Last week the lovely author of This British American Life introduced me to The Great British Sewing Bee. I don’t watch much tv other than the news, and quit watching reality competition shows after about season 3 of American Idol, but this show had me spellbound. I watched two episodes the first night and was absolutely hooked – and inspired!

A couple of weeks ago I bought fabric & pattern to make a simple sleeveless top. G is on the his Great American Adventure (more on that in another blog post) so I have had hours and days of time to use this inspiration and new knowledge while making my simple top.

  Simple sleeveless top cut on the Bias. The fabric is a cotton batik.

IMG_1895I added an inch in length because I was afraid it the bottom hem would cut me in the wrong place.

IMG_5123The bust darts must have been marked for an 18-year old … ummm … no. Clearly need to make an adjustment here. I also added a small dart in the back of the neckline because it gaped.
Does this mean I have to adjust my lower thread tension? This brings back nightmares from Home Ec when we constantly had to adjust WWII-era industrial sewing machines.

 On The Great British Sewing Bee one of the sewers was filmed using this small tool to make bias-tape. Your strip of fabric is fed through the back and as it exits through the feeder, you press and wind up with a perfect strip of bias tape. Brilliant! I bought the 1″ tip Bias Tape Maker at Hancock Fabrics. 
 Finished product front view. See the lovely neat bias tape around the neck and arms? You may also notice the diagonal line down the front of the top … more about that in “misses” below.

Hits & Misses

HITS: The pattern is simple and the instructions are easy to follow. It took me an afternoon (maybe a total of 6-hours) from start to finish, which is really quick given the way I poke around.

I liked working with this fabric. The style is generally good, it’s certainly something I’d wear to work.

IMG_1905MISSES: In spite of measuring a hundred times, it’s too small. It looks okay from the front, but from the back it’s evident that I needed a larger size. Ugh. Guess I’ll have to lose a few pounds before I wear this to work.  No chance for alterations – I used French seams.

The fabric had a lot of variations that I don’t necessarily like. On the front, the print has a diagonal line where the dye is heavier so that there appears to be either a seam or a permanent crease. On the back there are blotches where the dye isn’t even. I’ve made batiks so understand that there are usually inconsistencies in the pattern, but just didn’t consider this (see “Lessons’ below).


  1. It’s important to unfold the whole piece of fabric and look for flaws, preferably before buying.
  2. Don’t just check the measurements on the envelope, measure the pattern pieces.
  3. This top will become my first toile … I’ll absolutely add some width to the next one. And yes, I’ll make it again, but in a different fabric. This batik is definitely too unforgiving for a bias top – whatever I choose next time will be softer and move a bit more.


All in all, it was a good sewing experience and I’m actually really pleased with how well it turned out. The stitching is even, and I finished it nicely with French seams.

Next project is … a dressing gown! I can’t find what I want, so I’m going to make it – this weekend. And I’m planning to break out the serger and finally figure out how to actually use it. Fingers are firmly crossed.


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