Remodelling an unfortunate sewing project

I’ve recently taken out my sewing machine, dusted it off, and tried out some new patterns by indie designers. I love the print-at-home phenomenon!

In the last two months I’ve sampled:

It turns out that I’ve been pinning most of these patterns on Pinterest since forever!

Let’s talk today about the Alice top, which turned out not to suit me at all, and what I did to recover this project.

What I was hoping for

I wanted a way to use up this Revelry “Snap” voile (by Cloud 9) that I bought on impulse at a Spotlight store (back when driving over an hour to a fabric shop and browsing in person was actually a thing).

I hoped that the voile would work out because this review for the Alice top came up trumps (also a very amusing read). After reading about the yoke stretching out, I figured using a more stable linen with a contrast yoke would be a good idea, so I decided to try this alteration of the pattern.

Everything I have read says that voile has “good drape” and so it should have been suitable for this top. But I had some doubts.

Cotton voile is very tightly woven, folds crisply, and is quite sheer. I was nervous about using it without a lining, but I figured that gathering the blouse section would sufficiently hide my underwear.

The experience of sewing

I enjoyed getting started with the Alice top. I appreciated the way the paper pattern was pieced together, and the hand-drawn nature of the pattern made it feel very “mine”.

I liked that the seam allowances were marked at most corners with notches! I don’t like having to search the pattern instructions to find out how much seam allowance is included on various edges.

I also really liked that some allowances were small (necklines) and some were larger (side seams) so I could be frugal with fabric but still have enough to make an alteration (or a really tidy seam finish) if I wanted to.

Once I got up to fitting, things became less fun. Mostly because I couldn’t judge how things would fit in the armhole area until I had basically constructed the fully lined armhole…thingies.

Picture of a cap sleeve that is too tight showing wrinkles where the fabric pulls.

Once I attached them to the main bodice…

…the top was too tight under the arm!

I tried removing some of the fabric and leaving the upper part unaltered, to create a kind of cap sleeve…

…but I had unwittingly created a Star Trek maternity uniform!

(Why does my head look so small here?)

Finally I ended up ditching the armhole thingies altogether and doing a bias-bound edge to cover as much flesh in the armhole area as I could.

The finished product was quite wearable, so I called it “done”, but I didn’t really like it. I took some photos, praised myself for the awesome French seaming, but generally felt a bit lacklustre about the result.

Why didn’t it work?

For a start, choosing white for the yoke was a mistake, especially a very opaque white. I don’t this is a good colour for me, or at least not for a round high neckline.

Secondly, this type of top (gathered over the bust) in voile (a fabric that didn’t have as much drape as was needed) was not a great combination because the gathering caused the fabric to stand away from my body shape.

It looks rather like a slightly stylish mosquito net, I think.

The top didn’t suit me, and wasn’t flattering on my body shape. Erk!

What next?

A few weeks went by, and I made up a different pattern (the Airelle blouse) in another Cloud 9 voile which has turned out to be my new favourite top.

Yay! It is possible to sew something that suits me in voile!

What’s more, the new blouse was not too sheer, and is dreamy to wear because of the lightweight voile. An idea began to form … 🤔💡

What if I took apart my Alice top and removed the gathering? Could I turn the gathering into pin tucks, maybe? Could I use the dart shaping from the Airelle blouse for a more flattering look?

Out came the seam ripper (I call this a “Quick unpick” because that’s how it was marketed when my Mum taught me to sew, in the 1980s!).

Here’s my attempt at imagining what the top would be like without gathering, and filling in the armhole area with some leftover voile.

Not bad (better, anyway) but still not fantastic. A little frumpy, still.

I pulled out my pattern pieces from the Datura and Airelle tops and started comparing them to the bits I had leftover. It came to me (slowly, not at all in a flash) that the Alice top is most like the Datura in shape. Perhaps I could just cut a new yoke using the Datura pattern?

…and then the penny dropped that I could change the colour of the yoke!

The remodel

I sanity checked that I could re-cut the blouse section into a new set of body pieces for the the Datura top.

Yup!

I then cut a new yoke from a warm grey-brown linen (a colour called “Atmosphere” which you can no longer get, but I think “Drizzle” is a close match).

I made a full pattern to make it easier to lay out for best use of the fabric. Cutting these on the fold would have been really challenging!

The rest of this project was essentially sewing up a Datura top, but I made some modifications to the pattern before I started.

First up, I rotated the dart slightly so that it was perpendicular to the yoke (a little more “French dart” and a little less “straight dart”).

I also left the yoke unlined to give it a closer weight and transparency to the voile body sections.

Hello, Summer! ☀️

The neckline and armholes are finished with an all-in-one binding / flat piping using the bias-stripped I salvaged from the original project.

The final verdict? A smarter, more flattering top that I love.


What do you do when you sew something that you just don’t like? Does it kill your mojo for future projects? Do you end up doubting whether you understand fabric properties at all, like I do? Choosing fabric is surprisingly hard!

2 thoughts on “Remodelling an unfortunate sewing project

  1. I’m so glad I found this post! I loved reading your process, and YES to everything you said! Choosing fabric is always a challenge for me and, if that doesn’t keep me from starting a project, then stalling out with trying to fit the garment and/or ending up after all of the effort with something I don’t like dampens my enthusiasm for future projects. Reading your post helps me feel better and want to try another! By the way, your striped Airelle is gorgeous! And I love the fabric you chose for the new yoke for the Alice top suits you and the project very well. Yay! xo, Nancy

    1. Thank you so much, Nancy! I’m glad you are keen to try another project. Sometimes you just have to pick up and go on again, budget permitting. 🙂 Good luck finding a great combo next time!

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