Friday, 17 March 2017

A simple top with bias binding around neck and armholes - for me!

The new top with contrast bias binding around neck and armholes
A while back I bought a top from M&S. I rather liked the style and the fabric it but was disappointed with the fit.  It was somewhat baggy around the waist. I decided to  alter it,  despite the French seams (I have previously posted about this) I needed extra space in the bust area so  tried to alter the darts both position and uptake and give a little more length for the bust. It seemed not too bad. The extra length at the front needed for the bust meant that there was now a bit of a high low hemline going on. I thought it was okay.

This is the original top, altered but not quite right. You can see side slits and minor high/low effect

Another view of the same

However, it quickly became clear that it was too tight around the bust as it was riding up a bit and needed a more radical solution. I basically dismantled the top and found that I was unable to make the required alterations and sew together again as there was insufficient fabric available and what fabric there was was very frayed. The side seams were unequal - not because of my alteration attempts but they obviously started that way.

I can't find any of the photos of the front, and can't find the front to allow me to retake the photos. Yes, I need to become much more organised!

I did find the back - here is a photo showing the hugely unequal side - the top is pinned accurately down the centre. This problem was mirrored in the front - much more fabric available on one side than the other, so I just couldn't have more bust space - the fabric just didn't meet. I say much more on one side than the other - I should really say perhaps adequate on one side and much less on the other!

The side of the top is at the top of the photo - it looked better this way or so I thought!
I decided to give up trying to salvage this top. Instead,  I decided to try to make the top from different fabric as I did like the way the neck and arms lay.

I therefore hacked the top,  made up a toile to get the bust dart size and position correct and corrected the pattern. In my version,  the bust darts are more like French darts. I added a lot of extra space at the hip area. I originally thought I'd keep the side vents and perhaps a bit of the high low but that had been edited out!

I'm not showing the toiles or the pattern here but could if requested.

I decided I'd make the top in dark navy and ivory checked fabric,  a nice fabric though polyester (it was sold as navy but everyone thinks it's black). Originally I intended to enter the Sewing Guild SWAP and later thought I'd also do PR Sudoku as there was so much overlap. I say originally. That idea was quickly abandoned as I'd fallen so far behind due to problems with trouser making and my course projects and life.  

I made up the top. This fabric has a little stretch to it,  so I ended up taking the sides in a little more. I decided against the side vents as these weren't necessary - I think the slit was there in the original top to make up for the lack of fabric!  I made a slight further alteration to the dart length.  Trouble is,  this particular fabric is quite beefy and spongy and really doesn't take to pressing. The darts required quite a bit of work to look good as a result. I also shaped the waist a bit more. I still thought this top had potential.

I made the pattern without a seam allowance around neck or arms as I intended to use double bias binding as in the original. That is, showing on the outside, not turned to the inside.

This fabric doesn't take well to cutting into bias strips! I struggled for some considerable time but didn't manage. As the fabric had a touch of stretch I tried the tape on the straight grain but that looked horrible - rather wiggly. I looked for some commercial bias tape and at that stage realised that this fabric wasn't navy! I didn't find a suitable tape. So I reckoned I was going to have to find a way to cut suitable bias strips by marking them out with masking tape so they wouldn't squiggle. That seemed quite a good idea.

Last week I met I spent a few days in Grange over Sands and on the way I visited Linton Tweeds in Carlisle, meeting up with Manju of SewManju for lunch.  I had asked her about a Carlisle source for ponte de Roma - on her advice,  I had some put aside in Fabrics and Threads in the market after helpful FB communication. When I went to collect this,  I found a beautifully soft tartan bias tape and bought a couple of metres. I wasn't sure if this would work. I liked it, it was the correct width more or less, was beautifully soft - I thought it could work. I didn't have any of the fabric with me.

I took the top to my sewing bee and asked advice of the others there - do you think this bias tape will go with this top? There was a resounding yes.  I find putting different patterns together difficult so needed the advice.

After I decided to go ahead with the bias binding,  it was pretty straightforward. I sewed the tape to the wrong side of the fabric,  folded the tape over to the right side and edge stitched. When I say fairly straightforward,  I did have a bit of a problem with the bias joins. I think I have a bit of a spatial problem! I know I do.
Straightforward front view - I do like the contrast patterned bias binding. I look as tired as I feel here!

Side view with French type dart

Back view. The armholes fit nicely

I had intended a double folded hem at the bottom edge but the fabric didn't like that either, so I simply overlocked the edges, folded over and top stitched at 5mm.

I like the top. I will wear it - though remember it was supposed to be navy to go with the navy trousers I'm making! It will go better with black. I tried on for photos today - it looked awful with navy trousers, I didn't have any black available, so I'm wearing grey jeggings which I do not like but which were a better colour option.

A rather awkward pose!!


  1. What a lovely top! The fit is wonderful and the bias binding is such a good match!

    1. Thank you, Marianne. I'm sitting in a motorway service station having a coffee before we hit the rainy road again - summer seems a long way away today!

  2. This fits you so much better than the original. Why am I not surprised at the uneven seams and off grain cut of the RTW version. Your version is so much nicer. I hope you saved the pattern. Maybe draft a sleeve for it now that you have a nice fit in the bodice.

    1. Thank you, Mary. Yes, I have the final pattern saved, though not yet on card without any SAs. I hadn't even thought of adding a sleeve! That's a great idea.

  3. The top looks lovely, and the contrast pattern bias gives the garment a bit of life.

    1. Thank you, Sarah Liz. I really like the contrast pattern bias. I just haven't ever mixed patterns before. Oh the whole, I'm a solid colour type of person. I read an article in Threads not long ago about mixing and matching patterns and of course the Tiltons use a lot of patterns together - and quilters. Won't be my last foray.


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