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.