Comfy, Easy-to-Sew, Easy-to-Hack Top

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In this blog, Helen Bartley, our workshop instructor, and I introduce you to our newest pattern.
We liked it so much, we hacked it!

What is the pattern? Read on …

two hacks to pattern M7979

McCall's pattern M7979 knit top envelope

McCALL’S M7979 Top and Tunic

I wanted a fit-forgiving top that was easy to sew—so I designed McCall’s pattern M7979, a top and tunic pattern for knits. I was inspired by a swim coverup and drafted the pattern adding a sleeve and collar option. It is designed to fit snugly around the hips to create a blouson look. Recently, I sewed it in three different fabrics, covering all seasons and many occasions.

Knits for Real People book

Look for techniques on sewing knit fabrics in the pages from our Knits for Real People book at the bottom of this post.

McCall’s 7979 line art:

M7979 line art

Below, I’m wearing View C, a winter version—a sweaterknit with a skewed cowl collar and ¾-length sleeves.  Later in this blog we will give you the skewed cowl instructions from our book Knits for Real People. You can add it to any pattern, even a round neck tee shirt.

M7979 gray knit top with cowl neck on Pati Palmer

Below, a McCall’s model wears it as a tunic. Since it wasn’t sewn for her, I think it wouldn’t stay up around her hips. But it does make a great easy-fit tunic or dress!! If you want it to be a dress, check the length to make it the length you want before cutting. Later in this blog, see Helen Bartley’s dress versions of this pattern.

Model wearing View C of M7979

SIZE AND FIT

M7979 size and fit

I sew with a size 12, but for all of these tops I used a size 10, which is the size of the pattern tracing McCall’s sent me. A size 10 is for a 32-1/2″ bust, but the size 10 pattern finished garment measurement (FGM) is 60” in the bust. We doubt most of you would need a full bust alteration.

Usually McCall’s lists the bust FGM on the back of the envelope, but here they listed only the width at the lower edge. Don’t use that as a reference for the size to buy. Stick with your normal top size or go smaller if you want less ease. Your knit will stretch and NEEDS TO STRETCH to fit your hips snugly.

I took 36” of my knit (the hip FGM of the size 10) and stretched it around my hips. In all three of my fabrics, the knit stretched to fit snugly and I didn’t need to add to the side seams.

McCall’s decided to add shirring in the side seams of the lower hip area for lightweight knits. It is a nice touch, but not necessary if you fit the knit snugly, because then it will stay up.

The top is so forgiving that I needed only to do a high round back alteration and sway back, and those instructions are in the pattern. You can also change the length and width of the top depending on your frame and fabric. If you are short waisted, take a horizontal tuck across the middle to have less blousing.

If you really do need a FBA (full bust adjustment), the alteration lines are on the tissue and the guide has instructions.

A SHORT SLEEVE VERSION

This black rayon jersey version has a dropped shoulder and open neckline. It is the same size that the previous skewed cowl collar was sewn to. It’s fun to wear and accessories can totally change the look.

M7979 in black rayon jersey

Here’s what the short sleeve view looks like on the McCall’s model.

M7979 short sleeve view on model

CUTTING TIP FOR PATTERN PIECES WIDER THAN THE FABRIC

My pattern was first created using Perfect Pattern Paper gridded tissue. The gray sweaterknit was a little narrow for the width of the pattern, so I folded the pattern edges under at the side seams in the bust area. I folded the same amount away on the underarm seams of the sleeve. It made the armhole a little less deep, which was OK.

using gridded Perfect Pattern Paper

VIEW B IN A PRINT

Here the McCall’s model is wearing View B with the open neckline and ¾-length sleeves in a rayon/poly/spandex interlock print with capris. The neckline has a band finish. We will show you that technique from Knits for Real People later in the blog.

Model wearing M7979 View B

Here’s the same top on me. I like the hip-slimming look of the side view.

Pati wearing M7979 View B in a print knit

HELEN’S ITALIAN SCREEN PRINT KNIT

Helen found this rayon jersey screen print from Italy at Josephine’s Dry Goods here in Portland (@josephinesdrygoods). Using View B, she lengthened the pieces, then fussy-cut the print, placing what she wanted on front, back, and sleeves.

(Helen teaches not only Palmer/Pletsch workshops but also classes in her home-based sewing school, Seam Divas Sewing Lounge in Vancouver, Washington. @seamdivas )

Helen Bartley's dress-length version of M7979 in an Italian screeen print

Helen sewed it in one evening during this year’s summer sewing camp and wore it the next day. Note the armhole would fit almost any size upper arm.

Helen's M7979 dress at our Palmer/Pletsch "Summer Camp" workshop

PATTERN HACKS!

The easiest hack (changes you make to a pattern) is just to cut it off into a short top as Helen and I have done. We wanted a few short tops to show off the details of all of the jeans we have sewn (for our 4-day jeans workshops that Helen teaches). The hack? I just cut off the length like I did for the green and black top at the beginning of this blog. Helen did the same but also raised the front neck.

Patii and Helen in cut off versions of M7979

Helen adds, “For the two shorter tops I had to get creative due to yardage limitations. I was easily able to hack the pattern to fit the fabric by folding the pattern from shoulder to hem, narrowing it by 3” which equals 12” total. I later narrowed the gray top from the underarm to the hem and that became the pattern I used for the maroon patterned top shown below. Both tops have narrow machine-stitched hems at the sleeves.”

adjusting width of M7979 top

“The gray top is handstitched at the neckline. The maroon top neckline has a self-fabric binding.”

Helen in a burgundy fabric version of M7979 and the "No-Side-Seam" pant M7415

“The top is paired with my favorite pant: M7415, the No-Side-Seam Pant in a lightweight rayon/nylon/spandex blend ponte from Josephine’s Dry Goods.”

M7414 No-Side-Seam Pant pattern

ANOTHER DRESS-VERSION HACK

Helen in her Seam Divas Sewing Lounge wearing her just-finished knit dress in a rayon/spandex jersey tie-dye print.

Helen wearing a dress version of M7979 in a tie-die fabric

She lengthened the top to almost ankle length using a yardstick. From just below the waist she cut straight down to add length and snip marked where she wanted the slit to start.

lengthing M7979 to make a dress

I’ll let Helen tell you what she did:

TIPS FROM HELEN

I stabilized the back neckline with SewkeysE Extremely Fine Woven Stay Tape and bound the neck with a crosswise grain strip of self-fabric. If you sew this top in any rayon jersey, be sure to stay the back neck or it will grow.

I serged the shoulder seams with a 4-thread seam (3mm L x 6mm W) and left the seam unstabilized just to see what would happen. I like it!

I basted to check fit and then serged the side seams using the same stitch as the shoulders.

I added mitered side slits. To leave enough fabric for the slits, I stopped my serging on the side seams 14” from the bottom edge. I carefully ended the seam by stopping and folding the remaining seam allowance out of the way and then chaining off the edge. I drew the chain back through the stitches and applied Fray-Check to the cut ends.

Helen's tips for mitered side slits

I tried the dress on and tied a narrow scrap of fabric around my waist, adjusted the blouson and marked the level of the tie with pins at the dress sides, center front and center back.

Elastic waist on M7979 dress

I used a ½”-wide strip of Pamela’s Fantastic Elastic at a length just slightly tight around my waist to make sure it would fit after being stretched and sewed. I divided both the elastic and the dress in eighths and zigzagged (3.5mm x 3.5mm) the elastic to the wrong side of the dress, stretching the elastic to fit the dress.

We like Pamela’s elastic because you can cut it to any width and it won’t ravel on cut edges!

For the mitered side slits I used the step-by-step instructions in the Palmer/Pletsch book Knits for Real People, page 103, shown below.

The sleeves are hemmed with a 5/8” narrow hem. Voila! Easy, breezy summer dress!

Knits for Real People book

TIPS FROM THE KNIT BOOK

AN EASY MITERED SLIT

Helen wrote these instructions and made and modeled a dress with mitered slits for Knits for Real People.

a page on mitered slits from Knits for Real People

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BANDS FOR KNIT NECKLINES

band for knit neckline

band instructions from Knits for Real People

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A SKEWED COWL COLLAR

skewed cowl neckline

skewed collar instructions

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HEMS FOR KNITS

Paper-backed Steam-A-Seam is used to turn up the edge once and fuse. See instructions from Knits for Real People below.

   

fused hem instructions from Knits for Real People book

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9 Responses
  • Deb Del Nero
    November 21, 2019

    I love this new pattern and you two are as adorable as ever. There is lots of great info here. Thanks!

  • Laura Cox
    November 21, 2019

    What a fabulous post full of fashion and technical info!! I want this pattern..like NOW! I have Knits for Real People but totally skipped over the tutorials, so thank you for demonstrating how to apply these techniques to this particular pattern. I will be sewing tonight.

  • Meagan
    January 17, 2020

    Amazing amount of detail in this blog, I love it.
    Would love to see how it fits on a short round person (like me), as it would be a very versatile pattern to have in my stash.
    Thanks again

    • Pati Palmer
      February 22, 2020

      It’s easy to sew. Might be worth trying. You could decide to wear it as a long top or dress instead. You can always shorten it to have less blousing. If you don’t love it, it sure is comfortable for lounging at home. I made one out of a solid color interlock and didn’t do a great job on the neck band. I was going to get rid of it, but made the decision to wear it at home. It is so nice! I’ve thought of making it my nighty!!

  • Elaine
    February 21, 2020

    I have a large abdomen and wonder if the snug band on the bottom would accent that figure flaw and, perhaps, it would be better to let the top hang loosely.

  • Pati Palmer
    February 22, 2020

    In our 4-day fit workshop last week, I allowed all sizes of ladies try on my tops. Those who were larger couldn’t believe how good they looked in them. Especially when the largeness was in the tummy. I wish I would have taken a photo. You can make the top a little shorter for a little less blousing, especially if you are short.

  • mary
    September 12, 2022

    Hi
    Anything related to dress I love it… same as I order something from O2clothing is awesome must check out their collection

    Check it out. O2clothingstudio

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