You may be wondering whether all of my sewing projects start out looking simple and end up being way more involved than I bargained for. A lot of them do, and those are the ones that teach me the most. My seemingly simple project to create a no-close topper to go over a knit tank or sleeveless shell is another example.
I started this project thinking I could take my basic bodice sloper, change the neckline, add seam allowances at center front, draft a front facing, set in my basic sloper sleeves and have a nice layering piece that isn’t a jacket. When I did that, I quickly discovered that, even though the garment would have fit just fine as a blouse with a closure, when left to its own devices the front automatically traveled outward. Not just a little, either. The two front pieces wanted to settle out near my arms. It hadn’t occurred to me that a pattern designed to accommodate my particular bust shape and size would resist staying put. So that’s why RTW makes these pieces so oversized, I said to myself. But if I want to wear oversized, shapeless clothes I don’t have to go to the trouble of sewing them.
At this point, I sewed my first attempt together at center front, called it a blouse and put this project on the list for my next video consultation with Sarah Veblen.
We discussed a number of solutions and I tried a few in a mock-up, but I still wasn’t getting the look I was after.
After more discussion, we came up with an approach that turned this into a redesign project. The idea was to convert my armscye princess bodice sloper pattern into a pattern that transferred the bust shaping to tucks at the shoulders. This involved dart rotation, a really educational patternmaking exercise.
Patternmaking books tell you that you have to rotate darts (or in this case, princess seams, which are dart equivalents) at the apex. Turns out that’s one of those rules that can be broken. In my case, I needed more fullness at the apex than the princess seams give me, because I wanted the fabric to hang straight over the bust on its own. That meant the dart rotation had to take place below the apex. Here is what that looked like.
As you can see, the Apex is off to the right and the pivot point is about 1.5 inches below it.
This picture also shows something that I found nerve wracking. I knew that moving away from princess seams was going to mean giving up the great curve-hugging fit I’d worked so hard to achieve with Sarah. I didn’t know whether I was going to like the final product, but this was a test and nothing ventured, nothing gained. The thing that set me back on my heels was the amount of distortion that took place in the shoulder seam. Seeing that dredged up all the missteps and wrong turns I’d taken when trying to make pattern adjustments. I had to remind myself that this was just an experiment and the worst thing that could happen would be I wouldn’t have this type of garment in my repertoire. So, I filled in all the gaps with paper, drew a line from the neck edge to the shoulder point and kept going.
Of course, the overlapping you see at the hem has to be added back in somewhere to provide the correct circumference. For my first muslin test, I put almost all of that into extra fabric at the shoulder that became pleat intake. The rest I added to the side seams.
Here is one of the bodice pieces cut and marked in muslin.
I was pretty sure I wanted pleats, as opposed to just tucks, at least for the woven version. One thing I had to work out was how far down I wanted them stitched. As I worked on this it also occurred to me that a variation with a yoke might be nice, but first I had to get the concept to work.
As you can see, the first test did not turn out well. Although the pleats were marked on grain, they pointed outward on the body.
The next picture shows my experiments with tucks versus pleats stitched almost to the bust.
After trying it out in rayon to mimic the drapiness of the fabric I was planning to use, I still wasn’t happy. I ended up splitting the bust shaping between shoulder pleats and an armscye dart. Here is what that looks like on the pattern.
The back was a more straightforward conversion. Here is what it looked like in development.
Here is the final pattern piece. All of the intake was rotated to pleats at center back. The center pleat is the deepest.
And here is the final product on me. The fabric is silk crepe de chine. I love the fabric and I like the topper. It’s completely boxy and oversized, but it isn’t as flattering as the fitted pieces with princess seams. Still, I’m glad I added this to my repertoire.
Such a graceful and elegant solution to the open-front problem. Much better than sticking a frog at the apex and hoping it stays closed, which is all I came up with….And it’s really helpful to see how you had to experiment with the tucks and the pleats.
Thanks Wendy. Also the way you placed the pattern pieces vis a vis the printed design is gorgeous.
Thank you, Liz. I love the print and I’m not a fan of that single closure look. On me, the whole thing would splay out and that’s definitely not the look I’m going for.
Great job, Wendy. Your tenacity paid off!
Thank you Marie. Sometimes the process seems endless.
This is such a great post! It really pays of to learn pattern making techniques and not be afraid to experiment! Of course having an excellent mentor such as Sarah to discuss ideas with is a perfect platform for learning! I love this topper, looks great on you!
I’m glad you like the post, Steph. You are so right about the value of patternmaking skills and having Sarah as a mentor makes all the difference in the world.