How to sew a beginners’ silk crop-top (and without pattern!)

Yes, summer has arrived and with it, heat, sweat and unruly hair situations. In today’s post, we will bring a nice little breeze in our wardrobe by creating a silk crop top to keep you fresh and stylish even in the deadest heat wave… And exactly in the “pyjamas” current trend. Shall we? 

Inspiration

In a few months, I’ll be back in France as a guest to one of my friend’s wedding. And what a good excuse to make a brand new dress! I envision a flowing silk dress artfully folding over my body like in the movies of the old days.

Yes but, apart from my wedding dress (translation of the tutorial to come, available here in French), I never actually used that kind of flowy fabric. They have kind of bad reputation, being slippery and all. To test the waters at a lesser cost, I bought a random piece of said silk material and embarked in creating a little crop top perfect to wear under a denim or leather jacket.

A few of the images I had in mind when creating the top

Because it is “Pride Month” here, we decided to have a little photo shoot in beautiful Castro, the Gay neighbourhood of San Francisco.

America just how I love it: open, exuberant, colorful…

Because we really need a dose of that living under Trump’s presidency…
One of the many fire truck that might wake you up at night being so loud and everything 😉
The very famous Castro Theater where you come with your family to “sing along” old classics
In front of Cliff’s Variety, a crazy “find everything” shop
Non fat, Non GMO, Sugar free, Palm Oil free. But still not good for keeping in shape. But who cares : YOLO! at Easy Breezy
You already knew that jean jacket (tutorial here, photo shoot here) but did you know it had a “glitter ball ” effect too?
Is the Beast coming to get me if I take this rose  unknown flower from his garden?
There is a nice “cocker spaniel ears in the wind” effect on this photo I rather like
Yes I confess there is a little blunder in this top, the décolté has a tendency to go wavy. Maybe because I didn’t use any interfacing?
Back criss-crossing is a good option if like me your shoulder straps tend to fall on your arms
When you think you can recreate a Cirque du Soleil routine but actually… No, you can’t

Silk art mastering

Choosing a silk fabric is actually quite tricky. In US fabric shops, they are generally gathered under 2 categories: “silk” and “silkies”. But they encompass so many options! The best in my opinion is to find the fabric with the greatest amount of natural fibers. It is that detail that will enable you to sweat in it wear it under the heat gracefully.

Objective: silk expertise

So you are in the fabric shop. There are no exact labels to tell you the % of each fiber in the fabric. How do you make your mind on your best option if you are not an expert? What clues can you use?

  • Price: something that “looks” like silk but cost 3$ a yard will likely be a “silky”, an ersatz that isn’t great to wear on bare skin. And since you are making a little top, you don’t need that much and can spend 10$-20$ on a good soft-as-a-baby’s-buttcheek real silk fabric.
  • Softness : on that topic, test the fabric with your fingers : will it be agreeable on bare and very delicate skin? Avoid scratchy glittering option too, unless you have a planned lining. If a piece of clothes is pretty but you don’t feel great in it, let’s be honest, your chance of actually wearing it more than once are close to zero…
  • Temperature: Like most natural fiber I know of (like real wool versus acrylic) natural silk will feel “colder” on you hand than fake one. You can hold 1 synthetic fabric in one hand and “silk” in the other, you will feel the difference in temperature.
  • Wrinkle free: To make your life simpler, look for silk that are wrinkle free. Just grab a handful and see how quickly it regains shape. Look for the ones that don’t create wrinkles, that’s going to be easier to maintain…

Make your silk top in 4 steps

First brainstorming with the fabric : what to do with it?

Step 1 – pick one of your favorite top as a guide

As you know by now, I find it hard to restrict myself with only following patterns. Just like last week’s swimsuit tutorial, we will use an existing top as a guide. This time though, no need to cut it, you can trace around it easily. Yes this technique doesn’t work every time for stretchy fabric (RIP 2 yards of too tight wasted fabrics) but it gives great results on non-stretch ones as the margin of error is smaller. And what a time winning technique if it works!

Position you top on your fabric. Better to cut “flat”, 1 layer at a time.

I went for 2 layers for my top, to avoid too much transparency and be able to wear it day and night. Both layers are identical.

If your fabric is too “slippery”, you can apply this starch technique I learn during my time at the costume workshop:

  1. Test the entire technique on a small amount of your fabric first. No stain after ironing? Go for it!
  2. evenly spray your fabric with a thin layer of starch. It should be slightly wet but nowhere near “dripping”
  3. Iron it flat and voilà, fabric is now nice and stiff
  4. After sewing, wash the top to get rid of starch, the fabric will regain its “slipperiness”
cutting the second layer

Step 2 – create a different back option

Because having the same top in 2 colors would be boring, I made a slight alteration at the back

Just cut to form a slight oval shape in the back

Step 3 – bring the 2 layers together

The 2 layers come together at the décolté
the needles indicate roughly where the seam will be

Step 4 – add straps

I created several spaghetti straps to give me option for positioning them in the back. Found a tutorial here in case you would be lost but it is very simple really.

See the difference of fraying before and after “pinking” the edges?

To avoid ugly fraying seam, I used the french seam technique. Very neat and easy to do. And only add 10-15 minutes to your work time.

You can find a nice tutorial below from one of my favorite sewing blogger With Wendy (skip video to 3”55 for french seam tutorial). I also used her hemming method (skip to 5″30 on video) to have a clean bottom seam.

Straps test 1
Straps test 2

And voilà, you are done!

What do you think? tempted to make one too? The silk is a real pleasure to wear I confess. I wear this at home as a pyjama or under a jacket during the day. It is so far the most successful project I completed in terms of “actually wearing what you made”

Technical details

Cost : 20$

  • 1,5 yard (or 2m) of flowy silk fabric
  • sewing machine, thread, scissors

Time needed? half a season of Jane the Virgin

To visit Castro “sewing style”

What about you, what did you sew for summer heat? What’s your impression of sewing silk?

I took pictures of the Gay Pride yesterday so another article is coming about that this week. Next, a swim suit tutorial ;-).

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La bise

Alicia

 

Un avis, une question? A vous le micro !