Camden Kids Wannabe Top

OK, so I did go back & tweaked my Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block a bit more. But after the fitting muslin had served its purpose, I decided I deserved some fun. So I let my creative side loose when turning the fitting muslin into a wearable muslin. And here’s the result.

Style Shots & Mug Shots



Fabric & Notions Used

The design this time took its cue from the fabric. So let’s talk about fabric first.

  • 95% polyester 5% lycra black micro semi-wet-look knit from Tissu Fabrics. As this was first and foremost a fitting muslin, I shopped my stash for a fabric that I wouldn’t miss if I messed up. It was relatively cheap (the price seem to have gone up a bit now). And when it arrived it looked cheap too. Maybe this sort of vinyl / pvc looking fake leather will always look cheap. Anyway I was on the fence and stumped as to what to make with it. So fitting muslin seemed like a good way to use it up. The wrong side looks velvety matt and good enough to use as the right side too. It wasn’t too difficult to sew. But like many jerseys it curls at the edges, which I tame with spray starch.
  • Notions: Vilene Bias Tape.
  • Tools: Walking foot, spray starch

The Design & Pattern

Block Used:

Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block (Bodice & Sleeve)

So the fitting tweaks I made were

  • Made the shoulder slope steeper by adding teeny bit more height to the shoulder seam at the neck side on both Front & Back.
  • Shifted the side seam above the bust towards the front to make matching seam intersection at underarm easier for my wonky arms!
  • Re-drafted the sleeve from scratch just in case my first draft was not done correctly. But nope, my pattern still looks a bit odd. To avoid uncomfortably twisted sleeves, I still had to slant the sleeve below the bicep towards the front. The sleeve cap does look a bit more ‘normal’ in this second attempt though.

Design Changes Made

  • I was originally going to make this into a simple replacement for a RTW top I wore to death. That top had a fitted silhouette with envelope neckline.
  • I was a bit nervous about looking too S&M, so decided to go with a skiming silhouette (with a tiny bit of ease rather than going into skin-tight negative ease territory) and ‘color block’ with the matt side for a bit of artsy fartsy black-on-black Constructivist action.
  • To take the dominatrix vibe down another notch I added the puff over-sleeves inspired by an early 90’s Pam Hogg design from my clipping stash. The pattern for this was drafted using the top of my new Fitted Knit Top Sleeve Block and puff sleeve instruction from Designing Apparel Through The Flat Pattern. To keep sewing simple, the puff sleeves’ sleeve seams are sewn into the main sleeves’ sleeve seams – ie treating the two layers as one.
  • For the hem I shortened to a casual just below high hip length with side seam vents. And to reinforce the ‘color blocking’ layered-look sleeves as an intentional design, I added a matt band to the hem and made it look like an underlayer rather than just a hem border. My band is shaped – I was worried a straight band might not hang right. So I also had to cut a facing for the hem band.
  • One design element that I haven’t done yet which I might still do is to add a painted / transfer print design to the back. Again this would hopefully be matt black on black. I’m thinking a bull skull might go well with the slightly Camden punkish vibe of this top. I haven’t quite figure out how to do it yet.

Construction Notes

Again, in case I want to sew something similar again I’m jotting down here what I did. Feel free to try it yourself. But this isn’t intended as a properly written sewing instruction. The usual pressing, grading, neat seam finishing along the way applies if you want to try it yourself.

  • Stablize the F&B necklines. Sew on/overlock the folded neckline bands & topstitch SA down towards the bodice. Overlap F&B at armscye shoulder area and baste.
  • Gather puff over-sleeve at armscye and hem (from notch to notch at armscye, and from 2″ in from sleeve seam at hem). Sew on/overlock folded puff over-sleeve hem band & topstitch SA up towards the puff over-sleeve in the ungathered areas.
  • Baste and sew/overlock the armscye, sandwiching the puff sleeves between the bodice and sleeves, right sides of both sleeve layers towards right side of bodice.
  • Overlock the sleeve hems. Sew/overlock the sleeve seams – side seams, catching both the sleeves and puff over-sleeve in the sleeve seam at the bicep area and leaving the side seam vents open. Turn and twin needle stitch the sleeve hems.
  • Overlock the hem band side vents seam allowance top and side edges and the hem band facing top edge. Sew the hem band to bodice hem right sides together with bodice hem side vents seam allowances folded to the wrong side. Sew the hem band and facing bottom edges right sides together. (I metered my corners at the side vents, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary. The resulting corners actually look a bit lumpy in this uninterfaced stretch fabric.) Turn band inside out. Align the bodice and hem band side vent tops and press a fold to the bodice hem (in the same way as jacket lining hem). Baste, then top-stitch bodice hem and side vents in place, stitching through the hem band and facing. I used single needle for the side vent top-stitching and twin needle for the bodice hem.

The Verdict

Yeah I’m feeling a bit smug. For something I was willing to send to the recycling center if it turned out poorly, this ended up being a fun top with attitude. Afterward I discovered that Burda 2014-11-113 is a somewhat similar design…

…But I still like mine better. If you’re going to do puff sleeve you might as well do it with conviction.

Now all I need are some spiky studs, safety pins, ripped black jeans & Dr Martens and I’d fit right in with the kids in Camden. Or alternatively maybe a crinoline skirt and laced up boots for a spot of Steampunkish cos-play?

Breton Odyssey Adrift

My quest for Raglan & Semi-Fitted variations to my Fitted Breton T wasn’t quite the smooth sailing that I had hoped. While not Titanic disasters, they have not delivered me to safe design harbors yet. So I see more fussing with fit ahead.

The Raglan Experiment

Mug Shots

What went wrong

The muslin is wearable, but the position of the raglan seams just look wrong. Unbalanced as the GBSB judges might have said. And the armholes feel a bit tight. There’s also a bit more drape underarm than I would have liked.

I think the problem stems from trying to follow standard flat-pattern design drafting instruction using my non-standard Blocks. Sometimes the steps are just impossible to follow once you’ve altered your Basic Blocks to fit your figure quirks.

I first tried Stretch Pattern School’s instruction for Raglan Sleeve. But I failed at step 3. I couldn’t get the corresponding raglan seamlines to be the same lengths. So I gave up and tried the instruction in Designing and Patternmaking for Stretch Fabrics instead.

This instruction was just about possible to achieve with my wonky Blocks. But the result, as I said, wasn’t perfect. I’m wondering if its approach of disregarding any overlap of the sleeve head and bodice at the armscye-shoulder area might have contributed to the armscye tightness – ie the raglan seam ended up too short and drew the underarm closer to the body than the set-in sleeve original. Maybe it’s an approach that’d work better with looser fitting Blocks.

The Semi-Fitted Experiment

Mug Shots

What went wrong

Again the muslin is wearable, but I don’t like how the back is loose until it hits my hip. And it’s not that the hem is too tight for my hip. The hip actually has 2-1/2″ of ease. Releasing the side seams I discovered that it’s in fact the shaped waist that’s the culprit. Instead of letting the back fall straight from the shoulder blades to the hip, it pulls the back in slightly under the blades. The ease added gave the back a loose fit until it hits where the bum protrudes out more. Then it goes into skim the bum mode. A very weird look indeed.

If I shorten the top to above this point, then problem solved. But with the looser fit I kind of prefer a longer length so that the width doesn’t stand out more than the length. I reckon if I let out the waist about 1″ at each side seam then I’ll get the smoother loose fit I want in the back.

The other problem I discovered are slight draglines pointing to the neck-shoulder points, as if the shoulder slope is too shallow. I then check the Fitted Breton T muslin I just made, it too has the same draglines, but just not as noticeable. Urgh.

Where next…

If I weren’t planning to design from these Blocks I might let these minor imperfections slide. But because I do want to get more creative with them, I don’t want those imperfections to multiply and amplify. So I will have to go back and fix these.

But I think I will abandon my original plan to go immediately into production mode with the Breton Ts. I’m feeling a bit seaksick after three wearable muslins in the same stripy knit. Time to disembark and head ashore for a change of scenery me thinks…

Dartless Knit Top Block Take 2

As I was saying, I’ve been messing with my Knit Top Block again. I was trying to get dartless to work so I can make Breton tops and hopefully have stripes that match well across seams. Bust darts just seem like they would get in the way.

So let’s cut to the chase & show you the result. No point getting into the nitty gritty if this turns out duds right? :-)

Mug Shots

Well I’m pretty happy with the result. The front armscye needs tweaking. But overall this muslin turned out quite wearable. So here’s how I got from A to B…

The Nitty Gritty

sps_top_2-SLPattern Voodoooing

Remember my last attempt at Dartless Knit Top by distributing the bust ease into multiple places (like I did for the woven Tunic Block)? Well, I slept on it and thought maybe the problem is that there isn’t a smooth way to hide the excess without the darts. So maybe I should go the other way: Instead of having excess length at the seams to ease in, maybe I should make the seam lines the finished lengths I want and use the fabric stretch to accommodate the girls. So how do I go about this?

Firstly I decide to use the 0-ease Stable Knit Top Block as the starting point for a couple of reasons…

  • I reckon that this process will probably result in a reduction in the front bust width. If I start with the 12% reduction of the Stretchy Knit Top Block then I might be asking the fabric to stretch too much. By starting with 0% reduction I hoped I could stay within the overall 12% reduction limit for a good fit without much unsightly distortion.
  • I decided that even for stretchy fabrics I would prefer a skimming rather than a tight silhouette. Fact is even I have Michelin Man rolls with a standard bra on, especially in the back. Until I find foundation garments that smooth the silhouette without choking me I would rather not draw attention to my rolls.

Next it took me 3 attempts to get to B.

  1. I first tried Maria Denmark’s old Knit dartless FBA approach of taping up the dart, smooching the bust mound, then attempting to trace the outline.But the method adds width at the CF hem while reducing the bust width more than my max 12% target. So I abandon this approach. (Just found out that she had updated her approach to removing the dart for a knit top. It seems simpler. But I haven’t tested it and there is no result photo, so it’s hard to tell how well it works.)
  2. My second attempt used the Seam alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration. Yeah yeah it’s meant for altering ill-fitting patterns to fit, not to alter a good-fitting pattern to do something else. But nothing ventured nothing gained! I wanted to know if it’s even possible to re-shape my seam lines as I planned. It did sort of worked. But because I had used flimsy tissue paper for this exercise, the resulting pattern was a bit distorted and not usable.
  3. So my final attempt was to redo attempt 2 without all those distorted hanging chads. This time I used the Pivot/Slide alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration, but pivoted at more points rather than just at corners. It worked. And I manage to get the front & back side seams to be the same length vertically as well (rather than just at the seam line) for stripe matching.

For the sleeve, I also redid the bit below the bicep so that it’s symmetrical (rather than leaving it tilting towards the front to accommodate the way my arms hang). This was necessary for stripe matching across the sleeve seam. I reckon the stretch fabric would be accommodating enough for my twisted arms.

Les Tweaks

I then muslined this with my least favorite strippy knit. This is Viscose/Cotton/5% Lycra Stripe Jersey from Tissu Fabrics with 50%H/35%V stretch. It’s OK, but not as soft as the Bamboo stripe jerseys I got from B&J Fabrics. So no tears if this experiment didn’t work out.

Much to my delight the muslin was pretty good right off the bat. The only thing needing adjustment was how the sleeve hang:

  1. the stripe in the sleeve caps were tilting up towards the back;
  2. the whole armholes were tilting towards the back as if my posture was too erect.

For A I decided to adjust the pitch and live with mis-matched seam intersection at the arm pit. I think this is the less of the two evils because it’s less visible. It does mean that I can’t sew the sleeves in the flat – I’d have to set the sleeve in after sleeve seams & side seams have been sewn.

For B since the muslin was already cut with 1/2″ seam allowance I could only increase the cross-back & decrease the cross-front by 1/4″. So the wearable muslin shown above is the result. The back armsyce seems OK now. The front I think could do with further reduction in cross-front, with the removed amount added to the corresponding area of the sleeve cap. And that is what I’m doing for my final Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block.


Next up, deriving & testing a Raglan Sleeve version and a Semi-Fitted version. I will also need to test this pattern again in other stretch fabrics in case I was just lucky with this fabric choice. I’ve noticed that the cotton/rayon + spandex knits I’ve used for Breton Tops have generally been better at molding to my shape than the pure synthetic knits. So I’m fairly optimistic that this Block will work as master pattern for my Breton Top collection. But whether it works as a general Dartless Knit Top Block is yet to be proven.

Also, the size of my bust dart in my Darted Knit Top Block is approx. 20° in angle & I’m a pseudo-D-cup. So if you have a larger bust this approach might not work well for you – you may still be better off retaining a bust dart of some sort.

Follow-up on 2015 Wadder no.1

Thanks for all your compliments on the beach cover-up that didn’t quite work! It’s amazing how a beautiful fabric can make one fall in love with a garment warts and all isn’t it?

Although I haven’t fixed it yet I now have a plan.

  • As I hardly ever go on beachy holidays, I’m going to turn this beach cover-up into a dress/tunic that I can wear in London. I’ll have to add to the length. The pieces loped off the sleeves should come in handy now.
  • To make the dress/tunic more hardy I’m going to sew up the armpit-airing underarm – sleeve inner hem. The design worked for the sturdier fabric of the top that inspired this cover-up. But with more delicate fabrics the risk of sticking my head & arms into the wrong holes and tearing the fabric is too great. Once the holes are closed up there’ll be less chance of this happening.
  • As extra insurance, and to make this translucent fabric more city-friendly, I’ll underline it with a georgette, which might also make the dress more drapy and silhouette elongating.

I’m in no hurry though as it’s still chilly in London.

Instead I’m working on classy replacement Breton Ts that I can wear at home & work. The Burda 2010-02-112 I made a few years ago is well worn and grubby. Her sister Burda 2010-02-122 had already been donated because the neck opening was too big to stay on my shoulders. So I’ve been messing with Dartless T Block again and making a wearable muslin in a less prized stripy knit. I should finish the muslin today & hopefully be able share the experiment findings soon. I’m cautiously optimistic that this one will turn out well! :-)

First Wadder of the Year

So far this year I have sewn 0 item from my SWAP. Typical isn’t it? Straight after the Jungle January fever another exciting detour presented itself – an unexpected escape to balmy Jamaica. I thought I was sensible opting to air my underused summer dresses instead of cramming in last-minute Holiday SWAP. But I have little to wear as a beach cover-up. Enter the H&M scarf I had bought not so long ago precisely for this purpose. It shot straight to the front of the queue.

Style Shots

No mug shots this time because this is probably going straight back into the ReFashion pile.

Fabric & Notions Used

The Design & Pattern

This is one of those refashion challenges where you make it up as you go. So there isn’t a proper pattern. My initial idea was a simple kaftan. First up is checking pattern placement…


  • I first tried folding in half with the fold on the shoulder line. This made the pattern look like those Indonesian monster masks which I found too distracting. So that’s a NG.
  • I then tried folding on the bias. I liked the pattern placement. But I noticed the scarf isn’t perfectly square, so it makes the garment look lopsided. So again NG.
  • Lastly I tried folding in half again, but with the fold as the hem and the scarf border at the shoulder line. I like that the border adds interest at the shoulder and the pattern balance it out acting as big stretch of border print. The placement also make the pattern look like a potted flower or a dancing person. So happy days.

Once the pattern placement was decided, I pin-fitted. Unfortunately it looked frumpier on me than on Q because I have arms and she doesn’t. The silhouette becomes wider, which make the length appear shorter. So I decided to lop off the bottom portion of the sleeve area and use the same approach as I did on my altered RTW kimono top. The shorter sleeves shift the emphasis to the bodice area to create a stronger vertical silhouette.

Construction Notes


  • As the fabric frayed badly & shifted easily, I spray-starched & stablized like crazy before I even cut.
  • The sewing was then fairly straight-forward: French seam for side seams & to join the bottom of the sleeves fronts to backs. Then hand-rolled hems for the bodice bottom and top of side seams & inside / underarm edge of sleeves. At the top the front & back are joined at shoulder, elbow, & wrist only. Then the starch & stablizer was washed out.

The Verdict

The top actually doesn’t look too bad. But look isn’t everything is it?

After one wear part of my side seam was already falling apart! I think I might have trimmed the seam allowance too aggressively for this fray-loving fabric. (Thank goodness for those dinky hotel sewing kit!) The whole thing just felt too delicate to wear on a relaxing holiday, especially when  sun-screened skin & sea-laddened air made everything feel so sticky. I was constantly worried that I’d rip the seams. Or the underarm slit when I put the top on or take it off. I may have slit this a tad too far – the sleeves felt like hanging chads, ready to detach at any time. What a bummer.

The print is too lovely though. So for now the top is going into the Re-Fashion pile.