Top Pattern #1A
The information on Top 01a that used to be on a number of pages are now consolidated in this one page. This first section contains general information.
Click on the link to go directly to the other sections:
Third Scale Blocks for Practice
You can follow along and practice patternmaking using free Third Scale Blocks, or you can draft the pattern full size for yourself.
Making Your Own Custom Block
If you do not have a custom block, you can find video instructions for how to draft them here: Drafting Blocks. How to take measurements are covered in the videos. You can buy the accompanying booklet from my Books Ko-Fi Shop.
Buying (Standard) Blocks
If you would prefer to buy a set of Standard Blocks or Slopers, you can buy them from my Blocks Ko-Fi Shop Bodice Blocks are $12, Skirt Blocks are $5, Pants Blocks $8 and a Complete Set costs $20.00. These blocks come in sizes 6 – 22, and you can find a comprehensive list of the measurements for each size in the Measurements for Downloadable Blocks page.
Important! I recommend you buy the standard blocks ONLY if your measurements match the measurements given CLOSELY. I do not give assistance on adjusting blocks. If you have a non-standard body I recommend you draft your own block with your own measurements.
My Ko-Fi Shops
Description: Top 1a
- A-line hip length sleeveless top
- Round neckline
- Fitting in the bust, loose in the hip
- Gathered with elastic under the bust
- No Center Front or Center Back seams
- Neckline and armholes finished with bias binding
Flat & Details
- Bodice front has side seam darts
- Front neckline depth 275-in (7cm).
- Back has a boat neckline with a depth of 1.75-in (4.5cm).
- Gathered with elastic under the bust; two lines of elastic 1-inch (2.5cm) apart.
- Neckline and armholes finished with bias binding (self fabric)
- Hem at hip-line has 4.75 inches (12cm) ease added (to the block)
Plan of Action
If you are just starting out making your own patterns, it helps to first outline a Plan of Action rather than just diving in. The plan of action consists of looking at the Flat and any specification and making notes about what needs to be done, such as:
- determining many pattern pieces the design requires
- listing the pattern pieces
- making notes on what needs to be done for each pattern piece, or groups of pattern pieces (where relevant)
- doing any necessary calculations (e.g. how much needs to be added onto each pattern piece at the hem area)
Basically, you want to make sure you study the design and have everything you need to do laid out so that you don’t overlook or forget anything. You then refer to these notes when creating the pattern pieces.
Having said all of the above… in this very basic top, there isn’t much plan required, but there are a few things worth noting down. (If this is the first pattern you have looked at on this website and you want to see patterns where a Plan of Action makes a lot more sense, see the Plans of Action for the four Dresses – they will give you an idea of how useful this process is for a more complicated pattern).
Although you can make all these decisions on the fly while making the pattern; but this can lead to some oversights and mistakes. Especially when you’re starting out, it is a very good practice to get into.
How many pattern pieces?
There are only two pattern pieces; the Bodice Front and the Bodice Back.
- Bodice Front
- Bodice Back
Notes/Plan of Action for creating Pattern Pieces
Note that although there are only two pattern pieces, the neckline and the armholes are finished off with bias tape. With some commercial patterns they do provide a pattern piece for making bias tape. I do NOT create a pattern piece and then pin that onto the fabric and cut it out. I create as many strips of bias as I can from a square of fabric, then sew them together and cut them to the length required. (I often have a few strips left over; I can sometimes use these as contrast bias on another top). Although I’m not creating a pattern for the bias, I do need to consider them in this process; the width and how they affect the seam allowance.
Things I need to keep in mind, decisions I need to make before drafting the top:
- I need to determine whether the neckline depth means there will be a gape dart which needs to be moved into the side seam dart.
- How much do I want to add to the circumference at the hemline? This top is A-line rather than square, but the hem (accordingly to my flat) isn’t that wide….
- I need to determine whether the bias tape will be on the outside – i.e. part of the top, or inside as purely a finish. See the photo below to see what I mean; this decision will determine whether or not you will need add seam allowance to the neckline and armhole. I need to check whether the self fabric is suitable – how much stretch is in a bias. If I use a different fabric, do I want it as a contrast on the outside, or just to finish off the seam on the inside?
- I need to determine the width of the bias tape.
Image – Finishing off with Bias Binding
The top on the left has the bias tape on the inside only. The top on the right has the bias tape as part of the garment.
- The neckline does not require contouring (for me!)
- The bias tape will be made of the self fabric, showing on the outside and be 0.38inch | 1cm wide. The seam allowance will also be 0.38 inch | 1cm, therefore the bias tape need to be (twice the width of the bias + twice the width of the seam allowance) = 1.57-inch | 4cm. (Having said that I usually cut my bias 2 inches | 5cm wide and it ends up being a tiny bit wider… Given I’m making this for myself and these decisions are purely my own, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not my shoulder width is a tiny fraction more than the original plan).
- I will add at total of 4 inches | 10cm to the circumference at the hemline, distributed evenly between front and back. This means 1 inch | 2.5cm each to the Front Bodice and the Back Bodice.
An example of how not thinking things through and not using a proper Plan of Action results in mistakes:
This relates to Top-001d, but it shows why making your decisions beforehand in a Plan of Action, and referring to it helps. With Top-001d, I decided at the last minute to use a lining to finish off the armholes and neckline for Top-001d. Because I didn’t refer to my notes, I ended up not thinking about the fact that I had not included seam allowance for the lining, since the bias tape on the outside doesn’t require it. I ended up with my shoulder width .75 inch | 2cm narrower than I had planned. This made it much more difficult to turn it out to finish the top at the shoulders.
The shoulder width of this top was supposed to be 2 inches | 5.5 cm. It ended up being 1.38 inches | 3.5cm. If I had referred to my notes before deciding that I would use lining instead of bias tape to finish off the neckline and armhole, I would have either added seam allowance to the pattern, or stuck to the original plan. The line of stitching that appears should not be there; I found turning the top through the shoulders to finish off sewing the lining too difficult and gave up in the end. The narrower shoulders also mean that my bra strap shows. I would have preferred it to be the planned width.
Outcome & Notes
This shows the original concept drawing and a photo of me wearing the garment. Scroll down for some notes.
- The top is very comfortable, but is the wrong length. Tops that go down to the hip-line don’t suit me; my ‘hips’ (the widest part of me) are actually my thighs, and tops finishing there do not do me any favors. I therefore remade the top at a shorter length (see Image A below).
- Despite not liking the length, I decided at try making same top using shirring instead of elastic. I had an old sarong I was going to throw out, and thought I could use the fabric for a toile. I was originally hoping to make it dress length (to the knees), and when I realized there wasn’t enough fabric in the sarong, I just kept it the same as the original pattern . My main aim was to test the shirring and didn’t really expect it to work out. (What I’ve read about shirring suggests you need double the amount of fullness…). The shirring ended up just fine, and the top is really comfortable as the fabric is so soft. I have decided to use up my other two old sarongs due for throwing out and make the dress I had been wanting. I will use one sarong for the front,and the other for the back (see Image C). I will use it as a nightie.
Image A: Top 001a Shorter Length
Image B: Shirring instead of elastic
Image C: I will make a nightie from this pattern from 2 old sarongs
Image D: Left-over bias
On another page I talked about making bias strips. If I am going to make self bias binding for a garment, I make as much bias I can while I am at it. I can use the leftover bias for other projects. As you can see in the image below, I’ve used the leftover from the top in Image A to finish off the top made from a sarong in Image B.
Credit for the Stock Photo I used to create the Vector Croquis on this page:
Andersonrise from 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright of original (photo) image: andersonrise / 123RF Stock Photo
Step-by-Step Instructions: Top 1a
There are only 2 pattern pieces that will be drafted below:
- Bodice Front
- Bodice Back
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 1
Bodice Front – Draw the Neckline & Armhole
- Mark the depth of the neckline. The is 2.95 inches | 7.5 cm. This depth does not require a gape dart for me.
- Mark in from the neck-point out on the shoulder line for 1.58 inches | 5 cm.
- Measure the width of the shoulder strap: 2 inches | 5 cm.
- Draw the neckline and the armhole, using a French curve. You may need to move the french curve and draw a couple of lines then blend them together.
- When drawing the neckline, make sure you consider the flow-through for the whole-block (shown by the line on the transparent block)
- The lines I am drawing on my blocks are thick and red for the purposes of illustration. You should draw your lines in pencil; you can then erase them, or leave them there for reference.
- If you prefer to keep your blocks clean, you could just trace the blocks onto paper and then draw the neckline on the paper. Remember that you somehow need to check the flow through at the shoulders (see Image 2).
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 2
Bodice Back – Draw the Neckline & Armhole
Using the Bodice Front (lining it up against the shoulder of the Bodice Back)
- Using the front block as a guide, mark the placement of the shoulders on the back block.
- Draw the neckline and shoulder line, making sure there is a smooth flow-through from front to back.
- Make sure the Back neckline will flow through the whole-block. (No dips or valleys at the CB; unless that’s the style you are aiming for!).
Again, you will need to use a French Curve to get a nice curve, and you may have to draw a couple of lines and blend them together.
Note that you may have to adjust your front neckline curve at this stage.
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 3
Trace the Blocks and the Markings
- Trace around the Bodice Front and Back onto paper, making sure you have/leave enough room to add seam allowance.
- Mark the side seam dart and dart points (you should have holes in the block at the Bust, Dart points, etc, so you can put a pencil in to mark the paper underneath).
- You will of course have to draw the curves of the armholes and necklines after you remove the blocks.
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 4
Fill in the details
- Draw the side seam dart legs
- Draw the necklines and armholes with a French curve, using the same section as you did when you drew them on the block (you can check it against the design lines on the block). Note that you could also have used a tracing wheel to trace the design line before moving the block; using a tracing wheel will weaken the block.
- Mark the grainlines parallel to CF & CB
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 5
Adding the ease ease to the hem/hip-line.
- Mark out 1 inch | 2.5 cm from the hip-line at both front and back side seams.
- Redraw the side seam line by using your block (shown in the image as semi-transparent). I am redrawing the side seam from the side seam dart down (front and back! – the back block has the notch point). This does create some more ease not only in the hip, but in the waist and up to the bust. G
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 6
Draw the elastic guidelines on the pattern.
- Measure up from both the front waist and back waist for 2.36 inches | 6cm. Mark that point.
- Measure up a further 1 inch | 2.5cm and mark a second point.
- For the back, draw a horizontal line from those points to the CB seam.
- For the front, angle the lines up; I wanted the gathering to finish up a bit higher in the CF, just under my bust. Since I know my bust mound (for a tight fit) is 7.5cm, I measured down from the bust point for 7.5 cm and draw a line from the side seam marks to touch that point (the top elastic line) and continue to CF.
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 7
Add seam allowance
- Add 0.58 inch | 1.5cm seam allowance to the shoulder, the side seam and the hem.
- DO NOT add any seam allowance to the neckline or armholes; they will be finished off with bias binding.
- You can mark where the seam-line is for the neckline and armholes by drawing the stitching line 1cm in from the edge (shown by the red dashed line).
The yellow shaded area is the original pattern, before adding seam allowance; you can see no seam allowance has been added to the neckline and armhole. If this is confusing, see underneath Figure 7 for an photo of a garment finished off with bias binding, where the bias shows on the outside of the garment. The width at the shoulder is 2 inches | 5cm, but that 2 inches INCLUDES the bias binding.
Instructions Top 001a – Figure 8
The pattern is now finished; only 2 pieces.
- Make sure you mark the grainline.
- Extend the dart legs and elastic guidelines to the edges of the garment.
- Mark cutting instructions: Cut on Fold for both pieces.
- Label and notch.
- Cut out the pattern pieces.
- After cutting out, make sure you walk the pieces at the side seams and the shoulders; make any adjustments necessary. (e.g. if one side seam is slightly longer than the other, split the difference, etc).