Saturday, 14 May 2016

Can I take your orders? Table Top to Crop Top

In the last post, I wrote about having purchased an old cotton tablecloth from a charity shop with the intention of turning it into something else, possibly using it as a wearable toile to test a shirt pattern.  Charity shops are a great source of fabric for experimenting with for low cost. Well here it is.  Can you imagine its original, humble form?  Those workaday, dishcloth hues are a bit of a giveaway once you know!

The tablecloth was part of a charity shop, scrap fabric haul that I purchased for £2.50 (that was for all the fabric I could stuff in a carrier bag); and this was a basically white square of fairly loose weave cotton/linen type fabric measuring just over a metre.  It has a pastel coloured check design woven through in pink, yellow and blue with a wide panel around the edge. I knew when I saw it that this well worn table covering would look and feel great as a summer shirt.  There was no doubt that this modest table dressing had seen better days though, perhaps having served some hard time in a cafe or as a picnic cloth.  I had to cut carefully around some worn through patches and unravelling threads.  But you simply cannot purchase by the metre the kind of fabric that has the patina of years of washing and wearing, leaving behind such a super-soft texture. 

I used Simplicity 8090 for the pattern, zoning in on view D (the left hand photo on the pattern sleeve below) as it offers a shirt-type, pull on cropped top that can be squeezed out of absolutely minimal fabric .  I cut a size 12 in view D after doing some quick body measurements. The top is actually a faux-shirt, in that it has no front opening placket at all, just a v neckline with a closed front seam.  It has an collarless neckline and an interesting deeply angled seam on either side-front.  You can if you wish add decorative front buttons to make a more convincing shirt-like look, although I've chosen not to add buttons for now.

The sleeves were supposed to be elbow skimming, but as you can see I was eeking them out of extremely limited remaining inches of fabric, and so I ended up with a slightly shorter version.  I did try to think a bit creatively about where the coloured panel of the table cloth edges would lie on the finished garment, and I'm quite pleased with the result, even though the options for fitting the pattern pieces on the cloth were fairly few.

One of the issues with a well worn piece of woven fabric like this, is that is has warped quite considerably, probably due to frequent hot washing, with the check pattern now somewhat uneven.  I cut the back section on the fold from the centre of the cloth rather than cutting two pieces (I didn't want a centre back seam as instructed by the pattern). Partly this was to save a couple of inches of seam allowance and partly because the top doesn't really need a centre back seam, unless you're introducing the centre back tab as one of the design details.  Again I left this tab detail off, as I was looking for a minimal finish.

The wandering weave is clearly visible in some places and required some careful lining up at the centre front especially.  Eagle eyes will notice more success in some places than others!  But its still better alignment than some off-the-peg garments I see.  I used the smaller pink and white squared check from the centre section of the cloth to form the larger back section of the shirt where no matching was required, and used the woven panel edge of the cloth for the front pieces.  These broader stripes at the centre-front add a nice design detail with the stripes running down and mirroring each other, bringing the colours to the fore.

There is a facing around the neck and down the front v shaped neck opening.  This is under stitched and then I loosely tacked it into into place at the end, stitching in the ditch on the seams to keep it from rolling inwards.  This makes for a nice clean edge to the neckline.

The sleeves went in very easily and the soft fabric moulded into shape well.

This fabric could easily take a little steam from the iron and a bit of heat for a neat sleeve head.  I think this cloth has been no stranger to a hot wash and press.  It has taken the heat, and stayed in the kitchen.  I'm quite pleased with the pattern alignment on the sleeve.

I love the design of this particular top, with one really deep dart at each side front section, and a swing back.  It is quite sticky-outy at the hemline when worn, even with this drapey fluid fabric.  A crisper more structured fabric would probably produce quite an architectural shape.  The dart in the front is a nice feature when cutting into the check.

The back is made entirely from the centre section of the cloth, making it a contrast to a more colourful front, with only the square check design.  Each square has a little waffle-like weave in the middle.  And if ever there was a piece of cloth with a back-story to tell, then I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when these threads were in their original use during breakfast, lunch or dinner.  What conversations took place over the years this was spread between hungry diners?

Especially as I think this particular species of tablecloth looks as though it might have been privy to less genteel, delicate chitter chatter and more hot gossip in a local caff, punctuated with ketchup and a strong, sweet cuppa!

If you remember back to the last blog post, I wrote the whole back story of this table cloth.  A friend and I had attended a high street fashion show which was brilliant fun and gave us a catwalk level view of some of the most popular styles of this spring/summer season. Some of the styles had been put together from vintage and second hand pieces as well as high street, high fashion and I have been becoming more and more interested in looking into where our clothes are made and how they are sourced, right from bolt of cloth to clothes hanger.  Now I know I could never give up my high street purchases.  But I love the fact that I can mix it up with up-cycled, redesigned and rediscovered clothes and fabric.

So despite being 'only' a wearable toile and an experiment to see what this pattern might look like, am in inordinately chuffed with this little top!  It is deliciously soft fabric that feels lovely and cool for summer days and the cute, cropped swing hemline is just right for high waisted jeans.  

Not too much chance of showing flesh unless I'm really stretching up high (not unheard of admittedly, especially when lifting the small adventurers up or down from trees, climbing frame etc). 

I think this also counts among the more practical and wardrobe friendly items I've made the year too. No retirement any time soon for this hard working cloth.


  1. Well, full marks for seeing the potential in the well used tablecloth - it's made a lovely summer top. Bet you'll use this pattern again and again, it's a good shape and looks lovely on you.

  2. Thanks AWR! Glad you think it looks ok. I will make more of these definitely!
    S x