Hot! The “Four Strikes and You’re Out” Top (plus bonus)

The Facts:
Fabric: purple poly-cotton jersey / vaguely giraffe print poly-cotton sheet
Pattern: Butterick 3131  / Burda 6993
Year: 2001 / 1980s
Notions: none
Time to complete: 1 hour, plus 8 months in orbit / 2 hours
First worn: N/A
Wear again? Perhaps
Total price: $5 for both

I have so many UFOs orbiting around here that CSIS is parked in an unmarked van across the street (that’s what I’m looking at out my front window, apparently).  When I did a draft for this post a few weeks ago, I listed all the UFOs that I could see from my vantage point:

1. Laotian brocade skirt:  just needs lining
2. Pink roses sundress:  needs to be fitted in bodice; add skirt; make capelet?
3. Blue floral shirtdress:  needs collar and placket
4. Silk suit: needs skirt fitting and overblouse lining slip stitched
5. fix jersey dress: needs shortening?; finish hem and armscyes.
6. Various alterations / mending:  evening gown needs invisible black zipper; brown polka dotted sundress needs fitting in bodice; etc.

And that was just what was within my field of view.  Because I have very limited sewing time (when both kids are asleep, all the prep for the next day in complete, no evening commitments or meetings or work to do, and I still have energy), I never get the chance to work on a project from start to finish.  So when I run up against a sewing glitch, I usually have to put it aside before I have the time to do some research.  By the time I revisit it, I have usually been dreaming of something else and decide to just put it off “for now”.  Well, we all know where that leads….

This purple top started out its life during the American Designers Challenge way back in July 2011 but it was just too weak to survive and was left to die; then it got resuscitated for the Album Cover Challenge but it didn’t quite make it; then it got recut for the Purple Challenge but life got in the way and it went into orbit.

So, when I had an evening free last week, I sat down at my serger with great determination to finish this top or put it out of its misery.  I had cruelly let it suffer in my pile of UFOs for far too long.  Serge up the sides:  check.  Serge the shoulder seams:  check.  Get the twin needle set up for finishing the neck, armscyes and hem:  Oh S***.  What is up with this twin needle?!?  The bobbin thread was pulling so tightly that it made pintucks rather than twin seams.  I adjusted the tensions and retested the seam for about an hour, by which time my evening and my patience had reached their limit.  I whipped out the twin needle and thought, “To hell with it, I’ll just use a straight stretch stitch”.  But look at the results:  Home Ec. sewing at its finest.

The weekend dawned, and after one sick kid was nursed back to health with medicine and cartoons + ice skating with friends + sliding down an icy hill on a plastic carpet, I decided to take another look.  And I just.   could.   not.   do it.  I had no enthusiasm left for this top, and to be perfectly frank, I don’t really need another poly-cotton knit top.

So what do I do?  I make another poly-cotton WOVEN top.  I have been looking high and low for a giraffe print, but the only thing vaguely close I have been able to find is this poly-cotton double sheet from the Village des Valeurs.  It was only $2 and had that indescribable thrift store smell (mothballs and must?  B.O. and fumigant? Poverty and despair?), so it would make the perfect fabric to play with sans guilt.  I got this radical New Wave ’80s Burda pattern from the same store for 69 cents, and I thought it would be a quick pick-me-up to bring back the sewing mojo.














Hmmmmm….not too bad from the front…….






















Hey ’80s:  Fit much?




I need a drink.  Here’s to better results next week.




Vicki used to sew when she was young and free, but then raising young'uns and bringing home (some of) the bacon took up all her time. Now her closet is full of skinny clothes, maternity clothes and post-partum clothes, none of which fit properly. Maybe that's why she started sewing again in 2010.


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  1. Entertaining post and pics. I think we’ve all been there and done that. The giraffe print top does look fabulous from the front, I agree. Keep at though, the more we practice the more we learn.

    • I am determined to figure out what is going on with my twin needle – I’ve used it with great success in the past, but this time it was confounding me. That’s the trouble with sewing when you’re tired! My machine has also been giving me some grief with the feed dogs, which may be contributing to the problem.

  2. Ah yes….these are the projects that drove me from attempting to sew my own clothes to making 2- dimensional quilts. Your post has (rather oddly) driven me to reconsider. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that I am not alone.

    • I know that I looked at the pattern, thought it strange that there were no shaping darts anywhere, and yet I STILL made it! And chose a fabric with very little drape. :P The ironic thing is that with most patterns, I have to reduce the bust to almost nothing.

  3. darts?? maybe?? I like the colour and print of both items.

    • Yes, there will definitely be some darts, bust and back, in this top’s future! I tried it tucked into a skirt as shown on the pattern cover, but that’s not much better.

  4. I love your post and writing style teehee!

  5. Hi Barbar, way to hang in there. Does you machine have a tension setting knob. I discovered mine the other day. It had 3 settings, the manual recommended setting 1 for stretch material, which miraculously allowed me to sew straight stitch and twin stitch flat on light weight jersey without puckering. I almost fainted. Happy sewing.

    • Oh yeah, the bobbin tension was the first thing I thought of, but about 45 minutes of adjusting and testing didn’t make a difference. I should have taken a photo of the test strips I did, but they are long gone in the trash. Hilarious mess!

  6. Ma chere Vicki, you make me laugh so hard!

    • Glad these tops were good for a laugh, at least!

      Congrats on the internship, BTW. Sounds great! But if you are ever thinking about coming back to Quebec, let me know because I have a contact in the Cirque de Soleil costume dept.

  7. great sense of humor here, vicki! maybe next week you’ll get to something you’re more excited about keeping :-)

    • I think I need to take a few weeks off – look, I even botched the featured photo and oriented it portrait instead of landscape! Whew. Mama needs a day off.

  8. Hilarious (and very relatable) story, Vicki. Oh, and you’re Holy -fill-the-blank-Batman! exclamation has joined my vocabulary of sewing blunders ;-)

    • I had a friend back in school who used to say that, and I’ve been using it since…well, since that Burda pattern was a new release!

  9. That’s an entertaining post Vicki – and it does make me think (ahem, forces me to think), are our UFO’s sort of pre-doomed? Is there often a really good reason they are unfinished to begin with? I certainly have gone back to some UFO’s only to have the same reaction you described, just can. not. do. it.

    • I think you’re on to something there, because whenever I’ve been really excited about something, I manage to finish it, no matter what. The UFOs probably deserve their fate.

  10. I’m about to try using my twin needle for hemming my knit dress. First time trying to use it, so I hope it’ll work out.

    • It will probably be a great finish. It usually works just fine for me; there was something strange going on with my tension and/or feed dogs. I blame the aliens.

  11. HOLY UNFLATTERING SIDE VIEW BATMAN!! LOL ahhhh I love reading your posts. Look! there is nothing a dart or belt can’t fix hehe well that’s my theory anyway.

    • I tried it belted, but it just looked like a pillowcase. With a belt. I think it would be a great retro top with a drapy fabric. In fact, I had one like this back in ’83: turquoise on the upper diagonal part and striped turquoise and white below. With batwings. I thought I was hot stuff, and I wore that thing to death.

  12. I just adore you and your sassy giraffey style.