Thursday, 20 April 2017

wardrobe essential 2017 - the Sorbetto top

You can see where the inverted box pleat opens on this photo
 - also why I am wearing my sunnies, the bags under my eyes are astonishing, possibly frightening

Well it seems that I have arrived, my Spring sewing is in full swing. I have found quite a few patterns I want to make. I have even made something for James and Alistair.

Today I am showing you the Sorbetto top by Colette. This is a free pattern and can be downloaded here. The Sorbetto is an 'old' pattern that has been modernised and redrafted for two size ranges,  0-16 and 18-26. The former is drafted for a C-cup, the latter for a DD cup. There are are three versions (sleeveless, sleeveless tunic, short sleeved). It has a pretty box pleat down the middle. I wanted to make a tunic with sleeves and figured it would be easy to take sleeves from one version and add to another one.

Before you proceed, you may want to grab a cup of tea, or move on to another blog if you don't fancy reading the minutiae of the Sorbetto saga.

I bought fabric from Sew Over It. It is a crêpe de Chine, very drapey and soft. I have to tell you that I am so naive! Traditionally, crêpe de Chine is a woven silk fabric. It never once occurred to me that crêpe de Chine selling for £14 per metre cannot possibly be silk.... another non-biodegradble top.

I spent an afternoon sticking the 18-26 pattern version together because this is what I needed based on bust measurements. I am pleased that my dimensions haven't changed since last year. I have been getting bigger every year, the tide may be turning. Watch this space in five years time 😉. I cut a toile for front and back only. It was way too big and the darts pointed towards my tummy button rather than to the apex of my boobs. Love this, the apex of my boobs. I really appreciate that many pattern companies now cater for plus sizes. It is not easy to get it right though. I don't know what the plus size model/block for Colette/Seamwork pattern looks like but MY boobs are on the chest, not down at the waist. Anyway, I mulled over my options for a while: to make changes to current version or to start afresh with a smaller size.

I opted for the second option, which involved printing the smaller size range and sticking more paper together. I decided to make an inverted largely open pleat because the smaller size range is drafted for a C cup and I am a DD cup. I speculated the opening of the pleat would make up for the cup size. Alas it didn't, not quite. The fit everywhere was better but I needed a full bust adjustment. In true procrastinator fashion, I then went back to the first toile. I pinned the life out of the toile, creating curved wedges on each side of the front. I then sewed it all in place, before deconstructing it again to transfer on paper. It didn't lie flat. Of course it didn't, I had created a near perfect princess seam (without even trying), requiring two pattern pieces... seeing the fabric, you probably understand that I didn't like the idea of pattern matching along princess seams. I went back to the toile in need of a full bust adjustment. I like the part when you slash your it to let the fabric ease into the right place, leaving a gap, which gives you the measurement for the adjustment. Controlled destruction. I needed 3/4 of an inch extra bust. I also shortened the length by about six inches, thinking that I should have probably printed out the shorter version with sleeves in the first place. I deconstructed the slashed toile and replaced the front with the new bust adjusted one. Much better.

Sometimes faffing with toiles is a form of procrastination... sewing the actual thing becomes a bit of a hurdle! Still, I got there in the end. Cutting light weight slippery fabrics is not trivial, I should probably learn to use the rotary cutter. I sewed all seams with the overlocker because the fabric frays quite a lot and I wanted neat seams. I did briefly wonder if it was wise to mix pattern pieces from two versions, worrying the sleeve from one version might not be a good match for the armhole of another version. I didn't check. The sleeves fit just fine - with a bit of cajoling. This could be the result of mismatched pattern pieces or the generally fiddly nature of setting in sleeves when the fabric cannot be ironed into shape over a tailor ham due to its low melting point. 

I didn't like the inverted pleat because the pattern didn't match up. I gathered the section instead and finished the neckline with bias binding. This was a bit of a faff actually. I had to make the bias binding twice because the width suggested (quarter inch double fold) cuts it just a little too fine, particular with the stay stitching set at quarter inch. I made it a smidgen wider. By then I had remembered my bottle of spray starch, which I used liberally in combination with a warm iron to make the fabric more relax into shape. This may sound counter intuitive but it works for really slippery fabrics, which all of a sudden become more manageable. Sewing the bias binding to the neckline was also a bit of a faff. You can probably imagine my dismay when the top just looked wrong. The gathers were not a good choice. I had to dismantle the neckline again, which took a while because the bias binding was stitched twice, just like you would on a quilt. I had to reinstate the inverted pleat and this time I made the pattern match up by widening the pleat a little. It is also off centre, maybe by a couple of millimetres but I doubt anyone will notice that. 

There were lots of hiccups with this seemingly simple top. Some are the result of my body shape, which is different form the Collette block. Others were the result of me taking wrong decisions and rushing/not reading instructions. I guess in the long run, this makes me a more competent clothes maker. A year ago, a full bust adjustment would have thrown me into despair and I didn't even know you can make a darted top into princess seam top. I learned this theoretically in my fitting class but had never attempted it until now - albeit accidentally. I'll keep that particular toile for another day. 

What do you think? I am not convinced, there is still room for improvement. It still doesn't sit well in at the neckline, probably need to loose some fabric there. It makes me feel a bit frumpy, too. I think I'll probably use this pattern to practice my skills, a change here and there until I am happy. I think I'll go back to the beginning, blend three sizes top to bottom and make a proper box pleat. One wish to pattern designers: could you please indicate the upper bust measurements? I get a better fit if I work with this rather than the full bust. Yes, a bust adjustment is probably inevitable but that's not a big deal. 

Final words: The Sorbetto is definitely worth exploring, it may become a good staple pattern. It is rated as suitable for beginners, which I think is a fair judgment if you are more or less standard sized. Adjustments can be made easily but are maybe not for the absolute beginner. Go on, give it a try!

Wishing you a great day xx

P.S. Looking at these photos, my hair doesn't look much different now, after the hair cut I told you about.... hmm. I guess I can see the back, which used to be quite long and it does feel very different.


  1. Beautiful top! I like the pattern on the fabric as well. I wish I could sew. I have ten thumbs.

  2. You are so cute in your pretty new top and sunglasses. I use my sunglasses to hide the bags (and wrinkles) too :-)

  3. I love it, and well done you on tackling it in a geometric pattern, I know that lining things up is a complete nightmare but you've made a brilliant job of it. It's exactly the sort of top I like to wear, although I've never been brave enough to make my own. CJ xx

  4. I love your top and think you are very clever to tackle making clothes. I wish I could but have given up buying material to make things as I never get round to making them. I'm totally the opposite to you I think, tall, flat and need padding :) It's not fair I would happily swap some length for boobs, oh well. Cathy x

  5. I really like it and think the neckline looks good. All you went through is why I hardly ever sew for myself, I have a funny shape and have no idea how to adjust a pattern to fit my shape. You've done a wonderful job.

  6. I think the Sorbetto looks great on you! But oh my, what you went through to get the finished garment made me want to curl up in a corner and weep for you. :-) I would have given up the moment I realized I had to print and cut out a second pattern. Putting together PDF patterns has to be one of the worst sewing jobs ever. I admire your stick-to-it spirit!

  7. Hey look at you in your summer top with your sunnies on - if you need someone to sort out your box pleat there is a lady that sits on our street with her sewing machine, send it over and she'll fix it up for you for a few baht!!! Running now before you throw your sunglasses at me lol :)
    Wren x

  8. Just catching up, sadly there is no need of sunglasses here but I am living in hope. Love the top and your determination not to give in.

  9. Looks like you did a fab job (it all sounds highly technical) and the top really suits you. I occasionally contemplate attempting something to wear but can't remember how to thread the machine. Actually, can't even remember where it is. Have a lovely weekend.

  10. I would like to be so patient...I wish I could sew but I give up before I even try! Your Sorbetto top is very nice. B.

  11. I came back to read this on a quieter day. Well worth making though I think, it is a great top and the work you have put in now means you can crack on with the next one. I have had this on my wish list for ages but never get around to it. You have made me want to go and take another look. Happy days! Jo x

  12. It looks good, well done for cracking on even when things didn't go as planned, that is the best way to learn. xx

  13. I think it looks good on you Christina. I have a dress to make to wear to my brothers wedding next month and haven't started because it advises making a toile and it's putting me off!

  14. It looks very professional Christina, I like the slightly retro fabric and it looks nice and drapery and comfortable x


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