Monday, October 14, 2013

The One That Almost Got Away

Behold, readers, the Salme top I have been trying to finish since last spring. I have gone through three different fabric selections, an untold number of body/sleeve modifications, and the entire English lexicon of swear words to bring you (and me) this deceptively simple woven tee (which I am finally happy with).

To fully appreciate the top in it's final incarnation, I feel it's necessary to draw up a quick tally of all the permutations this project underwent before it could finally be shared with the world:

The goal: to make the pleated Salme top in a light-weight, cream-coloured, opaque woven fabric (can you sense the odds stacking against me already?).

Version A - I started with an organic cotton silk which, unfortunately, I did not have enough of. Even more unfortunately, the store I bought it from had run out as well. Soooooo, I cobbled the back together using two pieces seamed down the middle which I found super annoying (call me anal, but when the main feature of a simple design is bold horizontal pleating, it seems jarring to have a vertical line added down the back). Once past the pleating and side sewing, I tried it on, only to discover that the thing fit like a box. Specifically, it fit like a box that billowed around my (modest) chest and hugged my hips. Of course, if you look at the pattern piece for the body, you will notice that it is in fact a perfect square. So why I thought it would magically shift to accommodate my (narrow) pear shape, I don't know. But it didn't, so this version went into the scrap bag.

Version 2 - This time, I chose a not inexpensive silk linen. I modified the pattern pieces for the body to be more of an a-line shape, and all was fitting beautifully until...I put the sleeves in. There was so much tightness across the back shoulders that I couldn't even relax my posture into my usual slovenly lady slouch. I also couldn't raise my arms forward without some major degree of discomfort, and as I do teach first grade when not pursuing all these fabulous projects, the thought that immediately leaped to my head was "how the hell am I supposed to tie kids' shoelaces if my arms are stuck at a 30 degree angle?". Onto the scrap heap!

Version 3 - At this point, I was rapidly running out of options for fabrics that matched the colour I wanted and met the whole opacity criteria. So I picked up an organic tencel and decided to interface it with white rayon voile. Seriously, what was I thinking? I'm not going to bore you with the details of how ridiculous and laborious this decision was...suffice to say that there were wrinkles and drapes where none should be, and that by the time I had finished the bottom hem, it looked like I'd used a bedsheet. So this version too was banished to the scrap bag.

Things were looking grim. I had already imagined the many ways I would incorporate this top into my autumn wardrobe, and no way was I going lay down and give up so easily on my dreams of sartorial success, dammit! But the fabric and sizing remained a seemingly unsolvable puzzle, so what to do?

Once I'd set all three tops aside for a reasonable amount of mental recovery time, I decided I'd choose the one that had come closest to being right and work like hell on it until it was as close to perfect as possible. So I went back to version 2, the silk linen one, and set to work drafting and cutting new sleeves that would hopefully relieve the tightness across the shoulders.

And it worked. AT LAST. The final version is comfortable, lightweight, with a nice bit of drape and no transparency (or, as the guy at my favourite fabric store likes to put it: "no free entertainment!"). It is not totally without it's flaws (I did a bias binding on the neckline instead of a facing, and it could definitely be smoother), but it's wearable and I like it and it's done.

And of course, now that I've figured out how to make the pattern fit, I'm thinking it might look nice in charcoal with longer sleeves :)

Anyways, I'm hoping to be less of a stranger around here, now that the first-month-back-at-school madness has simmered down somewhat. I don't want jinx the frequency of future posts by promising anything I can't deliver, but I do have a few things that are nearing completion and that I'm looking forward to sharing, so check back in a week or so!


  1. I'm about to make this, and am also a "Pear" shape- what did you do to the sleeves to make them fit?

  2. Well, part of the reason they didn't fit originally was because I was too lazy to ease in the sleeve cap properly, and when I found that the cap was bigger than the armhole, I simply...cut out the cap ease (!!). So wrong. I'm sure this was a major contributing factor to the shoulder tightness (duh).

    To solve it the second time round, I did two things: I cut a sleeve that was halfway between the original and the sleeve from the Grainline woven tee (which has a cap with a rounder and gentler slope than the Salme one), and I followed the proper method for easing in the sleeve cap. This was tricky: my first results were too gathered looking, so I unpicked both sleeves to try again. Ultimately, the sleeves sit well enough, although I could definitely use some practice with this technique. If you're unsure, maybe make a muslin with just the body and sleeves (minus the pleats) to figure out the fit, particularly if you're using a nice/expensive fabric.

    I would also mention that it's important to make sure your pleats are the correct width: if you accidentally make them even the tiniest bit wider that the pattern calls for, the front of your top will be significantly shorter than the back!

    Good luck :)

  3. WOAH, I am so impressed with your perseverance on this one! It looks really well executed and super versatile to style. Looking forward to more projects... but no pressure!

  4. No free entertainment, that's a good one! I love your top. I sew little, and poorly, but I knit and my experience is that sometimes you just have to let a project rest a while in that basket of shame until you are ready to toss/frog, modify or start over.

  5. Oh, and a good blog is worth waiting for!

  6. I applaud your persistence, I would have given up! I read somewhere a suggestion to make a muslin from a thrifted sheet to get your sizing right and don't finish it properly of course! I did that with my last make.

  7. Thanks for this review - I've been lusting after that top but am a pear-shape, too.

    Yours turned out gorgeous! I admire your perserverance...