Simple Sew Colour-block top tutorial

Hello everyone! For February I’m going to show you how to make the Colour Block dress and tunic. As this make needs to fill a gap in my wardrobe I’m going to be making the top version, but don’t worry, I’ll show you how to make the tunic version too!

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The Colour Block top/tunic is a straight-forward make but it’s a good idea to have a couple of simple garments under your belt before embarking on this one. That is because there are a couple of tricky steps – setting in sleeves, and installing an invisible zip.

Fabric suggestions

You know when you’ve made a few projects and you didn’t quite use up all the fabric? And that fabric has been put back into the ‘stash’? And you’re now not sure what to make with it as it’s not big enough to make a full garment with but it’s too big for you to throw away? Well this project is perfect for all those annoying bits of left over fabric! Mind you, I say that, but it does help if the fabric pieces you’re left with do actually look nice together! None of mine did so I bought some!

You can pretty much choose what fabric you like for this project. It should at least be a medium weight woven though. Denim, crêpe, silk dupion, suiting or good old quilting cotton are all good choices. I’ve gone for quilting cotton here.  You could also try making this from a mid-weight jersey without too much stretch. A ponte roma would be ideal. Just omit the zip!

My fabric choices are some beautiful Art Gallery quilting cotton (and I was very stingy with this as I’m saving it for another project!) and some blush pink cotton bought from my local fabric shop the Sewing Centre. My Art Gallery fabric was given to me by the Yorkshire Sewist for my #stitchingsanta present. Thanks Sally!

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Beautiful Art Gallery cotton!

Fabric and notions

You’re going to need:

  • 1m of 60″ wide fabric regardless of your size. If your fabric is narrow you may well need more. This is for fabric 1. This fabric makes up the yoke and sleeves.
  • 0.5-1m of 60″ wide fabric for fabric 2. This makes up the main bodice. If you’re making the tunic you may want a third fabric but you won’t need much.
  • Some fusible interfacing (half a metre is plenty).
  • Matching thread (get a couple of spools) and bobbins.
  • A 9″ invisible zipper for the top or an 18″ invisible zipper for the tunic.
  • An invisible zipper foot for your sewing machine
  • A regular zipper foot for your sewing machine.
  • Your usual dressmaking stuff – pins, tape measure, tailor’s chalk or air erasable pen, seam gauge or ruler, etc.

First things first…

Wash your fabric before you cut into it. You really don’t want your top/tunic to shrink when you wash it and all your hard work be ruined.  No fabric is allowed in my stash unless it has been washed first!

Finding your size

Measure yourself around your bust, waist and hips. The pattern shows finished garment measurements not body measurements so choose your size appropriately. Usually I’m a size 12 in Simple Sew patterns but I’ve sized up for this particular project.  I like a bit more ease in woven tops as they can be a bit constrictive otherwise.  If you’re not sure make a toile first (a mock up).

Tracing the pattern and cutting out

Now usually I would recommend that you trace out your patterns first, particularly if you’re spending good money on them or if you need to adjust them, or even if you want to make the pattern for someone else! Because I was reasonably confident about this pattern fitting me I didn’t bother. However, I did cut out the ‘tunic’ variation so I could make that later. I just folded the pattern pieces to the ‘top’ variation for cutting out.

Fold your pressed fabric selvedge to selvedge, wrong sides facing you. Place your (traced and cut out) pattern pieces and lay them according to the layout provided on the pattern envelope (or just the way you think best!). Make sure the grainline arrows on the pattern pieces are parallel to the selvedge. The front yoke, front bodice, front hem band (tunic only) and the front facing need to be placed on the fold of your fabric. Pin your pattern pieces to the fabric or use pattern weights (large washers, baked bean tins, etc.) to hold the paper down.

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Optional layout – I ignored the one in the instructions! I also had to put the sleeve facings on the cross-grain but this is fine!

As you can see, my Art Gallery fabric is stripey so some thought needed to go into pattern placement. I wanted to make sure the stripes matched on the garment and that all stripes were horizontal! It also has a directional print so I had to make sure all the pattern pieces were placed in the same direction so the flowers were not growing upside down! I chose to cut my facings out of the pink fabric but it’s up to you which fabric you cut these out of. The sleeve facings will be on show to some extent in the finished garment.

Marking notches and darts

There are a few notches on this pattern shown as little triangles on the edges. These are useful for matching up your fabric pieces later. Mark these notches on your fabric by making a small snip no more than 10mm into the fabric. This is well within the seam allowance and my fabric was nice and stable. However, if you’re using a fabric with a very loose weave or one that frays, cut triangular notches outside.

There are two darts on the front bodice of this pattern. I like to mark the ‘legs’ of the darts with little snips into the fabric and I mark the points with tailor’s tacks as it marks both pieces of fabric at the same time. The other advantage to these is that both sides of the fabric are marked and they can easily be removed. Join the snips to the tailor tack point with a chalk line. I’m using Frixion pens here as they show up nicely in photos. They also iron away but they can leave behind ghost lines so, if you are using them, make sure you use them on the wrong side of your fabric.

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Marking the darts

Finishing seams

You must finish any raw edges of fabric to prevent them from fraying and ruining your beautiful top or tunic. You may wish to go around each of your pattern pieces with a zig-zag or overcasting stitch before you start sewing. Just make sure you can see all your notches. My personal preference is to finish each seam after sewing. I will be using an overlocker to finish each seam after I’ve sewn them.

Before we start…

Sew your seams with a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance apart from the sleeve facings, the neckline facings and the hem. The facings are sewn with a 1cm (3/8″) seam allowance. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when we get to those bits!

Let’s sew!

  1. Apply the interfacingWe’re going to start with interfacing the front facing, the back facings and the sleeve facings. Fuse your interfacing on to these pieces following the manufacturer’s instructions.
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Interfacing the facings

  • You can then finish of the bottom edge with a zig-zag stitch or you can overlock them. The top edges of the sleeve facings also need to be finished.

2. Prepare the front and back facing– Pin the back and the front facings right sides together (RST) at the shoulder seams and sew. You want these to line up 1.5cm in as this where you are going to sew down.

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Pinning the seams – notice how the raw edges don’t line up. The stitching line does though.

  • Press your stitching line then press the seam allowances open. Put this to one side.

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3.  Assemble the back bodicewith RST attach the back yoke to the back bodice. These pieces are slightly curved but they do fit – just use plenty of pins!  Finish the seam and press open.  If you’re making the tunic version, you will need to attach the hem band in the same way. Repeat all this for the other side of the back.

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4. Sew the dartsPinch the darts matching the snips. Pin the dart as shown below making sure your pins go through the chalk lines at the back and the front.

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  • Sew along the chalk line from your snips to the tailor tack point. Backstitch when you start to sew but just sew off the fabric when you get to the point and do not backstitch. Instead tie the threads into a knot and cut the thread.
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Sew right off the edge and tie off

  • Press your darts downwards.

5. Assemble the front bodiceRST, pin and stitch the front bodice to the front yoke. Finish and press the seam open. If you’re making the tunic, pin and stitch the hem band to the front bodice and press the seam open.

 

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Assembled front!

 

 

6. Sew the shoulder seams – place your assembled front and backs RST at the shoulder seams. Pin and stitch. Finish the seam allowances and press them open.

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  7. Attach the front and back facings pick up your assembled facings and pin to neckline RST. You may find it helpful to draw a stitching line on your facings as it helps with maintaining your seam allowance. It also helps you see where you need to pivot your needle at the v-shaped part of your neckline. The seam allowance here is 1cm as opposed to your usual 1.5cm. Slowly, stitch your facing to your neckline, pivoting at the ‘V’ at the centre front.

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  • Trim your facing to 0.5cm and clip into the seam allowance curves. This helps your facing to lie nice and flat. Snip into the ‘V’ but make sure you don’t cut the stitches.

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  • Flip the facing through to the back and give everything a good press. Another way to make sure your facings lie flat is to top-stitch very close to the edge of the neckline but this is optional and not mentioned in the instructions. However, you will be topstitching your sleeve facings so it will all match anyway!

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  8. Sewing the side seams With right sides together, join the front and backs and sew the side seams together. Finish and press the seam allowances open. I wanted to make sure that my seam line and the stripes matched up as well as possible (I got the seam right but the stripes didn’t quite match up!) so I basted the upper part of this seam before stitching.

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Partially basted seam

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Perfectly matched seams (don’t look at the stripes though)!

9. Preparing the sleevesplace a sleeve facing to one sleeve RST. Make sure you match those ‘V’s! Using a 1cm seam allowance, stitch along the hem, pivoting at the ‘V’. Again, it’s helpful to follow a stitching line here, especially around that ‘V’.

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  • Trim the seam allowance to 0.5cm and snip into the ‘V’.

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  • Turn the sleeve facing through to the inside, press and top-stitch in place. I use a ‘stitch in the ditch’ foot for this.

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Line the blade of your foot along the edge of your sleeve. Nudge your needle along a couple of mm to the left and sew!

  • With RST, fold the sleeve in half and sew the side seam. This will also secure the facing at the same time.

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  • Turn the sleeve through to the right side and press well.  A sleeve board is useful here.  Repeat with the other sleeve.

10. Setting in the sleevesthis is probably the trickiest part of the project. Just take it slowly and use lots of pins. Place your top inside out over a chair. Place one finished sleeve inside an armhole so the fabric is RST.  Make sure that the front and back notches align, i.e. the double notch on the sleeve head matches with the double notch on the armhole of the top. Match up the under-arm seam of the sleeve to the side seam of the top. You should be able to pin the sleeve from the under-arm seam up to the first notches on the front and back. The rest of sleeve may look like it doesn’t fit but it does! There is more fabric in the sleeve head than there is in the armhole so it needs easing in. Remember, it must fit along the stitching line so line this bit up rather than the raw edges. Pin the notch on the sleeve head to the shoulder seam first then fill in the gaps. You should end up with something that looks like this:

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  • You may find it helpful to baste your sleeve in place (I wish I did) before you sew it. Make sure you sew really slowly, feeling for the fabric all the time. Some of my fabric gathered up underneath without me realising and I got a pucker!
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Pucker!

  • Don’t panic! Just unpick that bit, re-pin and go again. Everything is fixable at this stage so don’t worry if you go wrong.
  • Repeat for the other sleeve and have a sneaky try-on.

11. Installing the zip First of all finish the back seam. It’s going to be very awkward to do once the zip is in. Then gently press the zipper teeth away from the tape which will make it easier to stitch. Don’t melt the teeth though!

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  • Open the zip and with the right side facing down, place the right-hand side of the tape down the left-hand open edge of your fabric (right side facing you) and pin into place. Don’t forget the 1.5cm seam allowance! This is shown in the first picture.

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  • Baste the zip in place. Put on the invisible zip foot and place the zipper teeth in the left tunnel of the foot. You will be stitching to the right of the teeth. Back stitch at the beginning and end.

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  • If you’re sewing the tunic, close your zip and where the yoke seam is, mark the other side of the tape with a pin. This will help ensure that your yoke seams matches up when you sew the other side. Open the zip again.
  • Flip your top around and pin the loose zipper tape, (starting at that yoke seam tunic people).

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  • Place your zip teeth in the right tunnel and sew all the way down. Done!

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  • Swap to your regular zipper foot and pin and stitch the rest of the centre back seam down to the bottom of the top/tunic.

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  • The regular zipper foot allows you to get in nice and close to the end of the zip.

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  • We’re nearly finished! We just need to neaten the facing. I folded the facing down and slip-stitched it by hand to the zipper tape. I’m sorry, I was in the moment and forgot to take a photo of this bit. But I did the same thing on my palazzo trousers tutorial and you can read that here.

  12. Hemming the top/tunic – Turn up the hem by 1.5cm and press. Fold again, press and stitch in place.

Congratulations! You’re done! I hope you get lots of wear out of your garment. I’m wearing it with jeans below but I intend to wear it as a top for work. Roll on spring so I can wear it!

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5 thoughts on “Simple Sew Colour-block top tutorial

    • Thanks very much to take the time to read and comment! I’m very pleased with the top. I think the shape is really flattering. And you’re definitely not the only one to get a pucker!

  1. Great instructions and photos- as someone who needs a lot of help and hasn’t got the machine out for a while, this has inspired me as I have this pattern and a huge stash of fabric! Please can you tell me whether the seam allowance is already included in the Simple Sew patterns? I am never sure!

    • Hi! Glad you found the tutorial useful. Yes a 1.5cm seam allowance is included with Simple Sew patterns. On this particular pattern there is a 1cm seam allowance at the neckline and sleeve facing but 1.5cm everywhere else. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Pingback: Me Made May 2017 week 2 | applebymakes

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