Style lessons with knit tops

I haven’t posted anything in a while, primarily because I was knitting, but also because I was, I thought, “just” making up a few knit tops, totally easy stuff. But actually, while I was doing that, I was also experimenting and, more importantly, drawing some conclusions about what I like and what I don’t.

I started with a top I made last spring, which I tried really hard to like, but couldn’t. You can see it here. I  removed the skirt, and recut the top part from my old tried and true See and Sew B5203 pattern. Then I reattached the skirt, but along a horizontal line, after having aligned the side seams to the seams of the bodice. There was also a little flare to the skirt that I eliminated by resewing the side seam at a straight angle. Here’s the result — a top that fits me and suits me, rather than drowning me in its oversize folds. What have I learned? Go down a complete size in Vogue tops and don’t take “oversize” as written in stone.IMG_1433

I bothered with this redo because I love the colour and weave of the fabric. I still like the top best because of that. I would like it better if it had some sort of variegated hemline, which is not possible.

So I decided to make a new version of the B5203, with a “high low” hem from one side to the other. Here it is.


Isn’t that a lovely yellow jersey? Anyway I was contemplating why I love “high low” or “variegated” hemlines so much (doesn’t matter whether the difference in length is front to back, front to sides, or side-front to side-front). And I’ve come up with an answer. Please don’t laugh, as I tell you I should be two inches taller than I am. My legs are about two inches too short for my body. Both my sister and mother have correctly proportioned legs, and they’re both about two inches taller than me. So — a variegated hem gives the appearance of extra length, because of the diagonal line that’s created. It makes me look taller. And it blurs the waist line and the crotch placement, so it disguises the leg length.

I then decided to try the free Lago pattern from Itch to Stitch. Click on the link to get it yourself.


I like it a lot. The sides of the front pattern piece are wavey — they curve out at the bust, in at the waist, and out again at the bust. You pin and then sew that piece to the back, which has straight sides. This means the fabric skims the body, rather than squeezing it. There’s a slight razor-back, so you have to figure out bra straps, or wear a tanklet under it. I plan to make several more of these. The trousers are Vogue 9193.

And finally, I made up two versions of the Hudson top from The Sewing Workshop. IG followers will have seen that I finally put out the cash to buy two Sewing Workshop patterns, for a total of five garments. I started with what I figured would be a wearable toile in an athletic double-layer fabric. After some experimentation, I decided to cut the size XS (rather than the Medium) because that’s plenty over-size enough. Here it is, with memade fisher pants and Jon Fluevog boots. I love the neck, which is a tube cut on the diagonal for a nice drape.


And then I went for the bright merino wool version. For this one I narrowed the sleeves at the wrists, and made the back a bit longer than the front (there are side vents separating front from back).


Those are Vogue Marcy Tilton trousers (I can’t find the pattern envelop, sorry). And orange patent leather booties. And this leads me to two other things I’ve learned about my style preferences. First, I like to wear one colour from clavicle to ankle, and second, I like saturated colours (that might mean dark colours, or bright ones). This top to bottom orange is pretty bright, isn’t it? I spared you the matching orange down-filled sweater/jacket. I will wear this combination. I love it.

That about concludes my report on what I’ve learned over the last few months. Has anybody else learned something new about themselves recently, through sewing clothes?


sleeveless shell

merinotshirtOne reason I stopped sewing years ago and didn’t take it up again until recently was that I couldn’t find fabrics I liked. There were very few fabric stores in Vancouver and they seemed to have a lot of cheap human-made fabrics in patterns and designs that didn’t match my idea of “woman” — way too “feminine” for me (we must have a talk about that label :)) Shiny floral polyester? Mmmm, not for me, no thanks.

Now that I am sewing, the one thing that tempts me to ready-made clothing is the fabric. And I’m still disappointed that the fabrics of these ready-made items are not available in local stores, although I suspect I’m finding some of that in the bits and ends bins at Dressew Fabrics and thrift shops. I probably use home decor fabric more often than I use dress fabric — and I feel better about that since I read that that was perfectly acceptable in a sewing magazine I was browsing at my local library. Not that I need a voice of authority telling me what’s acceptable, or anything. The article did suggest washing home decor fabric first to eliminate any finish put on it for home use.

Last week I dropped in at a newish clothing store on trendy Main Street in East Van to have a second chat with the owner, a Scots transplant named Isabelle Dunlop. I’d enjoyed a previous chat a month or so earlier so much that I thought I’d see if a repeat was available. (Also I really like some of her clothes and was looking for items I might like to, not copy exactly, but get ideas and inspiration from). This time, after a few brief introductory comments, I confessed that I made all my own clothing, leaving her to infer that I wouldn’t be buying any of her’s. She was delighted and we settled into a sewing conversation. I was telling her about my disappointment with the lack of interesting, quality fabric when I spotted a merino wool sleeveless shell hanging on her rack.

“Where did you get that fabric?” I demanded. Sort of. It was more an exclamation of disbelief.  I didn’t really expect her to reveal any of her supply secrets, but she told me she’d gotten it at an East Indian fabric and sari store further down the street among the curry houses, panwallas and vegetable shops.

So I went on my own scouting mission to Roko’s and I did indeed see a couple of rolls. I managed to buy a leftover  end for a discount of what already surely is a reasonable $20/yard. I’ve left the armholes unfinished because when they get in a new supply next month, I may go back for more and make sleeves. I’m definitely going to pick up one or two other colours.

I also made the top in a drapey white modal which I picked up at Roko’s at the same time. I finished the armholes, but don’t want to hem the bottom because I know it will inhibit the drape and flow of the fabric.

white top (1)

I modified an older see and sew pattern B5203 for this top. In the original the hemline is shorter at the front and back, and longer at the sides. I’ve made it in long sleeved and tank versions, longer and shorter. I really like this as a base pattern because it’s loose and comfortable, has a good fit and a nice neckline. Here are the longer versions.

green top

white top (2)