Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Let's make a simple sleeveless top (Simplicity 2262-D)

For the first start-to-finish project, I'm going to make a simple, sleeveless tunic. This will use some of the stuff we've talked about, as well as one new technique: single-fold bias tape.

Most pattern companies offer some variety of this pattern in every season because it's such a staple of a woman's wardrobe. When you're looking at the pattern, check the notions -- you want one that only requires single-fold bias tape, and not one that requires interfacing (we'll do that on our next project!). If you want to follow along at home, the pattern I'm using is Simplicity 2262 which comes in both Misses (AA) and Plus (BB) sizes. We'll be doing View D, which is the sleeveless tunic.
This pattern will require all of the basic equipment, although you do not need the items under the "Things you won't need right away" section.

At the fabric store, I picked up some standard 45" wide cotton fabric (using the sizing chart on the back), as well as matching thread, and a package of matching ½"-wide single-fold bias tape (listed in the notions section). For more on getting the right amount of fabric for your project see this post.

What you need: Fabric, pattern, and matching thread and single-fold bias tape.
Bringing these supplies home, I finished the edges of the fabric, pre-washed it, and ironed in in the standard selvage-to-selvage fashion (for more on pre-washing and ironing, see this post) I took out the pattern instructions, and looked up which pieces I would need for View D, and then I found the cutting layout I would need for 45" fabric for my size:


The next part was a bit messy, you have to open up the pattern pieces themselves and cut out the pieces you need for that view, and give them a light press, then lay them out according to the cutting layout's instructions, returning pieces that aren't needed to their envelope for any later effort. Because this will have two parts, one with a single-fold and one with a gatefold, I will do the single-fold first, and then do the gatefold with the leftover fabric. For more on cutting out patterns, see this post. 

Laying out and cutting out the fabric wasn't difficult. Everything lined up to a foldline which is easier than dealing with a grainline. I laid down pieces 8 and 9 as indicated on the cutting layout, folding the the rest of the piece under the D cutline (which would make up the dress part if we were doing view C) underneath so that if I wanted to do view C later on that would still be an option. Then, laying the pieces along the foldline, with piece 9 face down on the fabric as indicated, I carefully pinned them and cut them out, making sure the notches were cut out. With the leftover fabric along the top, I cut that away from the rest of the fabric so that it wouldn't get in my way doing the gatefold.

Pieces 6 and 7 fit very comfortably on a single 50/50 gatefold. I did a quick check before I re-ironed the fabric, and confirming that nothing would run off the edge on either side, I went ahead and folded each selvage into the old foldline (which was the exact center and then ironed the new foldlines from there. Then, I laid pieces 6 and 7 down as indicated in their cutting layout and cut them out, remembering to get the notches.

The fact is that the pattern's instructions and illustrations will take you through the process, but you have to pay close attention to what they're telling you, and of course, they assume you know the some of the different stitching. The thing to really pay attention to is the "shade" of the picture they're showing you. The "Right Side" of the fabric is usually shaded gray, and the "Wrong Side" of the fabric is not shaded. By paying attention to how the illustration shows what side you're working on, you'll avoid some of the more common mistakes.

(Always check this before starting a pattern.
And feel free to keep re-checking it as you go).

Get your thread out, wind your bobbin and get it into place on your sewing machine, and get the machine threaded... because we're going to get started!

Step 1: Stay-stitch yoke front and yoke back neck edges 1/4" (6mm) from cut-edge in direction of arrows. This stitching stays in permanently and helps prevent stretching on curved edges. Stay-stitching will not be shown in the following illustrations.

So the Pieces 6 and 7 are Yoke Front and Yoke Back, respectively. You can unpin them from their pattern pieces and unfold them.The yoke front is going to be distinguishable because it has a bigger "scoop" through the middle than the back neckline.

Remember, when you stay-stitch a neckline like the Yoke Front and Yoke Back, you need to do two stitches per piece: you go in from the arms and meet in the middle, and you want each one to be lined up on the sewing machine so that the bulk of the fabric will be to your left as you sew. This means that the left side of the yoke you will stitch from the top (right side), but then the right side you will flip over and stitch from the wrong side of the fabric (see the video). For more on stay-stitching, see this post.

Set your seam gauge to 1/4" and use your tailor's wax or marking pencil to trace 1/4" from the raw edge of the neckline towards the center fold on each piece. Then, take the pieces to the machine and stay-stitch (single, straight-line stitch that's fixed at both ends) along the line. Do not sew the two yokes together, the stay-stitch is not a joining stitch!

Step 2: To gather upper edge of front and back between notches, stitch along seam line and 1/4" INSIDE seam line, using a long machine-stitch.

This is our ease stitch! Now, I would amend this step only slightly: I would stitch the first easestitch 1/8th of an inch inside of the seamline, instead of along the seamline itself, and then I would stitch 1/4" in from there. This prevents your easestitch from peeking out from your seam once you join your yoke to the body if your stitch meanders a hair, which is very easy with a gather like this.

Like step 1, use your tailor's wax or marking pencil to draw a "cheat line" for yourself. Unlike the staystitch, you don't have to worry about flipping the fabric over halfway through, so if your fabric is like mine and it's a little hard to see the marks on the contrast color, go ahead and do this on the wrong side of the fabric. I'm doing this on piece 8 (the front panel) to start, then when I'm done, I'll do it on piece 9 (the back panel).

Step 3: With RIGHT sides together, pin front to yoke front. Pull up gathering stitches to fit. Baste. Stitch/Serge. Press seam toward yoke. Press seam toward yoke.

This step is a little tricky, in fact it might feel like baptism by fire, but as long as you take it slow and keep checking your work as you go, you'll be fine. You are going to join piece 6 (front yoke) to piece 8 (front panel) using a plain seam. I only finish the yoke side of the seam first, and I generally do my gathering before I do any pin basting, I just set the yoke next to the front and gather until the notches line up. Rather than baste stitch, I pin baste. First, this reduces the number of stitches that might "peek out" from under the yoke on the finished garment that you'll have to clean up, and second, as you will see, this is a fairly tricky seam to sew and you'll need to keep adjusting. You can do a standard parallel pin baste from the edges to the notches, but once you get into the gathered part, it's probably a good idea to switch to perpendicular pin basting (as you'll see in the video). The two pieces are divergent as you're pinning and stitching, so take your time and always double-check. As you're doing the seam, make sure that your fabric isn't bunching up or folding under or pulling away on the underside.

When you're done, take the seam over to your ironing station and instead of ironing the seam open, iron it toward the yoke.

Step 4: With RIGHT sides together, pin back to yoke back. Pull up gathering stitches to fit. Base. Stitch/Serge. Press seam toward yoke. Stitch/Serge front to back at shoulder seams.

This is basically the same step as step three but for pieces 7 and 9 (back yoke and back panel), but it's a little easier because the yoke doesn't diverge from the panel in the back as much as it does in the front. Once you're done, you're going to sew the tops of the shoulders together (finishing the raw edges on all four parts first), joining the front of the tunic to the back with a plain seam.

Steps 5-9 are for View C (the dress) so we can skip those.

Step 10 (view D only): Stitch/Serge front to back at side seams.

This is a pretty straightfoward step but this is where your shirt takes its shape. Finish the raw edge on the straight part of both sides, up to where the scoop of the armhole begins down to the bottom. then, pin baste (take a minute to orient your fabric) and create a simple 5/8" seam up both sides. This is another plain seam.

At this point, the basic structure of the shirt is done, all we have to do is finish the raw edges of the neckline, the shoulders, and the hem. At this point, double-check that you have pressed open your shoulder and side seams, and that the seam attaching the yokes to their respective front or back panels have been pressed up to the yoke.

Step 11: Open out one edge of bias fold tape.

This step is simple, your bias tape will be folded in to the center. Open out of of the folds, it doesn't matter which one. The opened fold will now be called the "crease" and the remaining fold will be called the "fold."

Step 12: With RIGHT sides together, pin tape to neck edge having crease 3/8th (1cm) from raw edge, turning under and lapping one end at one shoulder seam. Stitch in 3/8" (1cm) seam. Trim seam, clip curves.

Link: Finishing a raw edge with bias tape
This step has a bunch of little steps in it, but it's not too hard as long as you have your seam gauge handy. I pin-baste on these, just to keep the number of stitches down.

Start by turning your garment right-side out. At the top of the shoulder seam, lay your single-fold bias tape so that the crease (unfolded) side is closest to your raw edge, and the folded part at the other end of the tape is on the outside (extra layer on the outside, not the inside), and then use your seam gauge to measure it at 3/8" from the raw edge. Pin it in place so that the cut edge of the single fold bias tape hangs about 1" off of the seam itself. Then, working your way around slowly, pin the rest of the way around so that the crease is always 3/8" from the raw edge. Be careful at your seams: make sure you pin so that the seam's pressed state is preserved, and you don't fold or bunch the allowance under. When you get back to the top, measure about an inch over the start of the bias tape and cut, then take the start of the bias tape, fold it under itself, and lay it on top of the end of the bias tape, pinning it down.

When you're done pinning the bias tape in place, take it over to the sewing machine and stitch right down the crease with a straight stitch. You will need to take off the tray of your sewing machine to fit the sleeve hold around the arm of the sewing machine.

Finally, take the armhole and using your scissors, trim the excess fabric away from the crease edge of the bias tape (this is trimming the seam) and then make a series of triangular notches around the armhole every few inches, being sure not to cut through the stitch you just made. This will help to ease the fold.

Step 13: Turn tape to INSIDE, press. Baste close to inner edge. On outside, top-stitch as basted.

This finishes your shoulder armholes. Fold the tape to the inside of the armhole so that it is now invisible to the outside. You want the bias tape to be invisible from the outside of the garment now, and you want to preserve the remaining fold of the bias tape, pin-basting through that. When you top-stitch, work slowly and use your fingers to feel the fabric as you're feeding it through the machine to make sure that you are top-stitching through the bias tape, as close to the edge of the tape as you can without slipping off.

When you've finished this step, repeat step 11, 12, and 13 for the other shoulder.

Step 14: Prepare tape same for as neck edge. With RIGHT sides together, pin tape to armhole edge having crease 3/8" (1cm) from raw edge, turning under and lapping one end at side seam. Stitch in 3/8" (1cm) seam. Trim seam, clip curves.

Basically, this is combining steps 11, and 12 but for the collar instead of the shoulders. It's a good way to practice, at least.

Step 15: Turn tape to INSIDE; press. Baste close to inner edge. On OUTSIDE, top-stitch as basted.

This will finish up our collar, it's the same as step 13.

Step 16: Mark length. Press up hem along marking. Mark depth of hem; trim evenly. Press under 1/4" on raw edge. Stitch close to inner pressed edge.

This finishes the garment, we're just hemming the bottom edge.

Marking the Length just means "put the shirt on and then decide where you want it to end." Put a pin in at the point where you want your hem, and then take the shirt off and use your seam gauge to measure the distance between the raw edge and the pin. This is your hem. Alternately, you can go with the pattern's specified hem allowance, which is 1 1/4" -- you can get this measurement by looking at the actual pattern piece--it will tell you along the bottom of the cut edge how much the hem allowance is.

Whether you use your own marked hem or the specified allowance, turn the shirt inside-out and fold along that mark, ironing it down all the way around the bottom of the shirt, making sure you measure often for an even hemline. Make sure you give it good steam to create a nice, clear crease-line. Then, open up the hem and now fold in 1/4" from the raw edge (if this is difficult, you can go ahead and do 3/8" or even 1/2" from the raw edge. Iron this down, being careful not to iron out your previous crease and watch your fingers -- this is a good place to accidentally burn yourself.. Now, re-fold along your hemline and give it one more press for good measure. This will create a nice, finished turn under that you will zig-zag over to finish your hem. Pin-baste along the turned-under edge. (The pattern says to straight-stitch this, I always zig-zag a hemline, but that's just me, feel free to straight-stitch if that's what you like).

You'll want to stitch fairly close to your turned-under edge, because you want to keep that edge from rolling out and fraying. Just take it nice and slow around the perimeter of the hem. Remember, you'll be able to see this stitch when you wear the shirt, so try to keep the stitch nice and steady.

Step 17 (unlisted): Trim stray threads and clean out your sewing machine. Pack up the pattern.

This is the unofficial end to all sewing projects. Carefully go over all of your seams and look for stray threads and snip them down to clean up your garment, and then go over and clean out your sewing machine using your little cleaning brush. Finally, pack up the pattern so that all of the pieces are back in the envelope so if you want to make it again, you know where to find all the bits.

And you're done!
Go try on your new shirt!


  1. i have to order this pattern

  2. I love how simple this pattern is. Thank you from Marahall, Tx. for sharing.

  3. I love how simple this pattern is. Thank you from Marahall, Tx. for sharing.