Here is the first of the three tutorials that I mentioned on Sunday: how to make a lace yoke sweetheart top.
This is a lengthy tutorial because I also included information about how to make a basic shirt pattern and how to make a pleated sleeve.
To make this pattern, you’ll need some tracing or drawing paper, a pencil and a ruler. If you have dressmaker’s tracing/marking paper and a tracing wheel, you can use that instead of a pencil.
It’s best to use a styling design ruler for the curves, but you may be able to find household objects (like pot lids, or shoe soles, or something) that would work for some curves.
You’ll also need a basic knit shirt pattern for this project. If you don’t have one, the easiest thing to do is to make one using your favorite t-shirt. If you have a basic shirt pattern, you can skip past the next section.
Make a t-shirt pattern from a favorite shirt
Remember, knits have varying amounts of stretch. So, you’ll want to choose a shirt with stretch that is comparable to your desired fabric.
First, trace half of the front and back pieces of the shirt (you’ll place the center, straight edge on the fold of your fabric). Don’t worry too much about how straight your lines are, because you can smooth those out later. You might also consider making a dotted line all the way around, removing the shirt, and using the ruler to draw your pattern lines.
Then, add your desired seam allowances to the hemline, side seam, armhole, shoulder seam and neckline. The best way to do this is to use your ruler to make little markings 5/8″ (or whatever measurement you choose) away from the seam lines all the way around and then draw the seam allowance line.
I was very fortunate to come across a nifty double tracing wheel (two pictures above) at an estate sale in the summer. It allows me to add seam allowance at the same time that I trace. It’s one of my favorite tools.
If you’d like, you can line up your front and back pattern pieces and add placement markings–just like those little notches/triangles in commercial patterns–to the side and shoulder seam allowances to help you line up your fabric later.
For the sleeve pattern, trace both the front half of the sleeve and the back half of the sleeve. First, trace the front half, including the center line.
Then pin the back half of the sleeve along the center line and trace around it.
Add an even curve to the cap of the sleeve (otherwise you’ll likely end up with a pointy sleeve cap).
Smooth and even out all the lines and add the seam allowances. Add placement markings, which you’ll transfer to your fabric, to differentiate between the front and back of the sleeve.
Make the yoked sweetheart top pattern
Trace around your basic shirt pattern, both the front and back pieces.
Make any changes that you’d like to the shape/cut of your neckline. I made my neckline higher than the original pattern, so it would work better for adding a yoke.
I’m going to show you two different ways of making the pattern. One is the “right” way, and the other saves some paper.
Let’s do the back piece first.
Decide on the placement of your yoke. To ensure that your front and back yoke will match up at the side/armhole seam, line up the front and back pieces and mark the yoke placement at the side seam on both pieces.
Use your ruler to draw a straight line across the back pattern piece.
Add seam allowance just below that line for the yoke, and cut the yoke out.
Now comes that “right and wrong” business.
The “right” way to go about all of this is to cut both pieces out along the seam line you drew, retrace each piece and add seam allowance to the newly traced pattern pieces. But, because I’m lazy and I like to save paper, there are times when I just tape a small piece of scrap paper to the pattern piece, and add the seam allowances on that piece.
Just make sure you do a good job with the tape, and try not to put tape where you think you might place pins in the future. Otherwise, you’ll end up with sticky pins.
Line up your two pattern pieces and add placement markings–I usually just add dashes in the seam allowances–wherever you’d like to help with lining up your fabric pieces later. These are just like those notches on commercial patterns. Clearly name your pattern pieces (front body, front yoke, etc), as you finish them. If necessary, label the neckline, armhole, etc.
For the front pattern piece, first find the spot where you marked the yoke seam line at the side seam. Make a straight dashed line across the front.
Find the center of the dashed line, and mark it clearly.
Determine how much of a “peak” you want each side of the neckline to have. Then, measure up from the center dash and add a dot to mark the “peak.”
Draw a line that curves from the center “peak” point down to the dashed line at the side seam and at the center front seam. Make sure that each side of the peak mirrors the other.
When I finished my line, I decided I wanted the curve to be a little more dramatic, so I drew another line further up.
You may want to make your sweetheart neckline more pronounced than I did. To do so, just add more height to the “peak” (that little center dot). For a different look, you can also move the peak point somewhere other than the center.
Add your seam allowance below the seam line for the yoke and cut the yoke out.
Below is an example of the “right” way that I mentioned earlier to make your pattern.
Trace the bottom front piece.
Then, add the seam allowance to the top and cut your pattern out.
Making a pleated sleeve pattern
The best way to turn a basic sleeve pattern into a puff-sleeve, pleated sleeve, or any sleeve that adds volume, is the slash and spread method.
Trace your basic sleeve pattern, and make 1″ vertical lines across the sleeve pattern. To make sure your lines are even, start from the center and work your way out to both sides.
Cut out the middle four to six sections and spread them evenly, according to how much volume you want to add to the sleeve.
Note: If you want to add volume only to the top of the sleeve, slash only part way down the vertical lines and spread the sleeve out at the top.
Trace your new sleeve. Be sure to mark the center/the meeting point of the shoulder seam and cap of your sleeve.
Now you’ll add the tucks/pleats on the top and bottom, reversed for symmetry on each side of the center mark. Since I had an extra 2.5″, I was originally going to add two 5/8″ pleats–which would really remove 1.25″ for each pleat.
To make two pleats on the pattern, first add your markings for the spacing between your pleats. Then add 5/8″ (or whatever amount you need) to each side of that marking. When tucked, as shown in the picture below, this would remove 1.25″ of the extra material along the armhole.
After I drew these tucks, I decided I liked the idea of four pleats better. So I ultimately added four 5/16″ pleats, each pleat removing 5/8″ of the extra material, for a total of 2.5″.
Measure carefully and think through the actual sewing process several times before you finalize the pattern design.
The sleeve bands, hem band and neckline band
Use the finished sleeve opening measurement to determine the length of your sleeve band. Typically, I cut my sleeve bands so that the finished band measurement is 1-2″ smaller than the sleeve opening measurement. This will vary depending on the stretchiness of your material. I think this time I made mine only 1/2″ smaller than the opening because the lace material wasn’t as stretchy. Don’t forget to add seam allowance to both ends of the band because you’re going to stitch the ends together before folding the band under and sewing it to the sleeve opening.
Next, figure out how wide you’d like your sleeve bands to be. Add seam allowance and double that measurement (because you’ll fold the sleeve band before stitching it to the sleeve).
Now, just cut out two bands according to the length and width measurements.
For the hem band and neck band, follow the same guidelines as for the sleeve bands. Remember to take into account the stretchiness of each material. For example, I made my neck and hem bands 1″ smaller than the neck and hem openings because the purple knit was stretchier than the purple lace.
Sewing it all up
I apologize that I neglected to take detailed pictures of the sewing process, but it isn’t too difficult.
First, sew your yoke and body pieces together, and finish the seam allowances. Press the seam allowances down (toward the body of the shirt) and topstitch.
The actual sewing of the yoke and body piece together in the front can be a little tricky. My advice is that you pin the pieces together really well, take it slow, and clearly mark your center front so you are sure to put the needle down and pivot in the correct spot.
Once you’ve sewn and topstitched the front and back pieces, sew and finish the side and shoulder seams.
Pin and baste your pleats in place on your sleeves. Remember to reverse the direction of the pleats on either side of the center mark. Also, make sure that the edges of the fabric match up, so that your pleat angles are correct. You must keep both the folded edges and the marked lines aligned with the edge of the fabric.
Sew and finish the sleeve seams and pin the sleeves to the armholes, right sides together. Sew and finish the armhole seam.
Now for the final step: it’s time to add the finishing bands.
Sew and finish the band seams. Then, fold them all under, right sides together and press them.
Sew the bands to their corresponding openings (hemline, sleeves and neckline) right sides together with raw edges together. Finish the seam allowances and topstitch along the neckline and/or any other places you wish.
Give everything a good press.
I know this post is already ridiculously long, but what’s another couple of sentences, right? I found some nice fabric on Monday in VA.
My husband thinks I’m crazy because I wanted to keep the fabric up front with me in the car so I could just look at it. ;P I like to look at it and picture what it will be. The purple-grey material definitely has a future as a pair of bias-cut trousers, and I got enough of that blue material to make a coat. I also found some lining and a burgundy material that I may use for a Christmas dress.
I’ll have the next tutorial up in a few days. Have a nice weekend, and happy sewing!