PSB – Challenge No. 1 – 1940s Style Sun Top

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Sewing Bee Challenge 1 - 1940s Style Sun Top - Retro Claude


Sewing Bee Challenge 1 - 1940s Style Sun Top - Retro Claude

So the deadline for the first Petersfield Sewing Bee has passed and my entry is on display in the window of my local fabric shop. So now I think would be a good time to show you what I made, a 1940s style sun top.

You will remember from my previous post that the first challenge was to make something out of 1 yard of fabric, 2 feet of patterned and 1 foot of plain. I ummmed and ahhhhed about what I should make out of such a small quantity of fabric.

I considered making a bag or a purse, but I’m a dressmaker at heart and feel much more confident with clothes. Should I make something for a child but the tiny measurements throw me off as I so rarely make for anybody under the age of 11. But could I really make something for an adult out of such a small quantity of fabric?

It turned out I could. By coincidence I had picked up in a sale a pattern for a 1940s style sun top (Simplicity 1426*) which called for, you guessed it, only 1 yard of fabric. There were several different style options for the pattern but I went for the one that used the least fabric.

Here’s how I did it:

Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 1
Cutting out the pattern pieces from the poppy patterned fabric. The challenges are all loosely themed around WW1, hence the poppy pattern here.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 2
The first step was to stitch a line of stay stitching along the diagonal edge of the neckline. Stay stitching stops the fabric being pulled out of shape as you sew.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 3
The pattern was originally lined, but I didn’t quite have enough fabric for that so instead I created a facing for the neck edge. I traced around the neck edge for the front pieces and cut a strip approximately 2″ wide, then hemmed the edge that wasn’t going to be joined to the neck edge.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 4
The facing with the hems stitched in place.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 5
With right side together, I pinned the facings along the neck edges and stitched them in place using a 1.5cm seam allowance.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 6
Once I had joined the facings to the neck edge I pressed the seams open and did a line of edge stitching. This is where you catch the facing to both layers of seam allowance but not the main fabric. This stops the facing rolling around to the right side of the fabric.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 7
With the facing in place, I stitched the darts in the cups. When stitching a dart, to get a crisp point on the end I don’t reverse stitch as I usually would but I leave the threads long and tie a knot instead.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 8
I then pressed the darts flat towards the hem of the top.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 9
The I joined my side seams using a French Seam. This enclosed all the raw edges neatly and is stronger than a standard open seam.


Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 10
The neck step was to create the halter neck straps. For this I used the plain green cotton instead of the print. I folded the two stripes in half and machined around one end and up to the notch in the pattern. I then trimmed the corners and turned the straps the right way around. Then I pressed under the seam allowance for half of the strap I hadn’t stitched.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 11
Sorry I skipped a step photograph wise but you can see the two next steps in this picture. First of all, I pinned and machined the pleats in place along the top edge of the sun top. I continued the stitching along the pattern piece to act as edge stitching. Then, I opened out the folded half of the strap. With right sides of strap to wrong side of top, I pinned one half of the strap to the top edge of the top.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 12
I then machined along the crease of the strap and pressed the free half of the strap over the top of the newly stitched line. This enclosed the raw edges of the top and the strap.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 13
The next thing to do was to slip stitch the strap to the top. I could have done some machine top stitching but I prefer the look of hand finishing so I took the time to hand sew the straps.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 14
Now with the straps on I needed to join the two halves of my top. I matched the balance marks and stitched along the bottom edge joining the two halves and stay stitching the rest.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 15
I then repeated the process of attaching the straps for the bottom band of the top. Pressing the seam allowances under, I opened one half out and pinned in right side of the strap to the wrong side of top. Next I machined the band in place, folding over the remaining half and slip stitching the right side.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 16
With the slip stitching complete I gave the bottom band a good press.
Retro Claude - 1940s Sun Top PSB - Step 17
Because I wasn’t lining the top, I had a raw edge at the centre back. I decided that it would be neatest to turn the raw edges under twice and hand stitch them in place. I’m pleased with how this ended up looking even if it wasn’t ideal.

I then forgot to take any photos of me adding the button and buttonhole because I find buttonholes very stressful. Forgive me, I hope to do a photo tutorial of that soon.

But then there we have!

The Finished 1940s Sun Top

1940s Sun Top - The finished sun top - Retro Claude

I’m really pleased with how my sun top turned out. When I first saw the poppy print I thought it was too large a scale for such a small sun top. But it ended up looking very effective.

Let me know what you think of my first entry to the Petersfield Sewing Bee. The next challenge is a refashioning challenge which I am really excited about. So make sure you stay tuned for that!

Also do you find these sort of post helpful? I am thinking about doing a series of sewing tutorials since I wrote my post on how to sew a blind hem. Would that be something that you would find useful?

Let me know, Claude xx