole, the “Disney Declutter” strategy had been perfect for characterizing my clothes, but in terms of getting me to relinquish them it hadn’t really worked. I realized I needed more immediate and focused action and a strategy that would work for a working, time-starved person!

Decluttering (12-12-12)

Decluttering (12-12-12)

I read about the 12-12-12 challenge here. The idea is to locate 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate and 12 items to be returned to their proper home. I think this is probably an American idea, so I think I can substitute “throw away” with recycle. I think placing the number 12 at the heart of this makes the challenge achievable and yet it does stretch me. I can easily locate three or four items in each category, but 12 makes me think a bit more. I also like the idea of returning items to their proper home. In my house, things do end up just lying around and this will be a good incentive for tackling this.

This weekend, I did my first run at the 12-12-12 challenge. I can’t say that I got up to 12 in each category and I didn’t just apply myself to sorting out clothing. But, I think strategy uses a far more achievable  I’ll make it an ongoing activity.