Simple Sleeveless Top Blog Series - Adding in Pin Tucks Tutorial

By Lauren Guthrie

For week four of my Me Made May Simple Sleeveless Top Challenge I’m going to show you another design detail that can be added to this ultimate basic pattern – pin tucks!

This is one of my favourite variations! It’s so delicate and can make a really basic simple pattern look much more professional.


You can catch the first posts about bust adjustments, altering the neckline and adding a yoke section (just click on the highlighted text).  If you still need a copy of the basic pattern you can order a signed copy of the book online or on Amazon

Once you have a basic top or toile that fits, then it’s time to add in cool things like these pin tucks!

I’m going to show you two ways that you can stitch in the pin tucks and I recommend considering your fabric choice with each of them.

You can either choose

  • to stitch the pin tuck part of the way down the top
  • to continue stitching the tucks right to the bottom hem line

Stopping your stitching part of the way down gives a different look and it will mean that there is extra fullness in the lower part of the bodice.  This isn’t a problem – just a thing to consider. It means its better to do this type of tuck with finer fabric like rayon, viscose or lightweight polyester or very fine lawn – basically fabric that really hangs and drapes on its own. If you use more structured fabric that holds its shape more, it might feel quite tent like at the bottom.

If you are stitching right to the bottom hemline, then fabrics that hold their shape more – such as cotton lawn or poplin, or even medium weight fabric is totally fine as the stitching will hold the fabric flat.

Altering the pattern piece to add in tucks

What you will need

Whether you are going to stitch part way down the tucks or the whole way, the following steps will be the same.

First of all decide how many tucks you want – I’m going to have 8 all together in mine. As the pattern is cut on the fold, I’ll have to add 4 to my pattern piece.

I want my tucks to be 1/2 inch apart so for my first tuck I’m going to draw a parallel line 1/4 inch from the centre fold line. 

I’m using inches to measure it out as that’s what my ruler is in and it makes it easier to get the lines parallel. You can choose to have them further apart if you want but closer together might get too tricky. Just practise on some scrap fabric if you are not sure how it will look. 

Continue to draw a further 3 lines each 1/2 inch apart.

Now cut along each of these lines so that your front bodice is in 5 sections.

With some pattern paper underneath, tape the big bodice section of the pattern onto the paper. I wanted each tuck to be really narrow so I taped all of my strips down 3/8 inch apart. You can make the distance whatever you like - just bear in mind the tucks will appear half the size.

Next just round out the neckline back into a smooth curve again. I've shaded in the tuck sections with purple pen just so they are easier to see. 

Sewing the Tucks in Place

When you cut the fabric out, cut little snips in the edge of the fabric to indicate where the tuck lines are. Each tuck will have two snips at the neckline edge and two and the hemline edge (even if you are only stitching part of the way down). 

Once the fabric is cut out, stay stitch the neckline as normal. Don't sew the dart yet - get the tucks in place first. 

Press the centre crease in the garment - this will help to get the first tuck even. 

Starting at the tuck closest to the centre (you can do left or right first - it doesn't matter), fold the bodice, wrong sides together and match up the little snips for the first tuck that you made at the neckline and hemline. Press the a crease in the fabric.

Pin in place and sew just a few mm from the fold. If you are only stitching part of the way down then just stop once you reach wherever you want to stop and do a few reverse stitches to secure the threads.

I stopped 9 inches from the neckline edge but you could alter this if you wanted.  If you still want it to be fitted over the bust, just make sure you stitch lower than the level of the dart.

Press the tuck out to the side.

Continue the process for the rest of the tucks. Match up the notches at the top and bottom and before you stitch press a crease in the fabric making sure it is an even distance from the last tuck. 

Press them towards the side seams –so you’ll have 4 going to the left and 4 going to the right.

Continue the rest of the construction of the top in the same way as per the instructions in the book, making sure the tucks stay pressed in the right direction when you sew on the bias binding at the neckline. 

I made bias binding in the the same fabric as I think it looks a bit neater and doesn't distract from the feature of the pin tucks. 

I'd love to see what you make if you give it a go! 

Fray Check and Transparent Sewing Thread - The Latest Must Have Additions to your Sewing Kit

By Lauren Guthrie

I'm always keen to try out new sewing gadgets and recently the girls and I have been trying out some more cool haberdashery items - so here are the details of what we thought of them!

First one under the test is the Prym Fray Check. It’s £5.10 for a 22.5ml bottle and it has saved one sewing project of mine already! 

What is it for?

Simply, it is to stop fabric from fraying at the edges.

It is good for seam edges of fabrics that can fray a lot, like loose weave wool or linen. It could also be used to stabilise seams that might stretch out when you overlock them.

It would be good for appliqué too or if you were sewing on a patch pocket and didn’t want to bulk out the seam allowances with overlocking.

I used it recently for the buttonholes on a blouse I made from really lightweight rayon fabric. Interfacing would have made the button band too stiff in such a lightweight fabric but I needed something to stop the fabric from fraying – it was perfect!  Just make sure that any chalk markings that are on your fabric have been taken off first – otherwise you’ll seal them in with the fray check.

We also found it to be really good on the edge of ribbon and it was a lot easier (and safer) than getting a lighter out to singe the edge.

I accidently made a little nick in the fabric of a top I made recently and it was right at the front. I just put a little fray check on it and as the fabric is so busy it just blends in and saved the day!

And…….it doesn’t wash out which is awesome!

How easy is it to use?

There are no instructions on the packaging really, just a warning to check it first on your fabric. Once you have applied it to the fabric, wait until it dries before moving on. This might take a few hours depending on the type of fabric and how much you have put on. When it’s almost dry just give the fabric an iron and it will help to blend it into the fibres of the fabric more.

It comes out the pointy nozzle easily when you squeeze the tube as it is a runny liquid.

It can cause a little discolouration to the fabric but if you were using it on the inside of a project then it would be fine.  When I used it for the buttonholes, the buttonhole stitching went over the mark anyway.

In this picture it had dried in and you can just about see the tide mark where it was. 

It does make the fabric a little bit stiffer so it is best not to use too much.  

Next up is this Prym Transparent Sewing Thread. It costs £2.30 for a 200m spool.

What is it for?

It works just like normal thread so you can use it for sewing by hand or machine to achieve a normal stitch that will blend in really well to the fabric. If you are using it on the machine you can just use it in the top with a normal thread in the bobbin.

On this sample I used dark bobbin thread and the transparent thread on the top. You can still see the stitching but it's almost like the thread has taken the colour of the fabric. 

It is made of Nylon and is actually finer than normal thread. It doesn’t yellow or become brittle and shouldn’t be affected by heat.

It’s great for appliqué or quilting when you don't want the thread to be noticable and just blend in.

If you are really struggling to match a thread colour to your fabric you could opt for this as well.

How easy is it to use? 

The thread doesn’t come with any specific instructions but this handy video explains things really simply. 

It can get a little bit tangled so some recommend using it with a spool cap – which is a bit like a fruit net. They usually come with your machine. 

I found that when I was using it in the sewing machine the spool cap got in the way a bit and actually once I had threaded the machine it was fine. I would however recommend storing it with a spool cap on as the thread is quite springy and can get tangled easily. 

It can be hard to see the thread, so to help thread the needle you can use a permanent marker to colour the end of the thread.

Have you used these things before? Do you find them useful too? 

Simple Sleeveless Top Blog Series – How to Add a Yoke Section Tutorial

By Lauren Guthrie

For week three of my Me Made May Simple Sleeveless Top Challenge, I want to start showing you how to make really simple adjustments to the pattern to get different looks and design details.

If you still need a copy of the basic pattern you can order a signed copy of the book online or on Amazon.

So far I’ve covered getting the correct fit with Bust Adjustments and Altering the Neckline


Now that you have a well fitting basic top or toile, it’s time to have fun adding in style details and this week it’s all about adding in a Yoke.

Put simply what is a Yoke?

In this context, not the yellow bit in an egg! It’s a section of fabric at the top of a garment, in a dress or top it is where the shoulder seam is. You can also find them in skirts and trousers too where they would be like an extended waistband. 

It can make a basic pattern a lot more interesting as having a seam that goes horizontally across the bodice gives you a chance to have contrast colours or different fabrics. You could insert narrow piping or flat binding or trim into the seam or a bit of frill! Or if you are using a transparent fabric or one that has lots of holes like this embroidered cotton, then you can have the yoke as a single layer and then line the main bodice. Cool, huh?

How to set up the addition of the yoke?

First of all you need to decide how big you want the yoke to be.

It will be easier to have the yoke seam below the neckline and above the point of the dart. That way it won’t interfere with the dart and you can just continue the construction of that part of the top in the same old way.

I made mine 3 inches down from the centre neck line. Draw a line at a right angle from the centre fold line.

Cut along this line so that you now have two pattern pieces.

We now need to add a seam allowance onto each of these pieces so that when the fabric gets sewn together you end up with exactly the same size and shape of bodice that you would get cutting it from a single fabric.

Place the new yoke pattern piece on top of some scrap pattern paper and tape it down. Add on a 1.5cm or 5/8” seam allowance by drawing a line parallel to the bottom edge of the pattern. We will still be cutting this piece out on the fold.

At the armhole seam, continue the curve of the armhole until it meets the new edge of the pattern piece.

When we sew the new seam together, we will finish off the seam allowances together and press them down so we need this little extension to keep everything even for when that happens.

Place the new main bodice piece on some scrap pattern paper and again drawn a line parallel to the top edge 1.5cm or 5/8”.

To get the correct shape at the armhole edge, cut out the new edge of the pattern piece and leave a bit of extra paper at the edge.

Fold along the seam line and then following the curve of the armhole, trim that excess paper you had.

Once you open it out you will see the new shape of the fabric cut line at the seam allowance.

Repeat the process for the back bodice. To ensure that the seam lines end up at the same level, measure up from the bottom hemline. On mine it was 19 inches so this is how I figured out where to draw my horizontal line on the back bodice.  The neck lines are at different levels so that’s why you can’t just measure down from there.

I made my version using the really pretty whimsical April Rhodes Fabric called 'Gust of Leaves' - even the name is light and breezy! For the yoke I used this sand stone coloured cotton

How to construct the top with the new yoke section

Cut out your fabric using your new pattern pieces.
Stay stitch the neckline as normal, insert the dart as normal.
Attach your front yoke section to front yoke bodice with a 1.5cm seam allowance, finish raw edges off together and press them down. Repeat for the back.

Continue the construction in the normal way, adding the binding and hemming as normal.

Optional  - Lining the main bodice 

For one of my versions I used this really pretty summery white embroidered cotton fabric and paired it with a plain violet coloured cotton. I made the yoke section violet and then lined the main bodice section with the same fabric so you could see a little bit of the colour come through. 

All the steps for altering the pattern stay exactly the same, just cut out two main bodice sections, one in your fabric and one in your lining.

When attaching the yoke section to the main bodice sections layer up the pieces as so;

  • lining - have right side facing up
  • main outer bodice fabric - have right side facing up (so right side of lining faces wrong side of outer fabric)
  • yoke section  - wrong side facing up (so right side of yoke faces right side of outer fabric)

Sew all three layers together with a 1.5cm or 5/8” seam and finish off raw edges together and press seam allowances down. Repeat for back yoke.

Attach side seams of bodice as if the outer fabric and lining fabric were one piece, press seam allowances open and finish off as desired  - I used an over lock stitch on the sewing machine.

If your fabric is quite light weight or slippery you might want to tack them together first. Sewing them together in this way will ensure that all seam allowances are hidden on the inside, otherwise they can be seen through the little holes in the embroidered fabric. 

Apply binding to arm holes as normal, pretending that the outer bodice and lining bodice are one bit of fabric.

This detail can also be combined with altering the shape of the neckline that I showed you in last weeks post as well as adding pin tucks and a button band, which I’ll show you how to do over the next two weeks – the combinations will become limitless! Yay!