Pattern Review: The Big Little Ashton Top
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
This pattern is one of the fastest sewing projects that I've done so far. The whole making experience was smooth and enjoyable. This is due mainly to its excellent drafting and impeccable design. The instructions are top-notch as well, and very clear with wonderful tips for any beginner sewer.
I'm gushing at this pattern because it's a woven tank top that you can just pull it over your head like a knit tank. Big deal, you might say. Most woven tanks are designed that way anyway. But woven tanks like that usually have a wide neckline or have an installed closure so that the neck opening is wide enough for your head to fit through. What's special about the Ashton is that the neckline is relatively high without any need for closures to be installed. Which means that there was some clever engineering in the construction of this pattern to make sure that the neckline is as narrow as can be while at the same time large enough to accommodate the pull over the head. So kudos to Helen for birthing a lovely little top with giant cleverness.
Adding to this flawless drafting is how all the seams are elegantly finished. Designed by Helen's Closet, the Ashton Top is a tank with two length options - cropped or sitting at hip level. The pattern also provides the option to close up the seams at the armhole and neckline with bias binding or with a facing. There are bust darts at the side seam, and the hem is finished with a wide hem facing. This top also tents out a bit, and the cropped version goes really well with high-waisted bottoms.
Sizes for this pattern run in 2 size ranges: 0-22 and 12-30. The first size range is drafted for a B-cup and the second for a D-cup. I made a size 2 according to the high bust and full bust measurements and made zero adjustments to the fit. I chose to make the cropped version and went with the full-on neck/armhole facing. The only thing that I suggest doing when going with the facing option is to hand-sew the facing to the bodice all the way around. Instructions are provided to sew the facing to the bodice at the side seams, but that is not enough for me to keep the large facing from flapping up whenever I put it on. I used the herringbone stitch to secure the bottom of the facing to the bodice. I should have used interfacing as well on the facing but oh well, next time. It's a matter of preference, I suppose, but it would have worked better with the fabric that I was using.
There's a love-hate story with this cream coloured fabric. I fell in love when I saw it. It had good drape, and the look of unbleached hemp. I and was promised by the vendor that it is 100% linen. The price was good for it, and I thought I had scored big time. My original plan was that the colour of it would make a great backdrop for shibori dye in a shade of brick-red. However, as I was pressing it into accordion folds to prep it for the dyeing process, I discovered (to my dismay) that it was resisting what the iron was telling it to do. That can only mean that there's polyester in the fibres. A burn test confirmed my suspicions that it's not 100% linen. The fabric burned with lots of black smoke and the burnt edge melted and curled into hard plastic. It's really annoying - this feeling of being duped, misled and swindled. It bothered me for days after. So love for the fabric turned sharply into hate.
The plan for dyeing it (since it was not made of natural fibres) had to be thrown out the window. I wanted to throw the fabric itself out the window. I discriminate strongly against polyester for garment-making. But I decided to practise restraint and let it take up room in my stash. Besides, I can't justify the waste. Maybe I can make curtains out of it. Or I can use it for muslins. The only upside to this is that I found out about the polyester before dyeing it, because the dye that i was going to use is meant only for natural fibres.
Then when I needed a top to go with my blood-red Pietra Pants (pattern review coming up soon) embroidered with ecru-coloured sashiko, this fabric was shouting at me to save it from its fate of being curtains. At that point, I wasn't completely convinced by this polyester hybrid, and proceeded cautiously with the intention of making it a toile that perhaps might be wearable. But while I was cutting it, I somehow fell back in love with it again. So much so that after cutting it, I immediately set to work drawing in the grid for sashiko on it, and stitched away before I changed my mind about it again.
It is not the easiest fabric to work with since it frayed like crazy. But, I am very very happy with the end result. Especially when it is paired up as coordinates with the Pietra Pants.