I enjoyed testing the Highlands Wrap Dress in extended sizing for Allie, so when the call went out for testers for the Elio top, I was happy to participate. Additionally, I am slightly lacking in simple, interesting tops in my wardrobe and I certainly don’t have any type of knit wrap top, so nailing a useful wardrobe staple really appealed to me.
The Elio is, as you can see, is a knit wrap top that comes with three different sleeve lengths: cap, elbow and full-length. It comes in two size ranges and I tested the D cup version size 16; sizes 12-30 are available in the D cup range. A knit wrap top is the kind of garment that is really hard to get right when you have a large bust. It’s a hard garment to get right for anyone – proof that simple does not always mean easy – but even more so with substantial curves to negotiate. Nevertheless, if you can nail the fit, it’s such a great staple to have in your wardrobe. It looks sleek and, for me at least, the double wrap at the front offers some coverage in a fitted top that a single layer doesn’t.
Fabric and Sizing
With this in mind, I was determined to crack this one. I tested the 16 and, as per normal with my tests, cut a straight 16. My measurements put me in between a 16 and an 18, but a lot depends on the pattern designer and the fabric you use, so I didn’t make any adjustments right off the bat. I really only alter up front if it’s a height issue or I know for sure the cup size is wrong, etc.
The instructions advise you to use midweight knit fabric (9oz to 12oz/yd) with lots of stretch and recovery. They recommend at least 50% four-way stretch: cotton/lycra or cotton/spandex mixes are given as examples. I must admit I found it tricky to find a fabric that fit those requirements. I’ve got lots of cotton/lycra that I’m only too happy to use up, but when I looked up the fabrics they were more like 5-7 oz/yd.
The fabric I used for my test garment is from Girl Charlee and is the required 10oz midweight knit with 4-way stretch, but I was surprised when I received it as it felt fairly lightweight. For my second version, I chose to use an amazing octopus knit by Sarah Watts for Cotton + Steel (bought from Quilting Mayhem, but looks like they’re sold out). The information I could find had it coming in around 7.8oz/yd, but it felt like it had some body and good stretch, so I figured I’d go for it. As it turned out, the octopus fabric seemed to have better recovery than the first fabric and held up better (literally) all round, so I guess there’s a little trial and error involved.
There are several reasons why a knit wrap top can be a tricky affair to get spot on. As I mentioned in regard to the fabric, you want something with enough recovery that it doesn’t stretch out and droop. You also need good stretch as a form-fitting garment like this will have plenty of negative ease. The question of whether the wrap intersect should go over or under the bust is another question that comes up a lot – I say do whatever you think looks nice, but people do have their preferences. Generally the properties of knit fabrics give you a much easier time with fit, but in this case (as would be with any front opening) it can also cause problems if it’s too tight across the front, so you’re aiming for a real sweet spot here.
Looking at my test garment, you can see a few of the issues. They’re small, but they’re there – the picture above shows my garment not long after I finished it. Allie drafts for slightly broader shoulders than mine, so my shoulders are slightly too long on the garment, even though my high bust corresponds to the high bust of this pattern. With this version, there wasn’t enough fabric to go over my bust, so I had no choice but to wear the wrap under my bust, which gives you a bunch of wrinkles under the bust. This in itself isn’t an issue, as it’s inevitable if you wear it that way, but don’t let it distract you from the fact that my midriff is too tight. You can see my bellybutton and the fabric is clamped around my stomach and hips quite tightly.
Now, my one measurement that was squarely in the 18 camp (rather than the 16 that I tested) was my waist and so it was no surprise that my test garment was tight around the waist/stomach. I clearly needed to grade out to the 18. If you look at the second pic above, that was after a few hours of wearing the top during the day and you can see draglines more clearly – quite a bit of excess fabric at the shoulders and armhole and, importantly my cleavage point is way lower. In fact, when I sat down, the front gaped out and you could see a lot more than you might wish to! One thing I should add is that I’m wearing a more padded bra in the second picture, which gives a different shape, so it’s another thing to consider.
Anyway, at this point various thoughts went through my head:
- There seems to be too much length between the shoulder and bust: should I take length out?
- Or is the bust apex too high, giving me excess fabric higher up? Probably, but would moving that help the issue?
- Should I do a full tummy adjustment or just grade out, since I should probably do that anyway? There’s lots of negative ease in the finished measurements so it shouldn’t affect the hip at all, which seems about right.
- Should the crossover go over or under the bust? The underwrap runs right across my nipple which is not so comfy.
- My shoulder line is pulled forward – is that just pulling from the tight tummy and wrap going under the bust? Or do I need a forward shoulder adjustment? I don’t normally.
- How should I increase the height of the wrap front if I go that direction? Should I increase height at the side seams?
You get the idea. There are always so many possibilities as to what causes problems and if you try to change everything at once you can get into an awful muddle. So here’s what I came up with:
I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did two groups of adjustments:
First, I needed to reduce width in the shoulders and decided, since I had a bit of excess fabric at the armscye too, to grade down a size to a 14 at the shoulder and armscye. This was instead of doing a narrow shoulder adjustment, which would only fix the shoulder length. I repeated this with the back piece.
I needed to match the shoulder changes by reducing the sleeve pattern piece to a 14 also. However, I kept the width of the sleeves the same. I don’t usually have to make any sleeve adjustments, but find these sleeves are snug and just wearable for me. If you do usually have to make sleeve/bicep adjustments to your patterns, I would definitely measure the pattern piece and compare to your own measurements before cutting into your fabric.
Secondly, I definitely needed more room at the waist and since my measurements suggested I should grade up a size anyway, that’s what I decided to do, rather than a full tummy adjustment (I also wasn’t sure how to do one on a wrap top, although I understand Allie is planning to cover that in a post soon).
I also wanted to raise the crosspoint of the wrap and therefore decided to combine the two adjustments. I believe it’s more usual to add to the wrap front by adding width at the neckline first, and then curving into the hem, but the neckline was already quite narrow and flush on my neck, so I decided to bring the wrap pieces out and up at the same time from the bottom, as you can see above. I added about 3/4″ most of the way up, curving into the neckline at the top.
One last thing I considered was to make a forward shoulder or forward neck adjustment as the shoulder seam wasn’t straight on my shoulder. However, I decided that this could definitely be due to other factors, so to assess after these initial changes. As it turned out, my shoulder seam was back to normal in the second garment, so it wasn’t required after all. Overall, I’m really happy with the effect of the changes. My top feels very secure and I can decide if I want the higher or lower cleavage point.
So, these things I’m discussing are largely dealing with my own personal body and requirements. But a gaping front is a common problem, no matter what your shape. There are several clever things Allie has built into her pattern which helps to address this issue.
First, as mentioned, there’s a ton of negative ease, so this is a pretty closely-fitted top. I really like the way it looks tucked in and left out. It reminds me a bit of a bodysuit when it’s tucked in and the reason is that it’s finished in a way I’ve never seen before. To finish the hem, the instructions have you sew fold-over elastic to the right side. You don’t fold it over and sew as you would normally in many applications, but leave it loose and hanging down from the hem. What this does is provide a little friction, which helps the hem stay put on your bottom half.
With all the negative ease, not to mention the nature of a cotton-lycra knit, this is a great idea. At first I was slightly dubious and I also didn’t get a great finish the first time. However, I sewed it more carefully the second time (although I should have matched the thread, but at least you can see what I’m talking about) and I can tell you – it works! It feels very secure and it’s not tight, but just keeps the shape nicely. Great idea.
As well as the elastic at the hem, there is elastic sewn into both wrap fronts. You don’t sew it with any stretch at all, but it helps keep the front in place. (As a sidenote, I love that Allie suggests stitch settings. It’s so helpful for beginners). There’s also clear elastic sewn into the side hems, which was added after feedback from the tester round. The negative ease can pull the side seam forward a bit and this helps stabilise it.
Overall, it’s a really fast and quick sew, with great, clear instructions. It took me around an hour to sew the Elio each time and the alterations just 30 mins or so, once I’d figured out what I wanted to do.
This is going to be a great wardrobe staple for me – I can tell already. One thing I’m REALLY excited about is that I can use up the fun cotton-lycra knits I have in my stash. I bought most of them a long time back with plans for tops, but after I made a couple I realised the fabric was too clingy for a standard tee. This pattern is perfect for those fabrics as the double front helps avoid the clinginess. I’ll also make some solid-colour tops – that’s something I still struggle with in my wardrobe and this pattern really offers a wardrobe workhorse that’s a little more interesting than the average knit tee. I love that it can be worn both tucked in and left out, with the V deep or higher and that it’s also a great layering piece.
PS. I’m attempting to take pictures in front of local art/landmarks this year. There are so many amazing murals in the Greater Seattle area – I’ve always wanted to do it. Let’s see how I get on. This one is a favourite in my adopted hometown: Bothell. It’s interesting because it’s a longggg way from the Woodland Park Zoo, which is in north Seattle!
And that’s it! It’s a bit more technical than usual, but I hope it might be useful and or interesting to see how I fixed my issues. Bye for now!