In my continuing quest to build up a wearable, practical wardrobe, (interspersed with off-the-cuff crazier garments of course), I decided I’d get some more SOLID woven tees and tops into my wardrobe once and for all. My problem when faced with a simple pattern is that I immediately want to make it more interesting by using a print or pattern. It’s almost a subconscious thing – I have no restraint! Argh!! When looking for some simple tops-with-a-twist, I discovered I already owned a couple, then I found a couple more I liked and the idea of a woven top collection emerged.
I say collection – I really just mean a sort of comparison. They’re all fairly quick and easy to make and I’m thinking that the variety in the construction and details will keep me going interest-wise. Let’s see, shall we? Ha. I should also mention before I get going that I was partially inspired by a post @arrowmountain posted on Instagram some time ago (whose feed I love). Her drawings are quite mesmerizing anyway, but I loved the idea of this collection. Not many of the tees I’m making are on there, but the idea is similar.
So the first top I’ve made is the Kabuki Tee by Paper Theory. If you’re thinking, “that’s a familiar name…”, it’s because Paper Theory released THE pattern of 2019 – the Zadie jumpsuit a couple of months ago. I have that pattern too, but am determined to be the LAST person to make it in the northern hemisphere (ok, not really, but it’s starting to feel like I am). I also have the Olya shirt, which I am excited to make, and I think I’ll do that in autumn.
The Kabuki Tee caught my eye when I was browsing the Paper Theory shop and the reason is the over-extended sleeve element to the design. You can see the square inserts in to the body that the extra-long sleeve piece creates. The first thing I wanted to highlight up front is that there is an excellent video on the Paper Theory website that shows you exactly how to sew two right angles together. One of my garment sides is much better sewn than the other and I’m sure you can guess that I searched out the video only after thinking, “hmm, this is a little tricky”. It’s totally fine and doesn’t bother me, but watching the video makes life much easier.
The way the pieces fit together is kind of like fabric Tetris and lots of sewists have used this to great effect with border prints or contrast fabrics… but I’m meant to be making solids remember? Ohhh, was I tempted not to, I can tell you. I sort of cheated a teeny bit by using a solid with a pattern element – but in the SAME colour. This piece of fabric is a mystery purchase from the same American Sewing Guild fabric sale I found my Nani Iro treasure from, which you might have seen on my Instagram account. Two yards of Nani Iro knit for around $1.50!! I know!!! You couldn’t see exactly what the fabric was until you got home and I totally felt like Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail, I swear. I ran excitedly to my husband, who forced a smile and a half-hearted “Cool”, so then posted it on Instagram, with a much more satisfactory reaction. Thank you, sewists of Instagram.
So anyway, (this post is a model of digression so far – I apologise), I got this mystery fabric and, even thought it’s a slippery little bugger, decided to use it for this tee to give a bit of drape to the shape. My hope was that there would be some contrast as the square sleeve parts are almost at 90 degrees to the body piece and the light hitting it changes the hue. It kind of works, but because the fabric is so slinky, it’s contrasting all over the place anyway. I think you can see it a little in the above photo, which we took in the direct sunlight. (I like to call it “Contemplation on asphalt”).
I decided to size down to a 16 on this tee (from 18) as there is a ton of ease. This was about right since I think the final hip circumference is good and I wouldn’t want it any smaller. I suspect I will end up sizing down on most of this little series of boxy tops as I need at least some semblance of fitting somewhere (shoulders mostly) to stop me resembling a Rubik’s Cube.
The pdf was very, very nicely set out and a serious breeze to stick together. One of the fastest yet I’d say, so a big thumbs up for that. Apart from sewing the corners, as above, the construction was very straightforward and, indeed, just like sewing a knit tee. Binding on woven neckbands is always a little precarious, I find, and I have a slight bowing out at the front, but I can live with it. A launder may sort that out in any case.
I tried the Kabuki tee on after I first sewed up the side seams and was… slightly hesitant about how it looked on me, to be honest. I felt I was heading for a bit of a sewing fail. But, as is often the way with sewing, once I’d hemmed the bottom and sleeves (at 2 and 1.5- inches respectively) and given it a damn good press, my feelings completely changed. I really like it! It’s slightly cropped and I really, really like the length. After the press it sat on me better and overall, it’s definitely a win.
I’d like to try it again sometime; next time in a contrast/border fabric, perhaps. And I’d probably also pick something that presses just a little bit better. I feel like I’ve learnt a new construction skill with the right angles, which is another bonus and always makes me happy – so I can recommend this one. I also just saw that Paper Theory has extended the Kabuki Tee sizing range, so good on them. Next up in this little experiment will be another top I’ve been admiring for a while – the Maya top from Marilla Walker.