Style Arc Elita Designer Top

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The Elita top was released by Style Arc on Wednesday evening (Thursday AM for Australia?) as a PDF on Etsy. It is a jacket style top with a twisted, draped collar and wrap front. You can either use a tie or snap to secure the front. The fit is described as “comfortable.” While it calls for knit fabrics it is like Lekala 4011 in that it does not require a knit with a lot of stretch.

Recommended fabrics are boiled wool knit, ponte, and jersey. I used a cranberry red silk jersey. I bought it at least four years ago from Fabric Mart for an incredible price. Of course in the meantime I realized that red isn’t one of “my” colors, so it sat in my stash for a long time. It was time to use it up!

I actually followed the instructions for this, and unlike some of the other Style Arc patterns instructions I found them easy to understand and error-free. There’s a line drawing in addition to the written text to help you out with how to deal with that front drape. (The front pattern piece looks very weird.)

The “default” is to have raw edges, but if you don’t want that look the instructions note when to finish those edges. I finished my edges by doing a rolled hem for the front and collar, a 3/8″ double hem for the bottom, and 5/8″ hem for the sleeves.

I mostly used a straight stitch for construction. When I set in the sleeves I used a very narrow zigzag stitch because that area is under more stress and can use the extra stretch.

My fitting adjustments were:

  • Added a center back seam. Even though I ended up not taking it in I wanted to at least have the option.
  • 3/8″ rounded back adjustment
  • 3/8″ swayback adjustment
  • Lengthened the sleeves 1″
  • Added 1/2″ width to the sleeves at the elbow/bicep
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder adjustment
  • Added 3/4″ total width to the front side seam at the bust
  • Added about 2″ to the hip

What I like about this top: The unusual draping, the slightly roomy fit (perfect for my thin, clingy silk jersey), and the collar. If you are busty or have broad shoulders you may not appreciate this style, but it is great for adding volume to the upper half of a pear shape.

What I don’t like: The front wrap does not stay in place well. I suspect it is at least partially because this is drafted for a knit with more structure (and a less slippery texture) than my silk jersey, which is seemingly incapable of staying in one place for any length of time. What happens is when I open my arms out to the side or move around for a while, the center front opens up and I get a peek-a-boob effect. The photo below shows why I will not be wearing this top without a cami.

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I thought about how I would fix this, if I wanted to make this top again. I suspect a combination of using a more structured fabric and pinching out a dart from that center front curve would do the trick. I’m going to wait and see if other people have the same issue before forming an opinion, because silk jersey is VERY different from the recommended ponte and boiled wool. One thing I’ve really learned in my nearly ten years of sewing is that the difference between a winner and wadder is often fabric choice.

The blue top shown below the Elita top is another Style Arc Annie cami, made sometime last month. It has been getting a lot of wear lately under my wool and cotton sweaters. For those of you not familiar with this pattern it is a pull-over woven tank top. I made this particular version out of a silk crepe de chine that I dyed myself using Dharma acid dye in Sapphire Blue. This was the first time I ever dyed silk, and a couple of mistakes (rinsing in water that was too hot and not using the Dharma Dye Fixative before rinsing) resulted in a lighter color than I intended. I still like it though :)

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I used one of the Fashion Sewing Supply shell buttons and a self fabric loop instead of a hook and eye for the back closure.

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Stopping color bleed

Take a look at this writeup by Paula Burch:

FAQ: Is there any way to “set” dye in purchased clothing or fabric?

Paula Burch is a hobbyist dyer that also happens to be a scientist with a PhD. I’ve found her website, along with the Dharma Trading Information Center, the most useful for learning more about dyeing. I came across the pburch.net website a while ago when searching for more information on dyeing nylon/spandex blends, such as powernet. (Her answer confirmed my instincts: it is a balance between keeping the dye bath hot enough for the acid dye to actually work and remembering that spandex does not like exposure to excessive heat.)

I see many, many people recommend vinegar for stopping color bleed. Ever since I started dyeing fabrics myself I really started to question this. Dyes typically used for cotton and other cellulose (plant-based) fibers use soda ash as part of the process. When you add the soda ash to the dye bath it raises the ph, which encourages the dye to chemically  bond to the fabric. So using vinegar, which makes the water it is added to more acidic, doesn’t make sense.

Now acid dyes, typically used to dye silks and wool (along with nylon), do use vinegar and citric acid as part of the dye process. However, acid dyes require heat in addition to vinegar. After adding the vinegar/citric acid (which is done at around 120°F) the dye bath needs to be slowly heated to 185ºF (85°C) for silk. I’m still there stirring the fabric in the dye bath, keeping at that 185°F temperature, for at least another half hour after adding the vinegar or citric acid. It really isn’t a matter of adding some vinegar when you throw it in the washing machine.

Here’s another catch with acid dyes: the leveling class dyes (which is what most of the Dharma Trading acid dyes are) are known for dyeing very evenly. But that same characteristic means that the dye bonds are easily broken, especially when washed in water over 105°F/40°C. (Source: How Acid Dye Works.)  That’s why most manufacturers and fabric retailers recommend dry cleaning silk. It is less about protecting the fabric and more about preserving the dye job.

I hand wash my silks but I always use cool water, and I accept that there’s going to be a certain amount of color bleed. Blues seem to be the worst – I read somewhere this is due to the blue dye molecules being slightly larger in size. I do add white vinegar to the rinse, but this is to help balance the ph due to my hard, alkaline water rather than to set the dye. Silk and wool prefer a slightly more acidic environment, so adding the vinegar helps lower the ph and remove mineral build-up. The result is a softer, more lustrous fabric. (I use a diluted vinegar rinse for my hair at least once a week for the same reason.)

In case if you’re wondering about using salt to fix dyes, that doesn’t work either.

The one thing that probably will help is using Retayne. (I use the Dharma Dye Fixative, which is probably the same thing.) This treatment is almost like glue in that it creates a physical rather than chemical bond of the excess dye to the fabric. I found it extremely helpful when I dyed some silk using Sapphire Blue, which is a leveling dye with a poor washfastness rating. If you do use Retayne or Dharma Dye Fixative, make sure you always wash the fabric in cool water after treatment. If you wash it with hot water it will just remove the Retayne.

Lekala 4011 Sweatshirt, Version 2

Had the day off from work today due to the blizzard:

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The total snowfall where I live ended up being around 12″ (30cm).

I decided to spend part of it sewing my second version of Lekala 4011.

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The only change I made from my first version was adding about 1/2″ width to the elbow area of the sleeve.

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Someone asked how it looked worn open. My opinion? Bad.

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I don’t like to wear jackets open to start with because it makes my waist completely disappear, but as you can see this just doesn’t work with the asymmetrical center front pieces.

I have worn my first version – made out of a cotton sweatshirt fabric – almost constantly since making it a few weeks ago.

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This time I used a chunky wool/mohair/lycra sweater knit from Gorgeous Fabrics, acquired a little over a year ago. It is stretchier than the sweatshirt fabric, so the fit is a little looser.

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I was not a fan of this fabric. I mostly made myself do something with it because at $21/yard it was not a cheap piece of fabric. (Fortunately I needed only 2 yards.) I am not someone that’s sensitive to wool, but this particular one is scratchy so I need to wear a shirt under it. I can deal with that though. My main issue is that it sheds like CRAZY. I have little bits of fibers EVERYWHERE. As you can see in the photos, my pants are covered with it, my original Lekala 4011 is covered in it, and there’s balls of fluff around my serger and all over my sewing machine…ugh. At least it is warm, and has a nice drape. And it pressed really nicely.

For the hems and binding I used a black doubleknit, also from Gorgeous Fabrics. I recommend using ribbing or a contrast knit if your chosen fabric for 4011 has poor recovery.

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Along with the pockets and neck edge seam allowance I used it to bind the center front underlap.

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My pattern required a 21″ zipper. I shortened a black #5 nylon coil zipper from Cleaner’s Supply to make it fit.

For construction I once again used the two-thread wide flatlock stitch on my Babylock Evolve. This time I used it to attach the hems as well as for general construction. All other seams were done on my regular sewing machine (a Janome 6500P) with the aid of the even feed foot.

I used 3/8″ cotton twill tape to stabilize the shoulder seams. After sewing them with a straight stitch I went back again and zigzagged along the cotton twill tape and trimmed the excess fabric to minimize bulk. When it came time to attach the collar to the neck I first sewed all the layers together using my regular sewing machine, then attached a single fold binding out of the black double knit. I then tacked it by hand at the front edges and topstitched it in place around the rest of the neckline. Due to the bulk I had a really difficult time applying the binding and topstitching it evenly. It is not the neatest, but it does its job hiding the ugly, chunky seam allowances.

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