There’s really nothing like sewing to teach you things you didn’t know about yourself. As part of this month’s Indiesew project, I wanted to challenge myself in terms of fabric selection. I’m a quilter first and foremost, and so I’m at home in cotton. Quilting cotton, sure, but I’ve even pushed my boundaries as far as canvas! And lawn and voile! And–gasp!–double gauze! I’ve heard Allie from Indiesew rave about rayon challis for months, and so I decided to give it a try on the Liola Patterns Ella Top (available on Indiesew individually and as part of their summer collection). I decided to make two tops: one in lightweight shot cotton with a cotton print contrast yoke, and one in the rayon. At the end of it, here’s what I’ve learned about myself: a) rayon challis is my spirit animal, and b) I am the Tin Man, because apparently I have what’s called a hollow chest. FABULOUS.
First, let me get this out of the way: the Ella top is an awesome little pattern. I cut out the pattern and got to work without consulting the instructions, because hey! I’ve made tops like this enough to know the drill, right? Wrong-ity wrong wrong wrong. Everything I thought I knew about constructing garments — lining the yoke, the sewing order of shoulder seams and neck/armhole binding — this pattern turned on its head. It was amazing. Like, of course you would sew the neck binding on before the second shoulder seam, and the armhole binding before you sew French side seams. WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE DO THIS? I loved this pattern; it was easy but it taught me a thing or two. Like the Jamie Jeans, I think it made me a better seamstress as a result of doing it. I think I can take some of these techniques and apply them to other projects moving forward, and that’s the most rewarding part of the whole enterprise.
Sewing with rayon challis was really interesting. Cutting out bias strips on it made me want to plunge my Ginghers into my eye sockets, and I thought that it would slip and slide all over my machine. I made the other cotton top first, just to learn the pattern and make a muslin of sorts before cutting into this gorgeous stuff (it feels like the fabric of angels, people). And you know what? The cotton’s relative stiffness actually made it much more difficult to sew with. The rayon was a breeze by comparison. It’s amazing what happens when you make clothes with actual apparel fabric! My feed dogs had no problem with the rayon, and it’s thin and light enough that my machine could actually sew through the thicker seams. I really like both tops, but the rayon is definitely far more “drapey” and hangs beautifully.
My one challenge was gaping at the neckline after the garment was finished. I definitely chose the right size pattern based on my measurements, but this is not the first time this has happened. I Googled this phenomenon and found that it’s called a “hollow bust.” This is where your upper bust measurement is considerably smaller than your full bust–or you’ve just spent a lifetime slouching over all the time. (In my case, it may also be that my full-bust measurement is “inflated” by my wide shoulders and what my mother calls my “swimmer’s” back. [I don’t swim.] For reasons of self-preservation, I’m going to try not to dwell on that.) There are several ways to address this issue; since I didn’t make a true muslin to discover my freakish chest-crater ahead of time, I ended up making a pleat at the center neckline for both tops. It worked out well and echoes the back pleat.
So, to sum up: Meh, hollow bust! Yay, rayon challis! Double yay, Ella top!
As an Indiesew blogger team member, I am provided with patterns in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.