Thursday, May 1, 2014

Finished Project: StyleArc Amber top

As I mentioned a while back, I managed the Bargainista Fashionista contest, which ran during the month of April, over at PatternReview. In the spirit of the contest, I decided to knock off a RTW piece myself.

I decided to go with making my own version this blouse found on ShopRuche:

Inspiration blouse by Ruche
This project gave me the excuse to sew up the StyleArc Amber top, a freebie giveaway pattern from last summer:

Have you ever noticed that on a lot of blogs, it seems like other sewists just magically whip together whatever project they're working on and get a cute top/dress/skirt at the end of it? With no pain? This is not one of those blog entries. This top looks simple enough, but trust me, there was pain involved.

I suspect that my fabric choice might have partially been the source of some of the pain. If you read the "Suggested fabrics" on the pattern's web page, you might notice that they're all lightweight wovens: "Crepe, viscose, silk, any soft woven with drape". So what did I choose? A lightweight ponte. As someone who usually knows better, why did I go with the ponte? Because with all of that piping, it seemed like a lightweight woven might not be substantial enough--I had a suspicion (and this might be the case--this top hasn't been reviewed or blogged about much) that all of that piping, especially on that long vertical column would change the hand of the fabric, and I felt like I wanted something beefier than, say, a voile to stand up to the piping. I also thought that using a knit would increase the wearability of the top, since it would likely be much more comfortable than a piped woven blouse.  In hindsight, I think I overshot a bit, and it was a huge pain to apply that much piping to a fabric with stretch.

I think that the end result is cute, but it's not my favorite thing that I've made:

StyleArc Amber modeled by me
I had thought that the piped column going down the center would be elongating and flattering on my figure. On the finished top, which has no side seam shaping outside of the bust darts, I feel like any flattering effect of the piping is countered by the boxiness of the top.

The construction of this top was a pain, too, as I alluded to, which is probably coloring my opinion of the finished garment. The piping is applied to overlay panels, which are then topstitched onto the top itself. I feel like I would have gotten more precision had the panels been pieced and the piping applied directly into the seams. You can't really tell this from the line drawing, so that's why I'm telling you in this blog post. I went through a LOT of Wonder Tape to stabilize the edges of those panels and get everything placed accurately. (Note to others: Follow the suggestions in the pattern of fusing interfacing to all of the panel pieces. I omitted this step because I was afraid that it would add too much bulk, and I'm sure that didn't help things.)

Here's the back view:

StyleArc Amber - back view
Here, you can see that I needed to do a swayback and/or shorten the CB length, but this pattern didn't have a CB seam, and I didn't want to add one where there wasn't one previously, so I figured I'd just live with the bunching over the top of my butt.

As far as sizing goes, I sewed a size 20, which was the size I ordered last summer when I was about one clothing size smaller than I am now. (My current measurements match the StyleArc size 22.) However, I figured that between the ease in the top and stretch of my fabric, I could get away with the 20 without any grading. Doing a flat pattern measurement and comparing it to my Jalie raglan t-shirt pattern confirmed that the size 20 should be okay for me.

I know that some sewists are intimidated by the "minimal/order-of-construction instruction" companies like StyleArc and HotPatterns, so I'll be doing a blog post next week to show how the panels are constructed with the piping. Both companies are very plus size-friendly and offer some unique styles that you don't find with other pattern companies. Here's the front panel, a little more close-up:

StyleArc Amber detail shot, complete with cat hair!
Another thing that came out of this project was learning why I sometimes find fabric scraps taken out of the trash and scattered around my upstairs. I had been mentally blaming my almost-2-year-old, but it turns out that someone else was to blame:
Trash cat
I always hate it when a project that I think will be quick and easy turns out not to be so. To keep my sewjo intact, I'm looking at whipping up a quick knit skirt/TNT t-shirt outfit as my next project. Instant gratification projects are my friend!

Is anyone participating in Me-Made-May?  I've sewn most of the tops that I wear regularly and all of my dresses and skirts, so I'm not sure how much of a "challenge" it would be for me. (Today, I'm wearing a SBCC Tonic tee with my Mabel skirt.) With the chaos in our house (toddler + dog), it would be kind of a pain to photograph my outfit every day, but I could certainly list what I'm wearing (including my me-made item) in a weekly roundup-style blog post, I guess. What are others doing?


  1. Kittie!

    I think the top looks good and looks good on you. It is boxier than the drawing, which makes it look very well shaped. I missed this when it was free. I don't even remember getting the email (I might not have been on their mailing list yet) because this is the type of pattern I probably would've gone after.

    I admit, I wonder too about the piping holding up on a really light fabric-- especially if the fabric is sheer.

    I am hoping to do some sewing in May. I'm less focused on wearing what I've made this month.

    Also-- this is Sewing Indie Patterns month!

  2. I liked that pattern when I got Style Arc's newsletter. As a (busty) plus sized woman myself, I'm now wondering if the sleeves are cut a little wonky. A raglan sleeve is usually cut deeper and fuller than this pattern's sleeves. It's a nice pattern and you certainly went through a lot of work to get a wearable result. Why not consider it a muslin and tweak it out to your liking.

    1. You're right. I do think that there's something wonky about the sleeve draft, and I didn't notice that until you pointed it out.

  3. Thanks for the review. Robin makes a good point about the sleeves; you can see the dart that wants to form on both sides. It's a cute top and you knocked off the RTW version very well.

    I've never participated in MMM. I don't know how consistent I will be with photographing something that I wear every day. I meant to take pictures while I was making my buttons. That's hard to do without a camera. =/ LOL I'll probably pass on MMM.

    1. Good eye--I hadn't noticed the dart trying to form until I saw pictures. And it's trying to form in a different spot than my usual didn't-do-enough-of-an-FBA dart, when that happens.

  4. I really like your choices of fabrics!
    But it does look like it was a bit of a non-relaxing project...
    I still should try a style arc pattern. When I raised the question with out home budget master, he opened my drawers full of patterns, it's quite hard to argue :)

    I start to regret that I am not participating in MMM this year. Everyone is in! Oh well, I will hop in for SSS14...

    1. My advice is to wait and place an order in a month where you really like the freebie giveaway--it really helps to amortize the costs (someone figured out that ordering 3 patterns at a time, including the freebie, gives you the most bang for your shipping buck). When you factor in the freebie, StyleArc actually ends up being on the lower end of the indie price scale.

  5. Love how you used thispattern. I have it and not yet made it. Your version is inspiring. Pity it was so hard to make through te choices you made.
    No MMM for me either

    1. Thanks! I agree. It was much more fiddly of a project than I had anticipated.

  6. You top turned out great even if it was painful. It is certainly stylish and different from the usual. It looks good on you. Thanks for the info about the panels. I would have thought it would be cut and piping in the seams too.

  7. I really like your top! I actually like the sleeves, but mainly because of your fabric choice. It can sometimes be hard to like projects that have given us a lot of trouble, but I'll bet after a week or two you'll like it more. I think it's really lovely.