Rachel pattern hack lace

Rachel Pattern Hack: Top with lace elastic

So. The story behind this top begins more than 14 years ago. On January 25th 2002, to be more exact.

I was recently divorced, it was a Friday and my mom called and asked if she could borrow my 3 year old son for the night. So suddenly I had no plans. I called a friend, who said I was welcome to go with her to see a third friend, and that her older brother and his friend Dennis would be there as well. I had just purchased this black faux wrap top with lace elastic at the neckline and thought I looked pretty good in it. So I put it on, and went out. No harm in looking good, you know, just in case….

 

Fast forward to today – And I have been married to Dennis for 11 years. I can’t fit into the tiny size 34 top from 2002 anymore, but I can make a copy!

 

rachel_top

The finished copy of the 2002-top

 

To create my copy, I start with the 405 Rachel Wrap Dress sewing pattern. I then need to shorten it to a top, make it ready for a faux wrap and change the neckline so that it works with lace elastic.

Turn the dress pattern into a top pattern

First thing to do is to shorten the dress into a top. This is easy-ish. The hard part is determining where the top should end on your body. To figure out your perfect length, try putting on a top and raise the  hem until you feel it hits you in a nice spot. Measure from shoulder to where it hits you, and transfer that measurement to the pattern – both to the back piece and the front piece.

I ended up shortening my top to 2.5 cm (1”) above the hip line.

 

Make it faux-wrap!

Then I continue by changing the front piece pattern to make it faux wrap, by adding 2.5 cm (1”) to the front edge – the same way as I did for the faux wrap dress (click here for that post). I am not doing anything to the ribbing pattern – because we are not going to use it.

 

pattern hack rachel dress

The first steps: Shortening the pattern to top length, then adding to the front edge for faux-wrap version

 

Draft a new neckline

Now I need to raise the neckline. I raised it by 3 cm (1 ¼”)(but you could add more if you want a higher neckline). I do that by extending the shoulder lines and centre-front/centre-back 3 cm, then drawing a new curve to connect the points. When you are redrawing your new raised neckline, try following the curve of the original neckline. Also remember to extend the centre-front marking. Needless to say – you need to raise the neckline on both the front and the back piece.

Rachel pattern hack lace

Raise the neckline 3 cm (1 1/4″)

 

 

How to sew your top with lace elastic

To sew the top, follow the instructions as for the faux wrap dress. But instead of adding a ribbing, we are going to use lace elastic.

Lace elastic comes in many variations. I like the type with a small picot edge or with a more pronounced lace look.  Make sure your chosen elastic stretches and recovers well. (I had some in my stash that had gotten old – it didn’t recover well after stretching. So I threw it into the bin.) You want the elastic to stretch nicely so that it will keep the neckline close to your body without gaping.

There are (at least) two ways you can attach just the right amount of elastic to the neckline to achieve that.

One is treating the elastic the same way you would a neckline ribbing (click here to see how): Measure the neckline, subtract 15 – 20% of that length (depending on the stretch-ability of the elastic) and cut the elastic in that length then distribute the elastic evenly and sew it to the neckline. Make a test before sewing the elastic to the neckline.

 

Another method (which I much prefer, because it is much, much faster) is to not cut the elastic before hand, but instead sewing it to the neckline, stretching it evenly as you sew it in place using your fingers as a guide. The trick to keeping the stretch even is to keep having the same strain on the elastic with your fingers at all time while you are sewing the elastic in place.

It’s hard to explain – but much easier to show. Here’s a video, and I follow up with some step-by-step pictures:

 

 

So you place the elastic on the neckline seam allowance, right sides together and sew the elastic in place using your overlocker (serger) or an elastic stitch on your sewing machine. It’s important that you don’t stretch the fabric.

The step-by-step pictures:

Lace elastic step by step

To keep the same stretch-factor all the way along the neckline, use your fingers as a guide. Once the elastic is secured, tug it about 15-20%. I do that by placing my fingers at the edge of my machine and then tugging the elastic out the width of my finger. Then i sew, letting my fingers keep stretching the same amount while they follow the elastic to the presser foot. Rinse, repeat.. It’s not very scientifically, but it works! That being said, be sure to test before actually sewing the elastic to the neckline.

 

rachel pattern hack sewing

Once the elastic is sewn in place, turn it to the wrong side and sew from the right side using a stretch stitch. I like to use a three-step-zigzag for this. Press or steam the neckline and continue sewing.

 

With the elastic in place, continue sewing the top as with the faux wrap dress.

And that’s pretty much it – you now have a top with lace elastic. (And I want to tell you: The first time I wore this, Dennis said “That’s the top you wore the first time I met you”. He still likes it:-)

Tah-Dah!

Tah-Dah!

 

Rachel wrap dress sewing pattern

3 replies
  1. Lynsey says:

    Love this idea, it’s so pretty and looks gorgeous, I will have to try this but need to find some pretty elastic first.

    Reply
  2. ellen says:

    the best part of the video is seeing how SLOW you sewed with the triple zigzag stitch! I haven’t had much success with that stitch….maybe I now know why!

    Reply
  3. cathy bird says:

    I made the hack on the Rachel dress, but I found having two layers of material in the front just too bulky. Any suggestions?

    Reply

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