A place where a wee Scot can talk about the stuff she bores other folk with. Sewing, The Beatles, cats, and zumba may feature...

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cat Lady Sewing Challenge: the (whatever happened to) Baby Doll top

This is my second ever sewing challenge in as many weeks (the first one was my wee shirtdress which is part of the Autumn of 1000 shirtdresses) but this was actually the first one that I had intended to take part in.

When I read about Miss Crayola Creepy's Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, it seemed tailor made for me!  Addicted to buying cat-themed cotton fabricsÉ. Check. Mum to three catsÉ. Check. Inability to type question mark after Bonnie my siamese mix has been lying on top of my keyboard againÉ. Check.

(excuse me while I ctrl + shift).

And we're back?!? Sigh.......Bonnnnnnnnnnnniiiieeeeee!!!!!
Two days after we got her, weighing under a pound at 11 weeks old
Early on, Bonnie discovered how to get what she wants by giving me THAT LOOK
Spider monkey
Legs that just won't quit
Punk phase Bonnie (her hair was growing back after her big operation)
Even the sartorial wisdom of Tim Gunn can't keep Bonnie awake nowadays
There are so many cat-themed prints out there, I had tonnes of ideas of what to make for the sewing challenge but still hadn't a lot of experience in doing more than buying actual fabric. For a while now I've been wanting to make a dress from the fabric I first came across when I made a tote bag for my friend's fundraiser to help Romanian Stray Dogs.
However, when I first read about the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, I hadn't ever made a dress before, so I thought I might attempt something simpler and decided on the Baby Doll top from Christine Haynes' Simple and Chic Sewing book. This was the first sewing book I bought, earlier this year, and the main reason I actually bought it was for the Baby Doll pattern included inside.
Baby Doll top from Chic and Simple Sewing book
I had googled for any sewing tips and examples of finished versions of this top, and found a few sewers who had said they found it to be very very roomy. I was also inspired by this finished version of the top, and thought that by having a different fabric for the yoke and sleeves and another for the main body then I could get away with a metre of each (up till recently I only ever bought fabrics in metre portions as it is enough to make a few tote bags. Now that I'm starting to make clothes, I've learned to buy at least 3 metres as this will be enough to make a dress from most patterns). 
I settled on the Cat Nap in Raspberry from Lizzy House for Andover for the main body of my top, and for the yoke and sleeves I cut into a nicely matching polka dot fabric from Rose and Hubble that I had bought during the summer while home in Glasgow.

There are only four pattern pieces for the Baby Doll (score!), a decided lack of mind-melting challenging techniques (gathering the sleeves being the most fiddly), and not even a zip in sight (another score!) so it should have been a straightforward easy make, but I got all up in my head about the reviews which said it was mega roomy when sewn up, and I started messing about altering the pattern pieces. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm not sure I understand fitting issues well enough to start going all Frankenstein on patterns right now.
Avert your eyes from my rubbish freehand arrows please
I tried to avoid too much of the bulky bodice, as mentioned by previous sewers of the pattern, by removing 1 inch at the centre fold. I graded out the armholes on the top front and back yoke to make sure they weren't too tight. But when I pinned all the pieces on my mannequin, the yoke pieces just looked too small. So being in a cavalier mood, I went back and added on 1 inch to both front and back yokes (yielding a total of 2 inches width to the front, and 2 inches width to the back). Two inches now seems an awful lot in hindsight, and the shoulders of the finished top do indeed sit too far down.
I loved this! My first time doing a lining. Produces a very neat finish.
Wee Man makes himself comfortable (rare sighting of Bonnie in the background, not lying on my computer)
A top fit for Richard Kimble
Even though I had sewn up the side seams, I cut them off so that I could attach the sleeves in the flat cos that's just how I roll (and it's the only way I can cope with attaching sleeves)
Five inches too wide!
The top took me four evenings to finish. First evening to measure and cut and alter the paper pattern pieces (my mind was on the blink that evening and it took me hours to just get the paper pieces ready to pin to fabric). Second evening was cutting and sewing the top to the point of being sleeveless. Third evening was finishing the top and realising it was 5 inches too wide at the bust. And day four, I chopped it up and finally had a wearable garment.
This probably isn't any real technique at all but I decided it was easiest way to get rid of 4 inches, sew a new side seam all the way up to the end of the sleeve hem
Now I'm pretty sure that other reviewers of this top were able to measure, cut, and sew up in one afternoon. As this is only the third piece of clothing I've ever finished I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself (the shirtdress was my first dress, but second piece of clothing I've made. One day I'll write a wee blog post about the first thing I ever made!).
Minus 4 extra inches now
Wee bit sticky outy in front but no longer looks like I'm having triplets
Safety pin as fastener, as I don't have a hook and eye thing yet!
Gathered front bodice. I really like this technique which was on my shirtdress too
Gathered sleeves
I kind of wish I had made a test toile of this top first because I really love the fabrics I've used, and it is wearable but a smidgeon too close-fitting (and miles away from the comfy, easy to wear, loose smock top it should be, and which is what I wanted!). Even though I have kept a note of all the alternations I made to the original pattern pieces, as well as what I did during sewing the top, I'm now so confused I don't know what size I would cut the next time to ensure that perfect fit.
Nice top, shame about the stupit facial expression
Just getting worse, quit while you're ahead Tulloch
Not just an arse shot, but to see how the back sits. It actually skims my hips but looks like it's dead tight here
Maybe I'll make a toile before I attempt making another version of this top. I'm also thinking that I made the classic beginner mistake of choosing the wrong type of fabric for this style (and kicking myself for not using a more suited drapey cheap cotton I bought at the garage sale where I also bought the material for my shirtdress), but it's all part of the learning curve and of course I wanted to use a cat print so I could take part in the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge.

What Burt Bacharach was thinking of when he wrote The Look of Love?

As the top didn't quite turn out how I wanted, I henceforth christen it as the Whatever Happened to Baby Dawn top (one of the best movie parodies French and Saunders ever did).
Now, here's hoping I win that cat! Wait, you mean that's not the prize??


  1. I think it looks great and so does your hair by the way!

  2. Aw thanks! And hair is getting cut on Thursday :) Cannae wait, fringe is annoying me so much!

  3. I found my way over here from Ms Crayola Creepy's round-up post--I really like your top! The print mixing is really cool. And I am fond of your Rickenbacker (I had one just like it!!) AND your pretty kitties!