The Top That Almost Wasn’t

This has been a day of extreme frustration for me.  It started all well & sunny by unpinning the drapey jersey I’d cut out last night for a Day to Night top by Maria Denmark.  I’ve wanted to make this for ages.  I bought it earlier in the summer & decided Daughter No1 would get first crack at it.  I read the instructions re FBA etc, knowing I’d need one here. Can you believe I’ve never done one?  That’s because all the tops I make for myself & No1 are self drafted!

Anyway, I was slightly suprised to note the pattern doesn’t go down to her size, unlike the Kimono tee – but the smallest size is 1cm wider at the bust than the measurements I had.  A decision was made to wing it for the toile & see just exactly what and how much I’d need to adjust.  The fabric chosen was from the stash, I’d bought copious amounts of this drapey poly-jersey some time ago.  I found a couple of packs of clear elastic in the elastics stash too, no idea what I’d got them for initially!

A quick read through the instructions left me feeling confident, lets face it, there are only 2 pieces to this pattern, it’s hardly rocket science.  However.  My old Bernina refused flatly to have anything to do with the clear elastic I was to sew to the back neckline to stabilise it.  I begged, I pleaded.  Eventually it gobbled up the first 2 cm – fabric, elastic, the works.  Cue much cursing & frantic tweeting – help!!  Obviously there was a “tutorial” which wasn’t much help.  If I had a teflon foot apparently all my hair pulling & scaring the birds outside my window would go away.  I. Don’t. Have. One!  Trying to find one for a 42 year old machine is pretty nigh impossible too.

collage 1
Neckline on first toile

In the end I managed to bully, cajole, persuade (you pick the right word) dear old Bernina to zigzag the elastic to the neckline.  Reluctantly it obeyed but I was gifted skipped stitches & pulling where there shouldn’t be any.  This didn’t get any better when turning the elastic over & stitching the seam allowance down on the outside.  I tried the suggested zigzag again & ripped it out almost as soon as I’d started!  In went the twin needle & things were a bit better.  Bernina was still sulking & skipped stitches in revenge.  The same happened with the armholes.. By now I was thinking this whole thing was jinxed.  Shoulder & side seams were fine, the overlocker behaved perfectly.

Pulling on armholes & into back neckline
Pulling on armholes & into back neckline

I put it on the dress form – I don’t think this will fit Daughter No1 over the bust.  The waist & hip will be fine, probably even slightly baggy, but the bust line looks pretty darn snug. By this time I was pretty fed up.   A walk in fresh air and some loud music in my ears was in order so I left it for a couple of hours.

DSC09696-1It fits Daughter No2 fairly well.  You can see all the pulling from the neck & armholes clearly and again, it’s snug over the bust.  This is the size I’d have made for her, without adjustments.  She rather likes it & would be happy to wear it, but there’s no way I’m allowing that thing to see the light of day!  I haven’t done such a poor job on a garment since I was 14 in Home Ec!

Collage 4On coming home from my “clearing the air walk” I thought I’d make another one, but with a different jersey.  This time I used some back cotton/lycra blend, also from the stash.  Applying the elastic at the neckline was much better, without the slippness of the other jersey, the elastic was easier to control.  I still got some skipped stitches but it was far better, as was the twin needle top stitching.  I left the elastic out of the armholes all together, just turning under the 1cm seam allowance & using a twin needle to stitch it down.  The hem was also stitched with the twin needle.  I don’t think I have to say how much better this one has turned out!  No swearing, no scaring the birds or wishing for the death of the fabric!

I still need to see if it will work on the missing Daughter No1 (still away visiting the boyfriend) but it looks good on No2..  Will I make another?  A proper one?  Yes, but I will be oh so careful about the fabric choice!  Drapey stuff feels good, and looks good but is a pain in the be-hind to sew & I really don’t need the aggravation.  If I buy more fabric to make this top again, it will definitely be of the controllable sort & I might try to source some fold over elastic & give that a try. 

Less drape but better fitting around the armholes without the elastic.

Collage 5Has anyone else had any problems like this with fabric/elastic/etc? How did you overcome it or did the project end up flying out of the window?

Author: Anne W

I love fabric, and sewing. And I could do nothing else but sew, all day, every day, if I could!

8 thoughts on “The Top That Almost Wasn’t”

  1. From the horror stories I’ve heard people tell about clear elastic, I think there must be a big range in quality! The stuff I’ve used gave me no troubles at all – so maybe one day you’ll have some better stuff that will behave for you? Fingers crossed!
    I’m also really curious to see the fit on the smaller size. I’ve made the largest size, and although the bust is snug the drape goes so far down that you can see the band of my bra, even when I stand straight! I guess that’s a fault of grading up patterns? I’m curious!

  2. I have given up on clear elastic as well, preferring the rubber stuff. As for synthetic knits, these are not my friend either! Give me cotton lycra any day! Version two looks great.

  3. Actually, they both look pretty good to me. But I do think the jerseys are hit and miss. Incidentally, I cannot stop thinking about that fabulous black lace skirt pinned onto Pinterest. I found myself at Tessuti (Sydney, Aus) yesterday eyeing off a scalloped black lace. Jane

    1. It’s a great look, isn’t it? I am wondering now whether to go hunting for scalloped stuff or just stick to what’s in the stash. Decisions, decisions!! 🙂

  4. Masking tape on the underside of your foot! It will stip the elastic ‘sticking’.

  5. I find that some jerseys are more difficult to sew then others. I have used all sorts of little tricks when Things have not worked out. Like stabilizing, the fabric with everything from water-soluble stabilizers to strips of toilet paper :-). In the end though, could it also be the machine??? So many combinations of possible problems!!!! I really like Clear elastic, but some times when the fabiric isnt cooperating, I will cut strips of a good ribbing fabric, sew it to the right side of the fabric and turn it under. I usually cut these strips wider then they need to be and cut off the exess after turning to the wrong side and topstitching. I think it is much easier to get good results using this method when the fabric itself is trickey because the ribbing stabelizes the jersey.

    🙂 Good Luck….

  6. I have had similar problems with my lovely old Bernina too. When sewing a slinky stretch fabric now I tend to put some greaseproof paper behind to stabilise the fabric, then rip it off after. It’s a bit annoying picking it out from the stitches, but it does help minimise skipped stitches. I like greaseproof as it’s firmer than a lot of tracing paper, comes in a long roll, and is easy to pick up at the supermarket! You could also try using normal flat elastic instead of the clear stuff.

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