The Austin Top

Image of a woman wearing a black T-shirt with gathering below the neck and a red, black, and white skirt in front of a white background.
Austin Top, Front

This past January, we spent a week in Austin. Before our trip, we spent a lot of time doing research. My boyfriend and I like to do research—when looking for a restaurant, buying a product, or planning a vacation, we spend hours searching the Internet, watching videos and tutorials, and reading reviews. As we prepared for our vacation, we watched every single Netflix travel special about Austin. In one of them, a young woman gives her opinion of how fabulous a city Austin is. I cannot exactly remember what she suggested viewers do while in town, but I remember quite vividly the adorable metallic silver top she was wearing. I paused the video and took a picture of the top.

Detail image of a metallic silver T-shirt with a neckband, a yoke, and gathering below the yoke.
The Inspiration

The top sure caused an impression. Since watching that video, I have been thinking about how to recreate the top. Because sometimes I want to go the easier path, I looked around for a pattern. I did not find anything that looked like it. Then, I realized the obvious: I could recreate the top by hacking a pattern I already own. And that pattern is… the Plantain! It took me six months to get motivated enough to get it going, but I finally did it, and the Austin top was born.

Pattern

The Deer and Doe Plantain is my TNT T-shirt pattern. It is free and super easy to make. Its shape works really well for me—it is form-fitting without being skin tight. I have worked with it enough times that I can sew it with my eyes closed. It just made sense that I would use it as the basis for the Austin top.

Every piece of the pattern was modified. This is what happened to each one of them:

Neckband: Because of the raised neckline, the neckband had to be shortened. I started from a neckband size 34 (smallest Plantain size), and I chopped off three inches.

Yoke: Before I created the front and back yokes, I raised the neckline in the front piece by 1 inch. Then, I measured three inches from the top of the neckline in the front and back pieces from the center all the way to the shoulder. I cut these pieces and added 5/8″ seam allowance to the bottom edge of the yokes and the top edge of the front and back pieces.

Image of front and back yoke pieces against a green background
Front and Back Yoke

Gathered Neck: I found two great tutorials teaching how to add gathering to a neckline. The first one is a blog tutorial from Create with Meggipegg. The second is a video tutorial from Miriam Felton’s YouTube channel. They explain the same technique—adding fabric by placing the pattern piece on the fold and then sliding it away from the fold. The excess fabric is then gathered.

Miriam Felton’s Gathered Neck Tutorial

Sleeve: I added 1.5″ to the length of the sleeve before I modified it. I created puff sleeves using the slash-and-spread technique. Tilly has a great tutorial for woven fabrics that can be easily adapted for knits.

Image of the sleeve pattern piece on a green background
Puff Sleeve

Sleeve Cuffs: To create the sleeve cuffs, I measured my bicep, took an inch off that measurement, and just eyeballed how wide I wanted the cuffs to be.

Size

When this pattern was first launched, the largest size available was 46. The size range has been expanded, now going to 52 (sizes 48-52 available in PDF format). I have been using a size 46 since I downloaded the Plantain, and this is the size I used as the basis for the Austin.

Image of Plantain size chart
Plantain Extended Size Chart

Fabric

Image of black knit fabric
Black Spandex Knit

I used this spandex knit I bought a while ago at Joann. I could be wrong, but this fabric used to be a lot thicker. This new batch feels kinda flimsy, especially after a couple of washes. I bought a lot of it (10 yards, I think) during a sale; this is the last of this haul. I need to find a fabric with the same drape but a bit more body.

Construction

The first step in sewing the Austin was creating the gathers. I used three rows of baste stitching, but you can use elastic to create the same effect. I was afraid that the elastic would add too much bulk, so I just ran the fabric through the machine. Once the gathers were in place, I sewed the front and back pieces to their respective yokes, making sure that the gathers looked even (it is a universally known fact that getting even gathers on the first try is like encountering a unicorn on your way to the grocery store). From there, sewing the Austin was just like sewing any other T-shirt.

Image of T-shirt hanging from a hanger showing detail of front gathering against a white background
Gathered Front

I stabilized the shoulders with twill tape as I do with any knit garment. This small step guarantees that the shoulder seam will not stretch with use. Next, I ran three rows of baste stitching to gather the bottom of the sleeves and sewed them flat. Once the side seams were finished, I added the sleeve cuffs to the sleeves.

I use a rule of fourths whenever I need to match cuffs to sleeves or neckbands to bodices—I divide the piece into four sections using a seam as a guide and mark four notches. I do the same to the piece where the cuff or neckband will be sewed to. When the cuff or neckband stretches, the notches guide me to an even distribution of fabric.

Image of T-shirt hanging from a hanger showing detail of back of the garment
Austin, Back

I used a hem band to finish the muslin, but I did not like the result. When it was time to sew the Austin, I realized that the hem got distorted—it was shorter at the center fold, then it got longer, then shorter again. So I just shaved the excess, making it even at the center and then gradually curving towards the side seams. I used my coverstitch to finish the hem, and let me tell you, I am still struggling to get this beast to do what I want.

Image of a woman wearing a black T-shirt with gathering below the neck
Closer Look at the Gathered Front

Now that the pattern is finished and trued, I can make as many Austins as I want. I love the comfort of T-shirts, but sometimes they just feel too plain. Adding details like the gathering and puff sleeves keep all the comfort while adding design interest. Who does not love a fancied-up T-shirt?

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