In looking to refresh my sewing skills, I went in search of the tips and tricks I knew existed but couldn’t quite recall all the details thereof…like lining a simple shift dress or sleeveless top quickly and easily. I came across Angela Kane and her fabulous video tutorials. You can find her site here.
The finished top, a perfect colour and style match for my very bright orange creamsicle jeans.
Ms. Kane offers a couple of free patterns to try out – one for a sleeveless summer top in sizes small, medium, and large, and the other for a pinafore style dress. This is a great way to see if you like the way the patterns are drafted and how the video tutorials are structured. I signed up for the free trial and decided to start with the top. I had 1.25 metres of ‘Indian Summer’ by Art Gallery Fabrics that I picked up earlier in the year from The Workroom. This nice crisp cotton with its blue geometric print was the perfect choice for this style. For the button, I decided to use one of the several orange ceramic buttons I made to match this fabric.
The sewing patterns are available as pdf downloads. One size per pdf which makes things nice and clear (unlike the wild and scrambled multi-pattern sheets from Burda magazines, which I love!). The pattern printed off on letter size paper easily. I set mine to draft quality and black and white to save on ink. There is an option for A4 paper too. Helpful hints for printer settings are provided which meant the tester page printed out perfectly. You mustn’t skip this step, or your whole pattern could end up completely the wrong size.
This is what the pattern looks like when printed, stuck together and cut with paper (not fabric!) scissors:
It is important to note that Ms.Kane’s pattern are ‘net’ patterns. Proper couture patterns like these, and those from Burda magazine, do not have the seam allowances included within the pattern lines - you add the desired seam allowance (usually between 3/8 and 5/8 inches) when you cut your fabric.
When I prepared my paper pattern, I added 1.5 inches of length at the waistline as per usual for my long waist. I also wanted more of a tunic style top so I added 4.5 inches to the length of the garment. So glad I did this, as you shall see later.
While this is a relatively simple style, there are so many thoughtful technical details that make this a solid little pattern. For example: the facings that are just a bit narrower than the fashion fabric pieces to ensure that the facings don’t show. Not a big issue when self facing, like on my sample, but if the facings were to be made of a contrast fabric, or lining material, then this is an especially nice feature.
Front with earthenware button, that I made, feature on the front pleat (my addition, not part of the original pattern).
The hand stitched loop buttonhole is a classic couture feature. I didn’t have any buttonhole thread on hand, so used some hand quilting cotton thread instead. Worked beautifully.
Back of the sleeveless top. Note the hand crafted button loop closure. Hand quilting thread made a good substitute for the recommended buttonhole thread. The additional buttons and shoulder pleats were my addition to get a better fit.
My top is a bit different from the original at the hem. Remember I added those extra few inches at the bottom? Instead of adding interfacing for stability to the hemline, I opted for side vents and a deeper hem. I also machine stitched the hem instead of hand sewing it. The top-stitching followed up the side vent to the side seam then back down creating a pleasing visual.
Hem detail. I skipped the interfacing at the hemline and double turned the hem instead. I also machine stitched the hem following up (and down) the side vents instead of hand hemming the piece. This is a pretty casual garment and the cotton looks fine with this hem treatment.
The top went together very quickly and easily, but there was one catch. With the fit. I didn’t bother to make a muslin this time. I should have. Bad seamstress.
While I went into this with the full knowledge that this style is really not the most flattering for my body type (an hourglass does not go well with big shapeless tops), I realized part way through the sewing that this was going to be really big.. and it wasn’t just because I tend to think of myself as bigger than I actually am. I tried it on once the shoulders were joined and it was clearly huge. I compensated with really wide seams on the sides taking in as much as I could in the only place that I could without taking the whole thing apart. I pressed on.
When it was finished, the fit was more or less what one expects with this style of top. The bust area fit well and the armhole openings were good, my wide side seams did their trick…. but the neck gaped to a ridiculous level. This may not have been as noticeable with a drapey fabric, but the crisp cool cotton, even though pre-washed, was not sitting well at all. Nothing to do for it but be creative! I formed a single wide (read stylish) pleat at the front and two small pleats on the back. These were bar-tacked in place to secure them. The additional buttons, front and back, are purely cosmetic. Thank goodness I had made lots of these orange earthenware buttons, they came in handy!
Finished top, front view. I made the white earthenware buttons too! they are a perfect match for this top.
I wore my top right after I finished making it, with my crazy bright creamsicle orange jeans. What would possess me to buy such a colour? In this case… well, price. They cost me all of $7.00! After a long dreary winter and a rather grey spring, I am quite alright with a bit of bright just now. The top was cool and comfortable on a hot and humid summer day.
But back to the review of the pattern.. I could best sum it up this way: Angela Kane’s tutorial videos are fabulous, the pattern is well drafted, but the fit and sizing of the garment is a bit off. Maybe it’s just this pattern. It was, however, a pleasure to make.
The video tutorials are clear. Every detail is explained and illustrated. I only wish there were a written summary of the steps in print form available. This would be helpful.
Maybe I just missed it, but I don’t recall a detail summary of the materials needed. What materials required were listed – fabric, interfacing, thread and a button, but not the actual amount of fabric.
The pattern itself is well drafted and attention to detail and a real effort towards clarity is made. Fab.
The only reservation I have in making another one of her patterns is the sizing. The Medium should have fit me perfectly according to the size chart, but it didn’t. Besides the neckline being really wide, the other issue with fit was the length. Had I not added the extra length (6.0 in. in total) for the waist and hem areas, this would have been a seriously short top; not suitable for wearing with the low-rise jeans so popular right now.
All in all, I like this top. It was nice and cool on a hot and humid day in the city. I may make another one, but will make the necessary adjustments to the pattern for a better fit without having to add post construction pleats. This was a good reminder to always make a muslin first, even for the simplest of garments.
If you’re looking for excellent video tutorials for garment construction and couture techniques, Angela Kane is well worth a look whether you’re new to sewing clothing or looking to brush up on your techniques.
Will I make another one of Angela Kane’s patterns? Yes. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have a beautiful day,