Remember how I’ve set a goal to make 5 garments by the end of my sabbatical? Remember also how I completely wussed out last week?

Well, this time I had a plan, to be completed in one day:

  1. Pick an inspiration
  2. Pick a pattern, print and cut it out
  3. Pick fabric, purchase
  4. Transfer pattern onto fabric
  5. Cut out pattern with seam allowance
  6. Assemble the garment
  7. Wear it!

In the undying words of Mike Tyson,

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

So here’s my journey to me-made velvet tank top ownership, and how literally nothing went according to plan.

Day 1: Inflated Expectations, Trough of Sorrow

Step 1: Pick an inspiration

Readers will recall this Alexander Wang top serving as the basis for my first sabbatical piece: a basic velvet tank top, mine in black.

With my sights set on that stunner, expectations ran high.

Step 2: Pick a pattern, print and cut it out

Part of the fun in creating garments at home is the bricolage that comes with PDF pattern assembly. For those totally new to the print-at-home pattern game, PDF patterns are printed using standard printer settings on standard paper, then taped together by the would-be sewist.

The closest pattern I found to my inspiration was the Diana camisole by the now-defunct Sewloft. So, at 10:27AM, I printed and trimmed the pattern as it was…

… then made some modifications:

  1. Because my measurements fit three different sizes of the pattern, I re-drew the side seams accordingly for better fit. Measuring from the bottom of where the completed garment would fall, I found where approximately my bust and waist lines would be. Then, on the pattern itself, I marked those and used my trusty sleeve curve ruler to draft a new pattern line.
  2. I straightened the top of the back piece instead of the racerback-ish shape suggested by the pattern.
  3. I wanted to bias-cut the garment for better drape, so I added 45 degree grain lines.

Step 3: Pick fabric, purchase

For $67, I got myself some velvety fabric, lining, and silk to use for the spaghetti straps.

It should be noted here that the fabric I ended up with was not as scary as the fabric I wanted to use. Walking into Darrell Thomas, I’d asked for velvet (silk, or cotton) and ended up with stretch velour (spandex and polyester). This could have been a bad thing – I tend to prefer natural fibers like cotton and silk in my clothes – but it turned out to be incredibly good for constructing the garment, as I’ll describe.

Step 4: Transfer pattern onto fabric

As I mentioned, I wanted to cut the velvety fabric on a 45 degree angle so that it would look better on. My inspiration also had a striking center front seam, which I wanted to replicate, so this meant cutting the front in two pieces instead of one.

I enlisted the somewhat underdressed Cara Delevingne to aid my pattern-tracing efforts.

Because the lining didn’t need to fall as prettily as the velour, I decided to cut it on the fold as the pattern prescribed.

That Cara, she’s a real gem.

Step 5: Cut out pattern with seam allowance

Diana comes with seam allowances, so cutting it out just involves following lines with scissors. The only pieces I had to add seam allowance to were the two parts of the front, which was also easy-peasy with my handy-dandy tool-a-majig that I’d mentioned before.

Step 6: Assemble the garment

The very first seam I stitched was to attach the two front halves together. This is where I was in for a pleasant surprise: the velour was freaking magical. It did not slip, it did not slide. In fact, the tiny loops that create the velvety plushness pile were like thousands of little helping hands, clasped together to help my project stay firmly in place under the needle. Seriously, fantastic.

At this point, if you’re counting, I had four total pieces of fabric: the sewn-together velvety front, the back, and the lining front and back. The idea (which, frankly, I made up since Diana is unlined) was to sew the side seams of the velvety pieces, then the side seams of the lining, then attach them together.

After a mild freakout, which involved holding the front half of the velvety fabric to myself and observing that it’s definitely too bloody small, I figured I’d better baste the side seams together and see if I have just spent a rather long time frivolously lacerating velour.

I tried it on, and thankthelordbabyJesusitfit.

Sewing up the side seams of the outer garment was entirely uneventful, so I decided to inject some excitement into the proceedings by sewing the lining 1/4″ tighter than the outer tube. I reasoned that the inside of the garment probably needs to be slightly smaller than the outside to fit in well.

That was a terrible mistake.

Still, I persevered, and sewed the tops of the two tubes together, trying to pull on the lining as I stitched to line it up with the outer fabric. It didn’t. It actually kind of buckled and bunched, but onward I went.

I also left the tops of the front part unattached about an inch so that I could fit straps through them. Well past 5 straight hours of sewing, I decided to call it a day in fear of fubaring this tank top entirely.

As such, stay tuned for part 2, in which I create 3 different pairs of straps! Riveting!

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