Review: First Top – Simplicity 8523

Simplicity 8523

Pattern Description:

A collection of pullover woven t-shirts, sleeveless or with sleeves, with neckline variations: jewel, scoop, square, and v-neck. The jewel-neck tops come with a separate back-piece (center seam + a short zipper at the top).

Pattern Sizing:

8-10-12. I made View F. The tissue points out that the top has 11″ of ease at the waistline. Because of that huge amount of ease, I cut my first muslin at a size 8 from top to bottom. That didn’t work, because the pattern does not have 11″ of ease at the hip. It is almost straight up and down. For my second muslin, I graded out from size 8 at the waistline to size 12 at the hem, but the top was still too narrow at the hip for my figure.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Yes and no. The shirt is the same, but the drawings on the envelope use model poses (hands on hips or leaning to one side) and careful shading to make the top look less boxy. The line-drawings on the back give a more accurate rendition of the shape of the garment. The front of my finished garment is pictured above. Here are the side and back views.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

I had no problems with the instructions. They were very clear, and this is the first top I’ve sewn (first neckline, first armholes, first facings for either of those).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I like the idea of the pattern–it’s a versatile, basic top. However, it is far too boxy to be flattering or to feel right on me. I feel like I’m wearing scrubs when I put it on!

Fabric Used:

A burgundy-and-purple, large-starburst-patterned cotton from Jo-Ann. The cotton is very soft (not stiff like quilting cotton) and therefore has a nicer drape than the cotton I used for my muslins. I think the soft drape was important. The final shirt skimmed my body better than the muslins.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

I worked hard to get a good fit on this, making 2.5 muslins and consulting at length with others on PR (thank you so much!). I never got a result I was happy with. You can read about my attempts to make this top in detail here: (The Saga of) Simplicity 8523.

Alterations included:

  • redrafting the pattern because I’d cut the smallest size for the muslin!
  • grading from a size 8 to size 12 between the waistline and hem
  • lowering the waistline by 1 1/4″
  • raising the hemline by 2″ (if I were to sew this again, I would only remove 1″ below the waistline)
  • a swayback adjustment using this tutorial, which I do not recommend. In the end, it distorted the shoulder and neckline, meaning I had to . . .
  • draft a new back neck facing

Although the adjustments improved the fit, it didn’t get me to “flattering.” I suspect that the wrinkles I struggled to eliminate came from the top being too tight at the hip, even after I graded out to the largest size in the envelope.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I learned a lot from trying to make Simplicity 8523 fit my body, but I would not sew it again. It isn’t flattering enough to make it a TNT or wardrobe basic. The top is very loose and boxy (again, 11″ of ease at the waist!), yet it isn’t accommodating to people who have large hips in proportion to their bust. I have a small bust (32A) plus a 10″ difference between my waist and my hips. Even adding all the extra width at the hipline that the pattern allowed wasn’t enough.

If I ever were to sew this again, I would use the alternate back with the center seam and zipper so that I could pinch out some of the extra fabric in the back.

I would recommend this pattern as a simple-to-sew, basic top for those who like a loose fit or whose measurements at the bust are not very different than then their measurements at the hip. However, I want to note that the necklines on Simplicity 8523 are quite high–higher than is in style right now (2013).


Simplicity 8523 was a good learning tool, but not a good fit for me. I do think other reviewers are right that this is a good top to “showcase” an interesting print.

In the future, I will be looking for a woven-t-shirt pattern that is better suited to my body. New Look 6356 appears to be an updated version of Simplicity 8523, but with a taper into the waist and out to the hips built in. It also has the center-back seam and zipper and lower, more current necklines. I think that for many body types, the New Look version of these basic woven tops will work better.

By Jove! Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part III)

Muslin #2.5: Swayback Alteration Accomplished!

I was going to give up. I really was going to.

I could not find a set of swayback alteration instructions that did not warp my pattern in unacceptable ways.

Then, luckysweetheart at Pattern Review sent me a link to a different method of doing swayback adjustments on a shirt or bodice.

This is the first explanation I found (even after searching online and flipping through all my sewing books) that  dealt with how to do the swayback adjustment on a top without distorting the rest of the pattern (skewing the center back line and pulling in the hip).

So, I did my first “slash and slide” style pattern adjustment. Since disaster did not strike, I cut out a new back, applied my seam ripper to the old muslin, pressed to my hearts content, and attached the new back.

Et voila!

That is a big change from this. And it still fits over my head!

As my friends on Pattern Review are pointing out, there is good in knowing when to stop fitting, too, and I think that this is that point. Maybe, maybe, I will try to add in that extra inch of length below the waistline so I can hem  to this height. But maybe that isn’t worth it. Perhaps, instead, I should experiment with doing a very narrow hem.

The bottom line is, thanks to the swayback tutorial and everyone’s advice and help, I have finally reached the point where–assuming the facings work–I could live with this shirt as it is currently fitted. I suspect there are better patterns for me out there (and believe you me, I’ll be looking for them: patterns that have center-back seams, patterns that have more curve and shaping).

I am sure that anyone who is reading this is getting sick of this pattern and this shirt. Never fear–the end is near. Just a little more muslin-ing, and I can move on to the real deal:

This drapey, soft cotton fabric is what I’ve been working towards.

Pretty, isn’t it? Cross your fingers . . .

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part II)

"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!”

This is a little too much for a basic, boxy top. I think this nice lady is mocking me.

All the time I’ve been in Virginia, I’ve been looking forward to getting home to NYC and getting back to Muslin #2 of my Simplicty V-Neck (8523 – View F: Blogged about here and here). In the first post, I showed off my inner-draftswoman by tracing the pattern that I’d already cut (ill-considered on my part) on the smallest line, in order that I might add to the hips, lower the waist, then lift the hem below the new waistline without losing my beautiful, new, hip-accommodating hemline. All I had to do–so I thought–was to put in a nice sway-back adjustment to take care of the extra fabric pooling at my back, and I’d be smooth-sailing towards an (admittedly baggy for my tastes) first top.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so eager to return to this project. First, I’ll show you the fruits of my initial labor (dropping the waistline and then raising the hem after tapering from a size 8 at the waist to a size 12 at the hemline). It was promising:

Muslin #2: Front

Muslin #2: Side

Muslin #2: Back

Unfortunately, there was still an excess of fabric in the back (though much improved from the first version). I’ve tried pinning in a swayback adjustments several ways. At first, I took out larger pinches of fabric because the top is just so saggy. Then I read that swayback adjustments should be more than 1/4″ pinches, so I tried that:

1″ tuck taken 1″ above waistline.

1″ tuck taken 1.5″ above waistline.

1/4″ tuck 1 1/2″ above waistline.

Yes, pinning this fabric out smooths the back noticably–even when it’s just a 1/2″ pinned out. But when I try to put these adjustments onto the pattern piece, it distorts the grading I did to a achieve a larger hip size.The new hem actually becomes concave.

Concave. After all the work I put into making the hip wider.

At this point, I’m wondering whether this isn’t just a terrible, terrible pattern for me. Either that, or there is an undiagnosed fitting problem other thank my long waist and swayback that is making this muslin look so awful.

I’m tempted to call this whole project (and pattern) a wadder. The hard thing about being a beginner is not knowing what is a “user error” and what is just a misfire.

Any thoughts? Am I missing a simple fitting issue, or is this just a terrible pattern for me?

Interfacing Ooops

I was reading the thread about interfacing over on Pattern Review. Then I read the linked articles, “Interfacing-Ten Tips” and “How to Apply Interfacing” (both on Fashion Incubator).

Now I’m thinking “ooops.”

I’ve realized that the interfacing that I used for my Simplicity 8523 muslin is too heavy. I had sort of worried about that with my first muslin, but pushed the thought aside. Now, as I think about the drape and softness of my “final” fabric, I am quite certain that I need something lighter–like the knit tricot interfacing. I don’t want to end up with cardboard-feeling clothing. Not after all that redrafting!

This means another shopping trip–this time to the Garment District, because I just can’t rationalize ordering a whole bolt from Jo-Ann. Yet somehow it always seems that I am running into Manhattan to get a few yards of interfacing.

So . . . sad face.

Ooooh. 50% off coupon for Jo-Ann online. Problem solved? Maybe.

I wish there were a way I could download all the wonderful information I’m slowly collecting directly into my brain (and muscle memory, too), so that I wouldn’t have these midnight-or-one-AM realizations.

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part I)

Simplicity 8523


Such a lovely word. And–coincidentally–the brand-name for my first two successful sewing projects, both skirts. Now that I feel more comfortable with my very basic sewing skills, I felt ready to try sewing a very simple top. I’d picked up Simplicity 8523 at Daytona Trimming, which has a dusty selection of 80s and 90s patterns, 5 for $10. When I got home and checked the reviews for this pattern, I was pleased to see that it is generally well-liked as a simple “wardrobe-builder.”

I have a list of styles from head to toe that flatter me, and among those styles are square and v-necks. Therefore, I picked View F, the sleeveless, zipperless top. I figured that sewing a top with facings in the neckline and around the arms was enough in terms of adding new skills.

Besides, hubby and I are saving money by not using the air conditioning for as long as possible, so it is hot in our apartment. In such temperatures, sleeveless is ideal.

This top goes together easily. However, it has proven more difficult than expected to fit. The pattern has darts in front, but from there it drops straight down to the hemline. Because of my triangle-shape and the fact that the top had 11″ of ease at the 28″ waist (and my hips are 38″ right now), I cut out a size 8, figuring I’d just hem the top so that it hit me above the widest part of my hips.

Bad idea. Here is a what I ended up with for my first muslin:

Muslin 1: Front

Muslin 1: Back

Muslin 1: Side

Now we can say it in unison: “Ugh!”

Lots of discussion ensued on Pattern Review’s forums, which included compliments for the neckline and arm-scythes and more suggestions than I could possibly follow for how to fix the bags and lumps.

From those comments, I learned the following things:

  • Despite the 11″ of ease, I really did need to grade out from the size 8 around the bust to the size 12 around the hemline (using a french curve to draw a gentle concave line).
  • I have a long torso and will probably have to adjust that by adding tissue on every pattern. Then, I’ll have to fold the pattern up below the waistline to take out some of that extra length.
  • I also have a swayback, and pinning that extra fabric out of the center back (even pinning, and without fixing the above problems) makes a big difference in how the muslin looks:

Back: Swayback Adjustment Pinned

Side: Swayback Adjustment Pinned

These images convinced me of three things:

  • It’s time to start swimming again–look at those rounded shoulders!
  • I should never, ever cut pattern tissue. I’ll be tracing from now on, especially if I have any doubt about whether I might need to grade to a larger size somewhere.
  • I don’t like shirts with a lot of ease, even if they are simple to make.

The posters on Pattern Review convinced me of a few things, too:

  • That this isn’t nearly as dreadful as I thought. I shouldn’t be such a perfectionist! (ie. there is a such thing as “good enough.”)
  • I can learn a lot from making something very basic.
  • Sharing my experiences with others can help everyone learn.

Since making this muslin, I’ve spent hours tracing the original pattern, using another, uncut pattern piece to add the wider, size 12 hip and curving it into the size 8 waistline. I’ll detail the process of Muslin #2 in an upcoming post.

Sometimes even the most simple projects aren’t simple after all.

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 – View F


Simplicity 8523: Anything But Simple. Why? Because of fit.

I’m sewing my first top. Or rather, I am trying to sew my first top. It’s going well. The muslin has a very nice neckline, and I managed to insert my first facings almost without a problem. The darts are straight and don’t pucker. Overall, I should be proud. I am proud.

And also appalled. I knew when I picked this pattern that it was very simple and boxy. The top falls almost straight from the underarms to the hem. When I saw that the waistline had 11″ of ease (11″!), I decided to cut to fit my bust and not to taper out to the larger size at my hips. With 11″ of ease, I figured I’d just hem the top to hit me above the widest point of my hip and that all would be good.

That was my first mistake. The results (bunching and bagging) were readily apparent in my muslin (of which I will not post pictures yet, thank you very much).

Thanks to the good folks at Pattern Review, I’m receiving a bit of a master class in how to make adjustments. I’ve even had to retrace the pattern from scratch and use other, uncut pieces to add back in the wider hip and grade outward.


In which I channel my grandfather and learn to draft things. Or trace them. Close enough.

Now I’m busily lowering the waistline on my new pattern. Then I have to raise the hem and taper again (so as not to lose the ease I added in tracing the size 12 hemline). After that, I may have to do a swayback adjustment. Then, there is the second (or second and third) muslin.

All for a super-simple v-neck.