Friday, 30 March 2018

New Look 6481 top times 3

I finished the Blackwood cardigan from Helen's Closet and found that a lot of the tops I had to wear under it were not quite right. Many had too big a contrast for me - my style palette isn't high contrast. Neither white not black are my preferred colours. I had a couple of suitable patterned tops but didn't like them with the variegated cardigan. I had loads of the fabric left over from the cardigan - you guessed it! Enough to make a top (see photo at bottom of post)

This is the second top. it of numbers one and two are very similar as they are sister fabrics.

One possibility was to use my Nettie bodysuit and add sleeves to the pattern. The original pattern comes with sleeves. I'd need to alter them. However, I realised that the Nettie uses 2 way (4 way) stretch fabric with a lot of stretch and the fabric I want to use didn't have as much as that and had very little longitudinal stretch.

Although I have quite a lot of patterns (understatement) I had difficulty finding a suitable pattern for a stretch fabric. I did find this New Look pattern 6481 which includes a top, skirt, jacket and trousers. I love the jacket too. This was the only top pattern I could find that I already owned that was both for stretch fabric and in my size. I originally had two copies of this pattern (it came with two different magazines) and gave one to a fellow sewer, R, who had made several successful tops from the pattern. So that was a positive review, worth quite a few more. On Pattern Review, I found reviews for the jacket but not the top.

I lengthened the body by 2” as I am tall.

I have large biceps and did a standard large biceps adjustment to add 1”. I had originally traced the sleeve cap shape and height and because the biceps adjustment lowers that, brought it up to the original. 

Sleeves are my bĂȘte noire.

The sleeve is set in in the round, which I prefer. I set this one in and noticed there was a LOT of easing required but I managed. However, when I tried on the top (no problems making up to this point; directions were fine) the sleeves looked awful. A mess of wrinkles.

Fortunately, I was doing this in my sewing bee and I sought advice from Rory. She pinned out a huge amount from the back sleeve and we realised this is ALWAYS required. Much less was removed at the front - practically nothing. She also slightly rotated the sleeve cap so that it would fall straight - less than ¼” and it made all the difference! She also lowered the sleeve at the underarm seam. These changes made the sleeve shorter, so I slightly lengthened to make up for this. The higher sleeve cap also compensates.

Anyway, I adjusted the sleeve, made up the top and finished it after checking that the sleeves were okay. I transferred the changes to the paper pattern.

I had already started a second version of this top so also had to alter those sleeves. The fabric was a similar grey rib, with less contrast and variegation. The degree of stretch was very similar and the two tops are virtually interchangeable as far as fit is concerned.

Back to the sleeve pattern.
I need in my sleeve
  • Extra sleeve cap height - many sleeve caps just don't reach
  • Extra biceps room
  • Extra length both above and below elbow; these are short sleeves, elbow length.
I don't need
  • Extra fabric at sleeve cap back (or front indeed)
The standard adjustment where a cross shaped cut is made
  • Also widens sleeve cap (not required) and arm of sleeve (that's fine)
  • Also lowers sleeve cap and lowers it more the bigger the adjustment (bad news for me)
  • Shortens sleeve length
I wanted to know if there was another way to make changes.

Don't tell anyone but I had altered my sleeve directly on the pattern piece!! I traced around and made a proper final version (fortunately I had stopped myself before cutting off redundant portions). I then painstakingly put the sleeve pattern back to the original shape - except it's all taped up. Note to self - you would have been quicker tracing in the first place!

I then traced an original sleeve pattern too. So now I had the original and what I wanted it to be ie the final garment sleeve. Rory had briefly commented on cutting off the cap and working on the rest so I asked her to explore that with me.

The sleeve cap was cut off and put aside.
A vertical cut was made down the sleeve, stopping at bottom SA. This part of the pattern was then pulled apart by 1”, the same adjustment made originally.
This widened the biceps area which is good and also lowered the underarm area - which had been done on the modified pattern. The sleeve cap was then placed at the original cap height. There was a significant gap - this was filled in. I drew in the gap in the armscye shape making a suitable shape but NOT widening it at all.

Did this work? Not entirely. Comparing this version to the required version showed that the back sleeve still had too much. It's a better starting point (as well as easier to do!). Rory said that I needed to recognise my back armscye shape and modify.

An interesting exercise. I was going to post photos of the pattern pieces but decided that's probably not relevent to others.

Nevertheless, I think I have a TNT pattern and have already cut out a third using the final sleeve pattern. All these tops are in shades of grey as I was originally planning to enter Pattern Review's wardrobe contest and that was one of my key colours.

Anyway, I decided to wear my first top and the Blackwood cardigan together, which I thought was  sensible. I didn't wear my pearls as I thought that would lead to adverse comments in some quarters! However R in class who is young, slim and beautiful dared me to, suggesting this would be an ironical statement. I suggested, sadly, that at my age it would not be - though it might be on her. She agreed but of course these finished items are much too large for her.
On my bridge weekend on my hotel balcony, Morcambe Bay in the background It was windy and very cold.
This is my first top and Blackwood cardigan as a 'twin set'. The first top is my favourite of the three.

Two wearable tops. Third cut out. A TNT pattern for stretch fabric. I think I could easily change this top up but don't feel the need to as yet. I have been told it's a good idea to make things multiple times so that's what I'm doing.

I wore the set at the first night of my bridge weekend and felt very comfortable both with the cardigan on and off. I didn't feel people were looking at my outfit and criticising it as I often feel - in fact I was quite clear that the RTW trousers were the poorest part of the outfit. (I still need to conquer trousers)

I've worn the first two tops quite a number of times now.

I finished the third top and it's too tight! Less stretch, sadly. I failed to take that into account. I used a fine plain grey jersey and it was both less stretchy and more difficult to use. I think it's easier to use wovens than to take all the different stretches into account! It's not too far off though and I'm supposed to be losing weight….
First top at front (my favourite), third top in middle and second top at back


  1. Wow your tops sure look great. Especially your "twin set".
    I don't know about other places but here in the South (USA)
    Women ages 20 on up still wear them. It's a smart pulled together look you can wear with slacks, skirts & jeans.
    I enjoy reading your posts on fitting but being a visual learner I do better with photos or videos. So feel free to toss in some pictures of your hacked pattern pieces.
    Beautiful job
    Becca G

    1. Thank you, Becca. I agree that twin sets are a smart pulled together look; the traditional twin set here appears now to be associated with particular groups that others don't necessarily want to be associated with, which is very sad. I think it went along with the denigration of 'matchy matchy' by younger and supposedly more fashionable critics. Yes, all about fashion - and things go in and out of fashion. I'm not fashionable but like to be smart and pulled together. I'm seeking a smart casual wardrobe look.
      I'll have a look at some photos and try to put them up, probably on a separate post. I do in any case want to keep a record for myself.

  2. Good result after the struggle! Especially interesting to me since large biceps (combined with narrow shoulders) are also my challenge.

    1. Thank you, Elle. I've said to Becca that I'll put up some photos - not, of course, as a tutorial but simply as a visual record. O don't have photos of the top being tried on showing the excess fabric at the back of the sleeve and the twisting. Should have done but didn't - I was just trying to get it finished.

  3. Fabulous tops! I'm so happy for you that you finally found a tnt pattern that suits you so well. I tend to have extra fabric in the back armscye as well, but don't have large biceps. Looks like you have nailed your sleeve fitting. I have twin set envy! I've always liked them but look better with a higher contrast in my outfits.

    1. Thanks, Marianne. I'm a low/medium value contrast so find higher contrast a bit overpowering. Does a twin set always have to have identical fabrics in the two layers? Up the contrast!

  4. This top looks great and works well with your cardi. Not sure I understand the issue with pearls. I love pearls and wear them when I can. Since retiring, my recent sewn items as well as what I wear most is casual so not wearing pearls much at the moment.

    1. Thank you. I love pearls too, though I tend to wear, like you, when a bit dressier though earrings are a different matter. The reference is entirely cultural, I guess.

  5. It’s great that you’ve found a pattern you can keep re-using. I’ve got a long sleeved tee shirt that’s been great and I’ve made dresses and different tops with added bits, so It’s really earned it’s keep. Also the Blackwood cardigan is very Bridge appropriate too, haha! Karen

    1. Thank you, Karen, from one bridge player to another! Next step is a long sleeved version.

  6. Your tops look wonderful and appear like you’ve nailed the fit issues. I agree that photos of your pattern alterations would be very helpful to those who need the same adjustement. I’ve found that nearly every sleeve pattern needs a flatter slope at the back. This sleeve cap shape seems unique to European drafting methods which, unfortunately, most patttern companies don’t use. Definitely save this as a TNT pattern.

    1. Thank you, Mary. I will think about posting the photos of the pattern alterations when things settle a bit here. So my sleeve shape would be more easily obtained using a European draft? Like Winifred? Or does Burda use that do you know? I'm bemused! European v US crotch shape and now sleeve cap shape!
      Yes, I'll save as a TNT pattern.


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