Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Quest for the ultimate sleeveless top pattern

Tank, shell, singlet, cami - there seem to be many different descriptions, but what I'm essentially talking about here is a simple, sleeveless top made from woven fabric. With such a straight forward design it's all about getting an excellent fit - and once you've nailed the fit, this kind of top really will become a wardrobe workhorse.

Easier said than done though! I can't tell you how much time I've wasted recently sewing up toile after toile in the hope of finding the perfect pattern. This week I came as close as I was ever going to get, so I'm going to formally adopt the pattern I used as my go-to sleeveless top!

Apologies for the chopped off head - I looked like a lunatic in Every. Single. Photo
The pattern in question is the Sleeveless Shell Top from the GBSB Fashion with Fabric book (reviewed here). Now I'll freely admit I'm rubbish at utilising patterns from sewing books, and would never have even considered this pattern if I hadn't seen Bea rocking a gorgeous version recently. So thank you Bea!


I made a straight size 12 and the fit is just what I wanted - comfortable but still fitted enough to be worn loose. Plus the neckline curve and shoulder width both adhere to my fusspot standards, which is an added bonus! The only adjustment I made was to sew the side and centre back seams at 1cm instead of 1.5cm. I basted the seams together mid-way through sewing and they seemed a bit tight at the bust, hence the adjustment. One additional change I'll make next time will be to even out the curve of the hem. As drafted it has a high-low hem which you can see in the picture below. This gets a bit lost on my version and just looks like it's riding up at the front. Once I've lengthened the front to match the back I'll have my perfect pattern, yay!


The neckline and armholes are finished with a lovely neat all-in-one facing and a button closure. Now usually I'm completely flummoxed when it comes to turning an all-in-one facing through, but not this time. The method is very clearly explained in the instructions and I'll definitely be using it again, it's so clever! The top actually fits over my head buttoned up, so I'll be cutting the back piece on the fold next time and eliminating the centre back seam to make it an even quicker sew. EDIT: As a wise commenter has just pointed out, if I cut the centre back piece on the fold I won't be able to use the all-in-one facing as it needs a back seam to turn through, duh! Thank you Anne for pointing that out! 
EDIT AGAIN: It CAN be done without a centre back seam, hoorah! This excellent video shows you how. Thanks Katie! 

All in one facing - back view
The fabric is a John Kaldor poly viscose from Remnant Kings, bought with a voucher I won during the #VPJuly Instagram challenge last year. It has a very nice drape and because of the high poly content, it barely needs ironing, hoorah!

Now that I've pinned down the perfect pattern I'm going to make several of these tops for the summer, probably in plain colours. They're so light and cool to wear. What's your favourite sleeveless top pattern? And more importantly, how many have you made?! x




64 comments:

  1. Ooh, you may just have sold me on this, Jane! Thank you.

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    1. It's such a hidden gem, glad to spread the word! x

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  2. What a lovely top! And how interesting that your new go to tank top doesn't appear to have any bust darts, I would have never considered a tank pattern without them. I use the Colette Sorbetto as my base but after making three I'm definitely still fiddling to find my ultimate fit.

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    1. It does have bust darts but they're very difficult to make out on such a busy fabric. Like you, I wouldn't really consider a tank pattern without them! x

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  3. Oh my bloody word! I've been on a similar futile search and, guess what, yes I've got this book! I'm taking note of what you mention here regarding fit and I'm going to have a go! Thanks Jane! X

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    1. Hoorah! Honestly, I can't tell you how many versions of the Tiny Pocket Tank I've made and they were all disasters. I'm just relieved that I got a reasonable fit with this first time! x

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  4. This is my go to sleeveless top too. I've tried others but always return to this one. In fact - I'm wearing one today!!! Your version is lovely. Holly x

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    1. Ah that's wonderful to know Holly! x

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  5. I use New Look 6483 as my go to, although the pattern I use doesn't really resemble the original anymore. I lowered the neck line, added a FBA and put in a curved back seam to account for a sway back and I generally don't face it anymore and just use bias binding to finish the neck and arms. How many have I made? 2 this past fortnight to add to the at least 3-4 others and I have another cut out at the moment. Such an essential summer piece and great for the transitional seasons when you work in schools where the internal climate is unpredictable (like I do!)

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    1. Aha! Believe it or not New Look 6483 was next on my list. I'd already cut the pattern out and made a couple of small adjustments before I decided to give this one a go! I agree, this style is an essential summer piece, it's so versatile. x

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  6. Yay for a staple blouse! Isn't that the best feeling? I found one a couple of years ago but haven't returned to it, and like you discovered I was able to pull it over my head. I definitely think it needs a revisit now!

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    1. I know! I'll have to rein myself in or I'll end up sewing about 12! x

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  7. Jane I use that one!! it is one of the few sleeveless tops that conceal all of your bra while wearing. Looks great on you too! I shortened mine in the body which is an adjustment I do on every pattern I use.(Ho HUM)

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    1. Ace, I knew I'd be in good company! And I agree about the bra coverage, it's spot on. Also there's no gaping at the front neckline which I often have to fiddle with. Hoorah for this pattern! x

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  8. I own this book! YAY for that - it means I could make up one easily. I love these all-in-one facings. I made up the Cashmerette sleeveless top using an all in one facing but I learned you really need a bit wider shoulder seam to do it right. Nice that this pattern came with one all ready made up and nice to know you can get it over your head without bothering with a placket. I'd probably have to do an FBA but I'm so used to that it's not a big deal. I'm slow at utilizing patterns in a book too I must say yet it's often why I buy it in the first place! :)

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    1. It's great to discover a good pattern is in a book you already own isn't it?! A commenter below has pointed out that you still need the back seam to pull the all-in-one facing through. So if I eliminate the back seam I'll have to finish the neckline and armholes a different way. That's why I love comments, they're so helpful! x

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  9. I too have just discovered this pattern and I love it so much. I have made 3 tops this week using this pattern. It is perfect. You can wear a bra which doesn't show and it has a nice neckline too. I like the back in 2 pieces as the button closure is a lovely feature and uses those single buttons you have been hoarding.

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    1. Haha! Three in one week is what I have in mind for this pattern too, that made me smile! I agree, the back in two pieces is a lovely feature, I like a keyhole opening. x

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  10. It looks lovely on you! Like many other commenters I actually own the book. But I'm not good at making patterns from books either 😕
    I'm certainly going to make one.
    Just one thing: if you skip the center back seam, isn't it impossible to use the roll method on the facing?

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    1. Anne you're very wise and I'm very stupid! Of course you need a centre back seam for the all-in-one facing to roll through. Duh! I'm going to amend the blog post now - THANK YOU! x

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    2. Update: it IS still possible without a centre back seam, see Katie's comment below! x

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  11. Your top looks great Jane! Really like the fabric. Can I also vote for New Look 6483? I invested a bit of time altering the pattern with an SBA, FBA, changing the length, and shaping in at the waist a little. I've made it 9 times now, sleeveless, short sleeved, 3/4 sleeved, faced neckline, bound neckline, inverted front pleat, one piece back etc. It slips on easily with no need for an opening. As you say it's just so good to have a basic pattern that will fit! Hope you enjoy replicating your top.

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    1. You've sold me on that pattern - I'd forgotten all the sleeve options so will definitely give it a try, thanks! x

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  12. Oooh, also have the book but overlooked this one. Will have to give it a go!

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    1. I'd overlooked it too, it's a great pattern! x

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  13. Looks great. This was my first sleeveless top and is still my fave with its classy shape and clever construction. Mine also go over the head without needing to open fastening but I like the button detail and the back seam gives more shape. I have 4 ,I think, 2 button back but my fave is pale blue linen with 3 Liberty buttons at front neckline. Gets lots of compliments. Well done on yours and here's to many more!

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    1. Ooh I like the sound of your Liberty one! And I agree, the button detail is a lovely feature. Here's to many more indeed! x

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  14. Hello, sorry to sound stupid, but I have the book and have seen this in there and wanted to make it, but the actual pattern didn't seem to be there, where do I get the actual pattern part please?

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    1. All the patterns in the book are included in a separate pack (I think it has a purple cover). This should have come with the book. There are several patterns on each pattern sheet so they need tracing but it doesn't take long. Hope you find it! x

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  15. It looks great in that fabric, I've made 3 with the buttons down the back and love them all. I've also made at least 3 versions of the New Look 6483, which has different sleeve and neckline versions, I used it to copy your vintage shoulder tie top. Both are good solid basic patterns that you can almost use as a bodice block.

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    1. Yes I think you're right, they both seem to be very well drafted judging by the comments on this post! x

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  16. It's still possible! You do it like a burrito yoke. See the second part of this video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wlx93fYpFOY

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    1. Ahhhh that's genius! I think this is the method that's flummoxed me all these years, I just couldn't get my head round the burrito rolling bit but it's shown so clearly on the video. So you CAN do it without a centre back seam after all, I'll need to edit the blog post again! Thank you so much. x

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    2. If anyone prefers photos to video (me), here's the tutorial I use for lining/facing a sleeveless dress with only side seams open:
      https://stitchywitch.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/tutorial-lining-a-sleeveless-dress/

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    3. Fab, thanks for the link! x

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  17. I have just bought this book on sale at WH Smith. I have been planning versions of this top from my stash and now I will just have to make one. Thank you for all the useful tips

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    1. My pleasure, hope it's a success for you! x

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  18. Looks great and beautiful innards. My favourite thus far has been the tessuti Kate top, but I did need to fiddle to perfect the fit on me - I've made 3 so far!

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    1. Thanks, I do like nice innards! x

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  19. So simple & perfect; what a gorgeous neckline it has. Although you've discovered the back keyhole isn't necessary, I think I'd still include it - it's pretty! (Unless the fabric had a graphic print I guess.) Hope you have lots of happy times wearing your new top, Jane! :)

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    1. I think I may include the back keyhole on future versions too, you're right, it's a nice feature! x

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  20. Anonymous said...
    This book has sat on my shelf since I bought it nearly 2 years ago. I pulled it out last week to make a cami for my daughter (the one from the jumpsuit pattern) and I spotted this pattern at the same time. Yours looks great. I can't comment using my WordPress account on your blog - I've had this problem before with blogger and it stops me commenting when I would like to. Frenchfancy

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    1. I've seen some lovely versions of the jumpsuit Cami too. Thanks for persevering with commenting, blogger is a complete pain sometimes! x

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  21. Isn't it funny how such a simple garment can be so elusive, and different patterns can be completely different even though they're essentially the same thing! I'm so pleased you found the right one. Yours looks just like a sheel top oughta!

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    1. I'm so pleased too, just cutting out a second version as we speak! x

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  22. I have this book too and have never used it. I will give this top a try. It looks lovely. I have used New Look 6483 but could never get it quite right. My new go to top pattern is Gemma by Made by Rae. This has two versions for different cup sizes and I find the c/d version perfect for me - have to be careful to taper the large dart though. I have made several versions and once I forgot to cut the back on the fold and my daughter was delighted with the slightly smaller version!!

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    1. Ah, that pattern was also on my list and I probably would have bought it if I hadn't seen a lovely version of the Fashion with Fabric top in real life first. Good to know, thanks! x

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  23. Very nice, Jane. And you know what, I totally forgot that a) I own this book, b) it has patterns in it! It's a great little top! And I was just thinking the other day (in the midst of making bias binding), how I wish I had a pattern for an all-in-once faced tank/vest top. Turns out I did - thanks for reminding me!

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    1. Ah my pleasure Shivani! The all-in-one facing gives such a neat, crisp finish, good luck with yours! x

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  24. Gorgeous! Another lovely make, perfect for, well, everything!

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  25. I'm only just beginning my quest for my perfect sleeveless top, so thank you for this post – it's going to come in very handy. And it's always good to be reminded to look through my sewing books (and the magazines, and the PDF patterns...) before I buy yet more patterns!

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    1. Ah good, I hope it comes in useful! I dread to think how many patterns I've bought when there's probably an identical one I own in a book/magazine/forgotten PDF somewhere! x

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  26. My go to sleeveless top is the sorbetto. I have at least 5 different versions. Next up one with sleeves?

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    1. I made one Sorbetto years ago when it was first available, but I think I'd need to make quite a lot of adjustments if I was making it again today! Enjoy your five versions! x

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  27. I have used a Sorbetto as a base with alterations for bust, darts, and neckline. The problem for me is dealing with the armhole gape caused by a bigger bust with small shoulders. I've used bias tape as facing but never an all in one facing.
    The Sewing Bee Shell is actually a free pattern (you have to register at the site). I downloaded it two years ago and forgot about it. Jane, I hope you don't mind me providing the pdf link to your readers:
    http://www.sewmag.co.uk/free-sewing-patterns/sewing-bee-sleevless-shell-top

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    1. Ooh that's a wonderful resource, thanks Lisa, will add it to the blog post today! x

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  28. Based on the photo in the book I would never have looked twice at this. I do love your version, though, and really like that gentle sweep at the front. A really lovely top. And a great workhorse of a pattern.

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    1. I was the same, until I saw it on a real person! I'm hoping it will become a real workhorse of a pattern too, I have my second one cut out and ready to go! x

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  29. A top that fits great and barely needs ironing - you have found some sort of holy grail here! Looks fab.

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  30. The top looked so lovely on you that I had to try it. You are right. It is a wonderful, flattering top. Thank you for the recommendation!

    In case anybody is interested, the publisher of the GBSB's books (Quadrille) offers the patterns free in pdf form from their website.

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  31. This top looks lovely on you. I've made two of these and they've had lots of wear and nice comments from people. The first one I made came out a little bit big,so I used your tutorial to make vintage shoulder ties for it and they look fabulous, giving the whole top a very different vibe - thank you for that!

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  32. I'm just here to thank you for the link to the wonderful method which, up until now, has been a nightmare for me to understand....I always ended up trying to neaten everything at the shoulder seams and it never worked.
    From now on it will be perfect...I sure hope so!

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  33. A felt fish for a school display, aged 5, about the same age that I started to crochet a blanket for my doll who lived in a shoebox bed! I next remember my yellow gingham cookery apron made at school age 11, followed by a tennis skirt and dance tunic, all made in the first year of secondary school. Those were the days. Jenny Collard

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