Monday, November 15, 2010

Vogue 1061 - Sandra Betzina Swing top

More pics

I finally finished! This top wasn't that hard to make, but it sure took me awhile to complete it. I kept getting sidetracked by life: work, kids, and knitting. ;)

The back of this Sandra Betzina top is really lovely, but I didn't care for the wrap front. Wrap fronts are generally not friendly to the uber busty, unless said uber busty person likes to emphasize the bust. It's fine if that's what you want, but it's not for me.

At first, I was planning to replace the wrap front with a seam down the center front, but a friend and fellow ASG member, Dorothy K, suggested a zipper. A zipper! Brilliant!

I also didn't like the bust dart. I really don't care for bust darts in knits - it difficult to make them look good. I prefer to ease the bust fullness in at the side seam. I find that slight gathering at the side seam (at bust level) is less objectionable than a dart in a knit. And sewing a nice-looking dart in the bamboo knit would be next to impossible.


  • Bamboo knit in slate blue from FabricMart
  • Lightweight 22" separating YKK zipper from Britex
  • 1/2" Steam-a-seam Lite 2 for the zipper and hems.

Alterations and construction notes:

  • I cut a size H, which is larger than my usual F, but, according to the finished measurements on the pattern, I needed the room at the bust. I did not muslin this top. Later, when I was sewing the final seams, I ended up removing inches from the side/underarm seam, so I probably ended up making a size F or smaller.
  • I shorted the sleeves 3 inches. I typically shorten the sleeve 1" to 1-1/2", so this sleeve is very long.
  • The ruching at the lower sleeve was problematic. The pattern instructs you to sew 3/8" elastic to the seam allowance on the inside to create the ruched effect. When I did this, it looked awful - a real mess. I ripped it out and, instead, gathered the seam and stitched it to twill tape. This gave me more control and the result looked better.
  • I eased the fullness from the dart at the side seam and eliminated the dart.
  • I measured 5/8" from the CF line and chopped the pattern off. I inserted a separating zipper at CF, but a seam would have worked as well.
  • I added pockets to the side seams. Just what is it with all these patterns that don't include pockets?? Since I make most of my clothes, I've been far too pocket-less lately. Please put pockets on the pattern and make them interesting!! We can always leave them off if we want. Vogue, are you listening? :)
  • I eliminated all facings. The hood extends all the way around the neckline. I stitched the hood to the jacket, right-side-to-right-side. I serged the seam, folded it down, and topstitched from the outside. This is how hoodies are commonly made in RTW. I checked. ;)

The back panels pinned and ready for stitching.

I've already posted my recommendations on sewing with bamboo knit, so I won't repeat that here. This pattern needs a fabric with drape, so the bamboo worked well, overall, though it was challenging to topstitch the back seams with minimal puckering. A walking foot or a teflon foot would probably have helped.

Comments and what I would do differently next time:

  • It was easy to install the separating zipper. I first turned the seam allowance under at CF and secured it with Steam A Seam 2 Lite. I then hand basted the zipper in place and stitched, with the zipper tape face up and a zipper foot on the machine.
  • This top features dolman-style sleeves with ruching below the elbow. The dolman sleeve is pieced because the lower sleeve is cut as a semi-circle – this creates a longer seam on top of the arm – this becomes the ruched seam. The shorter seam, below the arm, is not ruched. Sandra calls this an "elephant sleeve."

    While this is clever in theory, I found it fiddly in practice. The instructions have you stitch a 12" length of 3/8" elastic to the longer seam to create the ruching, the way you might sew elastic to a pantie leg. This approach did not work for me, so I ripped it out and gathered the seam using the same technique you'd use to gather a woven: basting stitches that are pulled to form gathers. I then secured the gathers to a length of twill tape.

    I found this process fairly fiddly and I was not entirely happy with the final ruching. If I make this again, I plan to replace the dolman sleeve with a set-in sleeve and would probably eliminate the ruching.

  • Let's talk about the hood for a second. This top features a hood that is really a stylized collar. Yes, you could use it as a hood, but it's much larger than a hood should be, whereas it creates a nice collar and a flattering "topper" for the back detailing. The pattern calls for the hood to be self lined, and I think this is a mistake. At first I was planning to leave the hood unlined. I had pinned the unlined hood to the top and tried it on and it was perfect.

    However, there was one tiny little problem. If the hood is not lined, the inside seam shows. Since the hood would primarily be worn down, that seam would show pretty much always. Meaning I would want it to have a nice serged finish. However, I have no blue serger thread. In fact, the only serger thread I have is black. I didn't want to buy blue serger thread for this one seam, so I went ahead and lined the hood.

    Big mistake. As a single thickness, this hood was perfect. As a lined hood, it's too heavy. It is "ok", and it won't affect my wearing of the top, but it would be perfect without that extra layer. So, I suggest that you don't line this hood and finish the seam in whatever way you want. (I considered a lapped seam finish but didn't care for it in the bamboo.)

  • This top would also be cute in a shorter length.

And now, more pics. :)

With some small additional tweaks, this could become a favorite TNT pattern. It will make a great hoodie. But maybe next time in black. ;)


  1. Omigosh, I am glad you have been too busy to sew! Honestly, can't keep up with you, girl! I like your version much better than the pattern photo ... once again. And I agree with you about wraps and a more than average bust!

  2. Oh! Thats absolutely gorgeous Shams and a really flattering look on you.

  3. That back really is fabulous as well as the color you choose! Love the idea of substituting a zipper instead of the wrap front.

  4. That is very pretty!! I love the back of it.

  5. Another big winner! The back is really amazing!

  6. That zipper front is a *huge* improvement over the wrap! And your top picture is smashing -- love the drama of the back seams. It's even better with the simpler front; nice contrast, that.

  7. Looks great with the zipper. Good idea, Dorothy! I made this in black a while back and don't wear it much because the wrap front, whether flattering or not, is a bother to wear. I think I may go back and change it to the zip.

  8. Shams, that looks wonderful! I like what you did. I like the alteration and I might see if I can incorporate your changes into my version.

    /nevermind/ Can you please advise how long a zipper you needed for this? /nevermind/

    oh--never mind, I see that you used a 22 inch long zipper.

    Thanks, again!

    Rose in SV

  9. Girl, Sandra Betzina should pay you to make these pieces! You make me look 3x at some of these patterns...patterns that I never looked at before! This is another fantastic garment in a beautiful color!

  10. Beautiful! I like the zip alternative, nicer than the wrap front, imo. And the colour is gorgeous!
    Re the hoodie seam showiing; when I made my (lace) hoodie recently I did a french seam here for this reason. Would this work for your fabric?

  11. Lovely. What a coincidence in India we have a kameez (tunic) which has panels both at front and back and is called 'Anarkali' Kameez. What's more coincidence is i am currently stitching one for my sister to wear to a wedding, the day after tomorrow. World is too small, isn't it...

  12. I am so in love with the back and the sleeves! It is such a great combo with your knit!

  13. Thanks for the great tip on easing of bust dart with knits! Love the back & sleeve details of this top.

  14. WOW! that is fantastic, shams!! and it looks great on you - perfect color :)

  15. Fan-freaking-tastic. Wrap tops don't work for me but your idea is pure genius!

  16. Ooh very nice! I don't normally like Sandra Betzina's designs, but the back on this is gorgeous!!

    And about your hood seams - when I was making my Patrones spring coat hood last year, I had really ravelly basketweave fabric that I didn't want to line, either. So I found satin bias binding the same colour as the coat, and made the hood seams a feature. I wear this coat all the time (err, today, in fact!) and I'm still happy with the way the hood looks and functions.

  17. When I took a class with Sandra in the spring, she had all her garments there to try on. That one looked good on everyone. It's really gorgeous with the swing. Yours looks fabulous on you.

  18. I always love the way you can see "beyond the pattern" i.e. the elimination of the wrap in this case. I like this pattern but feel I would go "nuts" with the back tucks. Great job!

  19. I agree Sandra Betzina owes you. You look great in this top and your comments are really helpful. I especially found your comments about darts in knits something to work on.

  20. The back is dynamite and you made the front much better with the zipper. You are so good at problem-solving! Lots of helpful information.

  21. Love it,especially the back, on you. Oh crumbs,another must-have pattern. I love the idea of a front zip. Too much inspiration, not enough time. :-)

  22. Shams, do you think you could take up sewing for a very pear-shaped friend? That way I could steal your beautiful ideas completely instead of just techniques. Thank you.

  23. I must ask - what ends up being the problem when you put bust darts in knits? I want to try the Burda 10/2010 top #140 (long sleeve, scoop neck, bust dart top in jersey), but now I'm wondering if I should save myself some heartache and convert the dart to gathers right from the get go...


  24. Birdmommy, it's hard to get them in the right location, they tend to ripple, and the points don't generally look nice. Try sewing a sample dart in a scrap of fabric to test it out.

    Elizabeth, you crack me up. :)

    Thanks to everyone for your comments!!

  25. I bought a similar coat in rust from buddhaful and always get tons of compliments every time I wear it. It was pricey but well worth it. Check it out (tree of life coat). I'm now inspired by your coat to make a shorter version in a different color. Love the sleeve runching! It really shows up well in your photos!

  26. Shams,

    The top is gorgeous and I think your zipper option is much better. The pattern has quite enough design elements without the wrap front? Another change you made with which I heartily agree is the pockets. What is it about the no pockets lately? I like side seam pockets in tops and pants.

    I will use a lapped seam in the hood as I learned from making an unlined hoodie last year that it would look better.

    Also have a question about attaching the hood. Will post over on SG.

    You always inspire me! And thank you so much for your comments, tips, techniques etc. It all helps! ;-)

  27. That looks gorgeous on you, Shams!! And what a smart re-design. Yours look better that the original.