A post by Ruth.

The challenge: to make the Laurel Top from Colette Patterns. 

The fabric: Bye Bye Birdie in Navy.


I won’t beat around bush. The top I have in front of me would make a mildly accomplished seamstress weep/hysterically laugh with pity. 

It’s a bit wonky, I misunderstood some (really quite simple) instructions, and, in parts, I wilfully disobeyed. BUT, in front of me is AN ACTUAL TOP THAT I MADE.

Say “staystitch” to me a week ago, and I’d probably have assumed you’d a particularly persistent pain from too much exercise. Mention “the selvedge”, and I may well have thought you were referencing some kind of grand Viking war ship. 


Fast forward 7 days and I’ve made considerable inroads into mastering sewing lingo, understand the structure of a simple garment (kind of), and I MADE MY VERY OWN TOP. (Did I mention that?) 

The main thing I would do differently is to first make a draft version out of any old fabric. As soon as I’d finished semi-massacring this beautiful scattering of origami birds, I immediately wanted to make it again and use my new-found skills to do the fabric better justice. 

Assuming I could guess my size without taking my measurements was my first mistake. I’d almost finished cutting out the pieces in a size 10, before realising this was in fact US sizing and what I needed was a 4. Measure measure measure!

Second error: being way too blasé when marking the fabric. Marking the points on the different fabric pieces in the places you will later want to line up is, as I discovered, QUITE IMPORTANT. (Hence wonky garment.)

Darts seemed like a frankly insurmountable task. Over a bottle of wine, my mother-in-law told me her tried-and-tested darts method. I nodded, knowingly, while not having the foggiest what she was talking about. But then, when it came to do the darts it all suddenly made sense! (Thanks Alyson!)

A synopsis of her wise words: lay the pieces on the carpet still attached to the pattern, push pins through the points that mark the darts, then peel off the pattern paper, over the pins, leaving the pins stuck through the fabric. You can then easily mark those points with chalk.

I then used a ruler and chalk to draw both the lines I wanted to be stitching and the line where I’d be folding and pressing. Tilly and The Buttons have an exceedingly useful post on understanding darts in general:

My next obstacle: bias tape. Not a piece of recorded evidence planted to mislead a jury, but a ribbon-like strip of stiff fabric that makes neater work of necklines and seams. I have to confess that instead of using a staystich to attach this to the neckline (little invisible hand stitch) I cheated and used wunderweb. (!) ((Time constraints and a poorly baby are my very pathetic excuses!)) Looking at the stiff & slightly gaping neck, I now realise why this was a less-than-good idea.

Working out which way to pin on the sleeve did not, shall we say, come naturally to me. I have never sworn so much in such a short space of time – and I’ve given birth twice. I rang Fabric Godmother in a flap, and her advice was simple and effective: garment inside out, sleeve right way out. insert sleeve fully into garment. Pin. Sew. 

So here I am. First garment down. A few lessons learnt (several the hard way). A handful of basic skills slightly in place. 

File 13-02-2018, 11 08 18

Right Fabric G: bring on the next challenge! (Fingers crossed she picks a cushion cover…)

5 thoughts on “AN ACTUAL TOP THAT I MADE

  1. Kim says:

    Love this account of first time sewing – you did really well Ruth, big learning curve – I’m out of the beginner blocks but nowhere near experienced yet 0 – and totally identify with your comments.

  2. Alyson says:

    Well done Ruth! The darts worked, although I am not sure the pins-in-carpet method should be recorded! You have left the starting post and jargon is often the most difficult thing to master.

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