The Dazzling Azaire

This story starts with the fabric. On our annual holiday together, my sister and I always check out some fabric stores with the aim of bringing home some souvenirs. This delicious viscose/cotton fabric came from Stoff and Stil in Copenhagen, returning home with me in March 2019.

I knew I’d make a light and floaty top from this deliciousness, but the perfect pattern never manifested itself, and it waited patiently on my shelf until the time came. The fabric is really gorgeous: it’s not delicate, and has a grippiness to it that makes it wonderful to sew, but it also seems weightless – I could hardly wait to wear it.

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I’ve always gently pondered the fabric and knew that the right pattern would appear when the time was right, but with our 2020 trip approaching, the search became a little bit more urgent, especially seeing as I have a conference coming up where I’d like to look a little smarter than normal (and wearing this fabric became synonymous in my mind to looking smarter). I’m not sure how The Gather’s Azaire top came into my radar, but once there I just knew that that was the one for me: the interesting bodice style lines, the peplum (I knew I wanted a peplum for this fabric) and the sleeves made it seem like the perfect choice.

Annoyingly, Gather Kits do not sell pdf patterns. I know that some people avoid pdf’s, but I dislike buying paper patterns – I’d much rather just print what I need and when I need it. But, hey ho, I took the plunge and ordered the pattern from Minerva alongside the required 16″ invisible zip.

I decided to make a size 12, following my bust and hip measurements. My waist measurement rarely corresponds to the pattern sizing nicely, as most patterns are graded for a more exaggerated hourglass body shape than I possess. However, with a glance at the finished measurements for the pattern, I could see that there was more than adequate ease throughout.

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Having looked at some of the finished items online, somewhat obsessively, I decided to shorten the top. I took an inch out of the lengthen/shorten line front and back. Now, I know I am tall, but I do not feel comfortable in long tops: I feel like they make me look unbalanced – too long up top, and shorter in the legs. I left the sleeves the length drafted, and got to cutting. I didn’t use the pattern piece to cut out the peplum – it’s just a rectangle – but also because I had very little fabric left. I’d only bought 1.2 metres, and although the fabric recommendations are for a ridiculous 2.25m I knew I’d get the top out of the existing fabric, but wasn’t so sure about the length of the peplum. I wanted to be able to test out the peplum length, just in case I took too much length out the top and could add it back in via a deeper peplum. As it was, the suggested peplum size was (almost) perfect and I got the top out of the 1.2 metres without any problems – do be aware of the crazy fabric recommendations if you’re planning on making the top. In the end, I am left with a mere handful of scraps, which is perfect.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a top, so I was pleasantly surprised how small my pile of cut fabric was. I decided to use my gold lining fabric for the facing – this is the stuff I bought for my sequin skirt, and also used for the sleeve lining in my Moderne coat, so it’s been well used! There are only scraps remaining now, but I think I’ll be able to squeeze a use out of them – waste not, want not being the overriding rule in this house 😉

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One thing that slightly annoys me when you’re making a top that is obviously intended as a smart, rather special top: why do the designers not put more thought into the seam finishes? I French-seamed all the seams in this, apart from those that would be enclosed, and yet the pattern instructions would have you pressing all your seams open, with no information about how to finish them. The recommended fabrics for this top are “lightweight fabrics with drape” – a French-seam on this type of fabric is almost always going to be the best, prettiest finish, and I can vouch for them not impacting at all on the drape of the top. A little more thought from the designers would be appreciated, I think, especially as it’s listed as an intermediate sew: any intermediate sewist will be able to French-seam, although on the flip side, perhaps any intermediate sewist would be able to decide on the most appropriate seam finishing.

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And as I got to the sleeves another gripe. The lovely petal sleeve has lining on the inside of the petal cuff, but instead of using this lining to enclose all the seams and make a really special cuff, the instructions would have you just running the lining and the main fabric through the machine as one, and then finishing your seam. Well, it was a simple fix: I just attached the main fabric, tucking the lining out of the way – I’d already pressed the lining in by 1.5cm (the seam allowance), and then sewed the petal on. The lining underneath the overlap was sewn on with the outer and afterwards I hand stitched the lining down, enclosing all seams within. What a difference to the finish and really not that difficult at all.

The sleeves went in beautifully, even without the gathering lines (I never do this on sleeve heads, finding it easier just to pin and then hand baste), and the sleeve is really beautifully fitting. I decided not to line the peplum for two reasons. I think it would be overkill on this light fabric, and I ran out of the gold fabric. I also made some peplum changes.

As the top has a lower back than the front, and so the side seams aren’t halfway through the garment, the peplum would end up more gathered at the front than the back, if you followed the instructions and cut two identical peplum pieces. Instead, I made the front peplum 2″ shorter (taking an inch off the folded pattern piece) in width, to distribute things more evenly. As is, I love the volume of the gathers, they sit really nicely and the narrow hem I finished with looks like it was always intended that way.

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To finish, I hand sewed the facing to the sleeve head creating a lovely finish. However I was getting frustrated with all the slip stitching, which I cannot do in front of the TV, and so I decided to stitch in the ditch to attached the facing to the bodice. I’ve left it as is just now, but I think I’ll be unpicking and hand sewing. It’s the only part that’s disappointing me about this top.

Overall, with a wee bit of care, the pattern came together beautifully and I’ve ended up with a very special top that I couldn’t be more happy with. The pattern came together really nicely with all notches matching without issue. The invisible zipper is my most invisible to date, and I love the facing finishing. A wee bit more thoughtfulness on behalf of the pattern designer for a better finish wouldn’t have gone amiss, but really sometimes it is nice to choose my own level of detail. I do find, however, that as I buy less and make more, a good finish has become more and more important and I would rather do more hand sewing and have an item I am 100% happy with, rather than cutting corners on the machine, something I confirmed with this top and my impatient final rush, which will actually create more work in the long run.

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Speaking of machines, once I’d done the gathers and attached the peplum I had a momentary panic: how would I finish this gathered seam nicely? A wee internet search revealed the answer – overlock it! I had completely forgotten that I was now an owner of an overlocker, and even though I will never give up on the French seams etc., it is so wonderful to be able to pull this out to finish particularly difficult seams.

And what’s the top like to wear? Well, I am very glad that I shortened it – it would have been too long without that adjustment, bearing in mind I am 5’11”. Possibly the back would look better, or be more flexible being a little shorter – as it is this will only really go with narrow fitting trousers – but for a smart top that’s a bit different I will be reaching for this. The fabric feels gorgeous, I think the colour suits me, and it really was made to measure. I am awaiting some more Kylie and the Machine labels (UK stockist linked) and will choose the perfect one to add to the top to add the finishing touch.

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It was about 2 C when I was taking these photos, and the sun was just setting. Absolutely stunning. My sister and I head to Dublin on Saturday coming, and by the time I get back, the sun will be setting late enough for my partner and I to enjoy a beach walk after work. This is one of our favourite beaches: Ardivachar, which is about 10 minutes from where we live.

Have you tried any of the patterns by Gather before? What special fabric have you sewn up recently? Let me know below!

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