Welcome sewing friends – I’ve got a post full of sewing geekiness today detailing the many fit adjustments I made to the Gemma Tank Top by Made by Rae. Let me say from the off; this isn’t to imply there’s anything wrong with the drafting of Rae’s pattern, not at all. It’s simply that the Gemma Tank Top is a semi-fitted woven pull-on top. The operative words here being ‘woven’ and ‘semi-fitted’; i.e. there’s nowhere to hide in terms of fit. So off I went on my merry way to the drawing board.
The plan was to make it in a silk-blend Lady McElroy voile, that had been gifted to me by Minerva Crafts, so I wanted to make sure I got the fit right before I cut into the precious fabric!
One adjustment I didn’t have to do was a Full Bust Adjustment as Rae has thoughtfully drafted the pattern with two cup options – an A/B and a C/D. However, the list of the other adjustments I made is fairly extensive …
I started by debating which size to sew. The obvious choice was to sew according to my bust measurement in the C/D cup; however I am quite petite in build and to my eye – and reflected in the given finished measurements – this would potentially result in excess fabric everywhere else. So I quickly cut a muslin one size smaller and one in my own size.
(As an aside, I normally sew my woven toiles in bedsheets thrifted from the Charity Shop. Not any more! I’ve found switching to actual muslin so much more useful as the hand of the fabric seems to make the adjustments that much more obvious!)
It was time to GET MY GEEK ON!!!
The smaller toile was too small across the chest but still gave excess fabric in the back and at both front and back necklines. The larger one fitted generously across the chest and left me swamped in fabric. So I unpicked both toiles and attached the back of the smaller toile to the front of the larger one. This gave me a much better fit overall and just left me with the adjustments I’d need to make to make the pattern fit my actual body.
I’m ‘curvy’ with a largish chest on a petite frame; I have slightly narrow, forward facing, shoulders; a tilted pelvis making my back waistline sit higher than my front; bottom heavy boobs that lend a concave look to my chest and I’m generally a size smaller in the hip than everywhere else. The toiles bore out the need to make adjustments in all these areas.
Removing Gaping from the Necklines – Whilst wearing the third mash-up toile, I pinched out the excess fabric from both front and back necklines. I needed to take out a whopping 1″ from the front. Less so in the back as it was a size smaller. To do this I marked on my half front bodice piece 0.5″ on the neckline (taking into account the seam allowance) and drew dart legs to the tip of my bust dart. I then cut through one leg of both the neck dart and the bust dart – leaving a pivot point on the pattern paper – and proceeded to rotate the dart out of the neckline. A really simple and effective adjustment to do – if you want to see it in action I highly recommend this video from the lovely Aneka at Made to Sew (this woman is basically my guru!)
Forward Shoulder Adjustment – my need wasn’t too bad so I simply adjusted the strap lengths. I took out 0.5″ from the front strap and added that to the length of the back strap.
Lowering the Bust Darts – I cut around the ‘box’ of the bust dart and moved the whole down one inch and taped into place. Next time I’ll also reduce the length of the dart by about an inch.
Grading down at the Waist and Hip – I gradually graded down one size on both pieces (remember my back piece was already a size smaller) making sure to keep a waist curve.
Swayback Adjustment – so I’ve gone one size smaller in the back plus I’ve graded down through the waist and hip. However, I still have excess fabric pooling above my booty due to that blasted pelvic tilt. (I am resolutely blaming my bad posture on carrying two babies, rather than admit I’m basically a slouch!) Anyhoo, I took out a 1″ horizontally from centre back (at the height of my back waistline) which I tapered to nothing at the side seams. I redrew the back pattern foldline so it remained straight – taking out some width then as well as length.
So those were the fit adjustments I made.…I also decided to add 1/8″ to the seam allowances – this pattern is drafted with 4/8″ seam allowances but I wanted to do French Seams with this semi-sheer fabric and figured it would be easier to achieve those with that extra.
I then retraced my, by now, well slashed, scribbled on and taped original pattern pieces to nice, fresh new ones. And proceeded to make yet another flippin; toile! Yes, really! I don’t think I’ve made this many adjustments all at once before so I wanted to be absolutely sure before I cut into that precious voile! So I made a toile using a lightweight flowers and butterflies printed cotton lawn which I hoped would be wearable…
I made my own bias for both tops and decided to finish them curved hem with bias as well. I used the French Bias method – essentially turning the entire bias to enclose the seam to the inside. The instruction methods have the bias showing on the outside, which lends a nice sporty look. I just didn’t want that look for these. Doing the bias the ‘French’ way does reduce the width of the straps, so be mindful if you also choose to go this way. However, my bra straps are still covered, so that’s width enough for me.
It sounds like a lot of work but really it wasn’t. All the fit adjustments are simple and quick to do and certainly toiling this top takes no time; all you’re doing is stitching shoulder and side seams. And its certainly worth it. I feel I’ve started a basic block for my upper body at least.
Am I entirely happy then? Well, yes and no. I’m absolutely delighted to realise just how simple it is to pinch out excess fabric from basically anywhere – there is soooo exciting in terms of possibilities and is a real confidence booster. But, yes, with this pattern I do think there’s room for further tweaking; I’ll take that one inch out of the hem and I think I might curve the bust dart next time. Because there will be lots of next times with this top – plus, if you’re not making your own bias, you can squeeze this top out of relatively little fabric.
Until next time, hugs