Monday, 6 August 2018

Another top but still no TNT

Self drafted top

At the end of May I posted that I wasn’t happy with this top but couldn’t quite put my finger on the issues. Link here to that post.

Last week I decided to wear the top as it would be cooler than many of my other tops. However, I realised that it wasn’t lying properly as there was a ridge just above the armholes. I concluded that the front bodice width was too great and that the top was hanging on that, meaning too that the bust darts weren’t in the right place, that is slightly too high (worsened by me wearing a cooler summer bra with less support). I decided that taking a bit off the front armscye would work to sort this out and make it into a wearable top. In retrospect it may also have been telling me that I needed a further FBA.

I unpicked the bias strips at the appropriate part front from side seam up to roughly neckline level.  I hoped simply to trim the bodice and re-attach the bias strip. However, when I mentioned this to Rory, she advised taking off the whole of the bias strip as that would be easier in the long run - she said she’d always regretted trying to make do in this way. In any case, the new armscye was going to be bigger, though I wasn't sure by how much.

So at home, I unpicked both bias armhole strips. I had originally trimmed the seam allowances, so this made it a bit more difficult. I drew a curve on each bodice at the armhole marking where I wanted the bodice cut back. I cut a modest amount and found that wasn’t enough so cut a bit more. At the widest point, I cut about 1.3 cms - the original seam allowance was 1 cm.

I found the original bias strip was too short. Luckily, I found a small scrap of the fabric, big enough for the bias strips (and for two more should it come to it!). I cut the bias strips - then realised that I should have made them a little wider. However, I decided to make do. I folded and lightly pressed the wrong sides together so that I had a central pressed line.

I like hand tacking - I find it soothing and feel it saves time in the long run. I attached the right side of the bias strip to the right side of the top leaving the side seam area free. I then wrestled with getting the bias strip joined in the right place - not because of lack of space - I took the strip off more than once - no, because I have real problems envisioning how the pieces attach. Even when I thought I had this down pat, I managed - twice!! - to sew the joining seam in the wrong direction!

Eventually, however, I managed to attach the bias strip using a scant ¼” seam allowance. I hadn’t worked out at that point that this meant I only had a scant ¼” available to turn under on the reverse side! When I realised, I decided so be it as I didn’t want to make the binding showing any narrower. It’s already narrower than the neckline seam but that’s okay as both armholes match.
The hardest part was definitely joining the two bias ends.

Anyway, I stitched on the machine at ¼”. I did have some difficulty with a too acutely cut part - see later. I pressed the seam allowance towards the strip and folded the strip to the wrong side on the fold line. I found that there is a bit of irregularity to the band - you might notice but I’m sure 99% of people I run into won’t! I pressed again. I then first pinned the seam allowance down then folded under that narrow border and pinned. I then tacked. I tacked in the ditch so that the stitching wouldn’t get in the way of my top stitching.

I top stitched using my edge foot at a slightly narrower width than I did on the neckline hoping that all the seam edges would be caught inside. I was going to stitch in the ditch with my machine too but decided against that.

My top stitching went okay. I had to hand stitch a couple of loose bits of seam allowance, peaking out, on the reverse side.

Final top 

I pressed and tried on. I’m still not happy with the top - I still feel it pulling at that area under my arm. I do have a fat pad there so that is presumably the culprit. I will wear though - I have no intention of dismantling again.

I'm pointing to where it feels tight

There are two other issues. One relates to the cutting away of the armscye - I cut too acutely at one side and as a result, the bias strip was very difficult to put on - there is an absolutely minimal part of the bodice caught in - perhaps too little. Time will tell.

The other issue was already in existence. I don’t like the way my vents lie at the side. I think I have too much fabric around my hips and would need to remove some. I also think that my weight gain means that I need a bit more bust space as I see that the top front falls away from my body.

The vent isn't lying too badly here but you can see the gap at the bottom of the bodice between it and my body suggesting to me that I need an FBA. You can also see a stress line (?) from under my arm horizontally to the dart point

The overlap at the left side vent is obvious here

I’m wearing the top as I type. It will be possible to wear it though it is far from comfortable at that front armscye area. I can ignore the other problems for the moment.

What did I learn?
  • Different fabrics behave in different ways so the fit will be different
  • Some fabrics are harder to handle than others.
  • I need to mark alterations on the pattern so that the sides will be even and the shape acceptable.
  • Making the armscye bigger means that more bias binding is required
  • It’s easier in the long run to take off a bias strip and redo.
  • This top still isn’t a TNT despite several changes (perhaps too many changes as one of them was to add on a seam allowance around the whole of the armhole. My original (which fits much better!) had no seam allowance. You will see from the photo below that I also filled in the front armhole curve and the extra bit filled in is almost exactly what I removed. I did need this at the back but not at the front. I had also added hip width at vent level which clearly wasn’t required.
You can see where I added seam allowances - plus a bit more to fill in the curve.
That bit more is almost exactly what I cut off. I've marked it in blue

Question to myself (and you)

Is it worth trying to continue with this pattern?

Next step

I’ll get Rory or Dan to critique in the next sewing bee I attend.


  1. When it pulls there it is your pectoral (chest) muscle, not fat. Tense the muscle to work out where you need to scoop armhole around it. It is worth persevering. I fiddled till I got a tank like this fitting and the tops are my most useful and worn summer garmenr.

  2. O yes, you're getting somewhere! I think it's worth continuing to fine tune this pattern. It doesn't take a lot of time to make and you don't need much fabric so why not make a few more? If you start with the armhole and make tweaks with each new top it may be a lovely experiment to find the perfect fit!

    1. yes, thanks Marianne. Rory concluded that my binding was too tight around the curve and was pulling. I've removed the binding - it's much better - and I'll redo the binding. I think i have just enough fabric.


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