Summer Fair Tops

A while ago I made my mum a Tova blouse for her birthday. I was so excited upon finishing it that I forgot to photograph it, so no blog post yet.

This is the second Tova I made, and like the first I was left with a lot of fabric left after cutting. Not just a few inches, we’re talking in the order of a metre left here (didn’t actually measure it, sorry).

So, I had a biggish piece of a beautiful soft cotton lawn left, in a floral print I would never wear (I am not a floral person). And my daughter has loads of clothes at the moment (and making something for her means having to make something for her brother).

Now my friend was expecting her fourth child, so I bought the lullaby layette pattern from Oliver and S. I thought the fabric would make a lovely shirt to help cover up a newborn in hot sunny weather.

By the time I got around to cutting it she was 2 months old, so I cut a size 3-6 months and I got a size 6-12 months out of the fabric too for the 9 month old who lives next door. I figured making 2 shirts at the same time was much less than twice the hassle of making one.

The instructions were (if you know anything of the reputation of Oliver and S) unsurprisingly very clear and easy to follow and gave a lovely finish to the garment. But I did have a little trouble of my own making. You see, I was wondering how to finish the seams (I don’t have an overlocker/serger) and it occurred to me that I had seen a tutorial on the Grainline website for French Seaming all the seams in a top – including the armholes. Now, a fiddly little baby top is perhaps not the best place to practice a new technique but as it came with a generous 1/2 inch seam allowance I decided to go for it as the idea of neat enclosed seams that would be itch free for delicate skin appealed.

So, front placket done and in place, back pleat done, shoulders french seamed, neck binding on, sides french seamed, sleeves french seamed, armhole gather stitches sewn all good. I’m ready to attach the sleeves to the blouse. Except they’re too big. Way too big.

armhole/sleeve sizing discrepency

armhole/sleeve sizing discrepency

Can you see the two pins marking the bottom of the armhole on the main blouse, and how that is nowhere near the bottom of the sleeve.

I was confused and unsure what to do next. Recut the sleeves? Gather them? Where had I gone wrong? I could end up with huge sleeves or too small ones or too tight armholes. I was sure the fault was mine.

I left my sewing for a week or more. When I came back to it I realised what my mistake had been. I had decided to sew my seams with a 1/4″ seam allowance, trim, turn and use a 1/4″ seam allowance to enclose the raw edges. But I had somehow forgotten that the 1/4″ seam allowance is marked by a line on my presser foot and instead decided that the edge of the presser foot is 1/4″, when in fact it’s 3/8″. So I’d used 3/8″ stitching line, making my finished french seams take 3/4″ seam allowance – which was 1/4″ more than intended. This made a big difference on such a small garment. After some more thinking I decided to gather the sleeve head between the notches (as a little gather more gather than intended wouldn’t hurt), and then trim a little bit out of the blouse, to extend the bottom of the armhole down to meet where the sleeve actually reached, hopefully thereby avoiding too tight armholes.

the fix

the fix

I cut little “v” shapes off the blouse and then sewed on the sleeves, actually using a 1/4″ sewing line to make the french seams this time.

frenching all my seams

view of the finished french seams

The french seams came out ok and attaching a sleeve this way was surprisingly easy despite how small they were. I must confess, I didn’t actually press them with an iron, it was too fiddly to contemplate and I don’t have a tailors ham, I thought I’d iron creases in everywhere, so I just “finger pressed” them which seemed to work ok in this lightweight fabric.



Once that was done the blouses were easy to finish and were both well received. Both mums have commented what a useful garment it is to cover up babies in the hot weather we’ve been having and how difficult it is to find such items in the shops. And apparently both babies went to different summer school/church fetes/fairs the weekend after I made them wearing their new tops.

It’s a little hard to see the details on the finished garment as the floral pattern shows on both sides of the fabric, so not having any babies to hand I requisitioned my daughters doll for a pose.

Still a little Growing room in this one

Still a little growing room in this one for Baby Taylor

So apart from that little drama of my own making, the pattern is great. I had a little trouble lining up the pdf as usual for any patter I download, as whatever I do (yes, including asking it not to scale) my printer stretches one side a bit longer than the other. It was really noticable what the problem was on this pdf as the pattern had helpful fient 1″ grid lines to assist with matching up.

The instructions were clear and concise. The finished garment has a placket (bound slit) down the front which is explained really well. It makes a really big neck opening – which is essential in babywear in my book (having to take off a garment that with a small neck after it’s been soiled by an exploading nappy is no joke). It does hang open slightly when worn, indeed like a Tova, which I wasn’t expecting. Looking again at the pictures on the Oliver and S website the shirt there seems to have a snap fastening placed half way up and indeed there was a snap fastening placement guide that I didn’t use. So this is probably my fault. But I’ve just looked at the instructions again and it’s not clear to me where the step is I missed. The issue is that the instructions for the shirt are mixed in with the instruction for the body suit, as many steps are the same. There is an “add the snaps” section and point 1 says that it’s for View A only (which is the bodysuit) so I assumed that all the instructions there were for the bodysuit. The picture for point 2 about attaching snaps to the placket shows the 3 snaps of the bodysuit – I’m assuming I was meant to figure out that I should be adding a snap to the shirt at this point too. Anyway, it works fine without a snap it’s just a different style.

I recommend making summer versions in a cotton lawn and it is surprisingly easy to use French seams throughout, provided you check what distance you’re sewing at!

3 thoughts on “Summer Fair Tops

  1. Oh that’s really cute. I love the print. Sewing for babies is such a lovely thing to do!

  2. Pingback: Prolific Project Starter | Easter Bonnets

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