Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Back in the Jungle - Palm Print CropTop

Well this turned out to be a bit of a drama.  A tropical storm in a tank top.  I actually thought this would never make it as far as a finished piece of clothing, let alone onto the blog, but after some serious salvage work it was resuscitated and here we are.  I've been wearing it this week in the lovely warm weather and have grown to forgive it's defects and to like it again.  But oh the issues this little top seemed to develop along the way - I've made much more complex garments with far less fuss!  It's always those deceptively simple looking pieces that end up causing the most problems sometimes. More about the drama later.

Recognise this fabric again?  I had enough tropical palm print viscose left from the Heatwave Ahoy dress to make something small and, as I absolutely love the print with it's sweeping leaves and blue hibiscus flowers, I thought it would be nice to have this little top in my wardrobe too.  And as the temperatures ramped up this weekend (hurray for the arrival of June!), I thought it would be a perfect little top to throw on with jeans or shorts, when I don't want to go into full 'head to toe print' dress mode.  

So this top started when I picked up the summer Burda magazine last month (issue June 2016) for the first time in ages.  It has quite a few exciting summer styles on offer this issue and in particular some lovely looking shift dresses and little summer tops with nice detailing.   I really love the styling in this issue and there are not the ubiquitous maxi-dresses (lovely but not for me) but some gorgeous little tops, shorts and even a sharp jacket.  Tracing the patterns always seemed such a bore after using paper patterns for quite a while, but actually I'd forgotten that it's a nice job in itself if not rushed through.

I thought I'd get back into planning, tracing and cutting with this 'easy' little crop top (ha ha! hollow laugh), number 107 in the nested sheet.  The jungle print spoke to me straight away and I reckoned I could squeeze this garment out of leftover fabric that would otherwise have been thrown back in the stash.

The fabric has great drape and just enough opacity so it didn't need lining.  I lengthened the measurements of the top by a generous two and a half inches at the hem to take it down from a super-cropped style to landing just on the hip.  The trousers and shorts I'l be wearing this with over summer have a slightly low rise waist a couple of inches below my natural waistline, and so I wouldn't be happy with the cropped length prescribed by the actual pattern.  That would be leaving too much midriff out in the open for me.  Let me tell you, this would be VERY SHORT indeed if you went by the pattern measurements so I advise checking where you want the hemline to be and then adjusting the pattern accordingly before you cut into your fabric.  The pattern recommends that you add up to 8 inches for a top with plenty of coverage.  You can see on the above photos, how the lengthened bottom hemline still only just skims the waistband of these joggers, which is just right.

One thing Burda designs do offer is really nice sewing detail and interesting construction lines and with this top they are focused around the front diagonal panels and on the neckline.  The top is constructed with three panels at the front, giving a really nice shape.

The front and back shoulder sections are bound at the arm edges and then overlap each other in opposing directions.  Nice.  It is also super friendly to bra straps and the way the shoulder sections lie gives plenty of coverage in the right places for wearing an ordinary bra.  Great.

Now at this point, while we're focusing on some close ups of the neckline, I should say that this actually looks nothing like it should have done, and herein lies the problem.  Feel free to skip down to the photos if you don't want to hear the rant, but if you're planning to make this top you might want to read on. I cut the neckband section as prescribed, which is basically sewn together in three sections as you'd expect, one front section and two back.  There are two identical bands, an inner band and outer band.  The intended construction method is that you sew the outer band to the neckline of the top, then sew the inner band to the outer band, fold it to the inside and secure with topstitching.  So far so easy.  Not.  

Firstly there was no way the back sections were long enough to go all the way around to the back closure and so after checking and re-checking the pattern to make sure I'd used the right bits, re-pinning and stretching it out etc, I ended up re-cutting the pieces again two inches longer.  Then the band fitted around ok, but the next issue was making it lie flat.  It looked fine at the front and back, but simply would not lie flat over the shoulder sections.  No amount of pressing, stretching and clipping of curves would work, it simply stuck out at a weird angle, or puckered up around the curve. Yuk.

I ripped it off, trimmed it down to a narrower width and basted it back on to no good effect.  I interfaced it to give the whole thing more structure, but that didn't work either, so I ripped that out and trimmed it down more.  Eventually I recut the whole neckband sections again both on the bias and the straight grain to see which looked better, but as I'd pretty much trimmed away as much as I could from the neckline and as I'd also clipped the curves too, I was in danger of leaving no more seam allowance to play with.  

So in the end I gave up and bias bound the neck the same as the armhole sections and topstitched it down to trap inside all those poor hacked raw edges.

Bingo!  Sorted.  There was absolutely no way that neck band was going to work and I still don't really know why.  But the bias binding looks fine, it's in-keeping with the way the arm hole is finished and most importantly it lies flat.  

But that caused another issue, because by this point I'd really stretched out the back sections at the neck edges.  I only noticed this when I tried the top on and as you can see here the button closure has a tendency to droop down at the back.

Looking more closely at the back neck, you can see where the fabric has slightly stretched, and this is a salutary lesson in always stay-stitching the edges of your fabric if using something that has a tendency to lose it's shape while you handle it.  

As luck would have it, my mum was staying with me over the weekend, and as an experienced seamstress she diagnosed the problem immediately.  She also suggested a possible solution, or at least a fix to lessen the droop, by putting in two horizontal darts just underneath the neck binding to bring the back of the neck back down a little.  I had a go, and this is the result.

It is very much better than it was, although there is still not perfect.  Fortunately with the busy pattern, and the stitching line being in the ditch of the binding, you can't see the little darts underneath either side of the closure at all.

All in all, what should have been a quick little top to inject some summer fun into my wardrobe ended up being something of a hot fuss and took a LOT longer than I thought it would.  It was one of those situations though where persistence paid off though, because let me tell you if I'd left it alone and got fed up with trying to fix the issues, it would quite honestly have stayed on my 'do finish' pile for ever and ever.  I would never have bothered to go back.  However I'm pleased that I managed to persevere because it does pretty much look as I'd hoped it would and now fully in summer wardrobe circulation.  Phew!


  1. Just goes to show what looks easy peasy can turn out to be a real pain - I think you've hit the nail on the head though when you say you should have stay stitched the neck. It looks great when you've tweaked it though, and well worth having another go at this pattern now you know what works. I'm sure you'll wear it loads (weather permitting), and the palm print is so on trend.

  2. Yes AWR stay stitching is so important - note to self for the future! I'm actually looking forward to having another go with this pattern now though. I'll just bias finish the neck again. Sarah X