In the midst of a particularly crazy time at work a while back I decided to squeeze in a bit of a break in the form of some sewing to ease my tired brain. You might think that in that circumstance a quick, gratifying, no brainer of a project would be in order but no no no I decided to pick a super delicate silk and a new pattern to work with! It actual turned out to be the perfect project as the patience and focus that it required really slowed me down and pushed work stress out of my head for a few hours.
This is the top version of the Moana Dress from Papercut Patterns which I pounced on along with the Bowline Sweater when it was released earlier in the year. I love these designs which aren't like any other pattern in my collection. They have unique features to construct whilst still retaining clean, wearable lines. I love summer dresses and skirts but the temperamental British summer temperatures combined with the practical nature of my job often sees me in jeans and tees for the majority of it. This year I'm after some interesting tops and this is just the ticket.
The fabric is a print from this years Spring/Summer collection from Liberty called Spring Silhouette. I'm not usually a Liberty print girl for my clothing but their latest collection has really stepped up it's game in terms of modern, wearable prints and I've had my eye on a few! It's not like me to pick a small, delicate floral to wear but there's something about the subtlety of this I like; it's got quite a fresh, modern appeal. Liberty have been expanding their selection of base fabrics of late (I even spied some swimwear lycra on the Fabrics Galore Instagram account a few months back!) and this is their silk crepe de chine. It's pretty fine, verging on sheer but you can just about get away with it unlined for a top! It's quite matte for a crepe de chine which I really like. I managed to SQUEEZE it out of a metre but I was almost tempted to do the ruffle in an even more delicate chiffon or georgette.
I was worried about how this silk might hold up to washing and sewing as it seems so delicate and I've had trouble with skipped stitches in silk crepes in the past. It gave me no troubles at all though; even the rolled hem foot loved it! I used a size 70 microtex needle and pre-washed it on a delicate cycle in my machine so I can machine wash the top and get lots of wear out of it! I pressed it on slightly higher than the usual cool iron for silk to get a nice crisp finish. Cutting was the trickiest part, as you'd probably expect with a slippery silk but I cut it out on the carpet, the grip of which I find helps reduce the shifting about and used lots of fine pins within the seam allowances to keep everything in place. From the way the top sits on me I'm pleased to report that I managed to get everything cut out on grain!
I went all out with the slow and special techniques on this one as it's such a lovely piece of silk. In addition to what was instructed I under-stitched the neckline and french seamed the side and shoulder seams. The pattern comes with 1cm seam allowances and a less confident past me would have been tempted to increase them to 5/8" so those french seams were less fiddly but I'm really proud of how neat and tiny they are! I resorted to just pinking the neckline and armhole seams as I didn't want to create too much bulk in those areas and that finish is holding up well. I also pinked the ruffle seam as I wasn't sure how neat I could make a french seam along such a curved line. Perhaps I should have had more confidence in my skills but I'm happy as it is. There was no way this gorgeous silk was going under my tough old overlocker!
I did a machine rolled hem on both the ruffle and the facing pieces. I had some slight issues getting across the french seam at the centre back of the facing piece as that bulk didn't want to neatly feed through the spiral of my rolled hem foot. I gave it a few attempts but in the end resorted to hand rolling an inch or so either side. The ruffle pieces I hemmed flat before they were assembled as its is so much easier to start and finish at an end rather than in the middle of a loop. If you are thinking about making this top it's worth bearing in mind that it would be really easy to stretch out the hem ruffle as it's two big curved pieces so be careful how you handle them.
I chose not to interface the facing pieces as the silk was so fine and I was worried than even the lightest weight interfacing would effect the drape. I considered hand basting in silk organza but decided that had too much body for this kind of silk. I was then worried about the neckline stretching out and not sitting flat and looked into various tutorials for stabilising a neckline as my fail safe addition of twill/stay tape was going to be too heavy for this fabric. I found this great post from Gertie including three different techniques which I'll definitely be referring back to but in the end decided that the under stitching would do a good enough job of reinforcing that area. I'm really pleased with how this sits. The delicacy of the silk also led me to omit the zip. I was planning on using a lightweight invisible zip if necessary but tried sewing up my facing piece first to check the size of the neckline and voila it slipped right on over my head!
An all in one facing is probably my favourite way to finish a neckline. I really don't enjoy fussing around with fiddly bias tape; for a delicate top like this I only like the look of that finish when it's really neat and slim but in a slippery silk that takes some real patience for me to achieve. Alternatively separate facing pieces have a tendency to flip out or cause the neckline to sit unevenly as you move about. By joining your armhole and neckline facings you're eliminating that problem and it's easier to handle too! The only thing that I don't like about it is that it makes under stitching both the armholes impossible because you can't get to the piece that you need. Luckily with a fabric that holds a press as well as this it's not a problem.
I like the amount of ease in it and am happy with the fit apart from the armholes which seem a little roomy. There's a chance I might have stretched them out slightly as I sewed (as this is such delicate silk it was really tricky to handle around all those curves!) but I think sometimes it's easy to blame your sewing and really it's an alteration I need to address next time. I could easily just take a little out of the side seams under the arms, grading to nothing at the waist to resolve this or alternatively (as there is a little bit of excess fabric across the upper chest too) just try going down a size for a closer fit.
I was warned before making this pattern up that it comes up very short as a top but I measured my pattern pieces and myself beforehand and decided it would be pretty much spot on on me and spot on it is! It's exactly how I envisioned it lengthwise and the curve of the hem is just lovely, that dip to the back really accentuates those ruffles. However, I am quite short waisted and petite to boot so I imagine on a lot of people it will come up a little tummy skimming. It hangs over the waistband of my favourite jeans just enough for me to feel comfortable about not exposing skin and its the length I usually like me tops to be at the back. I think the design is really well proportioned, the depth of the ruffle is spot on and the size the neckline is flattering. When I first put it on I did worry about the style accentuating the tummy and hips a bit but I've really warmed to it; just a new silhouette to get used too I suppose. I've been wearing it a lot with jeans for spring but I also really love it with a high waisted pencil skirt or maxi. It turned out exactly as I hoped and I'm glad I'm getting some wear out of this treasured piece of silk!