Ellie and Liz’s elevated sleeve challenge!
I’m a big fan a statement sleeve and an even bigger fan of a throw-on t-shirt. So of course, for this blog challenge, I was thrilled to combine the two. When I saw the new fabrics lined up for Felicitys’ next drop, I couldn’t resist mixing the pale blue and off-white striped jersey with their Cassie broderie anglaise – a beautiful fabric with embroidered, interlocking circles and a perfectly scalloped selvedge.
I’ve been seeing broderie-sleeved t-shirts everywhere recently, but since I started making my own t-shirts I’ve become a bit of a “fit snob” – I know how I like my tops to fit, and ready-to-wear ones just never quite sit right. So, I decided to make my own.
My pattern of choice was the Tilly Buttons “Tabitha T-Shirt” from their Make It Simple book, which has become one of my most-made patterns. The TATB patterns are always excellently drafted, true to size, and easy to make, but they have particularly nailed the cut of the Tabitha tee. A classic straight tee, boxy without being a box, fitted enough without being clingy.
As with every pattern, I always make a few fitting adjustments to fit my personal preferences. I cut a straight size 5, but graded to a 4 on the shoulders, neckband, and waist, and graded out to a 6 on the hips. On my body shape, this still retains the boxy-style I’m looking for but removes some extra fabric to avoid it pooling under the arms or around the waist, or clinging at the hips.
Adding the broderie sleeves is a pleasantly straightforward hack. I first lengthened the sleeve pattern to the elbow, then cut the sleeve pattern down the middle and added around 9cm of width. This took the total sleeve width to 50cm, which coincidentally was the amount of broderie fabric I had to work with. I lined the hem of the sleeve up with the scalloped selvage (which means a pretty sleeve finish and no hemming – bonus!) and cut as normal.
I ran two rows of gathering stitches around the head of the sleeves and inserted them flat, as per the instructions. To add the elasticated channel, it was more trial-and-error than exact science, but I was happy with the result. After interrogating lots of pictures of the ready-to-wear versions, I concluded that the best way to achieve a neat finish was to fold the sleeve length up on itself to create a channel, rather than stitch in a separate strip of fabric, or just attach the elastic to the fabric.
Using some elastic bands in what felt like a DIY blood-pressure test, I tried on the t-shirt, slipped the elastic bands over the sleeves and roughly worked out how much frill I wanted at the bottom of the sleeve, and where I would like the elastic to comfortably sit on my arm. I settled on a 2”-ish frill below the elastic, so I measured 2” up from the hem and drew a line (in washable pen), then added an extra 2cm above for the channel (I was working with 1cm wide elastic). I then pinched the fabric together (wrong sides together) between these two lines, pressed flat, and stitched most of the way round, leaving a gap to feed the elastic through. Creating the channel this way will only secure it on one side, so to avoid it flipping down when worn, I hand stitched the topside of the channel in place on the right side of the sleeve. This way, stitch lines are kept to a minimum, but the sleeve feels nice and secure.
I’m so pleased with the finished make, it looks exactly as I hoped it would! I finished it off with a Kylie and the Machine “cutie” label because, well, how cute are those sleeves?! The breathable broderie makes this tee a lovely light option for summer, and the super soft jersey makes for a comfortable garment.
This make took one metre of jersey, half a metre of broderie, and just a small amount of pattern hacking to achieve an elevated, summer-ready tee that will be a favourite for a long time!
Thanks for reading,
When the theme for this blog was sent across to me I got very excited about all the sleeve possibilities. I love a puff sleeve and the bigger the puff the better. I also love a ruffle and a pretty hem detail too. My mind was whirling with so many ideas I thought I would choose the fabric first and then settle on a direction for this blog.
I headed to the Felicity Fabric website where I got lost down a rabbit hole of fabric! So many beautiful fabrics to choose from. You can search through all of the fabrics or narrow it down by type. I decided to look at them all initially and fell in love with the ‘Cotton – ivory flowers’ fabric. It is described as a pale ivory cotton poplin that is covered in a lovely floral print in yellows, reds, purples and green leaves. It is perfect for shirts, dresses, pyjamas and tops. The fabric is 100% cotton and 145cm wide. I loved the dainty flowers and leaves and knew it would provide a base for my make.
With the fabric chosen I then started to think about what pattern to use. I wanted something that would provide an interesting sleeve detail but also a pattern that I could have fun with too and possibly add something extra. I have been enjoying creating shirred dresses lately, using the Tilly and the buttons Mabel dress pattern but was yet to try the peplum top. I love the elbow length sleeve that has shirring near the hem of the sleeve. The shirring creates a beautiful ruffle detail and the sleeve head has elastic in the top, creating a pretty shape at the shoulder and neckline. I decided to use this pattern but wanted to try creating a contrast sleeve so headed back to the Felicity Fabrics website to choose a contrast fabric.
I am a huge fan of green and try to incorporate it into most of my makes so was drawn to the sage green tones from the leaves on the cotton poplin fabric. I decided to try and find a fabric that would compliment this colour. I came across a fabric described as a flat double gauze in the perfect sage green colourway. I am always a little wary of sewing with double gauze as I find it quite a bouncy fabric and I find it is easily distorted when you sew with it. However, this type of fabric seemed flatter and less bouncy so I thought I would give it a try. Flat double gauze fabric is still made from two layers of cotton gauze but does not have the crinkle texture you get from a regular double gauze fabric. As it is made from two layers of gauze fabric you do still see a subtle small dot stitch. It is the perfect fabric for sewing up tops, dresses and pyjamas. When the fabric arrived it felt so buttery and soft to touch and really floaty and lightweight too. It was also the perfect shade of green to compliment the floral cotton fabric.
With my two fabrics chosen I decided to use the sage green gauze fabric for the sleeves and the cotton poplin for the main part of the Mabel top pattern. The Mabel dress and top pattern comes in sizes UK 6 – 34 (60” bust, 53” waist and 61” hip measurement). It is aimed at improvers however if you have sewn a couple of garments and are looking for a new skill to learn I would say you could tackle this pattern. They have so many helpful tutorials on their blog and YouTube to help you with the fiddly parts of sewing this pattern. The Mabel pattern has a square shaped elasticated neckline, the option for full length or elbow length sleeves and either a deep shirred cuff or narrow shirred cuffs with a frill hem. The front neckline has a pretty frill, keyhole opening and faux drawstring ties. You can make it as a midi length dress or a peplum blouse. I have found the best way to get neat shirring is to sew with a longer stitch length and hand wind the bobbin with shirring elastic.
I knew I wanted to sew up the peplum top version with contrast sage green, elbow length sleeves with narrow shirred cuffs and the frill hem. I also decided to try a new skill to provide a bit more detail on the sleeves. I have seen a few dresses and tops in the shops lately that have embroidered flowers on the skirt or sleeve for an extra detail. I haven’t embroidered since I was at secondary school so my skills were very rusty!
I decided to hand draw some of the flowers from the cotton poplin larger scale on some pattern trace Swedish tracing paper. I then put the tracing paper on top of the gauze fabric and drew over it using a frixion pen as I know this disappears when heat is applied. To ensure the embroidered detail was sewn in as neatly and accurately as my limited skills would allow I used an embroidery ring to keep the fabric in place. I added the embroidered flower detail before I had shirred the lower part of the sleeve too. This meant the fabric could remain flat. When deciding on the colours for the three flowers I looked at the colours on the cotton poplin and tried to match. My embroidery is very simple and very rustic but it was enjoyable to try something new.
Once you have sewn the shirring and inserted the elastic into the front bodice, back bodice and sleeve heads the rest of the top comes together easily. The faux ties on the front create a pretty bow detail and subtle key hole opening too.
Overall I am really pleased with the complimentary sage green sleeves and feel the three embroidered flowers add a pop of colour on the sleeve. I love the puff detail on the sleeve and the subtle frill from the shirring and the pretty floral cotton poplin still shines centre stage too. I know I am going to get a lot of wear out of this top over the summer too.