Monday, 31 December 2012

Peplum top - BWOF 08/2012/113

I wanted to make something nice to wear on Christmas day, and thought it would be great to fill in a gap in my wardrobe at the same time, in this case "nice going out top". It needed to be something I wouldn't overheat in, but was pretty, and this pattern fit the bill (and was something I've had my eye on sewing since it first appeared in August).

As a bit of background, we spent our Christmas with friends in Liechtenstein again this year. Last year it was really snowy, and we'd been hoping to go snow-shoeing again this year, but it was weirdly warm this time round (as in around 12˚C) so there was no snow in town, and most of the pistes and trails were closed because of avalanche risk. We did go for a little walk, but on the flat to the town just across the border, which has a very pretty castle and old town (please click on that link and look at the photos, they are so much better than mine and it is SO PRETTY). The pictures of me wearing this top were taken on Christmas day, on our friends' balcony - not a bad view, eh?!

Pattern description

Fitted top with draped peplum, cap sleeves and back zipper.

Pattern sizing

34-42. I normally cut a 44 on the top half, but I had read several reviews of this pattern that said it was very generously sized, so I cut the 42 and muslined it. With an FBA, this actually fit fine across the shoulders and upper chest, and I just needed to let it out at the side seams a little.

Fabric used

Silk twill, bought years ago on eBay, and fully lined with rayon challis from to add a little body and opacity to the silk.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done?


Were the instructions easy to follow?

I actually didn't refer to the instructions at all, apart from the cutting layout. I used Melissa's method for fully lining the top, slightly modified as I wanted to also line the peplum section and because I was using an exposed zipper. I've noted these modifications in the "construction details" section below.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

Peplums are still pretty ubiquitous at the moment in RTW, and this seems an easy trend to follow if you make your own clothes. I think the peplum of this top is extremely well drafted - the curved waistline and bias-cut peplum section are surprisingly flattering.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made/Drafting details

I needed to do an FBA, so added a side bust dart as well as the waist dart. Even without adding extra excess, the single waistline dart seems very large, and I would have probably split it anyway. I made my usual forward shoulder adjustment: moving the shoulder seams forward 5mm at the neck and 10mm at the shoulder point, adding a little to the back armscye and scooping out the front armscye a little. I also raised the back neckline and lowered the front neckline.

I had originally intended to make the long-sleeved version, but when I muslined it I found the close-fitting sleeve too restrictive, so I opted for the short sleeve version. As I had already made the forward shoulder adjustment to the long sleeve (by cutting across the top of the sleeve cap, moving 10mm toward the front and reshaping), I just cut the top off this with a curved hem to use as the short sleeve rather than tracing the Burda piece. I adjusted this a little more for my forward shoulders when it was in place in the muslin. You can see the finished shape below - I find I need no ease along the back half of the armscye, but a moderate amount at the front of the sleeve cap (Fashion Incubator wrote an interesting piece on sleeve cap ease, or rather lack of it). If (when?) I make this top again, I will lessen the curve of the bottom of the sleeves a little as they have a tendency to flip up when I move my arms around (as seen in the preview picture at the end of the previous post).

Construction details

As I mentioned above, I used Melissa's method to line the top, with the following modifications (partly because I was using an exposed zip, and partly because I also lined the peplum section). For the exposed zip I used the excellent tutorial at Pattern Runway - I like this one as I prefer to have the edges and ends of the zipper tape hidden.

  • In steps 1 & 2, I didn't attach the peplum pieces to the main pieces of either the shell or the lining, and I also finished the edges at the CB and staystitched the shell for the zip opening.
  • To make sure things laid flat (see the interesting discussion on dominant seams on Fashion Incubator), when sewing the lining and shell together at the armscyes (step 5) I stopped just before the seam allowance of the side seams. The side seams of the lining and shell were sewn separately, the small section of armscye seam completed, and the underarm seam understitched.
  • After step 8 I went my own way...
  • The peplums in the shell and lining were assembled, the staystitching for the zip opening was sewn, and the open CB seam allowance finished. The shell and lining were then sewn wrong sides together at the hem and CB seam below the zip opening, flipped and pressed.
  • The shell peplum and bodice were sewn together at the waist, making sure the lines of staystitching were matched exactly, and the seam allowances pressed upwards.
  • Using the Pattern runway tutorial, the zipper was inserted - I basted it before sewing rather than just pinning it.

  • I tried to work out if I could somehow sew the lining waist seam by machine and flip it to minimise handsewing, but it kept ending up as a passable impression of a Klein bottle, so after a bit of swearing and headscratching, I decided to just stitch the peplum lining to the waist seam "in the ditch", then slipstitch the bodice lining to the waist seam, hiding the seam allowances.
  • Finally, I added a hook and eye at the top of the zip and slipstitched the lining along the zip opening.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I'm not sure I need two peplum tops in my wardrobe, but I do rather like it, so I might make it again - probably in a plain fabric. I would definitely recommend this pattern to others - it's well drafted (apart from the huge waist dart, but that's easy to modify) and very flattering.


I'm really pleased with this top. There is something a little off about the fit on me (I can't quite work it out, but I think most probably the waist seam needs to be lengthened along the back so the top is a bit wider across the top of my derrière - or I just need to lose the Christmas weight...), but it looks much better than anything I could buy RTW! The arms are a little restrictive, but then with this style of close-fitting top in a non-stretch fabric this is always going to be the case. I'm super pleased that this is probably the best thing I've made in terms of quality of make and finishing - it looks so nice and neat on the inside! So overall a success, and a top that will be useful as part of a "going out" outfit.

Bonus garment!

I decided I wanted to wear this with a skirt, but my jeans skirt made it a bit bunchy at the waist, and it wasn't great with my black doubleknit pencil skirt. What I really needed was a yellow skirt. Bearing in mind, I finished the top the day before leaving for Christmas, and still hadn't packed at this point, I figured a full on pencil skirt wasn't going to be happening, so a nice simple jersey/doubleknit tube skirt was the way to go (also: comfy for sitting around in post-Christmas-dinner).

This took me about an hour to make, including tracing a pattern from my black skirt. I used "pyjama" elastic for the top - SO soft! - which is just serged on (with the blade swung up) on the inside, and then turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag. The hem is just turned up once and sewn with a zig-zag. I haven't taken separate photos as it's not terribly exciting, but you can see me wearing it in the other photos in this post.

I did realise when I unpacked it that the bottom of the CB seam is VERY wonky. I'm not entirely sure what happened there, but I'm not ruling out the possibility that I sewed one of the back pieces upside down... Meh, it doesn't bother me too much in this sort of quick and cheerful skirt. The fabric doesn't have great recovery, and although I cut it a little narrower to allow for this, I could have taken some more out the width as it has bagged a little. I will probably recut and remake rather than adjusting this though.

Conclusive conclusion

Overall a successful outfit, it was comfy for spending the day lounging around in, and I felt nice all day. The top feels delicious to wear, and I think both pieces will be worn again frequently.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas gifts

Hello everyone - I hope you all had a lovely Christmas? I made a few gifts this year, and even managed to get them to the recipients in time for them to open on Christmas day...

I started knitting a scarf for my sister way back in September. Despite this attempt at organisation, I still ended up rushing to get it finished in time!

The pattern is from Lion Brand Yarns (it's a free pattern, but you need to make an account to see it), and is knit in pure merino wool (I ended up needing about 7 balls for this, so it was rather a luxurious gift...). The pattern was easy to remember, but fairly slow to knit because of the cabling. It also needed fairly aggressive blocking to open up the pattern. I'm super pleased with this scarf, and fortunately my sister likes it too!

Most of the other presents to my sister and nephew were food themed, so I decided to make them matching aprons. I used a graphic tomato-print quilters' cotton bought online from

My sister's one was copied from the previous apron I made for myself, but with a couple of adjustments to size, and improvements in construction. I made this one double layered, which as well as making it more durable, is much quicker and easier to sew than hemming or binding the edges - you just sandwich all the straps between the two layers and sew around the edge, leaving a small opening to turn it.

I also made the neck strap adjustable using two D-rings, and added one of my labels as a hanging loop.

My nephew's apron was based on this pattern and tutorial, but drafted to appropriate measurements for him.

The neck band is elasticated and the waist strap closes with velcro so he can put it on and take it off by himself (he's extremely independent and strong-willed, so I think he'll like this). I also added pockets, as two-year-olds like pockets.

The last present I'll show you here is another scarf, this time for my dad. He's very hard to buy presents for, and also always cold, so I figured this would work out well! I didn't follow a pattern, just knitted an appropriately wide strip in moss stitch.

It is 80% wool (I think), and very soft and warm. It wasn't originally going to be a circle scarf, but I only bought three balls of wool, and it looked a bit short to wear "normally". I figured the scarf itself was classic enough for my dad not to feel it was too "trendy" for him, and besides, circular scarfs are very practical as they aren't as draughty and can't fall off. I think he does like it (although my mum had to show him how to put it on...)

Of course, there were presents I had planned to make that I ran out of time for: a lightweight scarf for my mum, and most importantly, a shirt for my husband. I brought back some lovely cotton from Mood in NYC for a shirt, and also bought some more shirting cotton recently, but I didn't want to rush it, so this (plus the scarf) will be a New Year present!

Finally, here's a little preview of my Christmas outfit (well the top half at least - Burda 08/2012/113). Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have already seen a picture of this on Wilma, but it looks much better on me, especially with added Christmas dinner...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

London twice in a fortnight

Well, it's that pre-Christmas rush of seeing family (and some friends too), so last week was spent in London, and I will be back again this weekend. Sadly no time last week for fabric or notions shopping (although I did buy some bayonet lightbulbs for the anglepoise in my sewing room...), maybe this time?

Incidentally, does anyone have any news on Goldhawk Road/Shepherd's Bush Market? I'm hoping to have a moment or two to pop into Classic Textiles and buy some coating.

I have actually been doing a fair amount of sewing between travelling, some things more successful than others. I'm currently working on (yet another!) Sorbetto in silk crêpe de chine - here's the fabric I am using:

I've got a little more finishing to do, but this will be worn this weekend in London - and I will be showing you something other than Sorbettos soon!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

V&A Sorbetto

So this top is something I've had in mind for a while, but have only just got around to making it. I'm semi-pleased with it - I made some stupid mistakes so it's not quite perfect, but I still quite like it. I've yet to get any photos of it on me, (although I have worn it).

Pattern description

A variation of the Sorbetto top: contrast yoke with V-neckline, cap sleeves, and side hem slits. (See my previous versions here and here.)

Fabric used

The printed cotton is a Liberty print that I bought at the V&A quilts exhibition a couple of years ago (the fabrics from the exhibition are still available to buy in the V&A shop, but are only available in fat quarters, half metres or one metre lengths - I bought a 1m length, and used about half of this here). It's a quilting cotton, but it's much softer and has a better drape than most quilting cottons normally are. The yoke is plain black cotton - I think this was described as broadcloth when I bought it, but it's more like a heavyweight lawn.

Did it look like the sketch/idea when you were done?

Erm, sort of. Due to some sewing errors, the armscyes are a little too wide, causing some problems with the sleeves, and the V neck cut-out isn't quite right. However, the general impression is just what I intended.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made/Drafting details

I decided the line of the yoke by marking it with pins whilst wearing my leopard print Sorbetto and then transferring it to the paper copy. I moved the shoulder seam forward 5mm at the neckline and 10mm at the shoulder point and scooped out the front armscye 5mm to allow for my forward shoulders, and lengthened the top by 10cm. Something I had noticed on the previous versions was that they flared out way too much at the hips, which wasn't very flattering, so in this version I reduced the flare at the hip by about 7cm (distributed between the side and CB seams). I raised the back neckline by 8cm and cut the back yoke on the fold. I raised the front neckline by 3.5cm and marked a V-shape opening that would be 4cm wide at the neckline, with the bottom of the V where the yoke joins the lower piece. The sleeves are effectively ovals, but drafted using the article in Threads Magazine issue 164. I drafted these to come past the start of the underarm curve as I wanted that bit covered (see below for details of the issues with the sleeves...), and they are cut on the bias.

Construction details

The yoke and sleeves are lined. The neckline, front V and armscyes are stabilised with fusible interfacing. I fused this to the facing pieces rather than the top of the yoke as I was concerned about bubbling/show-through as the fabric is slightly sheer (and I remembered to use my press cloth so no gluey iron!). After construction the facing actually looks much better with the support of the interfacing, but I think part of that was the, ahem, issues I had with seam allowances. In hindsight I should have also staystitched the neckline and armscyes on the top facing as well.

I used a slightly modified version of Trena's very helpful tutorial for lining a sleeveless bodice with no centre back seam to minimise the handsewing I needed to do.

Construction order was:

  • Sew and finish CB seam in lower bodice.
  • Sew top yoke to lower bodice. At the centre front V I applied a small piece of fusible interfacing to the centre of the lower bodice to provide some extra support where the yoke joins it. The two halves of the yoke were then sewn to the bodice, lining up the centre fronts and stopping stitching at the seam line of the V, leaving the seam allowance free to fold back.

  • Sew the bust darts.
  • Sew and finish the side seams of the yoke facing/lining and the outer bodice. On the outer bodice side seams I stopped 10cm before the bottom to allow for the side slits. The seam allowance past this point was pressed back along the continuation of the seam line.
  • Trim a couple of millimetres from the armscye and neckline edges of the yoke facing (so that the seam would roll to the inside). Then, right sides together, sew yoke facing to yoke at neckline (stopping a few cm short of shoulders) and at armscyes (I stopped at the mark where the sleeves join, but I would recommend not sewing right up to the point where the sleeve starts to allow some room for manoeuvre). This is where things started to go wrong... I'd drafted the yoke with 1cm seam allowances on the neckline and armscyes (rather than the 1.5cm everywhere else) as I figured this would make them easier to manipulate and less to trim around the curves. However, when I sewed these seams, I forgot about the smaller SA. Not too bad just yet, but I was at this point wondering why the point of the V didn't meet in the middle.

  • Sew and finish shoulder seams on yoke (not facing).
  • Right sides together, sew sleeves to yoke, matching shoulder and end points. This was rather fiddly, and my mistake with the seam allowances earlier caused the biggest problems here. The larger SA on the armscye meant that the seam line was longer than it should have been. However, I drafted the sleeve with a 1.5cm SA, so this seam line was the correct length, so when they were matched up together I ended up having to ease the yoke into the sleeve a bit, thinking all the time, "what the hell is going on here?" This has meant the yoke doesn't lie entirely smooth, unfortunately especially on the top layer as this isn't directly supported by the interfacing. Why didn't I correct this? Because I'd already sewn everything except the last couple of steps below (and trimmed and clipped various seam allowances), and I really didn't fancy unpicking and redoing all of this.

  • Sew and finish the shoulder seam on yoke facing.
  • Trim/clip and turn under the unsewn yoke facing edges at the neck and armscyes and sew closed by hand.

  • Finish the bottom edge of the yoke facing, turn up, and stich down. Well, that's what I intended to do anyway. Because of the SA issues, the V in the centre didn't quite come together, so I had to sort of fudge it a bit in the centre front (I didn't want to clip the bottom bodice piece in case I get round to replacing the top section at a later point), and decided to just finish the yoke facing bottom edge with the serger and topstitch it down.

  • Finish the bottom edge of the top, turn up the hem and topstitch (I didn't bother with mitering the corners at the bottom of the side slits).
  • Topstitch around the side slits.

Would you sew it again?

I really like the fit of this version of the Sorbetto so I will definitely use this shape again, although I need to fix the issues with the sleeves and yoke first.


Hmm. I'm really rather annoyed at the silly mistakes I made with this, as they've slightly spoilt this otherwise very pleasing top. Having worn this, I think it is worth redoing the yoke and sleeves as they make it slightly annoying to wear, but as they require pretty much complete recutting this will have to wait until I've completed a couple of other things I have in the pipeline. I'm not entirely happy with how the sleeves turned out - they are a little, um, space age... When I redo this (or if I make another version) I will reduce the outer length of the sleeves a little (by overlapping the slashes more). I'm slightly concerned that this is more of a summer top too. The sleeves are moderately cardie-friendly (fine under a large cardie, but annoying under a more fitted one - and for now it will be worn under a cardie). I might try it with a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Hmm, I haven't posted for a while now, time just got away from me, and I never really regained my sewing mojo after the bout of sinusitis in the summer. However, it's slowly returning (helped by sorting out and tidying my sewing room), so I'm catching up on posts from over the summer that have been sitting in my drafts folder. By the time I've done that, there will hopefully be a few new things to show you too!

I went to London for a long weekend in June. I'd planned to do some fabric and notions shopping, but I caught a cold and didn't feel in the mood (this was what turned into the sinusitis after my flight back). I'd also planned to do some shoe shopping, but everywhere had sales and pretty much no summer stock left. Seriously, why put all your winter stock out when it's only halfway through June?! (I'd hoped to buy some Chie Mihara shoes at Selfridge's, but have since discovered I can buy them online - hooray! But dangerous for my bank balance...)

Anyway, enough whinging, whilst I was there, I did go and see the ballgown exhibition at the V&A. Have any of you guys been to see this? What did you think?

I have to say, I was a little confused by the exhibition. Whilst it was lovely seeing so many beautiful dresses (and a couple not so beautiful) all in one place, that seemed like all it really was. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but for the amount of money for a ticket, I would expect a bit more than that (although, having said that, I'm a V&A member so I got in with a guest for "free").

The dresses were divided between two floors, with modern dresses upstairs (post late-1990s), and earlier ones downstairs behind glass (early-1950s to mid-1990s). Apart from that, there was not really any theme in how they were arranged. I loved being able to see the dresses upstairs so close up, but it also surprised me how "unprofessional" some of them looked close up. Hems were just cut, feathers looked shabbily applied etc. I found this rather interesting, and wondered if these were the actual runway pieces, which I guess would need to look good from a distance but the details weren't so important (and may have had to be quickly adjusted or mended backstage). It was a shame the older dresses were behind glass as it would have been fascinating to be able to inspect these some more.

The most striking contrast between the newer and older dresses was the structure apparent in the older dresses, which seemed to have disappeared in most of the newer dresses. Some of the newer dresses just simply wouldn't be able to be worn by anyone without a model perfect body.

There aren't many pictures on the website for the exhibition (and you aren't allowed to take pictures in the exhibition), but fortunately they include two of my favourites from the newer section: the gorgeous yellow and purple Erdem Rumina gown, and the amazing Atsuko Kudo latex gown with trompe l'oeil lace print (both pictured above).

The exhibition is on until 6 January 2013, and despite my quibbles, I would still recommend it to anyone who likes looking at beautiful dresses.