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Rifle Paper Co Ultimate Shift Top

Hello there! I’m excited to share a fun project with you today.

I’ve been a big fan of the Rifle Paper Co Designed Fabric prints from Cotton and Steel.  I’ve been admiring them from afar as I had not gotten a chance to work with one.  When I found this lovely amazing Rayon Challis Fabric at Minerva, I jumped at the chance to work with it!

In case you’re not familiar with rayon challis fabrics, I wanted to share this helpful resource for some tips.

Before working with this fabric, I machine washed and dried it twice with warm water and air temperature settings.  Rayons will shrink and move around a bit over time. Washing them a few times first helps pre-shrink the fabric and brings out the buttery softness that makes challis’ so endearing.

For the pattern I decided to revisit a project that I’ve made before, the Faux Leather Shift Dress. My thought for this garment was to think of a tried and true pattern (or TNT) from my previous makes.  I have to admit that it’s not as common for me to have a catalog of TNT patterns. I really enjoy sewing new patterns as I love the process of learning new construction methods, exploring the design and figuring out the pattern.  That said, thinking about TNT patterns (ones that you make over and over again) are a smart way to approach sewing. Having a selection of TNT patterns in your stash saves time as you are already familiar with the fit (and a speedier sewing project sounds amazing, doesn’t it?).

I picked the SOI Ultimate Shift Top as it’s a great pattern for printed fabrics. The only shaping in the pattern are two bust darts (so that a printed fabric can shine and not be interrupted by shaping darts).

Although I have sewn this pattern a few times, I decided to make a muslin (or toile) for this project.  Whereas this may feel like overkill to some as I’ve sewn this pattern before, I have never regretted making a muslin. Sewing a muslin does take time and extra materials (which could be considered the negatives) but I have always appreciated what I learn with them.  With the Rifle Paper Co fabric being a special one, I felt making a muslin was more than worth the extra time for this project.

For the muslin I used a poly satin type fabric that I’ve had in my stash.  

I kept the same mods for this project as I did in the Faux Leather dress.  I utilized the additional underarm gusset (that I self-drafted and included in the previous post), kept the full bicep adjustment for the sleeve, and sewed the same seam allowance diversions (I’ll share those again in the Final Top section of this post).  The main areas that I wanted to check for this test version were the sleeve and top lengths.

For this project I wanted to document more about the process of inserting the underarm gussets.  I first sewed the underarm and side seams. I left the beginning and end of the shoulder seams open on each side of the sleeves (to insert the underarm gusset).  At the “Front” shoulder notch I started the seam at approximately 3.75” (9.5 cm), as shown in the photo below.

I stopped the other shoulder seam at the second “Back” shoulder notch mark.  

For the muslin, I left the sleeves and bottom edges unhemmed.  I found the sleeves a little short for my preference so I thought adding a little length will make the final perfect for me, hemmed.

I also wanted to note that I omitted the keyhole back for the muslin.  I skipped this seam as well by cutting the fabric out on the fold (instead of cutting out two pattern pieces as the pattern recommends).  I didn’t take out the seam allowance (as you could do) so there is a little more ease in back with the muslin.

Final Top:


  • 2m Cotton and Steel Rayon Fabric

  • Pattern Weights

  • Rotary Cutter

  • Blue Poly Thread

  • Hand sewing needle

  • 1 1.2 cm Button (I’d recommend this one)

  • 80/12 universal sewing machine needle

  • Underarm gusset pattern

My final seam allowances (per my fit preferences):

  • Bust dart: 1/2”

  • Back Seam: 1/2”

  • Shoulders: 1/2”

  • Side Seams: 1/2”

  • Neck facing: 5/8”

  • Arm hole: 1/4”

  • Gusset: 1/4”

I spent some time laying the out the fabric before cutting the pattern pieces (checking the grainline).  

I added an extra 1” (25.4cm) of length at the bottom notch location of the sleeves (inserting this extra length above the hem).

I cut the facing pieces out slightly off the grain to try and eek these out from the smaller fabric scraps.

I serged each edge of the fabric after cutting the pattern pieces out to prevent the fabric edges from fraying over time.  I did not serge around the top neckline edges as they became enclosed with the facings. If you don’t have a serger, you could absolutely use an edge finishing stitch on a standard sewing machine to finish the edges (or use french seams for this project).

For the back keyhole I decided to use a button (rather than a hook & eye closure that was recommended in the pattern).  I had a couple of buttons from Arrow Mountain that I was debating between, but finally decided to go with the asterisk style, wooden button.

I didn’t do a double fold at the back seams, as recommended in the pattern.  It looked like the fabric would need to be cut to separate out the upper keyhole portion and I decided I didn’t want to do that step for this project.  Since I serged the edges of the fabric, I ironed the seams flat, all the way up the back of the dress.

One tool that I really enjoy using is a sleeve ironing board.  This little board is so handy to keep by my sewing machine. It’s also easy to iron the sleeve and side seams right after they are sewn.

When I first sewed the back button in place, I found that I wasn’t quite happy with my execution (shown in the photo below).

I decided to remove the button and attach it again.  What I didn’t like about my first pass at sewing on the button is that I didn’t leave much room between the button and the fabric for the loop.  I placed a sewing pin on top of the button as I was sewing it in place, but the result didn’t leave much space between the back of the button and the fabric.  When you sew a button on fabric too tightly, the fabric experiences more stress over time (with wear) and the result may tear the fabric, over time. I decided to utilize a darning needle underneath the button (as I was sewing the button in place) to allow for more spacing in between the button and fabric.  After sewing the button I also wrapped thread around the underside of the button to increase this spacing as well.

I thought of using an elastic loop at this location (as shown in the previous photo), but I changed my mind and went with a thread chain loop instead.  The execution of thread chains are a similar concept as a crochet chain stitch (but you’re using sewing thread instead). I decided to make the chain 1 1/4” (3 cm) in length (although next time I may try a slightly smaller, 1 1/8” (2.9 cm) thread chain instead).

In the end, I’m really happy with this top.  I love that it can be a bit dressier with a skirt or it’s also fun to wear with a pair of jeans.

Although the neckline is wide enough to take the shirt on and off while the button loop is connected, I like having the opening in the back.  Being able to open up the button before taking off the shirt has been helpful to help prevent makeup from getting on the shirt (as it’s put on or taken off).

I love this fabric print!  The background is technically blue but with all of the green botanical prints in the pattern, I was surprised that it has more of a green look to it in real life.  It has has a really beautiful composition.

I know this top will get regular wear in my wardrobe.  The breathability of the rayon makes it a multi-season option to wear.  I’d definitely love to come back to more projects with this fabric line in the near future.

I wish you all a very cozy time with your own sewing adventures!

Rachel @oakbluedesigns 


Comments (2)

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Meg An said:

That's lovely! Enjoyed the post too. · 10th Mar 2019 10:33am

Diana Castillo said:

The final garment and even the muslin are beautiful. I??m admiring your sewing space. It looks like you have a nice setup and great tools. The fabric is beautiful and it looks great on you. I also really like the button you chose!! Beautiful project! · 9th Mar 2019 04:07pm