1960s color-blocked top

My favorite TV show of last year (in fact, the only show I watched at all), was The Great British Sewing Bee, and I was overjoyed when my husband gave me the associated book, “From Stitch to Style,” for our anniversary. Last week I began by tracing off two patterns from the book, and noticed some issues with the pattern pieces. I forged ahead this week with the “1960s color-blocked top,” a tank-top version of the famous Yves St. Laurent Mondrian Dress. Without further ado, here it is:


This pattern is a great stash buster, and the fabrics I used may be familiar from earlier posts. The brown is a hemp-backed silk that I used to make a neck-tie for my husband. The tiger print is a very slippery polyester charmeuse that I used to make a bias-cut wrap top. I used up nearly every last inch of the brown fabric (the back of the tank is entirely in the brown fabric), and almost all of the tiger print.

The pattern itself is well-drafted. The pieces fit together, and it comes out to the advertised size and shape. The pattern markings and instructions, however, leave a bit to be desired. Perhaps to be more fair, there is a discrepancy between the stated goal of the book (to guide sewists of all skill levels, particularly beginners, through the process of making the pieces seen on TV), and the level of detail and accuracy provided by the pattern pieces and instructions. I have no issues with patterns like Burda’s, which don’t purport to teach sewing from scratch, nor Marfy’s, which are explicitly for advanced sewists and don’t come with instructions at all. The issues I had with this pattern are:

  1. The neckline is supposed to have a 3/8″ seam allowance, but this is marked on only 2 of 3 pieces that comprise the neckline, and not marked on the facing pieces at all. The instructions don’t tell you to sew with a 3/8″ allowance at this stage (other patterns in the book with 3/8″ allowances do include this instruction).
  1. The position of the zipper stop is about 1.5″ short. The pattern calls for a 10″ zipper, but the notch marked for the zipper stop is only 9″ from the top edge (the instructions call for placing the top of the zipper 5/8″ from the top edge). There are no instructions for shortening the zipper.
  1. Many notches don’t have partners. It became clear that some notches on the horizontal brown stripe were meant to align with the edges of the vertical brown stripes. The instructions only call for “aligning notches,” with no explanation of the partner-less notches.
  1. Because the darts are in the front pieces, the horizontal brown stripe must be eased to fit the lower bodice. The instructions don’t indicate this, and I can see a beginner being thrown off because the seamline of one piece is longer than that of the piece it’s being sewn to.

Nevertheless, because the pattern was well-drafted, and I’ve sewn tanks before, it was fairly clear what was supposed to happen, and I plowed ahead. I spent a long time on the facing, using my own method to attach it. I first finished the edges of the facing pieces, so they look like this:

Someone at sewing club was intrigued once by this finishing technique, so I’ll describe my process here:

  1. Cut all facing and interfacing pieces as indicated.
  2. Lay the NON-GLUEY side of the interfacing on top of the RIGHT side of the facing. This is the opposite of the way you’d align them to glue them together.
  3. Stitch the edges that will not be seamed to each other with a ¼” allowance (these are usually the un-notched edges).
  4. Trim the seam allowance, and turn so that the gluey side of the interfacing is against the wrong side of the facing. This may take a bit of effort if the edges are curvy; clip the seam allowance as needed to make a neat turn.
  5. Fuse the interfacing to the facing, and proceed as usual. No floofy bits coming off the interfacing, nor stray threads coming out of the facing fabric!

Because my two fabrics frayed like crazy, I finished the seams with pinking shears. The front section had far too many seams to do mock-French seams, which is my favorite finishing technique. Well, I suppose someone with more time/ effort/ motivation could have managed it, but it wasn’t happening at my end this week!

If I were to make this again, and I might, I would take in the side seams a bit under the armhole, tapering to nothing at the waist. I would also take a bit of fabric out of the upper back area. Overall, this is a well-drafted pattern, with unfortunately inadequate instructions.

In addition to making use of my stashed fabric, I’ve made progress on my TBD pile. I unpicked the lining and armhole seam of a blazer, and reset the sleeve at sewing club. I pulled it off with only the tiniest ripple remaining. I’ll try once more to steam it out, or unpick and resew, but I may have to come to terms with it. I’ll tackle the other sleeve at sewing club this week. It’s much easier to do it with friends around!

On the knitting front, I received Barbara Walker’s 4th volume of stitch patterns for my birthday, completing the set. I will be experimenting with some of those soon, and I’m hoping to find inspiration there for a sweater-quantity of grey worsted-weight wool yarn I purchased on sale before the holidays. Hoping to have pictures of the outcomes next week.


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