I came across Frances Tobin's online shop, The Maker's Atelier early last year and I found out more about her designs and aesthetic for my column in Sewing World about 'kits'- she sells high quality, luxury making kits as an option for her patterns. She kindly offered me a pattern of my choice to review and I opted for the Drawstring Top/Dress. Her modern aesthetic is quite different from mine, and I was curious if it would suit me. Her patterns are about simple shapes and the best quality fabrics.
There is a luxe, sophisticated feel to Frances' designs. Her background is impeccable: she's worked as a design and colour consultant for companies like Gucci, Acardia and French Connection. I was intrigued to see how she brought that experience to her pattern range. Each pattern comes as a package in a card envelope with string tie; a small drawstring bag with a tape measure is included too.
The pattern pieces are on strong transparent paper and measuring guidelines, a hints and tips card and a woven label is included with each pattern.
It is a clever design. There are only two pattern pieces, the fullness is concentrated in the front piece with the back neck lying flat and the front holding the gathers from the drawstring. Finding the right fabric is essential. I had some thin and very draped viscose jersey which was perfect for a tester version. I followed the bust measurement and cut a size 8 with no alterations. The drawstring was some waxed cotton cord that I had in my sewing box.
The instructions are detailed but the sewing is easy. This was sewn on my Bernina using a very small zig-zag stitch. The seams are unserged (knit fabrics won't unravel) and are pressed open. The top is designed for either knit or woven fabrics and there is a separate instruction for woven fabrics to finish the neck line with bias binding.
You can see in the pictures why there is a need for great drape in the fabric choice. Frances has shows versions of the same top sewn in woven cotton, linen and crinkly silk as well as a design variations that that change the sleeves, add a drawstring at the waist and another which reduces fullness and sleeves for an even simpler top.
Although construction is straightforward there are some nice tips for a neat finish including finishing the sleeves and neck where the elastic channels are so that it feeds through cleanly.
You can see the flatter line across the back and the shoulders. This pic reminds me of my mother's adage about elbows showing your true age!
Notes and tips
- Fabric quantity details are accurate.
- Measurements are in metric. I used my metal slider seam gauge.
- Seam allowances are 1cm (⅜") unless stated. This isn't written on the pattern or the instructions but instead on the 'Hints and Tips' sheet
- A pressing ham and/or a sleeve roll make pressing seams open a lot easier than using an ironing board.
- There's a note about pockets on the fabric guidelines which I think must be a typo- there's no pockets in this pattern!
I found this top a bit of a surprise make for me. It has an elegance and simplicity that I usually find hard to achieve with clothes. It's a more classic, grown-up style than my usual vintage inspired 70s silhouette but I think I can get it to work with my extensive selection of A line skirts. This top is worn with my Fumeterre charcoal chambray skirt. I am currently sewing up the dress version in a bamboo lycra so although there's no denying it is an expensive pattern, I've already used it twice and I imagine I will continue to make variations on the top and the dress. The dress has great potential for the summer- I'll show more once finished and photographed. My next thought is the wide leg trousers...