Monday, May 5, 2014

The StyleArc Amber overlay panel construction post

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'd like to do an occasional series of posts where I de-mystify the construction process for some of my favorite indie pattern lines that are known for their minimalist instructions. I sort of did this back with my Lekala wadder a few months ago, and I figured that the StyleArc Amber top that I finished last week was also a good candidate. This post will walk you through constructing the overlay panels and top-stitching them to the top, including tips and "gotchas" that I discovered along the way.

If you'll recall, the StyleArc Amber is a loose-fitting raglan sleeve top with overlay panels, where you can add color blocking or optional piping.

StyleArc Amber top
For my version, I underlined a black lace with black ponte (my fashion fabric), and used white, store-purchased piping for contrast. My version was inspired by a RTW top:

StyleArc Amber - my version
You'll have four panel pieces that you'll be working with:
  • Back neck panel -1
  • Front neck panels - 2
  • Center front (CF) panel - 1
Some general tips that I've found for working with piping:
  • Cut your piping pieces longer than you think you'll need. It doesn't hurt to have a little extra length--sometimes you need it, and you can always trim the extra length later.
  • Use pins or a 2-sided adhesive (e.g. Wonder Tape) to base your piping to your fabric.
  • If your piping will cross a seam line, you can pull the end of the cording out a little bit, clip it, then "unscrunch" your piped fabric piece so that you don't have to sew over the cording itself. 
To construct the panels for this top (with piping):
  1. Apply lightweight interfacing to each panel piece. I skipped this step, thinking it would add too much bulk, but that was a mistake on my part. You need the interfacing to stabilize the pieces, so use a lightweight interfacing if you're concerned.
  2. Match up the flat edge of the piping with the flat edge of the seam allowance with your first panel piece, and stitch the piping to the piece. I use a zipper foot and move my needle as close as I can to the corded edge of the piping before I stitch:
    Stitching piping
  3. Repeat this step of stitching your piping for all five panel pieces:

    Finished piped panel pieces
    My cat generously agreed to model my piped panel pieces:

    Gratuitous kitty helper pic

  4. Construct the back piece:
    1. Pin the right side of the back neck panel to the wrong side of the top's back.

      Right side of panel piece pinned to wrong side of top
    2. Stitch along the neck edge.
    3. Understitch the seam allowance to the top (not the panel piece).
      Understitching the seam allowance
    4. Flip/press the panel piece over to the right side of the top. Use Wonder Tape (or a similar product) to get the positioning of the panel piece exactly how you want it.
    5. Top stitch the panel piece down along the inside of the corded edge of the piping.
      Back neck panel top-stitched down
  5. Construct the front piece:
    1. Lining up the notches, pin the first front neck piece (right sides together) to the CF column piece. Make sure that your seam allowances for the piping are folded up, so that the corded edge of the piping is at the bottom of the panel complex.
    2. Stitch as close to the piping cord as you can get (continue to use a zipper foot):
      Left front neck panel stitched to CF panel piece
    3. Repeat for the second front neck panel piece.
    4. Flip the neck panel pieces so that everything is in its right place. Press/finger press.
    5. Top stitch the seam allowances of the panel pieces down by butting your zipper foot up against the cording of the CF panel piece. This will help stabilize your panels.

      Your front panels should now look like this:
      Front panel pieces
    6. As you did with your back neck panel, pin the right side of the panel complex to the wrong side of the top front. Stitch the neckline.
    7. Understitch the seam allowance of the neck edge to the garment front.
    8. Flip the panels over so that they are now sitting on the right side of the top. Use your double-sided adhesive to help position the panels exactly how you want them.
    9. Top stitch your panels down to the front of the top:
      Top front with panels top-stitched down
So that's pretty much it. The rest of the top is quite easy to construct if you've ever made a raglan top before. You will need to bind the top of the sleeves, which makes for a nice, neat finish along with the finished-by-panel neck edges.

For the interested, I hope that I've cleared up any questions or confusion about constructing this portion of this top. And if not, post a question and let me know!


  1. I have this pattern but haven't tried it yet. So, thanks so much for these tips. I really yours. I do have some black lace left over from another project so will likely use some of it here. I do love your top and it does look good on you.

    1. Thank you! I hope that I could be of some help.

  2. Forgot to mention that kitty did a great job with the modelling. So cute.

  3. Is that Jasmine? She's so cooperative! One of my cats would've taken the opportunity to pee on my project.

    1. That would be the ever-helpful Jasmine. The only cat who's ever peed on fabric in our house is Ash, but we're very forgiving of Ash because he's sweet and only has one eye. ;)

  4. Our cat Tootie (who passed away a few years ago) peed on some stuff when he was sick, but he was one of the best cats ever for using the box. Also, he was hilarious. Loved to pose for the camera. the best pet pics we have are of Tootie.

    How did you find SBCC instructions? I'm thinking of attempting the Mimosa top. I'm concerned about fit because I'm broad shouldered and not petite, but this top looks fairly simple and easy to adjust.

    1. Yeah, we took Ash to the vet to get him checked out the first time that he went through a "peeing on stuff" phase, and we spent $400 to find out that we just had a healthy, but stressed out cat.

      SBCC instructions are minimal, for the most part. The pant pattern that I tested (never released for the plus size range) had fantastic instructions--I'll be curious to see what she does with the instructions going forward.

      The Julep skirt was really basic and didn't really need instructions, but the pattern pieces are missing some markings that would be helpful. When I write it up, I'll note what those are. It's a really nice, EASY little pattern. I'm surprised that no one else in the online sewing community seems to have made it up yet.

      I have the Mimosa printed out and plan to at least muslin it very soon, so I'll be able to report back on that one pretty soon.

  5. I went ahead and got the mimosa. I just need to print it. I looks cute, and I think I may one for my mother to test it out.

    Our cat Bosco goes through random phases when he likes to pee on fabric. At least he almost always picks something ugly, or it has a bad texture, or some other thing that makes it less appealing. My disastrous Butterick skirt (on PR) eventually fell off my dressform and sure enough, tinkle!

  6. Are you doing the HP blouse T sew along?

  7. Replies
    1. Hell no! Just trying to spread the word.

    2. Well, that was emphatic! ; 0
      Is Trudy doing a blog for the sew a long or just on youtube or twitter?

    3. YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook, I believe. I'm glad that she's using Pinterest insead of Flickr--I find Flickr a pain to use.