Way back in late January, back when you'd needed 3 layers just to leave the house, when we were all still wading through the endless boxes of leftover Christmas chocolates and Corona was just a beer that many of us enjoyed on a summer afternoon, I fell upon a new Netflix show called Next in Fashion. The show is like a high fashion version of the Great British Sewing Bee, the adorable Tan France is NiF's Patrick Grant, while Alexa Chung plays the part of Esme Young. The contestants are interesting, to say the least, and the catwalk shows are on another level, but it was Alexa's wardrobe that caught my eye, and in particular this tie-back beauty...
The moment I spotted this top I was dreaming of endless summer days (little did I know that they would be spent in my garden, rather than a beach, but what can you do?!). I also instantly thought of the By Hand London Flora Dress, the shaping of the front bodice piece lends itself perfectly to the front of the Alexa top of dreams. All I would then need to do is add ties and a ruffle peplum and I would be twinning with Alexa, I even had some bright pink cotton gingham hiding away in my stash pile... it was meant to be!
If you want to make this tie back beauty of a top, you can download the Flora from By Hand London's website by clicking here. I can't recommend this pattern enough, it is a timeless classic that comes with two neckline and two skirt options, plus it is SO hackable — it's the pattern that just keeps on giving! Not convinced yet, head over the @kateveasews on Instagram for some endless Flora inspo!
Above is the Flora that I made last year for a wedding, as you can see, the bodice neckline finishes quite high around the collarbone. Alexa's top has the same straight neckline, however her's finishes a little lower. I therefore made the decision to remove 3cm from the top of the neckline front pattern piece. This is entirely your decision, however if, like me, you want to lower your neckline, remember to consider the 1.5cm seam allowance - don't cut too low! You will also need to add whatever you have taken off (3cm in my case) to the straps, otherwise they will be too short.
Once you have modified any pattern pieces, cut out your bodice and strap pieces in your chosen fabric. You then need to cut out ties, we are going to construct these in the same way as the shoulder straps, so you want 2 rectangles for each tie. I had 6 ties, 3 on each side, so I needed 12 rectangles. I made mine the same width as the shoulder straps and then tripled the length. You can make your ties as long or as short as you want, just make sure they are long enough to tie up in a pretty bow when finished.
You will also need to cut out your peplum piece. This pattern piece is going to be gathered, so depending on how gathered you would like it, multiply your waist measurement by 1.5, 2 or 2.5. My fabric was quite a thick cotton, with not a great amount of drape, so I multiplied my waist by 1.5, as I didn't want it to look too puffy around the waist. Your peplum will need to have an opening at the centre back, to match the bodice. If you use one piece of fabric for the whole peplum, then do not worry about this, however I also wanted side seams on mine to match the bodice (not necessary, unless you are also a little obsessive about seams matching like I am!). I therefore split my peplum measurement in half and added seam allowance on either end to form the front piece. Next I split the remainder in half again, for the two back pieces, and added seam allowance to each end.
The length of my peplum was 30cm, including hem and seam allowance, this measurement is personal to you. If you are unsure on what length would look best on you, then cut it longer as you can always trim it down before hemming, once you can try it on.
All cut? Now you are ready to sew!
Follow the BHL Flora instructions for constructing the bodice — you should be left with an almost-complete bodice, with a raw edge at the hem and on the centre back.
Next step are the ties, construct these in the same way as the shoulder straps and press. To position your ties, pin them in place and try the bodice on. This step is really important, as you want them to sit evenly down the back, I also wanted my middle tie to cover my bra strap - having another person around is very helpful for this step! Once you are happy with the placement, go ahead and baste in place. This is the same process of how the straps are attached — you want to baste 10mm in, right sides and raw edges together with the bodice back. When all of your ties have been basted in place, you need to close the centre back seam. To do this, pin your main and lining back pieces right sides together, carefully sandwiching in the ties. Stitch a 1.5cm seam, turn to the right side and press.
The final step is to add the gathered peplum. If you have three separate peplum pieces, one for the front and two for the back, like me, then sew and finish the side seams first before adding your gathers. To gather; baste two parallel rows of long stitches around the top of your peplum, inside your seam allowance. If you have side seams, it is easier to start and stop either side of these. Next, gather your fabric up evenly, until the width matches the hem of the bodice. Once you are happy that your gathers are even, pin and then sew to your top. It is very easy to catch your gathers as you sew, so take your time here. I always find it easier to sew with the gathered fabric facing up, as you can control and manage any caught fabric as you go.
You are almost done! All that is left to do, is finish the centre back edges of your peplum, and hem the lower edge. I would recommend that you try the top on first before hemming, especially if you have cut your peplum intentionally long. I wanted my top to finish around my hip, but it would look equally as cute as a longer tunic style, or even a dress!
And voilà! If you squint your eyes it could be Alexa 😂
I really love this top, its a quick and satisfying make and it's the perfect go-to if you are sick of your lockdown PJs, but still want to be comfortable. The lovely Elisalex from By Hand London has even jumped on the Flora/Alexa hack bandwagon, check out her dreamy version below, in our Ex-Designer Gingham...
If you love this top as much as we do (or you just want to join the Flora/Alexa gang), then check out our fabric suggestions below. All you need is approximately 2m of fabric and the Flora pattern to get started.
We'd love to see your version of this fun, summery top, so remember to tag us @youre.sew.creative on Instagram with your makes!
Happy Sewing, Kate & the Sew Creative Team