Catching up: tops!

I find that this is a very apt topic, as I am again working on the Shirts pattern, this time for a quilt. As my little shirts go together on their paper templates, I wonder whether these are fussier than actual shirts.

Even so, today is about people tops, not inordinately fussy quilt blocks. I have been doing a lot of reading and fretting about wardrobe planning over the last several months. What became clear was that mine lacked tops and blouses that I actually wanted to wear. I had several cuts of beautiful fabrics that were sitting unsewn because I had not yet figured out what they were to become. (I continue to suffer from this issue, although I alleviated myself of the stress of some 30 metres of suiting last week, partly in preparation for my move this summer, but also as the result of a rather ruthless assessment of what I really want and need in my wardrobe.)

I had (and have!) several knits intended for tops. I like to wear knit tops with trousers or skirts. The old standbys (Sewaholic Renfrew, Angela Wolf’s ruched tee and Jalie  2794) had been made in horrific polyester ITY that was unwearable. I also really like cowls, so I tried a PDF pattern (so much taping!!) with viscose (rayon) knits.

I actually made two, but only one is still with me. It is in a striking fabric, called Recollections, from Sawyer Brook. I added sleeves from another Maria Denmark pattern to make it a multi-season top. It takes me out of my comfort zone (so much orange!!), but I love the print and the dramatic cowl. Although my measurements aligned with a small, I ended up making a medium due to the negative ease, particularly at the bust. My test garment screamed “Boobs!”, and I was a bit distressed with respect to dressing appropriately for work! Sizing up helped, although the top is still quite close-fitting at the bust.

Despite there being a year and a half between these makes (I made the following items whilst performing jury duty this winter), I feel it makes the most sense to continue with knit tops. I am late to the discovery of Ottobre magazine. It is a Finnish publication that contains patterns, along the lines of Burdastyle magazine. It is great for basics, such as knit tops. I ordered some back issues last fall, which arrived promptly, with instructions in Dutch and Swedish! (To be fair, I did get to download the English instructions for certain issues.)

Ottobre 2.2006 & 2.2009

Ottobre 2.2006 and 2.2009, with Dutch instructions! My mum gave me a subscription (to the English version) for Christmas. Thanks, Mum!

I started with the most basic of knit tops, pictured in pink, from the 2.2006 issue. The photos showed a very close-fitting top, so I sized up when tracing the pattern.

Ottobre 2.2006.1

The line drawing shows a neckband, but when I made my test garment, I disliked the effect. I decided to use a facing at the neckline instead. I ended up making three tops.

The blue print on the left was my first iteration. I ended up making quite a few alterations. It was too long and too big. It is still a little looser than I would like, so I may revisit it once more. For the moment, it works. It is a viscose knit from Emma One Sock. The brown and black tops are bamboo jersey from Queen Textiles. I decided that I prefer an elbow length sleeve in this style of top, and they are considerably shorter than the blue print. The side seams are much more curved as well (harder to see in the black version, but quite evident in the brown). This is a great base for solids and busier prints that would obscure design details. I think this is my new go-to knit top pattern, as it also includes a V-neck option.

The other issue of Ottobre pictured, 2.2009, has the Waterfall top. I love a cowl, so I had to try it.

Ottobre 2.2009.5

Ottobre 2.2009.5 Waterfall top with Dutch instructions, but an English name…



I really like this top. The cowl is not as deep as in the Maria Denmark top, but it works. I learned how to change the shape of the cowl from Pam Erny’s tutorial about this very top (scroll down to Fold and Flip Facings). By changing the shoulder gathers to a pleat and playing with the placement of the pleat, the cowl deepens or becomes shallower. I had fun experimenting. Again, I made three, all out of beautiful prints that had been aging in my stash for about two years.

I tell a lie: the grey patchwork print on the left was purchased in November 2015! The two brown prints have been around for awhile (grey and pebble prints from EOS; watercolour floral from Marcy Tilton). The centre top is the first iteration; I can tell because it is so much longer! Although I make test garments for every new pattern, the length is not always an issue until I get to the fabric. Fabric content and degree of stretch play a role in making further length adjustments necessary. These tops get a lot of wear! I love the prints and they work with jeans, trousers or skirts. Another keeper!

I bought three yards of the brown pebble print from Emma One Sock, intending to make a twinset. When the print arrived, I felt that it was too lightweight for a cardigan, and a little too busy. I toyed with the idea of making a dress, but felt it would be awfully clingy. So, it sat. Until I came across the Debra Zebra top from Style Arc.

Style Arc debrazebratop

Style Arc Debra Zebra top

There is a theme here: I tend to prefer autumn and winter clothing. I prefer sleeves to sleeveless or short-sleeved garments. I like interesting necklines. As the cardigan queen, I need tops that work as layering pieces.

Style Arc Debra Zebra

Style Arc Debra Zebra top. Look familiar? I made this before the Ottobre top.

It does not really fit my dress form well, but it is difficult to show these things without arms to fill out the sleeves. This one does not get as much wear as the cowl top, but the funnel is not my preferred neckline.

I made only one blouse that gets regular wear. It is from a pattern that I bought while travelling through Maine last summer. I always stay in Bangor en route to Nova Scotia (coming back home to Ontario, I always stay in or near Freeport so I can go to LL Bean!). We no longer have New Look patterns available in Canada, so I purchased a few at a JoAnn store in Bangor. I had never worked with New Look before, but I liked the look of this blouse.

New Look 6407

New Look 6407

The funny thing is, I actually wear mine exactly as in the photo! This is a casual blouse that looks great with jeans, although I have worn it with cotton trousers that read as trouser jeans. It is too casual for skirts, in my iteration.

Cuffs up or cuffs down? I prefer cuffs down when I am the cardigan queen. I also prefer my shirts well-pressed. Oops.

The navy gingham is a stretch cotton from Queen Textiles (leftovers of which were added to Bleuet). It allows a casual look to be a little more polished. In a shirting, it could probably work in a dressier context. I had to do a lot of work on the pattern: the waist had to be raised, as did the neckline; there was a lot of length to remove above the bust, at the hem and at centre back. It was worth the effort, as I wear it a lot. The neckline is not my favourite, which is why I have not made more versions. I am still working out what my ideal blouse looks like and trying different patterns in an effort to attain the holy grail of blouse-ness.

The back has waist and shoulder darts. I am learning that I need shoulder darts! I love the buttons on this blouse, bought locally at Capital Buttons.

Enough tops for now. In the time that I spent writing this post, I have completed five more shirts, made a batch of applesauce and my lunches for the week. (I take a lot of procrastination breaks!)

Shirts 5 blocks

Shirts quilt. Eight blocks done, four to go!


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