Monday, June 23, 2014

Finished Project: HotPatterns Blouse-Back Tee

For the first time in what feels like forever, I finally have a finished project *for me* to write about: the HotPatterns Fast & Fabulous Blouse-Back Tee!

HotPatterns Blouse-Back Tee - front
While the neckband appears to gape, that's just a product of it getting mangled in the wash. I'd steamed it back into shape in the morning, but it got stretched out again by the time we took these photos.

From the front, this top looks like a fairly innocuous-but-cute striped tee with contrast sleeve and neckbands. But lo and behold, much like the mullet, this tee is all party in the back:

HotPatterns Blouse-Back tee - back
I actually finished this top two weeks ago, but due to Seattle weather and toddler stains, I wasn't able to photograph it until this weekend. I worked on this top on a leisurely schedule as part of the HotPatterns-hosted sewalong for this pattern. If you're at all interested in this pattern, I highly recommend checking out the new HotPatterns Facebook group, where you'll be able to see all of the cool design variations people made. This pattern is great because not only is it fast and easy to sew, you can get really creative with color blocking, contrast, or even using lace or chiffon remnants for the back and other pieces.

Now, onto the information that you're probably interested in...

Fabric used

The striped fabric is a rayon knit that was FabricMart's "crazy priced fabric" several months back. I paid around $3/yard for it and bought six yards, so I had no qualms about using this fabric for my "test run", even though I quite like the fabric. I found it interesting that I found identical fabric listed on EmmaOneSock and SawyerBrook for exponentially more than what I paid.

The black contrast is a rayon-bambmoo knit remant from that I had left over from another project.

Note that you want to use a VERY lightweight and drapey fabric (can be knit or woven) for the back drape piece, or the piece won't hang as expected.
HotPatterns Blouse-Back tee envelope
What happens if you don't use a drapey enough fabric for the back? Look at the line drawing and see how the back piece partially wraps around the front? (You can see that a little in my photo of the front of the top.) That's by design to show off the contrast. However, if your back drape fabric isn't drapey enough, sewalong participants found that the back wrapped around in an exaggerated way and/or stuck out to the sides. Of course, that's fine, if that's the effect that you're looking for, but your top won't look like the one in the line drawing then.

Fit and sizing 

According to the bust, waist, and hip figures of the HotPatterns size chart, I should wear a size 22 in their tops, but from experience, I know that I like to start with a size 18 (which matches my high bust measurement) and then transition to a 20 or 22 (depending on the flat pattern measurement) at the armscye. This "cheater FBA" method usually serves me well on their knit tops. For this pattern, I started with a size 18, transitioned to a 20 at the armscye, and then out to a 22 at the hip (some folks were finding that it had less ease through the hip/bum than they preferred). From an ease perspective, this worked fine, but as you can see in my photos, the front is riding up a bit, which is exaggerated by the hi-lo hem nature of the top. I do plan to make this again, but when I do, I will "undo" my cheater FBA, and do a traditional darted FBA, which will add a little more shaping to the top and should alleviate the "riding up" beyond the design detail.

As far as length goes, I shortened both the front and the back by 2", which isn't unusual for me, given that I'm only 5'2". You can see that the back is still pretty long on me--hitting me at about mid-back-thigh, when it really should be ending just past my butt. I might shorten the back a tad more when I make this again.

Other gotchas

Some sewalong participants found that the neckband, as drafted, was a bit long, particularly if they had a very stretchy knit. I always always always check the length of my neckband before stitching on--a good rule of thumb is that the neckband should be about 2/3-3/4 of the length of the neck opening for it to ease properly and not gape. This applies to all knit tops with a bound neckline--not just this one.

Overall, I'm quite happy with my top--it's a fun, easy-to-throw-on top for warmer weather, and I definitely would like to make this again and play around with the design possibilities. I have a sheer rayon knit that's not suitable to be used without layering, and I'm thinking of using that to underline a stretch lace for the top body, and using the sheer knit on its own for the drape piece.

A final thought (for now) about swimsuits

The discussion that ensued on my last post about swimsuits was interesting, enlightening, and to be honest, a little disheartening.
  • Interesting because you all managed to find both some really wonderful resources and examples of bloggers who had successfully tamed plus sized swimwear.
  • Enlightening because now I know that many other women share my frustrations with plus sized swimwear design and the available options. (The issue with tie-behind-the-neck straps came up again and again.)
  • Disheartening because the suit that I want to make clearly doesn't exist anywhere yet. Bombshell/retro styles are really popular right now and flattering on many (especially curvy) figure types, but the available patterns in this style will require quite a bit of engineering effort on my part to make one work for me. Conversely, there are a couple of swimsuit patterns out there that do appear to have provisions for bust support, but they are very basic styles and would also require a lot of pattern drafting/frankenpattern effort to morph the style that I want onto their base.
I'm not sure what I plan to do at this point. I'm not sure that any of the options are worth the effort for a suit that would get worn just a few times this summer so that I can take my daughter to the pool. At the moment, I'm leaning towards just sticking with my old my-boobs-don't-spill-out Target tankini.


  1. What a great top. Love the party at the back. Might investigate this pattern further.

  2. Cute top. I like the back. Looks good on you.

  3. Really like your top; you look so happy with it as you should be!

  4. Thanks for the tip about the FBA. It should solve the problem that I had with my top.

  5. Love the top! Looks like it would be perfect for a hot day.

  6. Looks great. Mine is sitting cut out on my ironing board. Now that I see yours perhaps I will get to it tomorrow.

  7. Cute top. I do this cheater FBA very often. It usually works out well! :) hope you find your swimsuit!!!

  8. The back of this is super cute and a nice little surprise. I've never heard of a cheaters FBA but it sounds brilliant.

  9. Your top is really cute! I am almost sure I will take my Scout and use it for my first for-me version of this. I got into some other stuff during the HP sew-along, but if the muslin works, I planned it for my mother. Your top looks like the back is really long. Or is that the angle of the photo (looks like it was overhead)?

    I was thinking about the swimsuit issue and how the top- bra-portion seems to be the portion giving most of us the most bother. I did find two websites with a selection of plus swimsuits in various styles and sizes. I like some of the print they both use, but most have fairly basic design features.

    I also remembered seeing a book about engineering and creating a dance bra for MED and found the website.
    This book has instructions for building a bra to stand up to the rigors of belly dance. The suggestions could be used, I'd think, to construct a swim top. Of course, fabric would have to be chosen carefully for something to stand up to chlorine, but if something can stand up to a rigorous dance while being covered with heavy beading, fringe, etc., I should think there'd be a way to make a swim top of some kind that gives support, coverage, stays in place, and permits water activity-- swimming, aerobics, just playing around, etc.

    I still don't understand why so many active swim suits are so unappealing- aesthetically and so many stylish ones are totally insufficient for activity. Kinda makes me want to throw any attempt at both out the window and just go with Wholesomewear.