Anchors Away

“I don’t really know how to do casual clothes.”  Oscar de la Renta


  I don’t know how to sew casual clothes –  the kind of knock around frocks you wear on the weekend – but I’m going to learn.

I believe the art of making a simple garment requires an underestimated level of sophistication that I’ve yet to acquire.  How does one

  • Avoid the discount department store look?
  • Address excessive ease in loose-fitting patterns?
  • Achieve a finished appearance despite a lack of construction details?
  • What is Eileen Fisher’s secret?

I gave myself the assignment to sew a very casual top  – one I would wear on a spring morning while sipping coffee on the porch at the beach.

 As a devoted fan of blue and white everything, I ordered this double-faced navy and white nautical stripe cotton-blend jersey from Mood Fabrics.


 The fabric is beachy and the price is right. I can make a top for under $15.00.

 And is it possible to get more casual than this McCall’s pattern?M6355

 I liked several things about the pattern description such as a semi-fitted garment, optional vertical darts, and a pattern designed for knits and wovens.

 All that was left to do was fit the garment and add my personal touch, which came in the form of a mistake. The fabric was too thick to fold over the double-layered neck facing forcing me to finish the seam with the serger and leave the bias facing exposed. Adding the bottom bias band seemed like an obvious next step.

What do you think?


 I guess I passed the assignment, and I like the added touches, but I’m not completely happy.

 I opted out of sewing the vertical darts due to the weight of the fabric, but look at the line drawing – very shapely without the darts if you ask me. I didn’t believe they were necessary.

M6355 line

 T h i s   t o p   i s   j u s t   t o o   b o x y .

IMG_0787 2  IMG_0793 2


 I’m not much for pity parties and I had fabric left over, so guess what?


Kenneth King’s Clone Your Favorite Garment class to the rescue! I cloned a favorite, two-year old, J McLaughlin top and now I have just what I want.

The front fabric piece reveals the curves that give it a simple and attractive shape.
IMG_0795    IMG_0796

There are no darts and the top is well proportioned.

IMG_0830 IMG_0818

 This second time around I sewed French seams in the sleeves allowing me to neatly roll the sleeves and show the contrasting band.


 As I mentioned before (blogged here), Kenneth King’s course is enlightening! No measuring is involved whatsoever, the use of materials is very efficient and it unlocks designers’ secrets to coveted clothes.  I’ll never understand why the search for simplicity is often so complex – but I suppose it’s worth contemplating one of these days while sitting on the porch at the beach – perhaps in a blue and white striped top.

                          IMG_0771   IMG_0840

Best wishes :)

About these ads
This entry was posted in Basics, Easy Sewing, Kenneth King, McCall's Sewing Pattern, Mood Fabrics, Pattern Review Online Classes, sewing clothes, Sewing Tops and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

104 Responses to Anchors Away

  1. Tiffany says:

    How nice! I actually really like both versions. Yes, the first one is boxy, but it looks stylishly so (not just too big).

  2. Donna says:

    I actually like the second version much better. It’s curvy and shaped in all the right places, resulting in a much better fit. :-)

  3. caroline lazzara says:

    Fabulous! As always…….

  4. jstarr4250 says:

    I actually love the boxier one, too and can easily see it with some gauzy wide leg cropped pants. They’re both wonderful. Amazingly, I must have felt the vibes all the way from Edisto…my navy and white striped fabric arrived yesterday for another J McLaughlin inspired dress using the same exact pattern!! Love that nautical look…. Houseguest season has begun so hoopefully I can get to some sewing soon.

  5. I love both of them. I, too, have trouble with the “casual” clothes look—especially in dresses. Red, white and blue always says “casual” to me, and I think there are other combos that have that feeling, too. Brights with white. I start out every season with goals to have three casual outfits, and three “party casual” outfits, but don’t succeed. Summer is more difficult than winter, in my opinion. However much you protest, I suspect you always look great!

  6. Oh, well done! I like the second top much better :) It doesn’t threaten to overwhelm your trim shape :) Love the knit fabric, too – and the lining in the sleeve is just so cute! Unexpected touches – like when you roll your sleeves up and a fun lining shows – are just great little details.

    As usual, another wonderful inspiration for the rest of us!

  7. Deborah says:

    Have often thought it would be great if pattern companies would publish the outlines of the actual pattern pieces, rather than just a schematic. The difference between the contoured, second shirt, as opposed to the boxy first shirt would then be obvious before purchase. Really like the second shirt. I am a fan of closer fitting garments.

  8. Leigh says:

    I like the shape and simplicity of the second top. The Vneckline is more flattering on you and the shaping shows off your figure. :) Great job! On that first one, the round neck and bottom band are a bit ‘widening’ on an already boxy garment. Something about the bottom band also looks a bit Becky-HomeEc-y. Not your sewing, just the design detail. Perhaps it is too wide? Not sure.

    I’m going to have to take that Kenneth King class. :)

  9. Angela says:

    I would be happy if I had made either of them, but you’re right — the second one is better:) Your work is lovely as always.

  10. Steph A says:

    I love the fabric, and love top #2 best. The cut is so much more flattering. It amazes me how the shape can be so good without darts!

    • Thank you, Steph A! I guess RTW designers know how to design shapes flattering to millions of women. I love the fabric too and couldn’t stop until I was happy – resulting in top #2. :)

  11. Pauline Droy says:

    I tend to agree with you that the 2nd top is more flattering on you, however I do like the first top too (as a stand alone item)

    • Thanks, Pauline! My daughter immediately asked for the first top when she read the blog and well…….. it’s on its way to her. I believe it will look better on a 20 something than me and am delighted to know it won’t hang around in my closet.

  12. ewellons says:

    I actually think they are both cute — each in its own way. But you’re right about the boxy part! I made this pattern as a dress last summer and ended up adding darts in the back to give it some shape. Your J McLauglin knock-off is perfect — and the style is much more “you”!

  13. Rachel says:

    I like both! I’m learning to sew knit right now, too. My goal is to make items that fit into my lifestyle, some simpler, more casual basics. I agree with you, sometimes it’s even harder to make a simple casual garment over and fancy one!

  14. Becky says:

    I like both, but it’s important to feel good in what you wear, so I understand completely that you wanted more shaping. Both are attractive, but I can tell from the difference in your expressions how you felt about both- LOL! The expression on your face in top #1 is very dubious! I do think sewing simple clothing is more difficult. There is no fussiness to detract from the lines of the garment, and every single seam shows! You pulled it off!

  15. Lauren says:

    Well you know what they say “less is more” and this is a perfect example.

  16. I like your own more fitted version , both versions are really nice on you but your own copy just has the edge, and by the way I love your blog and find it a real inspiration.

  17. Pam from South Australia says:

    What a great comparison post. I love both versions on you but it is interesting to compare the two. Your Kenneth King class is proving to be invaluable.

  18. Helen says:

    Dang! Love the posting altogether, very educational for me. I have been mystified about knits and t-shirts; why something so simple can look so much more flattering in one almost identical style than another.
    I think you’ve shown in a few pictures and words what could fill a book about design.

  19. Ruth says:

    You need to ask? Here’s what you do – buy a yacht and wear the first one on deck: buy tickets to France and wear the second version on the Rivera – simple! You get to wear both tops and get your money’s worth – LOL.

    • LOL! I’ll take the second top and the Riviera since boats are so much trouble and I don’t really like the the first top on me. :) :) Actually I just gave top #1 to one of my daughters who wanted it after she read the post!

  20. Jennifer Reemeijer Quick. says:

    I much prefer your clone top, the other one is boxy and the fitting at the armpit is odd. I have had the latter problem with top problems too and instead clone, clone, clone- a good fit everytime! The fabric is gorgeous btw :)

  21. Karen says:

    I like them both, but the second one is definitely more flattering to you. And even for “knock-around”, it’s great to know your clothes are an enhancement, not a distraction!

  22. AncientElna says:

    Enjoyed your post and comparison of the two tops. I love the first one for its details. Yes, the cloned top is more purely flattering to your figure, however.

  23. Linda T says:

    A french dart provides shaping of a bust dart and vertical dart. Peggy Sagers puts french darts in her knit patterns. Give them a look; maybe what you would like. check out her free webcasts on her website I do think your top looks good.

  24. Joen says:

    Both tops look great, just depends on what fit you are looking for. The clone however is my favorite as I think it flatters your figure better.

  25. Vivian says:

    I agree, the second is a much better fit. The first, even though described as fitted, isn’t. I did make a knit (sweatshirt) dress once that had a dart, that I topstitched down and looked great. But is was a solid color and added to the quirkiness of the dress, which was straighter, short, and had a stand up cowl neckline, so although it was a simple style, the dart didn’t detract, as much as it did on yours. I think with the stripe fabric, you needed a more fitted style. I love the second.

  26. NinaLBoston says:

    I thought the first shirt was just fine . . . until I saw the second one! Thanks for the great example. Some day I will have to take Kenneth’s course. It must be fun to sew casual clothes instead of office wear. (How great to get exactly the length shirt you like!). And, as always, you look trim and MAHVELOUS!

  27. Carolyn Boland says:

    LOVE the second top—perfect!
    And you look great in
    Anything you wear! Thanks
    For sharing!

  28. Jill says:

    Loving everything you have done! I have let my sewing go downhill lately and needed some inspiration so I was perusing the Mood website. I was familiar with many of the Mood bloggers but something about your projects hit me. Now I’m a follower, bought some of the mood brocade and can’t wait to start my pants!

    • Hi Jill – Thank you so much for writing! There are some great bloggers on the Mood website and I’m delighted to be included. You can’t go wrong with brocade pants – good luck!

  29. artattack024 says:

    Really cute top! Is this the first thing you’ve made from this pattern? I have it and have never broken it out of the envelope. You’re really piqued my interest on the KK cloning technique…your results are amazing! :D

    • Thank you, Dorcas! Yes, this is the first thing I’ve made and I’m not sure the pattern is me so it might be my last. About the KK class – – – go for it it you have clothes you’d like to copy. The lessons are brief and I found them very informative.

  30. Denny Kenny says:

    I too love top #2 – lately I have been making all types of gathered,crossover, fancy type tops but just last week I reverted to my old faithful Butterick 6084 which is the same as your 2nd top. As soon as I looked in the mirror I was absolutely delighted with the way it looked and I appeared much slimmer (must be the v neck line). Sometimes old tried and tested patterns are the best. Could you please explain how you finished off the v neck line? My old pattern does it the old fashioned way with a stretch interfacing on the 1 1/2″ wide v neck facing. Nothing wrong with that, but so time consuming!

    • Thank you, Denny!
      I followed the instructions from the McCalls pattern for the neck facing by sewing a bias strip slightly smaller than the neckline right sides together. The facing was turned inside, pressed, stitched with a double needle and trimmed very close to the stitching since bias knits will not ravel. I used this method because the fabric is thick, but McCall’s offered three techniques.

  31. CherryPix says:

    Both look fine, but I know what you mean about preferring something more fitted. I watched KK’s class last weekend – very interesting. Did you do the silk organza ‘map” to replicate your RTW top? Wondering if you need to go to that extent to copy a knit top? Or could you just trace? I like the idea of avoiding the dart. PS – I find Jalie knit top patterns are drafted brilliantly to avoid need for darts on knits…

    • Hi CherryPix! I did do the silk organza map and I am loving this method. For instance, the side seams on my RTW top roll to the back when the garment is flat, but by pinning the garment to the organza I could flip it over and get the seam line. I do have a Jalie knit top pattern but I haven’t sewn it yet. Thanks for the tip!

  32. Andrea says:

    I really like both tops! The second one suits you better, though, an I saw that your daughter already claimed the first one – perfect solution. The red cover on the John Irving book in the last picture caught my eye. Are you a fan? Books, blue and white tops, white pants, time for a trip to the beach!

    • Hi Andrea! I received a text message from my daughter within three minutes of publishing the post :) – – – was thrilled she liked it so much and I know it will be cute on her. My husband reads all of John Irving’s books, but I couldn’t agree more that it is time for a trip to the beach! :)

  33. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, what a difference your cloned top is. Beautiful!

  34. Jacqui says:

    I like the second top better than the first. Isn’t it interesting the difference in a commercial garment and a home pattern? I think the shaping in the second makes all the difference.

    • Hi Jacqui! Yes, I’m finding there is an amazing difference between commercial garments and a home pattern. Why is that? In both instances of copying RTW it was very obvious the shaping made an enormous difference in fit and appearance. Many thanks for writing :)

  35. Karin says:

    The second project is pot on! It looks simple , but chic.
    I’ve never seen French seams on a knit before. I am intrigued; I’d like to know more about the technicalities of doing it.

  36. I love your second top! It fits beautifully. And you didn’t even have to buy a pattern. :)
    Happy Saturday!

  37. sewellen says:

    Well done on both tops! I totally get what you’re saying about casual clothes. I know I wear them way more than the dress clothes that I sew, so why don’t I make more casual things??? I like boh your tops, love that fabric.

  38. Lori says:

    I like them both but think the second looks more like you. Waist darts on the front and back would help with the bulk in the middle for the first top. Or what about a casing in the middle back waistline and add some elastic to draw it in.

  39. Pam says:

    I liked the first top, but love the second one! It definitely highlights your nice shape better. I just made a casual knit top that had the same boxy problem. I’m going to try to salvage it by bringing in the waist a bit to give a more of a curvy look.

  40. Myra says:

    What beautiful tops! I love both of them! You mastered the casual look!

  41. Oh the second one is much more flattering with shape and actually the striped fabric works better without being ‘cluttered’ by dart lines, if that makes sense.

    My TNT Tshirt pattern has the same curve shapes and the fit is just so much better.

  42. Eliza says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, and am always impressed by your lovely and stylish creations. This time, I was so impressed I immediately signed up for King’s class. The tendency of the big 4 patterns to look boxy or shapeless has always frustrated me. Thank you for sharing this eye opening solution to that problem!

  43. Javie says:

    Wow- love the second top! The stripes on the sleeves match perfectly. The second top is a better design and better fitting. Love it!

  44. danvillegirl says:

    I like both versions actually but the boxy one is more of an at home around the house look, or for a quick dash to the grocery store. The more fitted version is very flattering on you and more of a casual but more upscale look! Great fabric.

  45. SewingElle says:

    I am going to have to take that class. I liked the first one too, until I saw the second one!

  46. Philippa says:

    I like both your casual tops. The looser shape of the of the first one is very current, and the second one is very figure flattering :) I hope you enjoyed your experiment and have lots of easy, breezy beach days in your new tops!

  47. Thank you so much, Philippa! I’ve given the first one to my daughter who asked for it after reading the post, but the second one is really more me. I’ll just dream about being at the beach until I get there one of these days :)

  48. gingermakes says:

    How cute! I love both of these and love the way that you’ve taken advantage of the reversible knit. Great job, girl! You totally know how to do casual clothing!

  49. AJW says:

    Both tops are lovely but the second is a home run! I admire your willingness to revisit this challenge and consider how to improve your outcome. You are an inspiration, Sarah!

  50. Robin says:

    You are getting fantastic results from your Craftsy classes. Your 1st top is cute, but the 2nd one is sexy. Sexy is better, methinks.

  51. poppykettle says:

    Double faced stripey fabric? Oh, you know how to speak my language. Although I think you’re lying about not knowing how to sew casual clothes… because I’m totally loving this on you!

  52. Cherie says:

    I have to add my kudos to the crowd – I love both tops, though I see where you were going with the more fitted one. I guess I do not have to tell you you found the heavier weight stripe I was looking for, so I bought some! Thanks for all your inspiration!

  53. Lynne says:

    The second top is the winner….it’s such a more classic look on you without being sweatshirty.
    Well done!

  54. Great post! If you still had top #1 and tried to fix it, would you shape the side seams more? What would you do about the fit in the armscye? (Can you tell I own the McCall’s pattern and was just about to use it to make a little, basic top?)

  55. tinarathbone says:

    Forgive me if this comment is a duplicate:
    Great post. I have the boxy pattern, sigh, and wanted to make it work as a shell. Could you contour the side seams? But the armcye is a bit clunky … Let me know your (vastly more experienced) thoughts if you have a moment …

  56. Andrea Engelhardt says:

    Big difference. I want to learn how to remake clothes!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s