Top of the heap (or, a heap of tops)

Gratuitous dog photo

Over the past few weeks I’ve come to the realisation about what to sew that will actually be useful to me. There’s not been a particular trigger for this; I’ve just found myself being more discerning when looking at patterns and fabrics and actually thinking about how I’d wear the whatever I’m picturing making. Now, this is the way I’ve shopped for years (generally, although the odd frivolously trendy and totally-not-my-style garment still sneaks its way into my wardrobe) so it’s odd that it’s taken so long for me to sew that way. I guess I’ve been caught up in the excitement of creating and not thought about the utility.

The hound wasn’t completely convinced this modelling thing was for him today

That’s not to say the things I’ve sewn haven’t been worn, more that I’m now sewing things I want to wear. Over and over and over until they’re worn out. And I’m starting to see the gaps in my wardrobe and think about whether I can fill them myself before heading to the shops. Plus my skills are improved enough that I feel much more confident wearing what I’ve made.

I don’t think I’ll ever have an entirely handmade wardrobe (you can come quote that back at me in two years when it turns out I’ve changed my mind…) because I still have a big need for the kind of polished, tailored, non-stretch work wear I don’t have the patience to make well enough for myself. But my casual wardrobe is starting to go that way.


This is the third of three t-shirts I made in a week. But it’s a dress, I hear you say. True. However, it started life as Maria Denmark‘s Kirsten kimono tee (free pattern when you sign up for her newsletter). I’ve made this pattern a bunch of times now and could practically do it with my eyes shut (if I wasn’t worried I’d sew over my fingers…). It’s been in silver (worn with the Miette here), black silk, grey/black stripes and colour-blocked black and silver in my first pattern hacking attempt. Clearly it was time to break out of that monochrome rut.


The impetus for the latest round of t-shirt sewing was an imminent weekend of skiing, sharing a room with five strangers (okay – one good friend, one colleague and three strangers), and realising my pyjamas didn’t really cut it. One post-work trip to Spotlight to inspect their range of flannel, cotton jersey and patterns, a second trip to Spotlight the next day because I somehow only managed to buy enough flannel for one leg of pants, and about three hours of sewing later and – voila – new pyjamas. That yellow spotty t-shirt up there is the top half; the pants are red and white scallops with a yellow ribbon tie. I lengthened the kimono tee pattern by 7cm (actually properly lengthening by adding the extra around the waist not just the hem) to make it cover my hips and scooped out the front neckline a bit more than the original. I was so delighted with the end fit I decided to add a couple more to the wardrobe to go with jeans.


Cutting out the next two fabrics, I remembered how much use I got out of a Bonds t-shirt dress I’ve had for years and thought I’d try replicating its usefulness. I measured from the front neckline of the yellow top to my knees and added still more length to the pattern, this time going down from the hem and grading the side-seams with a French curve. To squeeze both pieces out of the 115cm wide fabric I did have to take about a centimetre of width out at both the centre front and back so the dress is a bit snugger than the tops.


All three were sewed up directly on the overlocker, with only top-stitching done on the regular machine. I’m still not 100 per cent sure of my seam allowances on the overlocker but otherwise am much more confident in its use. I’m especially proud of the neckbands on these tops. The first time I made up this pattern I attached and unpicked and attached and unpicked the damn thing about five times, just not getting the hang of stretching it as I sewed. This time the neckband went on with the overlocker stitching, no worries.

Yes, I’ve only got black thread on my overlocker. The hound ate one of the white cones. No, it doesn’t bother me. Yet.

I sorta kinda thought about pattern-matching when cutting the pieces, but there wasn’t a whole lot of leeway in where to place the pattern on the fabric. And then it turned out because the chevrons (or are they just zig-zags?) go up *and* down they don’t necessarily sew together easily on a straight seam anyway. If that makes sense. The end result was the pattern kinda sorta matches on one side and not at all on the other.

Now I’m trying to stop myself thinking how awesome t-shirt dresses are and sewing a bajillion – because that wouldn’t be filling a wardrobe gap, it would be over-saturating it!

This is what happens when you try to do a fashion shoot at the rugby...
This is what happens when you try to do a fashion shoot at the rugby…



One thought on “Top of the heap (or, a heap of tops)

  1. whisperinggums September 6, 2014 / 8:05 pm

    Love the zig zag fabric. How clever you are. The dress looks very nice. And so does the very gorgeous hound – from what we can see of him. Those dark coloured dogs are darned hard to photograph. Almost makes me think our next dog – if we decide to get one – will not be a black one.

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