The Spotty Cowl Top
Posted on Sunday the 17th February 2019 by Anna-Jo Sews
Hey all, I had to take a month off from the blogger network while my darling daughter had (planned and successful) heart surgery, but I’m now back with my January make. So let’s just call in my February make, shall we? I’m pleased to report that Daisy wore her nightgown I made her in hospital and it was much admired by the nurses.
Anyway, back to my “February” make. I used the Sophia Top pattern from the new-to-me Daydream Patterns, as it features two different options for concealed nursing access in the cami underbodice beneath the cowl. There are very few patterns out there for these kinds of tops and dresses, so I’ve made it a bit of a mission to try out as many as I can, even if my breastfeeding days will probably soon be over for good.
If you have no need for nursing access then this is still a great pattern to try out, as the main instructions are for a version with a regular cami front underneath. The two different nursing access options have their own instruction files and pattern pieces to print out. The main pattern comes with options for a lace top or plain top to the cami layer, and with instructions for sleeveless, three quarter and full length sleeves.
The fabric I initially chose for this top turned out to be totally unsuitable, but as luck would have it, was just perfect for one of my other Blogger Network makes, and the fabric chosen for that turned out to be just right for this. Serendipity in action!
I can’t resist a good black and white polka dot, so this fabric is right up my alley. It’s a polyester/spandex Jersey Fabric with a fabulous amount of stretch and beautiful drape. Seriously, we’re talking about 40% stretch on the grain and a whopping 70% selvedge to selvedge. It would be a great fabric to choose for any tops, dresses or skirts that need a soft drape, and it comes in four colourways so I might well be returning to buy more for a summer maxi dress or two…
I also selected this gorgeous Stretch Lace Trim for the cami layer as I do love a lace neckline on a cami.
I chose to cut a size 14 based on my measurements at the time of pattern preparation (high bust 36”, waist 31”, hips 41”). However, what with the lull between tracing the pattern and finally sewing the garment, I actually managed to slim down an inch on the waist and hips so I’d have been better off choosing a 12. And then the extreme stretch in this fabric meant I really should have sized down to a 10. But I fixed it—more on that later.
This pattern says it’s advanced beginner/intermediate and I’d have to agree. It wasn’t particularly difficult but it was considerably more involved than your average knit top, with things like elastic application, gathers, darts and topstitching. My only real deviation from the instructions was in how I applied the wider elastic at the top of the lower cami piece. I ordered a Plush Elastic as I prefer the way they feel to folded and stitched regular elastic edges, and so I applied it in the way I would for a bra strap, leaving the plush side against my skin.
I was particularly impressed with the way the cami neckline is constructed, with small darts for shaping and plenty of elastic to stabilise (I used this 7mm Prym Elastic for the edges that needed a narrow elastic. It’s lovely stuff.) There’s no way this cami is going to suffer from a wardrobe malfunction. Seriously, I can bend over like this and you can’t even tell I’m wearing a version with nursing access!
The fabric was pretty much a dream to cut out and sew, and definitely a good choice to anyone just starting out with knits who wants to try a more stretchy fabric. It behaves nicely, doesn’t curl up and has a slightly crepey texture that seems to help the layers stick together so you don’t need many pins while you sew.
One thing that was new to me with this make was the use of stay tape. I ordered some Vilene Iron On Bias Stay Tape as I’ve always had good experiences with Vilene products, and I can honestly say, this stuff is a game changer. It’s basically a thin strip of flexible non-woven fusible tape with a chain stitch running down it. I used it to stabilise the shoulder seams and it was so much easier to work with than my usual clear elastic. I’m definitely going to be using it for all knit shoulder seams going forward, and I can see it being excellent for stabilising most necklines on wovens too. This is it in action:
This was a really enjoyable sew, and I was only mildly distressed to discover it absolutely swamped me when I tried it on. I was kind of expecting this as I had something similar happen the last time I sewed with a similar feeling fabric. This was a quick selfie I took to show the initial fit.
To be honest, some people might be perfectly happy with the extra ease but I was after a figure hugging fit, so it needed fixing. Luckily I’d only just sewn the sleeve and side seams, which are sewn in one after you put the sleeves in flat, so it was easy to take in. I pinched out the excess then simply used the overlocker to sew a new sleeve and side seam, roughly 1” in from the previous, which by my calculations took it down to a size 10 top. Now it fits perfectly!
Do I love this top? Kind of. I love the clever design of the cowl and cami, and it works brilliantly for feeding Lauren discreetly. I’m not one hundred percent sure the shape of that cowl front suits me or that it works in this patterned fabric. I’m kind of wishing I’d used a solid for either the cami section or the main top. That said, it looks way better in these pics than I think it does in the mirror, so maybe it looks better on me than I think it does.
I think I’d also be happier if the cami neckline was about an inch lower, and the cowl draping wasn’t quite so voluminous. These are certainly things I would look into altering for a future version, should I feel like making it again.
Amazingly, this polyester fabric doesn’t feel all that cool against the skin, so it’s a good choice for a long sleeved winter/ early spring top. All poly jerseys are not created equal, and this is definitely one of the quality ones.
I’m not sure if I’ll sew this particular pattern again but I certainly learnt something from making it, and I’ll definitely be hitting up Minerva for more of this fabric, stay tape and plush elastic. So, all in all I’m considering it an extremely successful project!
Happy sewing, everyone!