And now here’s FINALLY that top that SHE JUST WON’T SHUT UP AND WRITE ABOUT ALREADY. Holy cow.
See? I’m quiet and shy. Promise.
I would never say something inappropriate.
Made you check out my butt. Teehee.
Now that you’re ready to get down to business, you’ve got to know a few rules about patternmaking.
1.) Be honest about your body.
Nothing will ruin a beautiful garment faster (before you even make it) than sucking it in when you take your measurements. You have to realize that curves aren’t going to go away if you write down 35 1/2” instead of 36”. If you take your measurements correctly, write them down honestly, and smack anyone who tries to read them upside the head, then you can have a well-fitting garment that looks great.
2.) Use your brain.
I don’t mean this in an insulting way. What I mean is that if you want to know how to make a pattern fit a certain way, then you have to think about reference points on your body, and how you’ll use them to get the measurement you want. This will make more sense when you start drafting your pattern.
3.) The fabric you choose is the ultimate deciding factor on whether or not a pattern will work.
The Blueberry Summer Top is made of a knit with generous two-way stretch. The pattern that you’ll make for it won’t have darts, won’t have a zipper, and will need to have enough stretch to fit over your head, shoulders, and bust. If you make this out of a knit that doesn’t have enough stretch, or that has only one-way stretch, you’ll look… eerrrmm… unhappy? And on the same page, if it is heavy or has too much stretch, it could end up sagging, and sagging + boobs = NO.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with knits, I’ll tell you the truth. You’re going to have to buy some super cheap knit fabric that has close to the same amount of stretch that you want to make your actual top out of use it as a kind of practice top. If your pattern works out, wonderful, you’ve made a sample, you like how your pattern fits, and you can move on to making 50 more of them. But if you find you wish it was bit looser, that the hem was wider, or anything else, then you can adjust your pattern and go on to make your actual top. There are plenty of great books out there with more knit information in them, so I’m not going to give you the entire History of Knits and How to Sew with Them- I’ve got a puppy to take care of and Mad Men to watch, remember?
Okay, so let’s start taking measurements. First off, you need to be wearing the bra that you’ll be wearing with this shirt; yes, it does make a difference. Also, note that when you take your measurements, you need to be standing straight up (no looking down), and preferably be facing a full-length mirror. It will help you to ensure that your tape measure is parallel to the floor.
Here is a diagram of the measurements you’ll need. Each number corresponds with the numbered and detailed steps. You will create the front and back of your pattern piece at the same time.
1.) Measure from your desired neckline point to under your bust. Take this measurement on whichever side is bigger (I know The Girls probably aren’t symmetrical), over the apex to the “waist”. I say “waist” because this top doesn’t actually sit at your waist, it sits under your bust, where your bra is. Mark this measurement as a straight line on your pattern paper, and label it as Center Front, or CF.
On a separate piece of paper, begin your back pattern piece using this same measurement. Add 2” to it and label it as Center Back, or CB.
2.) Measure the waist, which is, again, directly under the bust and not your actual waist. Make sure your measuring tape is parallel to the floor. Add the following to this measurement:
- 1” for A-B cups
- 2” for C-D cups
Now here’s a place where body observation comes into play. If you draw an imaginary side seam down both sides of your body, you will have a front a back, right? If you were to make your front and back pattern piece have the same bust or waist measurement, your side seams would pull to the front. Why is that? Because your front measurement is larger than your back measurement because of your bust. This is why when you wear a tight t-shirt the side seams pull to the front. We’re going to fix this, because it makes me crazy.
- Total waist measurement divided by 2 = (FW*) + (BW*)
- FW + 1/2”= New FW = Divide by 2, and plot perpendicular to CF
- BW – 1/2”= New BW = Divide by 2, and plot perpendicular to CB
*FW- Front Waist, BW- Back Waist
You may need to add more or less to your waist depending on your bust size, but that will be determined when you put the top on. Making a sample top will let you see if this needs to be changed.
3.) For your side seam (SS), measure on your side from under your bust (where your bra sits), to where you want the bottom of the armhole to sit. It’s better to err on the side of caution and have it be higher or tighter than you might want it and then alter it than to have it too low and show everybody some side boob. Mark this line parallel to the CF on the opposite side of your waist measurement.
*I think the next two are the most important steps, so set down the wine and PAY ATTENTION.*
4.) To determine neck width and your high shoulder point (HSP), and to begin creating your shoulder seam, hold a ruler in front of your neck while facing a mirror. This is where body reference points come into play. Imagine your center front line, and measure from it to where you want the inside of your strap to sit on one side of your body (do this at your neck). Make sure it will cover your bra strap. This is half of your total neck width, which is what you need, since you’re making half of your front piece. To plot this on your pattern, measure from your CF (or CB) along your waistline and make a mark.
5.) Now that you’ve determined neck width, you will need your HSP. Use a measuring tape and hold it on your shoulder seam at your neck width measurement. From there, go down over your apex, to under your bust where the garment waist is. Subtract 1” from this measurement. Then, mark this up parallel to your CF (or CB) on your pattern using your HSP length at your neck width and make a cross mark. I know, it’s a bit confusing, but I hope the pictures make up for that!
6.) Now decide on a strap width. I made mine 1 1/2” wide. At the HSP crossmark, make a line parallel to your waist mark that is the length of your desired strap width and make a mark. Measure down (parallel to your CF or CB) 3/4” and make another mark. Connect this mark and your HSP to create your shoulder seam.
7.) At each end of your shoulder seams, side seams and CF and CB, make 90º angles for at least 1/4”. This will help your seams to line up nicely when you sew them.
8.) Create your desired neckline and armhole curves, using a French curve. Look at a t-shirt or tank top if you need and example of how to curve these lines. Make your back armhole 3/8” deeper than your front armhole to make room for your arm to swing behind you.
9.) The bottom pattern piece is more up to you and how you would like it to flow. I doubled to my waist measurement, divided it by 4, and drew this as my waist, because I wanted it to be wide at the hem and have a lot of flow to it. To determine where your hem will be, measure from the waistline down your side to where you want it to be. Add 1” to this measurement for hemming. You will use this same pattern piece for the front and the back of your shirt.
10.) Now, mark your centers (CF, CB) as “on the fold” so that you remember this when you go to cut them out. Add 1/4” seam allowance around all of your pieces, except on the fold lines. You can add more if you’d like but I only added 1/4” because I serged this baby together.
CONGRATULATIONS! You just made a knit top pattern!
Tomorrow I’ll have another post on how to sew this top together, so GET TO IT.