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Sewing a Fancy Velvet Top Using a Basic Tshirt Pattern – a Christmas Party Must-Have

You have a Christmas party to go to and just over a meter of red stretch velvet left? That’s about what happened to me, except that I already made almost this exact top two years ago, and when trying it on the other day, I found it didn’t fit – be it that I went up a size or that I messed up the sizing on my first model. Anyway, the fabric was pulling in strange places, so I thought I’d remake it properly, and film the process for you. Initially I had planned to draft the pattern myself – hey it’s just a long-sleeve t-shirt with a boat neck, right? But then I found almost the exact pattern I would have created in my sewing stash, New Look 6838. Except for the center-back seam, which I kept, but is totally unnecessary in my opinion. Happy to be relieved of the strenuous task of drafting a pattern, and just blaming any following mistakes on the pattern company, I went ahead with look A, except that I shortened the sleeves and added a full circle peplum ruffle to the cuffs.

Obviously you can use any knit fabric, and add your own details like ruffles, necklines etc, or keep it 100% plain. As I said before, I am using a deep red velvet for mine, which looks stunning.

A Quick Note on Sewing with Velvet

Since velvet is a nap fabric I implore you to double, triple and quadrouple-check, that you lay out all your pattern pieces in the same direction, as the fabric has a VERY different appearance depending on the direction it hangs. If the pile is going down, the surface will feel smooth, and the fabric will reflect light in a glittery manner. If the nap goes up however, the fabric absorbs the light, and appears darker, more saturated in color, and, in my opinion, more expensive and luxurious. So the latter is what I’m going for. But PLEASE check before you cut! As far as the full-circle ruffles are concerned, we are actually forced to cut them as two semi-circles facing the same way to accommodate the nap, or one side of your ruffle will look different.

Pressing velvet must also be done with extreme care and low heat, as the pile is easily crushed. Always use a pressing cloth, towel or velvet board, and lift and set your iron instead of running it over the fabric. See full velvet pressing instructions.

Drafting the Peplum Ruffles for the Sleeves

The ruffles are made from a full circle of fabric, pieced together from two semi-circles. I had to create them from 4 quarters, since I was running out of fabric. If you’re using velvet, make sure all semi-circles face the same direction. If you were to cut out a seamless full circle, one side would have it’s pile in the opposite direction.

Making the Velvet Top

For detailed instructions please check the video below, but long story short, after cutting my pattern pieces out, I assembled everything using a 1.5cm / 5/8″ seam allowance. The sleeve ruffles had to be pieced together by 4 quarter-circles, as I was running out of fabric fast. They were hemmed with a 0.5 cm/ 3/8″ seam allowance, and attached to the cuffs right sides facing. Across the top of the sleeves I ease-stitched about 1cm/ 1/2″ away from the edge, using a long stitch and loose tension similar to a gathering stitch. This ensures that when fitting the sleeve to the armhole, you can ever so slightly tighten the stitches gather the sleeve at the shoulder. To avoid getting a puffed-sleeve look don’t pull too much, and make sure to spread the fullness evenly, so the sleeve will fit smoothly into the armhole. Pin and sew, twice, the second time stitching about 3mm/ 1/8″ inside the previous seam. This helps to even out any wrinkles that may still show.

The neckline was hemmed with a 1cm / 1/2″ seam allowance and a very short top stitch, that virtually disappears into the pile of the velvet. Same for the hem, except I used a more generous seam allowance of 3cm / 3/4″. Follow the suggestions of your pattern!

And that’s the top all done!

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