Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Draped Jersey Top

As it turns out, draping is not as easy as it looks. At least not for me, at least not with drapey, stretchy jersey!

This simple looking jersey top is the result of my Saturday afternoon AND evening :-)- and the skirt is of course V1282 again.

This colour is pretty accurate - the top is a deep, purplish blue
The underlying top is a simple BurdaStyle one (2/2009-108, but I don't recall what size my tracing is), and my challenge was that simple looking drape crossing my body. Simple, simple, simple - not.

A lighter photo...
The top is made from two remnant pieces of a soft, inviting viscose/elastane fabric from Tessuti Fabrics.  Very pleasant to wear but uncooperative with my sewing machine - even with walking foot, the right stretch needle, and adjusted tension. I don't think you can see the grief it gave me so let's move on.

A close-up showing the pleats and drape
Yes, I'm smiling - my top isn't exactly as I initially envisaged, but I really like it. To be completely honest, the final (quite imperfect) drape positioning on my body is better than my original idea (which emphasised my waist quite spitefully) - but I did so much pinning, trying on and repinning that the adjusted version really should be an improvement!

In case you're interested, here's how I did it. If you are a whizz at draping you're welcome to have a giggle so long as you leave me some top tips in the comments box!

The Mechanics
Well, I started this top by cutting out a BurdaStyle fitted long sleeve t-shirt, one which I've made several times before*. I cut out so as to leave as big a single piece of unused fabric as possible for draping - this ended being roughly a square shape.  From this square shape I cut out the RHS front arm hole, side seam and shoulder slope (extended out at the same angle until I hit the top edge of my drape fabric) to match the RHS shape of the base top.

* The idea was to start with something that fitted me, but I forgot that I always adjust the sizing of this top a lot (I need it to be more pearish) when I make it. 

Next up I pinned all the bodice pieces together on my dress form - first the base front and back, then the RHS shoulder seam for the extra piece to be draped.  As I pinned the shoulder seam I pinned in place some pleats that I thought might work, with a deep fold of fabric to hopefully stop the drape from flipping open:


I roughly pinned together the side seams and RHS armhole, to be basted together before sewing the top:


and fiddled with the drape for ages before pinning it into the LHS waist area where it would meet up again with the base top and get sewn in (and trimmed):


Lots of excess fabric, but this was the idea - pleats on the side seam:

I then tried it on full of pins. The drape shown above didn't look good at all, so I played around with the angle of the drape and where on the LHS seam it landed. When I was happy with how the drape placement looked - landing a lot lower on my body - I sewed the draped pleats to the base top at the shoulder seam, then sewed the RHS armhole and side together (as pinned in photo 2 above).

Danger Zone
Next up I sewed together shoulder seams, then sewed in the RHS sleeve, then the RHS sleeve seam and RHS side seam. I tried it on again but the weight of the drape made it hard to tell if anything was changing with the fit - however, with a sleeve in place it was now obviousthat the base top didn't fit very well on the shoulders and upper bust. Grrr. Oh, and the arm scye was way too big and the sleeves baggy and saggy.

The thing is that my dress form doesn't have my shape, even when I manage to set all the dials to the right numbers. Her shoulders are much wider than mine, and somehow her posture is better or something so that she never gets fabric pooling in her upper bust area. And on a top with drapery hanging off the shoulder, you need to know your shoulder!

After a lot of mucking around and hypothesising about seams I could take in, the despairing thought "if only I could make my shoulders bigger" was met with a brainwave: shoulder pads!

I sewed up the rest of the top with the shoulder pads pinned in place, and the drape got healthier. I took the upper side seams and upper sleeve seams in, then again, and then again, and finally that fitting problem looked to be resolved.

One problem remains: my shoulder pads are not adequately supported by actual shoulders, and this makes the outermost pleat collapse somewhat:

A TNT pattern is one that fits; the BurdaStyle top needs some work before it can become one. [Note to self: narrow the shoulders and upper bodice, widen the waist!]
Draping on the dress form assumes your dress form reflects your form.  Draping on the person might be quicker and more reliable but needs a sewing friend because the pinning can be tricky with only 2 arms.

My dress form is not very pear-shaped. How can I make her shoulders smaller like mine???? 

Finally, some questions for you if you've read this far!

  1. Have you ever tried draping with knits? 
  2. Do you think you know how to do it? 
  3. If  you answered 'Yes' to 1) or 2), can you give me any tips or suggest any resources?


  1. I've never tried any sort of draping.
    Isn't it always the way that simple never turns out to be simple!

    1. Yes, always seems to be the way doesn't it!

  2. Lovely! I know how draping with knits is done: magic!

    1. Hehehe - you're right! Where can I get some???

  3. Well I'm glad it turned out OK in the end because it looks fab! I have had a bit of a "play" on my dress form but I haven't gone any further than that. I should really read up a bit more in one of the many books I own ;) and then give it a proper try.

    1. I forgot to add that the way you tried this, starting with a fitted item underneath, is a really good idea :)

    2. Aw thanks! I haven't seen anything much about draping in the books I own, but I my stumbling efforts made me realise there is definitely an art to it. So if you do come across some good resources when you give it a try please share :-) 'cos even though it wasn't so easy it is kind of fun.

  4. This turned out really well. How many pins did you get stuck in yourself with all that trying on? I have no tips, sorry, but am in admiration of your finished product.

    1. Thank you!

      Hmm - quite a few pin stabbings: under my arms, down my sides and behind my shoulder! And then lots of pins shed around the house... the bathroom was good for trying on and looking in the mirror but not the most excellent place to leave pins.

  5. Can't be any help with resources, but your top is really elegant! Worth all the hassle.

    1. Thank you Catherine!

      Yes, I think it was worth it - the sewing hassles are always forgotten if the finished garment works out :-). But remembered clearly if it's a failure.

  6. No tips sorry, but I love reading about your experimentation. I think the top looks good. I like the interest of the draped front.

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the read! I'm having a bit of a crush on draping lately and would love to be able to do something draped in a more complicated way - but it's challenging!

  7. I know TJ from makes some lovely lovely draped tops with knits ....

    1. Thanks for this suggestion - I've not been following her that long but I have seen some cool draped knit tops she's made from Pattern Magic III! Very inspiring...

  8. What a fun experiment. I think the finished top looks great.

    1. Thanks Bernice - I need to pop over to your place (I mean blog) and leave a comment about your new dress: so sunny, so lovely!

  9. Beautiful! The draping is absolutely lovely.
    In answer to your questions; Pattern Magic 3 taught me everything I need to know about draping :)


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