Simplicity 1364 Summer Top

As part of the Simplicity Bloggers challenge I decided to enter the Best Vintage Make category. This was based upon the Simplicity 1364 pattern , which was supplied free of charge to entrants. One of the rules of the challenge was that bloggers could modify the pattern in any way they liked. So, my aim was to modify option C to create a new look, but one that was in keeping with the vintage theme.

To make my top I selected some African batik that I bought whilst on holiday in Accra, Ghana last October. The batik came from a small shop called, Mercy’s Batik which is based in Osu, on the side street just before Frankie’s for anyone who’s visiting Accra. It’s well worth a visit – so if you’re looking for somewhere different to go on your next holiday. You can see where to find it on this Google map.

The family make and design all of their batik’s, and have been doing so for decades. A wonderful selection of individually dyed fabric in wonderful vivid West African colours.

Many of their lengths of fabric include two complimenting designs, meaning that you can mix designs for an overall outfit. They are normally sold in a 6 yard piece (which is the amount of fabric used to make a traditional Ghanaian Kaba and Slit) however they are more than happy to sell in smaller lengths. I’d bought a 3 yard piece (with one yard of one design, and two of the other). This means that you can choose to make an outfit with a contrast border (such as a dress), or as I’m doing in the case make two complimenting items.

So back to the pattern. I decided that I’d tackle a pattern modification that I hadn’t tried before, but had read about in one of my many sewing books. The scoop neck vintage inspired top was ideal to try rotating the darts and modifying the design from one that had a French dart, to one that had a set of neck darts instead.

sketch of transformationBefore I could tackle the dart rotation, I first carried out a FBA adjustment to the top. I should be an expert at this by now, as I have to modify most commercial patterns (as they’re designed for a B cup, which I’m not).  I always struggle to know exactly how much to open up the darts. For me, it seems to normally be about 1″. However, this top required a first, as I hadn’t tried this on a French dart.

To match the vintage pattern, I referred to a vintage book that I have – Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – for help. Whilst an old book, it is packed full of lots of useful tips. Most modern books that I have only had the standard bust/waist dart modifications, but the vintage book came up trumps as it included the French darts that this top had.

The book provided pictures which used the slash and spread approach, but this time pivoting at the centre point of the top (not by the arm as I’d usually do).


Once the appropriate amount had been expanded, the centre front line had to be straightened up.

Taking this multi-pattern changing project step by step, I decided to make a muslin of the top with the FBA adjustment to check that I’d carried it out ok. This identified that I needed to add a little width below the dart as well, I think this was caused by the lost width at the centre line when straightening the front.

Once this was done, then it was onto the dart rotation.

The desired location for the set of three darts was marked on the neckline of the pattern, and a line drawn to represent the length of the dart (approximately 4″). Each of these lines were then extended to meet the point of the existing dart.

Slash into these marks, stepping just a bit before the bust apex. Slash into the old dart and then close up the dart (taping it closed). As you do this the new darts magically appear at the neckline. Check that they are even, then fill the gaps with by taping in some more tissue paper.

Voilà – I’d created my new pattern piece.

Looking at the middle image, you’ll see that Africa is part of my sewing – I use some lovely soapstone coasters as pattern weights. These came from Africa when I lived there around 17 years ago.

Sticking with the cautious approach, I unpicked the front from the original muslin and replaced it with a new one cut from the new pattern. During this stage I decided to narrow the neckline by making the darts a little deeper, and added one to each side of the back pieces too.

Now I was ready to tackle the final version.

I was keen to match the pattern where I could, and also ensure I didn’t end up with two large circles in the wrong place on the front! I’ve made that mistake before.

The first piece I positioned was the front, making sure that the bust apex was not at the centre of one of the swirls on my fabric. Next I matched the shoulder points, so that the lines would flow nicely over the shoulder. However, as the top had a zip on the back, I had to cut two pieces for the back. This meant matching the shoulders, but also the centre line.

As the fabric was hand dyed there are slight variations in the pattern, so a perfect match was going to be difficult.

Finally I moved onto the actually sewing, first the darts, then the shoulders and side seams. I’d decided to use an exposed zip, so used a basting stitch for the upper part of the back seam to temporarily hold it closed while the zip was attached. The zip was a contrast colour, but had a nice scalped edge which I liked with the pattern of the fabric. I sewed the zip close to the teeth, leaving the decorative edge open.

The last stages of the top were adding bias tape to the neckline, and arm holes. I used some handmade bias tape that I had from a previous project, and top stitched using a contrast tread which matched the zip. The same tread was also used when sewing the beam.

The finished top, is quite different from the original pattern and hopefully goes to show how some simple transformations can expand the options enabling you to create far more variations from your basic patterns.

Hopefully this post will encourage others to play with patterns they’ve bought to create sometime new. One of the things I love about sewing is knowing that no-one else will have exactly the same outfit as me. By making changes like this, you can take this joy a stage further by knowing that your pattern is unique too.


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