Making tops

posted in: SWAP 2014 | 0
Shell top
Shell top
Shell top with tweed skirt and Joules RTW cardigan
Shell top with tweed skirt and Joules RTW cardigan

I have had a bad experience with tops.

I remember making a shirt for my City and Guilds exam. It had to be drafted and made up. Drafting the collar was really hard work and I didn’t understand what I was doing. The fitting was really challenging, and took forever.

I used an inexpensive white poly-cotton. Everything thing that could go wrong with a make went wrong – iron-on interfacing that bubbled; uneven buttonholes; the curved hem didn’t sew up properly and the double yoke was wonky. I tried to machine sew the buttons  – broke the needle, then broke the buttons. Not sure if this is what actually happened – its nearly three decades ago – or if this is simply a recurring nightmare. But I think I have had an aversion to making a shirt ever since.

So when it dawned on me that tops were required for the SWAP I realised I would have to re approach the topic and give it a go. And I am so pleased I did!

My first attempt was a very simple one – to make a shell top. During the sixties these tops were very common, usually with a zip down the back to give a clean finish on the front. Many of my suit patterns feature them and I think they look really neat, with or without a sleeve. Unlike a t-shirt they do need a bust dart,  and during the sixties there were a number of ways they found to shape the bust – princess lines, Dior darts, curved darts, double darts, deep side seam darts, gathering at the neck etc. As I have a fairly full bust but a slim rib cage I wanted to create a flattering shape. One of my patterns, Simplicity 6527, features a shell top with two darts that I thought might give sufficient shaping for me. In fact I had enough fabric to make up the skirt too, so I now have a top and full length skirt which is a little dressy but might work well for a summer evening event.

I had bought some fairly crisp pink silk with a slight stretch in it, from Simply Fabrics, from their Roland Mouret shelf, attracted by the colour but originally with no plan, beyond “blouse”. But I was put off as it was a little bit scratchy. A shell top with a soft silk lining turned out to be a good solution, creating comfort in wear but enough structure so that the top has a bit of body to it. I used a plain un-dyed habotai silk to line it as the fabric is slightly translucent and the whiteness helped bring the colour out. I used my usual technique of lining a sleeveless dress or top – finishing the inside shoulder lining by hand, at the end. I was worried it might show a little but my sewing was good enough on this occasion to avoid it. Had it shown, I would have coloured it to match the outer fabric with my fabric paints.

Will the shell top come back into fashion, or has it been superseded by jersey?


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