Tag Archive | shell top

Not quite a UFO

I’ve been trying to de-clutter my flat. It’s too small for All The Stuff. This has meant re-discovering things. I genuinely thought I’d thrown out this leopard print chiffon and the bits of top that I’d started to make from it in 2014, but as it turns out, I’d just put it all in a bag and forgotten about it.

When I did come across it, I realised I didn’t want to make that top any more, so this is not really a UFO, because the original make from this chiffon is now gone. I was happily throwing it into the fabric scraps bag, when I realised that there was quite a big chunk of fabric left over, and I could make my now go-to shell top from it, if I cut it on the cross grain. Actually that worked a lot better with the print, which would thereby run vertically rather than across me.

Presenting the Mournful Leopard Top*

The fabric is really slippery, and I mostly resolved the cutting and sewing problems that generates by a heavy use of pins. I sewed everything on my overlocker, because I love how it sews and neatens at the same time, and because I was aiming for speed and wasn’t going to faff about with French seams.

I’ve added a purely decorative button and loop closure at the back. I don’t need it for access, because I can get the top on fine without it, I just wanted something a little different, and as I mostly wear my hair up, I thought it would add a nice bit of detail. The button is actually one of the table sprinkles from the Dressmakers’ Ball – I’d picked a few of these up as a souvenir (because the goody bag wasn’t enough!) and although they aren’t really good enough to be used as buttons normally, because they are quite lightweight they worked well with this fabric. I’m not going to be using the button much (at all), so the lack of quality isn’t going to have any significant impact.

The other change I made was to lengthen the top by 10cms, and I’m really happy with how that came out. It’s long enough to tuck in, if I want to, but also it’s a good length to have loose.

Cool for the Summer

The fabric is very lightweight – I can scrunch this top down and hold it all in my fist – and it’s going to be great for hot summer days, both in the office and on my holidays. I’m off to France and I’m currently planning my packing, as well as my sewing/crafting projects while I’m there.

* This top’s name comes from the fact that back in 2014, the original top was all cut out and sat on top of my sewing machine, for a considerable time, waiting for me to get on and just sew it. I mentioned to someone that it kept looking at me mournfully, and from then on in my head it was the Mournful Leopard. I know it’s not the same top, but the name has stuck.

MMM17 – Week 4½ – The final reckoning

And so we come to the end of May. It’s been a lot easier this year, mostly because I have a a larger wardrobe of me-made clothes to play with. Which is great!

My pledge was to wear me-made outfits for the whole of the month, with the exception of undies, tights and shoes. I’m very happy to report that I managed this without any difficulty. My personal challenges were:

  • To make sure I photo-documented each day’s outfits and again I managed this, posting on instagram every day. I was a bit late posting my weekly round ups here, but I suspect that is probably no bad thing.
  • To dress with a bit more care, especially with regard to jewellery and accessories. To be honest, that basically boiled down to handmade jewellery and hair clips. Although I don’t have a lot of handmade jewellery it was enough to keep me going and it encouraged me to start playing with beads again.
  • To get on with some making. That was largely done in advance of May, but I did get a new top finished and I’ve beaded a t-shirt although I didn’t actually wear it. I also started a shirt of which more later.

This felt like a proper summery outfit!

The White Swiss Dot Top
This top was a work in progress that I had started last summer. I had a beautifully light Swiss dot cotton, that I had always intended to make into a Shell top. I wanted to use the pattern from the workshop I did with the Thrifty Stitcher, making the Hong Kong top. I did all the cutting out, but I didn’t have quite enough fabric to cut the front facing on the fold. That’s OK, I told myself, I can easily make the facing from two pieces and sew them together. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention when cutting and I totally forgot to add a seam allowance, so was going to need to piece the front facing from three bits, instead of two.

And it didn’t get much further than that…

Until Friday of last week. I was going to a fabric-buying meet-up on the Saturday and I wanted something to wear that would be light and comfortable for a hot day. I pulled out the bag with all the white top pieces and got down to some sewing.

The first thing I did was to piece the front facing to make sure that it was going to work. Once that was done it was a really easy and quick sew. I was having to remember the instructions from two or three years ago, but really this is one of the simplest things that a person can make. I still get very excited by the magic of bagging out!

I wanted to work out what needed to be changed about the pattern. I knew that I needed to adjust the shaping of the sides, under the arms. I’d not made a note of it when I finished the Hong Kong top. So that has now been recorded. I managed to confuse myself with the markings on the side seam, which led to a bigger bust dart than is strictly necessary, and a slightly shorter top. I’ve now corrected the pattern so that I don’t make that mistake again. I also think I need to lengthen the pattern because the top is just a bit too short to tuck in to a skirt, and because it’s a light fabric it’s short enough to get blown up by even a gentle breeze, revealing more than anybody really needs to see. I’m not going to worry about that too much for now, but my plan is to keep an eye out for a suitable cotton that I can use for a border to extend the top a little further.

Anyway, that’s the story of the White Swiss Dot Top

Back to MMM musings and reflection. I wanted to consider which items I didn’t wear this month, to see if there’s any reason why not. When I checked, I found there were three skirts that didn’t make the rotation, one of them because I need to fix the waistband and the other two because I didn’t have the right top to go with them at the time. There was also one dress that I didn’t wear because it wasn’t really weather-appropriate. I’m pretty happy with that – I think it means my handmade wardrobe is flexible enough.

I did find I was using my refashioned and embellished t-shirts quite a bit. I wore eight of them, a couple of them twice in the month. I would like to think that when it comes to me made May next year I will have a few more handmade tops that I can use. I could make a distinction between t-shirts where I have genuinely carried out some refashioning, usually to rework the neckline to make it more comfortable, and t-shirts where I’ve simply added some decoration, without actually changing the shape or structure of the garment.

So now on to the last of the photo compilations:

Day 22 – Treble pink! The Watermelon Belcarra blouse with the self-drafted pink polka dots skirt, and baby pink pearl earrings & bracelet set.
Day 23 – The aforementioned Hong Kong top, with the unremarkable black pull-on skirt. I’ll be honest, that skirt was made almost entirely so that I could have more than one option to wear with this top. The jump ring earrings completed the outfit. The Tuesday Teaching Twofer was all repeats : the crystal embellished t-shirt with the black self drafted cropped leggings and the pink moustache skirt.
Day 24 – I was wearing repeats but in a different combination. It was the navy Juliette blouse with the giant floral half circle skirt, accessorised with the jump ring earrings and the seaside bracelet.
Day 25 – The NotSkater dress along with the earrings from the Little Fishies set.
Day 26 – Back in the Bonkers Zoë Dress, because it’s nice cool cotton. Accessorised with the iridescent blue earrings.
Day 27 – This was the meetup day and the debut of the White Swiss Dot Top. I wore it with the Paisley Leftovers skirt, which I’d  had to fix, because its exposed lace zip was proving to be a bit dodgy. I decided to replace it with a safer concealed zip. Also the Little Fishies jewellery and a me-made flower hair clip.
Day 28 – The Dress of Many Colours with the lemons bracelet and a pink flower hair clip.
Day 29 – The blue roses dress, worn with the iridescent blue glass earrings
Day 30 – A home kind of outfit, as I took today off work. It was the imperfect polka dots belcarra (with the imperfect dots on show) with the unremarkable black skirt.
Day 31 – And finally… the Hong Kong top again, and the counterintuitive black birds skirt, accessorised with the jump ring earrings and the seaside bracelet.

I’ve been totally happy with my wardrobe choices for the month. I don’t have any wardrobe orphans or major gaps so I’m counting this as a successful Me Made May. I was a bit sad as it came to an end because I love being part of this worldwide challenge and I’ll miss seeing everybody’s daily contributions, but I’ve got a whole load of new Instagram friends to follow and it makes life a bit easier to open up my rtw wardrobe again.

As always, my thanks go out to the lovely Zoe of So Zo, for creating this wonderful challenge that brings so many sewers together each year.

Roll on May 2018!

A long-standing UFO gets finished

I've had a lot of compliments on this top today

I’ve had a lot of compliments on this top today

This top has been sitting in my pile of things to work on for far too long, making me feel very guilty.

I made it at a lesson with Claire-Louise Hardy, aka the Thrifty Stitcher, last year! It was a one-off session on making a shell top, and I booked it in the hope of kicking off my sew-jo (yeah that really worked, didn’t it?!). It was at her studio in Stoke Newington, and I was really lucky because there were only two of us there, so we got tons of personal attention and guidance. It was the first time I’d seen any serious pattern-adjusting in action, and since the other lady there had a very different figure than mine, I got to see different kinds of adjustments. Claire-Louise was a lovely giving teacher, and I would go to another of her classes like a shot, and heartily recommend her classes to anyone. She’s also just a really interesting person to be with.

I came away with a top which was all but finished. All it needed was a tiny, tiny adjustment, which Claire-Louise had pinned for me. I don’t know why I didn’t do it as soon as I got home. Well actually I do, because Stokey’s quite a long drive away from Guildford, and it was late. But I could have done it the next day, or the next weekend. I don’t know why it’s taken me a whole flippin’ year. I’ve been feeling bad about not actually wearing the thing that such a good teacher has helped me to produce, all for the sake of adjusting a couple of underarm seams.

However, I can now cast off that guilt, and move on, so let’s look at the top I’ve managed to complete.

The first thing to say is that I bought this fabric in Hong Kong, when I visited there back in 1991, while HK was still a British colony, and I was still in love with my ex-husband. It was a wonderfully vibrant and exciting place to be, and we were there over the Chinese New Year, so it was extra special. I bought three or four dress lengths of silk, including this one, which is a silk/cotton blend, and feels divine. I gave it to my mother, as a gift, but she’d stopped dressmaking by then, and it sat in her sewing box until my sisters and I had to clear her flat when she moved into a care home. At that point I bagsied it back. So the fabric had been lying in my stash with a lot of emotional baggage attached to it, on account of the holiday, the ex, and my mum. But I decided there’s no point in hanging on to it, and it might as well get used, so it was one of the choices of fabric that I took up with me to sew this top from.

It’s a plain and simple sleeveless shell top, from Claire-Louise’s The Great British Sewing Bee- Fashion with Fabric book. It’s  perfect for the summer, or even the spring and autumn months with a suitable cardigan, and I could make a dozen more now, because it’s dead simple, and I’ve still got the adjusted pattern (I’d need to tweak that underarm seam, though!).

The amendment to the underarm seams, taking them in a smidge to reduce a bit of gaping, meant that the integrity of the previously beautifully overlocked finish had to be compromised. I hunted around to see if any of the stitches on my Singer would mimic that stitching, and tried a couple. It’s not perfect, but it’s only for neatening, not for actual seams, so it’s good enough. When I make the top again, I’ll see if I can find any other stitch that will neaten nicely.

Pretty on the inside, well mostly

Pretty on the inside, well mostly

I’m happy that I’ve got this available as a wearable top now, especially to boost my Me Made May wardrobe slightly. It’s a bit of a wardrobe orphan at the moment – because it’s such a dramatic print, I need to pair it with something plain. I’ve got tons of plain/plainish black skirts, so in the long term that won’t be a big issue, but not many of them are me-made, so not brilliant for May. I’m planning on making a skirt with the remainder of the fabric, to match the top, there’s still nearly 2 metres left. That may be be one of my Thursday night sewing class projects for later in this term.

Stashwatch Stats:
This uses one piece of stash fabric, but doesn’t use it up, making the current blogged tally 1/10.