Thursday, September 27, 2018

My Right Not to Bare Arms

I've always been self-conscious about my upper arms and age hasn't changed that.  Fortunately I must have the metabolism of an amphibian since 3/4 sleeves generally don't bother me in the summer heat.  However I'm always on the lookout for new and inventive ways to keep cooler while covering my upper arms.  Here's my latest solution:

Asymmetrical lace overlay attached to sleeveless tank

I bought this dress eighteen months ago for a family wedding and made some adjustments to it RTW or Sew It Yourself post  Right away I knew it would be the basis for a selection of sleeveless tops so here are the directions and my process.  

I'm no pattern drafting person by any means so I need to start with copying what I like most about a RTW garment, in this case the overlay attached to the sleeveless knit dress.  I was in Florida at the time without tracing paper so newspaper would have to do to copy the dimensions.  At first glance I just assumed this was a square of fabric with a neckline cut in the center but I was wrong.  (Yes, a D in high school geometry😞)  

Next, retrace it onto pattern paper and make some notes: where the neckline area is, how wide the coordinating finished band is.
Basic dimensions of the pattern:  24" by 36" by 42" which includes the 2" finished band along the outer edges

Next, try it out in spare fabric and see if I like the scale.
This mock up has the 2 inch band included in this size
Now select a tank top to go underneath as the base and a fabric to be the overlay.  For my first version I used a textured lightweight black double knit from Fabric Mart and a non stretchy black cotton blend geometric open lace fabric.  With their bargain prices I could easily sacrifice this fabric to test my construction technique and the overlay design.  For my second version I also used a black knit but a bit heavier, almost athletic wear and have some conclusions about that when I show you that result.
The construction is relatively simple.
Sew the selected tank top without hemming the neckline.  
Sew the shoulder line of the overlay on the left and right's asymmetrical so one is shorter than the other.  Each time I make it I use a slightly different neckline so I just leave that space open on the overlay and will baste it to my desired neckline while it is on my dress form.
One my TNT tank tops, in this case Vogue 8699
That's the second version, metal sequin fabric, also Fabric Mart, with just the shoulders sewn and slipped over my dress form to mark the neckline.
Next I sew the binding strips.  Once again, there's probably an easier way to do this but I am just recreating how that RTW dress overlay was constructed.
I cut 2/12 inch strips to bind all three sides, first section right side to right of the overlay.  On the long side I have to piece the strip and do that at the shoulder seam.  
At the three corners I miter the corner.  They are not perfect miters but I take my time, pin and mark and they work.

Turn and press the 1/4 seam allowance toward the overlay.
Next I repeat that same process by pinning the 2/1/2 strips to the right side of the attached binding, sew at 1/4 inch, miter the underside corners. Sometimes my miters match exactly at those corners and sometimes they don't but since it is on the back, I don't care about perfection.  And that's another reason why I used black!
Bottom binding strip has been sewn to the upper strip, turned and seam mitered.
Hooray, the miters happen to match on the top and bottom

Now press that edge seam open, turn it to meet the top side, wrong sides together and pin three layers together....the fashion overlay fabric and the two binding layers.  Sew all three layers together.
Sew fashion fabric and two binding layers together

Serge that small seam allowance to finish it (I serge the three seams separately and don't try to serge that sharp corner) and press the small hem toward the fashion fabric to make the overlay and binding as flat as possible.
Now is when I bind my neckline.  I place it over my top sitting on my dress form and pin then hand baste it to the neckline.  The two versions I have made so far both have scoop necks although the sequin one is a little more open since I will wear it to some dressier casual events this holiday season.
Pin basted to the neckline underneath...then hand basted followed by cutting it even with the neckline.
Use your favorite neckline binding method.  Me, I want about a 1/4 visible edge so I cut my neckline binding at 1 3/4 inches, fold it in half then sew my neckline with a 1/2 seam.  I sew it from the front 1/8 inch from the edge with my edgstitch foot and serge off the inside to finish it.  Depending on the amount of stretch in my binding fabric I use a formula of 87 or 85% of the finished neckline circumference plus the seam allowance I use to join the binding.

I like the finished holiday top but have two lessons from it.  This is not a stretch sequined lace so it is a bit heavier and has less drape than the original one.  I'm fine with that slightly wider profile because I'm not a small person but that fabric decision might not be for someone slighter or who wanted more drape.  Next is the use of that slightly heavier black fabric.  I only wanted to use stash fabric but if I were to do this version again I would not do the double binding. It's a little too bulky for my taste.  I would simply create a 2 inch edge but probably just serge that outer edge to make it look finished.  

I have already gotten a lot of wear out of the first version and was flattered that my non-sewing book group friends were impressed that I had made it and not purchased it.  It came with my this past weekend when we had a terrific three day trip with friends to Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.  
Just an Opryland memory this time with a RTW top
Oh my gosh, surprise guests legendary John Prine and Bill Murray (yes, THAT Bill Murray) joining bluegrass band  Steeldrivers
I have another one planned for the spring using lace that I bought in Amsterdam (in that case I will follow the original size of the fashion fabric which is two inches smaller at the edges) and will make a red sequin one for a Christmas dance this December.  

This is not as elaborate as many RTW copies but versatile enough as a design that I will make it a another TNT pattern in my collection.  Here's hoping that you too have patterns that you can enjoy over and over again in some wonderful fabric.

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