Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Work Tops: The Annual Lament

Every winter I realize I have no work tops, and every winter I somehow still don't have any winter work tops no matter how many I sew. I embarked on Two Weeks of Winter Work Tops in 2008. I made several tops last year. And yet, I still have no winter work tops. I mean, I have a few, but I loathe almost all of them. So, the Endless Combinations contest got me to put my shoulder to the boulder of this Sisyphean task once again. I tried to be strategic, thinking about what tops I actually *like* in my closet. I turn to the yellow version of Simplicity 4539 as often as is reasonable, so I added another one of those. I find silk very warm (can't wear it in the summer), and I adore Burda 02-2009-123, so I made another of those. And I threw in a turtleneck for layering. Winter work tops is still a large hole in my closet, but at least I've made a few baby steps here.


Burda 09-2010-121 Thumbnail First on the list was the famous Burda 09-2010-121 turtleneck. I don't care for turtlenecks, really. They make me feel chokey and I think my collarbones are one of my nicest features so I always prefer a lower neckline. But we are having such a COLD winter so far that I figured I should get around to making this as a layering piece.

I got the idea for the thumb opening (in use is the side view photo of the above collage and the photo below at right) from Noile. This was the first time I'd heard of this, but it's apparently everywhere as in this Lululemon running top/jacket. Since I don't buy RTW other than a pair of jeans once or twice a year, I miss a lot of little stuff like this.

ThumbholeIt's hard to take photos of black fabric, so if the details don't show up on your screen I have demonstrated the thumbhole with a measuring tape here. I marked where my thumb naturally fell on the sleeve and then clipped into the seam allowance to the stitching line on both sides of the opening. I stitched down the resulting seam allowance flaps, then serged the sleeve seam above and below the opening (not an exact science that requires some fine tuning with the sewing machine). The only issue is that in a one-piece sleeve, the seam naturally falls along your pinkie line, not your thumb line, so I have to twist the sleeve to put my thumb into the opening. For future projects, I might do more like a welt/bound buttonhole concept for that opening.

Thumbhole Demo

My only other real change was to add a center back seam for swayback shaping.

I cut my usual size in this--34 at shoulders/bust, 36 at waist, 38 at hip--and it came off the machine absolutely enormous, more like a tunic than a turtleneck. I sewed this in a lightweight rayon knit, which doesn't have much recovery, so I think maybe 1/3 of the oversizedness can be blamed on the fabric, but some has to go to the pattern. I took 2 inches out of each side seam and 2 inches out of the center back for a total of SIX inches at the waist, slightly less at bust and hips. That is crazy talk. Looking at the back view, I see I should have taken even more width out of the upper back.

I cut a really generous 4 inch hem allowance because I am so sick of short tops that ride up when you lift your arms. Although I am short (5'1"), I have the torso of a woman of 5'5" (oh yes, my legs are that short) as Cidell and I learned when doing each other's measurements as our torsos are the same length. I like that this extra-long top will definitely never show my belly.

This is a great layering piece that I am sure will get a lot of wear this winter! The cut-on, self-faced turtleneck is quite comfortable and doesn't feel chokey. All photos are here Pattern review for the turtleneck is here


Simplicity 4539 Thumbnail

Simplicity 4539 is one of my staple patterns for all seasons. I am wearing the black and white version right now! So I knew I couldn't go wrong with this one.

Sometimes I curse my cutting efficiency, because it makes cutting such a long, tedious, and annoying process. But I managed to get a dress (coming soon) and this top out of 3 yards of fabric with annoyingly wide 6 and 8 inch selvages *and* a distinct pattern repeat break every 36 inches.

Twist Cowl

To change the drape a little I twisted the cowl when pinning it to the neckline. I lined up the center back seam of the cowl with the CB seam of the top on the the outside, and then on the inside twisted the cowl's CB seam about 3 inches to the left of the top's CB seam. With my busy print, it's hard for me to evaluate if this made the cowl more interesting or not, but it's fun to change things up.


I would like to experiment with making a longer cowl with this pattern, but because of fabric limitations I was only able to make this about an inch longer than drafted. For this version, I serged the doubled cowl to the neckline, in contravention to the directions. The pattern is drafted so that the upper edge of the cowl hangs free, which is just too fussy to wear. I have in the past hand-tacked the upper edge in place or sewn the lower edge to the neckline and then layered the upper edge over the seam and topstitched. Sewing both layers as one is simple, and the seam does not show in wearing.

I copied the sleeve from another Simplicity tee, shaving some height off the sleevecap, as I'd had some trouble with the sleeve I drafted last time. It worked perfectly.

This pattern is long out of print, and although cowls are very fashionable right now and the Big 4 have many different cowl patterns, none of them have this kind of tee-with-separate-cowl-piece as an option. Odd. Kwik Sew 3740 is the same style, though I understand the cowl has a more nuanced draft than this one, which is just a straight rectangle, as you can see here. However, you don't need to buy a pattern for this, really you don't. You can easily alter any t-shirt pattern to get the look with a low scoop neck and a rectangle cut to the width of your neckline.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Burda 02-2009-123 Thumbnail Another piece I love is the
Burda 02-2009-123
wrap blouse, so I added a third version of this to my closet. Love. I got this snakeskin print silk chiffon (with a crepey texture) as a remnant at G Street for around $9 in October and knew it was destined to be this blouse. I had not-quite-enough fabric (of course), so I had to narrow the sleeve a tiny bit and use a cuff to make it full length. Well, not quite full-length, it's a smidge shorter than I'd like. Unfortunately, it turns out I needed that missing sleeve width, and that I could really use a broad back adjustment in this pattern. I didn't notice the latter with the navy version as it is quite a stretchy charmeuse and the flutter sleeves give enough movement that I didn't notice in that version either. So I'm a little concerned that I will eventually burst through the fabric at the bicep and upper back on this one but I'll wear it until that happens.

French Seam Armscye Cuff French Seam

As per usual on silk garments I used French seams throughout. I know French seams are meant only for straight seams, but where the fabric is very lightweight and the sleevecap is not excessively eased I find it possible to do a French seam at the armscye as well. For this one, I set the sleeve in flat as a French seam, and then sewed the sleeve and side seam as one (leaving an opening for the tie, as explained here).

Back Neckline Finish I finished the back neckline a little differently on this than on previous versions. I used a bias strip, as called for by the pattern, but here I turned it into double fold bias tape and encased the back neckline in it, with the bias tape showing on the right side.

Front As with the other versions, I used the serger to finish the collar and hem edges. However, I had a *devil* of a time with this. I recently purchased a new-to-me Bernette serger, and I could not get this fabric to stay over the stitch finger in single-needle serging. The fabric was aligned correctly, the knife was trimming it off, but the stitch would not come anywhere even close to the fabric but would just form as an unrelated chain off to the side. It was so, so frustrating. I may have to abandon the serger if I can't do a single-needle rolled hem finish, one of the great things about having a serger. After trimming off way, way more of the fabric than I would have liked to, I managed to finish the edges, supplementing with the sewing machine as needed. So it's not as nice-looking as I'd like but it would only be obvious on close inspection.

I had only tiny scraps left after cutting, so I used velvet ribbon as the tie.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Marathon post! There's only one piece in my Endless Combination left to discuss, so stay tuned.


Adelaide B said...

I love the cowl top. (And the pink skirt! LOVE IT!) I have a couple more winter tops coming down the line too. Where do they go during summer? Every winter I'm left with no tops. How does that happen?

Anonymous said...

These are all great. Congratulations on bringing more interest to your winter wardrobe.

I stumbled across your blog recently and I find both the title of your blog and your prolific sewing output inspiring. I tend toward perfectionism in sewing, but am much more productive and have more fun when I let myself be more slapdash.

That said--my obsessive tendencies are such that I could NOT wear a sleeve that had to be twisted to put my thumb through it. It's giving me the heebeejeebies just thinking about it--like wearing stockings with one leg twisted. Shudder.

Anonymous said...

They all look great! (and man, I wish I'd picked up that month's issue of Burda just for that turtleneck...)

I feel the same way, too, like I've made a ton of tops, but *still* never have any to wear that aren't boring or ugly. /sigh

Irene said...

You have been one busy sewist! Love all your tops.
A thumb hole - guess this is like having fingerless gloves right at your fingertips (on your wrists?). Does it help to keep you warmer? I'm ready to do anything to keep from freezing.

Sew4Fun said...

Nice wardrobe of clothes. I can't believe though an annoying habit started by 12yo girls is now a fashion trend. :)

P.S. I just realised you don't have kids so you probably don't realise I'm talking about the thumb hole in sweaters. :)

LindaC said...

So, am I the only one who had to look up Sisyphean? :)

Nice collection of tops. Are they ALL for work?

AllisonC said...

Now this is the kind of organised sewing I need to do. These are 3 great tops which must create a ton of possible outfits, both in and out of work.

Audrey said...

All three tops are great, but I especially like the snake print top. The fabric is perfect for that pattern and the top looks so good worn with the pink skirt and black tank. Love that outfit!

Kyle said...

So a week ago I had no idea who Sisyphus was, and now I've seen that reference three times in a week: a book called Unfinished Business (with the full explanation), the LOLCats site (mother cat carries one kitten up slide only to have another kitten decide to slide down the slide), and your blog!

Marie-Christine said...

Thumbholes are very trendy in technical tops too, where that's a really functionnal feature.

Congratulations on making a dent in the problem. I understand it's difficult to make great strides against a problem you'd rather not have at all, I too would rather live in the tropics :-). But it's better not to be short of something you really need.

Hopefully the Burda turtleneck will reconcile you to warm necklines, as it's not choking at all, but I'd advise you to go back to the original pattern next time you cut one out, or you may end up giving it to the nearest 10-year-old, I think the problem is entirely in the total non-recoveory of that fabric.

Clio said...

Wow, you've been busy!

I love the cowl top and corset skirt outfit - I don't think it is past it's moment at all. The whole skinny belt thing is still going strong.

I totally hear you on the turtle neck thing. According to my mom, when I was 4, I told her that turtle necks made me "chokey" and banished them from my wardrobe. And I still feel that way.

Clio said...

OH! And thumb holes - lots of winter running wear features this (Brooks, Nike, etc) and I love it! But I am wondering how it will fare in an everyday top. If you are running outdoors, you aren't really using your hands for much of anything, but I wonder if that part of the top will wear out after repetitive emailing - or blogging!

Anonymous said...

Wait, you are only 5'1"? I've been reading your blog for almost 2 years (I seldom comment but I do read regularly) and I never knew you were 5'1". I am only 4'11" and I usually look at your creations wistfully thinking "that won't work on me, I am too short." I always thought you were around 5'4". You photograph quite tall, which is unusual considering you have a long torso/short legs. Usually the long legged people look tall even when they are actually short. I too am cursed with the extremely long torso/short legs thing. I found out in my pattern drafting class that I am not a petite torso - my torso is normal size.