Wednesday, 2 March 2016

StyleArc Edith Top

Sometimes it's about the destination rather than the journey, isn't it. 

Finished on Saturday, photographed on Sunday (a big thank you to my son!), worn on Monday...

I can't say I enjoyed sewing this little Edith top, but now the sewing's done I'm blanking out the irritating memories and introducing it to the rest of my wardrobe.

I wore this top to work on Monday, with black cigarette pants and a skinny shibori scarf, and getting changed after work I was frankly surprised at how well it also went with my crumpled old khaki shorts. I rather like it with jeans, and I reckon it's going to work with knee length straight or pencil skirts too.  Smart OR casual, breezy AND good with a jacket - yes, this is definitely going to be a wardrobe staple.

So the destination is a happy one - Edith has found a warm and loving home - but let me tell you about the journey and its irritations.

- - - - - - - -

First up, this is a StyleArc pattern, bought as a pdf through StyleArc's Etsy shop* at the same time as I bought the Ethel pants pattern.  I don't particularly enjoy sticky taping bits of paper together, but I'm not confident my size in StyleArc patterns is a constant, so it feels safer to get the 3 different sizes in one download than to pick a single size (and then wait for it to arrive in the mail from StyleArc in Melbourne).  I can see that StyleArc sells multi-sized printed patterns through Amazon, which looks like a great option, but I don't think they ship back to Australia (anyway, doing so would make me feel environmentally reckless).
* : that is not an affiliate link.  I can't be bothered with affiliate links so there are none on this blog.

StyleArc pdfs are pretty good as these things go - they're obviously professionally put together. On top of the usual technical drawings and instructions, this pattern included a test square, top tips for downloadable patterns, and a layout guide that showed how the pages should be stuck together.  The pattern pieces themselves were clean-looking with lots of details marked on them: seam allowances (which vary according to the seam), printed size, pattern piece name, direction of grainline and notches were all marked clearly. 

So far so good, and the next few steps were fine too.

StyleArc don't add extra ease to their patterns, so although I'm between a size 8 and a size 10 in their size guide, I decided to go with the size 10 to avoid making something that might potentially feel too snug (ha! done that before).

My fabric is a linen, as I'm sure you can see, and I think the top looks great in this fabric, but linen is not one of the recommended fabrics.  StyleArc suggests crepe, rayon, silk or voile, and while I imagine they'd be lovely to wear I think the details in this top could be very tricky to sew neatly in a drapey fabric.

Speaking of fabric, I bought this lovely lightweight linen from The Fabric Store in Surry Hills, Sydney in one of their sales last year.  I wasn't planning on buying it, but then someone else brought the bolt to the counter and I realised I loved the colour (still do!), so I added enough for a little top to my purchases.

Onto the sewing. 

The first problem here was me. My eyes are getting old (well, I am too), and don't enjoy reading small print with minimal white space between the lines, so reading the instructions was not fun.

And everyone knows StyleArc's instructions are sparse, so no surprises there. Initially the sparseness  isn't a problem - interface a couple of key pieces, sew and press the bust darts, sew the pocket flaps (taking note that the small type says "pocket" and not "placket", because that would be confusing,,,), and finish off the pockets with top stitching as neat as you can manage.

Next up, assume the brace position. 

The next step is the one that made me put aside sewing this top for about a month.

Maybe oxygen would have helped me focus on the instructions, but the diagrams for the partial placket just confused me - I'm used to the shaded areas of the tech drawings in pattern instructions representing the right side of the fabric, but for StyleArc the shaded areas mean the wrong side. Ha!
Too confusing for late nights, and so I fell down the nightmarish rabbit hole of dodgy internet tutorials.

If you get stuck on the partial placket, can I strongly suggest you stay away from your computer at this point? The best thing to do - if you want to avoid learning how to sew a crooked faux partial placket on top of a child's t-shirt - is to furrow your brow, stick your fingers in your ears, take a deep gulp of air, and re-read, re-read, and re-read StyleArc's instructions and diagram as slowly as you can.

Eventually the placket instructions made sense and my own partial placket took shape. I don't think it's a good example of a placket, and I think the placket design and instructions could have been better - the way this placket is designed gives you a lot of bulk at the bottom of the placket where the left and right sides are both folded under, and I'm thinking perhaps it could have been drafted as a single strip with a double rather than quadruple layer of fabric at the bottom.

Oh and if you get the bright idea of slightly staggering the heights of the two placket pieces to avoid getting a big lump of fabric at the end of the placket, be aware that this will affect your neckline. Mine is now also staggered :).

It still works!

One thing I DO like about the placket is that it needs no buttons or buttonholes. At this point in the sewing, my brain thought "Thank #%^&!!" (yes, that is a direct quote) and I knocked out those horizontals across the placket very quickly, not even bothering to check the spacing or straightness.

And back to the collar; I should mention that it's drafted as two curved pieces with narrow seam allowances - absolutely do-able in linen with a hot iron and lots of care, but probably a real challenge in something drapey.  Sue Parrott made this top in a viscose challis last year, and she replaced the drafted collar pieces with a single wider strip of fabric cut on the bias and folded in half lengthwise - it looks good and sounds much more do-able than using two narrower, curved pieces of drapey fabric.

The second last step in sewing this top is attaching the hip bands, the under layer that sticks out below the top with what looks like a split at the sides.

I love the look of this detail - very RTW, I think - but the instructions are not especially clear here either   I overlocked the upper edges of the "hip bands" and the lower edge of the top. pressed a deep hem to the top (measured every couple of centimetres to keep it the same depth all round), then pinned the hem bands to the inside of the top.  I then measured the depth of the hip band all the way around the top to make sure it was consistent, especially near the side splits, and THEN stitched the layers together in the round with a little overlap between the front and back hip bands on the inside seams.

Once the hip bands are done you're nearly there - all you have left to do are the sleeves or armhole bindings.

StyleArc refers you to a double bind tutorial on their website to sew the binding to the armhole, and suggests you make a circle of the binding and attach it to the cicrle of the armhole. If your , but if your fabric is likely to have stretched out at all you can sew the binding in the flat and overlap the ends, or (if you planned ahead) you can sew the binding to the armholes before you sew the side seams of the top. Mine is sewed on with overlapped ends.

And that's it!

The Edith top pattern gave me a few headaches along the way, but in the end I have a top that I'm going to wear heaps. I do recommend the pattern because it makes for a lovely top, but it's definitely a pattern to take on when your head is clear and the lighting is good! 

Happy sewing

- Gabrielle xx
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