Sew Positivity’s Gwen Sew-A-Long : Top Tutorial

Simple Sew Blogger Gwen, Sew-a-long, Tutorial, White Tree Fabrics 3 Comments

Simple sew Gwen Trousers and top pattern x white tree fabrics x sew positivity

I won’t lie, I am a major snuggle bunny! If I could wear pajamas 24/7 and still manage to pull off being professional, I would. When I look at my handmade wardrobe I see lots of lovely linen skirts, viscose dresses and the occasional adventure of me tackling tulle but there is a serious lack of lounge wear! What the pug?

When I was offered the chance of choosing a pattern from Simple Sews extensive range I’ll admit my eye’s went directly to the Bardot dress, of which you can find a beautifully made up version by fellow simple sew blogger Thumblenina here.  Of course we all need just one more beautiful dress to add to our wardrobes, but this doesn’t address my need for comfort and the ability to answer the door to my fabric delivering postie without her raising an eyebrow as to why I am wearing adventure time PJ’s at 2pm.

The Gwen Pattern is described as being a relaxed top and harem pant combo, and the pattern line drawings show a stylish lady sporting heels with her waist peeking out between a cropped batwing top and shirred trouser waistband.


The front cover and description may not automatically make you envision pj’s that don’t dob you in for not dressing up on your days off, but I could see the potential to make subtle changes to the pattern and a clever choice of fabric can make or break a garment.

Fabric. AHHH YEAAAHHH. The Gwen top and bottom both call for stretch fabrics (although I could see a lovely ethnically inspired pair of woven viscose

Gwen bottoms sneaking into my summer wardrobe at some point) but I think we can agree that jersey fabric can be a minefield. White tree fabrics to the rescue! They stock a wide range of different fibre and weight jerseys on their website.  If you need any hand holding over pattern and fabric pairing don’t hesitate to contact them.

I felt the top needed a fluid fabric to make the most of the sleeves and the bottoms called for a more structured weave with good recovery and drape. I chose a white 94% viscose  6% spandex jersey for the top and Art gallery 95% Premium Cotton and 5% Spandex Knit for the bottoms. Both of these fabrics have the perfect qualities for day to nightwear and both have washed and worn very well. (Seriously, I have lived in my Gwen set since sewing them)

There are a few things that are really important to me when I sew a pattern up, and one of those is wearability. Like I have mentioned before it is all very good sewing up something lovely, but if you end up not wearing it (or worse still) reaching for an RTW over your beautiful creations, it’s time to reevaluate! My signature style does not include having my midriff on show to anyone other than my most intimate friends, such as my pug Waldo!


I decided to lengthen 9cms from the bottom of the pattern to give me a little more coverage and let me resume my cake eating without too much concern. Because the Gwen is a very simple boxy top shape, extending it was very simple and you need no pattern drafting knowledge to achieve it. Just be sure to make the same adaptations to the front and the back pattern pieces.


The first thing you are going to need to do is lay your pattern out on the fabric according to the lay plan in the pattern instructions and cut your fabric out. If you are working with a tricky, slippery fabric I suggest using all the pins and some trusty pattern weights to help lock that fabric down. I use a pair of super sharp scissors for cutting, but I know that many people swear by rotary cutters for jersey. I’m a scissor sister, but don’t let me dictate your rotary party.


The Gwen has no pattern markings on it and as a result, using white fabric without an obvious right/wrong side can be an issue. In cases like this I like to take my trusty pastel pencil (a trick I picked up from the beautiful Portia Lawrie) and mark the right side WITHIN the seam allowance on both the front and back pattern pieces. I find these pencils wash away easily but you can never be too careful.


Now with right sides together, (see why I made those marks) pin your shoulder seams together and get ready to sew them up.


I’m using an overlocker to make my seam, but the seam allowance on the pattern is 1.5cms. To help me get the right seam allowance on my overlocker I like to add a little bit of washi tape to highlight where I am trimming off too. I use my trusty sewing gauge to check that my left needle is hitting that 1.5cm mark. I also do a test run with cut outs from the make. I’m a double protection kinda gal.

If you are using a sewing machine you need to be using your single ballpoint needle and walking foot. I suggest staying away from zig zag stitches on seams if you can and use the triple stitch or lightening bolt stitch (refer to your manual to see if you machine has these stitches) as these stitches give a more professional looking finish.


Here we go. Sew the shoulder seams removing the pins as you go. If you are using a sewing machine, be sure to press the seam open and then finish them using the overlocker or zig zag stitch at this point. I like to leave a good few inches of thread at the start and end of each of my seams (I’ll explain why in a bit).


So far, we should have something that looks as awesome as this! So the instructions suggest finishing the neckline next, but I am a lazy seamstress. As I have my overlocker set up I want to get as much done of my top before swapping over machines. I don’t have unlimited table space. Obviously be careful NOT to stretch your neckline out, and if you have a very delicate knit, just move down the tutorial to where I finish off the neckline. Otherwise, Arm holes!


Depending on how you want to hem your armholes depends on how you would finish the raw edge. I’ve decided to go with an overlocker-created rolled hem. You could use bias binding, you could overlock the edges and then use an invisible stitch, or you could leave them raw. If you are using bias then apply it before sewing up the side seam. See below neckline tutorial for bias binding finish.


To sew up the side seams, place the fabric right sides together and align the seams so that they match. Pin from A to B as shown above and either overlock or triple stitch/lightning bolt using a 1.5cm seam allowance.


Repeat on both sides of your side seams and you should end up with a seam that looks like this. Give it a good press.  Now you can finish your armholes how you want. If you are roll hemming on an overlocker I suggest having a play on scraps before finishing your garment. Now we are going to turn under the hem.


Finish the hem. If you are not using an over locker go ahead and zig zag or over lock stitch on your regular machine. As you can see I have moved my seam allowance tape, as you don’t want to remove much of your fabric as you surge. I lined mine up with the edge of my plastic guide. We can now put aside the overlocker and set up our regular machine.


Now this is where I like to use a double needle to get a lovely professional finish. Here is my machine, set up with her double blue top needle and threaded with her two spools of thread. If you have never used a double needle before have a good test run on scrap fabric before having a go on the garment.


My machine has two thread holders as you can see above. This helps to keep the thread separate and stop them having a knot making party. Not the kind of party I want to be invited to.


Because you will stop stitching on the RIGHT side of your fabric, we need to make sure we catch the turned up hem firmly in the stitching. If you sew too far over, it wont catch it at all. Using a double needle at this point gives us a few advantages; it creates a bit of stretch for pulling the garment on and off, it looks pretty, but it also gives you a margin of error to catch the hem firmly. If you have a very firm jersey, it also alleviates the need to finish the hem off before stitching. Using a sewing gauge, measure your seam allowance.

As we have cut off some of the original 2cms whilst serging it, I have taken that into account.


Now press and pin your seam allowance up, making sure you can access the needles for removal and that the seam is on the inside of the finished garment.


Turn your garment so the right side is showing.  Ideally, you want your left twin needle to be in the middle of where the hem is turned under. You can clearly see this in the picture above.

Starting at a seam, place your needles into the ditch of the seam and then secure your stitches with a backstitch before sewing all around. Finish your seam with another backstitch.


Give your hem a good press and admire the professional finish. Yummy. Maybe have a cup of tea. I had at least 3 by now…


Last but not least is the neckline.


Grab your jersey bias binding, then put the RIGHT side of bias to the RIGHT side of garment. Start pinning from the shoulder seam along the neckline, stretching the bias (NOT THE NECKLINE) very gently and leaving at least 1 inch of bias free to help you join it smoothly at either end.


This is what you should have by the end of all that pinning. I like to make sure my shoulder seams are directed towards the back of the garment at this point.


Remember those threads I mentioned earlier? I find them useful to anchor the seam direction as it flows through the machine because if the seam needs to be facing away from you, it naturally wants to flip over when you are sewing it. This little trick can help you get the seams facing the right way every time.


Now you will have those little ends to deal with. Roll your sleeves up and get ready to bully them into submission.


You need to align the two pieces with the shoulder seam and pin them where they would meet once sewn down. I suggest making this a little tighter so you don’t end up with any bumps or left over naughty fabric. Remember you can stretch the bias BUT NOT THE NECKLINE!


Moving the garment fabric out of the way, put a line of baste stitches through your bias. I say baste because you want to check it will sit okay before committing yourself to triple stitching.


It should now look something like this.


Now you want to press open the seam and pin your bias to your neckline, as you usually would ready for sewing. You may want to trim those open seam ends if they are bigger than shown.


Once you’ve sewn it using triple stitch, it should look something like this.


Grab your iron and pins and press the bias up away from the neckline, as shown, before turning the bias to the INSIDE of your neckline.


Pin the turned in bias binding as you go and give it a good final press to make sure you are happy you can see any of the bias rolling outwards.

Return to your machine set up with the twin needle and sew in the exact same way you finished the hem, making sure you have measured where your needle needs to sit to catch the bias binding.


Now give your neckline and garment a final press, cause we are finished!


I had to give you some batwing bedroom action. The fabric choice worked perfectly as a sable to work with knit, but remained fluid enough to create that 1940s boudoir feel.


I hope you will join me next month for the Gwen trouser sewalong, where we will be having adventures with shirring. It’s so very addictive.

Elle blogs at (coming very soon!!)

Comments 3

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