Hi, I’ve had this striped rayon fabric in my stash for quite a few years – an impulse buy from Discount Fabrics in San Francisco (back when they were still around 11th and Mission St.). I didn’t have any particular pattern in mind when I got it; I just liked it. Since I’ve been on a RTW fast this year – and somewhat of a fabric fast, I have been making an effort to shop my stash. And that’s when I decided to make a striped knit top with this fabric.
The pattern is the Top with Epaulettes from the Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada (affiliate link here). I made it in 2015 using a medium-weight striped knit. You can see that version on my review of She Wears the Pants – just scroll to the end of the post to see photos of that top. I made size L and added more ease in the hips. I used the same pattern pieces.
What I really like about this top is the classic boat neck design and slightly belled sleeves, which you can (sort of ) see in this photo.
If you use a heavier weight knit, the sleeves will have more body and stand out a bit more like they do in my first version. I think if I make it again, I would use a heavier weight knit to show off the sleeve shape.
This fabric was a little fiddly. I had to take my time cutting out the front and back pieces so they would match on the side seams. First, I cut the back piece because I knew I wanted the dark stripe to be at the top. Before I cut the front piece, I carefully placed the back piece on the fabric, lining up the stripes. Then I placed the front pattern piece on the fabric so it lined up with the back.
I also knew that I wanted the hem to end on a black (or is it navy?) stripe, which meant I could just cut along the bottom edge of the white stripe. My plan was the fold the hem on the bottom edge of the dark stripe.
I pinned each stripe at the side seams, set the pressure on my presser foot to zero and sewed a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine. It was a nearly perfect match! I sewed a test piece before I sewed it. I didn’t use any stabilizer and it was fine.
Looks like a perfect side seam!
When I cut out my sleeves, I just cut them so the hem would end on a dark stripe. Hems get dirty and this is an easy way to hide the dirt. I wasn’t concerned about matching stripes across the body. I like the way it looks. I’m wearing my denim knit skirt with this striped knit top.
Here’s another view of the back.
The pattern for this striped top calls for topstitching the neck facing and the hems. I opted to hand sew the facing because I didn’t want to see topstitching around the neckline. But you can tell where I made my stitches – see the slight shadows in the white stripe below?
For the hems, I fused fusible stay tape on the wrong side of my fabric to stabilize it. Then I used a twin needle to sew the hems of this striped knit top. The stitches blend into the fabric so you really can’t see the stitches.
In case you’re wondering about the hat, it’s a vintage straw hat with a veil and a fun ribbon detail. I got the hat from All Things Vintage, a delightful shop in Oakland which always has a lovely selection of hats. The label on the inside says The Hat Box, H. C. Capwell Co., Oakland. I did a quick online search and discovered that Capwell’s was a department store in Oakland.
The building is still there in downtown Oakland. A Sears store was in the space for several years. Capwell’s also had branches in other parts of the Bay Area. You can read about Capwell’s history on the Department Store Museum blog and you can read more about the building on this Oakland wiki page. Uber bought the Capwell building in 2015 but sold it in 2017.
I love hats with veils – though they don’t really fit in with life today. In public, I usually wear my veiled hats with the veil up, tossed over the top of the hat.
Last week I reviewed the Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants. I mentioned that I was thinking of making the Draped Mini Dress but wearing it as a tunic. Well, I made it this weekend but I’m still not sure I like it on me.
I made size L, using a lightweight synthetic knit. It’s either rayon or poly. I’m really not sure. Maybe it’s a rayon/poly blend? I got it for less than $2 a yard at Fabric Outlet. It was priced at $1.99/yard and the store was having a 40 percent off sale that day. So this is my mockup. Here’s the photo of it in the book.
I didn’t make any adjustments except to the hip/upper thigh area. I added a half-inch (~1.3 cm) to the pattern before I cut anything. I’m sure there’s plenty of ease in this pattern but I was taking in consideration the fact that I usually grade up a size in the hips, and this is supposed to be a dress with drape. It wouldn’t be too drapey if it was too tight across the hips – even if I am using a knit fabric. (I adjusted the photo so you could see the drape but the background is a bit over-exposed. The perils of photographing black.)
I don’t have a serger so I used a zig zag stitch to sew this up. I think it would have been easier to sew if I had a serger to do the top stitching along the neckline and hem. This lightweight knit was a little fiddly but for a mockup, I think it turned out OK.
This is a simple top to sew but the armhole and neck bindings can be a little tricky if you haven’t had any experience sewing knit bindings. The bindings are essentially long rectangles (see cutting layout below). Because this pattern uses a knit fabric, it will stretch to go along the curves.
The front piece of this dress is rather wide so you have to tape the two pieces together. Unlike the back, it is not cut along the fold. As with most Japanese sewing patterns, you have to add the seam allowances, which are indicated on the cutting layout. For this dress, you do NOT add seam allowance to the armholes or the back neckline because these three areas will have binding added to them. But you do add a 7/8″ (2 cm) seam allowance to the front neckline. If you look at the diagram of the front neckline, you’ll need to add some length to the seam allowance on both ends. This has a triangular shape because this will fold over and be stitched down. I wasn’t sure how to draw that seam allowance so I just took a guess and made an approximately 45 degree angle for that bit.
I’ve told people that the diagrams are sometimes more important than the written instructions in Japanese sewing books. Well, I didn’t quite pay attention to the instructions about the neck binding. Oops. I looked at the first part – sew the back neck binding to the back but didn’t really look at the next illustration. Thus I didn’t fold over the binding twice before sewing it down. I just flipped it over to the other side and sewed it down. I wondered why the binding seemed a bit wide. Heheh.
Also, my back neck binding seemed a little short so you should gently stretch it as you’re sewing it OR just cut it a little longer than the diagram indicates, and cut off any excess. I actually pinned the binding to the back and it seemed like it was long enough but when I finished sewing it, I saw that a bit of the fabric of the back neckline was caught and folded over. Ack. Luckily it was only an inch or so from the end so I unpicked it that part and stretched the binding to fit. It doesn’t look very neat but I didn’t want to unpick the entire seam (#lazy), plus this was my mockup.
The armhole binding is done a little differently that I’ve done with other knits I’ve sewn – folding the binding in half and then stitching to the sleeve hem. For this dress, you sew the binding to the armhole, gently stretching as you sew. Then you fold it over twice and then sew it close to the edge. I decided to give it a whirl. As you can see here, I had a lot of extra binding left over. I cut off the excess.
If you haven’t sewn knit bindings before, you may want to practice sewing a strip of knit to a shorter piece of fabric. It’s not really something you can pin and sew. You just stretch and sew. For a good video about sewing a binding to a curve, see Cake Patterns video Binding on a Steep Curve on her Hummingbird sewalong tutorial.
And here’s what the armhole looks like with the binding folded over and stitched. I decided to stitch in the ditch to try to hide my zig zag stitch. it was supposed to be top stitched.
It looked pretty good but it was a bit thick. I didn’t trim my seam allowance and I’ve got a total of four layers of fabric that I stitched through. My fabric was lightweight so that wasn’t a big deal. I think the idea was to give the sleeves a bit of weight but they stick out slightly. Granted I didn’t press the dress at all so maybe that can be fixed with a little pressing.
Here’s a sort of side view. The neckline is a bit plunging for me – not exactly something I would wear to work unless I paired it with a camisole.
If I leaned over, I think I would be flashing my bra. For me, this “dress” is too short to wear as a dress. Thus I’m wearing pants with it. I might consider wearing leggings and boots with it.
If you like short knit dresses, this one’s for you. I still need to trim down the back neck binding because it’s folding up and you can sort of see the raw edge peeking in the back here (just to the left of center).
If you’d like to win a copy of She Wears the Pants, just comment on my post reviewing the book to be entered. You just need to comment by Thursday, May 21, 11:59 pm Pacific (California time).
I hope you’re enjoying your spring – or whatever season it is in your part of the globe. Have you embarked on any seasonal sewing projects? I finished a dress for the Spring for Cotton sewalong organized by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille. At the same time I began flipping through the Japanese sewing book, She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada, subtitled “Easy Sew-it-Yourself Fashion with an Edgy Urban Style.” The English translation was just released by Tuttle Publishing, which publishes several Japanese sewing books (link to book on publisher’s site, Amazon affiliate link). They sent me a free copy to review – and they’ll send a free copy to the winner of the giveaway on my blog. Warning: This is a really long post, which ends with photos of the top I made from this book, plus details on how to enter the giveaway.
I’m not sure that I would characterize the designs as “edgy.” I guess it depends on how you define “edgy.” For me, “edgy” would be on the outer limits of what someone would wear in public – maybe not as far out as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons but definitely “out there.” Maybe the subtitle is a result of the translation from Japanese to English. Or maybe it’s because there aren’t any typical feminine touches here – no ruffles, lace, or frills – so maybe that’s why it’s “edgy.” Then again, the book was originally released in Japan five years ago so maybe back then, this was “edgy”?
She Wears the Pants features 20 designs, from a coat and jackets to tops, dresses, and pants, many of which sport a boyish look. There are patterns for woven and knit fabrics. Contrary to the title, it is not a book chock full of pants (trouser) patterns. Though the title certainly gives me a chuckle. The book follows the format of many Japanese pattern books – photos of a model wearing each garment in the first section of the book, info on the patterns, some fabric and sewing tips, and then the instructions with detailed diagrams. Full-size patterns are in an envelope attached to the inside back cover.
In the book’s brief section on working with fabric, I learned something new– when you prewash woven fabric, before it’s fully dry, clip the selvage and then iron it “as it often warps and pulls the rest of the fabric.” There’s an accompanying photo of some scissors clipping the selvage at a 45-degree angle. Interesting. Do you clip your selvages or do you just cut them off?
Tracing the Patterns The patterns are printed on both sides of the paper so you cannot cut them out, plus the lines for various patterns overlap each other. You can sort of see this in the photo below. If you are new to Japanese sewing books, please be aware that you musttrace your size.
Tracing these patterns is a bit of a pain because all the lines look the same. Other patterns (Big Four, indie patterns) will use different lines for different sizes (dots, dashes, dots and dashes) but this is common in Japanese sewing book patterns. Some might use two different colors but this book just uses black. Warning: It can be a bit of a challenge hunting for each pattern piece in She Wears the Pants. I used an erasable highlighter to go over the lines of the pattern I wanted to make. It’s easy to make a mistake and trace the wrong line. So really scrutinize the pattern lines for your size so you trace the correct size and pattern.
Also, pay attention to when pattern pieces are cut on the fold, and mark it accordingly. On these pattern pieces, the fold is indicated by line with long dashes (no arrows, arrows only indicate the grainline). All other lines are solid and unbroken. Look at the cutting layout to make sure you didn’t forget to mark a piece to be cut on the fold.
Add Seam Allowances Seam allowances are not included so you must add them to the patterns – 1 cm (3/8 inch) in most cases – hems will usually be 2 cm or 7/8 inch. The cutting layout diagram shows the seam allowance measurements. I traced my pattern pieces with two drawing pencils I put together with a rubberband – my low-tech solution to avoid drawing each line separately (see above photo).
The author also recommends folding fabric with the wrong sides together before cutting and points out that when you cut through two layers of fabric, “the movement of the blades may cause the material to shift out of place.” She advises you to cut the top layer first and “then use that piece as a template to cut the second layer.” I haven’t tried that before. I’ve cut one side on one layer of fabric and then flipped the pattern over to cut the other side. How do you cut two layers of fabric?
The Designs Here’s a look at a few of the patterns – these images are taken with my phone. They look better in the book but even in the book, the photos don’t necessarily provide a lot of detail because there’s usually just one photo of the garment (so you only see the front and side but not the back) and the lighting isn’t so great. You can see more photos on this Japanese Sewing Books post, which reviewed the Japanese version of the book. The photos on this site look better than the ones in the book. I wonder if the photos in the original Japanese book were re-photographed from the book’s photos (as opposed to using the original art) for the English edition.
This is pattern No. 8, the Sarrouel Trousers – the one pattern that I would call “edgy” – with an odd dropped crotch and a rather baggy look (not quite my style, plus I don’t think it would look so good on curvy figures).
Only three patterns in She Wears the Pants fall in the pants category: the Sarrouel Trousers, the No. 13 Tapered Trousers, No. 14 and No. 19 Semi-flared Culottes, which look like shorts to me. Aren’t culottes supposed to be longer? There are two versions of the Culottes – one with a bow (No. 19) and one without. The book counts each one as a separate pattern but it’s the same.I don’t know if I’ll make any of the pants.
I really liked the striped knit top on the cover. (Photos of my version are towards the end of this post.)
I like these two patterns, the No. 12 Draped Mini Dress and the No. 15 Draped Cardigan. I bought a deep violet knit fabric to make the mini-dress. I wouldn’t wear it as a mini-dress though. I’d wear it as a tunic, with pants. Kirsty of the blog Top Notch made the Draped Mini Dress a couple of years ago. She used the Japanese version of the book. You can see photos of her version here.
The Draped Cardigan is interesting. I like the pockets but there’s a seam in the lower center back that seems a little odd. You can’t really see what it looks like in the photo.
Here’s the line drawing of the Draped Cardigan in the book. I don’t know what that seam in the lower center back will look like. The photo in the book is a bit dark so I guess it adds a bit of drape back there. I’m not sure I want that around my backside!
Japanese Pattern Sizing In She Wears the Pants, the patterns go from size XS to L. Don’t be alarmed when you read the measurements for these sizes. Japanese patterns tend to include a lot of ease. As I learned from my most recent experience with Japanese pattern books and from EmSewCrazy of Tumbleweeds in the Wind, you must measure the pattern pieces (see my post Japanese Pattern Sizing,which explains this in more detail).
For my first project, I chose the Top with Epaulettes, pattern No. 4, because I love stripes and I love boat necks, and I liked the 3/4 sleeves and their slightly flared design. Plus I had a couple of yards of this black-and-white striped knit in my stash. It’s a tightly woven medium-to-heavyweight cotton with lycra jersey. (I made a Hummingbird top with this fabric.) I left off the epaulettes on this pattern. I didn’t think they added anything to the top.
I made size L, which, according to the book is someone who is: 5′ 5 1/4 inches (168 cm) tall, with a 35 1/2 inch (90 cm) bust; 27 1/2 (70) waist; and 38 5/8 (98) hips. Heheh, right. Those are not my numbers at all. I’m 5′ 8″ (about 173 cm), bust: 37/38-inch (94-96.5); waist: 30/31-inch (76-79); hips: 42 inches (106.6).
I looked at my ready-to-wear knit tops for something similar in style and compared the shoulders and hip area to the pattern pieces. I concluded that I could trace the pattern pieces exactly as they were except for adding a little more ease (about 1 cm) to the hips. I decided that because I was sewing a knit, that I would leave the shoulders as is. On some patterns, I need to do a wide shoulder adjustment. For comparison, I’m a size 16 in Vogue patterns, a size 10 bodice for the Christine Haynes Emery Dress (my Emery dress), a size 12 US/16 UK for the By Hand London Anna Dress (my versions here and here), a size 12 Bluegingerdoll Winifred Dress (my Winifred version).
Once I traced and cut my pattern pieces, I carefully placed them on my black-and-white striped fabric, lining up the pieces so the hems lined up with the same stripe. This top has 6 pattern pieces, not including the epaulettes: front, back, sleeves, front/back neck facings. Yes, it has facings, which you see here (interfacing and fashion fabric).
I wasn’t sure how that would look. I’ve done one neck facing with a knit fabric – my chevron Red Velvet dress. I don’t have a serger and on that dress, I knew that I didn’t want to have a seamline around the neck. So I just tacked the facing down at the shoulder and hand stitched it in a few places. For this striped top, I just decided to go ahead and make a facing, fusing some black interfacing.
After I attached the facing, I used my Kenmore machine’s straight stretch stitch – not very pretty because it goes over each stitch three (!) times – to topstitch it in place. I decided to approach it as a style element and use black thread. Here’s a closeup shot of the neckline:
If I had a serger, I would consider leaving off the facings, increasing the seam allowance of the front and back, and serging the neckline edge to clear elastic, fold it over and sew that down. This is a tip I picked up at the Bay Area Sewists beginning serger meetup last month. One of our members, Edina, demonstrated some techniques on her serger. You can see photos here.
I carefully pinned the front to the back to try lining up the stripes. But I didn’t bother basting because it was my mockup so if the side seams didn’t line up perfectly – no big deal. And when I sewed the side seams, there was a bit of shifting so they stripes got slightly off in a couple of places. It would have helped to use some sort of stabilizer – maybe some fusible tape.
This is an easy-to-sew top that will be a wardrobe staple for me. If I make it again, I think I’ll add a little more ease to the shoulders. As you can see, the shoulder seam line is above my shoulder point. It doesn’t feel tight but I think it would fit even better with that slight adjustment.
This is a simple top so I decided to have a little fun with my hats for this photo shoot. I got the hat box from the Alameda flea market – officially known as the Alameda Point Antiques Faire. You can never have too many hats (or hat boxes).
This is a vintage felt beret I got at All Things Vintage in Oakland. I’m a sucker for berets. I took these photos (timer on my camera) in the mid-afternoon so the light was a bit harsh (so I’m squinting) but at least the are shadows behind me. I’m wearing some RTW pants here.
This is a white straw fedora that was custom-made for me by Elwyn Crawford of O’Lover Hats. I entered a drawing for the hat as a perk in her Indiegogo campaign. I had a hat fitting for it.
I think I got this black fedora for a few dollars at a charity shop. I don’t know if the fedora shape is really suited for my face. I’ve got two black ones and I don’t wear them very much. I wear the straw one more often.
In this photo you can really see the slight flare of the sleeves, which I really like. I got this vintage hat at a charity shop in Palo Alto several years ago. My husband calls this my “flying saucer” hat. I love this shade of red. Here I’m wearing the skirt I made from the Japanese pattern book Basic Black in this photo. You can read my post on this skirt in this March post.
A back view of the top.
And another shot with the beret – maybe this is bit too much, eh? Beret and striped boat neck?
Thanks for your patience with my hat indulgence!
If you’d like to enter my giveaway for a copy of She Wears the Pants, please comment below by Thursday, May 21, 11:59 pm, Pacific time (California). Anyone can enter! Tuttle Publishing will send a copy to the winner. [The giveaway is now over.]
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review purposes only. I am not being compensated to review it.
I’m thinking of making the vintage dress and jacket in cotton pique. My goal is to wear it to a magazine awards event on May 1. The trade magazine I work for is a finalist for nine (!) awards. The awards event is in Los Angeles and it will be warm down there!
I like the striped top on the cover of She Wears the Pants, and a few other tops in this book. A couple of the mini dresses would work as tunics, such as this one. I wouldn’t wear anything this short but I would wear it with pants. (Photo taken with phone so excuse the quality. In fact this entire post was done on my phone!)
After I review this book, I’ll be holding a giveaway for a copy of it – so stay tuned!
Please feel free to share your spring sewing plans – and happy sewing!