I shall subtitle this top: The Top Where I Attempted To See How Many Times I Could Re-Sew The Shoulders Before The Fabric Utterly Shredded.
At the weekend I made that black wrap cardi, and I mentioned when I posted about it that I had cut a second New Look pattern at the same time. Emboldened by my extreme level of success with using View D to try out my knit bodice sloper last week, I had decided to embark on View A, which is the ruched wrapped bodice with plain sleeves. This is the reason I bought this pattern -- it's a really pretty pattern and there have been loads of successful versions of it on PR, so I thought it would be easy. Ha. HAHAHA. Oh dear.
I JUST managed to squeeze this pattern out of the remainder of the black knit fabric, albeit with elbow length rather than three quarter length sleeves. When the time came to sew it up, though, I immediately had concerns because I really didn't enjoy sewing with this fabric for the previous Burda top. It was flimsy, didn't like being handled and stretched out horribly as I was sewing it. I might have been all right making a simple, limited-handling-required top, but this fabric with a pattern with loads of gathering and ruching and basting, ugh. Not a good match.
Moreover, I had MAJOR concerns about the shoulders of the pattern. According to the back of the envelope I am a size 14 at the upper bust and a size 16 more or less everywhere else in New Look. I planned to blend sizes accordingly. However, on the pattern sheet, size 16 and 14 aren't nested. I therefore traced a 16 and the overlaid it on the 14 pattern intending to fix the shoulder and discovered... it's the exact same size from the neck to armscye. All the difference in the pattern is in the width of the pattern below the armscye. That's useful to know, but unhelpful from a blending perspective and also unhelpful from a size perspective.
Also, because the shoulder is pleated and ruched, I couldn't get a sense of how wide it was really going to be when done, so a straight comparison with my knit bodice sloper was not as helpful as I hoped. I was left thinking that it was most probably going to end up too big at the shoulders and that the armholes were probably going to be a bad fit for me, at least compared with the previous, successful knit bodice sloper adaptation of View D. In particular, it was really clear to me that there was just going to be too much fabric across my upper chest, because the armscye/shoulder was so relatively wide compared to the sloper. Mistake #1: I carried on anyway, and cut a straight 16.
I actually think this top looks better on me than on Flossie, for once (although, why I left it draped at the hem in the shot on the left is anyone's guess. That's a proper straight hem, honest). When I wear it, the top pulls in below the bust so I get a pretty nice ruched look over the abdomen. I really love the way the ruched side of the wrap looks and actually love where my sleeves finish as well. It clearly has promise as a top! However, the shoulders and neckline are a total mess. I can live with this particular top as a casual, wearable muslin, but it's really not entirely satisfactory and I would have to do a lot more work on this pattern before I'd make it again.
Mistake #2 is that there's meant to be a pleat in the neckline, except for the life of me I couldn't make sense of what the instructions wanted me to do to make the pleat. I put something in and unpicked it like, four times, and in the end I had messed with it so much all I could do was sew it up as best I could because the fabric was starting to look like mice had been chewing it, sans pleat. The other issue was that the fabric, just like with the wrap top, stretched out when I was sewing, so I had to do crazy emergency surgery to try to get the fabric to fit together. (I also don't understand either how you are supposed to stop the top edge of wrap parts from flipping over -- which, since I left those edges raw because I was worried about stretching out the fabric horribly by sewing a narrow hem on the bias, is kind of ugly.)
And then there's the shoulder problem. OK, so first, a stupidity confession, which is that, Mistake #3, I sewed the shoulders up, said "That looks wide!" to myself... and then kept sewing. For ages. Until I was basically 99% done with the top. And then I tried it on. I mean, there's a reason why I did that (the way you construct it makes mid-construction fitting difficult) but still, why did I keep going like that when I could clearly see there was a problem? It was so dumb. When I eventually tried it on, I could immediately see there was a HUGE problem with the shoulder, namely that the shoulder seam was fully 5cm over the edge of my shoulder and down my biceps. UGLY. Plus the armhole was too low and completely the wrong shape for my actual body, so I ended up with bat wings that sagged out from above the bust to halfway down my bicep. I don't mind intentional batwings, but this just looked terrible. Part of the problem with the shoulder/neckline was the lack of pleat/stretching out issue, clearly, but partly, this shoulder width was just too wide!
This morning I spent my breaks in my work unpicking the sleeves, recutting the armholes, reshaping the side seams to be less batwing-y and sewing it all back up again. One side worked out well but even after copious steaming over a ham, I haven't been able to get a really nice seam on the back of the other shoulder.
This is all really frustrating, on the one hand, because I JUST had so much success with that knit sloper. I wore the top I made with it yesterday and I LOVED it (though I need to tweak my neckline to prevent bra strap showage). This top, and to a lesser extent the cardigan I made at the weekend felt like a big step backwards.
On the other hand it's really made me stop and think. One of my most certain statements about my body shape has always been: I have broad shoulders. Except, increasingly as I sew, I don't think I do have broad shoulders. I know from adjustments I have had to make before that I have slightly square shoulders. I have quite a strong shoulder line, in that my bone structure is such that my collar bone is visible and prominent. But I don't think my shoulders are actually WIDE. I think what I've been mistaking for a wide shoulder fitting issue is actually a large upper bicep fitting issue which makes my sleeves pull and be uncomfortable, and the always annoying large bust fitting issue, with maybe a smidgeon of a broad mid-back. If anything, it seems like my shoulders are at the narrower end of the range, and that is why I am continually struggling with wide necklines showing off my bra strap and/or falling off my shoulder.
This confirms to me that I REALLY need to start picking smaller sizes for the shoulder line and living with the fact that I'm going to have to blend/do a super-charged FBA to get anything to fit. I mean, I know that, but my nervousness about cutting a MUCH smaller size for the shoulder than the rest of me has been putting me off. One of the things I want to do next is look at woven tops again, though, and I really think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and try a much smaller neck/shoulder size than I have been and see how it works out. I don't know why it worries me so much to contemplate cutting a 40 or a 12 through the shoulder. It's not like I'm in denial that the rest of me is a 16/44!