A scrappy little crop top has been one of my hardest working garments this summer.
It’s sleeveless and breathable, but structured and cut with enough coverage that it doesn’t feel skimpy. It’s simple and chic with something high-waisted, and surprisingly versatile when layered over a dress or jumpsuit.
And, it’s custom made & fit for me, by me.
In one of our early summer heat waves, a crop top suddenly seemed essential, and I fell in love with the wider shoulders and hem band of this one by Elizabeth Suzann. I had a length of thick, cream-colored linen on hand in the form of a curtain that fit the windows in our old apartment but none in the new one (go figure), and while cleaning my sewing space I unearthed my bodice and skirt sloper.
Do you have a sloper? I made mine in a class last summer and really enjoyed the process, but then left them untouched for a year. A crop top, it turns out, is a very simple first project to make from a bodice sloper.
My process was very intuitive, so if you have tips or techniques that you swear by, I’d love to hear! I relied a lot on measuring existing clothes and patterns to get my target measurements, and then traced from my sloper (far right) onto Swedish tracing paper to create the pattern pieces (far left is the final piece).
I made two muslins out of an old sheet, and each time I tried on the garment I wore it around a bit to get a feel for the fit, and then adjusted with pins and pen marks as needed. With each muslin I decided not to add the seam allowance to the arm holes and neckline, that way I could see where the final lines would lie on my body. The hardest part to get right was the width at the hem, because I didn’t want it to hug too closely nor swing out; it started out too wide, and then I pinched out the excess. I also carefully considered the bust dart placement (in the mirror and in my inspiration images) and ultimately lowered it by half an inch.
Once I had the fit right, sewing it up was a breeze! When I posted a progress photo on Instagram, my friend Anna asked if I would consider making one for her, and after emailing back and forth we set up a trade — a crop top for some homemade bath and body goodies (Anna has been exploring zero waste living and developed some favorite recipes to replace products like makeup and lotion, and I’m excited to try them).
I don’t often sew things for others because I tend to have higher standards than when I’m just making for myself — like if the top stitching is wonky on my own shirt, I can deal with it, but for someone else I don’t want to mess it up, which can get stressful. So I explained to Anna (who lives halfway across the country) that I couldn’t guarantee a perfect fit or finest stitching, but I would be interested in trying.
Aside from a fun handmade swap, I thought it would be a good motivation to try grading my pattern. I looked up a few tutorials online and luckily Anna’s measurements were an even 1″ smaller than mine. I calculated that I needed to take .5″ out of the front and back each, and thus reduce the pattern pieces by .25″ each (since they’re on the fold). The guide I found online suggested dividing the pattern piece in thirds and overlapping or spreading at those lines to get an even grade.
So I duplicated the pattern out of scrap newspaper and I think it worked well! Above you can see the original is slightly larger than the graded pattern piece beneath. I didn’t have any more of the linen I had used for my crop top, so I offered Anna a few options from my stash, and I think she chose the best one for this garment – a plain woven mid-weight organic cotton that I found secondhand (and then discovered it had an original label confirming its content). I shipped the finished crop top off to Anna and am looking forward to hearing what she says.