Three simple summer tops

Three simple summer tops

My streak of extremely simple projects continues!  This summer I found myself in desperate need of simple tops to wear to work.  I wanted all the following characteristics:

  • Short sleeves, since I always seem to get cold in sleeveless tops in air conditioned buildings.
  • Low enough neckline to be comfortable, but high enough that I won’t have to worry about flashing anyone.
  • Relaxed enough fit to not have to worry about showing off a full stomach, but close fitting enough to still be flattering.
  • Must be made of 100% cotton (to survive the 1-mile, often very sweaty, walk into work) and knit fabric (for comfort when moving around all day).

Ah work, you kill me!  So many requirements!  Of course, these are all self-imposed requirements, but they limit the available design options a bit.  I hemmed and hawed over what to do, and I finally decided on simple t-shirts, modifying my already-heavily-modified Renfrew pattern to fulfill my list of demands.  It was a good excuse to make a few fitting changes that I had been putting off, most notably a broad back adjustment.

Here’s essentially what I did:

Blue striped top - pattern alterations

The 1/2 inch broad back adjustment made a huge difference!  I really needed that extra width in the shoulder and upper back, even in a stretch fabric.  The sleeve cap actually hits my shoulder now, and the whole top just hangs more smoothly off my wide frame.  Why didn’t I do this sooner??  Note that I added 1/2 inch to the front shoulder seam so it would match the newly adjusted back, but I didn’t add the extra width to the front below the armscye.  I really only needed the extra width for my broad back, not my small bust.  🙂

Other adjustments for this round of tops included scooping out the Renfrew neckline by 1 inch (a less aggressive scoop than what I did last summer, which I found to be too low cut for work) and adding some width to the hip (after my cowl-neck top mishap).  The schematic above shows 1 inch added to the hip, but I later reduced it to only 1/2 inch.  I also wound up eliminating the shirttail hem because I just wasn’t crazy about how it looked on me.

That’s about it!  On to the tops!

Top #1 – Cream geometric print

Cream knit top - front

All three tops were made with Art Gallery knits that I picked up at Z Fabrics in Portland, Maine a few weeks ago.  This shop is like a mecca for high quality apparel fabrics and contains a well curated and well stocked selection of heavenly offerings.  I would highly recommend checking out this shop if you’re in the area (it doesn’t look like they have an online shop).  Warning: everything is way overpriced!  I bought three 1-yard cuts for about $19 each.  I blame it on being on vacation.  🙂

Cream knit top - back

This print is from the Gramercy line by Leah Duncan and is called “NY Circuit Ashen” (sorry, no link, it seems to be sold out everywhere).  I like this print in theory, but I’m not convinced that cream is a good color next to my face.  Truth be told, I’m crazy about any of these prints on me!  I should have stuck to my color palette instead of giving in to the “oooh pretty fabric” syndrome.  The dangers of fabric shopping!

Cream knit top - side

A perfectly fine top though, no big deal.  It’s a neutral so will go with a lot of my skirts and shorts, and even with jeans when the cool weather starts to roll in.

Top #2 – Navy geometric print

Navy knit top - front

This print is also from Leah Duncan’s Gramercy line and is called “Commute by Limo.”  If only I could commute to work by limo and avoid getting all gross and sweaty in this top.  🙂  I think this dark navy is a little too close to black for my taste, but again, not a big deal.
Navy knit top - backI tried to center the print on both the front and back of this top after noticing that the little triangles actually form vertical columns down the fabric.  I’m so glad I caught this, as it would have driven me crazy if I only realized it afterward!

Navy knit top - sideI’m really happy with the way these tops hang in the front – nice and smooth from bust to hem!  My seemingly never-ending pattern tweaks might actually be paying off, finally.

Top #3 – Blue and white striped print

Blue striped knit top - front

This is my least favorite of the bunch and was the first one I sewed.  It has the remnants of the shirttail hem and actually started its life as a much different (and much bigger) top, which thankfully I managed to save.

Blue striped knit top - backThe print is from the Wild & Free collection by Maureen Cracknell and is called “Woven Path in Night.”  I think the bold vertical stripes might have made an awesome maxi skirt, but I’m not convinced they work well in a t-shirt.  Oh well, another perfectly good top that will fill a gap in my wardrobe, but not exactly a garment I’m dying to wear everyday!

Blue striped knit top - sideThoughtful print placement was mandatory with such a bold stripe, so I was careful to center the stripes on the front and back, make the sleeves symmetrical, and center the print on the front portion of the neckband.  I like how the stripes emphasize the somewhat hourglass cut along the side seam – a little surprise I guess.  🙂

Construction notes and miscellany

Navy knit top - neckline detail Navy knit top - sleeve hem detail

There isn’t much to say about construction since these are about the simplest t-shirts you can imagine, but I couldn’t help including just a few detail shots.  The sleeves and hem are folded up once and zig-zagged, catching the raw edge in the stitching.  Most of the seams are serged with matching thread in the left needle; the neckband is attached with my regular machine and finished with the serger.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my blog photos are so stiff and awkward, so I attempted to “relax” in the photo below:

My attempt at a relaxed pose

Hahaha, still super awkward!!  I swear I’m not this stiff in person, but I freeze up in front of the camera, especially when using the self-timer.  And speaking of the timer…

Camera set up

Here’s how I’ve been setting up the camera lately – propped up on some cardboard boxes, on a lawn chair, with a coaster to hold up the lens.  Clearly this is not a professional blog, LOL!

Three summer knit topsAnyway, my apologies for the long post, but I figured it was better to lump these three simple tops together instead of posting them all separately.  I’m glad I finally have some new work-appropriate tops for my casual-but-still-an-office workplace (i.e., the university), and these quick and simple projects have allowed me to keep sewing despite the craziness going on in the rest of my life right now.

Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without sewing and the wonderful online community that surrounds it.  Thank you, as always, for all your inspiration and support!  🙂

21 thoughts on “Three simple summer tops

  1. I love seeing your photo set-up! It’s fun the see “behind the veil” – we’ve all got such different routines for taking pics!
    I have tried and tried to figure out casual poses that dont make me look crazy, and I haven’t found many! Leaning against a rail is good, but somehow leaning against a wall makes me just look foreshortened and odd… sitting on a chair or stool can be good, but easy to end up with stumpy legs! Every time I’ve tried a food prop it looks porny… What’s a blogger to do?!? I’ve never thought you looked stiff in photos, for what it’s worth! 😉


    • Haha!! I’ve never tried a food prop and just made a mental note to avoid it. 🙂 I actually took a picture leaning against the rail here, and it was NOT a good look. Who knew?? I think your photos always look so fun and relaxed, so whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!


  2. Always nice to have a few new tees! I’ve never thought you looked stiff either. Everyone has their unique style of photos, and I appreciate your straightforward photos–especially when talking about fit. It’s so hard to see what a person is talking about when distracted by poses and whatnot!


    • Thanks Lisa! I agree about the straightforward photos when trying to see how a pattern looks and fits, but it would be nice to include some more natural poses as well. I honestly don’t know how some people feel so comfortable in front of a camera!


  3. I really like the shape of these tops on you – they look like they fit perfectly and sit so nicely and comfortably. I would like to get into sewing basics like this – thanks for the inspiration! PS, I think the cream one is my favourite because you can pair it with all sorts of fun brightly coloured bottoms 🙂


    • Thanks Katy! I’m all about sewing basics since my lifestyle just doesn’t incorporate dresses and silk very well. I’m hard on my clothes and need garments that can withstand my abuse, LOL.


  4. Lovely shirts! The fit looks really good. The straight on front, back, and side photos are good for assessing fit and showing off garment details, so don’t stop taking those! They can be really helpful to someone considering sewing the same pattern. I think a lot of sewing bloggers get so caught up in posing they don’t think to take the basic shots, too. More relaxed, angled shots give a better feel for how the garment looks as you are wearing it, though. So, I think both types of photos have their place.


    • Yes, well said Leila! I do wish more sewing bloggers would take straightforward photos so you can actually see the fit and construction details that they talk about in their posts, but it would be nice see more natural poses as well. There’s a good balance to strike, I think. This feeds into the (very interesting) question of where to draw the line between a sewing blog and a fashion blog, or if drawing a line is even necessary!


  5. Ditto the comments about your photos. Very good for someone like me (novice) to really see the pattern itself. My favorite of the three is the navy – I like how the pattern repeats. And from a distance the triangles look like candy corn. (hmmm, that may not be a good thing?)


    • Haha, a candy corn top! Would be perfect in orange for Halloween. 🙂 Thanks for your comments about my photos. I try to show off the sewing but my comfort in front of a camera could be better!


  6. Those adaptations have had a good effect, they look like they fit really well. You said that the fabric was expensive, is that expensive compared to other fabrics or compared to the cost of a patterned tee you’d buy in a shop. In the UK finding tee fabric is fairly difficult if you’re outside of the big cities and fabric is relatively expensive compared to buying a finished product.


    • The fabric (say $20 per top, for 1 yard) was definitely more expensive than what I’d pay for a simple t-shirt in a store, but I think it’s also expensive for cotton knit fabric. Here in the US, I can usually find good quality cotton knits for about $10/yard, and even Art Gallery knit is usually about $15/yard. This store was charing a premium, presumably due to its location in the shopping district of a vacation town.


  7. Nice work! Always good to make clothes that will get used.

    I’ve never thought that you look stiff when in a photo. Maybe you are unused to being still? I do like that your posture is very good, that helps the viewer see the clothes as they hang. I love that you always seen to be smiling or are pleased.

    Do you have a remote? Or better still, a remote activated motor drive. Then you can wriggle until comfy and give us some action shots.


    • Thanks! I always try to smile in my photos, but it’s not hard since I’m always so excited about my finished garments, and sewing in general. 🙂 I don’t have a remote but would LOVE to get one. I’m planning a camera upgrade in the near future that will hopefully include a tripod and remote!


  8. I love having a reliable tshirt pattern – I am a huge fan of deer & Doe plantain tee – I have made a few already this summer but cannot always use a few more! I do like your printed jersey – makes a change from solids



    • Thanks Louise! I totally agree about a good t-shirt pattern. I think you really only need one t-shirt block that fits you well, and from there you can use it for endless variations. There are so many t-shirt patterns out there, but I say just buy one and run with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Haha thank you for sharing your “relaxed” photo! I had to laugh because I feel the same way. Good thing our sparkling personalities show in our writing, right? Anyway, like Lisa said, I like good straightforward photography for sewing blogs as much as I like the beautiful editorial images. Your fit updates look spot-on.


    • Haha, thanks Morgan! I agree, I really enjoy both types of photos – straightforward poses for assessing fit and construction, and more natural/casual shots for fashion inspiration. Since I don’t think I’ve ever been “in fashion” in my life, this blog is firmly footed on the sewing side of things. 🙂


  10. I really like all these tops, but if I was forced to pick a favourite it would have to be the “Commute by limo” one.
    Interesting to see your photo taking setup. I don’t think your photos look still. I think they are clear and make it easy to see the garments you make.


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