This started out as the second part of a post on building up your sewing skills.
The first part was on building up to more difficult techniques, especially practising by making many samples, see it here.
This part suggests some more easy patterns for tops.
My comments about easy tops are rather spread around in several posts. I do plan to pull them together, but that’s not a priority at the moment.
See the end of this post for links to posts on cut-off sleeve tops, and peasant style tops. There are yet more suggestions in the two beginner wardrobe posts, on developing skills and making capsules.
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Which are the easiest necklines and sleeves ?
The more difficult sewing skills, which you need so you can move on to more complex garments after making elastic-waist skirts and pants, are sewing a curved neckline, and adding sleeves.
There are actually several easy ways of adding sleeves, see comments on sleeve-armhole types in the previous post of this pair.
A cut-on sleeve top is often taught as the easiest possible top to make.
I have a series of posts on making them.
1. patterns – purchase or make your own.
2. fit – make a test garment and improve the fit and look, then revise the original pattern.
3. make – make a wearable top (or many !)
Another easy sleeve is the raglan, as the seams are nearly straight. There are examples in the post on peasant style tops.
The In The Folds Collins pattern has raglan sleeves. It looks very complex, but apart from the neckline it is mostly straight line sewing so is actually quite easy. More about the neckline below.
Although I’ve written extensively on sleeves, it’s not adding sleeves (which can be done with a straight seam) but techniques for finishing a curved neckline which are the most challenging for beginners, as there’s no easy way of doing it.
There are a few top patterns which only need a folded casing to make the neckline, see patterns in this post.
The Madhu top also has raglan sleeves, see above. Easier than fitted sleeves, as they don’t involve sewing two different curves together.
Facings finish the curved neckline edge of this pattern. More difficult than the casing necklines of the tops linked to in a previous paragraph.
Adapt the instructions for conventional facings to allow for :
– Raglan seams instead of shoulder seams.
– The facing is held against the main garment by the casing topstitching, so understitching is not needed.
All those gathers mean it won’t show if your facings are not very neat 😀
In this Madhu top, there’s yet another way of making a casing for elastic, by top-stitching (see near end of casings post). I think the top-stitching placement can be challenging – perhaps draw it onto the fabric with a fabric marker so you have a line to follow.
For a variation, make the top without the waist elastic.
Or you could make it longer below the waist elastic, so you have a top cinched in at the waist. Long enough for a high hip top, low hip top, tunic, dress ? See Section 4 about lengthening patterns.
If you want to keep the elastic at the waist line, you would need to add a casing strip at waist level, to hold the elastic. Yet another casing method ! see last technique in the casings post.
The Madhu blouse involves facings, and if you know how to make those you can make many top/dress patterns. As commented in the Levels of Difficulty section (previous post of this pair), I find a true facing is an easier way to get a good result round a curved neckline than a bias-strip facing. A true facing may be easier but is still quite a complex procedure (sewing a bias-strip facing is even more complex, to get a good flat undistorted result see this post). Break the facing sewing process down into the skills used in each step, and take each step slowly, as suggested in the facings post.
More about the In The Folds Collins pattern mentioned above :
It does have a bias facing neckline finish, which for me always gives a dreadful result unless I follow complex instructions, see this post.
I suggest sewing a faced neckline is easier, though still not easy.
To do that, you need facing patterns. Facing pieces are provided for View B of the pattern, you just need to print pages 17 and 19-20 of the View B pattern pieces. Draw a line 2.5″/6cm from the neckline edge to use them for facing View A.
Also see post on sewing facings.
Make samples until you feel confident, see the first post of this pair. This isn’t a waste of fabric if you build confidence (that lovely thing to have 😀 ). Practice is an essential part of learning new skills. At this stage you’re making an investment in learning materials. Use cheap fabric to make a practice garment, a ‘wearable muslin’, so you can try out the techniques, and find whether the fit and style work well for you. You can even make several samples of the same garment as you build confidence, perhaps making small changes one at a time : change the length, neckline shape, pocket position, fit.
Investing in good materials, to make garments you love and want to wear for years, comes later when you feel confident to make them !
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Here are the sections in the group of posts on learning to sew :
3. Make making easier – levels of difficulty, suggestions for practising.
Move on from the basics
These are posts on specific easy-make garment styles :
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