Saturday, June 25, 2016

FO: Gathered Back Top Experiment

Through sewing, I have developed a very consistent personal style. I'm a tried and true fit-and-flare gal, and while some of the newer patterns out there have lots of ease and drape, I've always just stuck to my fitted comfort zone. Everyone needs to try something new every now and then though, and this past week I finally decided to try an experiment I'd plotted out months ago. Granted it didn't turn out as a huge step away from my usual style, but still...
The kind folks at Indygo Junction contacted me months and months ago (something like 6 months ago, holy cow - sorry, life happened) to see if I'd like to sew up some of their new patterns that have an extended size range and share my review. How could I say no to that, right?! I've seen their company for years and despite even owning Amy Barickman's new book, I've never sewn any of their patterns before. I knew this would be a great chance to give them a try :) I received a happy little package with 4 of their newer apparel patterns: the Sophia Swing CoatSidekick Wrap Skirt, Modern Gored Skirt, and Gathered Back Top and Tunic. I knew straight off that I would definitely make up both skirt patterns and they would work great in my wardrobe (they are already planned out and waiting to be sewn), and the coat is very cute. The only pattern I was not 100% sold on was the Gathered Back Top - it's a woven shirt that is designed with lots of ease to tent away from the body (see the pattern photo above). While I knew a shirt like that would not feel "me" to wear, I couldn't help but wonder - could I use the pattern in a slightly different way and make it into something I would wear? That's the glory of sewing, right? To take a pattern and make it work for your body and your life. On that vein, I decided I would make this up in a knit fabric and size down to account for the stretch, essentially giving myself a drapey tee with a fancy back. So in spite of my initial hesitation, this pattern became the first one that I sewed up - funny how that works, isn't it? I struck gold at my favorite thrift store a few weeks ago and came across this shirt that would be perfect for my little experiment: 
The top was a size 2X tunic in a royal blue rayon jersey - perfect! The length and size meant there was plenty of fabric to play with. There was a horizontal seam across the back, but I knew I could use that for the gathered back, so it really was just meant to be. I started out by cutting all the serged seams off to separate the pieces. Then I had to get some point of reference to measure the pattern pieces in a knit - so entered the ever useful Plantain tee from Deer + Doe. I've made this pattern enough to know it fits me well, so I laid the front bodice piece on top of the Gathered Back Top front pattern piece to compare the width. Going this route, I ended up cutting a size XS! Yes, Me! I don't think I've worn and XS in anything since I was 6, but knits are interesting creatures and I wanted it to fit across the bust to give me some shape. I decided to go the safe route and cut an XS at the bust grading to the S nearer the hip. For reference, my bust measurement is 43". I had to cut the back piece different from the pattern because of the pre-existing horizontal seam. To do this, I just used the gathering line like it was a cut line, making the upper yoke piece the width of the top and the bottom piece wider to accommodate the gathering, making sure to mark where the gathers should be. It was a very simple change to make and this also meant that there was no need for the upper center back seam, so both back pieces were just cut on the fold. 

From there, I just sewed the top up like you would for any t-shirt. I started by gathering the back and attaching the two pieces, then attached the front and back, then the sleeves, then sewing down the sleeves and body side seams as one, then the neckband. I used my beloved lightning bolt stitch throughout and added knit stay tape to the shoulders to prevent stretching. I used the existing hems for the front and back pieces as well as the sleeve hems. The sleeves only had so much fabric since they came off a different completed shirt, so I just sewed them to the top as they were - man, I love knits for this reason alone (no fiddling with the armscye!). I had so little remaining fabric to cut the neckband from that I had to make it from 3 pieces - I just tried to center them so they are even across the front and I don't think they are super noticeable unless you can sew (in which case you will notice any weirdness anyway, lol). This process took a few hours and a few concerts on MTV (Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden - yes!), after which this was the result:
You can already see on the mannequin that there is a good amount of ease at the back gathers yet it hugs the front bust - just like I hoped it would :) The shirt has a bit of a high-low hem going on, but it's still a length I'm comfortable with in the front. After trying it on, something wasn't quite perfect - I toyed around with shortening the sleeves, but the next day I realized that the sleeves were too loose in the bicep area compared to how fitted they were in the lower arm. I also wanted to get just a bit more definition in the waist on the front, so I decided to take it in a little in both places - I just went down the side seam again all the way from the sleeve to the waist area. 
Looking at the pictures, I'm not totally loving the placement of that back seam, but that's entirely my fault due to the constraints of refashioning. It hits directly on my bra band, which is kind of the least attractive area of my back, lol. Nothing like drawing your eye to the dip in your back fat with a seam. Oh well, I think the gathers make up for the little dip in and it's still comfy.

Next, I wanted to jazz up this rather plain (from the front, at least) shirt. I had a handful of trims on hand that would work, and after a lot of thought I decided to an iridescent beaded trim, but it looked silly due to how narrow it was on such a wide open area. So I used 4 strands of it twisted together to make it thicker. Et voilĂ ! I love this detail now.
The trim gives more interest to the front while distracting the eye from the seams along the neckband :) Go ahead and call that my "refashioning tip" - pull the eye away from rigged areas with embellishments, lol. 
So, while I technically didn't test out the extended sizes on this pattern like Indygo Junction asked me to do, I did make a cute and wearable shirt for my lifestyle while showing that the pattern can be made up more than the prescribed way. That's got to be just as good, right? :) My mom and sister like this so much they want one of their own! I call that a win. I'll be making the other patterns up as written though, don't you worry. Thanks so much to Indygo Junction for the fantastic patterns! And here's to a truly versatile pattern and the glory of tweaking something to work with your life and style!
Fabric: Size 2X rayon jersey tunic - $0.50 (thrifted)
Pattern: Gathered Back Top & Tunic by Indygo Junction - free (retail is $15.99)
Notions: knit stay tape - $0.10-ish, thread - $0.50
Time: 3 hours
Total Cost: $1.10! Yay - this seems to be my magic number lately, lol.

*I received the Gathered Back Top & Tunic pattern free of charge from Indygo Junction to review, but all opinions (and hacks) are 100% my own!


  1. What a beautiful make!Love the beaded trim.

    1. Thanks, Marike :) It's a fun pattern. And The beads are my favorite part too, lol.


Thanks for joining in the conversation!